Monday, August 13th, 2012
You can check out my recaps from Game one of the Canada-Russia Challenge at The Hockey Writers (and also, The Hockey Guys). The former focuses more on some of the prospects that impressed me (Oilers’ Nail Yakupov, Jets’ Mark Scheifele, Bruins’ Malcolm Subban, Habs’ Charles Hudon, Blues’ Ty Rattie, among others) as well as some players who were somewhat disappointing (Islanders’ Ryan Strome, Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau and Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevski). Canada won game one 3-2 but followed up with a loss in game two 6-3. Quick thoughts on game two:
- Yakupov and Grigorenko were simply dominant creating scoring chances at will. Russia's Kirill Kapustin (undrafted) netted a hat trick in the win.
- Canada missed the size and puck possession of Mark Scheifele (ejected early) and Jonathan Huberdeau (took his turn as a scratch) in game two and seemed to be chasing the Russians around.
- Ryan Strome played much better in Game 2 with increased minutes but I am still very skeptical of how his game (finesse with a lot of high risk taking) will translate to the NHL. Strome has exceptional vision but he is often way too cute with the puck and that leads to costly turnovers. He will never be a player relied on for his defensive game so he will have to crack the top six to become a fantasy asset. He reminds me a lot of Nazem Kadri. Both players are very skilled but I think each of them were selected a little too high in their drafts and as a result, they will have an uphill battle to meet those lofty expectations associated with that draft spot.
- Phil Di Giuseppe (Hurricanes) got into the lineup for the first time in game two and he was very noticeable in limited minutes. His puck pursuit is something fun to watch and when he’s in possession of the puck he has a real knack for finding the open ice and teammates. Prior to the 2012 NHL Draft, I felt that Di Giuseppe was worthy of a first round pick and I still stand by that. The Canes got good value when he was selected in the second round.
- Dougie Hamilton (Bruins) has logged big minutes in the opening two games and he’s had his good and bad moments. He’s playing tough minutes against Russia’s top players and has made some gaffs but, in my opinion, his impressive plays have outweighed the bad ones. Hamilton needs to make the Bruins roster this season or else he will just be wasting a year dominating the OHL again. He’s shown some underrated offensive skills on the blue line for Team Canada and while it looks awkward (because of his size), he always executes them well.
- Ryan Murphy (Hurricanes) is a both a treat and nightmare to watch on defence. His puck-handling and rushing abilities are phenomenal but he just doesn’t know when to do it at the right times. In his defensive zone, he’s virtually useless as he’s usually caught out of position. Murphy almost stuck around in Carolina last season but he certainly has a lot of work to do in his defensive zone before earning minutes in the NHL. But man, he’s a wizard with the puck inside the offensive blue line!
Game 3 and 4 of the Canada-Russia Challenge takes place in Halifax, NS and gets underway tonight @ 6:30 pm EST (TSN). Tune in to watch these talented prospects. Scratches for tonight’s game have not been released yet but Lauren Brossoit (Calgary Flames) will get his 1st start of the series. In game 4 Tuesday, Coach Steve Spott will choose one of the three goaltenders to get their 2nd start. Depending on how well Lauren Brossoit plays tonight, I’d say it’s between him and Subban. Remember, this Canada-Russia Challenge is being used as Canada’s World Junior “summer evaluation camp” so these kids are playing for a spot on the 2013 WJC Team. Some of these players could be in the NHL (Huberdeau, Scheifele, Hamilton, etc) but they are leaving nothing to chance.
If you have questions about players or this series please comment below or send me a tweet (@Rossyyoungblood).
The USA National Evaluation Junior Camp is all complete and several players made an impact. All eyes were on Alex Galchenyuk (Canadiens’ 3rd overall selection) and he seemed to perform “okay”. He’s skating well but at the same time he’s shaking off the rust that comes with missing virtually an entire season of action. I think his NEJC performance was good but I think we can roll back his chances of surprising at the Canadiens’ camp and sticking for the season. I still think Galchenyuk will play a few NHL games (if there’s no lockout) but I think Montreal will choose to return him to the OHL to play in his third second major junior season.
Team USA Players who performed very well: Tyler Biggs (Leafs), Matt Grzelcyk (Bruins), Connor Murphy (Coyotes). Keep a close eye on Grzelcyk’s development as I really liked him coming into the 2012 draft despite being severely undersized. He’s an extremely smart player and from all accounts he impressed in every game at the NEJC. Chris Peters praised him,
Matt Grzelcyk — Another noticeable game from Grzelcyk offensively for Team USA. There’s an aggressiveness to Grzelcyk’s game at both ends of the ice which really works. He’s got a good stick, he’s aggressive on the walls and he’s not afraid to turn it up ice himself. Grzelcyk has terrific vision and a high hockey IQ. He knows how to get pucks to net and find the open man and can do it all while moving. Grzelcyk plays with pace and can adjust to the tempo of a game, but when he has the puck, he’s the one dictating the tempo. That’s pretty remarkable for a 5-9 defenseman.
Tyler Biggs was another player that turned heads as he seemed to be in the scoring during every game. He doesn’t have the finesse that you’d expect from first round selections but his net presence and decision making seem to be two attributes that stand out. I have criticized the Leafs’ selection of Biggs but he’s starting to grow on me and I am hoping that he continues his strong development. Biggs has left the University of Miami (Ohio) and should join the OHL’s Oshawa Generals (assuming he doesn’t jump directly to the AHL’s Marlies). Selfishly, I want to see him in the OHL to dominate. Again from Chris Peters (who does an excellent job covering all things USA Hockey),
Tyler Biggs — Once again it was the newly-signed Maple Leafs prospect that was leading the charge for Team USA. Not often thought to be a consistent producer, Biggs ended up with six points in three games against international competition including three goals and three assists. Both of his goals were typical of Biggs — in front of the net and not quitting on the play. The big man is showing good speed and is playing an effective power-forward style. That’s what he needs to be for this team. At his very best, he plays a man’s game and is incredibly tough to play against. He was that in three straight games in camp, which is a great sign for him and Team USA.
The OHL’s Windsor Spitfires were hit HARD with fines and forfeited draft picks after the league found them guilty of violating the rules for recruitment. Windsor GM Warren Rychel will file an appeal but for now his team forfeits three 1st round picks, two 2nd round picks and $400 000 in fines. Sure, losing those draft picks hurts but the team has drafted some high-end players (Nick Schmaltz, for example) that they were hoping to lure from the NCAA and I think their “recruitment process” is what will take the biggest hit. Remember, the Windsor Spitfires were in the running to host the 2014 Memorial Cup (a huge financial boost for the entire community of Windsor, a city that could use it). The investigation dates back to 2009 apparently and remember that the Spitfires won back-to-back Memorial Cups during those years leading to a lot of discussion among rival OHL/CHL fans. This is an interesting situation but it should be mentioned that there is NO WAY that the Windsor Spitfires are the only guilty team as London and Kitchener are two teams that could be under the microscope. CHL/OHL Commissioner David Branch will be busy.
Today, the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament begins. Canada (roster here) has remained dominant at this tournament as the red and white look to add their eighth gold in nine years. All eyes will be on potential 1st overall 2013 pick, Nathan MacKinnon but there are plenty of potential first rounders including: Jonathan Drouin, Zach Fucale (G), Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Darnell Nurse (D), Curtis Lazar, Morgan Klimchuk, Jordan Subban to name a few. Team USA has a competitive squad as well. MacKinnon should DOMINATE but watch how some of the 2014 draftees do as well - Sam Reinhart (CAN; brother of Max and Griffin, son of Paul), Anthony DeAngelo (USA), and Nick Ritchie (CAN; brother of Brett) – as all three could be difference makers.
Oliers’ 2011 1st round selection (19th) Oscar Klefbom was in North America for Team Sweden as they played some exhibition matches against USA (Blue and White) and Finland at the US National Evaluation Junior Camp showing his strong defensive game. However, Klefbom stated that he will not compete for a roster spot in 2012-13 as he is returning to Sweden. Interesting that he was forward enough to not even try to make the roster this season but he feels he “isn’t ready”.
Very interesting stuff…Behind the Blue Jackets 2012 NHL Draft
I’m currently working on my preliminary ranking for 2013 NHL Draft. It should be released sometime after the completion of the Canada-Russia Challenge Series.
Thanks for reading,