Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Brendan Ross takes a look at some standout performances and prospect news from NHL prospect tournaments.
Continuing from yesterday’s extensive ramblings (click NEXT below) on several other prospect tournaments, I bring you opinions/thoughts/news from the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC featuring the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks.
Participants in the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC.
Flames netminder Joni Ortio turned heads during the tournament with some stellar play.
In 2011-12, Ortio started the year in Abbotsford and wasn’t able land the starting position with the Heat. He played just nine games before heading back to Finland to finish off the campaign with TPS Turku. Now, feeling much more prepared to make the jump overseas, he is looking to make an impact in North America. He wants to make the Flames brass life difficult by challenging for a spot in Calgary, giving them a difficult decision to make regarding their goaltenders.
“I want to be in that race for that spot up top. No doubt about it. But the only way to do it is to just play my best, compete every day and push for that spot.”
Goaltending competition appears to be strong as Laurent Broissoit (1-1, 2.51 GAA and .921 SV%) turned in some fine performances as well during the tournament.
John Ramage, Keegan Kanzig, Patrick Sieloff, Eric Roy and Tyler Wotherspoon were a handful defensemen who impressed throughout the four games. Ramage is a mobile defenseman who executes the transition game particularly well. Kanzig, a project defenseman the Flames were criticized for selecting 67th overall in 2013, was easy to spot skating at over 6’7” but it was his hockey sense that really impressed. The large defenseman has glaring weaknesses in his skating (pivoting) so that will be his biggest challenge moving forward. Sieloff and Wotherspoon are two defensive defensemen who played their game perfectly and look to be potential bottom pairing big-minute defensemen. Eric Roy, a mobile high scoring defenseman, impressed with his improved defensive awareness and not only his ability to get his big shot on net.
Sean Monahan played as expected, showcasing his elite hockey intelligence in his ability to read the ice and play steps ahead of the competition. He dominated puck possession, especially when paired with fellow 2013 1st rounder Emile Poirier.
It appeared that Sven Bartschi played most of the tournament frustrated as he was a target for the opposition. Strength will need to continue to improve in order to take the next step and he needs to shake his tendency to try and make plays happen all by himself.
Corban Knight disappointed after being one of the outstanding players during the summer development camp. He’s one of the older prospects but struggled to find consistency in his offensive game and, like Bartschi, grew frustrated.
Ben Hankowski was a high-energy player who excelled in the cycle game and appears to be a solid complimentary player.
Max Reinhart flashed his impressive foot speed and was constantly around the puck. Loves to shoot the puck.
Markus Granlund remains one of Calgary’s top prospects and continues to prove people wrong after many consider him a fringe prospect. He’s not, start taking him seriously folks.
Going winless in the Young Stars Tournament wasn’t ideal but the Oilers’ aren’t exactly icing the prospects they have been in recent years since many have graduated to the big team.
It appears Darnell Nurse, 2013 7th overall, performed as expected showcasing his strong combination of mobility, defensive skill and simple transition game. His mobility is elite for a big defenseman and he can be effective in so many ways maintaining smothering gap control or by jumping into the rush with the puck. It’s going to be interesting to see how exactly the Oilers intend on utilizing Nurse because he’s got upside on both sides of the puck.
Martin Gernat showed impressive feet and created offence by getting shots to the net. With his offensive game quite polished, Gernat needs to improve the defensive aspects.
The wait for defenseman Martin Marcinin may be close to ending with him showing good progression after playing a year of professional hockey. Offensively, Marcinin is a great skater, poised in puck possession and can kick start the transition game quickly but his defensive positioning and containment skills are improving.
Oscar Klefbom is the defenseman I am most eager to see as Oilers’ brass are quite high on him. He’s underrated in most hockey circles and when he cracks the roster, he’ll be an impact player.
The Oilers’ second round pick in 2013, Marc-Olivier Roy, is one of a few bright spots on the bleak forward crop that remains after graduating several big gun prospects in Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov directly to the NHL. Roy is a player who plays with high-energy and buzzes around the puck. He reads the ice well and thinks the game well but I suspect it was difficult for him to find chemistry with other forwards. His offensive skillset really shines when he’s on the powerplay or given extra time and space.
Jujhar Khaira has an intriguing offensive upside but will there ever be room for him on the Oilers roster (you can say this with almost every forward). Being physically strong benefits his possession game but also a very good shot. At times, Khaira appears to be trying to do too much and it’s when he simplifies his game, he’s a more effective player.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
The Sharks participated in the Young Stars Tournament featuring Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
The Sharks’ big 2013 1st round selection Mirco Mueller was injured in the tournament after a cross-check from Canucks’ Hunter Shinkaruk.
Rylan Schwartz was impressive for the Sharks showing especially well defensively with his tenacious puck pursuit, active stick and physicality.
JP Anderson was one goaltender who opened eyes throughout the week and he seems to be climbing the ladder of talented San Jose goaltending prospects.
Tomas Hertl received mixed results. He stands a chance at cracking the Sharks roster but he’s likely not ready for full-time duty just yet. He’s an intelligent skilled forward who showed good vision, hands and an ability to dominate puck possession. Hertl might be best to dominate the AHL for a year before making the jump.
Matt Nieto can flat out fly and his speed opens up a lot of ice for him. His ability to handle the puck at top speeds is quite good and with some more seasoning he has the chance to develop into a productive top-six player.
Defenseman Kyle Bigos, former 4th round selection of the Edmonton Oilers, really turned heads during the tournament with his huge frame (6’6”), physicality and fighting ability (vs. Calgary’s 6’7” Keegan Kanzig). Coming out of Merrimack College, Bigos will turn pro this season and play for the Worcester Sharks. He has good feet and packs a booming shot so he’s certainly a player to put on your radars as he has multi-cat sleeper potential.
Another towering presence on the blueline, Konrad Abeltshauser continues to show promise as a prospect. With NHL size and strong offensive abilities, Abeltshauser had several flashes of good pro potential. He’s coming off a near point-per-game QMJHL pace where he won the Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads and will make the jump to Worcester this season.
The Canucks participated in the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC and finished with a 3-1 record with most of their big prospects performing well.
The Canucks 2011 1st round selection, Nicklas Jensen, had another strong performance during the prospect tournament flashing his elite speed and constant puck pursuit. He’s a big forward and uses his range well to protect the puck, a skill that the Canucks will welcome with open arms. Jensen has an excellent chance at cracking the ‘Nucks roster and could be an impact player right away as he can adapt his game to many different roles.
Bo Horvat was a man amongst boys and will undoubtedly force the Canucks into a difficult decision come main camp. His style of play will definitely make John Tortorella fall in love with him quickly so don’t be shocked to see him get an extended look. Beyond his excellent defensive play and faceoff prowess, Horvat’s game features smart positioning, a hard accurate shot and underrated puck skills. He’s not the fastest skater but it’s a powerful stride and he’s a player who is very difficult to separate from the puck. I suspect he will be returned to London eventually for the Memorial Cup run but I would never bet against Bowie.
Alexandre Mallet made noise with his physical, high-energy game and looks to be eventually eyeing a depth forward slot in the Canucks future.
Defenseman Frankie Corrado was present in game two and his arrival really had a calming effect over the Canucks roster. Matched up against the opposition’s best lines, Corrado showed to execute well in transitioning the puck up the ice and his strong hockey sense was quite evident.
The Canucks selected Miles Liberati with their 7th round selection in 2013 and it was a shrewd move, in my opinion. Liberati didn’t get much playing time with the London Knights icing Harrington, Maatta, Zadorov, Tommy Hughes and Justin Sefton regularly but his skill set was evident to me from the first time I watched him in the Knights 2012 training camp. Liberati impressed in his first Canucks showing in Penticton using his strong hockey sense to execute crisp passes, maintain good gap control and making the smart simple plays under pressure.
Mixed results for Brendan Gaunce as his skating is still getting questioned after being selected 26th overall (2012). He could’ve been nursing an injury and he did see time on the bench so take this news with a grain of salt. Looking forward, (for me) Gaunce is a future third line centre for the Canucks. I felt this way when they drafted him and feel more comfortable with that projection today.
Cole Cassels (85th overall, 2013) was a pleasant surprise showing that his defensive game is well-developed. I caught Cassels in action during the Oshawa Generals training camp last week and he impressed me there as well. He’s positionally sound and capitalizes on his chances when the opportunity arises. Projects as a hard-working third line forward.
Hunter Shinkaruk was very impressive in game one showing that he can play an intense gritty game but also a skilled offensive game, all in the same shift. His quick feet, deft hands and knack for being around the puck at all times is a frustrating combination for opposing players. There’s no way that Shinkaruk should’ve fell as far as he did at the 2013 NHL Draft and he’s playing with a (warranted) chip on his shoulder because of it.
Goaltender Joacim Eriksson may have been the single most outstanding player for the Canucks showing tremendous positioning and mental focus making several big saves along the way. The Canucks sure know how to find goaltenders.
The Canucks took a chance on drafting the highly skilled Jordan Subban (yep, youngest brother of PK and Malcolm) and in his first prospects tournament he showed mixed results. He flashed his elite speed and puck moving skills but he made too many poor decisions that resulted in turnovers. Subban is certainly a project and the Canucks will have to be patient.
Bo Horvat Mic’d Up:
With arguably one of the top prospect systems in the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets showed their value well at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC.
Reports indicate that defenseman Jacob Trouba had an up-and-down showing with the good being he showed excellent mobility, exciting physicality but the bad being that he struggled in his decision making at times, forcing plays at times.
Mark Scheifele will be a Jet this season but he may have been guilty of trying to do too much during the prospect tournament but his go-to skills were still present – strong puck skills, crafty passing, improved skating and powerful north-south game.
Defenseman Brendan Kichton, formerly drafted by the Islanders but re-drafted by the Jets in 2013, was an offensive force throughout the tournament but opened the event with two goals in his first game.
Jets’ 2013 1st rounder, Josh Morrissey, had a strong performance as the small offensive defenseman shone when he should’ve and impressed with his ability to give and take physicality, an area of concern.
“He’s very calm with and without the puck. Top end powerplay work owing to excellent blue-line skills and sense. Anticipates well, never seen chasing the play.”
Morrissey is an elite skater who can spin off attackers and send a crisp pass. These types of defensemen are especially effective if they can handle the rigors of physical game, which Morrissey looks to be adjusting to. With a stacked blue line in Winnipeg, it will be interesting to see how things shake out in a few years when Morrissey is ready for primetime.
Nic Petan, 2nd round selection in 2013, was often the Jets’ top performer showing crafty offensive skills and dominating possession. Not surprising, Petan never should have been available to the Jets in the second round.
On recently signed prospect JC Lipon….
…showed above average to plus speed, a fondness for contact, better puck skills than I expected, and good chemistry with Petan. A team player in the best ways. (via Jets Nation)
Adam Lowry is one prospect that needs more attention as he plays an extremely smart pro game that stems around strong possession skills. He understands the game well playing to open areas and his strength, puck control and shot are all average to above average. Look for his name to continue trending upwards.
Undrafted 6’5” Swede Axel Blomqvist turned heads with his strong possession and puck protection game. More…
He has a bit of a Swedish Dustin Penner thing going on, and for some reason the NHL hates Dustin Penner. It wasn’t just Blomqvist’s two goals, one a rebound while driving the net and the other a deke preceded by an anticipation steal and followed by a Hulk Hogan-esque listening gesture at the Oiler-friendly crowd. He used his body to protect the puck and drive the net. He refused to be denied pucks in board battles.
Thanks for reading,