Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kingston Fronts Team Update

The Kingston Frontenacs currently sit third in the East Division of the Eastern Conference and with the trades made over the past 2 weeks, have an excellent shot to make the playoffs and are hoping to get some home ice advantage. The Fronts have strengthened their team at the trade deadline adding third-line depth with Jesse Biduke. Cory Emmerton's broken ankle has hurt the team though (he is expected to be out for the rest of the regular season), and any other injury could easily land the Fronts in the cellar of the East Division.

In any case, the Fronts did something unusual last night by defeating the Belleville Bulls. The shootout win for the Fronts marked the first game for winger Biduke (obtained Wednesday from Ottawa for future considerations), and he responded by scoring a go ahead goal in the second period. The Fronts were able to jump out to a 4-2 lead after that period, but as has become common with the team, they had what can only be described as a complete breakdown in the third period. The Bulls, who are a top OHL team, did not hesitate to take advantage. They tied the game at 4 goals a piece, but it took until the shootout for the Fronts to win the game on Bobby Nyholm's wrister over the Belleville goalie's glove.

Letdowns and injuries aside, the Fronts have some star players on their roster. Nyholm, Bobby Hughes, Bobby Bolt, Chris Stewart, Emmerton, and Ben Shutron should be adding up to a real powerhouse team. However, the Fronts have had ongoing injury problems and have faced real problems in goal. Neither Jason Guy nor Daryl Borden has played up to par. Hopefully, the Fronts will either select a netminder in this coming priority draft or make a trade in the off-season, but it is too late for this season and a top netminder is a future priority for the team. Additionally, neither Shutron nor Stewart have been playing up to potential this season. Although last night, Shutron registered a goal and an assist, it was his first goal in 21 games. The Fronts are going to need everyone playing to their potential to make it past the first round of the post-season.

On the brighter side, Nathan Moon (a rookie winger with a shoulder injury), Matthew Kang (winger traded from Owen Sound in September), and Josh Brittain (rookie winger also with shoulder injury) are all exciting young players for Kingston. Kang is in his NHL draft year, and of late, he has been turning some heads. With 8 points in the last 5 games, Kane seems to be offsetting some of scoring drought caused by the absence of Emmerton.

In all, Kingston's season can go either way. It will be fun to watch what happens over the next month or so.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Guelph Storm Team Update

Before the start of the third period tonight, Guelph is down 1-0 to Sarnia, but generally Guelph is having a good season. Right in the middle of the Midwest Division, the Storm, a very good team last year, lost several key players (Wilson, Pitton, D'Agostini, Callahan, and Wharton), and still have a competitive team. This is very commendable, as often when a team makes the playoffs and is competitive, it has done it by giving away its future. Guelph has avoided that trap over the last few years, which is very refreshing to see and bodes well in the long run. That is not to say that Guelph avoided any last minute trades (the team made 3), but they continued along their path and did not go crazy and sell their future to win in the present. Gone is Tyler Doig, one of the team's most prolific scorer. Doig was an overager, who was traded for two second round Belleville selections in the next 2 years. Less of an immediate loss to the club is Trevor Solomon, dealt to the London Knights with a couple of mid round picks for Cory Syvret. The third deal with Owen Sound brought Anton Hedman to the team. Like Doig, Hedman is also an overager, but he only cost an 8th round pick. Hedman does not have as many points as Doig, but he will put the puck in the net. When you look at all three trades together, Guelph gave up some scoring with Hedman for Doig, got more potential with Syvret for Solomon, and then did well with the exchange of draft selections. Smart moves, by a smart team.

As to the players currently in the Guelph uniform, Jamie Arniel is so much fun to watch, and his future is glowing right now. Already ranked in the top 20 by ISS for the 2008 NHL draft, Arniel is a natural goal scorer, who can also take care of his own end. Another 2008 NHL draft prospect is Drew Doughty, an offensive defenseman who is tearing up the league. Currently ranked #2 among skaters in the 2008 draft, Doughty is a powerhouse who will entertain for years to come. Both netminders on the roster are also 2008 prospects, with Tom McCollum ranked number #1 right now. If you are starting to get the picture as to Guelph's rosy future, that is my intention. Add in rookies Matt Kennedy, Anthony Nigro, and Tyler Melancon, and you don't want to be on the ice against the Storm 2 seasons from now.

Two of the current defensive corps are NHL draft selections, but neither is having his best year. That is partly why Guelph is in the middle of the pack in the division, but the team is good enough without top performances from either Michael Caruso or Ryan Parent to make the playoffs.

The unsung hero for the Storm has to be overager Mike McLean, who is by far having his best season on the wing. With 39 points in 40 games and a +7 plus/minus, McLean looks ready for the professional game He will get his opportunity this fall.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Erie Otters Team Update

Another team that gave up any hope for this year at the trade deadline (not that they had any choice) was the Erie Otters. Dwelling at the very bottom of the league, with only 20 points, is this Western Conference team. It is the second season in a row for Erie to be in the basement of the Midwest Division, and with the departure of Michael Blunden (to the AHL after last year) and Ryan O'Marra (in exchange for Zac Torquato earlier this season), it was up to Erie to make every trade they could to gear up for next year.

With this season pretty much a washout, the O'Marra trade was an excellent one for the Otters. In Torquato, Erie got a player for the next 2-3 years. Thus far this season, he has 41 points in 38 games, and will most likely be a second round selection in the upcoming NHL draft. Other trades in the last 10 days included the acquisition of 17-year old forward Jordan Skellett, who will be a big contributor to the team over the next 3 years; Kevin Beech, a Tampa Bay Lightning draftee who will bring some stability in net immediately; Pacho Grzeszczak, an undersized rookie defenseman with some skill, but iffy long term prospects; and John Faulkner, an 18-year old netminder currently playing for the Sarnia Blast of the Western Ontario Hockey League (06/07 31 GP, 3.55 GAA, .910 SV %).

There are other skaters on this team that are players to watch in the future, including winger Nick Palmieri, who will be drafted by an NHL this summer, but who needs to play a more disciplined game to be successful in the pros; tough guy blueliners Josh Kidd and Anthony Peluso; and a young defensive player, Mitch Gaulton, who is a rookie with outstanding prospects.

Finally, I must mention Justin Hodgman, a 13th round priority draft pick who works hard and has shown quite a bit of development over the last season and a half. Hodgman was not selected in last summer's NHL draft and probably will not be again in the 2007 draft, but he does have a shot at an invite to an NHL camp either this fall or next. Hodgman still has work to do on defense and skating, but he is a good player for Erie to have on its young roster, showing that determination and hard work convert to success at this level.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Brampton Battalion Team Update

Brampton effectively threw in the towel on this season yesterday, when the team traded away 2 of its best older players for a bundle of draft picks in 2008 and 2009 (and one in 2010). Gone are Howie Martin, one of the team's most prolific scoring forwards, as well as Phil Oreskovic, the team's best offensive defenceman. The Battalion received Thomas Stajan and Dalyn Flatt in return. Flatt is a tough customer on the blueline and he will provide some necessary defence to the team. The plus/minus for the club is abominable, so Flatt should help. Stajan is a rookie (DOB: 1/7/89), who has had a good start to his OHL career. In 41 games this season, he has 8 points, a +3 plus/minus and 21 PIM.

In all honesty, this was an excellent move for Brampton, as the team was going nowhere this season anyway. Most of the players on the team are extremely young, and despite predictions otherwise at the start of the year, the team just can't compete in the OHL this season. But next year and the one after, look out, Brampton will be a team that will contend. This is really a shame for those players who are eligible for the NHL draft this summer, as their numbers will be artificially deflated. In that category are Matt Smyth and Justin Levac, both of whom are about 20% below their expected production, and have plus/minus ratings that do not reflect their real abilities. Also hurting are John DeGray and Bryan Pitton, who are both losing some development time playing in this environment. How this works out for them is unclear.

The Battalion do have 2 excellent rookie players in Cody Hodgson and Mike Lomas. Hodgson will be a top 10 selection in the 2008 NHL draft, and Lomas will almost certainly develop into a solid professional player. John Hughes, who came over from Belleville on November 6th, was an excellent addition to the team. Currently he has 46 points in 36 games, and continues to make things happen on the ice. Not likely to be selected this coming summer in the NHL draft, Hughes will benefit from playing alongside some of the younger very talented Brampton skaters next season. Hopefully, he can parlay that into a good tryout with one of the NHL teams.

The team itself will lose quite a few more games this season, but will be a strong one next year, and a powerhouse in 2008-09. Look out for Pat Killeen between the pipes next year and the year after. He has a huge upside, he just needs to work into it.

Barrie Trade Update

At today's trade deadline, Barrie made two last minute deals to strengthen their team. In the first, the team sent 19-year old winger Matheiu Methot and prospect Adam Courchaine to Ottawa in exchange for a third round pick in 2007 and an 8th round selection in 2008. Courchaine, 18 years of age next month, is a netminder and Barrie's 8th round pick in 2005. However, he has never played a day of major junior hockey. Also today, Barrie picked up 18-year old winger Corey McGillis and 19-year old defenceman Chris Purvis for Barrie's 2nd round selection in 2009 and 9th round in 2010. Close to being a wash in players (although one can easily argue that McGillis' toughness will bring that extra something to the Colts over Methot), Barrie did well in the exchange of priority draft picks. All in all a very good trade period for the Colts, who are now set for the playoff run.

CHL Top Prospects Game Rosters Announced

Yesterday, the CHL announced the names of the 40 players that will take the ice next Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in Quebec City in the Top Prospects Game and Skills Competition. The Skills Competition will take place on Tuesday night and the Game on Wednesday evening at 7 PM. The Top Prospects game will be televised nationally on Rogers Sportsnet.

Noticeable by his absence from the list of players is Justin McCrae of the Saskatoon Blades, who for some unknown reason was left off the rosters. McCrae is currently ranked #25th among all skaters by ISS.

The following players will be attending the event (after the player's name is the ISS ranking for the player in December 2006).

Team Bowman / Demers (White)


Angelo Esposito, Quebec Remparts (#3)
Olivier Fortier, Rimouski Oceanic (#43)
Colton Gillies, Saskatoon Blades (#10)
Max Gratchev, Rimouski Oceanic (#27)
Patrick Kane, London Knights (#11)
Brett MacLean, Oshawa Generals (#62)
Oscar Moller, Chilliwack Bruins (#32)
Michal Repik, Vancouver Giants (#20)
Brett Sonne, Calgary Hitmen (#64)
Brandon Sutter, Red Deer Rebels (#29)
Zack Torquato, Erie Otters (#41)
Keven Veilleux, Victoriaville Tigres (#18)


Karl Alzner, Calgary Hitmen (#5)
Jonathan Blum, Vancouver Giants (#16)
Taylor Ellington, Everett Silvertips (#56)
Mark Katic, Sarnia Sting (#13)
Kevin Marshall, Lewiston MAINEiacs (#68)
David Stich, Saint John Sea Dogs (#24)


Trevor Cann, Peterborough Petes (#1)
Tyson Sexsmith, Vancouver Giants (#10)

Team Burns / Bergeron (Red)


Akim Aliu, Sudbury Wolves (#39)
Ruslan Bashkirov, Quebec Remparts (#52)
Drayson Bowman, Spokane Chiefs (#77)
Logan Couture, Ottawa 67's (#4)
Sam Gagner, London Knights (#6)
Zach Hamill, Everett Silvertips (#35)
Spencer Machacek, Vancouver Giants (#78)
Logan MacMillan, Halifax Mooseheads (#70)
Nick Palmieri, Erie Otters (#57)
David Skokan, Rimouski Oceanic (#36)
Maxime Tanguay, Rimouski Oceanic (#111)
Jakub Voracek, Halifax Mooseheads (#1)


Eric Doyle, Everett Silvertips (#21)
Keaton Ellerby, Kamloops Blazers (#8)
Thomas Hickey, Seattle Thunderbirds (#19)
John Negrin, Kootenay Ice (#12)
Alex Plante, Calgary Hitmen (#17)
Nick Ross, Regina Pats (#26)


Linden Rowat, Regina Pats (#4)
Jeremy Smith, Plymouth Whalers (#3)

Belleville Bulls Team Review

The Belleville Bulls are in first place in the East Division of the Eastern Conference. They have a less talented team up and down the lineup than both the Barrie Colts and the Mississauga Ice Dogs, and will have to really have a great second half to take over the number one spot in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, the Bulls have recently sacrificed some future talent in trades, so that they may win this season; the price of which may just be too high. Belleville will really have to come on very strong over the next few months to compete with the upper echelon teams in the post-season, and their outlook over the next few years is mediocre at best.

Over the summer, the Bulls added overage sniper Tyler Donati. This has proven to be a very good move, as Donati leads the league in points. The most recent addition is overager Tyler Doig, who already has 49 points in 36 games this season. However, to get Doig, the Bulls had to give up their second round selection in both 2007 and 2008 priority drafts. The trade of big defenceman Steve Whitely in exchange for Plymouth's fifth round pick in 2008 is understandable and completely justifiable (in fact, it may just wind up being a great move), but one has to wonder if the Bulls are going in the right direction with all these moves.

The Bulls currently have 5 NHL drafted players on the roster. The big centre Shawn Matthias is having a great post-NHL draft season. With 39 points in as many games, he is really improving his skill level this season. However, winger Aaron Snow (DAL, 3rd round, #90 overall, 2006) is having a disappointing season thus far. Traded from Brampton this past fall, he has not rebounded well. Finally, netminder Shawn Lalande (CAL, 5th round, 128 overall) has done a good job, but he will have to step his game up another notch to compete with the best of the OHL in the post-season. That is, after he recovers from the broken hand that he suffered in a fight with Erie.

Of those eligible for the NHL draft this summer, Bryan Cameron and PK Subban are the Bulls' players that are the most highly touted. But watch for Eric Tangradi, who may go higher than expected. Tangradi is a bit of a late bloomer, but he has the size and the potential to be a very good NHL player.

The best rookie on the team is without question, defenceman Shawn Lalonde. Lalonde is exciting to watch and can do it all from the blueline. Projected to be an early selection in the 2008 NHL draft, look for his stock to rise over the next 6-8 months as folks learn more about what he can do.

Monday, January 08, 2007

OHL Team Updates

Well, scheduling has made it difficult to keep up with my blog, but here is the beginning of what I hope will be more regular updates:

Barrie Colts--Currently ranked first in the Central Division of the OHL's Eastern Conference, the Colts are strong at every position. Additionally, they have done an excellent job of distributing their talent over the entire allowed age range. However, there are rumours that a trade or two may still occur prior to Wednesday's trade deadline. Stay tuned over the next 48 hours for news.

Standout forwards Tomas Marcinko and captain Bryan Little lead the team. Both were drafted by NHL teams in 2006, and both are producing offensively at a top level. Each has been away from the Colts for about a month to play in the WJC, and Barrie has suffered with their absence. Overager Hunter Tremblay has played extremely well and attempted to make up for some of the stars' production, but the team will be very happy to have their 2 big horses back. Tough guy Richard Clune (DAL, 3rd round, #71 overall, 2005) is having a very productive season worth noting. It appears certain that Dallas will sign Clune before the NHL team's property rights expire this June.
Barrie has made some excellent moves over the last month to add production from the blueline. Not the least of which is Mike Weber (BUF, 2nd round, #57 overall, 2006). Weber came over from Windsor last week, and has 2 points in 3 games since becoming a Colt. An all-around player, Weber plays tough, and can participate on both the power play and penalty kill. Barrie is also blessed with the OHL's December Goaltender of the Month in Andrew Perugini. Undrafted last summer, despite his small size, Perugini has an good chance of selection this coming NHL draft. The crop of goaltenders this summer is not particularly deep, so Perugini will get a good look by scouts this spring. To me, what is most exciting about the Colts this season is the young guys, the rookies, who have shown such promise. Besides Marcinko, who is an older rookie, the Colts have future star Stephan Della Rovere, Alex Hutchings and newcomer Thomas Battani up front. Della Rovere, who was Barrie's first selection in last spring's priority draft, has been out with an upper body injury since last month. A future star, Della Rovere is exciting to watch and eligible for the NHL draft in 2008. Hutchings has another year and has tremendous offensive skills. If Hutchings can get much stronger (and grow a bit; he is really only about 5'9"), he has very good professional potential. Battani just was traded from Windsor last week. He needs to play a disciplined game, and if he can get the ice time with the Colts, he should put up some excellent numbers. On defence, 2 rookies have shown some real potential--Brian Lashoff and Ryan Gottschalk are exciting to watch. Finally, rookie netminder Michael Hutchinson has a 2.85 GAA and a .919 save percentage in the 6 games in which he appeared.

The player who has done much better than expected on the Colts is Kris Sparre. Sparre has played in the OPJHL, the Q, and the OHL all in one season in 05-06, but now seems to have settled down. Thus far this season, the undersized winger has 33 points in 40 games.