Friday, August 26, 2011

Prospect Recap From Saskatoon Blades Camp

As my last post mentions, I was looking to change the direction of this blog. I've decided that I plan on making this a prospect-centered blog from here on out. Given my position within the WHL, I feel as if I have a great view of certain prospects and players throughout the hockey world.

I'm an avid hockey prospect geek and will gladly post once or twice a week on here about certain players I see throughout the season.

This week has been my first chance to see live hockey in the last couple of months and it's been absolutely refreshing...refreshing enough to post right now. A few of the returning players from the Saskatoon Blades have grown by leaps and bounds. I will highlight a few. A couple Blades players are eligible for the 2012 draft, I will highlight them as well. There has also been a number of 16 and under players that have been very solid at camp so far and I will give them a mention too.

Let's go!

Darren Dietz - Dietz was drafted by Montreal this past June and I've heard the stories about how the franchise absolutely LOVES him and his game. He has flat out been the most impressive player so far at camp. Last year he was primarily a defensive guy, with some underlying offensive skills. So far at camp he's showing he's ready to take that jump forward in his game. He's rushed the puck a ton, made a few nice passes and a ton of sick dekes. He actually scored 5 goals in 2 scrimmage games today. He's also put on 5-10 pounds of pure muscle since last year and it shows. With his grit and defensive prowess already and a growing offensive game, Hab fans are going to be blown away when they see him at rookie or training camp in Montreal.

Tommy Stipancik - The big defender is 2012 eligible. He missed the first half of last year with post concussion syndrome and looked more than capable upon his return. He has truly upped his game a notch this year. He's quicker, both physically and mentally, he's stronger and he still has his 6'3+ frame. He moves quite well to begin with and I think that he could be a riser for the 2012 draft. He reminds me a bit of a skinnier and lankier Braydon Coburn. I will definitely be watching him grow as a player as the season moves along.

Matej Stransky - I was always a fan of his game. As the year went on, he started to get more attention and it became apparent he could possibly be drafted. Dallas did just that. He looks good this year as if he's lost a bit of baby fat. He looks leaner and stronger. He's also about 6'3 and has the body of a man. His skating has improved a bit, but not as much as I had hoped. He's still got the hands of gold and moves like nobody else on the team, but his balance and mobility still needs refining before he becomes a true potential NHLer. A super nice guy too, which always helps.

Andrey Makarov - The Blades were able to grab him in this summer's Import Draft. I know a couple scouts who really liked him last year as he played in Lewiston of the QMJHL, before they folded. I now see why. The Russian goalie is athletic and has a magical glove hand. He went undrafted this past June but I wouldn't be shocked if he was drafted next year or atleast earned a tryout. He also has a solid chance at stealing 20 year old Adam Morrison's starting job in Saskatoon.

Youngsters Who Have Impressed:

Brett Lernout - D - 1995 born - A big kid on the blueline that has great physical size and assets. A bit clumsy but could earn a harder look by staff.

Austin Daae - F - 1993 born - He had a few looks last year by the Blades but looks much improved this year after shedding 12 pounds over the summer. He WILL make the Blades, mark my words.

Linden Penner - F - 1995 born - A big power forward style of player who moves quite well. He was one of the best players in the first scrimmage I saw, and somewhat so-so after that. When he's in the game, he's tough to stop. Could earn a few games during this season.

Luc Soares - F - 1996 born - This 15 year old was undrafted and was a camp invite, but wow is he good offensively. Very quick and very smart. Watch for him to possibly earn a spot on the team's protected list because he looks to have some offensive potential. Quite undersized at only 5'8 though.

Ryan Graham - F - 1996 born - A 5th round pick by the Blades looks like a current steal. Very good offensive player and he has good size. He could be a strong 16 year old candidate for next season.

Christian Stockl - F - 1995 born - Listed at around 165 pounds, but he plays much bigger. Solid and strong with a good nose for the net. Could be a 16 year old on the Blades.

Nick Zajac - F - 1995 born - I know the organization is high on him and it's easy to see why. He's smart and effective all over the ice.

Travis McEvoy - F - 1994 born - Has had a few goals so far in camp as he possesses a very solid shot. A solid and thick kid. Good energy level too.

Other players to watch include Drake Bodie, Michael Statchuk, Connor Swystun, Adam Todd, Ryan Miner, Alex Moodie, Nelson Nogier, Nick Gomerich, Kyle Haas, Dylan Stang, Connor Kortko and Holden Daley.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Future Of This Blog

Over the last few summer months I've found it tough to stay on task with this blog. Last season it was mostly used to stay up to date on Saskatoon Blades news, with a few other tidbits (like scouting reports) thrown in here and there.

As some of you may or may not know, recently I was actually hired on by the Saskatoon Blades as their manager of communications and community relations.

Because of that, I feel as if reporting "Blades news" is a bit of a conflict of interest and I'm sure the team would actually agree.

So here I am, left in a bit of a limbo trying to decide what to do with this blog. I feel I have a couple of options:

1. Continue similarly to last season by providing pre-game tidbits and recaps to Blades games. "News" about roster changes and things of that nature would be virtually left out, compared to last year because I am now on the "inside" of operations here. I could also provide a few news and notes from elsewhere around the WHL.

2. Use it as a scouting blog where I post information and details on player's that I watch in various games at various events throughout the hockey season. As some of you may or may not also know, I do some scouting on the side for the group Future Considerations. (visit

3. I could drop the blog all together and focus on my duties with the team, with my scouting and with my duties as the colour commentator for the Saskatoon Blades.

I've pondered this question for the last several weeks, ever since I found out I was getting the job with the team. So I figured I would throw this out into the Twitterverse and hope for some responses either on there or in the comment section below.

Let me know what you want to see from this blog!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Five Dub Kids Named To Canada's U-18 Team

Five WHL players will be headed to the Czech Republic and Slovakia as they were named to Canada's Under 18 team.

Four of those five players are defenceman. Making the team are Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton), Matt Dumba (Red Deer), Derrick Pouliot (Portland), Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw) and forward Hunter Shinkaruk (Medicine Hat).

Now people know why 2012 is going to be a great draft year for defenceman, especially defenders from the WHL.

Shinkaruk also made a huge impression at the Calgary camp. He was widely recognized as possibly being the top forward out of anyone. He's still listed as being 5'10 but it sounds like he's grown atleast a couple of inches and put on quite a bit of muscle. He's a shifty and dynamic kid and he's actually not draft eligible until 2013. I said this past winter that he could be a top 5 pick come that time, and I stand by that prediction.

As far as the Saskatoon Blades are concerned, they had one player at camp. Forward Ryan Olsen didn't make the cut, unfortunately. Let's hope he uses it as motivation and comes to camp with a chip on his shoulder in a few short weeks. It looks like the Blades will need a big boost in production from him with guys like Brayden Schenn and Marek Viedensky, among others, moving on.

For a look at the entire roster for team Canada, check it out here:

Canada takes on Slovakia in a pre-tournament game in Piestany on Saturday, August 6 before opening the tournament against Sweden on Monday, August 8.