Thursday, May 22nd
It’s been a pleasure hanging out at the 2014 CHL MasterCard Memorial Cup this past week in London, Ontario as four of Canada’s top junior teams vie for the coveted trophy. Round robin action wrapped up as the OHL Champions, Guelph Storm, routed the host London Knights 7-2, eliminating London from the Memorial Cup for the third straight season.
After going 3-0, Guelph has reserved a spot in the Championship game scheduled for Sunday, May 25th. The Storm’s opponent will be the winner of Friday’s semi-final game between Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL Champions) and the Edmonton OilKings (WHL Champions), two teams that went to double overtime two nights ago.
With the stage set, let’s take a look at some drafted…and undrafted prospects that have impressed, and disappointed over the last seven days.
Tyler Bertuzzi, F (Guelph, OHL)
The Red Wings used the 58th overall selection at the 2013 NHL Draft (a pick they received as compensation for trading down when they eventually selected high scoring winger Anthony Mantha) to draft agitating forward Tyler Bertuzzi. At the time, I felt Detroit reached a bit on Bertuzzi (Todd Bertuzzi is Tyler’s Uncle) after ranking him in the third round. Once again, Detroit’s drafting appears to have fooled us because Bertuzzi is looking like a great value pick late in the second round. Bertuzzi’s ability to balance his agitating style of play with an underrated offensive skill set has been remarkable. Often irritating the opposition in one zone before heading down ice to unleash a deceptive wrister, Bertuzzi has made an impact on every shift. He has shown a flair for stepping up in big games and it appears he could eventually take on a role similar to Brad Marchand in Boston. He’ll be hated by opposing fans for occasionally diving or yapping his mouth but he can impact that game in a multitude of ways. He’s been arguably the best forward in the tournament.
Tyler Bertuzzi leads in goal scoring with five tallies and his five points ranks him second.
Kerby Rychel, F (Guelph, OHL)
Blue Jackets’ 19th overall selection (2013), Kerby Rychel, has really impressed me over the duration of the Memorial Cup. Traditionally hard on Rychel, I have criticized the scoring winger for his inconsistent efforts dating back to his Spitfires days earlier this year. Rychel often had trouble creating offense by himself, something that’s not crucial but is a bonus. However, Rychel has transformed his game in Guelph with his ability to find tremendous chemistry with Robby Fabbri and Wild prospect Zack Mitchell. He no longer needs to create the chances and can look to Fabbri to be the playmaker which is the perfect set up for a sniper of Rychel`s ability. Opposing defences have keyed in on Rychel as a physical target, and he big winger has manned up to the challenge.
With three goals and five points through the opening trio of games, Rychel sits T-2nd in tournament scoring.
Jason Dickinson, F (Guelph, OHL)
The Dallas Stars used the 29th selection (their second first round pick) to nab “raw” power forward Jason Dickinson. A year ago, I described Dickinson in the Fantasy Prospects Report as,
“He possesses fantastic puck skills for a big man and his attention to detail on both sides of the puck projects him as a great special team’s player. Physically, Dickinson is a slender player at this point and needs to add bulk and strength to best utilize his puck possession style of player”
It was an accurate description of Dickinson one year ago but this kid has developed exactly how the Stars hoped he would. A year more mature and confident, Dickinson is a daunting power forward who has found a comfort zone and as a result, he has provided the Storm with an awfully dynamic and dangerous level of secondary scoring. He plays such a pro game that I truly believe we could be talking about him as one of the best players from the 2013 draft class down the road. His puck possession game is strong, very strong, and the poise he shows under pressure is scary good.
Dickinson’s five points has him sitting tied for second in MemCup scoring.
Matt Finn, D (Guelph, OHL)
Scooped up by the Toronto Maple Leafs with 35th pick (2012), Matt Finn was a steal by my rankings (rated 19th that year for me). The confident two-way defender is one of the best leaders in all of junior hockey and his presence on the blue line resonates throughout the lineup. Not overly quick or agile, Finn uses exceptional positioning relying on his instincts to swat pucks away. At the junior level, Finn is an outstanding defender but his challenges will come at the next level when his average mobility will be tested by the quicker speed of professional hockey. Currently having a successful Memorial Cup exhibiting smart decisions and good defensive awareness.
Finn and PP point-mate Nick Ebert sit tied with four points each from the blueline.
Nick Ebert, D (Guelph, OHL)
Ebert was the lesser-known piece that came to Guelph in the Kerby Rychel trade deadline acquisition but his addition was huge for the Storm. Ebert added another layer of mobility on the blue line and instantly found his comfort level playing in Guelph, something he didn’t quite reach in Windsor. His agility on the rush and potent PP boomer is wreaking havoc on goaltenders and shot-blockers’ ankles.
Ebert has four points at the Memorial Cup.
Robby Fabbri, F (Guelph, OHL)
The player NHL scouts and management (EDM Craig MacTavish, Dallas Eakins; TOR Dave Nonis, Dave Morrison, Cliff Fletcher; DET Ken Holland are a few that have personally spotted, among many others) have come to watch is the uber-skilled Robby Fabbri. He`s been high in my books all season and while the size concerns are legitimate, he keeps bringing it game in and game out. Fabbri has been on the receiving end of some massive hits but showed resiliency bouncing back each time. He hasn’t performed at the OHL Playoff MVP level he was a few weeks ago but he has been very good. Plus, the most important games haven’t been played and those are the ones he usual comes up big in. There remains a ton of debate on how high he will be taken but I am still up in the air. In a draft void of many star players, I have him ranked in the Top 10 because of this. I doubt he gets picked that early but he should find a home inside the opening round.
Because of his smaller size, I would expect an Eastern Conference team to draft him. The Western Conference features too many large centremen and the GMs are aware that it is an important attribute.
Guelph forwards Zack Mitchell (Wild), Scott Kosmachuk and Brock McGinn have provided the up-ice offensive surge that has been forcing Memorial Cup defenders into uncomfortable positions all tournament long. Specifically, McGinn (Hurricanes) and Kosmachuk (Jets) have formed an innate chemistry and teamed up on some pretty goals using soft, quick touch passes. All three of these forwards have an unique ability to play as undersized crash-and-bang skilled forwards. Kosmachuk is coming off a hat-trick game versus the Knights.
Anthony Mantha, F (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Immediately catching my attention in the Memorial Cup opening game versus London, Mantha was flying up and down the wing ripping shots that left only a vapour trail behind. The Red Wings 1st round selection (2013, 20th), Mantha had an outstanding game for the Foreurs versus London where he even flashed some good physicality (a knock against him normally). However, Mantha followed up a great debut with two abysmal performances versus Guelph (last Saturday) and Val-d’Or (Tuesday). It is quite clear that the team looks to get Mantha the puck, and with 82 goals over 84 games this year…why wouldn’t they? Unfortunately, Mantha has been floating through the majority of the last two games. When he is on his game, moving his feet and chasing down pucks there are few players that can touch him. Detroit is traditionally known for developing their prospects slowly but with the changing of the guard in MoTown and Mantha’s impressive season, I do feel he is the one prospect who could buck that trend. He will need to prove that he can play top six minutes though (Detroit won’t keep him if not) and the jury is still out on whether he is ready for those minutes. Mantha and his Foreurs take on Edmonton Friday night for a chance to get to the final.
Mantha leads Val-d’Or in scoring with one goal and three points.
Antoine Bibeau, G (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Truthfully, I only had limited viewings of Maple Leafs prospect goaltender Antoine Bibeau prior to the Memorial Cup. Three games later and I`m awfully impressed with their selection of Bibeau, after being passed over originally in the 2012 NHL Draft. Extremely confident between the pipes, Bibeau is a battler in the paint showing a high-end ability to track pucks through traffic. He has certainly seen his share of pucks through round robin play after stopping a tournament high 128 pucks through three games, including a 51-save debut shutout win and a 47-save OT victory. He was yanked versus Guelph but not to the fault of his own play. His reflexes are top-notch and he is showing everyone why he was named MVP for the QMJHL Playoffs.
Bibeau sports a 2-1 record with a 2.98 GAA (2nd) and .934 save percentage (2nd)
Keven Bouchard, G (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Ranked 10th among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting for the 2014 NHL Draft, Bouchard came in relief of Bibeau versus Guelph and flashed some impressive athleticism, making at least two highlight-reel saves. Promising skill set.
Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, F (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
One of my favourite prospects competing at the Memorial Cup, Aube-Kubel is a ballsy offensive forward willing to attempt the most dangerous of dangles. His silky mitts and creative tricks are easy to spot but he also wields a tricky stick that he uses to pick pockets in all three zones. Slender in stature, adding some mass would greatly benefit Aube-Kubel as he attempts to take on larger opponents. Intriguing offensive upside should garner interest starting in the second round. Sleeper for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Pointless through three games but he has been the catalyst on many scoring chances.
Louick Marcotte, F (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Passed over twice at the NHL Draft, Louick Marcotte is making a case to be selected in his last go-round of the draft. An intelligent two-way forward with good stick skills, Marcotte relies on exceptional positioning to sneak into scoring areas. Displays a strong ability to win battles along the boards and in the crease. His overall versatility should draw interest from NHL clubs mid-to-late in the draft.
Samuel Henley, F (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Foreurs Captain has shown well in most of the Memorial Cup games. Signed by the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent back in March, Henley entered the tournament hot after posting over a point-per-game in both regular season and post-season for the first time in his major junior career. Projects as a depth forward at the pro-level, Henley has a long wingspan that he utilizes to shield off attackers and employ a strong possession game. He has single-handedly created chances by driving the net while using this shielding technique.
Henley is one of only five players who have earned two points.
Ryan Graves, D (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
A late round pick of the New York Rangers, Ryan Graves is a big (6-foot-4) two-way defenseman who shows a willingness to jump into the play. His skating is awkward but he gets up and down the ice well for a big man. Eager to be a factor, Graves’ wingspan and competitiveness shine in the defensive end as he quickly closes in on opposing attackers.
Guillaume Gélinas, D (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
The CHL’s defensive scoring leader with 92 points in 67 contests, Gelinas had his tournament cut short after Guelph forward Chadd Bauman laid a viscious knee on him.
Jérémie Fraser, D (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
A steadying presence on the Foreurs blueline, Fraser has been one of my favourite standout non-drafted defensemen this tournament. He makes smart decisions with the puck and owns the size, patience and confidence under pressure to succeed at higher levels. Fraser doesn’t have a standout quality but he could be a great depth signing.
Randy Gazzola, D (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Another standout defenseman, Gazzola is actually from Welland, Ontario but after being passed over in his OHL draft years and failing to earn a roster spot as a walk-on (cut from the Sarnia Sting a few years back), he took his game to Quebec. His skating is rough at times and he is prone to some poor turnovers but he has done more good than bad this past week. Gazzola is a fearless shotblocker and he has been logging huge minutes on the powerplay, likely why he gathered 74 points in 68 games as an overage defenseman.
Olivier Galipeau, D (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
Yes, another defenseman. This time, it is with an eye on the future as Olivier Galipeau is a dynamic skating defenseman who loves to have the puck on his stick. The 2015 NHL Draft prospect is playing limited minutes but should see some valuable ice time heading into his draft year next season so watch for him to break out. Beyond his intriguing offensive abilities, Galipeau is a player who isn’t shy about making a huge open ice hit.
Henrik Samuelsson, F (Edmonton, WHL)
Arguably Edmonton’s best player over three games, Coyotes 2012 1st rounder Henrik Samuelsson has shown great patience in control of the puck slashing in and out of traffic to find time and space. His skating appears to have improved and his shot has been very lethal.
Samuelsson, along with import Kulda, leads the OilKings in scoring with three points.
Curtis Lazar, F (Edmonton, WHL)
Lazar was underwhelming in the opening two games but ramped up his game versus Val-d’Or. Not surprisingly, Lazar’s commitment to all three zones remains his best asset but he showed some good touches around the opposing crease setting up linemates for prime scoring chances. He will be a valuable pro but the jury is still out on how high his offensive ceiling is. He was able to cash in on one chance and picked up a pair of points in a devasting 4-3 double overtime loss to the Foreurs. Look for him to seek vengeance in a rematch Friday evening.
Lazar has one goal and three points as he sits in a five-way tie for the team scoring lead.
Mitch Moroz, F (Edmonton, WHL)
The Oilers remain high on their 2012 32nd overall selection but I`m not sold that it was necessary to select Mitch Moroz that high. He has great size and his offensive skills are developing but, at best, Edmonton is looking at a third line complementary winger. Against junior sized players, Moroz still doesn`t dominate like a player his size should.
Griffin Reinhart, D (Edmonton, WHL)
When the Islanders drafted Reinhart 4th overall in 2012, I was skeptical of the selection. Today, I am less skeptical but still not a huge believer in Reinhart. He remains too passive of a defenseman and doesn’t compete with the fire that a top four defender should. He is certainly effective shutting down top players but he still gets lost in his pivots. I have hope that he will eventually find himself a home as a top-four defenseman but I want a top pairing guy if I am using a 4th overall selection on a rearguard.
Tristan Jarry, G (Edmonton, WHL)
After watching him compete throughout the WHL Playoffs, I was expecting more out of the Penguins prospect. He has been average at best through three games.
Jarry’s .895 save percentage is the worst among all Memorial Cup goaltenders.
Edgars Kulda, F (Edmonton, OHL)
In the Memorial Cup tournament, Latvian import Edgars Kulda has been the most impressive draft eligible skater. Showcasing great puck skills, creative attacks, deceptive release points in his shots and a nose for the net, scouts have to be very impressed with his showing. In regular season, he drastically improved his production in his sophomore campaign nearing point-per-game numbers and he revved it up during the playoffs tallying 22 points in 21 games.
This promising prospect has scored twice (Tied for team league) and added an assist in three games.
Brett Pollock, F (Edmonton, WHL)
Here is the prototypical power forward prospect. Pollock has the size, smooth stride and rough demeanour traditionally found in successful NHL power forwards. Despite his inability to find the back of the net yet, Pollock has been very good in the Memorial Cup. He has had several prime scoring chances taken away by a huge save or a missed shot but it has been his line that has been energizing the Oil Kings. Absolutely love this kids upside and he should be considered a top 60 prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Pollock has two assists.
Ashton Sautner, D (Edmonton, WHL)
My scouting notebook is filled with praise of Ashton Sautner’s game – brilliant four-way skater, imaginative offensive approach, great touch passes, silky saucers and committed defensively. Sautner wasn`t drafted in his first attempt but he could be one of the first second time eligible to be taken this time around. If those compliments don’t catch your attention, Sautner’s plus-59 rating should (2nd in WHL).
Sautner leads the Oil Kings defence core in scoring with three points.
Cody Corbett, D (Edmonton, WHL)
Signed by the Avalanche as a free agent in March, overage defenseman Cody Corbett was one of the WHL’s offensive leaders from the back end as he closed in on point-per-game totals. He is a cerebral attacker who relies on his instincts and vision, more than pure speed or agility, to gain the zone. His 17 goals and 61 points set new Oil Kings records.
Dysin Mayo, D (Edmonton, WHL)
Gaining confidence with every passing shift (and he gets a lot of them), Mayo has steadily been climbing the 2014 NHL Draft rankings. He is the type of player who owns all the skills you seek in a puck rushing defenseman but he has yet to realize his own skill set. When he eventually realizes it, watch out. He is a good skater but it lacks power in his stride and overall, he will definitely benefit from adding general bodily strength.
Aaron Irving, D (Edmonton, WHL)
Another 2014 NHL Draft eligible defenseman, Aaron Irving is Mr. Reliable. He knows that he is not an offensive defenseman and understands that his strengths are shutting down opposing teams’ attacks. He makes smart decisions, reads and executes the simple game well.
Now, to the London Knights…this won`t take long…
Max Domi, F (London, OHL)
Another disappointing showing in what has been a dreadful season for Max Domi. The all-world offensive skills get overshadowed by a black cloud of selfishness, arrogance and inability to play a team game. His value is trending in the wrong direction after being a high 2013 NHL draftee.
Bo Horvat (Canucks), Chris Tierney (Sharks), Ryan Rupert (Maple Leafs), Gemel Smith (Stars) …no need mentioning any of them. Not one of these guys was visible and London’s inability to get something from their top dogs was their ultimate failure.
Michael McCarron (Canadiens) continues to show very limited hockey sense and falling into habits that would irritate any coach. He has perfected the