Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Charges Laid Against WHL Player

It's been a bit of a wait, but charges have finally been announced following a deadly accident involving a 17 year old player from the Regina Pats. If you follow junior hockey and are reading this story, you know who the player is so I will not name him here.

The player, who was driving at the time of the accident is charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and failing to provide a breath sample. It relates to a crash on April 30th outside of Calgary where a young girl from Regina was fatally injured.

The RCMP say that speed and alcohol are believed to be factors in the accident as the car rolled several times before coming to rest in a ditch.

There is no word yet on when a court date will take place.

The player involved was expected to be a top 45 pick in the this year's NHL entry draft.

Friday, May 27, 2011

2011 NHL Mock Draft

This is a piece I have been working on for a couple of days and finally finished it today. It's the final mock I will be doing before the NHL entry draft. It's something do for fun and am by no means a scout. With that being said, I have seen 27 out of my top 30 play.

Also, you must remember this is a mock draft, an opinion of what could happen at the NHL draft next June. It's not necessarily my opinion of who are the better players in comparison to the others. Anyways, here it is.

#1 Edmonton Oilers – C, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

- The Oilers take the consensus best player and player with the highest offensive potential in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They still lack size down the middle, but will one day be able to provide smart two way play as well as a dynamic skillset highlighted by elite vision. He is a perfect compliment to the bull-in-a-china shop style of future linemate Taylor Hall. He provides a great two way skillset along with that offensive presence, not backing down physically or not shying away from a defensive matchup. The jury will be out all summer on whether or not the Oilers should play RNH in the NHL next year. I am against it, due to physical reasons more than anything. But I still think he will be there longer than a 9 game tryout.

If they don’t take RNH? Adam Larsson

#2 Colorado Avalanche – LW, Gabriel Landeskog

- The Avalanche have had a set mandate over the last couple of years that have them drafting players known to have character. Landeskog has that, then some. The big Swedish winger plays like a bull in a china shop, has solid hands in tight, isn’t afraid to get dirty, sticks up for teammates, hits, fights and can defend. He does a little bit of everything. He is also likely the most pro-ready player in the entire draft. Some scouts have said that he could have played in the NHL this season, let alone next season. He might not have the highest offensive potential out of the players available to the Avalanche, but they have shown they can be a high scoring team when they need to be. Their biggest issue is grit and true compete level. Landeskog is the way they will go.

If they don’t take Landeskog? Jonathan Huberdeau

#3 Florida Panthers – LW/C, Jonathan Huberdeau

- The weak link for Florida is done the middle. Some will argue for Sean Couturier here, but the Panthers haven’t benefitted from having an elite offensive player since Pavel Bure. Weiss was good, but not a 1st line centre. Horton was good, but his offense never translated like it needed to. Huberdeau is the answer. He plays hard, he plays aggressive, he can play centre or wing and he likely has the 2nd highest offensive potential of any player in this draft. The Panthers need to quit picking safe and need to go for the boom here.

If they don’t take Huberdeau? Sean Couturier

#4 New Jersey Devils – D, Adam Larsson

- The Devils have a number of different options here. They can take a potential first line, two way centre in Couturier. They can take a dynamic offensive player in Strome. Or they can take a stud blueliner to anchor them for the future. That’s what they do at 4. New Jersey hasn’t had a true pedigree set of defenders in quite a few years, since they lost Rafalski, Stevens and Niedermayer in the last handful of years. Larsson is a big, two way defender who will provide offense and defense when he decides to make the jump to North America from Sweden. When will that be? It’s hard to tell, but the Devils will welcome him with open arms.

If they don’t take Larsson? Sean Couturier

#5 New York Islanders – C, Sean Couturier

- SC is the big wild card in this draft. I could see the Avalanche taking him 2nd. I could also see him sliding as far as 7th overall. I think team needs should be taken into account here. The Isles have a large number of intriguing blueline prospects making their way up the pipeline. What they have lacked is a steady group of forwards behind players like Tavares and Moulson. Josh Bailey has improved much slower than expected and that’s a big reason why they take the big centre here. Couturier can do it at both ends of the ice, provide offense or play defense in a mold similar to a combo of Jordan and Eric Staal. He will likely start next season as the Isles 3rd line centre, eventually slotting in as their number two pivot down the road.

If they don’t take Couturier? Dougie Hamilton

#6 Ottawa Senators – C, Ryan Strome

- The league’s 2nd lowest scoring team this season also has a large number of highly talented blueliners in the system. That to me means they are taking a forward with this pick. Ryan Strome is a good fit to play centre down the line behind Spezza. He’s shifty, speedy, dynamic and has a pro shot with a great release. He won’t be pro ready for atleast a pair of seasons and the Sens don’t necessarily have a ton of time to wait around, but they will slowly phase in some of their other prospects on the back end before a guy like Strome is NHL ready.

If they don’t take Strome? Mika Zibanejad

#7 Winnipeg Thrashers – D, Dougie Hamilton

- Ideally, I think the Jets would be more suited to take a centre at this spot but I don’t think you can pass on a guy like Hamilton at 7th overall. There isn’t one centre that I think truly jumps out at me that would fit them to be taken this early either. Hamilton is a horse of a blueliner that has a strong skating stride mixed with a nice blend of size and offensive and defensive abilities. With this pick they will really be putting together an impressive package of defenders.

If they don’t take Hamilton? Mark Schiefele

#8 Columbus Blue Jackets – D, Ryan Murphy

- There isn’t a player that fits a team need more than the Jackets taking Murphy at 8. The guy is the most talented offensive defenseman prospect in the last several years. His size is a concern, but his defensive play did show strong growth this season compared to last. That will need to continue. Frankly, I have concerns that much of the stuff he does on a game to game basis won’t translate to the next level, but he’s so highly thought of because he’s so creative and adaptable. He will have a role as a PP QB in the NHL at some point. Let’s just hope the Jackets don’t rush him like they have countless times with other young players.

If they don’t take Murphy? Mark McNeill

#9 Boston Bruins – D, Nathan Beaulieu

- Nathan Beaulieu provides a very solid package of size, skating ability and two way play. With the amount of depth the Bruins have on offense, they take a defenseman with this pick. I originally had Sven Bartschi going here, but with the emergence of a player like Brad Marchand, that immediate need of scoring from the wing isn’t as pressing. Beaulieu still has some flaws in regards to defensive coverage and consistency so the Bruins won’t have any reason to rush this kid to the spotlight.

If they don’t take Beaulieu? Joe Morrow

#10 Minnesota Wild – LW, Sven Bartschi

- Scoring has always been an issue in Minnesota. That fact has shone through more than ever now that the club is lacking franchise scoring leader Marian Gaborik, who is now on Broadway. Offense and compete is the goal here as they go with Swiss-sniper Sven Bartschi from the Portland Winterhawks. He’s not big, but he plays big. He also is a committed defensive player. Mikael Granlund will provide a good 2nd option down the middle for the Wild within the next two years and ultimately they could opt for more size, but to me Bartschi provides a few roles that some other players won’t at this spot in the draft.

If they don’t take Bartschi? Joel Armia

#11 Colorado Avalanche – D, Duncan Siemens

- The Avs are spoiled by having two picks in the top 11 of the 2011 NHL draft. It’s a big chance for them to add to their prospect pool. These two picks will also create an interesting dynamic. I would hope (I’m an Avs fan) that if they go with a FW at #2, they take a D here and if they take a D at #2, they take a FW here. So, with that philosophy in mind, they take a big, bruising blueliner in Duncan Siemens at the 11th spot. Siemens is 6’3 and skates like the wind. He makes a strong first pass, will stand up for any teammate in a scrap and has very strong leadership capabilities. He also fills a massively huge organizational need for Colorado.

If they don’t take Siemens? Mika Zibanejad

#12 Carolina Hurricanes – RW, Joel Armia

- You can’t teach size and a knack for scoring goals. Armia has both. The Canes can use both. Not only that, but they seem to enjoy Finnish players. To me, I could see Armia going much higher than this spot. He’s a big body that moves well for the most part and has one of the best shots in the draft. Carolina will gladly add a player like this to their roster.

If they don’t take Armia? Mika Zibanejad

#13 Calgary Flames – C, Mark McNeill

- Another one of those players that could go as high as 7th or 8th, but I think he’s the perfect fit in the middle of the first to the Flames. He plays a style of game that truly fits the organization as well. A big rugged centre that has very underrated vision, he’s great on the forecheck and can win a draw in a clutch moment. He’s also been known to play the point on the PP in Prince Albert, showing that he is truly a versatile player. The Flames are in a great spot at 13th, being able to snag a player that might ‘slip’ a bit.

If they don’t take McNeill? Mark Schiefele

#14 Dallas Stars – C, Mika Zibanejad

- This guy is one of most interesting players of the draft. I could see him going anywhere from 5-20. I like his all around game, his size, scoring ability and his (not overpowering) physical game. His skating might be a bit of a concern, but with work it won’t hold him back. The Stars might have some longterm questions down the middle in their lineup and Z is a guy that will fit on either their 2nd or 3rd line somewhere down the line.

If they don’t take Zibanejad? Mark Schiefele

#15 New York Rangers – C, JT Miller

- Miller fits the type of player the Rangers seem to like. He’s big, he skates fairly well, he’s got underrated offensive skills and he has worked his way through the American junior system. There might be concern in regards to his offensive ability translating, but a strong under 18 tournament should have alleviated some of those. A true boom or bust type of player for the blueshirts in round 1.

If they don’t take Miller? Alexander Khokhlachev

#16 Buffalo Sabres – C, Mark Schiefele

- The Sabres have battled with size and depth down the middle of their lineup for years. They finally have some prospects with grit and size making their way through the pipeline in Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian but none of those guys have the skill level of Mark Schiefele. Scouts raved about his under 18 tournament for Canada and confirmed that this guy is the real deal. A two way player that can dish the puck and bury it with some space.

If they don’t take Schiefele? Nicklas Jensen

#17 Montreal Canadiens – D, Joe Morrow

- The Canadiens make it back to back years that they take defenseman in the 1st round after snagging Jarred Tinordi last year. Morrow is one of the blueliners that could shock people as to where he goes in the draft. He’s a big body that skates very well and looks similar on the ice to Duncan Keith. He can QB a PP and will be known more as a two way defender as opposed to being dominant at either end of the ice. Montreal might not have a ton of size up front, but they still know you win a championship with a strong defensive core first and foremost.

If they don’t take Morrow? Jonas Brodin

#18 Chicago Blackhawks – LW, Matt Puempel

- The Blackhawks go with one of the purest snipers in this year’s draft. Coming into this season, the 2010 OHL Rookie of the Year had a ton of hype around him. An up and down season was capped off with some minor hip surgery for Puempel. For me, I still love his instincts and hope the Avs look long and hard at him for the 11th pick. The Hawks get a great player here that will look nice in their top six in a few seasons.

If they don’t take Puempel? Jamie Oleksiak

#19 Edmonton Oilers – D, Oscar Klefbom

- There haven’t been too many players glide into the spotlight late in the season like Klefbom. He captained Sweden’s team at the under 18’s and is a unique blend of size and all around ability. He takes the bull by the horns as a defenseman and isn’t afraid to join the rush or smash someone through the boards in his own zone. Scouts have knocked that about him, that he tends to run around a bit instead of playing his position. But, I’ve always said I’d rather have to tame a player as opposed to continuing to remind a player to be aggressive. A nice project pick for the Oilers here.

If they don’t take Klefbom? David Musil

#20 Phoenix Coyotes – LW, Dmitri Jaskin

- The Coyotes haven’t exactly had a ton of success when it comes to drafting and developing European players. But, they go back to the well with Jaskin. The big Czech is aggressive in going to the net and has arguably the best shot of anyone in the draft. The best part about his game is the fact that he doesn’t lack motivation. He’s got a high motor to go with his large frame and that could be a deadly combo for the Yotes’ opposition.

If they don’t take Jaskin? Boone Jenner

#21 Ottawa Senators – LW/RW, Nicklas Jensen

- Injuries decimated the Sens last year and totally robbed them of their offense. Once again, with a massive group of solid blueliners (Cowen, Rundblad) expected to make a big pro jump next fall the Sens decide to go for talent. Nicklas Jensen is a big man with a smooth stride and very slick offensive abilities. He can be compared to a left handed, poor man’s Kovalchuk. A late-season surge by the Sens won’t be as frowned upon come June when they walk away with two amazing prospects in Strome and Jensen.

If they don’t take Jensen? Boone Jenner

#22 Anaheim Ducks – D, Jonas Brodin

- Another mystery player to many North American fans is Brodin. If his Swedish country-man Klefbom is the dynamic defender, this guy is the calm and subdued one. He’s got solid size at 6’1, is a slick skater and is known to make an excellent first pass. That type of mobility makes him very attractive to NHL teams and Brodin could be one of those guys that slides into a top 12 or 15. The Ducks have a number of intriguing prospect up front in Emerson Etem, Peter Holland and Devante Smith-Pelly and are glad to add another high end blueliner to their group.

If they don’t take Brodin? Jamie Oleksiak

#23 Pittsburgh Penguins – LW, Brandon Saad

- Saad was a guy that was expected to be a much higher pick than this. He made the trip to the OHL from the US and put together a strong season. He has the body of a power forward without the true drive of one. He’s got great hands and scores a ton of goals from the hashmarks in. He’s also shown that he can be a committed defensive player. Scouts want to see him get dirty on a more consistent basis. The Pens are very pleased to add this Pennsylvania native to their prospect pool.

If they don’t take Saad? Stefan Noesen

#24 Detroit Red Wings – FW, Rocco Grimaldi

- If Grimaldi was 3 inches taller, he’d be a top 5 pick. That’s the common saying thrown around on this guy. He’s smaller than small at 5’6 but he has arguably the best offensive skills of any player available. This kid is also a big time Red Wing fan and they are happy to role the dice with him and hope he turns into the next Martin St. Louis.

If they don’t take Grimaldi? Brett Ritchie

#25 Toronto Maple Leafs – D, Jamie Oleksiak

- Size and strength, without sacrificing mobility, is the big thing about this 6’7 monster. The Leafs are happy to grab this kid who could end up being similar to a Tyler Myers if all the stars align. Personally, I think the Leafs need to take a safer approach to the draft and avoid projects, but this is a mock and not a personal ranking! The Leafs have done a great job rebuilding their blueline piece by piece and we all know that Brian Burke loves big strong kids, especially Americans….maybe to a fault.

If they don’t take Oleksiak? Boone Jenner

#26 Washington Capitals – C, Boone Jenner

- The Capitals play this season finally showed that they can slow things down and play some defense. That philosophy translates to their draft table as they pass up high end talent for a solid two way player in Jenner. This kid skates like a car wreck in slow motion, but he still gets the job down. He’s also got leadership skills and could very well be a fine replacement for Brooks Laich as a leader on the Capitals if he leaves via free agency.

If they don’t take Jenner? Tomas Jurco

#27 Tampa Bay Lightning – D, Scott Mayfield

- There were concerns over Mayfield as the year went as he was stuck on a bad USHL team. Some people may have thought his play stagnated as the year went on. Either way, he’s a strong skater and plays with an edge, registering over 150 PIM’s this season. The Lightning have some strong pieces up front in regards to prospects (Asthon, Connolly) and are happy to grab a solid two way defender with good size.

If they don’t take Mayfield? Connor Murphy

#28 San Jose Sharks – D, David Musil

- I always have a tough time picking what the Sharks might do when drafts roll around. Do they address the defense or the forwards? Last year they hit a homerun (in my opinion) with Charlie Coyle at 28th overall. This year at 28, they try and do the same thing on the blueline by adding a safe player in Musil. The big blueliner is likely one of the most NHL ready blueliners out of this draft. He moves well for his size, blocks shots and can make a solid first pass. The Sharks don’t have a ton of high end skill in regards to forward prospects, so I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they took a flyer on someone like Zack Phillips, Tomas Jurco, Ty Rattie or Alexander Khokhlachev.

If they don’t take Musil? Ty Rattie

#29 Toronto Maple Leaf – RW, Tyler Biggs

- The Toronto Maple Leafs are more than happy to add a player who plays similarly to Kings captain Dustin Brown. Biggs hits like a truck, drops the gloves and has a hard clapper. Questions have been raised about his overall skill level and that could very well be valid. The way I see it, if Biggs works out you have a 2nd round winger who does it all. If his offensive game doesn’t round out and excel, you have someone that can find a role and provide leadership on the bottom two lines.

If they don’t take Biggs? Daniel Catenacci

#30 Vancouver Canucks – RW, Stefan Noesen

- The Stanley Cup champs are more than pleased to add more size and skill to their top six in Stefan Noesen. Personally, I like this guy a lot more than a 30th overall pick. He provides a nice blend of speed, size, physical play and offense. The Canucks won’t need to rush this kid along, even if he is further along than most players his age, already being noted for his great defensive play.

If they don’t take Noesen? Tomas Jurco

Other Notables To Consider:

Daniel Catenacci – This skilled winger has blazing speed and a solid nose for the net. Think Darren Helm.

Tomas Jurco – I could see a team grabbing this guy early as he has some of the best hands of the draft. Consistency has been a concern.

Ty Rattie – Smart two way player with excellent vision but his skating could use work. Patrick Sharp is a solid comparable.

Richard Rakell – The Swede has good size and plays a solid two way game. I have concerns about his overall offensive game translating to the next level.

Vlad Namestnikov – A skilled and dynamic Russian that competes and plays a two way game. A darkhorse to go in the 20’s of round 1.

Seth Ambroz – Was highly touted coming into 2010-2011, but this power forward suffered a power outage as his skating continues to hold him back.

Zack Phillips – Has a nose for the net and offensive touch that you can’t teach. If a team can see past his skating he could be a top 15 pick.

Alexander Khoklachev – More dynamic and flashy than Namestnikov, but he’s small and isn’t as good defensively.

John Gibson – My top goalie available. The big American has future #1 potential and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team snag him late in round 1.

Victor Rask – Arguably top 10 skill, but not enough compete and a bad attitude have plagued him all year. Watch the Wings snag him in the first….

Phillip Danault – 17 year old captains don’t come along often, but he was one. Good grit and solid offense for this Frenchman.

Brett Ritchie – An up and down year but I could see him doubling his production next year in Sarnia. One of my top sleepers.

Ryan Sproul – Another darkhorse of a blueliner that reminds some of Alex Pietrangelo. He’s big, he’s rangy and he moves better than most his size.

Connor Murphy – A dynamite two way defender with great size who played for the US National team this year. Son of former NHLer Gord Murphy.

Nikita Kucherov – Tore up the scoreboard at the under 18’s, but he’s not the biggest guy and teams are shying away from Russians more and more.

Joel Edmundson – A big, strong, defense-first defenseman who plays with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He uses his reach well and isn’t afraid to punch someone’s face.

Myles Bell – An offseason car accident has put this defenseman’s future up in the air. Before that, he was considered a high end offensive prospect.

Mario Lucia – Arguably the top high school player available this year. Good size for the forward who should be a good defensive player.

Chris Gibson – The Finn is likely the 2nd best goalie available in the draft and should be grabbed shortly after the first goalie goes off the board.

Adam Clendening – A dynamite offensive blueliner who was the highest scoring freshman blueliner with Boston University this year.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prospects To Watch At The Memorial Cup

Another piece from my work posted at fantasyhockeycoach.com....

The Memorial Cup has been called the toughest championship to win. It’s a tournament of the best of the best for junior hockey in Canada. Not only is the hockey entertaining, but it’s also the last chance for poolies to take a look at some of the elite players that will be moving onto your fantasy radar sooner rather than later.

This week I take a look at a couple of players from each Memorial Cup club who could have a strong upside in the future and are players you should really watch within the next two to three years for fantasy hockey.

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors

JP Anderson (Goalie) – Anderson was never drafted but signed as a free agent this season when the SJ Sharks came knocking. He’s a tad undersized at 5’11, but if any team knows how to find talent between the pipes, it’s the Sharks. They’ve been a goalie factory over the last 10 years. This kid should be on your radar if you are short between the pipes in a keeper or long-term league.

Justin Shugg (Winger) – Speaking of undersized… Shugg was part of the great 2010 draft for the Carolina Hurricanes as they snagged him in the 4th round. He spent this season in Mississauga after a 39 goal season in Windsor last year. He’s a gritty guy that’s not afraid to get dirty to get on the board. That’s an important thing as he’s listed as 5’9 on a number of sites around the web. If the Majors hope to have a chance in this best on best tournament, Shugg could be the motor that pushes them towards that goal.

Owen Sound Attack

Jesse Blacker (Defenseman) – Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been excited following this kid grow since his draft year, and it’s for good reason. He took a jump up to 54 points this year for the Attack and then had 16 more in 22 playoff games. He’s got solid size at 6’2 and is a slick skater. Expect him to turn pro this summer and possibly turn heads at Leaf camp next fall.

Jordan Binnington (Goalie) – Binnington started the Mem Cup as the head of the Attack’s three headed goalie monster. The draft eligible goalie saw his numbers decrease in the playoffs though compared to the regular season, where he won 27 games. It’s been an up and down battle for him this season overall as he battled consistency, but this starting job should be a solid confidence boost for the youngster, who will be a mid round pick come the June entry draft.

Saint John Sea Dogs

Zack Phillips (Winger) – Some say he’s a potential first round pick, others say he’s a second rounder. Either way, Phillips is a solid NHL prospect. Phillips scored 38 goals this year and finished with 95 points, leading and playing a big role with the CHL’s top rated club. His skating continues to be a knock, but the kid has hands of gold and is worth a long hard look as a fantasy option.

Nathan Beaulieu (Defenseman) – The slick skating blue-liner grew a few inches last summer and it didn’t take too much time for him to adjust. He’s a perennial puck mover who had 45 points this year and will have some teams doing their homework come the top 15 in the 2011 NHL draft. I see a Jordan Leopold type of talent and fantasy producer at the NHL level.

Kootenay Ice

Maxwell Reinhart (Centre) – This guy sums up the word “steal”. He was a third round pick by the Flames last year and plays a pro style game. He defends, can hit, win draws and put the puck in the net. In fact, he scored 34 goals this season and then added 15 more in only 19 playoff games as the Ice ran the table in the WHL. If you can sign free agents in your league and he’s available, don’t sleep on this sleeper.

Nathan Lieuwen (Goalie) – Fantasy players are always looking for sleeper keepers (at least they SHOULD be). This guy fits the bill. At 6’5 he’s an imposing figure between the pipes and plays a bit like Roberto Luongo. He’s almost more of a “stopper” as opposed to a true goalie, but teams will be itching to draft him this June. At 19 years old, he’s older than most of the goalies in the draft as he was passed over twice. That happened due to a number of reasons including a concussion suffered as a 16 year old when a car he was in rolled. He’s over those issues and should be on your radar.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Prospects For Deep Fantasy Leagues

As some of you may know, I am also a columnist for www.fantasyhockeycoach.com. I've been writing articles for them for 2 months now. Here's one that I figured could also be posted here. So, read it if you give a damn!


Not every league is the same. Not every fantasy league bases results off scoring only. As fantasy sports continue to grow in popularity, many leagues are switching to a deeper scoring method to try and shake things up. Some leagues grade and score off of secondary stats including things like penalty minutes, plus-minus, hits and some even with blocked shots.

It’s time to look at some prospects and young players out there that could provide extra depth to your lineup within the next couple of seasons.

Colton Gillies – FW – Minnesota Wild

Gillies was drafted for his size and his ability to run people through the boards. He may have been rushed to the NHL after being a 1st round pick in 2007, but his bread and butter remains the same. The 6’4 winger has had an up and down pro career so far and has shown limited offensive upside so far, but what he lacks in offense he makes up for in other areas. His AHL PIM totals are solid and he will need to play physical and block shots to show he can play at the next level on a consistent basis, making him valuable in some deeper leagues.

Zack Kassian – FW – Buffalo Sabres

The big forward has taken his penalty minute numbers back in recent years, but that will likely change as he tries to carve out a pro career and will be forced to play more aggressively. He’s a big body that likes to fill the net and throw his weight around. By turning pro next season you can likely expect him to see NHL time as soon as next year in a 3rd or 4th line role. A very good candidate to be a 20 goal and 100 PIM guy down the road.

Adam Henrique – FW – New Jersey Devils

Henrique has been lauded for his two-way play at all levels of his career so far. In his first year as a pro he had an impressive 25 goals this year in limited amounts of ice time with Albany of the AHL. He won’t provide a ton of PIM’s, but to make that next step he will have to be a guy that provides energy, wins draws, blocks shots and throws his weight around. The pluses’ will also come as he could very well be the Devils 3rd line anchor in the very near future.

Matt Fraser – FW – Dallas Stars

Fraser is a kid that does everything well. He’s a good skater, has a rocket shot, can play defense and hits like a truck. Oh, and he fights too. He has 22 scraps over the last two WHL seasons. He also had 74 points this year for the Kootenay Ice. Fraser will be turning pro next season and is likely AHL-bound, but he could be one of those guys that is a real darkhorse for a deep league. I feel that at worst, he becomes a 4th line grinder at the NHL level, but I also think he could become similar to a player like Rene Bourque. One thing is for sure, Fraser will have to fight for every inch of ice as a pro and that is something fantasy hockey players have to look for.

Garrett Wilson – FW – Florida Panthers

Wilson might be one of the best kept secrets in the prospect world. He’s a big kid that plays physical and has offensive abilities. This year for Owen Sound he scored 40 goals and had 114 PIM’s, a pretty solid season for a power-forward. He might be one of the guys on this list that takes the longest to reach the NHL, but I still think he has the ability to provide you with a ton of secondary stats once he gets there. Besides being a solid offensive player, he also has the ability to shut down the opposition. As a big forward, that type of combination makes me think he could be destined for a future role on the Panthers 3rd line.

Mark Cundari – D – St. Louis Blues

After a massively successful junior career with Windsor, Cundari turned pro this season and made huge steps in the AHL. As a rookie he had 30 points, was a +6 and had 106 PIM’s. He’s a tad undersized at roughly 5’10, but he’s the kind of player that plays big. He’s a hard hitter and is solid positionally. Cundari will never be a powerplay quarterback with the Blues, but if you are looking hard for depth defenders that block shots, throw hits, kill penalties and sport a strong plus-minus, this guy is your man.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A True Grinder Honoured As WHL POTW

Members of the Kootenay Ice continue to parade along as winners of the WHL's player of the week.

It's now been 4 out of the last 5 weeks where a member of the Ice was named as player of the week.

This time it's Jesse Ismond being honoured.

The 20 year old from Kindersley, Saskatchewan had 3 goals and 4 assists in three games as the Ice won the WHL title. He was also a plus 6 in those games.

The WHL has also nominated Nathan Lieuwen as CHL goalie of the week. He was 3-0 on the week with a 2.11 GAA and a 9.29 save percentage. The big keeper will have to continue that hot play as the Ice move on to the Memorial Cup and will face the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) as well as Owen Sound and Mississauga (OHL).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kootenay Off To Memorial Cup

I've never seen a team so dominant in the postseason.

After watching the Ice dismantle the Blades so easily, I figured this team was on the verge of something special in the WHL playoffs. Sure enough, that success carried into the next round where they also swept the highly touted Medicine Hat Tigers.

But could that really continue against the near pro-calibre Portland Winterhawks? I had my doubts, and it turns out I shouldn't have.

The Ice finished off the Hawks in only 5 games, moving on with a 4-1 win last night in Portland.

Congratulations to the Ice. It's clear that they are in fact that the team closest to a pro-calibre than anyone else. They really only have one or two stars, forward Cody Eakin and defenseman Brayden McNabb.

Besides that, they simply rely on their depth that includes a veteran group in front as well as simple, yet effective defenders.

Oh yeah, don't forget Nathan Lieuwen in goal either. The 19 year old went 16-3 in the postseason with 3 shutouts, a 2.24 GAA and a .923 save percentage. He would be my choice as their playoff MVP. I fully expect that performance to translate to a mid-round NHL draft selection this June.

So where does this team go from here? Well, with the WHL championship all wrapped up they now head off to Mississauga for the Memorial Cup. That will once again be some stiff competition. People call it the toughest championship in the world for a reason. Joining the Ice will be the host St. Mike's Majors, the Owen Sound Attack and either the Saint John Sea Dogs or Gatineau Olympiques. Those two Q teams continue to battle in the finals with the Sea Dogs up 3-2.

Many draft watchers out there will surely have wanted to see Portland on the national stage, showcasing the likes of Joe Morrow, Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi. The Ice don't have the high end prospects in regards to the next level of hockey, but it's clear they play as a team and play to win. That's all that matters. Congratulations Kootenay.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 Prospect's Big Week

Another member of the Western Hockey League has been recognized for his strong week in the playoffs.

Portland's Sven Bartschi has been named CHL player of the week.

The 17 year old Swiss import had 5 goals and 2 assists in his 3 games this week. That included 3 points in the 6th and deciding game of the WHL's Western Final against Spokane.

He also had a strong start to the WHL final where he had 4 goals in the first two games. Those two games between the Kootenay Ice and Winterhawks were split with game 3 going tonight from Cranbrook, BC. A member of the opposition Ice was the winner of this award last week, that was Max Reinhart. His win was highlighted by a 5 goal game.

Bartschi seems to be getting hot at the right time. The CHL playoffs are a great proving ground for prospects and Bartschi is one guy that would appear to be on the rise. He is eligible for the 2011 NHL draft. The 17 year old made a major splash in the WHL this year, coming in 2nd in voting for the WHL's rookie of the year award.

He's a smaller guy at only 5'10, but that doesn't stop him from getting dirty and in the middle of things to get his name on the scoreboard. He's also a very committed defensively and is often the first forward back on his line. He's got a pro shot and pro release. His skating isn't the fastest I've seen, but it surely doesn't hold him back.

I think he has his name called this June at the NHL draft in Minnesota in the 11-15 range. With that being said, I wouldn't be shocked if someone takes him in the 7-10 range, especially if he can find his way onto the national stage at the Memorial Cup and produces there. Those memories fresh in scouts minds can always help a kids case.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Saskatoon Blades Bantam Draft Recap

Saskatoon had a ton of work to do to try and find some diamonds in the rough to try and make up for a lack of high picks this year.

They gave up their first two picks in the Brayden Schenn trade in January, and didn't pick until 66th this time around.

Listening to Blades assistant GM Jarrod Brodsky in a recent interview, he made it clear that there wasn't quite the "high end talent" in this draft that we might have seen in recent years, but there was very solid depth throughout. Noting that teams were going to be able to find solid long term project players even into the mid rounds.

Hopefully he's right and the Blades picked a few solid players among the 12 they were able to draft yesterday. Here they are:

Landyn Hickmott - 3rd round, 66th overall. FW, 5'11, 165 pounds from Mission, BC. According to one bantam scout I talked to, Hickmott was considered a much higher rated prospect earlier in the season, but was passed by other players. He still remains a very quick and agile skater that plays with an edge and has a nose for the net. Also the young brother of Oil Kings Jordan Hickmott.

Nelson Nogier - 4th round, 71st overall. D, 6'0, 160 pounds from Saskatoon, SK. Known to be a physical defenseman that plays tough and "plays for keeps". He had 11 points in 23 games while playing for Martensville this past season.

Ryan Graham - 5th round, 91st overall. FW, 5'11, 165 pounds from Calgary, AB. Known to be a gritty player that the Blades watched improve steadily all year. His 62 penalty in 33 games this year stand out.

Ryan Rewerts - 5th round, 110th overall. G, 6'1, 200 pounds from Cut Knife, SK. A goalie with size is always attractive and according to the scouting staff this kid has some athletic ability to go with that huge size. You can never have enough goalies in the system in my opinion, especially guys that are already man-sized.

Ross Hnidy - 6th round, 115th overall. D, 6'0, 197 pounds from Saskatoon, SK. 25 points in 39 games while playing in Saskatoon, a defenseman with solid size and another one of those kids with a high compete level and a physical edge to their game.

Nick Gomerick - 6th round, 118th overall. FW, 5'11, 165 pounds from Nanaimo, BC. A kid with a good compete level that's not afraid to get dirty to score. Also a solid skater.

Clayton Kirichenko - 7th round, 154th overall. D, 5'11, 167 pounds from Sherwood Park, AB. Known to be a very well rounded defenseman who can make a pass, join the rush, and play physical.

Kaelan Wall - 9th round, 198th overall. D, 6'1, 175 pounds from Hepburn, SK. A smart defenseman that's a solid skater, solid decision maker and already has WHL size.

Sebastian Barrette - 10th round, 204th overall. FW, 5'8, 157 pounds from Cranbrook, BC. Small forward with good skating stride and a good compete level.

Wyatt Hinson - 10th round, 212th overall. FW, 5'10, 185 pounds from Debden, SK. Strong forward that finishes all his checks and also had 32 goals in 22 games this season for Meadow Lake.

Evan Polei - 11th round, 242nd overall. FW, 5'11, 190 pounds from Wetaskiwin, AB. A solid all round player that can put up points and play physical. Had a strong Alberta Cup according to the Blades.

Cody Young - 12th round, 264th overall. FW, 5'10, 151 pounds from Saskatoon, SK. Forward with great puck skills and ability to generate offense. 39 goals in 41 games this year along with 100 PIMs.

Ryan Pruden - 13th round, 286th overall. FW, 5'11, 155 pounds from Winnipeg, MB. A gritty forward with some nice mitts that ended up on the Blades radar after a strong Western Bantam Championship tournament.

After the dust settled the Blades had drafted 12 players, 7 forwards, 4 defenseman and a goalie. Out of those picks, half of them were from Saskatchewan. That number is two more than any other team in the WHL.

I like the sticking close to home strategy when it comes to finding players. I feel it makes the transition that much easier down the road. Saskatoon also ended up taking 2 kids from BC, 3 from Alberta and 1 from Manitoba. They never picked an American player.

The Blades also added some size to their prospect pool. The average player they picked was 71.1 inches tall and 170.3 pounds. Both of those numbers are higher than the average for the 232 players taken. In fact, the players they took on average were over a half inch taller and 10 pounds heavier.

When selecting players like this, at this age, size is always a concern. Who is done growing and who will still grow 4 inches? Atleast by taking bigger kids now, you know that you won't be stuck with the WHL edition of the Montreal Canadiens down the line.

Just looking over what the Blades have had to say about these kids and looking at their numbers and physical attributes, I like most of the picks. They all seem like good character kids that have skill and will be able to push their way up the depth charts. At this point, it's all up to them.

WHL Bantam Draft Recap

Yesterday was the day that WHL teams re-stock their cupboards. There scouting staff's work long hours all year long to be well prepared, to pick the right players to take them to the next level on the ice.

The Calgary Hitmen had the first choice for the first time in their history and they took forward Jake Virtanen. He's 5'11 and 164 pounds and says that he likes to pattern his game after a player like Rick Nash. He was widely considered to be hands down the best forward available at the draft.

As you can see, the kid looks to be an impressive player. Hopefully he works out well for the Hitmen.

The rest of the top 5 broke down like this:

2. Swift Current Broncos - Brycen Martin, D, from Calgary, Alberta
3. Lethbridge Hurricanes (from Regina) - Ryan Pilon, D, from Duck Lake, Saskatchewan
4. Kamloops Blazers - Jordan Thomson, D, from Wawanesa, Manitoba
5. Lethbridge Hurricanes - Reid Duke, C, from Calgary, Alberta

For the full results of all the players taken, visit:


When it was all said and done, 46 players from Saskatchewan were drafted out of the total number of players that stood at 232. By position, there were 129 forwards, 82 defenseman and 21 goalies taken.

For an absolutely amazing breakdown of the draft and the players taken, take a look at this page:


Now that's a lot of work.

I will have an overall look at the draft by the Saskatoon Blades coming up in a few short minutes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WHL Awards Handed Out

The WHL has wrapped up their 2010-2011 awards presentation and there weren't too many surprises with how the hardware was handed out.

Here is the list of who the award winners were:

Scholastic Team Of The Year - Swift Current Broncos

Scholastic Player Of The Year - Collin Smith (Kamloops)

Official Of The Year - Matt Kirk (Referee)

Most Sporstmanlike Player - Tyler Johnson (Spokane)

Humanitarian Of The Year - Spencer Edwards (Moose Jaw)

Coach Of The Year - Don Nachbaur (Spokane)

Executive Of The Year - Lorne Molleken (Saskatoon)

Rookie Of The Year - Matt Dumba (Red Deer)

Goalie Of The Year - Darcy Kuemper (Red Deer)

Defenseman Of The Year - Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon)

Player Of The Year - Darcy Kuemper (Red Deer)

As I mentioned, not too many surprises. The most hotly-contested awards in my view were for MVP between Kuemper and Johsnon and for the Rookie of the Year between Dumba and Bartschi. I stand by my prediction that the award for ROTY should have gone to the Swiss import Bartschi. Sure, he was a year older, but he also had to adjust to a whole new continent.

Next up on the WHL schedule, the bantam draft tomorrow, along with the start of the finals between the Portland Winterhawks and the Kootenay Ice.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blades Goalie Off To The ECHL, For Now

Saskatoon Blades goalie Adam Morrison has beend signed and added to the Wheeling Nailers playoff roster.

The Nailers play in the East Coast Hockey League and are based in West Virginia. They are the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens.

The 20 year old goalie will serve as the 3rd string backup behind Patrick Killeen (Penguins) and Peter Delmas (former Avalanche draft pick).

The Nailers are currently taking on the Kalamazoo Wings in the third round of the ECHL playoffs. That series is tied at 1 game apiece with game 3 going on Thursday from Wheeling.

Morrison was 16-7-3 with a 2.89 GAA and a .901 save percentage this season. He also had a pair of shutouts.

WHL Well Represented At NHL Draft Combine

A total of 19 skaters from the WHL have been invited to the NHL's draft combine for the lead up to the 2011 NHL draft in Minnesota on June 24th and 25th.

102 skaters in total have been invited to the skill-testing combine that runs May 30th to June 4th.

Here's the list of the Dub's representatives:

Sven Bartschi - Portland - LW - 5'10, 181

Myles Bell - Regina - D - 6'0, 214

Joel Edmundson - Moose Jaw - D - 6'5, 181

Travis Ewanyk - Edmonton - LW - 6'1, 178

Colin Jacobs - Seattle - C - 6'1, 197

Luke Lockhart - Seattle - RW - 5'10, 180

Adam Lowry - Swift Current - LW - 6'4, 186

Mark McNeill - Prince Albert - C - 6'2, 201

Joe Morrow - Portland - D - 6'0, 197

David Musil - Vancouver - D - 6'3, 218

Marcel Noebels - Seattle - LW - 6'3, 195

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Red Deer - C - 6'1, 164

Ty Rattie - Portland - RW - 5'11, 163

Reece Scarlett - Swift Current - D - 6'1, 164

Duncan Siemens - Saskatoon - D - 6'3, 192

Michael St. Croix - Edmonton - C - 5'11, 176

Tyler Wotherspoon - Portland - D - 6'1, 203

Zach Yuen - Tri City - D - 6'0, 203

Laurent Brossoit - Edmonton - G - 6'3, 193

A few things jump off the page at me:

- I will admit, when scanning the list, the first thing that surprised me was the sight of Luke Lockhart. It was a good surprise for me. He's a player that I really think is underrated. He played on a bad team in Seattle, but still put together a solid season despite having a struggling club. He's a water bug player and even when he's not scoring, he's doing other things to get involved. Really reminds me of a Brian Gionta-type player. It's nice to see a player like that invited to this event. It shows that he is definitely on a few teams' radar.

- Only one WHL goalie was invited. That fact isn't that shocking. It is a little shocking to see that Brossoit is the guy that will be attending. Liam Liston out of Brandon has been consistently ranked as the top WHL goalie. I have Brossoit as my number two guy in the WHL as far as "17 year old goalies" go. My number one is Eric Williams of the Raiders. Liston is my number three.

As I mentioned, the combine takes place starting on May 30th.

2010-2011 WHL Award Predictions

With the WHL award winners being announced tomorrow, I figured I would take the time to post my predictions for who will walk away with the hardware.

Many of the races for these awards are hotly contested, so don't fault me if I miss more than I hit!

Rookie of the Year

Sven Bartschi (Portland) vs. Matt Dumba (Red Deer)

It's the old argument of forward versus defenseman. Another element that could get sprinkled in here is the fact that Bartschi is a 17 year old rookie while Dumba is a 16 year old rookie. I don't think that fact should hurt Bartschi that much, because he still is an import player this year and had to adjust to a whole new culture and playing stile in North America. His 34 goals and 85 points are very impressive, enough for him to win.

Sven Bartschi is my WHL rookie of the year

Top Goaltender

James Reid (Spokane) vs. Darcy Kuemper (Red Deer)

Sorry to Reid, but this one is a landslide victory for Kuemper. What he did this season was nothing short of amazing for the Rebels. 45 wins and 13 shutouts is damn impressive, as is his sub-2 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Darcy Kuemper is my top goalie in the WHL

Most Sportsmanlike

Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon) vs. Tyler Johnson (Spokane)

At first I figured this would be Johnson's to lose. But after doing a bit more research, I find it hard to believe that Elliott wouldn't win this. I mean, 14 penalty minutes as a defenseman? How is that even possible? Johnson was no slouch either with only 48 on the season, but he already has 14 in 13 playoff games this spring. That number matches Elliott's from the entire season.

Stefan Elliott is my pick as the WHL's most sportsmanlike player

Top Coach

Don Nachbaur (Spokane) vs. Jesse Wallin (Red Deer)

This is another one of those categories that could go either way in my opinion. Wallin led his Rebels to a 104 point season and a 2nd place finish in the WHL's Eastern Conference standings. Nachbaur also put together a strong year, guiding his Chiefs to a 4th place finish in the West with 48 wins and 102 points. I will totally dumb down my reasoning here. Taking a look at the Conferences, it's clear the West was a tougher battle this year.

Don Nachbaur was the WHL's top coach this season

Top Executive

Mike Johnston (Portland) vs. Lorne Molleken (Saskatoon)

Both of these guys are more than worthy winners. Coming into the year there was no doubt in my mind that the Portland Winterhawks would be a team to beat in the WHL. Saskatoon on the other hand, had some questions. They were a young team, one of the youngest in the league, that had tremendous turnover from the previous season. Molleken made a few acquisitions as the year went on to make the Blades a deeper and more experience team (Trask, Cox, Collins). Things sure blew up in their faces come postseason, but to me this is Lorne Molleken's win.

Lorne Molleken was the WHL's top executive

Top Defenseman

Tyson Barrie (Kelowna) vs. Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon)

For the 2nd year in a row, the Colorado Avalanche will feature a prospect known as the WHL's top defenseman. Last year it was Barrie, this year he has a chance to repeat against future Av teammate Elliott. Both guys had strong seasons, Barrie also had the chance to represent Canada on the international stage, winning a silver medal at the World Juniors. With an 81 point season, Elliott took over sole possession of the all time scoring record among Blades defenseman. He was the catalyst to a 1st place club as well.

Stefan Elliott was the WHL's top defenseman


Darcy Kuemper (Red Deer) vs. Tyler Johnson (Spokane)

Flip a coin. Honestly. This one is tough to call. Kuemper did amazing things in goal as I have already touched on. Johnson had 53 goals and had 115 points, one back of the league lead. He also established himself as a future pro, signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Looking at this award, it revolves around who is more valuable to their team. I can't help but marvel at Kuemper and what he did this year. He was a rock for the Rebels. And that's not selling Johnson short at all.

Darcy Keumper was the WHL's Most Valuable Player this season

Those are my predictions. The real winners will be announced soon enough.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reinhart Honoured For Big Week

For the third week in a row, a member of the red hot Kootenay Ice has been named as player of the week in the WHL.

Two weeks ago it was Brayden McNabb. Last week it was Cody Eakin. This week it is Max Reinhart.

Reinhart's week was highlighted by a 5 goal game in the WHL's Eastern Conference final against the Medicine Hat Tigers. That effort came in game 4, the game that the Tigers were officially eliminated from the postseason.

In his only other game of the week, Reinhart scored a goal and was named as the game's 2nd star.

It's been a big year for the 3rd year member of the Kootenay Ice. Last June he was chosen in the 3rd round (64th overall) of the NHL draft by the Calgary Flames. He followed that up with a very solid season this year, registering 79 points in 71 games.

Not only does Reinhart have the ability to put the puck in the net and provide offense, he's a very mature and smart player all over the ice. He can shut an offensive line down, if that's the role he is given in a game. Seems to me the Calgary Flames have a very solid and underrated WHL prospect on their hands.

Reinhart's teammate, goalie Nathan Lieuwen has also been nominated by the WHL as the goalie of the week in the CHL. He was 2-0 for the week, stopping 43 of 46 shots and shutting down the high flying offense of Medicine Hat.