Friday, October 26, 2012

Dillon Heatherington: On The Rise


The Swift Current Broncos have another dynamite NHL draft prospect on their hands.

Last year it was guys like Graham Black (New Jersey) and Coda Gordon (Calgary) earning the call at the 2012 NHL Draft, in 2011 Swift Current had a trio of players picked in Adam Lowry (Winnipeg), Reece Scarlett (New Jersey) and Richard Nedomlel (Detroit).  All five of those players have developed nicely since their draft year and are all well on their way to becoming good pro hockey players and maybe even NHL regulars.

But, I think defenceman Dillon Heatherington could be the guy that ends up the best of all.  He's been on my radar since I first saw him as a 16 year old last season and has continued to grow since that time. It's safe to say he's on the rise. This season I have had the chance to see him play in 4 games so far, including last week in Swift Current.  That game was probably the best showing I've seen from him in the last 12 months.

So what exactly will an NHL team be getting by selecting a player like Dillon Heatherington.  Well, in my opinion, he's really a kid that does it all on the ice.

He's got very good size at 6'4 and 196 pounds.  He skates well, with a big powerful stride and the mobility to stop and backpedal on a dime.  He's got good reach, an active stick and has the smarts to always be on the correct side of the puck.  His physical play has also shown solid growth this season, engaging the body more and learning to use his size and weight in the corners and in battles for loose pucks.  He competes hard and rarely gets exposed by a forecheck.  Very smart with the puck and if he doesn't have a passing lane in his own zone, he'll simply chip the puck out and avoid any risks. He's been paired mostly with Devils prospect Reece Scarlett this season, playing top-pairing minutes against other teams top lines.

Offensively, his game has also grown since last year.  In 2011-12 he was counted on to be mostly a defensive player as the Broncos battled many injuries and his minutes were increased because of it.  As it turns out, those minutes have really increased his development speed and it looks to have really given him a push in the right direction.  He makes a strong first pass and is able to use his skating ability to join the rush if he wants.  From my viewings, he does appear to be a guy that will have offensive value more as a player that starts the rush with a pass, rather than a guy who leads the rush or unleashes huge shots from the point.

It's been a steady climb up my rankings for Heatherington and I think that will only continue.  Coming into this season I had him as an honourable mention in my rankings, sitting in the 13-15 range among WHL players for the 2013 NHL Draft.  Looking back at that list now, I wouldn't hesitate to call him a top 12 WHL player in that ranking and a guy I expect to be picked inside the top 90 at the NHL draft next June.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

WHL Roster's Announced For 2012 Subway Super Series

The WHL is the final league to name their roster for the 2012 Subway Super Series against Team Russia.  The event takes place November 5th - November 15th, with the final two games of the series going in Vancouver on Nov. 14th and in Victoria on Nov. 15th.

The 2012 version of the event marks the 10th year that these games have been played between CHL squads and a Russian team.  The quality of the on-ice product has grown substantially over the years, with Russia fielding increasingly competitive teams.

Over the previous 9 years of the Super Series, the WHL has a record of 13-5.  In those 18 games, they have outscored Russia by a count of 83-42.  It may not be the perfect record the OHL has in the event, but that's a pretty decent track record for the WHL against Russia.

With that being said, over the last couple of years Russia has really tested the Western Hockey League at the Subway Super Series.  In fact, in the last 4 meetings over the previous two seasons Russia is 3-1.  We'll see if this year's WHL roster can do better than the last two have been able to.  Speaking of the roster, here's how it shapes up:

Team WHL Roster – Vancouver, BC – November 14, 2012

# Forwards Ht Wt
Team
14 Brassart, Brady 6’1 192
Calgary Hitmen
21 Ewanyk, Travis 6’2 192
Edmonton Oil Kings
28 Lazar, Curtis 6’0 198
Edmonton Oil Kings
29 Moroz, Mitch 6’2 208
Edmonton Oil Kings
18 St. Croix, Michael 6’0 179
Edmonton Oil Kings
15 Sissons, Colton 6’1 194
Kelowna Rockets
23 Reinhart, Sam 6’0 182
Kootenay Ice
19 Shinkaruk, Hunter 5’11 175
Medicine Hat Tigers
9 McNeill, Mark 6’2 210
Prince Albert Raiders
20 Ouellette, Trent 6’0 175
Regina Pats
16 Holmberg, Mitch 5’10 175
Spokane Chiefs
17 Lowry, Adam 6’5 201
Swift Current Broncos
# Defencemen Ht Wt
Team
2 Pulock, Ryan 6’1 211
Brandon Wheat Kings
8 Reinhart, Griffin 6’4 202
Edmonton Oil Kings
27 Murray, Ryan 6’1 195
Everett Silvertips
4 Rielly, Morgan 6’0 205
Moose Jaw Warriors
24 Dumba, Matt 6’0 182
Red Deer Rebels
5 Siemens, Duncan 6’4 209
Saskatoon Blades
# Goaltenders Ht Wt
Team
31 Broissoit, Laurent 6’3 200
Edmonton Oil Kings
1 Comrie, Eric 6’1 170
Tri-City Americans

Team WHL Roster – Victoria, BC – November 15, 2012
  # Forwards Ht Wt
Team
14 Brassart, Brady 6’1 192
Calgary Hitmen
21 Ewanyk, Travis 6’2 192
Edmonton Oil Kings
28 Lazar, Curtis 6’0 198
Edmonton Oil Kings
29 Moroz, Mitch 6’2 208
Edmonton Oil Kings
18 St. Croix, Michael 6’0 179
Edmonton Oil Kings
34 Lipon, JC 6’0 181
Kamloops Blazers
9 Smith, Colin 5’11 175
Kamloops Blazers
12 Fioretti, Sam 5’10 184
Moose Jaw Warriors
7 Rattie, Ty 6’0 176
Portland Winterhawks
22 Black, Graham 6’0 179
Swift Current Broncos
17 Lowry, Adam 6’5 201
Swift Current Broncos
11 Hodges, Steven 6’0 175
Victoria Royals
  # Defencemen Ht Wt
Team
3 Lowe, Keegan 6’1 200
Edmonton Oil Kings
8 Reinhart, Griffin 6’4 202
Edmonton Oil Kings
4 Rielly, Morgan 6’0 205
Moose Jaw Warriors
51 Pouliot, Derrick 6’0 194
Portland Winterhawks
26 Wotherspoon, Tyler 6’2 209
Portland Winterhawks
24 Dumba, Matt 6’0 182
Red Deer Rebels
  # Goaltenders Ht Wt
Team
31 Broissoit, Laurent 6’3 200
Edmonton Oil Kings
1 Comrie, Eric 6’1 170
Tri-City Americans

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

OHL Roster's Announced For 2012 Subway Super Series

Talk about some stacked teams.  To the best of my knowledge, the OHL has never lost one of these games against Russia, going all the way back to 2003.  I would have to imagine that will stay the same this year with the OHL able to ice squads like the ones below.  

Team OHL Roster – Guelph, ON – November 8, 2012

Goal (2):
Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound Attack)
Malcolm Subban (Belleville Bulls)

Defence (6):
Cody Ceci (Ottawa 67’s)
Dylan DeMelo (Mississauga Steelheads)
Matt Finn (Guelph Storm)
Slater Koekkoek (Peterborough Petes)
Ryan Murphy (Kitchener Rangers)
Stuart Percy (Mississauga Steelheads)

Forwards (12):
Brendan Gaunce (Belleville Bulls)
Barclay Goodrow (Brampton Battalion)
Tyler Graovac (Ottawa 67’s)
Boone Jenner (Oshawa Generals)
Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals)
Joshua Leivo (Sudbury Wolves)
Lucas Lessio (Oshawa Generals)
Zack Mitchell (Guelph Storm)
Sean Monahan (Ottawa 67’s)
Matt Puempel (Kitchener Rangers)
Brett Ritchie (Niagara IceDogs)
Ryan Strome (Niagara IceDogs)

Team OHL Roster – Sarnia, ON – November 12, 2012

Goal (2):
Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound Attack)
Jake Paterson (Saginaw Spirit)

Defence (6):
Alex Basso (Sarnia Sting)
Frankie Corrado (Sudbury Wolves)
Dougie Hamilton (Niagara IceDogs)
Scott Harrington (London Knights)
Adam Pelech (Erie Otters)
Stuart Percy (Mississauga Steelheads)

Forwards (12):
Anthony Camara (Barrie Colts)
Daniel Catenacci (Owen Sound Attack)
Max Domi (London Knights)
Tyler Graovac (Ottawa 67’s)
Seth Griffith (London Knights)
Joshua Leivo (Sudbury Wolves)
Matt Puempel (Kitchener Rangers)
Ryan Rupert (London Knights)
Kerby Rychel (Windsor Spitfires)
Mark Scheifele (Barrie Colts)
Ryan Strome (Niagara IceDogs)
Tom Wilson (Plymouth Whalers)

The schedule for the 2012 SUBWAY® Super Series is as follows:
Game 1 – Monday November 5 at Blainville-Boisbriand, QC
Game 2 – Wednesday November 7 at Val-d’Or, QC
Game 3 – Thursday November 8 at Guelph, ON
Game 4 – Monday November 12 at Sarnia, ON
Game 5 – Wednesday November 14 at Vancouver, BC
Game 6 – Thursday November 15 at Victoria, BC

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's A Bumpy Road To The Memorial Cup

Talk about an interesting start to the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup year for the Saskatoon Blades.

The team is still winless at home and has had all kinds of things go wrong for them this season.  They've played some great games and lost. There have also been numerous other things, a short list would look something like this:

- Tough first periods. Outshooting the opposition 138-101 in the 1st this year, being outscored 11-8.

- Not great goaltending.  The team's 2011-12 MVP in Makarov has been flat out average this year. Maybe below average with an .890 sv%. Back up goalie has been started twice and pulled twice. That hasn't helped.

- Terrible discipline.  Had some horrific games to start the year in regards to being able to stay out of the box.

- Bad special teams. Were 22nd on the PP and 21st on the PK before this past weekend, where they had some success in this area.

- A lack of goals.  Prior to this weekend they had been outscored 39-17, average just over 2 goals per game.  Take away a 9-6 loss to Brandon and that falls to 11 goals in the team's first 7 games.  Simply not good enough.

Prior to this weekend, they would come out hard, get scored on and not have that pushback that they needed.  A typical sign of a lack of confidence. 

But, the players, team staff and fans finally got a chance to exhale over the weekend as the Blades got some puck-luck, worked hard and finally found the win column, taking two of a three game road swing.

The wins came at a perfect time and I think they might have turned a corner.

Tough losses Red Deer, Portland and a 10-1 decision to Swift Current had fans and media questioning what exactly was going on with this team. 

Confidence was pretty low.

Like I said, the team had played a few games during their tough stretch that they could have and should have won, but didn't.  Things appear to be much better now.  There's a lighthearted feeling in the room. The optimism is back, not that it should have left in the first place.  But to have the players 'squeezing the stick' a bit is normal when you get off to a slow start.

I never hit the panic button, but that time was coming close before the weekend.  All teams battle tough stretches during the season, it just so happened that the Blades was right off the bat.  I'm confident this little weekend turnaround could start off a solid stretch of hockey for the boys in blue.