Sunday, September 22, 2013

More Updated WHL Heights And Weights

Late in August I put up a post outlining about a dozen height/weight changes for some 2014 NHL Draft prospects from the WHL.  It looked at how much they had grown from last season, to 2013-14.  Now that WHL roster pages have been fully updated, I have a few more to post.

Sam Reinhart - Kootenay Ice - 6'0 - 182 ==> 6'1 - 183
Leon Draisaitl - Prince Albert Raiders - 6'1 - 198 ==> 6'1 - 209
Haydn Fleury - Red Deer Rebels - 6'3 - 204 ==> 6'3 - 198
Conner Bleackley - Red Deer Rebels - 6'0 - 199 ==> 6'1 - 195
Jayce Hawryluk - Brandon Wheat Kings - 5'10 - 186 ==> 5'10 - 190
Tyson Baillie - Kelowna Rockets - 5'10 - 185 ==> 5'10 - 187
Dysin Mayo - Edmonton Oil Kings - 6'0 - 173 ==> 6'1 - 180
Reid Duke - Lethbridge Hurricanes - 6'0 - 185 ==> 6'0 - 188
Rourke Chartier - Kelowna Rockets - 5'10 - 165 ==> 5'11 - 180
Joe Hicketts - Victoria Royals - 5'8 - 174 ==> 5'8 - 186
Luke Philp - Kootenay Ice - 5'9 - 169 ==> 5'10 - 177
Collin Shirley - Kootenay Ice - 6'1 - 172 ==> 6'2 - 182
Reid Gardiner - Prince Albert Raiders - 5'10 - 179 ==> 5'11 - 185
Brandon Fushimi - Victoria Royals - 5'11 - 173 ==> 6'0 - 183
John Quenneville - Brandon Wheat Kings - 6'0 - 194 ==> 6'1 - 186
Kyle O'Connor - Kootenay Ice - 6'1 - 174 ==> 6'2 - 181

Previously posted:

Jake Virtanen - Calgary Hitmen - 6'1 - 190  ==> 6'1 - 210
Chase De Leo - Portland Winterhawks - 5'9 - 172  ==> 5'10 - 175
Brycen Martin - Swift Current Broncos - 6'1 - 181  ==> 6'2 - 185
Brayden Point - Moose Jaw Warriors - 5'8 - 155  ==> 5'9 - 160
Keegan Iverson - Portland Winterhawks - 6'0 - 215  ==> 6'1 - 216
Justin Paulic - Moose Jaw Warriors - 6'1 - 188  ==> 6'1 - 193
Nelson Nogier - Saskatoon Blades - 6'2 - 182  ==> 6'2 - 193
Tyler Sandhu - Everett Silvertips - 5'10 - 155  ==> 5'10 - 170
Matt Revel - Saskatoon Blades - 5'11 - 165  ==> 5'11 - 177
Ryan Graham - Saskatoon Blades - 6'1 - 195  ==> 6'2 - 198
Josh Thrower - Calgary Hitmen - 6'0 - 194  ==> 6'1 - 200
Dominic Turgeon - Portland Winterhawks - 6'1 - 191  ==> 6'2 - 196

Interesting to note that three of the new updates include players that have lost weight compared to last season.    

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Adam Brooks - CL - Regina Pats - Report From Sept. 10th, 2013

Finally had my first chance to see an actual live WHL game in 2013-14, even if it was just an exhibition game that lacked a number of veterans.  Either way, it was still a good opportunity to focus in on Regina Pats centre Adam Brooks.  He caught my eye quite a bit last year as a 16 year old, so I was anxious to see how he would look this year.  I was pleasantly surprised.  He played well and showed off some really nice elements.  He's gritty and has pretty decent offensive skills.  If he can continue to work on his skating, he could be a really solid prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft. 

Below is my report from his game on September 10th, 2013.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tracking WHL Heights And Weights For The 2014 NHL Draft

It is the time of year where WHL communications staffs are being urged to upload and update their rosters in advance of exhibition games.  Several teams in the league have already taken the time to do this, with WHL exhibition games already getting underway the other day as Swift Current beat Moose Jaw 5-4.

This information usually gives people who follow the NHL draft the first chance to see which players have grown over the summer, and how much they've grown, as they enter their draft years.  That is no different for me as I look ahead to the 2014 NHL Draft.  Below you will find a handful of players who cracked my preliminary 2014 NHL Draft rankings, breaking down their current height/weight when compared to last season's numbers.

Jake Virtanen - Calgary Hitmen - 6'1 - 190  ==> 6'1 - 210
Chase De Leo - Portland Winterhawks - 5'9 - 172  ==> 5'10 - 175
Brycen Martin - Swift Current Broncos - 6'1 - 181  ==> 6'2 - 185
Brayden Point - Moose Jaw Warriors - 5'8 - 155  ==> 5'9 - 160
Keegan Iverson - Portland Winterhawks - 6'0 - 215  ==> 6'1 - 216
Justin Paulic - Moose Jaw Warriors - 6'1 - 188  ==> 6'1 - 193
Nelson Nogier - Saskatoon Blades - 6'2 - 182  ==> 6'2 - 193
Tyler Sandhu - Everett Silvertips - 5'10 - 155  ==> 5'10 - 170
Matt Revel - Saskatoon Blades - 5'11 - 165  ==> 5'11 - 177
Ryan Graham - Saskatoon Blades - 6'1 - 195  ==> 6'2 - 198
Josh Thrower - Calgary Hitmen - 6'0 - 194  ==> 6'1 - 200
Dominic Turgeon - Portland Winterhawks - 6'1 - 191  ==> 6'2 - 196

Assuming this information is actually up to date and correct, there are a few interesting things to note.

- Virtanen jumping from 190 pounds to 210 is a pretty big leap.  Keep in mind that his 190 weight was from this time last year, not the end of last season.  20 pounds might not actually be that much to put on for a 16-17 year old, so we'll see how he looks on the ice in exhibition and in the regular season.

- Point stands out due to a lack of adding weight.  Gaining 5 pounds over a full calendar year is concerning, especially when he tops out at 160.  That is, of course, assuming that these figures are in fact correct.

- Not necessarily weight/height-related, but I'm really interested to watch the trio of young Winterhawks listed above.  I'm a big De Leo fan, Iverson is a big, strong kid and Turgeon looks to take advantage of a much larger role for them this year.  It will be fun to track their development as the year goes along.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Previewing The WHL's Eastern Division

Over the past couple of weeks I've slowly poked through some projected rosters for teams throughout the WHL. Based on what I've seen, I've decided to write a pair of projection pieces on the WHL's Eastern Conference, as it's the conference that I see on a very regular basis from year to year.  I'll start these pieces by looking at the WHL's Eastern Division, looking at some key players for each team and breaking down some potential strengths and weaknesses of each team. 

Saskatoon Blades

The WHL team with the most turnover on their roster from last season is undoubtedly the Blades.  They've swung a number of deals during the offseason to pare their massive list of 1993's down to a more manageable number of 4.  Many people out there are predicting the Blades to sit at the bottom of the WHL's Eastern Conference due to this "growth" phase they are just entering.  But, looking at their current roster they've still got some intriguing pieces.  Their group of top-6 forwards is competitive, with veteran guys like Nathan Burns, Erik Benoit and Collin Valcourt in the mix for overage spots.  Add players like Brett Stovin, Matt Revel and Nick Zajac, who are all a year older and more experienced, and you have a group that should be able to help carry and teach what will be a very young bottom 6.  One 1997 that should play a decent role with the team is Cameron Hebig, the team's first pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft.  He's a small and skilled center who should help add some depth offence.  Their defensive group is looking ok, with 1996-born Nelson Nogier taking a big leap forward in his development as last year wore on.  Graeme Craig is likely a lock to stick as one of the team's overagers, with the team also acquiring Kevin Pochuk and Ayrton Nikkel over the summer.  Expect Nikkel and Nogier to play a ton of minutes in all situations in 2013-14.  Add import and former Sarnia Sting D David Nemecek to the mix and you have a pretty decent defensive group.  Alex Moodie is going to have to prove he can be a starting goaltender, after not playing a ton recently due to back-to-back MVP-calibre seasons by Andrey Makarov.   Expectations are low for this team this year and that should definitely help them as they will look to grow together as a young group while continuing to look toward the future.

Brandon Wheat Kings

Don't expect this team to be in the Eastern Conference basement like they were last year.  Also don't expect them to finish with the second-fewest goals for in the conference, as they did in 2012-13.  They were a young squad last year and those key guys are now more experienced.  With forwards Jayce Hawryluk, John Quenneville, Taylor Cooper, Jack Palmer, Tim McGauley all a year older, a pair of big bombers on the point returning in Eric Roy and Ryan Pulock and the addition of talented 1997 Jesse Gabrielle and import Rihards Bukarts, scoring shouldn't be a flaw like it was last year.  They return much of their blueline from last year with Pulock, Roy and Nick Walters being augmented by youngsters Kord Pankewicz, Colton Waltz and Riley Van Horne, all of whom are ready for more minutes.  The recent acquisition of 6'7 defender Taylor Green from Seattle also helps that depth.  But, this is a team that still has a few question marks.  Their list of overagers currently sits at three with Rene Hunter, Jens Meilleur and Chad Robinson.  With none of those guys being true top 6 forwards or top 3-4 defenders, it's obviously not a huge strength.  But, they're all definitely leaders and guys who can contribute in other ways so it will be interesting to see what they plan on doing with those spots in their lineup.  The other potential question mark they have is between the pipes.  They dealt Corbin Boes to Lethbridge at the draft, leaving stud 1996 Jordan Papirny and 1994 Curtis Honey between the pipes.  I don't think it's a bad duo by any stretch, it's just a young duo.  It sounds like they intend on using Honey as the starter, but Papirny is definitely the guy of the future and should have the opportunity to eventually steal that role throughout the year. If the duo can play well, even just somewhat above average, this team could be poised to finish in the top 4 in the conference.

Swift Current Broncos

It's been a bitter sweet summer for the Swift Current Broncos.  They've had the negatives of losing Brent Benson to concussion issues and likely losing some huge names to the pro game like Adam Lowry, Reece Scarlett and Richard Nedomlel.  Word also surfaced recently that key forward Levi Bews won't be at their training camp due to personal reasons, not related to the Broncos.  They've also had the positives in getting star import goalie Eetu Laurikainen back in the fold, making a nice deal with Seattle to acquire Andrew Johnson and Connor Sanvido for a very cheap price and hitting a nice homerun in this year's import draft by grabbing Finnish puck-mover and 2014 NHL Draft prospect Julius Honka, who will play for the team this year.  They've got a decent forward group with Graham Black likely returning for his overage season and guys like Colby Cave and Coda Gordon poised to have big year's as 1994's.  They've got a pretty decent group of 1995's up front, with names like Jay Merkley, Denis Bosc, Zac Mackay, Tanner LeSann and Justin Spagrud.  Glenn Gawdin should be an impact 1997 up front for them, too. They're set between the pipes with Laurikainen, obviously.  On the blueline, losing Nedomlel and Scarlett would hurt big time and the graduation of Dalton Reum will definitely be felt.  I really like both Dillon Heatherington and Brycen Martin and Honka sounds like a real player.  1995's Brett Lernout and Bobby Zinkan are hopefully ready to take on a bigger role on the right hand side of their blueline because there could be some growing pains if they don't adjust quickly.  If their 1994's all have big offensive years, even a couple of their 1995's show solid offensive number increases, Laurikainen returns to form and their defence doesn't have too tough of a transition, there is no doubt in my mind that the Broncos will contend for a playoff spot again this season.  

Regina Pats

Not many teams will be hit as hard by graduating 1992's as the Regina Pats will be.  They're losing very key players at all three positions with Lane Scheidl (F), Colton Jobke (D) and Matt Hewitt (G) all moving on to bigger and better things.  But, there are still some major positives to look forward to as a fan of the Regina Pats.  The biggest has to be a (hopefully) full season of a healthy Chandler Stephenson.  He's yet to suit up for more than 60 games in any of his first three WHL seasons, playing in only 46 games last year.  Entering what is possibly his final WHL season, the Washington Capitals prospect is talented enough to finish among the top 10 scorers in the league.  Mix in Calgary Flames first round pick Morgan Klimchuk and you have one of the league's most dangerous duos.  You've also got guys like Trent Ouellette, Dyson Stevenson returning up front.  Mix in key 1994's like Marc McCoy, Carson Samoridny, Braden Christoffer and Jack Rodewald and you've got the makings of a pretty solid top 9 forward group.  They just have to hope some of their younger prospects show well and grow in bottom 6 roles.  One 1996 to watch in that aspect up front is Adam Brooks.  On defence they've got some nice pieces with Colby Williams and Kyle Burroughs set to be back and continue their offensive ways.  Getting 19 year old Dmitry Sinitsyn in the import draft should add some stability to that position as well.   Just like the Swift Current Broncos, they have to hope some of their younger defenceman have had good summer's, including guys like Tye Hand and Griffin Mumby, with Darian Henry adding physicality to that blueline.  In goal, Teagan Sacher will have his hands full in trying to replace Matt Hewitt, who was one of the league's most underrated goalies.

Prince Albert Raiders

Could this be the year for the Prince Albert Raiders?  I definitely think they're close to becoming a true contender for a WHL crown in 2013-14.  They return a number of guys from their lineup last season, have a good mix of size and skill and have strength at all positions of their lineup.  There continues to be one big question about this team, and that is the future of Mark McNeill.  The big pivot is eligible for one more year in the WHL, but he's also able to play pro this year.  What will the Blackhawks do with him this year?  if he's back with the Raiders, this team could be a wrecking ball in their own division.  To be honest, I wouldn't expect him to be back but you never know.  As for the "for sure" parts about this club, the biggest move they've made this offseason is acquiring a top end goaltender in Cole Cheveldave from Kamloops.   He's a game-changing goalie who might just have what it takes to put them over the top.  German Leon Draisaitl is set to have a huge draft year as he's surrounded with some nice talent up front in Mike Winther, Dakota Conroy, Chance Braid and Jayden Hart.  Youngsters Tim Vanstone and Reid Gardiner are also ready to take on much more responsibility after very good rookie seasons.  On the blueline, they return their top two scoring defenders from last year in Jets 1st rounder Josh Morrissey and former Tiger Dylan Busenius.  Mix in solid defensive defender Sawyer Lange and former 3rd overall bantam pick Brendan Guhle and you've got the makings of a pretty solid blueline.  One wildcard to keep an eye on still is first round import pick Tomas Andrlik.  He's a 1995 D but I haven't heard if he's reporting to the team or not.  If this team can stay healthy and eventually add some minor pieces both up front and on the defensive side of things they could truly be contenders, especially if McNeill does return.

Moose Jaw Warriors

Two themes seem to be a fairly common amongst teams in the Warriors division.  One popular theme is team's continuing their youth movement.  The other one is team's having questions about which of their players might play pro.  Moose Jaw definitely fits into both of those categories.  They're going to be a young squad again this coming season.  They'll count on players like Brayden Point, Sam Fioretti and Tanner Eberle offensively, while hoping that some of their younger players can learn from their rookie seasons.  Those young players looking to take big strides this year include Josh Uhrich, Torrin White, Bryson Gore, Brandon Potomak, Carter Hansen, Miles Warkentine and Colton McCarthy.  That's a pretty solid group that plays with speed and grit but getting them to add an offensive element is going to be key.  Speaking of offensive punch and questions, will Morgan Rielly be back?  That has to be the main question facing this team.  He's technically eligible to make the jump to the NHL's Leafs, but is he ready?  I think he's close so it really could go either way.  If he's not back, Travis Brown is going to be responsible for doing a ton of heavy lifting during 5 on 5 play and on both the PP and PK units.  The rest of their blueline has decent WHL experience, despite their age, but just like their forward group they'll need to transfer that experience into solid and consistent play on the ice.  Import blueliner Aleksy Sleptsov is young, but he'll be another guy to help plug some holes defensively.  It might not be the best way to win games, but good goaltending can help make a defence look good and I really like this part of the Warriors game.  Justin Paulic is poised to likely be one of only three starting goalies in the WHL this year who are in their first NHL draft year (along with Payton Lee in Vancouver and Jordan Papirny in Brandon) and he's coming off a solid rookie year.  They've also got a 1995-born backup in Daniel Wapple who showed good things in stretches last year, and 1997 Zach Sawchenko in the pipeline too.  Overall this is a squad that surely has some questions coming into the season but will be extremely fun to watch regardless.   They might not make the playoffs, but they more than likely won't go down easy if that's the case.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Saskatoon Blades Training Camp Thoughts

Each one of the four scrimmage teams at Saskatoon Blades training camp have now had the chance to play every other team at the event.  I've been lucky enough to have been able to attend every minute of said scrimmages.  I've obviously had the chance to watch a number of players pretty closely, close enough to be able to comfortably post my thoughts on how things have gone so far.  

I may work for the team, but keep in mind that I don't scout for the team or have any say in regards to who stays and who goes when it comes to roster situations.  My thoughts below are merely my opinion, so players and parents of said players shouldn't read too much into them. 

Now that I've got that out of the way, feel free to browse below to see who's caught my eye from time to time through the first couple days of Saskatoon Blades 2013-14 training camp.

David Nemecek (LD - '95) - Heard concerns about his skating and footwork, but to be honest, it wasn't as bad as I expected.  He's had a good couple of days, being very involved offensively and physically.  Looks like he's trying to show the staff what he can do, clearly one of the hardest working "veterans" so far at camp.  Will likely end up as a more than serviceable depth defenceman on this year's blueline.

Cameron Hebig (RC - '97) - Has been one of the standouts so far at camp.  He impressed me last year with his vision, skating and compete.  He's done the same this year, except that he's 3 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than last year.  I see no reason to doubt that he'll end up as this team's 3rd line center this year.  How nice would it be to get 12-15 goals from a 16 year old third line center?  I could honestly see that happening.

Evan Polei (LW - '96) - He probably could have stuck on this team last year, if the Blades didn't have such an old squad in a Memorial Cup hosting year.  He had a good camp then, and he's had another great one so far.  He scored a hat-trick in the first game, added two more in the second game and probably could have had six or seven in the first two games if it wasn't for a missed open net and a narrow miss late in the second game.  He's big, he can move ok but the thing that separates him from the rest is his shot and release.  It's extremely quick and heavy.  He'll get a long look and could be an ideal fit as a depth winger who can add some toughness and size up front, two things that might be lacking just a bit.

Haydn Hopkins (RC - '97) - He was one of my favorites at camp last season when he was fresh out of the bantam draft.  He was 15 then, but still stood out as a dynamic player with grit, speed and skill.  He's been on a line with Cody Young at camp and the duo has been electric.  Hopkins might need another year just to get bigger and stronger, but I have no doubt that this kid will be able play at the WHL level and will be able to score at the WHL level.  I hope he has a big year ahead of him because he could be a real weapon as a 17 year old rookie in 2014-15.

Joel Lakusta (RD - '98) - Has gotten better in each of the three games so far.  Fresh out of the bantam draft and has been very involved physically, standing up to guys that are older, bigger and heavier than him.  Looks to have potential as a good two-way defenceman, even if he is a couple years away.

Ayrton Nikkel (LD - '95)  - Pretty much everything I expected and everything I've seen from him at the WHL level before.  Very physical and a true leader during warmups and during play.  Spoke to him before camp and said all the right things.  He's matured and will be a great leader for this team for the remainder of his WHL career.  

Nolan Reid (RD - '98) - I've heard him called "the best draftable defender in Saskatchewan" from this year's bantam draft and I can see why.  Very smooth skater, likes to bump and grind and has good offensive skill.  Made some nice defensive plays and he's been more noticeable as camp has gone on.

Nick Gomerich (RC - '96) - Has shown glimpses in all three games so far.  Seems to be quiet, then all of a sudden he busts through with a great chance.  Good hands in traffic.  Definitely in the mix to make the team, but he needs to have a strong close to the weekend and work extremely hard because he's got guys pushing him at this camp.

Dexter Kuczek (LW - '97) - Another one of the '97's at camp that I like.  Has been a standout here and there.  Has a good mix of size and grit.  Might not be in the plans for this year but he still has a future as a potential very good role player at the WHL level if he can have a big year upcoming.

Mitch Newsome (RW - '97) - Good motor, pretty decent puck skills.  He's taken and laid some huge hits through the first two days.  Sounds like he'll be around for the Blue-White game on Sunday and he'll have a chance to impress as he has in spurts so far this weekend.

Ryan Coghlan (RD - '95) - Wasn't sure what to expect from him.  Heard a few things about how he might've suited this 2013-14 team, and was even more intrigued when he was measured at 6'0 and 234 pounds.  He's been ok at camp, with his main standout skill being his bomb of a shot.  Interested to see where it goes from here for him.

Ryan Pouliot (RD - '98) - Very tiny, only 143 pounds but he's been pretty decent so far.  Has handled himself well offensively, moving the puck around and not getting hit too hard considering the size at some of the opposition.  

Quinn Sobus (LD - '97) - Loved his game last year at camp and he's been in the middle of the pack so far here again.  His second game of the three was his best.  I still see some good potential with him, unfortunately there aren't too many spots up for grabs on this year's blueline.  Will be interested to see if he can gain some decent muscle while playing midget this year.

Chasetan Braid (LW - '97) - Hits hard, hits often.  Doesn't back down from anyone.

Zachary Gladu (RW - '98) - Good size and I've really liked his game considering he's an undrafted 1998.  Has had some scoring chances and works extremely hard.  3 points in 3 games. 

Marcus Mitchell (RWL - '98) - Has been one of my standouts among 1998's.  Ok skater, but has good size and a mix of physicality and nose for the net.  Has had some big hits and has been a good fit alongside Curtis Peck, two physical guys.

Ryan Pruden - (RW - '96) - Has come on throughout the three games and is noticeably more physical than he has been in the past.  Has created some good chances, too.  

Greyson Reitmeier (LW - '96) - A big, 1996 invite, standing at 6'3.  Quick skater, gets involved physically and has had success driving wide to the net.  I expect him to stick around a bit longer with this team, as his size and speed could be a good asset.

Ross Hnidy (LD - '96) - Still a mean SOB, still might be a spot for him on the blueline, especially if he can scrap at the WHL level.

Thane Kondrat (RD - '98) - A 1998 invite, but he's physical and always under people's skin.

Turner Ottenbreit (LD - '97) - Where did this physical edge come from.  Mostly relied on his stick and body positioning last year at camp, but he's been a monster in a few ways at camp.  Poise with the puck and really showing he wants to hit to hurt.  Had the biggest hit on camp so far when he stepped up at the offensive blueline in game one.  Also wasn't afraid to trade shoves with some tough guys, including Polei.

Luke Gingras (LC - '98) - Good size and stood out a ton before getting hurt.  I heard good things about him coming into camp and he didn't disappoint as he scored a great goal by cutting to the middle and ripping it bar down.  

Graham Millar (RW - '96) - Probably could have made the team last year, but has another great chance this year.  Good size, skill and has had some great moments physically.  Is another one of those guys that has gotten better throughout the three games.  Good potential here with a good frame.

Cody Young (LW - '96) - Have liked him in the last three years at camp and this one is no different.  Was fantastic in game one, especially, and has a great motor.  Could be a good energy player to have on the full-time roster.

Brandon Kruger (G - '98) - An invite but he's been very good.  Very athletic guy at 5'11 and 187.  Might be good enough to get on the protected list.

Mackenzie Dwyer (LD - '97) - Is one of my trio of guys I liked a lot last year along with Ottenbreit and Sobus and I think he's still my favorite.  Hits everything and is always trying to make something happen physically.  Has made some nice poised plays with the puck, too.  Could be a spot for him on this team if they decide to take on a 16 year old rookie as a 6th or 7th defender.

Clayton Kirichenko (RD - '96) - Has been very good in all three games.  He practiced with the team toward the end of last year and it's clear that he's at a different level than many of the prospects looking to make this team.  Hits hard and plays mean, has some skill to go with it.  Excited to see him develop over the next few years.

Austin Adamson (RW - '96) - Scored a pair of goals in game three after really standing out in game two.  Extremely good speed and a great shot, too.  Mix in some grit and you have a prime candidate for a depth forward role on the Blades.  Hopefully he can continue to elevate his game as things go along.

Spencer Tremblay (G - '94) - Credit to him for playing very well in camp.  He missed almost all last year due to injury after playing a number of games with the Moose Jaw Warriors two years ago.  He could end up keeping his name in the mix with the Blades if he can keep it up.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Predicting The Canadian Olympic Team

I'm bored and want to write about hockey.  I figured a prediction piece on the 2014 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team would be a good idea, considering the camp is just around the corner.

Calgary will once again be the host site starting next Sunday, August 25th, when 47 NHL stars hit the ice for the Canadian summer evaluation camp.  The camp includes 5 goalies, 17 defencemen and 25 forwards, with Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman going on record as saying he'd like the final team of 25 players to include 14 forwards, 8 defencemen and 3 goalies.

Just as a reference, you can go here to look at the entire list of 47 players invited to the camp.

Picking a list like this is definitely no easy task.  Canada, like most other top hockey nations, has an embarrassment of riches at each and every position.  On the positive side, being named to such a team is an extreme honor for these players, meaning guys who make the squad can usually check their ego at the door and fill any role that is requested of them.  So, below is an early look of who I think could make the final Canadian Olympic Team Roster:

Martin St. Louis - Sidney Crosby - Steven Stamkos
John Tavares - Jonathan Toews - Claude Giroux
Rick Nash - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Eric Staal - Patrice Bergeron - Patrick Sharp

Extras: Mike Richards, Logan Couture

As stated, this is an extremely tough area to narrow down.  Some bubble names that I didn't include were guys like Joe Thornton, Jordan Eberle, Jeff Carter and Milan Lucic.  I think the two biggest wildcards that I included on the team are Tavares and Sharp.  I think Tavares needs a spot on this team as he could absolutely light it up alongside other top flight talent.  Sharp deserves to be on the team as he's a proven winner and is extremely versatile.  He can fill all three forward spots and do good work on both the PK and PP. Another name that I could see left off this squad is Martin St. Louis.  He's in the twilight of his career, but I still think he deserves the shot.  Him playing for Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning likely helps his cause, too.  The lines I've listed would be decent fits as I tried as hard as I could to not shift guys out of their main position.  Obviously that's not terribly easy to do, so it will be interesting to see how that factor is weighed in this equation when the actual team is selected.  Just like you'll see with the Canadian blueline, there really is a noticeable difference between left-handed talent and right-handed talent up front.  Left wing is a weak spot for Canada, so we'll see how that gets addressed with players playing out of their normal position or if it gives an under the radar winger a shot at the squad.  Now on to the blueline.

Drew Doughty - Shea Weber
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Extras: PK Subban, Marc Staal

Just like the list up front, this is no easy task.  Some bubble names that I left off include Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf, Dan Boyle and Kris Letang.  When looking at the players invited to camp, one thing that stands out is the depth on the right side of the blueline compared to the left.  It could make for some issues and potentially interesting situations with at least one top-calibre RH shot likely having to play his off-side.  The three bubble guys that make the cut for me are Bouwmeester, Subban and Staal.  I think Subban is a safer bet than the other two, just due to his dynamic ability to score and hit in the open ice.  I've always been a fan of Bouwmeester and having him as essentially your 6th defender is quite the luxury.  I think he gets a bad rap, and backed that up following his trade from Calgary to St. Louis last year.  Staal is a wildcard.  I would personally want this team to bring along an extra defender who's much more of a defensive guy, who can log key shutdown and PK minutes should a guy like Seabrook or Weber get hurt.  That's how he fits in here, with guys like Hamhuis, Alzner or Vlasic also capable of that type of role as an 8th defender.  Now a look between the pipes.

Roberto Luongo
Carey Price

Extra:  Corey Crawford

Determining the final three goalies might be the easiest decision of all for Team Canada, and even that could be intriguing.  I'll start by saying that Cam Ward deserved an invite to this camp.  I think he is easily in the mix for the spot as the 3rd goalie on this team, and I actually almost gave him the spot over Crawford.  I'm not terribly sold on Crawford as I would still like to see him be able to show that he can repeat his performance from last season.  If he does, I think it's a no-brainer that he's the 3rd guy here.  If he stumbles next season, I would have to imagine that either Ward or Mike Smith get the nod.  Smith is under the radar on the invite list, but could easily play his way onto this team.  As for who's actually the starter, for me it's Luongo's job to lose.  He won gold with Canada in 2010 and Price hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in the last couple of NHL seasons. 

So, what are your thoughts on the team?  Who's in, who's out and how does yours differ from mine?

Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 Ivan Hlinka Roster Announced

This morning was the final Red-White scrimmage at Canada's Ivan Hlinka tryout camp.  After the Red victory, players were made aware of whether or not they made the cut.  The names started to trickle out, with the following list being the players who made the roster.  They will head to Europe for the start of the event on August 5th.  It runs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  You'll find some comments on the roster and cuts below as well.

#NameS/CHt.Wt.BornHometownClub TeamPro Status
1Julio BilliaL/G5'10"16103/11/96St-Léonard, Que.Chicoutimi (QMJHL)2014 Dft
30Mason McDonaldR/D6'3"18004/23/96Halifax, N.S.Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)2014 Dft
2Carl NeillR/D6'0.5"20307/06/96Boisbriand, Que.Sherbrooke (QMJHL)2014 Dft
3Joe HickettsL/G5'8"17405/04/96Kamloops, B.C.Victoria (WHL)2014 Dft
4Haydn FleuryL/G6'2"20407/08/96Carlyle, Sask.Red Deer (WHL)2014 Dft
5Aaron EkbladR/D6'3"21302/08/96Belle River, Ont.Barrie (OHL)2014 Dft
7Ryan PilonL/G6'1.5"20810/10/96Duck Lake, Sask.Lethbridge (WHL)2015 Dft
10Alexandre CarrierR/D5'11"16010/08/96Varennes, Que.Gatineau (QMJHL)2015 Dft
25Roland McKeownR/D6'0.5"18601/20/96Listowel, Ont.Kingston (OHL)2014 Dft
8Jayce HawrylukR/D5'9.5"18601/01/96Roblin, Man.Brandon (WHL)2014 Dft
9Robby FabbriL/G5'9.5"16001/22/96Mississauga, Ont.Guelph (OHL)2014 Dft
11Sam BennettL/G6'0"16806/30/96Holland Landing, Ont.Kingston (OHL)2014 Dft
12Jared McCannL/G6'0"17405/31/96London, Ont.Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)2014 Dft
14Rourke ChartierL/G5'10"16504/03/96Saskatoon, Sask.Kelowna (WHL)2014 Dft
15Spencer WatsonR/D5'9.5"15704/25/96London, Ont.Kingston (OHL)2014 Dft
17Michael Dal ColleL/G6'2"17106/20/96Vaughan, Ont.Oshawa (OHL)2014 Dft
18Brayden PointR/D5'8"15503/12/96Calgary, Alta.Moose Jaw (WHL)2014 Dft
19Jake VirtanenR/D6'0"19908/17/96Abbotsford, B.C.Calgary (WHL)2014 Dft
21Brendan LemieuxL/G6'0"19003/15/96Buckingham, Que.Barrie (OHL)2014 Dft
22Clark BishopL/G5'11.5"17903/29/96St. John's, N.L.Cape Breton (QMJHL)2014 Dft
23Daniel AudetteL/G5'8"16805/06/96Blainville, Que.Sherbrooke (QMJHL)2014 Dft
26Alexis PépinR/D6'2"20304/24/96Candiac, Que.Charlottetown (QMJHL)2014 Dft

- So, after it's all said and done, 7 WHL players make the cut for the final roster.  The OHL led the charge in that regard with 8, with 7 also coming from the QMJHL.  All 22 guys obviously coming from the CHL, nice to see.

- The WHL players released from the team were: Payton Lee, Brycen Martin, Dysin Mayo, Nelson Nogier, Jordan Thomson, Conner Bleackley, Reid Duke and Collin Shirley.  I obviously wasn't at camp, so it's pretty hard to judge who should have been there and who was deserving to be cut.  But, from what I could gather it sounded like Martin, Nogier, Bleackley and Duke all had pretty strong showings.  Some scouts I know even went as far to say that guys like Martin and Nogier should have made the final cut.

- As for the WHL guys who did make it, they are: Jake Virtanen, Brayden Point, Rourke Chartier, Jayce Hawryluk, Joe Hicketts, Haydn Fleury and Ryan Pilon.  They're all very good players and obviously filled a role well enough to carve out a roster spot.

- For the forwards, I think all 4 are versatile enough young players that they can slot in almost anywhere in the lineup.  All 4 are obviously known more as scorers, and rightfully so, but they've been brought along the correct way in their WHL careers and can fill energy roles for Canada if that's what they need to do.

- On defence, you have a guy like Hicketts who's a hard-working, undersized, puckmover.  Both Fleury and Pilon would be considered more well-rounded guys, but all three should be able to thrive in any role given at the event.  I would expect Fleury to show well in Europe.  He'll likely be a top 3 D on the squad and sounds like he had a standout camp performance.

- One final note, this camp has re-enforced my previous thoughts about the depth of the 2014 NHL draft from a WHL perspective.  I've been on record saying I think the talent is there for this crop to be very good.  Maybe not as good as the last couple of years, but with the right growth from a few key players, the WHL could be seen as having the stronger crop when comparing the regions within the CHL.  Time will tell, but it's clear some of these guys have taken good steps since the season ended in the spring.