Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016-2017 Pre-Season Western Hockey League Report(Teams 5 and 6)

6.Spokane Chiefs-Kailer Yamamoto is the only Chief that could be classified as resembling any sort of star power but the theme of this 2016/2017 group is team depth and grittiness in all capacities. I will admit I was one of those last year that had a vast amount of concerns with the scoring depth heading into last season and I saw enough out of their younger crop that eased my question marks heading into this campaign. Jaret Anderson-Dolan was a revelation, an individual that can slot in as the number one center with no qualms from the coaching staff. I recollect following the Bantam Draft live in 2014 and when the fourteenth selection had arrived based on team depth and already having Kailer Yamamoto, I would've favoured the Chiefs selecting defenceman Jantzen Leslie. Knowing what we  know now,  with Ty Smith being picked as the first overall selection the following year the need for a defenceman subsided not withstanding the fact that Anderson-Dolan is unquestionably the more polished player. The question some are posing is a core revolving around Yamamoto, Anderson-Dolan and Smith be the building blocks required to contend as early as this season. Judging from my ranking, you can safely make the ascertation that I believe they can and will.

The devastating loss of European Dominic Zwerger will be difficult to overcome. I should've clarified in the opening as much as I do maintain Anderson-Dolan has been a revelation for this group, he's struggled with inconsistencies but Zwerger on the other hand was the model of consistency. It's,rare that a European sticks around for three seasons as was the case with Dominic so the question now turns to who'll consistently provide the secondary offence needed for Kailer? I'm not suggesting that my first profiled player will instantaneously fill the shoes but as a sixteen year old who in all actuality will be overshadowed by the prodigy of Ty Smith, but if I was a hardcore Chief supporter I'd be optimistic towards  Colum McGauley. McGauley without stumbling upon any tangible proof I'm presuming is the brother of former Brandon Wheat King star Tim has me insinuating that he could be, in a couple of years or so, equal to the elder McGauley's production. Residing in Southern Saskatchewan allows  my take on Tim to be pretty substantial where I find Tim was reluctant to pushing the pace, on many two on two, three on three rushes he'd use his speed backing up the defenceman but would then slow it down losing all momentum his linemates had skating with him. Colum on the other hand isn't as passive and is more compliant to accelerating in the offensive zone and not resorting to older brother Tim's decelerating approach. You could see as many as three sixteen year old forwards crack the lineup with the aforementioned McGauley, Camrose product Damon Zimmer and Koby Morriseau. Personally, although patiently developing a first round bantam pick never happens any more, I feel as if Morriseau out of the trifecta is the furthest away from chipping in significant numbers. Colum would be likely explain that he had a disappointing campaign with Notre Dame of the Midget AAA league last year, but it's the McGauley reputation that ingratiate himself to the Don Nachbaur coaching staff. Only eighteen points in Midget, call me crazy or not but with Spokane'e spare amount of gifted scorers, I don't see why Colum can't immediately contribute in the top six. I'd like to analyze the structure these Chiefs forwards will be asked of, Under Bill Peters that translated into immense results catapulted by the Dustin Tokarski led 2008 Memorial Cup Championship, Spokane exhibited a wheeling and dealing brand when the proper nucleus on board was difficult to stop. Hardy Sauter had the daunting task of replicating results of the legendary Peters and failed because what Hardy knew to work was better suited to maximize results in the mid nineties, unfortunately his style has fallen out of favour. I have to surmise that because he looked down his bench each night and saw Jared Cowen on it, he figured that employing the trap thus allowing the defensive depth they possessed to go to work and mitigate scoring chances was a winning strategy. Sauter's trap imposed outlook was not a welcome fit for the fan base, led to no playoff tribulations and received a pink slip because of it. Don Nachbaur has since come in and credit to him that under his tutelage the Chiefs have never engaged in a losing season. Positive accolades not withstanding, something about his philosophy rubs me the wrong way, and in some cases players the wrong way, notably Reid Gow. He's a veteran coach that demand a lot but, and bear in mind just an opinion galvanizes individualism to a fault. I didn't follow the Western Hockey League close enough in the early 2000's to know whether he instituted a similar ideology in Kennewick, but resting all your laurels on the likes of Mitch Holmberg and Tyler Johnson, allowing them to run free while ignoring the systems put in place hinders overall team performance. I'm certainly not the only one that feels that Anderson-Dolan showed flashes of brilliance but was riddled with inconsistency and I begin to opine if the reason for that is due to no positional discipline. I love this roster, envy the results they could post this year but do fear if Nachbaur is the right candidate to work with the players trying to make a name for themselves. I hate to ask, but I will, has the league passed Don by?  Coaching questions aside, continuing with player analysis, let's introduce to you newly drafted European Ondrej Najman. I echoed that replacing the import production of Zwerger could prove to be herculean but I truly feel Ondrej is up to the task. First things first, I've been informed that Ondrej has committed to Spokane but with the lack of website updates league wide, I've been unable to confirm this. If he declined the invitation, this is all for not. Secondly before I keep on, I'd like to remind the readers that seldomly will I analyze a European because I have no knowledge of the player but pertaining to Ondrej I'm comfortable with my information to proceed.  At the past  under eighteen tournament, Ondrej was arguably Team Czech Republic's best player.  Literally the first shift I witnessed Najman play in, I got instant flashbacks to Jere Lehtinen. Lehtinen wasn't the quickest player on the ice, nor is Ondrej however the shots they have in their arsenal convey fear to opposing goaltenders. It's just not the shot that drew the likeness, it's the soft as butter hands near the net that is most uncanny. Chiefs fans, I guarantee that if he reports and I'm told that he will, you will have never seen a player who can be in front of the goaltender causing havoc and on the most innocent rebound make  a play out of nothing. The hand eye coordination is exceptional.  Needless to say the home that Pat Falloon built(that may be a stretch) landed on a coup presuming his presence.

To throw grammar out the window...."me really like this defence". It's mobile, tenacious, and poised beyond it's years. I spent considerable time worrying if Nachbaur's careless systems have  a negative effect on the organization, and when you have your forwards scrambling around more than Michael Vick in his prime, this creates gargantuan problems.  Prior to this year, the back check was non-existent which puts added pressure on this back end. Not that they can't handle it thought. In my viewings, it's rather the title of best defenceman can safely be awarded to Tyson Helgesen. Tyson, a fifth round Bantam select is the quintessential late bloomer. The board work that he showcases is phenomenal, with being a lankier frame listed at 6'2,190, he uses that long stick to his convenience. A negative connotation implored on Tyson's game however is his lackadaisical demeanor. I don't buy into this premise at all, some kids are just bred that way where  for some a lack of emotion equates to one's compete level. Aside from this false "accusation", his offensive chops aren't half bad either. I wish I could give myself a dollar every time I referenced the faulty setup the Chiefs are beginning to be notorious for, but it's this last man back necessity that crutches his potential on the stat sheet. Twenty six points a year ago, albeit twenty three of those were assists, the shot needs work! Sometimes particular acquisitions help players and the very same acquisition will hurt others.I for one think if Spokane were to go out and acquire somebody from a non playoff team like David Quenneville out of Medicine Hat who is more confident with the puck on his stick could teach Helgesen the all around fundamentals because I know he has it in him.. I understand he had the opportunity to pick the brain of Jason Fram the last couple of years but with Jason acting more like a rover, not the best game to model yours after. I don't know whether Jake Harrison has completely ruled out NCAA hockey in his future as he has yet to sign an educational agreement with the Chiefs, but if the new management group in Spokane sans long time stalwart Speltz can talk Jake into joining the program, you can chalk up another quality prospect waiting in line. Jake's older brother Luke was an alumnus of a defying six WHL clubs although it could be questioned with the way Luke was tossed around offer if that's a mark in the NCAA column for young Jake. Say what you want about Luke who coincidentally spent a cup of coffee in Spokane, Jake's game at sixteen exceeds what Luke could conjur up at twenty. On a couple of occasions throughout this lengthy preview I've mentioned that Junior A hockey is a different animal and for Jake to step in so seamlessly speaks to adaptability. What kind  of player is Jake you ask?  Not afraid to join the rush, a staple to get on Nachbaur's good side, he's someone that refuses to back up defensively which is commendable for being a smaller d-man. The essence of Harrison's abilities are to be right up in your face, look for the  poke check and off to the races we go. I've been fairly complimentary regarding his skill set but looking at the projected six, I do stupor at where he would fit in and whether  a straight out re-assignment could make the NCAA-WHL decision an easy one for him. Ty Smith, first overall pick, he's going nowhere. I also foresee the remaining four being Helgesen, Toporowski, Evan Fiala, and Matt Faith. Additionally, if my premonition is correct about them wanting secure a puck moving defenceman I do wonder where that leaves Jake in these muddy waters. I could see one spot up for grabs between Jake and Matt Leduc.

With Lasse Petersen shipped out to Everett, this is Tyson Verhelst's job to lose. I don't have much to say about Tyson(shocking right?)  other than to say that indisputably has a WHL starting goaltender acumen. From what I've seen of his and honestly it's been very little, he's good laterally but is suspectible to getting beat up high. The expectation is that goaltending coach Ryan Cyr will have worked with him this summer forcing him to stand more upright.  The.892 save percentage needs some work but for a team, accounting for an underrated 1999/2000 class and anchored by Kailer Yamamoto, a hot Tyson will soon be having Spokane supporters verbalizing "Dustin Tokarski who?"

*****In my never ending battle with website competence, it was oversight on my part that Jayden Sittler was acquired in an off-season trade with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Verhelst has since "retired" from hockey. I can only store so much in the ol' memory bank, having websites with updated transactions would be a start......the acquisition doesn't change my outlook on Spokane as a whole*****


5.Calgary Hitmen-I've been griping a little bit about some of the team's websites,well the Calgary Hitmen's new design takes it to a new low.  We live in 2016, for a Major Junior franchise to have such a user unfriendly page is unacceptable. I digress but to access information is like jumping through hoops. The Calgary Hitmen are an interesting team to assess, Defensively, they own the rights of a few "names", but some of these supposed impact defenceman I'm not particularly fond of. Conversely with the forwards they don't have the same level of stardom but the list includes names like Matteo Gennaro(what an awful trade for Prince Albert) and Jordy Stallard who are a couple quality nineteen year olds in this league. Experts will attempt to convince you that the team's strength lies in the back end but I'm here to tell you it's the Calgary forwards that will stampede their way all the way to a Conference title perhaps. By process of elimination you'll notice that the only Eastern Conference teams remaining are the Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders but by virtue of this ridiculous divisional playoff format, dare I say the Hitmen have  a bye to the Conference final?

****UPDATE RE WEBSITE: Im now under the impression when I was compiling research the site was fighting through technical glitches. Site is user friendly, apologies***

I just signalled that I'm much more optimistic regarding the forwards and I'll try to eloquently address why. For a team that was a year away last year in Prince Albert for them to trade away a pending nineteen year old, a serviceable nineteen at that in Gennaro is troubling at every turn. Gennaro is versatile enough where he can be a top line penalty killer and for someone who's accumulated eighty nine  career points, he's no slouch  in that area. Gennaro is from Alberta, so that makes you wonder if a trade was requested but if not unforgivable from a Raider P.O.V. Matteo. A prototypical penchant out of a Calgary Hitmen hockey club is a fast, explosive team and Gennaro fits into that culture just fine.  A crash n bang player with premier skill and I honestly believe the reason his offensive statistics haven't been greater are due to the fact that he's so conscious of a defensive assignment that we lose a bit of that aggression, I'll be curious where Head Coach Mark French utilizes Gennaro in this attack.He's a centremen by trade but with the surplus of depth down the middle I wouldn't discount the strategical maneuver of transitioning him to wing allowing him time with Jordy Stallard on the top line. He can't really go wrong either way, either he shift into more of a shut down second line which his speed allows or becomes a first line left winger.  Moving him over to the left side could be a major success story especially when you consider that Karnaukhov can catapult his husky frame on the off wing as it seems from my viewings that even when placed on the LW, he constantly weaves to the right side bringing his preference into question. I was reading on a message board today actually that there's some contractual faux pas with a club team in Russia that could prevent him from coming back to North American but I expect being as how Pavel has NHL aspirations, a Flame prospect at all that he'll find his way back to the Saddledome. I want to ensure I give Matteo his full due and the one facet where the Winnipeg Jets, who selected Gennaro would like to see improvement would be to bulk up. He gets knocked off the puck a lot in junior and if the body doesn't mature this will become a fall back for his progression.  I could now go in the direction of either Stallard or Jakob Stukel, however a trademark of this blog is to focus attention on less heralded commodities so why don't we profile Mark Kastelic. From what I was hearing last year some apparant dissension existed amongst the Hitmen fans for the amount of playing time Mark was receiving. He'd see the lineup, albeit in a meager fourth line role ahead of more deserving individuals but I can totally side with the reasoning the coaching staff laid out for why he was seeing the ice frequently. For starters, even though the Hitmen fought their way to a conference semi-final, no write off, Mark was the highest selection they had in the 1999 born draft so it was imperative Mark get thrown in the fire as he's a catalyst going forward. These same cynics of Mark point at the atrocious skating as reasons for why he didn't warrant the playing time they receive. I won't dispute the skating deficiency however for the doubters, look at the projected lineup for a second. Hockey is a game that is evolving into a pure speed game, understood but with the Hitmen who will be no different, its always advantageous to have a balanced attack and Mark will once again add some needed size. In the Central Division, they'll be pitted against the Colton Bobyk's and Jesse Zaharichuk's of the world a tall order and having Mark's bullish frame to send out will benefit the aforementioned Gennaro's as no liberties will be taken, fewer anyway. And for the record, when I insinuate the Hitmen have smaller forward group, I'm not referencing height, just a lot of  players who have yet to fill out. He's more of a methodical player that will need to work on adapting to the speed of Major Junior Hockey. It's not a coincidence that last campaign was permeated with struggles as what I often times notice is a player that plays minor hockey in  a "foreign land" which for Phoenix includes hockey and even though you'll dominate in your region it doesn't always translate into true to type performance at this level. This primarily is why so many Americans either immediately flourish or flop. If you have it you have it and statistics will be proof in the pudding or you'll be so overwhelmed that a team won't retain your services the entire season.  I could cite countless examples, for example reminiscing back to my Tri-City preview we have Justin Togiai and closer to home with Nikolai Knyzhov who technically was born in Russia but relocated to Phoenix and played relatively well only to fall flat on his face in Regina. This is a make or break season for Mark, I think he'll turn it around but if he doesn't frankly he won't last the year. Not for a team that aspires to be in the thick of the playoff race like Calgary.

When I penned my annual NHL draft grades entry, I was very critical of the Carolina Hurricanes decision to draft Jake Bean as high as they did. Listen, the jist on Bean is he's entering his third season and as was the case last year, he'll get by on pure moxie. He's talented, some what of a risk taker at the blue line but that truthfully what has set him apart thus far in his junior career. He plays with the behaviorism that he has nothing to lose, and can you really blame him for this attitude? He was completely passed over in his Bantam year, was a walk on to his hometown Hitmen and persevered all the way to a National Hockey League first rounder.  I keep asking myself, because I cannot overstate my tentativeness I have with Jake's upside, what is is that serves as my prelude pertaining to my disdain for his game?  Well, I sort of just touched on this but it's the river boat gambler mentality that I know won't carry over to the next level. When I "scout" some of these drafted prospects, I take that into consideration. Sure what he does works fine and dandy now but no way does pulling the coined P.K Subban"subby-doo" will jive. He does the spins under close proximity now but he tries that in the NHL, he'll be sent to Charlotte of the AHL quicker then the National Basketball Association pulled their own all star game from said location. He's the John Daly of the WHL, someone who displays things that others simply can't do but goes to the well so regularly that by the end of the round you look at the scorecard only to read 83 and start to ask yourself what happened. Bean is definitely capable of tallying  a 90 point season, especially with the nucleus around him but he would be better advised to shore up the intricacies of this game because if the desire to be in the NHL by 20 is there, he can't be so one dimensional. Last season he had Travis Sanheim to follow, this go around he's the unquestioned leader with players Ty Prefontaine and Layne Toder looking for guidance. Will the absence of Sanheim effect numbers? Normally I would say absolutely but with the aggression he plays with the name on the back of the sweater of his defensive partner holds little relevance as he's not a player who uses his partner to push the envelope. Speaking of prospects, let's deliberate the merit of the aforementioned Toder as he stands a good chance of cracking the squad this year. A fifth rounder in 2015, he had a marvelous year with the Yellowhead Chiefs in the Manitoba Midget AAA league. For starters, what's with Calgary's infatuation with hauling in kids from Elkhorn, Manitoba. Travis Sanheim also from Elkhorn is set to depart onto greener pastures but in comes another Elkhorn product Toder. You know how when you drive into a town the big sign will read" Town of ...... home of......,well soon when you drive into the rural Manitoba community, it'll read "Welcome to Elkhorn, home of Calgary Hitmen prospects". In all seriousness the fact that Toder had such a great year in Midget AAA raised eyebrows with Calgary's management staff as with the depth they have on the blue line I don't think they envisioned saving room for a sixteen year old fifth round. A remotely good training camp and he's on this team. I mentioned the name of Ty Prefontaine, well him and maybe Jakob Lapointe may want to look over their shoulders as his presence could cost a spot on the team. Toder is small in stature but plays a monstrous game. His offense will bloom over time and with Jake Bean in the fold I guarantee Mark French will be looking for reliable defenders as opposed to the former. He'll ease his way onto the third pairing and if I'm correct in prognosticating a valiant year for Cow town, he'll acquire invaluable experience moving forward.  The franchise defenceman in the couple years as twenty one other General Managers are kicking themselves for not taking  a gander on him earlier.

One of the more enchanting battles this fall will involve the young lads fighting for playing time in the Calgary net. Cody Porter is entrenched for the time being but don't sleep on the brother of Minnesota Wild defenceman and former Red Deer Rebel Matt Dumba's brother, Kyle.  Last season they had a collection of five goaltenders suit up at different times but this campaign is a little clearer to read. I suggest Dumba is in line to be in Calgary for the simple reason that not alot of Major Junior franchises care to employ two nineteen year old goaltenders. Right now Nik Amundrud was brought in half way through last year, also nineteen, is nowhere near the goalie Porter so I couldn't fathom Amundrud being kept around to back up. I hinted at my thoughts that Dumba could soon overtake Cody but that will only happen if he gets off to a sluggish start. He was a sole proprietor at times last year  and handed the Hitmen the utmost confidence. I only raise the thought of Dumba getting significant playing time is because historically the Hitmen are the Philadelphia Flyers of the dub with the backstoppers. Can never find one they like. The Flyers finally landed on Michal Neuvirth and to clarify if Cody comes anywhere close to the numbers put up last season, all that does is justifies my ranking of number five for the Hitmen!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016-2017 Pre-Season Western Hockey League Report(Team 7)

7.Kelowna Rockets-Before I divulge into my thoughts pertaining to the Kelowna Rockets, let me take a second to pat myself on the back for correctly identifying Jason Smith as a plausible coaching candidate for the Kelowna Rockets. Reminiscing all the way back to the Summer of 2015, in a piece I called Kelowna's "Rocket Man" (http://brettmurray.blogspot.ca/2015/07/kelownas-rocket-man.html),I created a blog post labelling five coaching commodities who could've been stellar fits for the Rockets, now granted at that time they went ahead with the ill advised decision to hire Brad Ralph, a year later they came to their senses and hired a man primed to do great things with this organization.  Jason Smith is about as hard nosed as they come, a quality that wasn't applicable to the ECHL tested Ralph but somebody who's come in at the right time in Kelowna as the superb skill is evident, the question or concern that some would have is if there's enough pugnacity on the back-end to compete with the Seattle's and Kamloops' of the world. With the impending losses of  Rourke Chartier, and Tyson Baillie, two key cogs that carried the Rockets attack the last two seasons, the narrative will be centered around Arizona Coyote property Nick Merkley who after an injury plagued season will be counted upon to produce gawdly numbers.

I find the twenty year old situation intriguing in the Okanagan. Assuming Rourke Chartier is gone to the American Hockey League, which I believe is a formality being as how he's signed by the San Jose Sharks, the three twenties will all be forwards in Riley Stadel, Justin Kirkland and Rodney Southam. Kirkland along with the aforementioned Merkley will be the catalyst of this offence so he's locked in to the top three. Stadel with his versatility has to find his way on this squad but the one where I do opine whether an upgrade would be advisable is with Southam.  Rodney who had the captaincy label bestowed upon him last year which could be his saving grace.for staying with Kelowna but don't shoot the messenger when I say I'm not so settled that Southam is Major Junior talent and that there should be an upgrade possibility on the open market. Let's talk further about Riley Stadel. Having only watched about three to four Rocket games last season, I'm puzzled asto what happened to his offensive levels. From forty three points in 2014-2015 to a whopping eight in 15/16.  Yes,I'm aware that Stadel often alternates between forward and defence and that attributes to the penal statistics but aside from that recognition, I think I've pinpointed for why Stadel's numbers stalled. Under Brad Ralph and  much will be the same with Jason Smith. he inherited more responsibility and forewent the desire to jump into the play and took more pride with protecting a overhauled defensive core, as was the case last year and helping out a young, inexperienced goaltender in Michael Herringer. The old rather be safe than sorry approach. I also find the increase in penalty minutes perplexing to Riley. Prior to this past season, Riley was a trust worthy presence under Dan Lambert but when Ralph began to call the shots, the discipline went out the window and that's partly why I believe General Manager Bruce Hamilton moved in a different direction, their was a lack of respect between player and coach. I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss the legendary work ethic Stadel carries with him to the rink each night. It's a rare occurrence that Stadel quits moving his feet, although you could argue last year the complication was that he left his feet too often attributing for the high quantity of penalties. It was a repeated observation that Riley and coach Ralph weren't a match made to succeed, but rest assured Jason Smith was made to develop players like Riley. In his NHL career Jason Smith was a rugged defenceman but let's not overlook the fact, at least from my vantage point had some puck skills, unfortunately for him had a shot that would make Charles Barkley proud(queue the Barkley-Kypreos video from last year's all star game). If he had any resemblance of a shot whatsoever we have may seen thirty to forty point seasons consistently  This attention to detail whilst encouraging enough freedom will be a welcome system for Mr.Stadel.  I preface the profiling of Stadel by saying by a wake of a miracle and Rourke is returned, Stadel conceivably could be on the move. All the chatter before the 2014-2015 season was how excited Rocket fans were with the pending debut of Dillon Dube. The scouting report that I read was insiders marvelling about his all around game but from what I've seen, I'm highly questioning this assertion. The first name that comes to mind regarding Dillon is Mike Fisher. Is Dillon set to wed an attractive up and coming country artist, you never know but it's the propensity to favor the pass even in paramount shooting areas that confirm the comparison but with the role he'll be asked to play,by Smith, somehow they have to re assure him that he's one of the leaders and Dube needs to add a selfish proponent. I find that on the power-play the unselfish reputation that he possesses is a hinderance because he seems to find the open areas with relative ease but then makes the unnecessary extra pass. The back checking component is also where Dillon could improve and more than anything that's where Jason will be an asset. Dillon and Stadel are at opposite ends of the spectrum in how the buy in to the defensive philosophy. This was accepted(at times) last year because their was an influx of scoring but with goal guarantees expected to deplete, he has to be 1000 X more consciousness of looking after his assignments in the defensive zone. He was seen as a potential first round pick in last summers NHL draft, and I tend to believe it was his one sided game that dropped him to late in the second rounds. Concerns about being too small upfront are had by more than me correct?  With who I anticipate to return, fore checking and picking apart a defence will be a difficult task. Hamilton's teams were big and fast in nature especially up front, but this group will rely on finesse and positioning. The most staunch Rocket supporters won't be used to this structure but sometimes you have to adjust to incorporate the skill set you've been handed.

All Kelowna does is  produce defenceman right? This is a long standing misnomer as sure they've sent the likes of  Luke Schenn, Shea Weber and Tyler Myers among others to the National Hockey League but in all actuality and feel free to disagree. the forwards have mostly driven the organization but not this go around. After last year was a transitioning year which saw Devante Stephens, who I'll get to in a New York minute, Cal Foote and Lucas Johansen step into leadership roles with the club and in year two of this movement much more will be expected.  The back end unequivocally is the calling card for Kelowna and is only bolstered through Smith's experience. I already was fascinated with how good Devante could one day become and with Jason on board the sky is literally the limit. I  recall I fantasized over his plight in last year's preview and would say he had a C + plus season after having the Buffalo Sabres pick him in the fifth round. There's just a little something missing in his game, it's hard to illustrate but there wasn't enough decisiveness in his repertoire. He has top end speed but the problem facing Devante, a problem facing many other juniors his age is that he hasn't figured out when and when not to jump into the play, It's not an exact science I'll admit that but I would anticipate that Smith will teach him that he can attack more frequently due to his speed. I admittedlty saw more Kelowna contests the year before last and would say their that Stephens was more engaged in all facets, and the compete level fell of a tad under Ralph. I don't know how many times I can stress that Ralph and Hamilton stated as much, the right fit at the wrong time for where they were in the program. Smith's tutelage for Devante is practically invaluable and I guarantee we'll see him reach the thirty point plateau without evaporating the punishing style Rocket fans have become accustomed to. Another decorated defenceman the Rockets have their hands on is none other than Adam Foote's son, Cal. All it took was one International Summer tournament for my opinion on the player to drastically season. After flirting with NCAA commitments, Cal joined Kelowna as a seventeen year old and left a lot to be desired. I thought he was slow on foot(forgive the pun) and didn't exude a National Hockey League prospect. What a difference  a summer makes as he went from an afterthought to someone I'm genuinely excited in watching this year. Cal was invited to Hockey Canada's summer showcase which consisted of exhibition matches against the Americans, Fins,etc etc and was extravagant to put it mildly. Thomas Chabot I would probably consider Canada's top defenceman in these brief viewings but conversely I have no problem proclaiming that Foote may of been the second best d-man there. I was taken away by his performance. This slow footed, stationery defenceman that I was privy to last season transformed into a puck moving defenceman who wasn't  a liability in his own zone. Perhaps I watched Cal's off nights  as these performances are seemingly a thing of the past and although I'll reveal my awards after the preview is completed has been shortlisted for Defenceman of the Year. From a top three perspective, the way I see things dusting off are Cal slotting in as the number one, the brute physique in Stephens as the number two and the offensive dynamo as the third on the depth chart. Pair these three with Jonathan Smart and you all of a sudden have a very formidable top four, a top four that goes unrivaled by anyone else. If they address some offensive shortcomings I foresee then I will be the first to fall on my sword and indicate I've rated these Rockets too low. The Kamloops Blazers, a team for which they just handed off Joe Gatenby, a deal made possible from the aforementioned tremendous depth will be the top challenger in the division and we could see another year of captivating Blazer-Rocket rivalry hockey.

On multiple occasions, I referenced the fact that there are select teams in the league that have staggering depth between the pipes and a handful of teams that could be in need of one, I choose to include the Kelowna Rockets in this list. After Jackson Whistle prematurely put a halt on his junior career due to an injury, the team called up Brodan Salmond from Camrose of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but the front page story is what to do Michael Herringer. Is Herringer worth making one of Stadel or Southham expendable? If that's the mindset of the organization, I simply do not agree. I eloquently laid out the role of where I see Riley fitting in and Rodney is the heart and soul of the franchise. Let's face the facts here, Herringer was given ample playing time and frankly didn't make the most of it. Full disclosure that he shockingly transitioned into a poor man's Kelly Guard when they narrowly escaped the Victoria Royals in what unquestionably was one of the more epic series in some time, but it was the regular season splits that leave me skeptical. Ignore wins and losses as team quality will dictate that but there were waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many games that Michael forgot to show up and would lay a stinker. For a team that I would hope has championship aspirations this lack of consistency can't be tolerated. If I was Hamilton, this is the direction I would take.....to me Salmond showed enough in limited action that ideally if needed he could start thirty games for you and there's a kid out of Moose Jaw who no one  talks about as he'll again hide behind Zach Sawchenko in Brody Wilms that would be the exqusite fan in Rocket land. I'm telling you all, this guys a stud and it would be a better use of asset management going to war with Salmond-Wilms opposed to the alternative. Herringer has a noble and loyal member of the organization but unfortunately falls victim to more pressing team needs.

#bb18 Power Rankings(Week of August 21st)

The twists have interfered with the game. It's that simple. I didn't think it was humanly possible for this many twists to continually benefit James and Natalie. From James cancelling two votes that essentially sealed Zakiyah's fate, a player that along with Paulie would've been opposed "Jatalie" in the end game then to have Michelle win the American's care package that allowed herself to win co Head of Household working closely alongside Natalie is a dream scenario for the duo. At this rate, this season has gotten more convoluted then Big Brother Canada 3, a look I would've thought CBS would have attempted to avoid. A James-Natalie final two, however improbable would be an appropriate finish to Bachelor in Paradise on CBS(O wait, this is Big Brother?).

7.James-Here's the god honest truth, and I alluded to this in my opening, James is probably going to win the game. By saying that, I don't respect any phase of his game. His affection for the girl has greatly assisted Natalie's potential and has him riding coattails. In the season of twists this riding coattail "strategy" that James has endeavoured upon is infuriating for the viewer. If he wins, or comes anywhere close to winning America's favourite player, then I question the legitimacy of the voting as everything I've read on social media has Mr.Huling getting panned for this game play. Frankly, I'd be more comfortable endorsing Corey for AFP compared to him. Back to a game play perspective, Michelle's co HOH is massive for the duo as in fairness to him, I think the idea to target Victor(although this morning I'm reading the target may have changed back to Corey) is their right game move, next Thursday's Buy Back not withstanding. A showmance keeping another showmance in the house is an apt thought process and I think at least for the time being, keeping Nicole and Corey in the house increases Jatalie's longevity. The latest feedback I've received that Corey is now in danger is fitting and speaks to the incompetency of his game.

6.Victor-In a season that featured a Calafiore, it's ironic that their is somebody playing a vintage Calalafiore game, and it wasn't Paulie.....that mantra belongs to Victor. His insistence to ride to the end with Paul is identical to the way Cody was blindly willing to run with Derrick. Paul will beat Victor in a final two scenario, something that no one can truly refute. Aside from how I feel about his game I will vocalize that his image has taken a complete 180 turn. From the goofball, so far removed from the inner happenings of the house edit he received in the first two weeks to now, a relateable character who has chanelled a Malcom Freberg competitive spirit. How can Victor maneuver his way to the top of the standings? For one, he has to survive this eviction and even though right now the house has flipped back to the Texan Corey my internal gut says Victor will be the one sent back to the second buy back competition. If my gut is correct, could you imagine how hilarious that would be if VIctor reigns victorious again and re-enters in the house? He has two strikes, but they say you're not out until the third.

5.Michelle-It's been one wild roller coaster this summer pertaining to my thoughts of Michelle. From declaring her a winner's threat three weeks ago to then siding with RHAP correspondent Alex Kidwell that his "drawing dead" remark had merit to then based on the double eviction outcome transpired echoing that she had a chance to as we currently stand. She's back to drawing dead unless another twist is announced that plays to her benefit. I'm sure she was jumping the joy over being awarded the Care Package from America but sadly she misused the power egregiously. I know there will be some reading this that the way she used was correct, but I vehemently disagree. Not to sound like I'm contradicting myself but the person she should've nominated was James and I'll explain why. By addressing the threat of James, she would've then opened up the window to exclusively work with Natalie and she would've been amicable being as how she's all about girl power this season. I can agree with the premise that being in the middle of two showmances can be advantageous to a certain point but that point has now passed. It's the time to target one of the couples and for Michelle it would have made more sense to push James out as opposed to Corey due to the relationship with Natalie being more stable compared to her bond with Nicole. Also, and I can't stress the importance of this a James ouster by Michelle would've elevated her all the way to the top as I can't get over my disdain of James. This is a comparison that I haven't penned but I've thought for a long time, James is to Big Brother as Rupert Boneham is to Survivor.

4.Natalie-Fate is largely relevant in the Big Brother house. For Natalie, from what I've heard and read, if either Bridgette or Michelle had won the veto during the Double Eviction Corey would've replaced the nomination with Natalie and the back door was in motion. That didn't happen, Natalie is alive and well and now has won her first H.O.H of her Big Brother career. Paul being a popular character aside, like I already mentioned the decision to nominate Paul and Victor was strategically sound as it kept the alternative couple in the house as bait for next week's Head of Household. In a final four consisting of James/Natalie/Paul/Michelle, a real possibility I don't for a second believe that Paul would side with Jatalie, would clearly arrange a final two deal with Big Meech. This is where being  in a Big Brother relationship can be crippling. No one in their right mind will want to discuss any final two arrangements because you're locked in with your partner.  I've been crucified for my negativity regarding Natalie but here's the unvarnished truth, I want you any of you to provide me with a feasible theory with how she wins the game? Does she beat James? No, even though her game is superior, Paulie, assuming he doesn't re enter his game has a polarizing personality that will push his will on fellow jury members to award James with the 500K. Does she triumph over Michelle? If the brief jury segment was any indication then the infatuation they have over Michelle is greater then the most? And to quickly run down the rest of the list, doesn't beat Corey because Mr.Brooks is getting a misleading edit, Nicole will have the Paulie and Corey factor in jury and Paul doesn't lose to anybody. I'm convincing myself as I type this that Michelle should be ranked four with Natalie five.

3.Corey-Remember and I've stated this a few times, my rankings don't always reflect the climate in the house, the rankings are formulated in such a way with all things being equal who has the best chances to win. Corey is likely going home this week but I'm hoping James will come to his senses and make the right decision. To best describe Corey's game, he's loyal to a fault, entered into an alliance and really has been the only one all season who has never wavered. As someone who dreams over the possibility of playing Big Brother(Canada) one day it disturbs me with the image the show has created of him. I'm not saying I'd enlist in the same game play as Corey because our personalities are vastly different but what upsets me is that not once have they showed the audience a segment where he's rolling ideas off his alliance mates. He's a quieter individual so it's more difficult to portray, I get that but that doesn't mean he's not contributing ideas to the group. If you watch the jury segment closely, when Corey is shown to have won the H.O.H in the double, Da'Vonne hints to the fact that he's finally showing his true colors as if to say that the impression of most houseguests had towards him was that he was playing an under the radar game with "playing" the operative word. Houseguests know he's not just some door knob and has substance. If the cards align right this week and he's allowed to continue using Nicole as a shield, I'm not discounting a win just yet.

2.Nicole-She's a good, borderline great week in the house. You're wondering how when Corey is imminent danger could this be a good week? For the same reason Natalie's chances improve if James leaves, a similar train of thought could be parlayed to Nicole if Corey exits. Nicole has NOT been good television this season and if you're on Team Sabrina from Big Brother Canada two, you know that we want good T.V, but from a game perspective, she's nicely positioned herself. This petty tiff with Natalie seems to be a thing of the past and her relationship with Victor is, if for no other word, "fixable". Paul made a move calling out Nicole and Corey, obviously to save his own ass and his sermon may have followers as Michelle is for the time being ready to say see you later to the duo. The thought process behind ranking Nicole at two is due to the fact that IF Corey goes, and I'm caving into the if game here Nicole can side with James and Natalie because once Nicorey is broken up, the third tight bond will again be targeted leaving Nicole as a valuable free agent. Nicole wins this game if she does the only beneficial strategical procedure and cuts Natalie and takes her fellow veteran James to the finals. A Nicole/James final two, great if CBS wants their lowest ever television audience.

1.Paul-Natalie had me worried that Paul was set to jetisson out of the house. Luckily Paul squeaked out the Veto win and is securely fastened up ready to make  a prosperous run in this game. Anyone not considering Paul the favourite(*cough, Taran Armstrong, cough*) is about as perceptive as Buffalo Bills former running back Karlos Williams who thought he made the valiant decision to come to training camp 50 pounds overweight. Not a smart move! Paul averted danger, may of left Victor hanging but Team Friendship is no worse for wear. The only guaranteed all-star out of this season but then again I said the same thing about Johnny Mac last year and look what that got me, a James return!?! There are a plethora of reasons to be enamored with Paul not the least of which is his ability to make savvy game moves but then not hold personal grudges. Case in point last week where Paulie was out the door and could've been a real jackass and aleniate the New Jersey native like most did but he took the time to reinvigorate the friendship and if Paulie's the one who wins the buy back, then a noble tip of the cap to the 2017 America's Favourite Player and Big Brother Champion.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016-2017 Pre-Season Western Hockey League Report(Team 8)

8.Tri-City Americans-Long gone are the days where the Brooks Macek and Johnny Lazo led Ams paved their way to a league final in 2009-2010. I found it surprising after doing research for this piece that the Americans haven't had the honour of hoisting the League Championships in their twenty seven year history. From Stu Barnes to Scott Gomez to Daymond Langkow, Tri-Cities has had a celebrated past producing players to the next level headlined by current Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. In the last three to four seasons, the American franchise has teetered with ambiguity as the direction they were headed wasn't a path normally taken as General Manager Bob Tory ventured into an unorthodox approach,  an overture that the American franchises have the advantage of doing by stockpiling Americans knowing that they're more responsive to staying south of the border as opposed to relocating to Western Canada. Unfortunately for Tory,  Brandon Carlo was the only American who materialized in  any way shape or form(position players). To name a few, Justin Gutierrez, Brian Williams(sans 2013-2014) and Justin Togiai are players that were touted commodities that likely otherwise wouldn't of considered other markets but flamed out in Kennewick. Due to the repeated failures of Americans it's as of no surprise that they've scaled back the American implosion and on the 2016/2017 roster, I only project four Yankees. Some will suggest I'm coming off a  little unhinged for ranking Tri-City this high, but those that don't view these American markets a lot don't appreciate the fact that some of these players are vastlly underrated and if they played somewhere that received more Western Canadian media attention you wouldn't be having this level of skepticism.  How I would define the Ams would be an incredibly big, persistent forechecking team who will wear you out. Truly the issue over the past couple seasons has been the sheer inexperience. They've imposed their physical will last season but Coach Mike Williamson just couldn't find the right message to nurture the youthful excitement and stress discipline. Hockey has become such a special teams oriented entity that to accumulate six hundred and twenty eight penalty minutes cant be accepted again. I saw signs of this group ready to burst forth consistent performances, didn't quite happen but I'm confident this is the year where they shore up the lapses and meet the expectations I had for them last year.

I alluded to the "youthful excitement" that the Americans exhibited at times last season but after doing  a double take on the roster, it donned upon me that last year's team wasn't as unripe as I first believed. The implication here is that the onus is on Mike Williamson to better choose a leadership group that will buy into the importance of discipline while not straying away from the trademark run and gun style Mike has implemented. Up front, I don't want to say the offence starts with this individual because that  belongs to Jordan Topping but it's imperative the Americans get an increased contribution out of Morgan Geekie. I'm probably overrating the offense Morgan's capable of but in my limited viewings, I've noticed that one similar observation remains in tact and that's that Morgan eliminates any offensive creativity that he has in the tool box and over expends himself trying to mimic the techniques Coach Williamson has instilled, always laying the heavy hit at the expense of making a play. When a young Geekie is on the bench watching the likes of Taylor Vickerman and Michael Rasmussen run a player out of the Toyota Center, he naturally wants to replicate what he sees but what he forgets that for in the case of Vickerman, a player with noted off ice leadership I would expect to return this season, his veteran presence allows him the knowledge of when to pick and choose when to  be aggressive and when to assist a linemate in a puck battle. Rasmussen on the other hand and this may sound like a bold proclamation but has had an excellent summer in Hockey Canada opportunities and is a darkhorse for the Western Conference player of the year can fall back on extreme skill that makes up for that fine line between aggressiveness and excessive force. Can you really blame the kid though? This is an eighteen year old who just finished his first full season in the league and will do anything and everything to impress the coaching staff. What I'm hoping Morgan will get out of watching tape is that he was too out of control at times, and I don't know why I remember this but because I do I'll reference a game I was watching on WHL live featuring the host Americans versus the Kamloops Blazers, and Geekie was blazing down the right wing about to challenge Kamloops' European defenceman Vala, Vala who realized was under pressure quickly wrapped the puck around the net right on the stick of another American, and while a more offensively aware specimen  would be rushing to the net captivated by a scoring chance, Geekie elected to finish the check on Vala whilst not providing a passing lane for his winger. It's this responsive hockey that he didn't pick up on throughout the last campaign. Reeling this combativeness will be on the docket for the coaching staff this fall. Another eighteen year old highlights why I'm so optimistic pertaining to this unit. That would be Parker AuCoin. With fellow four year stalwarts in Beau McCue and Parker Bowles, the Calgary native AuCoin after two years of "rotting" on the fourth line is at a climatic point in his WHL career. Can I just say before I continue on with my profile of Parker, before I forget is that it's my estimations that the Americans may in fact have the best crop of 1998's in the league and add that to the ledger for why I have them rated so exquisitely. AuCoin is clearly frustrated by the lack of playing time? Can you blame him, not necessarily because the Americans have been retooling their core around this 1998 age group but yet Parker has been hidden behind older, less impactful players and hasn't been given the leeway to grow from mistakes. Like the old adage states, you can't do what you're not allowed and Parker has been on such tight restrictions that he's timid when he does see rare ice time. The 401 on AuCoin coming into the league from his Minor Bantam days was that he was a scoring chance, potting 63 in his draft year which preceded his fifteenth overall selection. AuCoin isn't exactly a Mike Williamson type of player but every team requires variance and AuCoin does covet higher end foot speed but he has the mitts that a lot of others in his age group aspire to have. I just spent time theorizing on how Geekie can become a more effective WHLer and that was through slowing the game down and being more cognizant of where the puck was. Conversely with AuCoin his natural instincts are sufficient for the Major Junior Level but conditioning could come into question. There are alot of American fans questioning expending the first round pick on Parker in what amounted to be a very deep draft class but I want to caution against completely turning against the player. The term late bloomer is prevalent across Canadian Hockey League circles. I reminisce back to,keeping this line of thought entrenched in the WHL, Michael Ferland and T.J Foster as players now maybe not as revered as AuCoin coming into the league but found their stride later on. I can guarantee the frustration isn't a one way street as Am management who's in desperate need of offence need at least a proficient level of production out of Parker or they will have to look at upgrading that slot. I personally would view a trade of Parker a mistake as I just referenced two late bloomers and there are many others Patience is a virtue that the American hierarchy should adopt. Essentially as evidenced from my lofty ranking, I'm not calling a league championship but if the development of some meets their criteria, a league title in 2017/2018 is within reach. Carson Focht coming in this year and a player I regret not analyzing in Sasha Mutala who in my eyes should've been the number one overall pick in this past May's Bantam Draft compounds what projects to be a very bright future.

Brandon Carlo's presence will obviously be missed but with the up tempo nature prescribed, the argument could be made that the cerebral nature of Brandon's game wasn't the ideal fit for this nucleus. Not intending to rag on Brandon's game as he'll do just admirably spending next year in Providence of the AHL but my  point stands of his game not meshing with what the Americans envision in their number one defenceman. The fact of the matter is Carlo's strengths were to slow the game down and methodically assess where the optimum place to distribute the  puck was but in actuality it was this mindset that screeched the offense to  a halt and took away any fluency.  Everyone that I talk has nothing but positive remarks for Parker Wotherspoon. The entire organization last year had tempered expectations and I truly believe if they would have found the appproriate asking price for Brandon they would've made the move by acknowledging the level of confidence they had in Parker. Wotherspoon in many respects, particularly when Carlo was away playing for team U.S.A at the World Juniors evolved into their number one defenceman and this assertion could be backed up statistically. Just like his older brother Tyler, former Portland Winterhawk his superb offensive instincts. The jury is certainly still out on whether or not he possesses the body maturity to be an every day player at the National Hockey League, already at nineteen undeniably it has not come yet. but his power play quarterbacking ability gives him a leg up on the rest of the WHL competition. I just finished referring to the question marks I have with his physical maturity and for that reason I refuse to classify him in my top five current defenceman but he could very well have the best offensive chops league wide coming from a d-man. This may be a pipe dream but with the forwards expected to blossom I wouldn't rule out the potential of Parker(what's with all these Parkers?) surpassing the eighty point  plateau. I genuinely dou if we'll ever see a closer carbon copy of  a Mike Williamson coveted defenceman. All the boxes get checked off. Next p is another 1998 born, Nanaimo native Dylan Coghlan. While Wotherspoon is very much a rover, Coghlan is more comparable to what Carlo delivered. I referenced in the opening that the Americans were built ginormously, case in point unless Seth Bafaro cracks the lineup which remains a slight chance at best, then EVERY defenceman will be 6'0 or taller. Coghlan's attributes lend itself to a simple game, he'll sit back even when the time calls to jump into the rush. It's the passive approach that in my mind is selling himself short.  He has the aptitude to be more assertive in the other teams zone as he really does have a tremendous wrist shot, maybe not the most firm shot but accurate. This is a summarization that is applicable to a lot of junior aged defenceman but if  he just let his natural instincts kick in, his efficiency would sky rocket as he's already polished defensively. His ceiling is the aforementioned Carlo and he'll have hopefully learned enough from his predeccesor and apply himself as a top two defenceman this season.

Tri-City supporters have been spoiled by the riches of past goaltenders, Eric Comrie and Carey Price notably but rest assured Ams, incumbent Evan Sarthou is no slouch. In fact, Evan's presence is largely why I'm so confident, a lot more than others heading into this season.Sure, the likes of Carter Hart and Zach Sawchenko will still the national headlines but it won't be before long that Sarthou is enshrined in that same category. Internally Evan knew he had what it took to be an above average starter in this league and I'm sure left the Toyota Centre angry some nights feeling he deserved more starts playing behind Winnipeg Jets prospect Eric Comrie. What he may not have realized at the time that I'm hoping he's appreciative of know is learning from one of the best goaltenders to grace our league was a blessing and the skill set is better for it. Goal support during last year's run was hit and miss but for a team that didn't qualify for the post-season, his statistics were admirable, As the team's expectations rise so should Sarthou's. With minimal attention from NHL teams, conceivable Evan should hang around for his twenty year old season and by that juncture competing for a conference championship will be the goal from the onset. To have rock solid option in Evan is a luxury not gone unnoticed for Bob Tory and staff.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016 NFL Prognostications

Hello folks,

Every year I like to share my predictions for professional sports. For the National Football League, I'll compile a list for how I see the season playing out followed by administering out a few prominent awards.

AFC

East:

1.New England(3)
2.Buffalo(6)
3.Miami
4.New York Jets

South:

1.Jacksonville(2)
2.Indianapolis
3.Houston
4.Tennessee

North:

1.Pittsburgh(4)
2.Baltimore(5)
3.Cincinnati
4.Cleveland

West:

1.Kansas City(1)
2.Oakland
3.Denver
4.San Diego


NFC

East:

1.New York Giants(4)
2.Philadelphia
3.Dallas
4.Washington

North:

1.Green Bay(1)
2.Minnesota(5)
3.Chicago
4.Detroit

South:

1.Carolina(2)
2.Tampa Bay(6)
3.New Orleans
4.Atlanta


West:

1.Los Angeles(3)
2.Seattle
3.Arizona
4.San Francisco

PLAYOFFS

Wildcard:

(6) Buffalo @ (3)New England=New England
(5)Baltimore @ (4)Pittsburgh=Baltimore

(6)Tampa Bay @ (3)Los Angeles=Tampa Bay
(5) Minnesota @ (4) New York Giants=Minnesota


Divisional:

(5) Baltimore @ (1)Kansas City=Baltimore
(3) New England @ (2)Jacksonville=New England

(6) Tampa Bay @ (1)Green Bay=Green Bay
(5) Minnesota @ (2) Carolina=Minnesota


Championship:

(5) Baltimore @ (1) New England=Baltimore

(5) Minnesota @ (2) Green Bay=Green Bay


Super Bowl:

(5) Baltimore @ (2) Green Bay=Baltimore


MAJOR AWARDS

Coach of the Year:Gus Bradley(Jackonsville)

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT Sheldon Rankins(New Orleans)

Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Derrick Henry(Tennessee)

Defensive Player of the Year:OLB Robert Mathis(Indianapolis)

Offensive Player of the Year:QB Aaron Rodgers(Green Bay)







2016-2017 Pre-Season Western Hockey League Report(Teams 9 and 10)

10.Prince George Cougars-Tonight on a junior hockey forum I got into a harmless scuffle about whether or not my ranking was too extreme pertaining to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. I'm not one to backdown from my assertions easily but when I really examined my list, I asked myself who would I possibly move down to elevate the ranking of the Hurricanes? I looked at my list a few times and had trouble pinning but then it donned on me right before I was to begin the Cougars synopsis that I have Prince George at number ten. I'm self doubting this ranking a little bit as there are some noticeable flaws in the structure of this team and could be persuaded to alter my opinion ever so slightly. Ultimately what led me to this number was the expectations that were bestowed upon them last year, albeit that weren't met but with the core in tact again heading into 2016/2017, these same expectations should remain in tow. Mark Hollick took the fall for last year's second half tail spin and the jury is out whether former Dallas Star great Richard Matvichuk can be the voice that will correct the demons hovering around the dressing room but as mentioned, there's an abundance of talent here and the Cougars will need to advance to the second round for this year not to be considered a mitigated disaster.

Before I get started with my thoughts with the forwards, let's address this purported awkward environment that has been created with the Prince George Cougars administration. Don't get wrong, the way things are conducted in Prince George are miles ahead with the way things used to be handled. A different ownership has been brought to the forefront headlined by Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis and all is good from a stability perspective as rumours of relocation persisted under previous guideship. However when Todd Harkins was hired on as the General Manager in Summer 2014, the original semantics of this situation didn't look from this bloggers perspective as it screamed  a recruitment tactic to lure young Jansen, Todd's son to Prince George. I'm not here tonight to opine that Jansen was ever wavering but to seal the deal bringing in Todd put pen to paper. Jansen is a top talent, is he as prominent as some will have you believe, don't think so but he unequivocally is a number one center. The spoken awkwardness that I eluded to earlier deals with the external favouritism that those outside the organization can't help but think exists. He had a very suspect fifty seven points a year ago and was arguably their fourth best forward but when push came to shove who took the all  important face offs late in games? It certainly wasn't the more deserving Brad Morrison. The other coach/son relationship that was prevalent in the Western League although I'm sure I'm missing somebody obvious was Brandon and Brent Sutter. When Brandon was a Rebel, he was clearly an upper echelon talent carrying his defensive exploits to the World Junior Hockey Championship so it wasn't a question of belonging, it's a question of his teammates buying into the team concept knowing full well that Brandon would probably be given preferential treatment and wouldn't be held accountable for mistakes.  The Rebels, expectations aside never flourished during the Brandon/Brent experiment and at least partially I liken the correlation to some jealousy amongst his teammates. The Cougars haven't succeeded under the Harkins leadership regime and what was just explored with my Red Deer example applies to Northern B.C. Toxic environment or not, a winning culture hasn't subsited and one wonders if this is starting to aggravate center Brad Morrison. The 2012 seventh overall Bantam Pick came to the Cougs under great fan fare and that translates into a player with professional aspirations.  The Western Kelowna product ended up hearing his name called in the fourth round by the New York Rangers, while I'm sure he's grateful for being drafted, there's irrefutably some dissension brewing that he had to wait until the fourth. I'm not meaning to rag on Jansen but unless new coach Matvichuk has plans to convert one to the wing, Brad may favour a change of scenery if it means staying on the second line. I just touched on Morrison, speculating onto whether he's content with his role, well the "next" Brad Morrison could very well be Jackson Leppard. Forgive me if my memory has failed but I'm positive one of the two regular season games Jackson was pencilled in for last season happened to be when the Cougars visited Regina but if it wasn't, then a game I saw on WHL Live streams left me amazed. Already at 6'2, he's going to continue to fill out his body. In a very small sample size(one game) the best Western Hockey league comparable I could come up with is Carter Ashton. Ashton wasn't an elite scorer in this league and I don't anticipate Jackson will be one either but it's the intangibles that stand out, At the major junior level, I'd be surprised if he ever exceeded the twenty goal plateau as he's erratic with the puck but skates exceptionally well, the prototypical power forward if you will. The type of skill set Leppard brings to the table is he'll crash and bang to make a play, not a mannerism that usually comes with a sixteen year old entering the league. The comfortability he'll take, and I want to predicate this by saying it's a stretch, from playing alongside Justin Almeida, a player who'll able to bond with Jackson over their shared minor hockey affiliation playing for the North Shore winter club will better acclimatize Jackson to the rigors of the league. I could go on and on about the potential of Jackson but I honestly believe the Ashton comparison does him justice. Without truly knowing the type of style Matvichuk will implement due to knowing very little about his coaching background, I'll be interested to see whether it varies from the up tempo Hollick way of doing things. although if we apply the type of player Richard was in the National Hockey League to the way he may teach the game a rugged,resistive approach could be in store. Is this the right approach, probably not as Prince George is built around brazen speed but if this is indeed the fabric installed then a player like Colby McAuley could prosper. Looking at the roster breakdown, I'd be foolish not to agree with the notion that the Cougars have a weaker crop of 1996's sans the consistent defenceman Sam Ruopp who the assumption is will be back. I would normally advocate that General Manager Harkins look into acquiring a twenty year old forward but with the market so thin already, not sure if this is a realistic possibility. This is where Colby steps in and becomes that trusted presence. As a 1996 born, he has got to scrap the fighting from his repertoire. No team, I don't care the circumstances can afford to have an overager there with the sole responsibility of fighting. I'm not fully implying that's all he can offer an organization as McAuley's forty one points over the past two seasons tell a different story but the 156 PIM is a major red flag for me. It's simple, this projects out as an one dimensional team and if McAuley can stay out of the box he'll be that one individual that'll be sent out late in the games and kill an important penalty. If he resorts back to last year's habit, then Harkins will be left with no choice but to upgrade in a sparse market.

I would imagine, I haven't talked to many that are close to the Cougars organization, that a lot of these fans are satisfied with the forward depth but cringe over the defenceman that are set to patrol the blueline. I don't share this belief in the slightest, and I'll be the first(okay maybe not the first) to admit that aside from Sam Ruopp who is universally revered in the league, some of these other defenceman aren't respected and for that this back end is a perceived weakness. One particularly that I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up is Tate Olson. Ruopp's just like his brother, former Prince Albert Raider Harrison is a stud and somebody you can safely insert as a number one defenceman but it's Tate who I have no doubt is the most talented and has the highest upside. As I specified earlier, I'm not one who has any familiarity with Matvichuk the coach but disregarding the coaching aspect Matvichuk has been through the ups and downs of professional hockey and the tips he would've picked up along the way will be invaluable to this Cougar core. Having played with two of the league's great defenceman in Sergei Zubov and Derian Hatcher the wealth of knowledge he's acquired is unquantifiable. From Zubov's smooth skating and ability to make stellar reads in the offensive zone to Hatcher's punishing style, he's seen all designs at the highest level. Prince George's hockey operations staff will describe Tate as a burgeoning puck mover but where his real strengths lie are to intercept passes at his own blueline. This seems like such an exact observation but if you take the time to watch a complete shift of Olsen's, focus on his active stick as he's really good about interrupting a team's momentum into the zone. This active stick has contributed to his increasing numbers. I don't want to take any credit away from the positive influence Ruopp has had on him but as I mentioned earlier, Ruopp has a lower ceiling where Tate will be in the American Hockey League playing  a key role as early as next year. The small criticism of Olsen that I have and to clarify it's very small is that his back skating needs a minor undertaking.It's more of a concern when he's in a close knit one and one race because he can usually position himself well enough that hardly does he get caught flat footed. I'm a proponent on what he can accomplish and while my award predictions will come after the preview is complete, he's on the short list for the Western Conference Defenceman of the Year nominee. The name Reed Perepeluk will mean very little to people enamored with this organization.......for now as he's someone you'll be hearing lots of in the near future. Originally from Yorkton,Saskatchewan he made the peculiar move as a fifteen year  old to head to the Prince George area and immerse in the British Columbia Minor Midget league. A move like this is very rare but it shows dedication to the franchise. I'm only going to assume a move such as the one Reed partake in was done in unison with the Cougars and there's a high probability Reed will crack the roster full time this campaign. If this move was family related and nothing more then it's a classic case of me reading too much into the situation. The scouting report I have on Reed is that he's not afraid of the physical contact, not the greatest skater but has a Fulton Reed-esque shot.  I've heard the name of Griffen Reinhart thrown around describing Reed's game. What that explains to me is he'll be someone that won't see a lot of five on five minutes for this 16/17 season but will have the  know how to weave his way through penalty killing assignments. He's tough to play against and my suspicion is the water cooler conversation going around the Prince George area come this fall will be how in the heck did Reed fall to the sixth round? It's a question I ask myself but the bottom line your franchise now has a good, possibly great one in Perepeluk.

Training camp is going to decide a lot but none more than the wide open goaltending battle. Consensus is that Nick McBride has the  leading edge on the starter reigns but that is open for ample debate. Twenty year old Ty Edmonds isn't going to sit around and die, he's going to push the impending competition to the max. Additionally the name of Tavin Grant could throw a wrench into the plans. I can't formulate any scenario that would have the Cougars again riding the tandem of McBride and Edmonds with Grant waiting in the wings. Captain
Sam Ruopp is expected back and with the aforementioned McAuley fulfilling a needed role upfront it essentially comes down to either retaining Edmonds or holding on to defenceman Shaun Dosanjh. I can't see anyone convincing me otherwise that there's any real difference skill wise between Ty and Nick and with McBride being a 1997 born he wins the race for that reason. Twenty year olds, specifically goalies are nearly impossible to trade so it's plausible that Edmonds may have to finish his career in Junior A. Exciting times for Nick because even though in the opening I alluded to the possibility that this organization may have been ranked marginally too high, it'll be a competitive club nonetheless and McBride will be quintessential to the plight of the team.


9.Brandon Wheat Kings-Is there a more deserving individual to finally after years of exemplary service  receive a promotion than Kelly McCrimmon? McCrimmon who was hired on by George McPhee's expansion Las Vegas staff in preparation for the 2017/2018 NHL season will thrive in the role as the Assistant General Manager because there aren't many, if any at all that are more in tune with what kind of player has what it takes as his talent assessments are on fleek 90% of the time, The Wheat Kings are your Western Hockey League defending champions but are in the midst of an organizational change that will see, if various reports are true which I amount  to where there's smoke there's fire will name David Anning as it's next Head Coach. A good choice because as the Wheat Kings look to enter a new phase in their program, a younger innovative coach might be admissible to accepting mistakes from the surplus of young players that will be in camp this season as with expectations lowered, though not too much lower. That will be the misconception most will have with the Wheaties this coming season, are they the league favourites, no but the mastery of McCrimmon was that clearly during contending years he would stock the fridge full of brand name products, but it was the no name grub unnoticeable in the back of fridge that turns into award winning cuisine if cooked right. McCrimmon always knew the proper temperature to set the stove at which supplanted his icon status but the onus will now likely be on Anning to assess the frigidness of some of these unheralded sixteen years olds as a previous penchant of McCrimmon was to not rush a rookie into the lineup. With a league championship now in pocket and with McCrimmon out the door I would imagine this philosophy and direction from management will be more lenient to allow not just the younger players, but allowing Anning himself to grow. There's still a lot to like about this coming year being driven by possible(not likely) first overall pick Nolan Patrick.

I could throw out a million superlatives the way of Nolan Patrick but there's nothing I could write about him that hasn't already been said. He will enter the campaign as the pre-season consensus to win the Most Valuable award but there's a couple blemishes on the scorecard that need correcting. I do wonder at times whether Nolan has mentally checked out from knowing that it would take multiple unforeseen circumstances for him not to play in the NHL in 17/18. The press came out heavy even before last season commenced that Patrick would inevitably be the number one overall pick two years in advance and you fear that he let the accolades get to his head. This may have attributed to his slow start last go around as Jayce Hawruyluk and Quenneville took the team on their back early with Nolan in the back seat enjoying the ride. If I was a NHL scout I'd be weary of this as a star player as we've seen out of Connor McDavid and Mitch Marner in recent years relish being the one that has the puck on their stick in high octane moments and rise to the occasion. Conversely wit the Wheat Kings star I've been noticing somebody who is a sound player in all three zones but lacks the flash to singlehandedly take over the game. I don't think any Wheat King fan would argue with the thought that on last year's team that Jayce, Quenneville and even McGauley when healthy played with more passion. I don't know whether lackadaisical is the right adjective but that will to win isn't evident at all times. From my vantage point he's a frustrating player to watch develop because as I just mentioned, he's a monster in all facets when his head's on straight. He's built like a power forward, has one of the games best wrist shots and channels his inner Ramzi Abid when stick handling and dangling through defenders. You're reading this and I absolutely know the thought going through most of your heads, "who does this clown think he is scolding unarguably the league's best player in the last five years, I mean does he not see that he accumulated 102 pts?". Points aside as I can't stress enough he was benefited more by his linemates then his linemates benefited playing with him I just know there's  more in the tank. Special players are never satisifed and it's the external display of being content has me cautious deeming him a special player. He's a good player that has NHL superstar potential. The name Joe Thornton has been used in comparison and while that's flattering, a more apt National Hockey League comparison would be New York Ranger Derek Stepan. Watching the way Stepan has stepped into the Ranger lineup and effectively has earned an all around game mantra is how I see Patrick fitting in with whatever NHL club chooses him. Contrary to popular belief I don't see him going first overall and it will be very interesting if  a McCrimmon employed Las Vegas ends up siding with his former pupil. Could you imagine if the Vegas expansion comes to the  podium next summer and passes on McCrimmon? That finally may be what it takes for the sports media to forget about this bizarre Ryan Lochte robbing scandal. Because a few top end guys are gone, no need to repeat the names for a third time at best I'm calling for Nolan to tally eighty points. As much as folks across the dub over appreciate the value of what Nolan can offer, there's a glaring under appreciation for one Duncan Campbell. First let me acknowledge that the overage conundrum exists and their are four quality players fighting for three spots. In reality it's only three for two as Goaltender Jordan Papirny barring something drastic will be between the pipes again. Tyler Coulter, Duncan Campbell and Reid Duke are the three in question and I'll play ball by agreeing that Campbell is the least talented out of the bunch but possesses fundamentals that make him more valuable then Reid and Tyler.  All four are deserving of remaining in the league and if I were a betting man which I am then Reid will be the one they'll attempt to move and my inkling is Swift Current could be a wise trading partner but that's neither here nor there. Duncan is one of those players that works incredibly hard and can be a ready replacement spelling a struggling player on the top two lines. Versatility resembles Duncan in spades as not only can he if needed play on the top two, he has the speed to act as a shut down for the oppositions top players. Such a smart hockey player, he's the type of property that every team needs and Anning will salivate over the intangibles Duncan will showcase. It will be difficult to lose the scoring out of Reid Duke with most of the snipers leaving town but as a reward for Duncan's patience, I see his inclusion as a formality. I promised I'd forecast my thoughts on the youth movement. Caiden Daley will be assured a spot but the forward I want to analyze is Jeremy Klessens. I respect a player like Jeremy because he knew heading into this sixteen year old season last year he was deserving of a position in this league but with the direction that the Wheaties were headed a spot for a fringe sixteen year old wasn't in the cards. He buckled down, forewent another year in Midget AAA by heading to the Olds Grizzlies of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and physically matured. If there was any question which I don't think there was about him being ready  for the marathon regular season scheduled those were answered in Olds. As far as what went into the decision to forego a season if Midget eligibilty, I'm unsure but from experience with Junior A hockey I can tell you that it takes a toll on your body because it's a league that has an older average age per team due to the number of twenty year olds you can have on your squad so if he withstood the grind he'll do admirably in Major Junior. That's why he slipped in his Bantam Draft year was due to inquests regarding his physical wherewithal. He's not going to be counted upon to produce any consistent offence as he'll see time on the fourth line but not being intimated will serve him well when those nineteen and twenties  look to get under his skin. Brandon isn't going to have a lot of skill in the bottom six which is why he'll not only make the team but be a must to have his name pencilled in the lineup. A greasy player with skill best defines Jeremy.

Who's going to fill the massive shoes of departing Ivan Provorov? Throughout the course of this off-season I've read rumblings that Ivan could possibly return but I'm having none if it. If Provorov does happen to return than I've ranked Brandon far too low. Kale Clague will be asked by Coach Anning to oversee the back end and I'm just not sure if he's up for the task. I'm getting the impression that the just most are getting is I'm dumping on Brandon players but that's not the case. To that I'll say I have reservations with some of the higher end they claim to but admire their overall depth which led me to the ranking of number nine. I'm not for a second insinuating that James Shearer will diminish the role or need of Clague but Shearer is someone, a local product just like Campbell that was caught in a numbers game a year ago and will embark on a more permanent role. He doesn't fall too far off the tree from graduated Macoy Erkamps. Both are intense players who are undersized but it's the work ethic that sets them apart. I realize he's already nineteen and this conceivably could be his final year in Major Junior but what breaks the comparison of Macoy and James is James isn't as all over the place in his own zone. Macoy would drive McCrimmon nuts as he knew his was responsibility was be the safe guard for Provorov's gambling style but would still pinch at an inopportune time and create odd man rushes against Papirny. A Shearer turnover won't be something Papirny will have to worry about as James is much smarter positionally. What the coaching staff will look to instill in his game is to actually be more assertive and take more chances.Sitting back is generally reserved for players trying to find his feet in the league but James is now nineteen so this type of mindset won't be tolerated. I hope but am not quite sure if Shearer will see any power play time but I sincerely hope he does as the last time he recieved any whatsoever was with Steinbach in Junior A and he showed a propensity to thrive. It's a simple mandate for James, either he shows signs of competence and sticks it out with the Wheat Kings or if he caves under the increased role pressure he'll find himself in Steinbach quicker then he wants. The other defenceman I want to profile this evening is Schael Higson. If I were a Blades fan, I would've been furious that they let go of Schael, a trade for I will never understand the logic. From a Saskatoon perspective, already having smaller core forwards such as Ryan Graham and Cam Hebig, Shmyr wasn't exactly a team requirement. For Braylon it's a fantastic opportunity one he likely wouldn't of gotten here in Brandon but nonetheless a tall defenceman with an excellent stride isn't someone I'd be throwing away in the recycling bin. Saskatoon's loss is Brandon's gain. Higson for some reason couldn't adapt to the structure McCrimmon was illustrating but the fact that earlier I spoke about a more innovative coach in Anning now on board could be good for the young players, this rings very true for Higson. He's now officially out of the doghouse now into Anning's penthouse. I spoke of his skating stride earlier, is it ever effortless! It's a hard game to assess because there are just some players, former Tri-City American Logan Stephenson comes to mind that it from the exterior it doesn't look like they're exerting much energy, It seems this lack of clarity revolving around what kind of player Higson goes all the way back to his Bantam draft years where he went undrafted. I have heard he he wasn't committing to the league hense why he went undrafted but it's a classic case of a player not garnering enough respect because of the shortage of intensity. He's coming into his third season and the Wheaties can't afford to  have Schael in and out of the lineup. Consistency, consistency. This core is a whole is a definite weakness by wanting to abstain from any further critique on the individual defenceman, I've come to the realization that adding a veteran defenceman would be  a sensible proposition. Scouring the lists from some of the teams I've previewed earlier in these lists, a name such as Keoni Texeira(POR) would be a great addition. The kind of player that would interest the BWK would be someone on a cheaper price tag as their not going to exhaust any prime resources. Getting back to a conference final isn't out of the realm for this squad but they're not going to sell the farm to do it.

Jordan Papirny is back in the saddle. From a technical point of view, there were some pittfalls that decimated performace in the first couple of years as a member of the Wheat Kings. His glove was a needed area of improvement  You know who doesn't receive enough credit? Goaltending Coach Matt Cockell. Cockell, probably better known for his work with the National women's team is purportedly not coming back to Brandon this winter which is a blow because he helped Jordan become one of the better netminders in the league and a professional prospect. Logan Thompson will occupy the back-up position once again but with Thompson nineteen and Papirny in his last year, I'd imagine the preference would be to find a seventeen or eighteen year old which in turn could cost Logan his job.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

2016-2017 Pre-Season Western Hockey League Report(Team 11)

11.Red Deer Rebels-The second round series of the 2015-2016 WHL Playoffs pitting the Rebels against the my hometown Regina Pats was easily some of the most exhilarating hockey I've had the pleasure of watching. Not since the 2006-2007 final that saw Medicine Hat take on Vancouver have I been so invested in a series but unfortunately for us in Regina, Red Deer prevailed in a tight knit seven games. The Rebel brand that Coach and General Manager Brent Sutter has implemented throughout his on and off stay was strayed away from while they were working their way to hosting the Memorial Cup Tournament.Historically, the pattern that has been followed is a rugged team that prides itself on a unrelenting forecheck but in this past Memorial Cup year they were a puck possession team and Brent Sutter specifically brought in players that fit that mold  at the trade deadline. Some will argue with this opinion which I can respect but let's take a second to understand that Luke Philp isn't an overly physical player. I as well was wrongly under the premise that Philp favoured the heavy hitting game before he came to Red Deer but seeing him enough in the second half I slowly started to understand that the actual strength of Luke's game is, aside from being a premier penalty killer is to get infront of the net and wreak havoc for the goaltenders. Luke recurrently would engage in a cycle game and more times than not would shy away from the big hit to make certain the cycle created open space for the snipers like Michal Spacek and Jake DeBrusk at the hash. Ironically it was the player who nearly missed the entire campaign with a wrist injury that showed no fear taking opposing defenceman for a ride in Connor Bleackley. A fallacy heading into the season is that the Rebels are losing all of their expected contributors. Bleackley is gone as he's now signed with the St.Louis Blues, but aside from the overagers that have exhausted their junior eligibility and defenceman Haydn Fleury that's all from the crop that won't return to Red Deer. And yes, if you didn't notice that is me making the bold proclamation that Jake DeBrusk will return for another year. DeBrusk struggled last year. I equate it partially to adapting to a new environment but other than that, their are some deficiencies in his game that need correcting and although I classified him as a "sniper" earlier, an adjective I feel guilty about using, he really needs to uncover more of a complete game. I'll grant you he had a better Memorial Cup tournament but don't let the point per game pace in the playoffs fool you, he was invincible 95% of the time.

I saw Red Deer enough through the regular season to form enough strong opinions but the fact I was able to see them up close and personal substantiated some of my beliefs. First, let me lay the foundation for my thoughts towards Adam Musil. To ensure the proper groundwork is laid, I have ton share that I was very lukewarm with his brother David during his stint with the Vancouver Giants. He just like Adam was hyped about coming into this league and was essentially able to pick his own landing spot due to a loop hole in his declared residency(another blog post for another day). With the Giants, Musil didn't live up to the unfair pedestal he was put up to, From my viewings in the last year while a member of the Bakersfield Condors, his overall game has improved. A Musil will always come with some skating deficiencies but as he's matured he's been able to put his body to good use. It was the underwhelming advancements when David was being coached by legendary junior general Don Hay that left me skeptical when the name Adam popped up in WHL prospect circles. Not much vividness from how he performed in his rookie 2013-2014 season but the only thing I took away then was his lack of compete more than anything else. Transitioning from year two to last season for him was a ravishing change. His foot speed had come leaps and bounds to a point where he was assigned to take face offs against a lot of the top centers from across the league.  From what I was reading as the 2015-2016 playoffs were commencing, a lot of our so called "insiders" were marvelling at Musil's faceoff acumen and back checking strength but to be fair to the player, his point production was a little more than half ass. Everytime I was privy to the Rebels a consistent observation I left with was that Musil and Evan Polei were there two best players. Statistics don't cement this opinion however sometimes a players worth goes well beyond the statistics and that's exactly the case with these two., Aside from the fact that the two impressed me personally and I'm not naive enough to know that's subjective but what maybe catches the eye more than anything is the chemistry these two have developed. They  possess such corresponding skill sets. The way they skate to the way they forecheck, off the top of my head I can't single out any duo in the league that better compliments each other. You just know that Brent Sutter will have no problem lunging out these two in key situations. Primarily used as a third line shut down role a year ago, with the some of the key cogs from  last year's Memorial Cup now gone, at the very least they'll lock down second line minutes with the outside possibility of them seeing top line time. An unfailing trait of this preview is to give attention to the more unheralded players. I enjoy doing this as it's one thing to share thoughts on a player that a million others already have, it's another thing to dig deep on the unsung heroes. A unsung hero on this club is somebody I thought was destined to be drafted but wasn't in Brandon Hagel. I think I've came up with the reason for why Brandon didn't have his name called to the podium, it's his leisurely approach to how he conducts himself on the ice.  When he finds himself in an offensive situation as was often the case playing alongside Michal Spacek and Jake DeBrusk when the now departed Import Nikolishin was injured he looked good paired with the two future NHL'ers(how could you not) but it was his carelessness with the backcheck that likely shied some pendants away.  I'm absolutely guilty of doing this personally and so are many others and that's we forgets these are kids. The Morinville product will turn eighteen in a few short days and I have to constantly remind myself of that because he lacks an overall maturity in his game. To improve this reputation amongst NHL scouts because I wholeheartedly he has professional potential he'll need to rely on Sutter who has been through the gamut in the show and knows how to instill work ethic in this players, I mean isn't a Sutter family trademark. Whether or not DeBrusk is returned, and it would clearly benefit Brandon if this happens he'll be handed an increased role granted he buys into the all around game philosophy that Sutter will hammer down and could very well play alongside the aforementioned Polei and Musil, wouldn't that be a fun line to watch! I need to see because I full well know he's capable at least a sixty point campaign out of him.

Is there a more imposing enigma in the Western Hockey  League, specifically the Central Division then Colton Bobyk? If I was a General Manager heading into this season, Bobyk would be on my wish list, although it's not as if he's available, or I wouldn't imagine he would be anyway. Skeptics would tell you that there are more holes in his game then a Graham DeLaet putter but I'm willing to ignore the shortcomings to glamour over the striking strengths. He's an asset if for no other reason then his booming shot but what I saw was someone who took pride in using his shot as a decoy and often times would dump it off to Nelson Nogier or Josh Mahura. That's very important as when I reminisce over a players who are physically superior to their opposition, the usual outcome is they try to outdo their capabilities thinking they can push through everybody. Former Swift Current Bronco and Saskatoon Blade Davin Heintz was a good example of a player who tried to parlay his rambunctious style and just run through everybody and his statistical line suffered because of it.  I bet you weren't expecting a Heintz reference in this posting but the reason for the inclusion is to provide an adverse example of what a player like Bobyk could've been and it's about time we shower respect his way as he's earned it. I'm always left fascinated on what a year after hosting the Memorial Cup looks like. Generally speaking there's enough holdover that the team remains competitive, it's the following year that major growing pains persist. Someone like Bobyk will benefit from this but so should newly selected Russian Alexander Alexeyev. Brent has been critical about some Europeans in recent memory so I'll take solace in knowing that if Brent was satisfied enough to merit a selection because there have been times, one year anyway when it was decided to go import-less when a spot was open that he has major junior calibre. Hypothetically, if he materializes he could be a three year Rebel with the late 1999 birthday and that could be a blessing or a curse. I know virtually nothing about Alexeyev so I'm not going to pretend that I do but the reason I brought him up was the age because as the roster is shaking out for 16/17, he could be the youngest commodity because my current projection has no 2000 born players this go around. Jacob Herauf will be in consideraion for a spot but something worth noting is that Sutter is very loyal at times almost to a fault but with many Rebels scaling back their roles at the betterment of the team Brent will want to reward those individuals were permanent spots. Herauf's time will come, just not sure how much ice in Red Deer he'll see this year,

Let's break this down..... Perhaps it's a reach predicting that Jake DeBrusk will get returned for his overage season as I suggested earlier in this entry but if that comes to fruition, an interesting dilemma will have been created. Bobyk, being a local product and all should be safe however with the lack of respect he gets, that's not a formality. Polei is a certainty so what this boils down to if all three come back where does that leave Rylan Toth? Trevor Martin is gone to Junior A, that's known but has Toth shown enough compounded by the fact that there a plethora of goaltenders on the market who could be construed as upgrades. This is likely a non starter as I'm sure I'm the only one on this planet that has Jake getting more junior seasoning but IF it does I would imagine Toth would be exiting Red Deer. #Sorrynotsorry when I say that I'm left disenchanted everytime I'm privy to Toth between the pipes. When scouting goaltenders if I haven't already made it clear enough I'll again endorse the viewpoint that statistics pay little dividends when assessing goalies, I look for the subtle idiosyncrasies that differentiate this rare brand apart, how do they recover after a goal against, do they get riled up easily? Questions like this are significant for determining if building around said goaltender is sustainable? Inconsistencies are why I'd move away from Rylan but I doubt they will.