Thursday, December 13th
Thirteen long days until the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships kick off in Ufa, Russia. This tournament is, by far, my favourite hockey there is and I won’t even flinch at having to wake up at 4:00 am EST to catch most of these games. It’s all for the love of the game.
It has been a busy few months for me travelling around from rink to rink catching live games as well as trying to keep video tabs on all of the upcoming 2013 NHL draft prospects...but it has been very fun. Now, let me share some of my thoughts on a few players I really like.
Montreal Canadiens Alex Galchenyuk has been lights out in Sarnia. As most of my followers know (@RossyYoungblood …shameless twitter plug), I have had the luxury of following Galchenyuk closely over the past three seasons in Sarnia (albeit, a shortened season last year with his knee injury). Galchenyuk started the season relatively slow (to his standards) but as the month of October ended, I could really see a sense of increased confidence in his game. More recently, I have noticed a side of Galchenyuk that has only surfaced occasionally over the past few years and that has been an increased level of physical play. He’s not out there crushing opponents but it’s great to see him engage himself more (especially along the half-boards) and finishing checks to keep his opposition honest. Galchenyuk is really rounding into a complete player and it is this progression that makes me even more happier after I personally stated that I think he becomes the best forward from the 2013 draft crop.
Galchenyuk is NHL ready now. He could step into the Habs lineup and compete as a top- six player but I also think that he’s probably better off (long-term) finishing this season in the OHL as one of the league’s most dominant players. I have always been a closet Maple Leafs fan (*cough *cough) so it hurt a bit when Montreal drafted Galchenyuk two spots in front of Toronto but with him in their system, I will certainly be cheering on the Canadiens more often. If you like hockey, he’s an easy player to like. Statistically, Galchenyuk has been a force through the month of November and into December recording 14 goals, 32 points and going plus-4 in 16 games for Sarnia putting him into third place in OHL scoring. Of those 16 games, 10 of them have been of the multi-point variety including one 5-point night, two 4-point games, a couple 3-point contests and five 2-point affairs. He’s been a stud offensively but I’ve been more impressed with Galchenyuk’s play away from the puck and not just when he’s tearing up the gamesheets. I am very eager to see how Galchenyuk performs at his first official international showing (Ivan Hlinka does not count) for Team USA. He will be under a ton of pressure and he hasn’t always impressed in the times that he has donned the USA jersey.
Galchenyuk goal from last weekend:
Admittedly, I have always been critical of Islanders’ prospect Ryan Strome but I am definitely starting to warm up to him…and for good reason. Honestly, I like Strome and my criticism was more based on the fact that I liked other players ahead of him at 5th overall in 2011 but he’s become a great prospect. Strome is coming off OHL Player of the Month honours after absolute dominating the Ontario Hockey League in November. Strome picked up points in all 13 November games for the Niagara Ice Dogs totalling nine goals and 35 points. That’s almost 3 points-per-game!
Flyers’ prospect Nick Cousins, an extremely frustrating player to play against, is one prospect (on the ice) that I absolutely love. Of course, if I were playing against him, I am sure that I would be saying the exact opposite as he is one of the easiest guys to hate. There is a lot of baggage that comes with Cousins as a prospect but he plays his role perfectly. He skates by the opposition giving them little hacks after the whistle and chirps constantly but when he’s on the offensive attack he is as dangerous as any other OHLer in the league. Cousins’ Greyhounds are near the bottom of the Western Conference and will likely look to dealing some of their top players for assets and it will be interesting to see whether another OHL team is willing to trade for this agitating player and assume the risk of upsetting their team chemistry…on and off the ice. As a prospect, Cousins has a very good likelihood of reaching the NHL as long as he can keep his head on straight.
Congratulations goes to Sharks’ prospect goaltender JP Anderson after he picked up his 115th OHL career win as he became the winningest goaltender in OHL history. That is quite the accomplishment for the Sarnia Sting overage netminder. Anderson projects as a fringe NHL starter but his play for Sarnia has been outstanding this season and would be the team’s MVP at the midway point. Yes, even ahead of the outstanding Galchenyuk.
Vancouver Canucks’ defensive prospect Frankie Corrado was a 5th round selection back in 2011 and he’s starting to look like an absolute steal. He has been arguably Canada’s best defenseman at the Team Canada World Junior Camp and he was also one of the top defensemen in my opinion at the SUBWAY Super Series back in November. Remember, that Super Series was an event for national personnel to judge players as potential members of the 2013 World Junior squads. Corrado’s game leans toward an offensive style but he’s a very steady two-way defenseman who plays to his skills very well. For me, Corrado has earned one of the seven defensive spots on Team Canada for the upcoming WJC. His fantasy stock could rise substantially so be forewarned.
TEAM CANADA WORLD JUNIOR CAMP
The final cuts for Team Canada’s 2013 WJC Roster will come Thursday (hours from now) and the red and white brass have some interesting and tough decisions to make. Here are the battles:
CUTS (after first game): Pelech (Islanders), Pouliot (Penguins), Beauvillier (Panthers), Monahan (2013), Graovac (Wild)
LOCKS: Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers), Scheifele (Jets), Huberdeau (Panthers), Strome (Islanders), Danault (Blackhawks), Jenner (Blue Jackets), Dougie Hamilton (Bruins), Rielly (Maple Leafs), Harrington (Penguins), Ouellet (Red Wings), Subban (Bruins)
VERY LIKELY TO MAKE ROSTER: Hudon (Canadiens), Ritchie (Stars), MacKinnon (2013)
Nathan MacKinnon AND Jonathan Drouin (both eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft) – Bob McKenzie put it perfectly when stated that MacKinnon should be on the team but Drouin would only make the squad if he plays with MacKinnon. Personally, I feel as though MacKinnon is almost a lock to make this team.
I really want to see Ty Rattie (Blues) crack this squad. I loved his interview the other day where he stated he wanted badly to make this team after narrowly missing out last year. He went on to say he would adopt any role the team wanted - players who are this hungry are my favourite...plus he can snipe goals!!!
Interesting to see Brett Ritchie (Stars) scratched in yesterday’s game, a usual indication that he has made the squad. Ritchie had a dominant November as Strome’s winger and I am sure he’d line up next to him on Canada’s second line. He’s improved his skating and remained healthy as a member of Niagara after playing in Sarnia for two seasons prior. He will add a physical presence in the top six.
Corrado (Canucks) vs. Sproul (Red Wings) vs. Dumba (Wild) vs. Reinhart (Islanders) vs. Wotherspoon (Oilers) vs. Murphy (Carolina). With four spots locked in (Hamilton, Rielly, Harrington, Ouellet), look for three of these guys to fill out the seven man defensive rotation. My bets: Corrado, Reinhart and Murphy (Spott connection helps).
Broissoit (Flames) vs. Binnington (Blues) vs. Paterson (Red Wings) – Two of these goaltenders will join Malcolm Subban (Bruins) as Team Canada’s goaltending trio. Subban has been the worst of the four netminders in camp but he remains a lock based on his outstanding play internationally, specifically in the Canada-Russia Challenge back in August. Broissoit was a member of that Canadian team during the Canada-Russia Challenge but he struggled mightily. The goaltending last two spots really are a crapshoot. Any of the three could make it. I trust the play of Binnington and Paterson more than Broissoit but he can also have some huge games. My picks: Binnington and Paterson
I am a big Tom Wilson (Capitals) fan, but I worry about his inclusion on the team. He can be a liability with his physical run-and-hit-everything style but the team has traditionally always taken at least one banger. There isn’t a better “banger” in the prospect world for Team Canada so if they decide they need one then he is their guy but he may see limited minutes. It’s between McNeil (Blackhawks) and Wilson for that banger role.
Here is the roster I think Team Canada goes with:
Huberdeau – Nugent-Hopkins – Scheifele
MacKinnon – Strome – Ritchie
Shinkaruk – Jenner – Rattie (great potential for third scoring line)
Hudon (versatile) - Danault – Wilson
13th: Drouin (can sub in for Shinkaruk if needed)
Rielly – Hamilton
Ouellet – Harrington
Reinhart – Corrado
Goaltenders (aka a crapshoot past Subban)
F: Beauvillier, Catenacci, Camara, Graovac, Lipon, McNeil, Monahan, Sissons (hurt)
D: Pelech, Pouliot, Wotherspoon, Sproul, Dumba
Thanks for reading,
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