Friday, November 22nd
Rossy gives a full review and scouting report of the Oshawa (Game 3) SUBWAY Super Series
On Thursday evening I was able to battle through the awful traffic on a four hour drive to Oshawa to catch game three of the SUBWAY® Super Series. It was a privilege to stand amongst the slew of NHL GMs and upper management, as well as notable media personalities. Coming into the OHL games, it was expected that the Ontario squad would dominate the Russian squad who were playing the second game in back-to-back nights. Welp, that certainly did not happen as Team OHL struggled to find chemistry versus an aggressive Russian defensive attack. It’s not uncommon for all-star teams to have difficulty finding their way when players are thrown together for a one or two game series. Kudos to Team Russia on playing a suffocating defensive game and capitalizing on almost every scoring chance the Ontarians allowed them.
From an evaluation standpoint, there seemed to be a general consensus floating around the scouts’ room that there weren’t enough draft eligible skaters on Team Russia and I agree. Unfortunately, not much can be done about the makeup of the roster and Russia shouldn’t be blamed for trying to send a competitive team especially because this event is used mainly for evaluation for the Under-20 Teams.
Turning to individual performances, let’s break down the OHL players one-by-one and touch on a few stand-out Russians as well.
#20 Ivan Nalimov (RUS, G) – The big Russian netminder turned heads in this game making several difficult saves down the stretch preserving the lead for the visiting team. Undrafted, the late ’94 goaltender showed exceptional lateral movement down low with quick leg reflexes kicking out pucks with ease. His 41-save win and Player of the Game nomination were both deserving
#12 Sergey Tolchinsky (RUS/SSM, F) – Tolchinsky continues to have an outstanding year after walking into Carolina Hurricanes camp and earning himself an entry-level contract after being passed over in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has improved his strength significantly over the calendar year and is playing with a ton of confidence. Fellow Russian OHLer Nikolay Goldobin and he found instant chemistry feeding off each other’s creativity and playmaker mentalities. Tolchinsky was Russia’s most impressive forward in game three and picked up the opening goal on a nice feed from Goldobin cross crease. He’ll be a big part of Team Russia’s offence at the 2014 World Junior Championship (WJC).
#31 Nikolay Goldobin (RUS/SAR, F) – Playing out of Sarnia and a first round prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft, I have become very familiar with Goldobin’s game but I will reiterate his skillset. Arguably, Goldobin is one of the OHL’s top playmakers and his vision, creativity and playmaking ability go unmatched when he’s playing at the top of his game (not always the case, unfortunately). He makes teammates around him better and his cross crease pass to Tolchinsky was an example of that. I noticed Goldobin was doing a good job at picking up his defensive assignments which was notable because he was playing centre during this game, rather than on the wing (where he often plays in Sarnia). I still want to see more intensity in his game where he comes out shift after shift and seeks out the puck rather then waiting for it to come to him (which is the case at times). Goldobin had a strong game for Russia and his line of Tolchinsky and Baskov created the majority of the offensive chances.
Tolchinsky and Goldobin have been buzzing for Russia. Lethal in possession, quick strike passes responsible for two Russian goals— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) November 22, 2013
#16 Nikita Zadorov (RUS/LDN, D) – The Buffalo Sabres (finally) returned Zadorov to the London Knights earlier this week and the big first rounder was a late addition to the Russian roster for this series, despite not skating in a game with London yet. Zadorov was the most impressive Russian skater in this game. He provided a physical presence, jump started the rush and picked up a trio of helpers along the way. Two of Zadorov’s assists were excellent passes that directly resulted in the goals – one that sent Shiksatdorov in alone for a beauty shorthanded marker and the other to Butuzov on another cross crease goal. He has always been a good skater for a big man but he appears smoother in his pivots/transitions and more confident in possession.
Here in Oshawa for OHL vs Russia. #Sabres D-man Nikita Zadorov playing on such short notice his name isn't on his jersey— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) November 22, 2013
Looked like Nikita Zadorov had Max Domi lined up for a hit but took it easy on him. Also looked like he almost went right overtop.— Loosepucks.com (@loosepucks) November 22, 2013
Zadorov and Domi are teammates on the Memorial Cup hosts, London Knights.
#5 Alexei Bereglazov (RUS, D) – Outside of Zadorov, Bereglazov was the lone Russian defenseman that caught my eye. He’s a ’94 born 6-foot-4 defender with good feet who plays a simple game. He was quite effective at closing the gap on some of OHL’s top offensive players and seemed to never panic under pressure. It’s impossible to tell if he has any interest at bringing his skills to North America but he could be a player teams look at. Bereglazov snuck in the back door and scored a nice goal on Russia’s opening powerplay goal of the game.
#19 Vladimir Tkachev (RUS, F) – Eligible for the upcoming 2014 NHL Draft, Tkachev (or Tkachyov) was the player who made Flyers 1st rounder Samuel Morin look silly in game one as he danced around the big defenseman. Tkachev had similar flashes in Oshawa displaying excellent puck skills and an elusiveness to his game. He’s not a big player (5-10, 139) but his first few steps allow him to separate himself quickly from opponents. Tkachev’s lone goal was the empty netter to seal the game for Russia. It would’ve been interesting to see Tkachev come to the CHL as an import player this year as I feel he would have done quite well (in a similar fashion as Tolchinsky). The Moncton Wildcats own his rights after drafting him 39th overall in the 2013 CHL Import Draft.
#28 Vladimir Butuzov (RUS, F) – He found the back of the net once and had several strong offensive shifts for Russia. Flashed good agility and unleashed some shots that were pro caliber. Butuzov has a solid frame (6-1) but he was one of many ’94 born players on this roster so whether he’ll garner further North American interest is very questionable.
#21 Alexander Barabanov (RUS, F) – Barabanov is a smaller forward with crafty hands who really pushed the pace for the Russians on the attack. He made a nice backhand saucer pass in the first period. ’94 Born as well.
#30 Matt Murray (SSM/Penguins, G) – The Pens prospect entered the game leading almost every OHL goaltending category but I was somewhat surprised the hometown Oshawa goaltender, Daniel Altshuller (Hurricanes), didn’t get the start. In the end, Murray took the crease and had an okay game. Sure, Murray allowed four goals on 21 shots but he couldn’t be solely blamed for any one of them. He wasn’t tested much but came up big to keep the score close.
There will be alot of noise about Matt Murray im sure, but I dare you to actually look at the goals, he had a chance at maybe 1.— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) November 22, 2013
#3 Josh Brown (OSH/Panthers, D) – The Generals’ captain didn’t get a whole lot of playing time but he was effective on his shifts playing a safe reliable defensive game – exactly what his long-term potential projects to be.
#4 Matt Finn (GUE/Maple Leafs, D) – Finn was among the small group of left-handed defensemen including Pelech and Koekkoek that seemed to rotate from shift to shift so he didn’t receive as much ice-time as Ekblad, Nurse and Bigras but he played exactly how he does in Guelph. It was hard for any defenseman to standout as Team OHL implemented the ever so exciting dump-and-chase attack so opportunities to shine offensively were minimal, especially for Finn who received little powerplay time. Finn was one of 10 defensemen to participate in Team Canada’s Summer Evaluation Camp but I would say he’s a long shot to make Team Canada at this point.
#5 Aaron Ekblad (BAR/2014 NHL Draft, D) – With all eyes on Ekblad, the big defenseman stepped up and delivered as he was the team’s best defenseman. Normally I am quite critical of Ekblad but there was little that I did not like with the Colts defender in this game. He skated the puck out of trouble, executed flawless breakout passes and operated the PP efficiently as the lone defenseman on the first unit. He is a calming presence on the ice and his panic threshold is extremely high. I am curious to see whether he makes Team Canada (I think he should) but he certainly helped his cause with a good showing in game one.
#24 Chris Bigras (OS/Avalanche, D) – Remembering that Bigras had an outstanding training camp with the Avalanche this past September, I jokingly mentioned to a scout that he may become available for trade if Owen Sound is looking to gather some assets. He was pretty certain that Owen Sound intended to keep him and felt that he has another full season left after this season. Bigras was very impressive in the loss picking up two assists (team lead) and establishing himself as a factor both offensively and defensively. Bigras did not attend the summer evaluation camp but his intelligent and reliable game will draw interest. He was one of three players who finished on the “plus” side of the game (joining McGinn and McDavid). Bigras was a recipient of secondary powerplay time lining up next to Slater Koekkoek.
#25 Darnell Nurse (SSM/Oilers, D) – I’m a big Nurse guy. I have been dating back to his Don Mills playing days but I was slightly disappointed with his showing in game one. Likely due to the team’s overall inability to gel, it appeared that Nurse was just going through the motions. As mentioned above, Team OHL rarely skated the puck into the offensive zone with possession rather dumping it in, so it prevented Nurse from playing his game. The team’s strategy is likely to change heading into game four so I will give Nurse a free pass here.
#27 Adam Pelech (ERIE/Islanders, D) – After I adjusted to the fact that number 27 was defenseman Adam Pelech and not forward Jonathan Drouin (who wore 27 in games one and two), I was able to appreciate what Pelech brought. He was quite active in the game and pushed the puck up the ice for the Ontarians. There were a few instances that he was caught running around a bit but I really liked the intensity he brought from shift to shift. Pelech was one of the few OHLers who delivered physicality on a regular shift. Pelech didn`t participate in the summer evaluation due an injury but will be considered for Team Canada.
#65 Slater Koekkoek (WSR/Lightning, D) – Easy to spot due to his smooth skating stride, Koekkoek was fun to watch. Like Nurse, Koekkoek was held back slightly because offensive zone entries rarely had a defenseman skating the puck into the zone or even through the neutral zone so he couldn’t play to his strength. Coach DJ Smith was constantly juggling defensive pairings attempting to accommodate the seven defensemen the team dressed so chemistry was an issue. Koekkoek didn’t have an outstanding game nor did he have a bad game. The Lightning prospect did receive secondary powerplay time with Bigras.
#12 Brock McGinn (GUE/Hurricanes, LW) – The undersized McGinn was one of the few pleasant offensive players for Team OHL. The Storm forward scored the second goal capitalizing on a headsy play when the rest of the players on the ice felt the play was blown dead. His goal tied the game at 2-2 and gave the OHL life but in the end, lack of defensive awareness on the back check cost the Ontarians. He began on a line with Bo Horvat and Guelph teammate Scott Kosmachuk but McGinn's constant offensive attack was one constant as he bounced from line to line. He created many opportunities by getting the puck to the net and showed some real creativity around the net with his ability to send unexpected passes into the slot.
#16 Brendan Gaunce (BELV/Canucks, C/LW) – Gaunce received sporadic ice-time throughout the game and was used sparingly especially during the second period but I was impressed when he was on the ice. His skating is still sluggish and he really falls behind because he doesn’t have that 'get up' gear but he makes up for it with his intelligence and sheer determination. DJ Smith floated him around and he spent many shifts on the left wing when the team needed an injection of energy. I am on the fence whether he belongs on Team Canada. His work ethic, defensive awareness and net drive are all assets but I worry about his skating being exposed on international ice.
#18 Kerby Rychel (WSR/Blue Jackets, LW) – Rychel came flying out of the gates and had a very good first period. He was physical and drove the net hard but that seemed to fade as the game unwound. Rychel got Team OHL on the board by blasting a loose puck home, a talent he has grown accustomed to at the junior level. The big winger became less effective as the game wore on and seemed too occupied at chasing down the hit rather than getting pucks to the net. Overall, Rychel performed as expected as he has become known to waver in consistency from shift to shift and game to game. Rychel was named the Player of the Game for Team OHL.
#21 Scott Laughton (OSH/Flyers, C) – Laughton experienced an up-and-down game but generally, I was very impressed with him. Going forward in his career, it will be interesting to see how he defines himself as a player. In the games I have viewed him in this year, Laughton has been an offensive catalyst. However, it’s clear his defensive value is extremely high as he possesses the intelligence and faceoff prowess to earn significant defensive minutes. In this game, Laughton employed himself more as a defensive forward than the offensive juggernaut we`ve become accustomed to this year with the Generals. Regardless, Laughton always seems to find a way to make an impact and that is why he is such a valuable commodity. Laughton is one of the few locks for Team Canada and should be a front-runner for the captaincy.
#22 Scott Kosmachuk (GUE/Jets, RW) - Kosmachuk started the game with Horvat and McGinn but seen his ice-time dwindle as the game elapsed. Honestly, Kosmachuk didn't make much of an impact and wasn’t very noticeable.
#28 Connor Brown (ERIE/Maple Leafs, RW) – Bitter sweet game for Leafs prospect Connor Brown. Unfortunately, ice time was limited for the high scoring Erie Otter but the good news is that he was effective during his shifts. Brown seemed to spark energy when DJ Smith sent him out, often with draft eligible Michael Dal Colle and Brendan Gaunce. I felt for Brown a bit because it seemed he did a good job gaining possession with his energetic puck pursuit but was often left with no support from his line mates. He had good jump in his game and his effort should be applauded but he was not rewarded in this one.
#53 Bo Horvat (LDN/Canucks, C) – I checked the box score after the game and was shocked to see that the OHL's best defensive forward (in my opinion) was a team worst minus-3 (albeit, he was on the ice for the empty net goal). I felt Horvat had a strong game on both sides of the puck so I guess that confirms the plus-minus stat is irrelevant. Horvat plays a style of game that will never truly be appreciated by fans because; a) He lacks that flashiness in his game that fans crave, and, b) His draft pedigree (9th overall) combined with the price he came at (Cory Schneider) will cause fans to place enormous expectations on him. In reality, Horvat is a coach’s dream and his intelligence, reliability and versatility will translate to the NHL. Yes, he may eventually settle in as a third line centre but his value greatly exceeds that of a normal depth pivot. He dominates the cycle, wins the gritty battles, makes simple plays under pressure and can amp up his offensive game when needed. Set your expectations accordingly and you won’t be disappointed. One area that Horvat surprisingly struggled in during game three was faceoffs. He was probably still above 50% but he normally dominates the dot and didn’t versus the Russians. He is a lock for Team Canada, in my opinion, as he steps it up during international play.
#61 Max Domi (LDN/Coyotes, LW) – Simply put – Domi was bad. Of course, declaring Domi as 'bad' is relative to how we expect the skilled forward to play but it was a frustrating performance to watch. Even during regular season OHL play, Domi hasn’t found the level he is capable of playing and as one scout stated, he may be suffering from 'NHL brain' where he thinks he is above the level of competition that the OHL provides. That may be the case but London and Team Canada need him to snap out of his funk. Domi was not his usual self as he bobbled pucks all night long, forced unnecessary passes and was flat footed most of the game. He is at his best when his feet are moving and stick skills are flawless allowing him to open up the ice for everyone around him. The ice seemed small for Domi last night. Domi is a lock for Team Canada and I have no doubt he will raise his game when he dons the red and white.
#71 Michael Dal Colle (OSH/2014 NHL Draft Eligible, LW) – Coach DJ Smith used his Generals' winger very (and I mean, very) little in game three and I am sure that disappointed the majority of scouts hoping to catch him play alongside the OHL's best. I know I was disappointed but luckily I have watched Dal Colle enough to form a solid opinion on him. On the few shifts that Dal Colle skated, he was good yet unspectacular. He drove the net with a presence and was part of the energy line occasionally thrown out. Dal Colle thrives with ice time and especially when he is on the man advantage so it was a difficult game to form any fair report from.
#42 Zach Nastasiuk (OS/Red Wings, RW) – Nastasiuk skated with Brendan Gaunce and Michael Dal Colle, Nastasiuk played as expected providing energy. He was buzzing around the puck but, at times, he fell victim of trying-to-do-too-much often over handling the puck in the neutral zone which led to some turnovers. Nastasiuk is a work in progress and the Detroit Red Wings are the perfect organization for him to develop in to reach his two-way upside.
#77 Josh Anderson (LDN/Blue Jackets, RW) – Burlington's Josh Anderson was easily Team OHL's most impactful forward as he wreaked havoc on the fore-check finishing check after check. Anderson competes in a simple north-south style of game and knows exactly how to play to his strengths. He is becoming a feared power forward at the junior level and his touch around the blue paint is underrated as well. Team Canada should give Josh Anderson a long look after leaving him off the summer evaluation camp roster.
#97 Connor McDavid (ERIE/2015 NHL Draft, C) – Saving the best for last we can now talk about phenom Connor McDavid. In a frustrating and disordered game where Team OHL had to battle for their chances as pucks seemed to bounce and fight off Ontarians all game long, 16-year-old Connor McDavid emerged as the game’s most impressive skater. Chances did not come easy for the OHL and even McDavid bobbled pucks but the gifted youngster continues to impress with his ability to stick with plays and get it done. It says a lot when McDavid is stopped by a big save, hauled down or even stripped of the puck from a defender yet his determination to stay with the play eventually gets rewarded with a second or third chance. This rare gamer mentality is eerily similar to another generational talent in Sidney Crosby and that is why there is so much buzz about McDavid heading towards the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He was held pointless in the contest but was one of the few facilitators of offense from the OHL squad. Connor McDavid is Team Canada bound.
The 5-2 loss to the Russians was the OHL's second all-time loss in the history of the SUBWAY® Super Series. Ontario holds a 19-2 record versus the Russian National Junior Team with both of their losses coming in the past two years. Heading into the Sudbury game on Monday, November 25th, Team OHL will be hungry to rebound into the winning column.
Thanks for reading folks,