Thursday, December 15, 2011

CHL Top Prospect Rosters Announced

10 WHL players will take part in this year's CHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna. The game will take place on February 1st, 2012. A 3 on 3 game and skills challenge will take place the day before.

The rosters look like this:

Team Cherry (Red):


Goaltenders:
Matthew Murray (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Brandon Whitney (Victoriaville Tigres)

Defencemen:
Cody Ceci (Ottawa 67's)
Mathew Dumba (Red Deer Rebels)
Nick Ebert (Windsor Spitfires)
Slater Koekkoek (Peterborough Petes)
Ryan Murray (Everett Silvertips)
Damon Severson (Kelowna Rockets)

Forwards:
Martin Frk (Halifax Mooseheads)
Brendan Gaunce (Belleville Bulls)
Coda Gordon (Swift Current Broncos)
Charles Hudon (Chicoutimi Sagueneens)
Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals)
Jarrod Maidens (Owen Sound Attack)
Andrew Ryan (Halifax Mooseheads)
Gemel Smith (Owen Sound Attack)
Dominik Volek (Regina Pats)
Thomas Wilson (Plymouth Whalers)
Nail Yakupov (Sarnia Sting)
Daniil Zharkov (Belleville Bulls)

Team Orr (White):


Goaltenders:
Malcolm Subban (Belleville Bulls)
Francois Tremblay (Val d'Or Foreurs)

Defencemen:
Gianluca Curcuruto (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Matthew Finn (Guelph Storm)
Olli Maatta (London Knights)
Adam Pelech (Erie Otters)
Derrick Pouliot (Portland Winterhawks)
Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings)

Forwards:
Andreas Athanasiou (London Knights)
Francis Beauvillier (Rimouski Oceanic)
Raphael Bussieres (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)
Radek Faksa (Kitchener Rangers)
Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec Remparts)
Tomas Hyka (Gatineau Olympiques)
Scott Kosmachuk (Guelph Storm)
Matia Marcantuoni (Kitchener Rangers)
Tanner Pearson (Barrie Colts)
Colton Sissons (Kelowna Rockets)
Chandler Stephenson (Regina Pats)
Lukas Sutter (Saskatoon Blades)


It's nice to see 10 guys from the WHL taking part. Surprisingly there are 5 defenceman and 5 forwards from the WHL, even though the strength of the WHL crop is clearly on the blueline. I would've liked to have seen Dalton Thrower there, but both team's bluelines are pretty crowded.

I always look forward to this event to see how the top draft eligible players react against the top competition in Canada. With that being said, the casual prospect follower tends to put WAY too much stock into this game as a whole.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Team Canada's Roster Unveiled

A total of five WHL players highlight this year's entry for Team Canada into the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The roster breaks down as follows:

Goalies:

Mark Visentin
Scott Wedgewood

Defenceman:

Nathan Beaulieu
Brandon Gormley
Dougie Hamilton
Scott Harrington
Ryan Murray
Jamie Oleksiak
Mark Pysyk

Forwards:

Michael Bournival
Brett Connolly
Brendan Gallagher
Freddie Hamilton
Quinton Howden
Jonathan Huberdeau
Boone Jenner
Tanner Pearson
Mark Scheifele
Jaden Schwartz
Devante Smith-Pelly
Mark Stone
Ryan Strome


The Breakdown:


- To me, the biggest question mark about this tournament for Canada has to be the injuries to Quinton Howden and Jonathan Huberdeau. Howden is one of few returning players and Huberdeau is an elite offensive and clutch player. Canada needs these guys to be healthy. With so many young stars in the NHL right now that are still eligible for this club, it's pretty clear that this year's group isn't as offensively talented as it has been in the past. If Howden's suspected concussion and Huberdeau's ankle aren't fully ready to go, Canada is going to be in trouble.

- I once again see a weakness in the goaltending department for Canada. Tyler Bunz was the last goalie cut this season and it's believed a weak game against the CIS last night was his downfall. To me, that has the makings of a short-sighted decision. Bunz has been the top goalie out west and one of the top goalies in the entire CHL over the last year-plus, and I think he needed to be there. Visentin was a shoe-in, despite his tough end to last year's event. He deserved a second chance, but Wedgewood needs to show that this was the right decision, should Canada need to turn to him.

- Harrington on the blueline is the only real question I have. He was a big of a surprise to get named to the tryout camp, let alone getting named to the team.

- I like the ability to move the puck from this blueline, but I think the team is definitely missing some toughness and true shutdown ability back their. You can say that four of those guys are mostly offensive (Murray, Pysyk, Gormely, Bealieu) while a guy like Hamilton isn't afraid to focus solely on offense. I would have liked to see a guy like Petrovic there, just to add more mean.

- The lack of WHLers on the team is pretty shocking, especially considering that Don Hay is the head coach. Going off memory alone, the WHL led the way last year on this team by having the most guys named to the club. I would have expected the same this year.

- Not sure why Freddie Hamilton is there, other than his brother Dougie also making the team. A feel good story maybe? I would have rather seen a more pure offensive player like Toffoli, Rattie or Thomas in his place.

- I like the grit and character of the team as guys like Gallagher, Jenner, Smith-Pelly and Stone will provide a solid work ethic. But, is this team going to be relying too much on that aspect of their game?

- The two players I want to see the most on this stage are Boone Jenner and Oleksiak. Jenner seems to remind me of one of my favorite NHLers in Ryan O'Reilly, while Oleksiak is a freak of nature and just fun to watch.

- Two draft eligible players made the squad, Tanner Pearson and Ryan Murray. Murray's not a shock, as he almost could have made the team last year. But, Pearson deserves a ton of credit. He's having a big year in the OHL after going undrafted last year and he is getting his recognition. Expect him to be a top 60 pick this coming June.


When it's all said and done, it's pretty easy to sit back and point out some potential flaws on this team. It happens every year. But, what else happens every year? This team is a contender, that's what. The 2012 edition of Team Canada will be no different. There will be strengths and there will be weaknesses, but when it's all said and done, don't be shocked if Canada returns to their Gold medal form this year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Team Sweden Unveiled

I love Swedish hockey. Not only do I love the players that the country produces, but I love the style that they play. I often find myself cheering for them every Christmas, along with Team Canada.

After a leak of the roster yesterday, the 2012 Team Sweden roster for the upcoming WJHC was officially released today:


Goaltenders:
Anton Forsberg, Modo
Johan Mattsson, Sudbury
Johan Gustafsson, Luleå

Defencemen:
Mattias Bäckman, Linköping
Jonas Brodin, Färjestad
Fredrik Claesson, Djurgården
Oscar Klefbom, Färjestad
Petter Granberg, Skellefteå
John Klingberg, Jokerit
Patrik Nemeth, AIK

Forwards:
Sebastian Collberg, Frölunda
Johan Larsson, Brynäs
Johan Sundström, Frölunda
Max Friberg, Timrå
Filip Forsberg, Leksand
William Karlsson, Västerås
Victor Rask, Calgary
Joakim Nordström, AIK
Mika Zibanejad, Djurgården
Ludvig Rensfelt, Sarnia
Rickard Rakell, Plymouth
Pontus Åberg, Djurgården
Erik Thorell, Färjestad


Not a bad looking team. I can't wait to watch Forsberg and Collberg up front, two front runners to be high picks in the 2012 NHL draft. I also am looking forward to seeing William Karlsson, a Ducks prospect who is having a strong year. Johan Larsson is also a player that I've been a fan of for a while and I think the Wild draft pick could be a darkhorse to play a strong NHL role within the next 18-24 months.

On the blueline, Klefbom and Brodin are two guys that could see their stock soar with big performances on the big stage these holidays.