Time for another trek through the vast vacuum of space that occupies the emptiness between my ears. Here are some random thoughts and observations spanning the three leagues in the CHL, the NCAA, minor pro, international play and whatever else I might touch on. Grab an extra large Tim Hortons, get comfortable and click for more...
- I'll start with the NCAA, more specifically the ECAC Conference. Anyone who listens to the show or has stopped by the blog before knows I've never been a big proponent of the ultra-defensive style of play in the conference. I remember watching a Yale/St. Lawrence game on TV a couple of years ago (the year when Sportsnet was showing some NCAA stuff) and I had to turn it off halfway though because I was so bored.
That's not a knock on the NCAA as a whole though because it may have just been that one game. I doubt it but then I switched the channel to watch Hockey East rivals Boston University vs Boston College and it was outstanding.
How defensive is the ECAC? A look at the goalie stats right now shows that 6 of the top 10 SV% and 5 of the top 10 GAA for goalies come from the ECAC. The same guy leads both categories but I'm not hearing anyone talk about Dartmouth junior James Mello as a top goalie in the NCAA - he had all of 4 wins last year in 16 appearances.
In fact, I'd argue that the only ECAC goalie that might be top 10 caliber in the entire NCAA is seen above - RPI's Allen York (CLB) and maybe Union's puck stopper Keith Kinkaid. (Photo: David Guralnick/The Detroit News)
- And while we're on the subject of the ECAC, I can accept that Yale is probably a good team this year but their record is bound to be so inflated that they could finish the season with just a couple of losses and a top 5 ranking without any problem at all. Yale plays all of 29 games this year plus an exhibition against the Russian junior team (which is oddly scheduled during the WJC). The Bulldogs only play 4 teams from outside the ECAC and full credit to them for beating Colorado College because I didn't think they would let alone 5-1. But then they lost to Air Force, which has a 4-6-1 record this year, and it hardly affected Yale in the poll. Their other two non-conference games are against Sacred Heart and Vermont.
In all seriousness - could you not give Boston College or Denver or Duluth or Miami... give those teams Yale's schedule and could you not legitimately expect them to run the table?
Yale might actually be a top 10 worthy team this year but you can't honestly tell until the NCAA tournament because they don't play any other top 10 teams until then.
- It was great to see Jesse Martin (ATL) up and about and to hear that he's actually shooting hoops in the hospital. Thanks to Lets Go Du for the links to both stories.
- Pioneers freshman goalie Sam Brittain (FLA) continues to impress - he's now won 6 of his last 7 games and has a .934 SV% and 1.95 GAA. Speaking of Denver freshmen, great start for Jason Zucker (MINN) who has 9 goals and 13 points through 14 games. A slower start for 1st round pick Beau Bennett (PGH) who has just 1 goal and 6 points. (Photo: Denver Athletics)
- Prior to the beginning of the NCAA year I was speaking with USCHO.com's senior writer Jimmy Connelly who covers the Hockey East Conference. I told him my dark horse pick was Merrimack and I think I could actually hear him fall out of his chair laughing at me. He called that "the darkest of dark horse picks".
Well, who's laughing now Jimmy?!? (insert diabolical "Bwah ha ha!" here).
The 'Mack has .600 record this year with only 2 losses in 10 games (4-2-4). They have a win over Boston College and tied Boston University twice and both teams were ranked #1 in the country when Merrimack took them on.
Guys like former Camrose Kodiaks Jesse Todd, Karl Stollery and Chris Barton and goalie Joe Cannata (VAN) are having strong performances to start the year. Frenchman Stephane Da Costa only has 3 points this year and none in his last 5 games so if he can get back on track the Warriors will be even better. Head Coach Mark Dennehy had his contract extended through the 2015-16 season and he's done a bang up job since taking over the bench in 2005-06.
- After being held off the score sheet on Friday, Carter Camper set the world back on it's axle by getting two points in Saturday's 3-0 win over Bowling Green. Camper, my annual pick for the Hobey Baker award, now leads the NCAA with 30 points, 5 more than teammate Andy Miele and at least 10 more than the rest of the country. By the way, I don't know if I've mentioned it before but... Camper is a free agent.
- Colorado College's Jaden Schwartz (STL) is second in freshmen scoring with 18 points but at 18 years of age I find that more impressive than 21-year-old Wisconsin freshman Mark Zengerle's 19 points. I wonder if Schwartz has a better than average chance of cracking the Canadian World Junior team that will head to Buffalo. He's got a history with the program and he can clearly produce - two big things with Hockey Canada. (Photo: Casey B. Gibson / Colorado College)
- It was great to see Harbour Station sell out for the Subway Super Series opening game. That should only help the Sea Dogs chances of winning their bid for the 2012 Memorial Cup and I'm personally hoping for that - I love Saint John, have family in the area and would do my best to make the trip out there in 2012 to take in the event.
- My hat is off to the 1629.9 people in Baie-Comeau who continue to support the Drakkar despite their 1-19-3-3 record this year. 1 win in 26 games? That's awful.
- Philip-Michaël Devos from Victoriaville leads the QMJHL with 47 points in 26 games. He had 35 goals and 93 regular season points for the Tigers last year. The 20-year-old is undrafted and the QMJHL website does not show him as belonging to a NHL team so he could be one to watch as a free agent this spring. I'd ask one of our QMJHL buddies to give us some insight on him. (Photo: CHL Images)
- Dean and I spoke with Christopher Gibson on the show on Saturday. He's the top ranked goalie for the 2011 draft and we knew he had an interesting story as a guy from Finland who came over and played in Wilcox Saskatchewan for the Notre Dame Hounds. As far as interviews go... Gibson was as good as they get at this age. Once we got over the shock that the Finn speaks English with a French accent! We're hoping his knee heals up in time for him to take part in the 2011 WJC for Finland.
- Mississauga continue to roll as they haven't lost in regulation time during their last 13 games and have 12 wins in that span. How smart was San Jose to invite J.P. Anderson to their rookie camp in Penticton in September and then sign him to a contract? He now leads the OHL in wins (14) and GAA (2.00) and is second for save percentage (.924) and might be the odds on favorite for the 4th goalie invite to Canada's WJC camp. (Photo: Terry Wilson OHL Images)
- Jason Akeson leads the OHL in scoring and like the QMJHL scoring leader, Akeson is also an undrafted 20-year-old free agent.
- Windsor's Russian import Alexander Khokhlachev is riding a 13-game point streak during which he has collected 21 points. He's eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft as is Saginaw forward Brandon Saad who 10-game, 15-point streak going of his own.
- Every team in the Western Conference is .500 or better... 3rd and 10th place are separated by 4 points. Think about that for a second. You can rattle of 2 wins and be hosting a series in the first round of the playoffs or you can lose 2 games and finish dead last in the conference. That's TIGHT!
- There is growing pre-WJC hype for Linden Vey (LA) after a week that saw him play well during the Subway Super Series and also score 11 points in 3 WHL games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Vey has 18 points in 8 November games and leads his team by a long shot with 37 points, 15 more than Emerson Etem's 22.
- Another attendance tip of the hat, this time to fans in Calgary where the Hitmen have really struggled this year and yet there has been a 5.93% increase in ticket sales. The Hitmen might currently be last place in the Eastern Conference (and I'll never underestimate GM Kelly Kisio's ability to turn his team around) but their fans are clearly near the top of the league.
- There was a great crowd at Rexall Place yesterday to watch the Edmonton Oil Kings shut out the red-hot Red Deer Rebels 3-0. Officially 6692 (and an honest 5500 at least) too in the game and provided something that's been lacking at Edmonton WHL games this year - atmosphere. The Oil Kings played well, especially goalie Laurent Brossoit who was unbeatable in the 32-save appearance. Now let's see if that was a 1-game affair or if the team can build off of that fine showing moving forward.
- Also with the Oil Kings, it will be interesting to see how two guys respond to not being ranked by NHL Central Scouting: Klarc Wilson and Keegan Lowe(above). For Lowe in particular, after taking part in the NHL summer development camp and the Ivan Hlinka tournament with USA Hockey, it must have some as a bit of an eye-opener. He's been pretty mediocre this year but played well on Saturday against Red Deer. (Photo: Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)
- The league attendance numbers came out again last week. Ten teams have seen a drop in ticket sales but for six of them were talking about less than 5% or fewer than 200 people so it's not drastic. Edmonton is averaging 1200 fewer people at games this year, that's a whopping 25% decrease. Seattle is at the other end of the spectrum with a 26.6% increase. To look at that from another perspective, going strictly by attendance numbers and not whether they are up or down from last year, Seattle and Edmonton rank 14th and 15th in the WHL with 3763.8 and 3552.7 respectively. funny how one franchise is likely happy as hell while the other is wondering what they need to do to turn things around.
- So Jordan Weal (LA) has 31 points this year, tied for 11th in WHL scoring. Is anyone still suggesting his offensive ability hinges on Jordan Eberle?
- No surprise that USA won gold at the WJAC challenge. The USHL is the top tier 1 junior league on the continent but it does have a bit of an advantage compared the the CJHL clubs considering it's the only one of it's kind in the States whi;e Canada has 10 tier 1 leagues. Would a series between the Clark Cup and RBC Cup winners be of interest to fans from both sides of the border? Would it even be feasible?
- Dauphin, MB will host this year's CJHL Top Prospects game on Dec 7th-8th. Roster won't be announced until the end of November though which doesn't give the committee much time to promote from that perspective.
- One name that was a glaring omission from Canada West roster at the WJAC in Penticton was Destry Straight, the top ranked player available for the 2011 NHL Draft from the BCHL. The rookie has 28 points in 27 games and interestingly, the 6'1 forward has not yet named a NCAA program as his choice should he pursue that path to the NHL. I had one NHL scout tell me it was "ridiculous" that he was not named to the Canada West team. (Photo: BCHL)
- Last week the Spruce Grove Saints reclaimed the #1 overall ranking in Canada with a ridiculous record of 22-2-0-3. It doesn't look like they'll give it up any time soon.
- The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are less than a week away from hosting the first ever outdoor junior game. They'll take on the Drayton Valley Thunder. It's been bitterly cold this week but it's expected to be between -5 and -10 Celsius on Friday. Here is a recent write up on the event. Drayton Valley is in last place in the AJHL so there is a good chance that the home side fans will go home happy.
- I asked Kevin Prendergast this question on Saturday's show and I'll ask you the reader the same thing: Is there enough room on the WJC roster for both Ryan Ellis (NSH) and Tyson Barrie (COL)? Ellis is a given since he's been there for 2 years already but folks I know in Kelowna fully expect to be without their marquee player for a month believing he'll also be on the team. I'd definitely consider taking them both because they can provide offence from the back end but having just seen a big Russian squad use their size to beat the CHL... is there room for two 5'10 offensive minded guys on the same team or not? You tell me.
- Prendergast admitted that they've pretty much settled on 3 of the 4 goalies they'll invite to camp. Dean and I agree that you can probably assume that Calvin Pickard (COL), Olivier Roy (EDM) and Mark Visentin (PHX) will return from the summer camp. I mentioned J.P. Anderson (SJ) above but how about Louis Domingue (PHX) from Quebec or Scott Stajcer (NYR) in Owen Sound? Both might be in the conversation. For a way out there idea... how about Sam Brittain (FLA) from the Denver Pioneers? It's not going to happen (I asked) but I'd consider it.
- Jeff Deslauriers picked up his first win of the year on Sunday as the OK City Baron beat Milwaukee 5-2.
- Swede Linus Omark got a lot of press with his 5-goal game back on November 7th. He hasn't scored in the four games since then although he has collected an assist in each of those four outings.
- Forward Ryan O'Marra injured a shoulder on Sunday delivering a hit. He'll have an x-ray on Monday to determine the severity of the damage.
- Everyone is excited about the start to the year that the Oilers farmhands are having but when it comes to AHL rookies, the Calgary Flames freshmen are faring even better. Jeff Petry leads OK City rookies with 11 points but the Abbotsford Heat have 3 guys with that many points or more - Greg Nemisz has 12 while the unheralded WHL duo of Carter Bancks and Gaelan Patterson both have 11.
- Former New Hampshire sniper Bobby Butler has picked up where he left off last year but doing it in the AHL now. After a senior season that saw him pile up 29 goals and 53 points in 39 games, Butler already has 21 points in 20 games for the Binghamton Senators and leads all AHL rookies in scoring.
- He went pointless in his first 5 AHL games and had only 3 points in 9 dates in October but since then Cody Hodgson has been on fire. The Vancouver Canucks prospect had 10 points in 6 games earlier this month but has been silenced in his last 2 games.
- Some guys have not yet lived up to their hype as they perhaps find the AHL to be a bigger jump than expected. Tomas Vincour (DAL) was one of the last cuts from NHL camp but has just 6 points for Texas. Tommy Wingels (SJ) left Miami after his breakout junior year where he had 42 points for the RedHawks but this year he's managed just 5 for the Sharks. Ian Cole (STL) had 5 points in 9 games last year for Peoria after leaving Notre Dame but he's only got 3 in 17 games this year. Tyler Shattock (STL) is also stuck at 3 points in Peoria after being more than a point per game in the WHL last year.
Lastly, the TEAM 1260 Movember team has so far gotten just over $1500 worth of donations - almost all of it falling under Jason Gregor's name. It doesn't matter which one of us you donate to and it doesn't matter how little or how much you want to put up... it's all appreciated and for a good cause. You can follow our growth pics HERE and no, Dustin Nielson and Matt Iwanyk haven't stopped trying, it just looks that way.