Happy family day folks. I had a full weekend of hockey watching as Kingston hosted three games this weekend and swept all there to clinch a playoff spot. Here are some quick take aways from those games
Friday February 16th Peterborough Petes
Not a lot of star power on the Petes this year, they have two semi-notable draft prospects in Samyon Der Argunchintsev and Pavel Gogolev.
SDA – measures in at 5-10, 168 and plays a very small game. He is easily pushed down, doesn’t win board battles and is a perimeter player. He is not exceptionally fast but does have very good hands. Often tries to carry the puck too long and lacks offensive vision at times and let’s plays die on his stick. As en vogue as it is to allow undersized skilled players a look in the NHL, I just don’t see him translating at that level.
Pavel Gogolev plays a much less flashy style game, but in my opinion is a far more effective player. He plays a more all-around game, uses his teammates effectively and has a better compete level. He lacks some of the puck magic SDA has, but has a better likelihood of playing in the NHL.
Nick Robertson is the younger brother of Jason Robertson and is quite a different player, smaller and more of a playmaker than a goal scorer he has very good offensive vision, and is a more natural skater than Jason. I was very impressed with his game.
Austin Osmanski was the Petes best skater. At 6-4, 210 he is a throwback defensive defenseman that keeps it simple in his own end, plays physical, blocks shots, and clears the front of the net. Unfortunately this is no longer the 1990’s and his style of game is antiquated. He lacks the skating ability to be effective against quicker players, and also lacks the puck skills to move the puck up the ice in transition. One play he had all the time in the world to set up behind his goal and still managed to turn it over with a pass that was picked off at his blue line.
Nikita Korostelev is back for his over age year and it seems like he has been around for ten years now. He still is producing points, but not at a pace that makes you think he should be in the NHL, or even the AHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs chose not to sign him and his indifferent play made it hard to see him playing in the AHL even.
Sunday February 18th – Kitchener Rangers
The Rangers have two draft eligible players I watched. Giovanni Vallati, a 6-1 mobile defenseman was good. He is a fluid skater, very mobile but not exceptionally fast. His backwards skating was strong and his balance was also noticeable. He looked for opportunites to join the rush, but his offensive game still needs to develop.
Riley Damiani, an undersized 5-10, 161 center was the type of player I can see an NHL team using a draft pick on. Unlike SDA, he was not a perimeter player, he carried the puck to the goal, through traffic, competed for lose pucks on the boards and at the goal. He was deployed on the second penalty kill unit and was very effective at causing turn overs and take a way’s. His puck control skills are good as is his skating, but strength and size are an issue.
An interesting observation was that Joseph Garreffa, a very undersized (5-7, 168) winger played the entire game on defense. I suppose due to injuries to Connor Hall and Michael Vukojevic necessitate the move and I would like to say he is a very versatile player, but the Rangers lost the game 6-1 and defense was part of the reason why.
I was pretty unimpressed with the games of the Rangers big guns in Logan Brown, Adam Mascherin and Connor Bunnaman who were all very ineffective all night long.
The Rangers best player was Givani Smith (Detroit Red Wings) who scored the Rangers loan goal, was a handful physically and was getting under the skin of the Fronts. He play a big mean pro style game.
Monday February 19th – Barrie Colts
Fresh back from the Five Nations (more on that below) Andrei Svechnikov seemed to be on the ice the entire game, and he seemed very determined to balance out his lopsided stat record of 30 goals and 18 assists. He was always looking for the pass to set up a shot from his line mates. I was very impressed with his ability to read plays and find the open man. His hockey sense was evident as he seemed to always be ahead of the play and anticipating where the puck was going. I was also impressed with his defensive game. He was very engaged defensively, back checking deep in his own zone at times and playing the body as well. The difference between his defensive game and his line mates Dmitry Sokolov was very evident.
Ryan Suzuki impressed me as well, he was used on the point in the second power play unit and had the primary assist on a nice goal off the rush with a smart, crisp no look pass to his winger. His speed was impressive and he already has some size for a 16-year-old. His defensive game needs some work as he was a spectator on a few occasions when Kingston had possession.
The top line of Svechnikov-Luchuk-Sokolov was dominant at times. Aaron Luchuk was a player I watched as well, he has a terrific release and a hard shot. It is easy to see why the over age player is leading the OHL in goals and points. Only 2% Fantrax owned, he was never drafted, but signed as a free agent by Ottawa this season. He is undersized as well at 5-10 but showed he was able to play against bigger players. Again keep in mind he is an overage player. I should also mention he was just named the OHL player of the week with nine points in three games including three goals and six assists and is currently riding a 15 game point streak with nine goals and 23 assists for 32 points over that period.
Jeremy Helvig (Carolina Hurricanes) became the franchise all-time leader in wins and was looking very confident. His movements were very refined and deliberate, seldom had to reach or extend to make saves, was always in position and never looked behind for tricklers.I spoke to a Carolina Scout before the game and he believes Helvig is the teams best goalie prospect and long term answer.
Linus Nyman continues to produce despite Kingston having loaded up with veteran NHL drafted players and now has 35 goals on the season. He is small, but it is going to be difficult for him to pass through the draft unclaimed again this year.
Gabriel Vilardi is a beast. He is a NHL ready player now and will be on the Kings roster next year out of training camp. He is the best player the Kingston Frontenacs have ever owned and the Kingston native gives the starving city a legit shot at winning something meaningful for the first time in a long time.
Cliff Pu (Buffalo Sabres) took the pregame skate on Monday, but was a late scratch, no word why.
Injured players Max Jones and Sean Day are expected to be back in the lineup on time for the playoffs
I am happy to announce that after a very long and unfortunate delay, the DobberProspects Radio Podcast will be back this week with a new episode. Aynsley Scott and I will be talking to Steve Kournianos (Draft Analyst) who was in Plymouth for the games for his thoughts. In the meantime you can read his summary here U18 Recap and Scouting Notes
For more on the Five Nations check out Russ Cohens quick hits on his page Sportsology where he has some quick hits on Andrei Svechnikov, Jack Hughes, Mattias Samuelsson, Matej Pekar, Mateji Blumel, and Anttoni Honka
The Philadelphia Flyers acquired goalie Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings tonight for a handful of magic beans. You may remember Mrazek from such hits as the 2011 OHL best SVS% (.920), 2012 World Junior (Best Goaltender, and Bronze Medal), the 2013 Calder Cup, and All-Star Game.
The Flyers have long been seeking a consistent answer in goal and Mrazek may or may not be the long term answer, but he could be. Brian Elliott is injured and not the answer when healthy, and Michael Neuvirth is a backup at best. The long term answer in Philadelphia is likely still Carter Hart, but for now the net belongs to Mrazek.
This also opens the door for Jared Coreau to make the full time jump to the NHL as Jimmy Howards backup.