Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogger Hiatus

I won't be posting for the next short while as I am taking a bit of a vacation.


Me and my beautiful girlfriend will be spending the next week or so on a beach in Jamaica.

I appreciate all the readers I have daily, and I can assure you I will keep you all up to date with the WHL and the Saskatoon Blades again very soon.

Blades win in Vancouver

It was the perfect start to the BC road trip.

The Blades got the first two goals of the hockey game and held on the rest of the way, beating the Vancouver Giants 2-1.

Chris Collins scored with just over a minute left in the opening frame, getting his 4th of the year.

Josh Nicholls potted his 12th of the season on the powerplay at 6:17 of the 2nd period, and that's all the Blades would need.

Brendan Rowinski cut the lead in half late in the 2nd period with a shorthanded marker, but they couldn't get another one past Blades starter Adam Morrison.

In the end Morrison made 23 saves to earn the win. Mark Segal made 21 saves in a losing cause for the Giants. Saskatoon had a strong showing on the penalty kill, holding the Giants scoreless in 6 chances. Saskatoon was 1 for 5.

The three stars were ALL Saskatoon Blades:

* Adam Morrison
** Josh Nicholls
*** Stefan Elliott

All 3 are also BC boys. Coincidence? I think not.

It was only the 2nd time the Blades have beaten Vancouver in Pacific Coliseum, and the first time since November of 2004.

Next up for the Blades, Chilliwack tomorrow night.

Blades in Vancouver to start BC trip

Saskatoon is coming off a big win over the Raiders on the weekend, and hope to have that carry over to tonight as they visit the Giants.

 It's a series that hasn't been kind to the Blades over the years, going 3-7 in their last 10 games overall against Vancouver. That includes only one win in 5 games at the Pacific Coliseum.

Right now the Blades sit 1st in the Eastern Division @ 18-6-0-1, 6 points up of Moose Jaw. They are 2nd in the Eastern Conference, 2 points back of Red Deer (with 3 fewer games played).

The Giants are 2nd in the BC division with 30 points @ 13-9-1-3. They have the same amount of points as the Cougars, but have one less win. In their last 10 games the Giants have only won 4 games.

The game goes at 9:00 SK time on 92.9 The Bull. You can also catch the pre-game show starting at 8:30.

My World Junior Team Prediction

Yesterday Hockey Canada announced the rosters for the tryout camp that starts on December 12th. Last night I decided to start putting together my predictions for a roster.

Well, here it is:

-Goalies-

Calvin Pickard
JP Anderson

I think the goaltending could be the biggest battle in camp. All four guys (along with Olivier Roy and Mark Visentin) could not only make the team, but start. Olivier Roy is considered the "favorite" by some people, because he had a very strong summer camp. But so far this year, he is arguably playing the worst of all 4 goalies invited to camp.


-Defense-

Jared Cowen - Calvin DeHaan
Ryan Ellis - Erik Gudbranson
Simon Despres - Dylan Olsen

Ex. Ryan Murphy

As you will notice, I haven't included returning defenseman Brandon Gormley. He dislocated his knee cap in a game last Friday and it sounds like he won't be involved in the camp. That forces me to leave him off the roster.

The only other position I had to think about was the spot of the 7th defenseman. Originally I had 17 year old and 2012 eligible Ryan Murray instead of Murphy, but at this point I think Murphy likely has the edge for the spot. I would love to see Murray make it, but I think he is attending camp mostly for experience. Murphy is a top notch offensive defenseman and would provide some more punch should DeHaan or Ellis struggle or get hurt.

It was also tough to leave of Brayden McNabb of Kootenay, but I think the blueline has enough size and grit without him.


-Forwards-

Brett Connolly - Ryan Johansen - Sean Couturier
Quinton Howden - Joey Hishon - Garrett Wilson
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Louis Leblanc - Linden Vey
Curtis Hamilton - Jaden Schwartz - Zack Kassian

Ex. Michael Bournival

Up front I left off a few big players from the WHL, Cody Eakin and Carter Ashton. I left off Eakin because he has been battling a bad hip all season, and hasn't looked like the normal explosive player most people come to expect. I know Team Canada could use the offense, but I'm not sure Eakin will make the squad.

I also have gone back in forth in regards to the 3rd line center role. I originally had Brandon Pirri in instead of Leblanc, but I think Leblanc might have the edge after giving it more thought.

Making this lineup, it becomes clear how this team is going to need to score by committee. They have a ton of guys that have solid offensive skills but not many that stand out as dominant offensive players. This team is definitely going to need to have a strong work ethic and a ton of grit to get some goals. I think my lineup reflects that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

WHL well represented with Team Canada Announcement

Earlier today Team Canada announced their roster for the World Junior tryout camp. The roster is going to have a very fresh look as there are only 3 returning players.

Here's the list:

Goaltenders

JP Anderson - Mississauga (OHL)
Calvin Pickard - Seattle (WHL)
Olivier Roy - Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Mark Visentin - Niagara (OHL)

Defencemen

Tyson Barrie - Kelowna (WHL)
Jared Cowen - Spokane (WHL)
Simon Despres - Saint John (QMJHL)
Calvin de Haan - Oshawa (OHL)
Ryan Ellis - Windsor (OHL)
Brandon Gormley - Moncton (QMJHL)
Erik Gudbranson - Kingston (OHL)
Brayden McNabb - Kootenay (WHL)
Ryan Murphy - Kitchener (OHL)
Ryan Murray - Everett (WHL)
Dylan Olsen - Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Mark Pysyk -Edmonton (WHL)

Forwards

Carter Ashton - Regina (WHL)
Michael Bournival - Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Casey Cizikas - Mississauga (OHL)
Brett Connolly - Prince George (WHL)
Sean Couturier - Drummondville (QMJHL)
Cody Eakin - Swift Current (WHL)
Marcus Foligno - Sudbury (OHL)
Brendan Gallagher - Vancouver (WHL)
Curtis Hamilton - Saskatoon (WHL)
Joey Hishon - Owen Sound (OHL)
Quinton Howden - Moose Jaw (WHL)
Ryan Howse - Chilliwack (WHL)
Ryan Johansen - Portland (WHL)
Zack Kassian - Windsor (OHL)
Louis Leblanc - Montreal (QMJHL)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Red Deer (WHL)
Brandon Pirri - Rockford (AHL)
Brad Ross - Portland (WHL)
Jaden Schwartz - Colorado (WCHA)
Riley Sheahan - Notre Dame (NCAA)
Reilly Smith - Miami University (CCHA)
Linden Vey - Medicine Hat (WHL)
Garrett Wilson - Owen Sound (OHL)


Adding up all the numbers, the WHL is definitely well represented. Definitely more invitees than expected.

WHL- 17 invitees
OHL- 11 invitees
QMJHL- 6 invitees
AHL- 1 invitee
NCAA- 3 invitees
WCHA- 1 invitee

Considering the head coach is from the OHL, and the tournament is being played in Buffalo, New York, I expected a much larger Ontario contingent. It's definitely a big feather in the hat of the WHL as they feature a number of players that can fill a number of different roles throughout the roster.

There were also some surprises in regards to players left off the list. A few notables in that category included Stefan Elliott (WHL), Scott Glennie (WHL), Brenden Ranford (WHL), Gregg McKegg (OHL), Tyler Toffoli (OHL) and Taylor Doherty (OHL).

There is some talk that Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats, who is hurt, won't be able to take part in the camp. That would allow Hockey Canada to add another defender to the camp. It will be interesting to see who that is. It's what happened last year as Tyler Cuma was invited to the camp late.

There is sure to be a ton of breakdown and predictions as to who will make the team in what role. I will do one at some point. I don't know if that will happen tonight, tomorrow or in the near future. We will see.

The camp kicks off in Toronto on December 12 and runs to the 15th. After that the squad will be named.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

GO RIDERS



Hockey takes a back seat for one day today as it's Grey Cup.

Go Green.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blades enter BC road trip on a high

The Blades finished off a home and home with the Prince Albert Raiders on a big time positive note tonight. A complete 60 minute effort that ended with 2 points. The final was 6-2.

Saskatoon got off to a quick start, scoring 2 goals in the first 8 minutes. The top line had them both with Josh Nicholls and Curtis Hamilton hitting the goal column.

Early in the 2nd the lead would stretch the 3 as Lukas Sutter got his 2nd goal in 2 nights. He scored his first WHL goal last night in PA.

Each team would get one more goal in the 2nd period with Andrew Herle scoring for the Raiders and Curtis Hamilton notching his 2nd of the night as it would be 4-1 Blades going into the third frame.

The shots to that point in the game were 31-17 in favor of the guys in blue.

The Raiders came out much stronger in the third and they were rewarded just over 7 and a half minutes into the period as Brandon Herrod got his 12th goal of the year to cut the lead to 2.

Shortly after, the Blades would go down a man with the Raiders having a big chance to truly get back into the game. But it just wasn't their night as the Blades penalty kill stood tall and killed off the Duncan Siemens minor for holding.

Saskatoon would basically ice the game just after Siemens got out of the box as Matty Stransky got his 4th goal of the year off a nice shot from the top of the left circle.

Jake Trask would add the 6th goal off a deflection from a Chris Collins shot with around 3 minutes to play.

Then the rough stuff started.

And boy was it entertaining.

First, Harrison Ruopp and Darren Dietz squared off a center. Dietz handled himself more than alright for his first fight of the year as he caught Ruopp with a bomb of a punch that sent Ruopp to the trainers room.

Second, 6'4 Austin Connor took on Duncan Siemens. Siemens took a bunch of short rabbit punches to the back of the head before finally landing two huge rights to drop Connor to his knees.

Then, with 30 seconds left Andrew Herle and Lukas Sutter went at it. Neither really landed many punches but Herle earned the take down.

Earlier in the game Darian Dziurzynski also fought former Blade Tyler Yaworski.

It's safe to say that the old school division rivalry seems to be heating up.

Steven Stanford moved his mark to 11-1 on the year by making 29 saves. Eric Williams was not as strong tonight as he was last night, stopping 39 of 45 shots in the loss.

The Blades now head out the BC for 5 games. They are set to board the bus at midnight and will begin the 18 and a half hour trek to Chilliwack.

The first game of the trip goes on Tuesday night from Vancouver, starting at 9 PM Saskatchewan time.

Game 2 of a home and home

Last night Saskatoon fell in Prince Albert, tonight they have a chance to return the favor.

The Blades were outworked last night and it showed with a final score of 3-1. Goalie Eric Williams was big when he needed to be for the Raiders as they have now won 2 games in a row.

With 3 wins in his last 4 games, I would expect the 17 year old Raider goalie to be back in net tonight. For the Blades, Morrison was solid last night, but I would still almost guarantee that Stanford goes tonight in goal.

Here are my keys to tonight's game:

For Prince Albert

- Eric Williams needs to be key again. He was a big reason for the win last night and the goalie is on a role. He needs to be the backbone for his team on the road.

- Limit the top line for Saskatoon. Last night they did that with Nicholls, Trask and Hamilton going pointless and combining to go -3.

- And get traffic on Stanford. He has been red hot between the pipes for Saskatoon and his save percentage is up to .920 this year. The Raiders will want to crash the crease like they did so effectively last night.

For Saskatoon

- Get the powerplay going. It wasn’t pretty last night and it needs to get simplified to find some success. 1 for 19 in the last 4 games.

- Quicker passing out of the defensive zone. PA was very aggressive on the forecheck last night and it led to bad passes and turnovers.

- And go into the BC road trip on a winning note. It’s a long bus ride that will be even longer if they don’t get 2 point tonight.


The game goes at 7:05 from CUC. You can listen in on 92.9 The Bull starting with the pre-game show at 6:30.

Raiders get the best of the Blades

The Prince Albert Raiders opened a home and home against the Blades with a big win last night, taking care of the Blades 3-1.

Brandon Herrod got the Raiders going with a goal not even 6 minutes into the game. He banged in a rebound off a point shot by Antoine Corbin.

5 minutes later Lukas Sutter would score his first WHL goal, also burying a rebound after winning an offensive zone draw to tie the game. Yesterday a story was featured in the Star Phoenix about Sutter, and the fact that he was yet to score in 30 regular season games. I guess you could say Cory Wolfe helped break the bad karma.

With just over 3 minutes left in the opening frame Brandon Herrod would get his second of the night as it was 2-1 after one for PA.

Despite a bucket load of good chances and great end to end action, no scoring would happen until later in the third when the Raiders would ice the game as Jonathan Parker got his 16th of the year on the powerplay.

Adam Morrison made 29 saves in a losing effort. 17 year old rookie Eric Williams was the backbone for the Raiders with a great performance, stopping 28 shots for the win.

The Blades powerplay was held scoreless again going 0 for 4. The Raiders were 1 for 5.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blades head to Prince Albert

20 of 22 teams in the WHL are in action tonight, two of those teams meet at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.

Saskatoon take quite a streak into the game in Prince Albert, the Blades haven't lost in regulation in 7 games.

Meanwhile, Prince Albert is going the other way in the standings, with only 3 wins in their last 10 games. They are coming off a win though, a 3-2 triumph over Moose Jaw on Wednesday night.

Saskatoon is 17-5-0-1 on the year, good for 1st in the Eastern Conference. Prince Albert is 8-14-2-2, 9th in the Eastern Conference.

Here are my keys to tonight's matchup:

For Prince Albert

- Use their team size on the smaller ice surface. There’s not as much room on the ice in Prince Albert. The Raiders need to take away time and space against the Blades.

- Get the crowd in the game early. It’s a smaller barn that can get pretty loud. The Raiders could really use and early goal or a fight.

- Goaltending needs to step up. It has been a major sore spot in PA, they need a good effort if they want a victory tonight.

For Saskatoon

- Win special teams. The Raiders rank last in home powerplay and penalty kill. The Blades need to exploit that.

- Who steps up? The teams top center is still out of the lineup. Contributions from different characters can propel the team past that hole in the forward group.

- And more offense from Stefan Elliott. This guy is on fire with another game winning goal last game, that’s 6 game winners on the year already.

Puck drop goes just after 7:00 tonight. The game can be heard on 92.9 The Bull starting with a pre-game show at 6:30.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blades hang tight at 6th in CHL rankings

The BMO Mastercard CHL rankings are out and the Blades stayed at number 6 overall.



The Eastern Conference leaders of the WHL are the 2nd highest ranked team out of the Western league with Portland sitting 2nd overall behind Mississauga of the OHL.

The other teams in front of the Blades are the Saint John Sea Dogs (#3), Quebec Remparts (#4) and Saginaw Spirit (#5).

Saskatoon is 17-5-0-1 on the year for a total of 35 points in 23 games. Next up for the team, a home and home with the PA Raiders this weekend. Game one goes tomorrow night from Prince Albert.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blades mop the dirty ice with the Broncos

It was a game that wasn't ever really that close.

The Saskatoon Blades handled the injury-riddle Swift Current Broncos 6-2 tonight, despite missing some of their own key players to injury and sickness.

Now, let me explain the title....

The PBR Canadian Finals rodeo was in Saskatoon last week and apparently some of the dirt and mud from the show leaked onto the ice. The mess was just cleaned up before the game, but it did leave some rather ugly stains on the ice.

Anyways, the Blades got goals from Braeden Johnson, Chris Collins, Curtis Hamilton, Duncan Siemens, Stefan Elliott(GWG) and Jake Trask. Trask played a big role in the game, filling in for Marek Viedensky, who remains out with a concussion. He is expected back sometime on the upcoming BC road trip.

The Blades were also without 16 year old center Ryan Olsen, who had the flu.

Meanwhile, the Broncos got goals from Brad Hoban and Josh Derko (1st WHL goal). Swift Current, as mentioned, is an injury ravaged team. They currently have 4 forwards out of the lineup, along with 1 defenseman. They actually only dressed 10 forwards for tonight's game.

With the win, and a Kootenay loss tonight to Red Deer, the Blades move into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference @ 17-5-0-1.

Next up for the team, a home and home with the Raiders starting Friday night from Prince Albert. After those two games, the team takes off on their BC road trip.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blades host Swift Current

Tonight is the second matchup of the season for the Broncos and Blades. The first one was a huge road win for Saskatoon.

The Blades entered the third period down by 2 goals in that game, and got three goals to win it 5-4. Josh Nicholls scored the winner in that game with just over 1 minute remaining to steal two points on November 3rd.

Redemption could be on the minds tonight for the Broncos, who are coming off two straight losses over the weekend. They fell 4-2 to Red Deer on Friday and then 7-2 to Medicine Hat on Saturday night.

Here are my keys to the game:

For Swift Current


- Bounce back from last meeting. The Blades got a big comeback win, the Broncos have to remember that game and play with some extra motivation.

- Mark Friesen needs to be solid. The Blades have been getting solid goaltending lately, and Friesen needs to beat the guy at the other end of the ice.

- And road rebound. This team has lost 2 straight on the road. A simple and effective road game could go a long way.

For Saskatoon

- Avoid a special teams battle. The Broncos went 3 for 6 on the PP last time they met and they feature highly ranked PP and PK.

- Keep Cody Eakin off the board. He isn't off to a fantastic start stat-wise, but he is the most dynamic offensive player the Broncos have.

- And get a quick start. The Blades have been known to score early in games and late in games this year. An early goal or two will put the Broncos behind the 8 ball.


Puck drop goes at 7:05 from Credit Union Centre. If you can't make it to the rink, listen to the game on 92.9 The Bull.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blades win again, this time in Lethbridge

It was a game that Saskatoon trailed early, down 2-0 after only 13 minutes.

But, they dug down deep without their leading scorer Marek Viedensky and pulled out the win.

Matty Stransky scored shortly after the 2-nothing goal to cut the lead in half as the score was 2-1 after one period.

Darian Dziurzynski would get on the board almost midway through the 2nd period with his 13th of the season and the game would head to the third period squared at two apiece.

That's where Saskatoon took control as they scored three straight goals.

Ryan Olsen got things going @ 2:33 of the third, as the 16 year old was playing on the Blades top line filling in for the injured Viedensky.

Teigan Zahn and Curtis Hamilton would then also score to extend the lead to 5-2.

Some rough stuff ensued as the Hurricanes weren't happy with a few calls down the stretch in the hockey game. Rich Preston received a bench minor for having a bit too much to say to the zebra's and Landon Oslanski also got a 10 minute misconduct late in the game.

Mark Reners scored with 6 seconds left to soften the blow as the final was 5-3 for Saskatoon.

Adam Morrison made 19 saves to earn the W, with Brandon Anderson making 28 saves in a losing effort for Lethbridge.

Saskatoon was 1 for 7 on the man advantage with the Canes going 0 for 3.

Next up for Saskatoon, a home matchup with Swift Current on Tuesday evening.

Viedensky expected out as Blades play in Lethbridge

The Saskatoon Blades are expected to be without their leading scorer as they take on the Hurricanes tonight.

Late in the 2nd period of last night's game against Kootenay Marek Viedensky was hit and it's believed that he sustained a concussion.

He was apparently feeling "better" this morning, but I doubt the team risks putting him in game action.

It will also be interesting to see who plays center on the top line in tonight's game, or whether Lorne Molleken decides to shake up the top 6 entirely to try and balance things out with the team's leading scorer out.

Game time is 8 PM SK time from Lethbridge. You can catch the pre-game show at 7:30 on 92.9 The Bull.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blades earn huge win in Kootenay

It was a return of epic proportions for goaltender Steven Stanford.

The 20 year old made his first start since sustaining a concussion in practice a few weeks ago, and ended up with great results.

Saskatoon held on to beat the Kootenay Ice 2-1. Stanford made 39 saves to earn the victory.

Saskatoon got on the board early, when Marek Viedensky would score not even 4 minutes into the game. The marker was unassisted as goaltender Nathan Lieuwen misplayed the puck behind the net and Viedensky banged it home.

The Blades would double their lead midway through the 2nd period as Duncan Siemens would unleash a blast that found it's way to the back of the net. Viedensky and Josh Nicholls assisted on the goal.

Kootenay had a ton of pressure throughout the game, and finally got on the board with under 5 minutes to go as Jagger Dirk (what kind of name is that?) would score to cut the lead in half.

But in the end the Blades hung on to get the victory to move to 15-5-1 on the year.

The Blades PK was the biggest story as they held the Ice scoreless in 8 chances. The Blades were 0 for 4.

The win moves the Blades to one point back of Kootenay, with one fewer game played.

Saskatoon now heads to Lethbridge for a game against the Hurricanes tomorrow night. That game can be heard on 92.9 The Bull, starting with the pregame show starting at 7:30 SK time.

Russians win CHL Super Series

Last night team WHL needed to win in regulation, and then win a 5 man shootout in order to win the 2010 CHL Subway Super Series.

It wasn't meant to be as the Russians played a very impressive game and came away with a 5-2 win in Prince George against a 2nd team of WHL All-Stars.

Russia got goals from Nikita Pivtsakin, Maxim Kitsyn and 3 from Stanislav Bocharov. Team WHL countered with markers from Brett Connolly (Prince George) and Linden Vey (Medicine Hat).

Dmitry Shikin was a big story for Russia as he frustrated the WHL making 38 saves. Shikin was pulled after giving up two early goals against the WHL in the last game, so it was a very impressive rebound performance by him.

Overall it was obviously a tough result for fans in North America, but it was still a very fun and successful event. As a fan, I always enjoy watching games from the other two CHL leagues (OHL + Q) to see the different styles of play and players.

This was also the best team the Russians have ever brought over for this event, and that added another element to the whole thing as it was actually a competitive event.

After a 2 day break, action is back underway in the WHL tonight with a huge slate of games, 9 in total.

That includes the Saskatoon Blades in Kootenay. That game can be heard live on The Bull 92.9. That game starts at 8:00 SK time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Game six of the Super Series tonight

After an exciting finish last night, team WHL is looking for a bit of a bounce back in the 6th and final game of the Subway Super Series against the team of Russian Selects.

Russia got a big comeback and victory in a shootout last night 7-6.

They have now won 3 of the 5 games against the CHL.

Tonight game 6 goes from Prince George, BC. In order for the CHL to come away victorious in the six game series they will need to win in regulation time. They would then also have to win the 5 shooter shootout.

Last night I was most interested in seeing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Murray, and both played very well (Murray especially).

Tonight I will be watching a few more players closely.

- Ty Rattie - Quickly shooting up draft boards and could be a top 10 pick by the end of the year for the June NHL draft if he keeps up his great play with Portland.

- Tyson Barrie - As an Avs fan, I can't wait to see what he can do on a big stage tonight. I have only seen him play a handful of times, and I really want to see how he compares to fellow Av prospect Stefan Elliott.

- Brayden McNabb - The captain of the Kootenay Ice has an outside chance of making team Canada for the World Junior Hockey Championships, but he provides a tough edge along with solid offensive skills.

- Calvin Pickard - Another one of the Avs prospects that has a chance at making the World Junior team and could very well be the starter when it's all said and done. Kent Simpson was less than impressive last night, and Pickard can take the lead in the race as Canada's starter with a solid effort tonight.

Game time goes again at 9:00 SK time. It can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet.

Blades well represented during under 17 world challenge

This winter, during the same time that the world junior hockey championships are going on in Buffalo, New York, a group of younger players will be hitting the ice in front of a world stage.

The World Under 17 Hockey Challenge is going in Winnipeg from December 29th to January 4th.

The tournament features 10 teams. In that group are 5 teams from Canada (Pacific, West, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic).

A pair of those teams announced rosters this week.

Here is team Pacific (Alberta + BC):

http://www.bchockey.net/Files/Team%20Pacific%20-%20Roster%202011%20-%20Final%20-%20Website%20-%202010-11-16.pdf

As you will notice, a pair of members of the Saskatoon Blades organization were named to the team in Ryan Olsen and Levi Bews. Quite a pat on the back for those two players, who have worked hard to make the team and have taken the next step in their hockey careers this year in the WHL.

Here is team West (Saskatchewan + Manitoba):

http://www.whl.ca/article/13-whl-players-named-to-team-west

Brett Stovin, who is Blades property was also named to the team. He started the season in Saskatoon, before a numbers game forced him to Manitoba to play Midget.

Another thing to notice about the rosters is the depth of Team Pacific. Every one of the skaters named to the team is currently playing in the WHL. Meanwhile, Team West only features 13 players total in the WHL.

The first game of the tournament features team USA against team West on Tuesday, December 28th. Germany takes on team Pacific that same night, at that same time.

Team USA is the defending champs. They knocked off Team Ontario in the final last year 2-1.

For more information on the tournament visit the homepage:

http://www.hockeycanada.ca/index.php/ci_id/74637/la_id/1.htm

Team WHL fall to Russian Selects in Game 1

Talk about an exciting game with an exciting finish.

But, in the end the WHL team fell 7-6 in a shootout. That means that the Russian team has won 3 of 5 games against the CHL (2 losses to OHL, 2 wins vs. QMJHL, 1 win vs. WHL) during the 6 game CHL Super Series.

Team Dub had a 3 goal lead in the game with 10 minutes left to play before the Russians stormed back to tie it off of goals from Sergei Kalinin, Maxim Kitsyn and Artem Voronin.

The other three scorers for Russia were Daniil Sobchenko, Anton Burdasov and Artemiy Panarin.

The Saskatoon Blades were well represented in the game with Stefan Elliott, Curtis Hamilton and Darian Dziurzynski all named to the team.

Two of those three players found the scoresheet in a big way with Elliott and Hamilton each registering a goal and an assist.

The WHL goal scorers were Jordan Weal (Regina), Carter Ashton (Regina), Brandon Herrod (Prince Albert), Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw), Elliott (Saskatoon) and Hamilton (Saskatoon).

Wow, I just realized that ALL SIX goal scorers are from the Eastern Division. Very impressive.

Team Russia scored 3 times on 4 shootout attempts, with the Dub team only scoring once on 4 tries.

Kent Simpson (Everett) was not very solid overall, making 27 saves in the game and only 1 in the shootout.

Special teams was also a big story as both teams went 3 for 6 with the man advantage.

Game 6 of the series goes tomorrow night from Prince George. Once again it can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet @ 9:00 SK time.

Calvin Pickard will start for team WHL in that one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Team WHL vs. Team Russia tonight from Kamloops

It’s been a fairly slow week in the WHL (aside from a few trades and Portland continuing to rip up the Eastern Division).

Well, that changes tonight as Team WHL gets their chance to take on the Russians during the Subway Super Series.

Tonight’s game goes from Kamloops after team Russia won a pair of games against the QMJHL and lost a pair to the OHL.

It should be a fun and entertaining game that also features 3 Saskatoon Blades.

Defenseman Stefan Elliott is joined by forwards Curtis Hamilton and Darian Dziurzynski. (It sounds like Z will skate with Kamloops forwards Brendan Ranford and Chase Schaber).

Besides those three, there are a pair of players that I can’t wait to watch.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the first. He is very likely going to be the first player taken from the WHL in the NHL draft this coming June and I can’t wait to see what he can do on the ice tonight on a bigger stage than the regular season.

The other player is 17 year old defenseman Ryan Murray. Murray is off to a great start for the Everett Silvertips and is expected to potentially be a top 3 pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft. He just turned 17 and is still technically in his "16 year old season" in the WHL.

For the rest of the roster, visit here:

http://www.subwaysuperseries.com/rosters/whl

It doesn’t look like the game will be shown live on Sportsnet West, but it can be seen on Sportsnet Pacific starting at 9:00 Saskatchewan time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scouting lists galore

It is the time of year that various scouting agencies release their fall projections and rankings for the upcoming NHL draft.

Well, today NHL Central Scouting released their fall list.

They have categorized everything into leagues, and don’t provide a full list overall.

The WHL, OHL, QMJHL and USHL are all accounted for. 25 players are ranked from each one of those leagues. It also features a “players to watch” list from the NCAA. It also covers Europe with players from Sweden to Russia to Finland (and all others in between) all accounted for.

Here’s the North American link:

Central Scouting Fall List (North American)

I will do a bit of a break down of what I see from the WHL rankings.

Skaters:

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – FW, Red Deer
2. Sven Bartschi – FW, Portland
3. Ty Rattie – FW, Portland
4. David Musil – D, Vancouver
5. Joe Morrow – D, Portland
6. Mark McNeill – FW, Prince Albert
7. Myles Bell – D, Regina
8. Duncan Siemens – D, Saskatoon
9. Tyler Wotherspoon – D, Portland
10. Colin Jacobs – FW, Seattle
11. Kale Kessy – FW, Medicine Hat
12. Luke Lockhart – FW, Seattle
13. Marcel Noebels – FW, Seattle
14. Adam Lowry – FW, Swift Current
15. Shane McColgan – FW, Kelowna
16. Brent Benson – FW, Saskatoon
17. Michael St. Croix – FW, Edmonton
18. Mitch Topping – D, Chilliwack
19. Travis Ewanyk – FW, Edmonton
20. Reece Scarlett – D, Swift Current
21. Matej Stransky – FW, Saskatoon
22. Brady Brassart – FW, Spokane
23. Anthony Bardaro – FW, Spokane
24. Dylan Busenius – D, Medicine Hat
25. Zach Yuen – D, Tri-City
LV. Marek Tvrdon – FW, Vancouver (LV= Limited Viewings)


Goalies:

1. Liam Liston – Brandon
2. Eric Williams – Prince Albert
3. Brendan Jensen – Vancouver
4. Laurent Brossoit – Edmonton
5. Brett Teskey – Kootenay
6. Mac Engel – Spokane


Some surprises and some things that aren’t so surprising.

- It’s not at all shocking to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sitting at first on the list. He has been on that perch for quite some time now, and will likely stay there for the remainder of the year.

- Some people might be shocked to see Swiss forward Sven Bartschi ahead of teammate Ty Rattie on the list. I, for one, am not. I think Bartschi is grittier, and is a better all around player than Rattie is. He may not have as much flair and dynamic, gamebreaking ability, but Bartschi is the better total package.

- David Musil has held steady in the top 5. Some people think he could still be the first defenseman taken in the draft this summer because he is a very safe, but effective player. Some scouting agencies have him sliding down the rankings.

- The biggest shock about the WHL list is to see defenseman Joe Morrow ahead of a few players, including Duncan Siemens and Myles Bell. Morrow didn’t really show me a ton when Portland was in town last week but was clearly a very solid two way defenseman who quarterbacks the first powerplay for the Winterhawks.

- It’s good to see Mark McNeill climbing up the rankings. The big powerfoward out of Prince Albert has been one the players I have had an eye on since the summer and his hard work is paying off. He should be taken in the first round come June.

- Myles Bell is in solid position at number 7. He’s the total package. A good skater, physical, can score, can pass and isn’t afraid to fight. Don’t be shocked if this guy is a climber in the ranking all season despite playing on a fairly weak Regina squad.

- Duncan Siemens at 8th overall in the WHL is a bit of a head scratcher. Doing some reading around, other organizations have him in the top 3 in the league, so I think Central Scouting is definitely going against the norm with that positioning.

- Tyler Wotherspoon is another guy from Portland that didn’t really show me a ton in the recent matchup with Saskatoon. Is it a bias for their players? Who knows. But it’s pretty hard to justify seeing 4 Portland players in the top 9 on this list.

- Colin Jacobs is a nice looking player for Seattle. He’s a big guy who has great offensive instincts and even plays the point on the powerplay. Expect him and Mark McNeill to battle it out all year in regards to who get’s ranked higher where.

- Shane McColgan (15th) and Michael St. Croix (17th) are two guys that have been sliding for several months now so it’s not shocking to see them where they are. Last year though these two guys were considered potential top 10 picks for 2011, so it will be interesting to see where they end up come the end of the year.

- Brent Benson of the Blades cracked the list at 16th. I think he is one guy that could go a bit higher than some people expect based on the intangibles that he brings to the game. A very smart and tough player that is defensively aware, with some great offensive skills as well.

- Reece Scarlett of Swift Current comes in at 20th on the list. Expect him to climb during the year as well. A very slick and impressive defenseman for the Broncos.

- And finally another Saskatoon Blade cracked the top 25 with Matej Stransky coming in at 21st. This kid shows flashes of greatness but is still battling consistency. He is still learning the language and trying to feel comfortable and that should come as the year goes along. I think some NHL teams will look at him as more of a project when it comes to the draft.


I won’t post the other rankings among other leagues and countries as I don’t follow them close enough to break down. But, there are still a few surprises in my mind from stuff that I do know about those players:

OHL

- Vincent Trocheck ahead of guys like Tobias Rieder, Matt Puempel, defenseman Ryan Murphy seems a bit odd.

- Ryan Murphy being the 8th ranked player in the OHL will definitely have some people up in arms. Don Cherry even came out and said this weekend “that Murphy would get taken first overall”. A bit of a stretch in my opinion, even if Murphy is a great talent. The simple fact is, is that he is still undersized and that always hurts players, especially defenseman.

- Matt Puempel falls all the way to 10th in the OHL. He was the OHL rookie of the year last year and some people felt he could find his way into the top 5 overall for the June draft. I still like him as a player and think he is one of the best goal scorers available.

- I thought Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67’s would be higher than 18th. He has grown an inch and a half since last year and is off to a great start with 35 points in 22 games (3rd best in the league).

QMJHL


- Not surprising to see Sean Couturier sitting atop that list. Vincent Lecavlier 2.0 is off to a solid start after leading the Q league in scoring last season as a 16 year old.

- Tomas Jurco at 6th overall is kind of a surprise. The Slovakian is being called the best prospect out of that country in quite some time. Even better than Tomas Tatar and Richard Panik.

To find the International Rankings visit this link:

Central Scouting Fall List (International)

To find the College Rankings visit this link:

Central Scouting Fall List (College)

I also said that other organizations release rankings around this time as well.

Well, yesterday International Scouting Services released their November rankings.

This is an OVERALL ranking:

1 Couturier, Sean, C 12/7/92 L 6.04 191 Drummondville QMJHL
2 Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan, F 4/12/93 L 6.00.5 166 Red Deer WHL
3 Larsson, Adam, RD 11/12/92 R 6.02 209 Skelleftea SweE
4 Landeskog, Gabriel, LW 11/23/92 L 6.00.25 205 Kitchener OHL
5 Murphy, Ryan, RD 3/31/93 R 5.10.25 168 Kitchener OHL
6 Armia, Joel, RW 5/31/93 R 6.02 165 Assat FinE
7 Rask, Victor, C 3/1/93 L 6.01 194 Leksands SweAl
8 Siemens, Duncan, LD 9/7/93 L 6.02.25 185 Saskatoon WHL
9 Saad, Brandon, LW 10/27/92 L 6.02.25 200 Saginaw OHL
10 Puempel, Matt, LW 1/24/93 L 6.00.5 188 Peterborough OHL
11 Hamilton, Douglas, RD 6/17/93 R 6.04 190 Niagara OHL
12 Strome, Ryan, C 7/11/93 R 6.00 163 Niagara OHL
13 Russo, Robbie, RD 2/15/93 R 5.11.5 189 USA Under-18 USHL
14 Musil, David, LD 4/9/93 L 6.03.25 191 Vancouver WHL
15 Bell, Myles, RD 8/19/93 R 5.11.75 213 Regina WHL
16 Ambroz, Seth, RW 4/3/93 R 6.01.75 205 Omaha USHL
17 Jurco, Tomas, RW 12/28/92 L 6.00 180 Saint John QMJHL
18 Khokhlachev, Alexander F 9/9/93 L 5.11 172 Windsor OHL
19 Jaskin, Dmitrij, RW 3/23/93 L 6.01 196 Slavia CzeJr
20 Namestnikov, Vlad, F 11/22/92 L 5.11.75 156 London OHL
21 Nieto, Matthew, LW 11/5/92 L 5.10 175 Boston University
22 Mayfield, Scott, RD 10/14/92 R 6.03.5 197 Youngstown USHL
23 McColgan, Shane, RW 1/1/93 R 5.08 165 Kelowna WHL
24 Shalunov, Maxim, F 1/31/93 L 6.03 185 Chelyabinsk RusJr
25 Rattie, Ty, LW 2/5/93 R 5.10.75 169 Portland WHL
26 Jacobs, Colin, F 1/20/93 R 6.02 205 Seattle WHL
27 McNeill, Mark, C 2/22/93 R 6.00.75 198 Prince Albert WHL
28 Koudys, Patrick, LD 11/15/92 L 6.02.25 195 Rensselaer ECAC
29 Clendening, Adam, RD 10/26/92 R 5.11 190 Boston University
30 Grimaldi, Rocco, C 2/8/93 R 5.06 161 USA Under 18 USHL

Ranked players from October who have fallen off the list:

Catenacci, Daniel (#24)
Jenner, Boone, C (#20)
Klefbom, Oscar, D (#16)
Murphy, Connor, D (#27)
Nermark, Joachim, C (#26)

New to the list:

Jacobs, Colin, F
Mayfield, Scott, RD
McNeill, Mark, C
Rattie, Ty, LW
Strome, Ryan, C

Brad Ross suspended for a pair

Yesterday the WHL announced the suspension to Brad Ross of the Portland Winterhawks for his part in an altercation against the Saskatoon Blades on Friday evening.

Ross came back onto the ice to get involved in a bit of a line brawl after he went off for a line change.

Ross received a game misconduct at the time, and yesterday was suspended for two games.

He has already served that suspension as he missed the game in Prince Albert on Saturday night and last night in Moose Jaw.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hamilton will wear an "A" for Team WHL

This Wednesday 3 members of the Saskatoon Blades will take part in the 2010 Subway Super Series between the CHL and a team of Russian All-Stars.

Stefan Elliott, Curtis Hamilton and Darian Dziurzysnki will play in the game that takes place in Kamloops.

Today it was announced that Hamilton will be one of the assistant captains of the team.

Spokane defenseman Jared Cowen will be the captain. Matt MacKenzie of Calgary and Chase Schaber of Kamloops will serve as the other assistants with Hamilton.

So far the series with the Russians is squared at two games apiece. The QMJHL lost both their games, with the OHL winning the next two (including tonight in a shootout from Sudbury, Ontario)

All games have been live on Sportsnet.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Potential NHL forwards from the WHL?

Another great post from the guys over at Coming Down the Pipe:

http://thepipelineshow.blogspot.com/2010/11/top-5-tu-er-sunday-whl-2nd-round.html

It's good to see a guy like Brent Benson being noticed for his solid start to the season.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Incident in Winterhawks-Blades game

Saskatoon's big win over Portland last night was the big news around the WHL. The Blades ended the Hawks 10 game winning streak and that was the big story.

But, a bit of an incident during the game has gone virtually unnoticed and I'm not sure why.

It started with a hit by Portland's Brad Ross on 16 year old Ryan Olsen. It was borderline from behind with Olsen falling/turning to the side as the hit happened.

Once he was down Nino Niederreiter came over and delivered 2-3 crosschecks to the back of Olsen as he was down and hurt. Not sure why he did this.

A few Blades took exception and jumped in including captain Teigan Zahn. A brawl ensued, including Zahn taking on two players at once at one point.

Right after the hit Brad Ross went off the ice. But once the brawl started he jumped back onto the ice to join the fight. Eventually he was pulled back off the ice by his teammates but was still given a game misconduct.

Out of all this, Saskatoon only ended up with a 2 minute powerplay.


Now, a couple of things:

1st, will Ross be suspended? (currently listed as TBD on WHL website and should face an automatic suspension)

2nd, should Niederreiter face anything for his cheap shots on an injured/defenseless player?

3rd, are Portland always this dirty?

Here's the video evidence:

Big crowd watches Blades win a thriller

It was a game that started with a lot of hype, and it definitely lived up to that hype.

A crowd of over 8,800 people saw the Blades beat the Portland Winterhawks 4-3.

The game featured a little bit of everything. Some interesting jerseys, great goaltending on both sides, a few big hits, nice goals, a line brawl, live music, a Pro bullrider and an appearance by Gene Simmons and his wife Shannon Tweed.

Saskatoon came out gunning in the first period and after the first 20 minutes they had a 2-0 lead after a pair of powerplay goals. The Blades outshot them 20-5.

Portland Assistant Coach Travis Green said it might have been one of their worst periods of the year.

The Winterhawks would come out of the gate better in the 2nd, and actually score the next three goals, making it 3-2 for Portland with just over 15 minutes left in the game.

Saskatoon would even things up with under 9 minutes left in the game when Josh Nicholls scored on the powerplay.

Saskatoon continued to keep the pressure on, forcing the Winterhawks into mistakes in their own zone. The Blades pressure would pay off as Curtis Hamilton would give the Blades the lead for good with under 2 minutes left after a nice passing play between himself, Nicholls and Marek Viedensky ended up in the back of the net.

Special teams ended up being a massive part of the game as the Blades went 3 for 7, with Portland going 2 for 4.

An even bigger storyline of the game was between the pipes for Saskatoon. During the second Portland goal, big Riley Boychuk was pushed on top of Adam Morrison. Morrison lay motionless on the ice and was clearly shaken. He was helped off the ice and Steven Stanford made his way to the net.

Stanford has been out with a concussion and this was his first game backing up Morrison. Stanford was in the net cold as he had only taken part in one practice. In the end, he let in the third goal for Portland (which he himself called weak) but played well in the third making 13 saves to get the win.

The goal scorers for Portland were Ty Rattie, Riley Boychuk and Troy Rutkowski. Saskatoon got goals from Marek Viedensky, Connor Cox (in his 1st game as a Blade), Josh Nicholls and Curtis Hamilton.

Viedenskey ended up with 4 points on the night, with Nicholls and Hamilton each getting 3.

A season best crowd of 8,812 took in the game from CUC and they definitely got their moneys worth.

Saskatoon now has a week off until their next game as they are in Kootenay next Friday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Winterhawks' circus comes to town

It might just be the biggest game of the year so far in Saskatoon.

Everything from bull riders, to rock stars (Gene Simmons of Kiss) to crazy faux-denim jerseys will be on display tonight at Credit Union Centre.

And, oh yeah, there is a hockey game to be played as well.

The team in town tonight is the top ranked Portland Winterhawks, a team that has won 10 straight games and lead the league by 5 points.

It's a game many fans have had circled on their calendars since the start of the year as these Winterhawks only appear in Saskatoon once every two years. They should be a fun team to watch.

They are a team that features a ton of players with NHL potential, including:

- Ryan Johansen (drafted 4th overall by the Blue Jackets in 2010)

- Nino Niederreiter (drafted 5th overall by the Islanders in 2010)

- Brad Ross (drafted 43rd overall by the Maple Leafs in 2010)

- Taylor Aronson (drafted 78th overall by the Predators in 2010)

- Troy Rutkowski (drafted 137th overall by the Avalanche in 2010)

- Ty Rattie (expected to be a high pick in the 2011 NHL draft)

- Sven Bartschi (expected to be a high pick in the 2011 NHL draft)

- Derrick Pouliot (expected to be a high pick in the 2012 NHL draft)


Yes, they haven't talent that runs through every part of their lineup. As mentioned, they are a team that has won 10 straight games to move to 16-2-0-1 on the year. Portland is also coming off a late come-from-behind win in Regina on Wednesday night.

The Blades will have to be on top of their game if they want to earn a win. Saskatoon is coming off that shootout loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds this week. A game which they led by 2 goals after 40 minutes. A better effort should be expected by them tonight, and it should not be a game that is hard to get excited and ready for.

With that being said, here are my keys to the game:

For Portland

- Play physical. Saskatoon is a team that likes to throw their weight around. Portland has to be just as aggressive and can’t be afraid to hit back.

- Stop the top line. Saskatoon’s big scorers continue to find the score sheet but if Portland can stop those guys, they will have a great shot at winning.

- And take the crowd out of it. It could very well be the biggest one of the year in Saskatoon with a ton of festivities and special guests for the game. Portland has to make them sit on their hands.

For Saskatoon


- Get out to a fast start. Portland is a dynamic team and the Blades have to come out early and try to get on the board first.

- Simplify the powerplay. They went 1 for 3 last game and will need to continue to work on getting more shots and traffic. Portland has the best penalty kill in the WHL.

- And Adam Morrison needs to be very sharp. Everyone knows how good offensively Portland is, Morrison needs to be on top of his game tonight for Saskatoon to get a win.


Game time goes at 7:05 from CUC and I really hope you come and check this one out. If you can't, you can always listen on 92.9 The Bull. The pre-game show starts at 6:30.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blades add a defenseman

We all knew it was likely coming, even with defenseman Tyler Kizuik expecting to return from injury within the next couple of games.

Saskatoon has acquired defenseman Connor Cox from the Moose Jaw Warriors. They surrender a 2011 2nd round bantam pick for him.

The Blades had played the last couple of games with only 5 defenseman, and even with Kizuik expected back that would only leave them with 6 healthy blueliners so the move had to be made.

I like the move.

Saskatoon has addressed the forward group already this year bringing in Jake Trask and Chris Collins, two players that are adjusting nicely to their roles. I think Cox will be able to do exactly that on the blueline.

Cox is a left handed shot, standing 5'11, weighing in at 185 and he hails from Lethrbridge, Alberta. He is also only 18 years old, which means he will have two more years of eligibility with the team after this season.

So far this year he has 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points in 18 games with the Warriors. He was also +2 with 12 penalty minutes.

Cox will wear number 3 when he suits up for the Blades, which should be as early as tomorrow night against the Portland Winterhawks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blades fall to Thunderbirds

It was a game Saskatoon should've won, could've won, but didn't.

In the end it was a 5-4 shootout win for the Thunderbirds a team known for playing close hockey games.

Saskatoon led the game 4-2 after 40 minutes. The 4 goals for Saskatoon came from Stefan Elliott, Brent Benson and a pair from Curtis Hamilton. Seattle's markers both came from Luke Lockhart.

It should have been a comfortable lead for the Blades, but the Thunderbirds didn't go away.

Lockhart would get his hattrick goal 3:30 into the third to make it a one goal game.

Then, a costly penalty would lead to the tying goal as Josh Nicholls flipped the puck over the glass from inside his own zone with six and a half minutes left to play.

On the man advantage Brenden Dillon's point shot was deflected onto the tape of former Blade Burke Gallimore, he sent a quick cross-slot pass to German Marcel Noebels who roofed it high glove side to tie the game at 4.

Overtime would solve nothing, even though both teams had the zone time to generate something.

The first 5 shooters were stopped in the shootout and Noebels would have a chance to win the game as the 6th shooter. He did exactly that as he faked backhand on Adam Morrison and finished on the forehand to steal the win.

Morrison made 23 saves in a losing effort while Colorado Avalanche prospect Calvin Pickard made 32 saves for the win.

Special teams was a huge storyline in the game as Seattle features the 4th best powerplay in the league. It did some major damage going 2 for 4. Saskatoon was 1 for 3 with the man advantage.

Saskaton falls to 7-1-0-1 on home ice.

Next action has the Portland Winterhawks in town on Friday night, a highly anticipated affair that features everything from cowboys to Gene Simmons to interesting (to say the least) Blades jerseys. It should be a fun night. Hopefully it has a better ending than tonight.

Blades host Seattle

The Saskatoon Blades are coming off two very big wins on the road, both of the "come from behind" variety.

Last Wednesday they came from 2 goals back after 40 minutes to beat the Broncos, then on Saturday night they earned an OT win in Medicine Hat after trailing in that hockey game.

They are looking to keep that momentum going as they host the Seattle Thunderbirds tonight at CUC.

The Thunderbirds are playing the 3rd of their 6 game Eastern swing and are coming off a loss to Moose Jaw in a shootout on Sunday. They also lost to Brandon in regulation on Saturday.

Seattle so far is 3rd in the US division at 6-4-2-3 and are known for playing tight games. They have scored the fewest goals in the league (40), but have also given up the fewest goals (40).

They can do that because they might have the best goalie in the WHL in Calvin Pickard. He was selected in the 2nd round of the NHL draft this summer by the Colorado Avalanche and is living up to that hype so far this year. He has the 4th best goals against average in the league (2.39) and the 2nd best save percentage (.934).

Being a huge Avalanche fan myself, I've had this game circled on my calendar all season and I can't wait to watch him.

Saskatoon meanwhile is 1st in the Eastern division @ 13-5-0-0 and lead the red hot Moose Jaw Warriors by 5 points. They sit tied for first in the Eastern Conference with Kootenay. Saskatoon is 7-1 on home ice with Seattle going 3-3-1-2 on the road so far this year.

Adam Morrison has been confirmed as the starter for the game, but I don't know yet who goes in goal for Seattle. I would say there is about a 90% chance it's Pickard.

Here are my keys to the game:

For Seattle

- Keep the game close. That has been their bread and butter this year as they don’t have the offense to blow teams out. They need to keep it close and try to win a 1 goal game, especially on the road.

- Lean heavy on Calvin Pickard. This kid is the backbone and might be the best goalie in the entire league. He needs to be strong again tonight as he has been all season.

For Saskatoon

- Establish a hard forecheck. This team has been very effective in that aspect of the game lately, and when they use it to their advantage, it creates scoring chances and draws penalties.

- Use their team speed. Seattle is one of the biggest and strongest teams in the league, the way to counter that is with wheels…something Saskatoon has.

And then for both teams I want to look at special teams. Seattle features the 4th best powerplay on the road and Saskatoon has the 3rd best home penalty kill. We will see which side prevails in that specific area tonight as something has to give there.



If you can't make it to the game, you can listen live on 92.9 The Bull starting with the pre-game show at 6:30.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blades earn comeback win

Sorry readers, was away for a bit of a vacation in Edmonton this weekend and hadn't had a chance to update the site the last 2 days.

Sounds like the Blades had another nice comeback win, this time in Medicine Hat on Saturday night.

Recap from the Blades site: http://www.saskatoonblades.com/article/another-third-period-comeback

Friday, November 5, 2010

2011 NHL Draft Prospect Adam Lowry

This week I had a chance to watch the Swift Current Broncos. Two 2011 NHL draft eligible players stood out for me during that game. Yesterday I profiled defenseman Reece Scarlett, today I profile left winger Adam Lowry.

The first thing that jumps right out at you about Lowry is his size. He’s 6’4 and 184 pounds. That also means that he has grown two inches and added 17 pounds since last season, which he spent with the Broncos as a 16 year old.

Despite that size, his skating doesn’t really suffer. He’s very mobile and quick. His skating stride is a bit awkward, (picture Carter Ashton’s skating) and you will get a very similar looking player.

Adam is also the son of former NHLer Dave Lowry, and you can see it in his game. He plays with some jam and isn’t afraid to get involved in the rough stuff (57 PIM’s last year, and 21 already this year in 12 games)

Offensively he is off to a bit of a slow start compared to his pace last year where he had 34 points in 61 games. He has 4 points in 12 games this year.

And that’s the hard part to figure out. In the game I saw this week he skated with Washington Capitals prospect Cody Eakin and Killian Hutt, two very dynamic offensive players. You would think he would look out of place with two speedy and dangerous guys, but he didn’t at all.

That’s where his skating was the most impressive. He didn’t look to be behind the play or have trouble keeping up with those two. He has strong on his stick, on the boards and went to the net hard.

He has soft hands for a big guy (15 goals last year) and that number should definitely be on the rise, especially with such solid ice time.

I’ve seen him listed in various places in regards to the 2011 NHL draft, mostly in the 3rd or 4th round. If he can continue to plug along this year I think he could definitely find himself going in round 2. He is a very intriguing guy as a left handed shot with good size, skill and skating ability.

NHL comparable: Dustin Penner

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blades re-assign two players

Last night was the nail in the coffin for two Saskatoon Blades.

18 year old defenseman Davis Vandane was re-assigned today to the SJHL, where he will join the Yorkton Terriers. 17 year old Austin Daae was also re-assigned. It is still not known yet where the winger from Estevan will report.

It was a tough night for both players last night in Swift Current. On the first shift of the game Davis Vandane had two bad turnovers, one directly in front of the net that led to a scoring chance for the Broncos. He was benched and rarely saw ice for the rest of the game.

Daae took two penalties, a hook and a trip. The Broncos scored on both powerplays that followed the penalties. They were both careless penalties for a player that was fighting for ice time.

The Blades now have 13 forwards, 7 defenseman and 3 goalies. Out of those players defenseman Tommy Stipancik is still out with post concussion syndrome and won't be medically cleared to play until the new year. Goalie Steven Stanford is also out with a concussion but should be returning within the next few games.

Obviously the team won't be going forward with only 6 defenseman.

I would imagine a move or two are coming in the near future.

Reece Scarlett: My 2011 NHL Draft riser candidate

Yesterday I had the chance to watch the Swift Current Broncos for the first time this season, and they feature two players that will very likely be taken within the first 3 rounds of the NHL draft this June.

Today I will profile defenseman Reece Scarlett.

He was tremendously fun to watch. He is a very smart two way defenseman defenseman. It was kind of weird seeing him playing top pairing minutes as well as being the featured quarterback of their powerplay, because when he was first drafted in Bantam, he was known for being more of a defensive defender.

He was drafted 12th overall in the 2008 Bantam draft, and at the time several people were shocked that he was taken that high. Well, I don’t think those people would be surprised at this point in time if they watch him play now and see how he has developed.

The first thing that stood out to me was his poise. He was on the top pairing for the young Broncos defense and also was the lone defender on the first powerplay unit. The Broncos were given 6 chances with the man advantage so that gave me plenty of time to see him perform.

He is very calm with the puck and on several occasion had to make a move or two to get away from a checker while standing on an island at the offensive blueline. His puckhandling is extremely good, especially in tight areas.

When given the open time and space he also can make a great stretch pass. He did so on more than one occasion. Despite his strong play this year, his numbers aren’t showing a correlation. He still only has 4 points in 18 games, but that definitely does not tell the story about this kid.

He is a good skater and has good size, but like most 17 year olds, he is still a bit skinny. More weight and muscle will come with time. He is also a right handed shot, something many NHL teams still covet.

Scarlett is also coming off a good summer, where he tried out for Canada’s u18 team. He had a strong camp, but unfortunately for him he was cut and did not make the team. That would have been nice for him personally, as well for his NHL draft stock. But, in the end I don’t think it will end up hurting him too much.

I have had the chance to see two WHL offensive defenders that should be high picks for the 2011 NHL draft, Myles Bell of Regina and now Scarlett. Scarlett showed much more poise and is a better passer. But Bell is the better skater and has the better goal scoring touch.

I’ve seen Scarlett listed mostly in the 2nd or 3rd round as far as draft projections go, but I would not be shocked at all if he was one of the bigger “risers” this year when it comes to the draft.

NHL comparable : A bigger version of Brian Rafalski


Tomorrow’s profile will cover 17 year old forward Adam Lowry.

Blades earn great come from behind win

Saskatoon trailed 4-2 after 40 minutes in Swift Current last night, but that wasn't enough to deter them.

The Blades got goals from Marek Viedensky and two from Josh Nicholls in the final twenty minutes to storm back and steal two points from the Broncos. Nicholls' final goal came with 1:21 remaining in the game.

The winning goal came shortly after the Blades killed off a 5-3 that was set up by a joke of a call by the referee Nathan Wieler. With the Blades down a man the puck was dumped in on goaltender Adam Morrison. With two skaters coming towards him, he chose to hold the puck instead of playing it to a pressured defender.

Wieler seemed to think it was delay of game. The call was definitely within the rulebook, but normally that type of call is used with a ton of discretion, especially when the team is killing a penalty with under 5 minutes to go.

But the Blades battled hard and killed off both penalties, and got the winning goal shortly after.

The Blades other goals came from Chris Collins, his first as a Blade in his first game. The other was by Darian Dziurzynski, his team leading 12th of the year.

The Broncos got goals from Stepan Novotny, Killian Hutt, Brad Hoban and Justin Dowling.

Swift Current's powerplay was the story of the game until the third period comeback, as they went 3/6. The Blades went 1/4.

Adam Morrison made 19 saves for the win. Mark Friesen made 22 saves in a losing effort.

Next up for Saskatoon, they travel to Alberta again this weekend to take on Medicine Hat on Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blades slide to 5th in CHL rankings

Last week they were 2nd overall in the country, this week it's a bit of a different story.

Thanks to some inconsistent play on the road over the weekend, the Blades took a tumble down the list to 5th place. They are also not the highest ranked team in the WHL on the list either.

Portland jumped up from 7th overall to 3rd. The Kootenay Ice are the other WHL team in the top 10, sitting at 9th after being unranked in the previous week. The Red Deer Rebels were among the honourable mentions.

The Blades are off to Swift Current tonight for a battle with the Broncos. You can catch the game at 7:05 on 92.9 The Bull with the pregame show starting at 6:30.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blades no longer perfect at home

It was a tough start for Saskatoon against the visiting Spokane Chiefs, and they ended up in a hole that was too big do dig themselves out of.

Defenseman Brenden Kichton scored two goals within the first 7 minutes for the Chiefs to get them out in front early. Jake Trask would answer for the Blades on a breakaway, scoring his first goal as a member of the Bridge City Bunch.

Spokane would bring their lead back to two goals in the dying minutes of the first period as towering defenseman Jared Cowen would unleash a point shot that flew over the shoulder of Adam Morrison and into the top right corner.

Josh Nicholls would score with two and a half minutes left in the second off a bouncing puck that shot out into the corner and to the side of the net where Nicholls slid it home.

Saskatoon would put the pressure on in the final 10 minutes, including ringing shots off the post atleast two times. But Chiefs starter James Reid held his own as the Chiefs also killed a penalty in the dying minutes.


Adam Morrison bounced back from a shaky first period to make 26 saves in a losing cause. James Reid made 20 saves for Spokane in the win.

It was a great push at the end of the game for Saskatoon, but once again it took too long for this team to get their legs underneath them and get playing at full speed.

Things don't exactly get much easier either, as Saskatoon is in Swift Current tomorrow night to visit a team that is nipping at their heels in the standings.

The pre-game show on The Bull starts at 6:30 for that game.

Blades trade Curt Gogol

Gritty forward Curt Gogol has been traded by the Saskatoon Blades.

Gogol is on his way to the Chilliwack Bruins along with an 8th round pick for 18 year old forward Chris Collins.

This year in Chilliwack, Collins has 1 goal, 4 assists for 5 points. It's surely a move to try and get more secondary scoring for this hockey club.

Collins has shown in the past that he can do exactly that. Last year with the Bruins as a 17 year old rookie Collins did quite well with 9 goals, 23 assists and 32 points in 69 games.

He was also a dynamic force in bantam before coming to the WHL. As a captain of the Calgary Royals, he was 2nd in league scoring with 56 goals and 103 points.

It will be interesting to see where he fits into the lineup with Saskatoon. According to his bio he can play left wing, as well as centre. I highly doubt he takes over 2nd line centre duties ahead of Brent Benson. He could possibly be put on the 2nd line right wing with Benson and Dziurzynski. If not there, I would imagine him in Gogol's spot on the third line left wing.

It's tough to see Gogol go as he was a tough, gritty and under-the-skin type of forward that I really enjoy watching. But in the end I think he was constantly hurting the team more than helping it by taking too many penalties and constantly running his mouth. Gogol had 2 points in 15 games, along with 59 penalty minutes.