Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012 Eligibles in the Memorial Cup

The 2012 Mastercard Memorial Cup begins on Friday night and while it is definitely about crowning a national champion, the tournament is also the last on ice chance some players have to showcase themselves before the NHL Draft. 

Three teams have players of note that scouts will still be keying on to see how they perform on the CHL's biggest stage. 

Here's a look at the guys ranked by NHL Central Scouting and International Scouting Services.

Shawinigan Cataractes

The host club Shawinigan Cataractes have a trio of players that have been listed by Central Scouting this year although only two of them appear on the ISS April ranking. 

Photo: uncredited
Russian import Anton Zlobin is a '93 born forward that led the Cataractes in scoring during the regular season with 40 goals and 76 points. It was the Moscow native's second season with Shawinigan and he improved greatly on his 45-point rookie campaign. Through 11 playoff games Zlobin has 10 points.  Central Scouting has Zlobin slotted 137th in North America while ISS has him ranked 127th overall.

"It took him until probably January last year to understand that he needed to play with more consistency in his game," said coach Eric Veilleux during our Memorial Cup Coach's Show on Tuesday night, "He's been great in learning, wanting to learn, and his work ethic changed totally from the beginning of 2010-11 to the beginning of training camp this season. He came in great physical condition, great shape. Scouts saw a consistency in his game from day one until the end and he's one of our pretty good threats offensively."    

Defenceman Justin Hache produced 18 points in 60 games for the Cataractes this season, just three more than he finished with as a rookie but in nearly twice as many games. The New Brunswick product is listed 6'2 and 179 lbs. Central Scouting has him ranked 152nd in NA, dropping him 36 spots since January. ISS has him still cracking their top 100, coming in at 96th overall.  

5'10 goalie Alex Dubeau isn't the size of goaltender that NHL teams are looking for anymore but as a junior, he's been getting the job done. ISS doesn't rank Dubeau at all but Central recognized him early in the year as the 7th best netminder available from the QMJHL. He does not appear on the final rankings for North American keepers. Dubeau's is only .500 in his 7 playoff appearances but does hold a .919 sv%.

London Knights

Photo: Aaron Bell
The big name 2012 eligible prospect on the Knights is Finnish defenceman Olli Maatta. The 17-year-old joined us on TPS this past weekend and told us that he's looking forward to the Memorial Cup partly because he missed both the World Junior Championship and the CHL Top Prospects Game because of injury. Now he'll get to perform under a huge spotlight and against another defenceman ranked near him by both Central Scouting (8th) and ISS (13th). Maatta leads the Knights in playoff scoring with 23 points.

Andreas Athanasiou (pronounced a-tha-na-SEE-you) has seen his ranking slip over the course of the season to outside of the 1st round; Central now has him 40th while ISS ranks him 35th overall. No one questions his skill package but he hasn't rounded out his overall game the way people expected he would this year. Athanasiou ended the regular season with 22 goals and 37 points and has added 5 more in 11 playoff appearances.

"One of the things that separates Andres from other elite type skaters is not only his ability to skate but to skate with the puck on his stick," said Knights assistant coach Misha Donskov. "He's one of the most dynamic players that we have on our hockey club on the rush. He's got great first step speed and once he gets going he's hard to stop. He's probably one of the fastest players in the OHL. I think Andreas has to work on his game defensively, continue to get stronger but if he does that there is a lot of upside there for him."    

On the other side of the ledger, forward Josh Anderson's stock has jumped over the last few months. Central had the 6'1, 183 lb winger ranked 161st in January but slotted him 57th on the final ranking. ISS likes him too having positioned him 89th overall. Anderson ended the 2011-12 campaign, his first in the OHL, with 22 points. Here's an interesting write up on Anderson.   

Chris Tierney appears at 118th on Central's final list and 177th overall for ISS. His size is average (6', 180 lbs) and so is his production (34 points) but there is still enough there to peak the interest of scouts. 

Photo: Aaron Bell
The Knights have two other players who will garner interest at the draft despite having been overlooked there in years before. Seth Griffith, a 5'11 forward, shares the team lead in playoff scoring and had a team high 85 points in the regular season too. Griffith was ranked last year but didn't get selected but chances are strong that he'll get snapped up this year. 

The other overaged player of note in goaltender Michael Houser who felt snubbed by USA Hockey for not getting a shot at the WJC and has backed up his public fury with strong play for London. Houser was recently chosen as the league's MVP and was named to the league's 1st all-star team. He has backstopped the Knights to the Memorial Cup with a .928 sv%. At 6'2 and 192 lbs, it wouldn't be surprising if Houser was drafted and Central Scouting has him ranked 16th.

Edmonton Oil Kings

The marquee 2012 eligible player on Edmonton's roster is defenceman Griffin Reinhart. Central has him 10th in NA while ISS likes him a bit more (10th overall). On the way to the Memorial Cup Reinhart has head to head battles with Morgan Rielly and Derrick Pouliot and now he'll match up with Olli Maatta. The 6'4, 202 lb rearguard has a team high +14 rating in the playoffs and has added the physical edge to his game that some (like me) were hoping to see a year ago. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
The highest ranked Oil Kings forward according to Central Scouting is 6'2, 210 lb power forward Mitch Moroz who comes in 72nd on the final list, up from 171st in January. ISS hasn't pushed him up their list just yet, he's still well down  at159th overall. Moroz is one of the few forwards in the draft who has shown an ability to skate, score and play physical at an above average level. He struck for 16 goals in this, his rookie season, but he also recorded 131 PIMs.

Henrik Samuelsson joined the team in January and has carved out a reputation in the league already for his offensive ability and his disciplinary trouble. He was just under a point per game in the regular season (23 in 28 games) and the playoffs as well (14 in 17 games) and showed that his instincts and vision are pretty terrific. You can't ignore his three regular season and one playoff suspension though but as we've been told, NHL GMs and coaches prefer a player that plays on the edge as opposed to one that you have to push to get there. Skating is a work in progress but off season conditioning is expected to help that greatly. Samuelsson is 75th for Central and 49th for ISS.

Defenceman Ashton Sautner (152 for ISS, 92 for Central) had a strong regular season with consistent defensive play, especially in his own end. The 6'1, 185 lb blueliner appeared in 59 games and boasted a +29 rating. 

Cody Corbett, another American addition to the roster after the season began, had an up and down regular season. He's ranked favorably by ISS (76th) and Central (117th) after compiling 26 points in 54 games and holding a +36 rating. The Minnesotan struggled in the WHL final and may not start in the Memorial Cup. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
Like London, Edmonton also has a player who was eligible last year who went unselected but may get interest this year. Stephane Legault is fourth in playoff scoring and has versatility that can see him play any role and coach Laxdal needs him too. At 5'11 and 178 lbs, size could be an issue but his tenacity and work ethic far outweigh any perceived disadvantage Legault may have in that department.   

Plenty of talent on display to keep scouts busy in the days leading up to the NHL Draft Combine in Toronto. 

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