Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leafs Trades Analysis: Big moves, bigger risk

For Brian Burke, last night's collapse against the Vancouver Canucks after building a 3-0 lead in the first period and chasing all-world goalie Roberto Luongo from the nets, only to lose 5-3 was the final straw that forced his hand in two earth-shaking moves for Toronto.

After the loss dropped them to the Eastern Conference basement (Carolina ithout any draft picks to speak of, Burke was forced to part with roster players in two separate, multi-player deals with Calgary and Anaheim, bringing in Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Fredrik Sjostrom (as well as defense prospect Keith Aulie). However, the Leafs surrendered a significant portion of their offense in order to shore up their D and goaltending. Gone to Calgary are: Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White. To reunite with Burke's Stanley Cup-winning goalie from Anaheim days, Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala went out west.

Make no mistake- with the Leafs being in a free-fall, Burke had to do something. But, two big moves like these are a big risk.

In reading some of the initial feedback, I'm sensing that the general consensus is that the Leafs are worse today with a chance of being better in the long run. I am going to stay from the norm and say that in my view, these are bad trades for Toronto that is going to make a bad team worse; not just today but tomorrow as well.

Phaneuf is overpaid and overrated. Since taking the league by storm as a rookie, we've watched his overall game regress. He's a good, talented player who will definitely bring some snarl to Toronto, but he's not the kind of guy who will carry a team on his shoulders. On paper, Phaneuf seems like the right player to bring in, but given his struggles on a better team in Calgary, what makes anyone so sure he will suddenly reverse his fortunes on a team where the pressures to keep the puck out of the net will be bigger than before now that a big portion of their offensive firepower is gone.

Hagman had 20 goals in 55 games with Toronto at the time of the trade. Stajan was the second-leading team scorer after Tomas Kaberle with 16 goals and 41 points. Blake was clearly struggling with 10 goals and 26 points, but his speed and experience will be missed. White, who was second on the team for scoring among defensemen with 9 goals and 26 points was having an up-and-down season, but I had seen him come up with several clutch goals this year when his team really needed them. White will be missed as well. Between them, Toronto is giving up 55 goals and getting back 11 when you combine Phaneuf and Sjostrom's totals. Mayers only had two markers and needed a change of scenery. I remember him being a tough, character guy in St. Louis, but was clearly down on his luck in Toronto.

Toronto cut some contracts, yes. But they added two big ones in Phaneuf ($6.5M) and Giguere ($6M) for the 2010-11 season. That is going to make whatever moves Burke planned for the off-season a little trickier. Now, if you assume that Phaneuf and Giguere would be better than anyone Toronto could have landed in the offseason, then we'll have to wait and see how it plays out. However, recent trends of both players have not been favorable. Leafs fans will have to hope and pray that both suddenly reverse their relatively mediocre performances over the past few seasons. Giguere, who lost the starting job on the Ducks to Jonas Hiller, probably has a lot left in the tank, but he isn't going to have anywhere near the offensive firepower he had in front of him in Anaheim to bail him out.

While the trade brings in a couple of bigger names for Toronto than the ones who departed, one fact remains: this deal is no sure thing. Burke has dramatically altered team chemistry, and there's no telling how that will affect the Leafs' bottom line. The Leafs may turn things around, but the pressure on that defense to play mistake-free hockey is going to be bigger than ever before.

There are just too many ifs, here. Maybe this deal turns things around in Toronto, maybe not. Thus far, Burke's moves as Leafs' GM have not turned out well...we're taking a big leap of faith to assume that this one will work out the way he and Leafs fans hope.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Joe Colborne back on TV tonight

OK- a 2010 draft hopeful he is not, but B's top prospect (in my humble opinion) Joe Colborne and his Denver University Pioneers will be back in action on the NHL Network tonight at 8:30 pm ET when they take on the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Colborne and Co. are televised for the second week in a row, which is a nice bonus for B's fans with access to the NHL Network.

Last week, the 16th overall selection in the 2008 NHL draft scored a nice power play goal, but didn't do a lot to stand out beyond that one excellent play. He's big, but doesn't always move his feet a lot. He glides and coasts, which reminds a lot of people of the way Joe Thornton plays. It looks like he isn't working hard at times, but at the end of the night, he has two or three points.

I'm not saying Colborne is Thornton, but when he is at his best, he's fighting for pucks along the walls, using his superior size and strength to protect the puck down low, and going hard to the net. Like Thornton, he is a terrific playmaker with the superior vision, instincts and soft hands to make plays all over the ice.

For more on Colborne and the rest of the Bruins prospects, here is a link to the web version of the Boston Bruins top-10 prospects story I wrote for the January edition of New England Hockey Journal.

If I could do it again today, I'd swap places between Max Sauve and Zach Hamill, but that is a minor adjustment in the grand scheme of things. What has become clear by tracking and reporting on the B's prospects this year is that they need some high-end talent on defense, the wing and even in net. Funny, but Cam Fowler/Brandon Gormley/Eric Gudbranson, Taylor Hall/Nino Niederreiter/Emerson Etem and Jack Campbell/Calvin Pickard/Max Clermont would all fit the bill for them.

The way things are sitting today, the Bruins have a very good chance of addressing multiple needs in the coming draft on paper, but even with some big names, the jury will be out until they can prove themselves at the NHL level.

UPDATE: Watched the game and Colborne looked very good early, scoring a beautiful backhand goal just 90 seconds into it. He took his big frame to the front of the net, pounced on a rebound and flipped it up and over the goalie for the 1-0 lead. The first few shifts he was involved and moving his feet, but as the game wore on, I saw some of the old criticisms of Colborne surface: too much coasting, not enough jam along the boards, invisible over stretches of the game. There is no questioning his talent. On one play in the second period, he used his speed to gain position on the outside, beating the defender and then used his big frame to shield the puck. Although he didn't have much of an angle, he tried to bank the puck into the net off the defender who had scrambled to get back into the play. It didn't work, but it showed the kind of advanced offensive game Colborne possesses.

A night later, he had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 victory to complete the sweep in North Dakota. One report said that Colborne was given his team's "hardhat" award for the hardest-working player in the two-game series. Encouraging, sure. And, it underscores that sometimes, what may look like someone not putting forth an effort from the stands or on television ends up not being the case. Obviously the DU folks were pretty happy with Colborne's play.

Big weekend for B's

It goes without saying, but with seven consecutive losses, the Bruins must get some wins this weekend to get back into the playoff race.

Off since a 5-1 pasting at the hands of the Lazarus-like Carolina Hurricanes last Sunday, the Bruins' task to get off the schneid isn't an easy one: they're in action against the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres, who have gotten stellar goaltending from Ryan Miller this season. He's well-positioned to capture the Vezina Trophy in June, and will likely carry his country's Olympic hopes between the Team USA pipes.

For the Bruins, center Marc Savard is expected back from his strained MCL, which is good news. How effective he'll be remains to be seen, but at least he'll be better than Drew Larman and Trent Whitfield...their presence conjured up memories of Davis Payne (now Blues head coach) and P.C. Drouin playing on the "DOPe" line with Adam Oates way back in 1997. This isn't meant as a shot at those guys, but Savard is an NHL All-Star while Larman and Whitfield are not. They gave it a good try, but the results speak for themselves.

My colleague Doug Flynn over at the New England Hockey Journal has a pretty comprehensive blog entry detailing the current Bruins situation up at the new-and-improved website today. Check it out:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bruins Are Sliding...But So Are the Leafs

Hi, guys. Back from a quick family vacation to Williamsburg, Va. and wanted to check in.

There isn't much to be happy about in Bruins Nation these days. The team has been on a steady slide since blowing a couple of leads in Anaheim and Los Angeles two weeks ago, having won just once during that span (in a shootout vs. San Jose). The low point came on Sunday, when the B's got blown out by the Carolina Hurricanes by a 5-1 score, playing a listless, unispired brand of hockey.

If there is a silver lining to this dreadful stretch that has seen the B's power play go ice cold (injuries to Marc Savard and Marco Sturm have a lot to do with that), the team's scoring woes continue, and a general malaise seem to infect the club as we've watched Boston go from 5th place in the East at the time of the win over the Sharks, to 10th, it is the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been just about as bad, going 2-7-1 in their last 10.

After getting shutout by the Florida Panthers last Saturday, the Leafs lost at home to the Los Angeles Kings last night by a 5-3 score, dropping them to a moribund 17-27-10 for the season, with just 28 games remaining. As my friend, Lawrence G. put it- they could go 28-0 and still end up with just 100 points. Even if you charitably give them .500 odds at 14-14, they'd have just 72 points on the year. Barring a major trade (s) that makes the Leafs infinitely better in net, on D and up front, then, it's going to be a tough road ahead for them to climb out of the cellar.

The bad news for Boston fans, is that the Edmonton Oilers continue to be putrid, and have actually replaced the Hurricanes in the NHL's basement. The last time the Oilers even won a game was December 30...against Toronto! The Oil have gone 0-9-2 since then, and have shown little to indicate that they have the talent or heart to get out of their predicament. That said, the Bruins haven't been much better, so there isn't a lot of room to criticize the Oilers.

The 'Canes might catch the Leafs...they're only five points away with three games in hand and playing much better hockey of late, since Eric Staal replaced Rod Brind'Amour as captain. As far as Toronto is concerned, they've continued to blow chances at points in January, and they have a tough seven games remaining on their schedule before the Olympic break (Buffalo, 3x against New Jersey, Vancouver, San Jose and resurgent Ottawa. St. Louis is on the docket- Toronto's best matchup on paper, at least)

So- every point the Leafs don't gain from here on out is going to further solidify that top draft pick for Boston. It isn't the greatest ray of light to hold onto, but it's one of the only things B's fans have right now.

P.S.- In a shameless plug, I now have an official affiliated blog with the New England Hockey Journal. You can check it out here:

Not to worry- it won't affect my content here. This is my side project, and I have complete editorial control, so this site will continue on. I'm a multi-tasker, so I invite you to visit the blog, but to keep coming here as well.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Boston Bruins 2010 Picks Updated: Jan 23rd Bonus Analysis of Chicago's 2004 Draft

I'm going away for a few days and won't be updating the blog, so I figured I'd go ahead and post the pick update.

It hasn't been a good week for the Bruins, who've slipped out of the fifth playoff spot and out of the dance completely if the season ended today. They blew a third period lead over Columbus on Thursday and then failed to generate any real offense in a 2-1 loss to division rival Ottawa at home. The hated Canadiens destroyed the listless NY Rangers tonight, giving them a one-point lead over Boston in the standings, dropping the B's to 4th in the Northeast.

The good news for B's fans is that the Florida Panthers did their job tonight, shutting out the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 2-0 score to keep the Leafs firmly in possession of 28th place. That's two more points that the Leafs won't have, and unless Brian Burke can figure out how to improve his team without sacrificing the kind of assets that would appeal to any legitimate trade partner, they're in bad shape, having played 53 games- three more games than Boston, but are 10 points behind the B's, and have 29 games left to get out of the cellar.

Here are the picks if the season ended today:

1st Round

3rd overall- Toronto (44 points; 17-26-10)
12th overall- Boston (54 points; 23-19-8)

2nd Round

33rd overall- Toronto
35th overall- Tampa Bay (50 points; 20-20-10)
42nd overall- Boston

3rd Round

No pick- to Buffalo for Daniel Paille

4th Round

91st overall- Carolina (37 points; 15-28-7)
102nd overall- Boston*

* Conditional pick to Buffalo as part of Paille deal; conditions not confirmed but reports are that Boston's 4th-round selection goes to Sabres if Paille scores 16 goals

5th Round

132nd overall- Boston

6th Round

162nd overall- Boston

7th Round

192nd overall- Boston

So, in the first two rounds, the Bruins are looking at: 3, 12, 33, 35 and 42 in the first two rounds alone, plus the first pick of the 4th round (91) and 102nd overall with their own selection later. Assuming they don't trade any of those between now and then (I wouldn't bet on that, although Peter Chiarelli will need one good trade to get him to surrender any of those picks given how high they are) the B's will have a chance to re-stock their system.

Sounds pretty sweet, doesn't it?

However, NHL draft optimists and skeptics alike take note: the Chicago Blackhawks had four picks in the first 50 back in 2004 (as well as a fifth choice at 54th overall- in the second round ), including the third overall selection they used on highly-touted defenseman Cam Barker. Barker is coming on after a slow start to his pro career, but hasn't been the guy everyone expected him to be. And, the other guys the 'Hawks took 32nd (Dave Bolland), 41st (Bryan Bickell) and 45th (Ryan Garlock) have been OK, but none have made a huge impact with Chicago yet, with Bolland putting up the best numbers with 25-45-70 in 134 career NHL games. Bickell has shuttled between NHL (19 games; 3-1-4) and AHL and Garlock looks like a bust, bouncing between the AHL and ECHL and not coming close to winning a job with the 'Hawks before being released at the conclusion of his ELC.

I remember sitting there in Raleigh in 2004 and marveling at all the picks Chicago had that year. Nearly six years hence, they didn't make much hay. Perhaps fans of every other team should be thankful: had they picked Mike Green (who went 29th) instead of Barker, David Krejci (who went 63rd) over Bolland, Johan Franzen (97th- Detroit) over Bickell and Mark Streit (262nd) over Garlock, we all might be blogging about Chicago as the NHL's newest dynasty.

Instead, they got relatively little return on a mind-boggling 17- yes, you read that right SEVENTEEN draft picks that year in nine rounds, still a huge amount of selections even by the standards of the bigger draft back then. Only Barker and the hard-nosed role player Troy Brouwer are on Chicago's roster today, with Bolland out injured and Bickell in the minors with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs along with Jake Dowell.

How's this for irony- the one player from the 2004 draft who is making the most important contribution for the Blackhawks is last season Calder Trophy finalist Kris Versteeg. He wasn't one of the team's 17 picks that year, but was actually one of BOSTON's selections- 134th overall in the fifth round that year and gifted to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in early 2007.

Chicago's '04 draft serves as a reminder that even though a team may have a bevvy of draft picks, the scouts still have to go out and do their job by bringing in the players who will ensure long-term success.

Before you go telling yourself that Boston's slide down the standings will guarantee them eventual riches because of the improved draft position, remember Chicago in '04 and remind yourself that there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of the sexy picks won't bring you a winner if the team doesn't make the right choices.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Monster From Winnipeg: Dylan McIlrath Fight Analysis

Just spent a few minutes looking at fight videos featuring nasty 17-year-old Moose Jaw defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who just be on every fan's draft wishlist for their NHL team, whether they're picking 1st or 30th (Toronto fans need not apply here- you're not getting him).

The first thing that struck me about the footage is that more than a few of the fights occurred after McIlrath destroyed an opposing player with a booming open-ice hit, usually followed by another teammate coming to their defense.

The second thing is that in just about every video save for one of the two fights against Brandon's Jordan Hale, McIlrath always seems to get his opponent's helmet off first, allowing him to pound away without too much fear of breaking his hand, whereas his opponents often have to fight him while his helmet and visor are still on. Now, before you fight enthusiasts rail away at the breaking of the "code" by McIlrath, remember that the WHL passed a silly rule penalizing any player who removes his own helmet before a fight. The net effect of this rule means that the player who is more adept at getting his opponent's bucket off first usually has a sizeable edge in the bout. McIlrath appears to have these skills down pat.

Like all accomplished hockey fighters, he's strong on his skates. You can see bigger opponents trying to ragdoll him and pull him off balance, but he does a nice job of standing in there and taking their best shots.

He looks like a power puncher. Although the footage wasn't great, he blasted Brett Breitkreuz, then of the Edmonton Oil Kings, with an uppercut that gashed the WHL veteran three years McIlrath's senior pretty good. When you see him coming over the top of an opponent's head with right-handed haymakers, you just feel for the guy on the receiving end. Not convinced, well, check out the fight he had with John Stampohar, then with the Kamloops Blazers, all 6-foot-4, 210 pounds of Minnesota farmkid. When Stampohar got McIlrath's jersey up over his head, the Monster from Winnipeg, despite not being able to see very well, one-punched his opponent to the ice. You can see a dazed Stampohar sitting in the penalty box afterward, putting his face into a towel and clearly wondering how it all happened.

McIlrath, aka the "Freight Train from Winnipeg" (h/t to Moose Jaw radio play-by-play man James Gallo, who sounds like a major junior version of Washington Caps and Versus commentator Joe Beninati, btw) is primarily a right-handed thrower, but in a couple of fights, he switches to his left and starts working the south paw like a piston into his surprised opponent.

Now, again- McIlrath doesn't have the upside of a legitimate top two-way defenseman in this league, but he's a decent enough skater to play that shutdown, in-your-face, physical defense. And, make no mistake- this kid can really fight. When you start looking up the ages of opponents he's fought and prevailed over, these guys have 2-3 years of physical maturity and experience on him. He even pounded Regina's Colten Teubert to the ice with a couple of rights in a quick bout...Teubert is 2 years older and a pretty tough customer in his own right not to mention being a first-round pick of the L.A. Kings.

I can see why he's being talked about so much right now. Just think how much more effective McIlrath will be when he gains about 15-20 pounds and learns how to be an even better fighter than he already is. Legitimate toughness and hockey ability is a coveted trait for any NHL club, so don't be surprised if he ends up going a good bit higher than the projections say.

You, too, can see for yourself. Head on over to YouTube and type his name into the search engine. Then, as T.O. once said, "Getcha popcorn ready!"

P.S. Oh, and I'm sure Boston fans will take note of what number McIlrath wears. If he does somehow end up playing in the black and gold one day, he'll have to get another one.

But What About Those Second-Rounders? Some Guys You Should Know

This blog has spent a lot of time focusing on some of the players who the Bruins stand to pick up in the first-30 selections with Toronto's and their own top choices, but what about those three second-round picks?

If the season ended today, the Bruins would be choosing 33rd (Toronto), 35th (Tampa Bay) and 45th (Boston).

I thought I'd throw out some names of some intriguing possibilities (in no particular order) for the upcoming draft, keeping in mind that these players may or may not be there in the second-round when all is said and done, but are currently projected there based on where things stand today.

Tyler Toffoli, C/W Ottawa 67's (OHL): Toffoli (Tuh-FOE-lee) got off to a poor start this season, but caught fire of late and has some real upside. He's not all that big (6-0, 185), but he can really scoot; very nice edge control and is elusive and agile with a rapid change of direction. He can fire the puck as well, which when combined with his speed/quickness and offensive instincts makes him a dangerous player. In the CHL Top Prospects game, he skated on a line with Tyler Seguin and John McFarland, the three of whom have a history together in other international tourneys. I've heard that his compete level isn't where it needs to be, so his work ethic/intensity is something scouts will pay close attention to. Still, on pure talent alone, Toffoli is probably a first-round pick who will fall to the second because of the concerns about size and effort.

Max Clermont, G Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): A prototypical Quebec butterfly goalie with good size and athleticism. His technique reminds me a little of Felix Potvin; he tends to play deeper in his net and relies on his reflexes a lot, leading to acrobatic and visually-pleasing saves that aren't necessarily a reflection of strong positional play. Even so, he's a gamer with a lot of promise who could develop into an NHL starter given a lot of time and seasoning. He and Calvin Pickard really shut the door on Team Orr the other night. Pickard will require a first-round pick, but Clermont could very well be had in the early-to-mid 2nd. Without a top-shelf goalie prospect in Boston's system (I like Mike "Hutch" Hutchinson, but I think he may project more as a lower-tier starter/solid backup at the highest level), Clermont might be a nice option depending on where he is on Boston's board. I think he's a significantly better goalie than his Central ranking (10th) indicates.

Devante Smith-Pelly, LW Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL): I had heard great things about DSP as a character, gritty guy who had displayed an unanticipated scoring touch this season, and he showed that in the prospects game the other night. He's under six-feet, but weighs in at about 215, so he's a tank on skates who has some nice jump and is extremely difficult to knock off the puck when he gets going. He's a guy who I saw repeatedly go into the dangerous areas of the ice and relished making first contact with members of Team Orr. He's one of those high-motor, go-through-a-wall-for-his-teammates players, and while his offensive upside may not be as high as others projected in the second round, he's more than the sum of his parts. His 67-ranking by Central is much too low. Red Line Report has him 47th overall in their January rankings, and that makes a lot more sense to me. High character guys with decent wheels and a physical edge will always go higher than the flashy, uber-skilled ones lacking in heart.

Charlie Coyle, RW South Shore Kings (EJHL): East Weymouth native and cousin of Tony Amonte who followed the former NHL star to Thayer Academy and will also head off to Commonwealth Ave and Boston University doesn't get as much hype, but looks like a real player to me. I saw him when he was with Thayer and he was dominant at that level, and after moving over to the EJ, which plays a lot more games and is more of a pro-style acclimation given the demanding schedule and higher physical intensity, has stepped it up with superb production. He's got natural size (6-2, 207) and is a very good skater and puckhandler who plays with an edge. The puck seems to follow him around the ice. He's also a high-character kid as well. I've seen him anywhere from early 2nd-round to 55th, but even though he's a longer-term project and not as explosive as Chris Kreider, the Bruins might do well to snag him with Tampa's pick. My colleague at the New England Hockey Journal, Bill Keefe, wrote a detailed story about Coyle in our December issue. You can read it online here:

Tom Kuhnhackl, RW Landshut EV (Germany 2): The son of Erich Kuhnhackl, Germany's all-time leading scorer in its elite pro league, injuries and up-and-down play have conspired to drop Tom down the various lists. He 's an elite talent who, prior to the season, was seen in some circles as a top-10 prospect, but is slipping (ranked 10th on the European skaters list by Central). If he is there early in the 2nd, Kuhnhackl would be a steal. He's an explosive player with a very quick stick and a high-end hockey IQ. He's a beanpole (6-2, 172 pounds) who has a lot of filling out to do, but scouts love his live athletic build and know he'll pack on enough mass to handle the physical aspects. He also fits with what the Bruins are always looking for: speed, skill, character and bloodlines. There's a very good chance he'll be picked somewhere in the first-round, but if the lack of viewing this season (Germany's relegation to the Pool B at the WJC really hurt him from what I heard) as opposed to last comes into play, then the B's might benefit.

Patrik Nemeth, D AIK (Sweden- Jr.): Great size (6-3, 205) and mobility are Nemeth's best attributes. He doesn't have the kind of pure offensive potential that would see him pushed up into the NHL's first-round. He's shown a lot of promise in the various international competitions like the Ivan Hlinka/Eight Nations and Four Nations tourneys, and plays with some jam and poise. True, he doesn't project as a top-two NHL defenseman, but he does have the kind of physical attributes and presence to be a solid middle-pairing, intelligent defender to be worth an early-to-mid 2nd round pick.

Teemu Pulkkinen, RW Jokerit (Finland Jr.): Injuries have dropped the smallish, but productive Pulkkinen's stock this year, which might make it a perfect time for Boston to make a swing-for-the-fences, high-upside pick on a player with a world of offensive talent and skills, but who is risky because of his fragility (knee, ankle and wrist woes dating back to last season) and a lack of a high motor/sterling work ethic. He gained some notice at last spring's Under-18 Championship in Fargo, but never got going in his draft year before going on the shelf for an extended period with wrist surgery. Pulkkinen isn't as explosive a skater as U-18 teammate Toni Rajala (Edmonton prospect), but he's got a wicked shot and is one of those players who simply knows how to score. When you have three kicks at the can between 31-60, a player of Pulkkinen's potential might not be a bad way to go. He's back playing and doing pretty well in the Finnish jr. league- getting back into the swing of things. If he can continue to progress, you'll hear his name more as the European season closes out and we get closer to the draft.

Alex Petrovic, D Red Deer Rebels (WHL): Solid, steady, dependable. Those are three words to describe the Rebels defenseman who is a good skater, strong positionally and projects as a No. 3/4 defense-minded defender with character and some toughness. He dropped the gloves with Dylan McIlrath in the prospects game, which says a lot for him, even though he looked reluctant to dance initially. At almost 6-4, 194, he has the classic size and strength that NHL teams are looking for, and while he may not be a big points producer, he makes a good first pass and is one of those "safe" picks who will play in the NHL 10-15 years by the looks of it.

Beau Bennett, C Penticton Vees (BCHL): One of my WHL sources turned me on to this skilled California kid who's been tearing up the BCHL this year with the Vees, scoring 29 goals and 82 points in 42 games on the top line with '89 BD Denver Manderson (contrast to Bruins prospect and teammate Ben Sexton who has 6 goals, 26 points as a third-liner in 36 games) Bennett is fast and can really wire the puck to the back of the net. He's another one of those higher-risk/even higher reward kinds of picks who doesn't have a lot of size, but is a pure scoring presence with a lot of potential at the highest level. With multiple picks in the second, Boston can afford to roll the dice a little bit with someone of Bennett's skillset and promise.

Troy Rutkowski, D Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Nino Niederreiter has grabbed most of the headlines in Portland this season, but this offensive defender has all of the makings of a two-way presence at the NHL level including very good size, four-way skating ability, a big point shot, nice vision and strong passing skills, but has not met expectations with the production this season. Because of the lack of points (7 goals, 28 points in 41 games), he's dropped in the rankings to the second round. Mike Remmerde, a Red Line Report scout based in the WHL (and who you'll see a lot more from on this blog, especially when I delve into Portland's "Fab Four" in the coming weeks) thinks that Rutkowski has been so much better defensively this year compared to last, and that his improved diligence in his own end has come at the expense of points. Rutkowski didn't do much to stand out at the prospects game this week, but I could see his decent wheels on display. He's one of these unheralded, relatively unknown quantities who, like Duncan Keith in 2002 at 54th overall after a pedestrian freshman season at Michigan State, could end up being a steal because the two-way ability is clearly there even if the production hasn't been this year.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bruins Sweaters of the Past #10: Rejean Lemelin

BOSTON BRUINS 1987-88-1992-93
5'11", 170 pounds
Born: November 19, 1954 in Quebec City, Quebec
Games Played: 183 Mins: 10,308 W: 92 L: 62 T: 17 GAA: 3.09 SO: 6

Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! Was the battlecry of Boston Bruins fans during the spring of 1988 when Rejean "Reggie" Lemelin was instrumental in the momentous defeat of the Montreal Canadiens in the Adams Division final series, the first time the B's had defeated the Habs in the playoffs since 1943.
The veteran free agent signed with Boston after a long stint with the Atlanta and Calgary Flames, giving way to Mike Vernon. Lemelin's presence with another experienced backup in Doug Keans meant that Bill Ranford went down to Maine of the AHL where he could get more playing time and continue to develop, while Lemelin at age 33 played the best hockey of his NHL career as a Bruin.
Even though Boston GM Harry Sinden added some competition in net with Andy Moog just before the trade deadline in 1988, Lemelin continued to be coach Terry O'Reilly's guy down the stretch and into the playoffs. After a black-and-blue six-game series win over the feisty Buffalo Sabres in the first round, the Bruins faced Montreal, a team that had swept them in each season since 1984.
After Moog was in net for the first game, a loss, Lemelin went the distance, starting out with a rousing 4-3 win at the old Montreal Forum on April 20, 1988, a game in which the Bruins were outplayed, but got a great performance from their goalie. Lemelin then took both games on the Garden ice by 3-1 and 2-0 scores, to give his team a 3-1 series lead. On April 26, 1988 Lemelin, Cam Neely (2 goals) and Steve Kasper (2 goals) exorcised the ghosts of Bruins-Canadiens series past in a 4-1 win to close out Montreal and send Boston fans into a tizzy. (I still remember seeing local television programming being interrupted to announce that the Bruins had won the series).
Lemelin and the B's defeated the upstart Cinderella New Jersey Devils, who pushed them to seven games in the Prince of Wales Conference final series, returning to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in a decade. Although the Bruins met an untimely end at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, Lemelin's sterling reputation as a warrior was forged, finishing the postseason that year with an 11-6 record and 2.63 GAA in 17 games.
Lemelin would continue to share the goaltending duties pretty evenly with Moog, gradually giving way to his partner who, at six years younger, finally seized the reigns as the clear starter 1990-91.
Lemelin appeared to call it quits in 1991-92 when Matt Delguidice was named Moog's backup coming out of camp, but the former St. Anselm's and University of Maine star didn't hold up, and Lemelin fought off the immortal Daniel Berthiaume to stay on as the backup that year, posting a 5-1 record in 8 games.
The following season, Lemelin was involved in a controversy when B's head coach Brian Sutter and Sinden worked together to try and get their goaltenders going, calling up both Providence goalies in John Blue and Mike Bales, scratching Moog and Lemelin for a game and giving minor league journeyman Blue the start. The controversy ensued when it became known that Lemelin's equipment bag and gear had been taken out of the dressing room and left in the hallway.

Fans were furious at the "callous" treatment of Lemelin, who at that point had played his last NHL game and quietly retired, leaving Blue to backup Moog the rest of the year and then Jon Casey in 1993-94. The reality is probably far less nefarious: the old Boston Garden dressing room was small, and there simply was no room for four goalies' worth of equipment, so Lemelin's had to go. Could the situation have been handled better? Sure. But it probably wasn't any kind of Sinden conspiracy to humiliate Lemelin on his way out. The equipment guys likely just moved the bag where members of the media saw it and reported on it. Stuff happens.
Anyway- Reggie Lemelin (along with Tiny Thompson, Frank Brimsek, Moog, Casey and Tim Thomas) did something that Boston goaltending greats like Gerry Cheevers, Ed Johnston, Gilles Gilbert, Sugar Jim Henry and Terry Sawchuk never did: he presided over a playoff series win over the Montreal Canadiens.
He will forever be a favorite of the Gallery Gods and those who remember his inspirational run to the finals in 1988.

CHL Top Prospects Game Recap and Game Notes

The 15th annual Canadian Hockey League (major junior) Top Prospects Game was held at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario last night, and Team Cherry upended Team Orr by a 4-2 score, giving the former Bruins coach and bombastic hockey analyst just his fourth win in the 11th head-to-head matchup with Bobby Orr, the Hall of Fame defenseman and greatest hockey player of all time.

There is so much to say about this game. It had a little bit of everything: speed, skill, excellent goaltending, big hits, name it. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was even interviewed during the first intermission, and he pointed out that while you don't want to put all of your stock in a player based on this game, it does serve to provide an emphasis for reevaluation of baseline opinions to this juncture of the season.

Case in point for me was the play of Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Mark Pysyk of Team Orr (white) who was a top WHL bantam draft pick in 2007 (the team's first-ever selection) and has the size and skills to be an outstanding NHLer. Unfortunately for him, he's struggled this season and his stock has fallen in some circles, even though his talent is undeniable. Pysyk, who was paired with top-five aspirant Brandon Gormley to form the game's best defensive duo in my humble opinion, played an excellent game. This leads me to believe that if Pysyk is playing with the right partner and in the right situation, he can be the kind of ideal No. 2/3 player that every NHL team needs on its blue line. If you're a scout who saw him in Edmonton and he didn't impress, you probably want to see him a few more times now based on his steady, heady play last night. And he's not the only one.

Here are some of the players who really stood out last night for me and who I think bolstered the Class of 2010's projection as a deep draft:

Nino Niederreiter, RW Team Orr: Like a Swiss Army Knife, Niederreiter is a quality product who is versatile, adaptive and something to possess. If you weren't impressed with him after his performance in the WJC, and given his excellence with Portland of the WHL this season, there's no way you left last night's game not buzzing about how good this kid is. He got things started on Tuesday night at the skills competition, when he roofed a puck during the breakaway competition...with just one hand on his stick! The smile on his face after the play told you how much he loves this game. He followed that up with the game's first goal- positioned in front of the net for Jeff Skinner's pass and just squeaking it through Calvin Pickard's five-hole. Niederreiter plays in all areas of the ice, and while he may not be an explosive skater, he seems to get to wherever he needs to go. He's can play a finesse or gritty game, and I think some of Portland linemate Brad Ross's abrasive style is rubbing off on him. He's well spoken and has the kind of exuberance for hockey that will have NHL teams drooling because his on-ice acumen is not in doubt. Write this down: Niederreiter is going to be selected inside the top-10 in L.A.

Tyler Seguin, C Team Orr: I think that Seguin got the edge on Taylor Hall in this one, to be honest. He was a going concern all night: an excellent skater with slippery elusiveness who plays like his head is on a swivel. The straw stirring the drink on a line with John McFarland and Tyler Toffoli, they generated some quality scoring chances and gave Team Cherry's defenders fits all night. People held their breath when Seguin collided with Ross in the first period and left the ice favoring his knee, but he returned and played well. If not for goaltending heroics by Pickard and Maxime Clermont, this line could have lit up the scoreboard last night, and throughout it all, Seguin was the driving force behind their play. Seguin is going to make some NHL team very happy.

Jeff Skinner, LW Team Orr: Skinner debunked the idea that he's the 47th-ranked North American skater last night. Nuff ced! Riddle me this, Batman: How does a player, who is leading the OHL in goals with 35, fall that low? Answer: He doesn't. Even with the concern about size (5-10, 190) and top-end speed, Skinner is one of those players who has the natural gift for putting the puck in the net. He's done it at every level. He was the top goal-getter at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in August. Oh, and he was a figure skater as a youngster, meaning that while he may not be a blazer speed-wise, he's very agile and balanced with a very low center of gravity. On Niederreiter's goal, Skinner outworked two Cherry opponents in the corner, digging the puck out and finding the open man in front. He then tipped Gormley's point shot for the only other goal his team scored. No way does Skinner fall past 30, let alone to 60-something, which is where he'd be projected when you factor in the goalies and Europeans if he stays at 47. Central needs to move him up on their final rankings, and I think you'll see them do just that.

Brandon Gormley, D Team Orr: If the Bruins miss out on Cam Fowler, but land Gormley, there won't be too many sad faces in Beantown. The top midget pick of the QMJHL draft two years ago looks every bit the two-way defenseman he's been described as. He's smooth, pivots well and plays the point the way you want: with steady hands, fluid lateral movement and hard point shot. His blast got tipped by Skinner because it was low and accurate. Quick release- not a lot of wasted movement or windup. I thought Gormley was a terrific matchup with Pysyk- the two played extremely well together all night. The Moncton Wildcat is a stud, and even though I was disappointed not to see Eric Gudbranson on the ice last night (though he was behind the bench with Don Cherry helping out and said that he's back skating with Kingston and should return to action soon), Gormley only solidified what I have heard about him from NHL and independent scouts.

Dylan McIlrath, D Team Orr: Big, nasty meat-and-potatoes blue liner justified some of the early buzz that has seen him dubbed the 'Monster from Winnipeg' by the good folks in Moose Jaw. He's a solid skater who pivots and turns his hips well. He's not a very good puck mover, but seems comfortable in the role of a tough, physical shutdown D who likes to fight. He dropped the gloves with WHL rival Alex Petrovic, and although his Red Deer opponent deserves credit for coming on at the end, McIlrath handled him pretty easily. He also stood up to Galiev on one play, who came at McIrath with speed and then pirhouetted in a 360-degree move that did not fool the defender one iota. McIlrath then simply checked Galiev to the ice and retrieved the puck. I think that given McIlrath's sheer toughness and ability to play a little hockey, he'll go somewhere between 20-30. People hoping he drops into the 2nd can do just that, but hope is not a method, and I have two words for you about that: Mark Fistric (look him up). Based on what I saw last night and have been hearing all season, McIlrath looks like twice the player Fistric was at the same age.

Emerson Etem, C Team Cherry: The skilled L.A. native helped his cause last night with a beautiful short-handed goal that saw his speed, vision and NHL-caliber release on full display as he rocketed through Team Orr in the neutral zone and let loose with a heavy wrister from the left circle that beat Louis Domingue high to the glove side. The Medicine Hat Tiger already has 31 goals in the WHL and although he's not the biggest player and could stand to work on his intensity and work ethic, he's still going to go high in this draft as it.

Stanislav Galiev, LW Team Cherry: The skilled Russian who plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL was pure eye candy last night, but he lacked finish. He has speed to burn and like many undersized Russians, is able to stickhandle inside a phone booth, leaving defenders often flat-footed with a dazzling array of moves at speed. His best chance to score came in the first period when Orr goalie Mark Visentin got caught turning to his left when the puck hopped out to Galiev alone with nothing but net. He was unable to bury it, but he was buzzing the Team Orr net all night. He showed scouts his high-end skill level last night, but the question remains: can he capitalize on his chances or is he going to be one of those players who always looks great, but at the end of the night, doesn't make much of an impact on the scoresheet?

Taylor Hall, LW, Team Cherry: This wasn't Hall's greatest performance, but he was no slouch, either. Like many top players with his kind of ability, you knew it was only a matter of time before he broke through, and that occurred on Team Cherry's winning goal, when he zoomed up the ice and fed Ryan Spooner for a beautiful short-handed marker on the backhand. Hall had also made the play on what looked like an Austin Watson goal in the second, breaking in on goalie Domingue after gaining body position on the Orr defender. Domingue made the save and Watson put the puck, sitting there tantalyzingly in the crease facing the open net, off the post and wide. The ref called it a goal, but it was overturned upon review. But, that aside, Hall was held in check for much of the night, as he wasn't able to beat the second and often third man on him to gain open ice and separation. Still, with the game on the line, Hall chose that moment to make it happen and he did. That's what clutch players do, and while Seguin may have gained a slight edge in overall play, Hall showed why most feel he is the prize of the draft.

Devante Smith-Pelly, LW Team Cherry: I didn't know much about the Missisauga St. Mikes' forward prior to last night, but I do now! What an inspired, workmanlike performance from a player who was there because of injuries to others, but did not look out of place at all. Although not big by hockey standards, he initiated contact all night and came out on the winning end because of his fire-hydrant like build and ability to use leverage against bigger opponents. He was involved offensively and looks like he's going to be a solid NHL role player in time. I'd spend a second-round pick on this guy if I were calling the shots.

Cam Fowler, D Team Cherry: Like the WJC, Fowler wasn't dominant by any stretch, but displayed his plus-skating ability all night and made the right plays/decisions throughout. Fowler's performance was the anti-Galiev in that few will remember any plays that stand out from Fowler (other than that quick pivot, turn and blast around the back of his own net that the Sportsnet broadcasters were raving about), but at the end of the night, he was on the winning side.

Calvin Pickard, Maxime Clermont and Mark Visentin: Team Cherry definitely had the edge in goaltending on paper and the final score bore that out. But, all three of these goalies (with Visentin playing for Orr) were outstanding. Pickard, who will battle USA hero Jack Campbell for top billing among netminders in the draft's 1st round, was under siege early, making tough saves against John McFarland, Niederreiter, Seguin and Toffoli look easy, which is the mark of any good goaltender. Like his older brother, Chet (Nashville's second pick in '08- 1st round), he's a technician who uses a compact stance and demonstrates smooth economy of motion. He surrendered only the Niederreiter goal, one he just missed getting his pads togther to maintain what was a near-perfect performance.

Visentin was the lowest-ranked of the four in net, but along with Pickard, played the best, stopping all 19 shots he faced. He got lucky on the Galiev chance, but took up a lot of net and had very good pad control, calmly turning aside everything he faced down low with ease. He was poised and rock solid in the net, looking like a first-round pick (though he almost certainly won't be). The Niagara Ice Dogs netminder definitely helped his stock in what is shaping up to be a very good goalie crop.

Clermont, who was expected to be a 1st-round pick before the season, showed off his atleticism and raw ability, giving up only the Skinner tip that he had no chance on. He showed off an acrobatic style with very fast reflexes, as evidenced by the save he made on Owen Sound forward Joey Hishon, who can score some goals (even though he's been injured with a broken foot most of the year).

All in all, this goalie class looks good, and this trio underscored that by keeping the score low in what is many times more of an offensive spectacle than what we saw last night. For anyone who watched the game, it is obvious that the score could have been much higher if not for the play of the guys between the nets. These guys are good.

Well, that's a wrap on the 2010 Top Prospects Game. There are other guys I could talk about, but this post is long, and most people probably stopped reading five minutes ago. But, I was glad for the chance to see these guys, and I saw flashes from a lot of other players. It's just one game, but the baseline has now been established. How it all plays out between now and June 25 is why we all follow the amateur game.

Thanks for reading!

I'm going to do a feature on Portland's "Fab Four" of Niederreiter, Ross, Ryan Johansen and Troy Rutkowski soon. They are a compelling story in themselves and have all combined to make the Winterhawks a critical destination for all NHL scouts working the Dub.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CHL Top Prospects Game On Tonight

If you're a hard core draft junkie and have access to the NHL Network in the U.S. (Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, but you probably knew that!) then be sure to watch (or set your DVR) tonight at 7 p.m. ET for the CHL Top Prospects Game, the annual showcase of Canadian Major Junior's most accomplished draft eligibles for the upcoming lottery.

The teams are coached by two famous people in Boston Bruins lore: Bobby Orr and Don Cherry, and is essentially a "who's who" for the Class of 2010.

Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley, Nino Niederreiter, Alex Burmistrov, Jeff Skinner John McFarland...all will be in action, not to mention some of the other draft names playing in the QMJHL, OHL or WHL that you may not be familiar with: Tyler Toffoli, Brad Ross, Mark Pysyk, Calvin Pickard, Max Clermont, Stanislav Galiev, Quinton Howden and others.

Big names who won't play because of injury: Russian scoring winger Kirill Kabanov (Moncton), big skilled blueliner Eric Gudbranson (Kingston) and high-upside forward Brett Connolly (Prince George)- all three will be missed, as they have all been projected at various times inside the the top-10 for the draft class.

These games are always fun, and aside from living in the CHL region where these major junior teams are close enough to visit to see live and in person, this is about as good as it gets in terms of a viewing opportunity to see the best 2010 draft prospects on the ice together in a single venue.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Boston Bruins 2010 Draft Pick Position Updated 19 Jan

I'm here a day late to update the Bruins draft picks for 2010.

Yesterday wasn't so hot for the tank nation. The B's got manhandled at home by the surging Ottawa Senators who got a natural hat trick from captain Daniel Alfredsson, who's scored 4 goals in 2 games since returning from injury.

The Toronto Maple Leafs won on the road against Nashville after blowing a three-goal lead. Phil Kessel was the hero, scoring the game-winner with a little over five minutes remaining to take a 4-3 win. Carolina lost to Tampa Bay, which hurt Boston's second-round pick status, Edmonton got blown out by Colorado in a 6-0 loss. Minnesota also lost.

Here are the picks for 2010 if the season ended today (not taking the April 13 lottery into effect):

1st Round
3rd overall- Toronto (43 points; 17-24-9)
17th overall- Boston (54 points; 23-17-8)

2nd Round
33rd overall- Toronto
35th overall- Tampa Bay (48 points; 19-19-10)
47th overall- Boston

3rd Round
None- Boston pick traded to Buffalo for Daniel Paille

4th Round
91st overall- Carolina (35 points; 14-27-7)
*107th overall- Boston
*(Conditional pick for Paille; terms to be confirmed, but 16 goals by Paille gives Buffalo Boston's 4th-round pick in addition to the 3rd)

5th Round
137th overall

6th Round
167th overall

7th Round
197th overall

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Red Line Report's January 2010 Rankings Are Out

Aside from Red Line's annual draft guide published in June (for my money- there is no better product out there detailing the draft class for the general public), their January issue is the one I look forward to the most.


Because obvious World Junior Championship (Under-20) coverage aside, we're at the halfway point of the season, and the January rankings give you a pretty solid glimpse at where the players are going to fall come June. You'll see another rankings tweak in May after the April World Under-18 Championship tourney (USA won it in Fargo, N.D. last year), but January is the month where Red Line's scouts ramp it up and bring their 'A' game.

So, with that in mind- some thoughts on the rankings themselves.

The top-three is unchanged from December: Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Cam Fowler lead the 2010 pack.

However, injuries to and an uninspiring WJC performance from Mikael Granlund dropped the Finnish forward down from No. 4 last month to No. 8. He swapped places with Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who had a nice individual performance in the same tourney even though his team crashed and burned. Moncton defenseman Brandon Gormley who has the makings of a stud on defense who may not be as far away from Fowler as many think rounds out the top-five.

The sixth spot on the rankings is held by Minnesota native Derek Forbort, who is another impressive physical specimen, left the high school ranks in the land of 10,000 lakes for Ann Arbor and the U.S. Under-18 Team and by all accounts is playing very well for them. He doesn't get the attention that Fowler and Gormley do because they're in major junior, and because he's more of a project who's going to do some NCAA time, but who wouldn't want a 6-foot-4 defender who can really skate, bang and play a strong two-way game in their system?

Some other key risers this month are Nino Niederreiter, who has gotten a lot of attention on this space. He's up three spots from 12 to 9. Another B2010DW fave is Kitchener scoring ace Jeff Skinner, who is up to 14 from 19 and for my money- the most ridiculous of Central Scouting's rankings. No way he's the 47th-ranked North American, regardless of whether you think he can play defense or not. Jack Campbell made a sizeable jump to 15 from 27 after his WJC performance, coming off the bench to key the Americans to only their second gold medal in the 30-odd years the Under-20 tourney has been in existence.

Speaking of Campbell, here is what his USA teammate and current Washington Capital John Carlson had to say about him last night in DC: "He's a great goalie and he's a young goalie, too. He's going to be a star one day. He stood on his head- I thought he played a great tournament. We were there because of him."

According to Red Line, Campbell may be the only 17-year-old goalie in the history of the tournament to be in net for a gold medal victory. We won't mention that he was only three days away from turning 18 when he put the medal around his neck, but it bears mentioning again that he was the winning goalie in last spring's under-18 tourney and has forged a reputation for winning the big games. Some NHL team is going to grab him earlier than people think.

Moose Jaw forward Quinton Howden, a nice blend of size and skills appears to be turning it on and is up to 22 from 27.

Falling this month were Granlund as already mentioned. Minnetonka H.S. forward Max Gardiner (brother of Anaheim '08 first-rounder and U.S. WJC team member Jake Gardiner) suffered an injury and is out for much of the high school season. He dropped from 15 to 24 as a result.

Speaking of injuries to key players, Kirill Kabanov, who recently got the cast off his wrist and hopes to get back into action by February. It's been a tough draft year for the uber-skilled Russian: he missed the first month in Moncton waiting for the IIHF to rule in his favor to allow him to play in the QMJHL, and then got 11 games in (14 points) before hurting the wrist. Who knows how effective he'll be when he gets back, but any NHL team looking to spend a high pick on him will be leery of the injury and the fact that his Russian status makes him more of a risk than most.

In a shameless pat on the back, it was also nice to see that Red Line's scouting reports on the key WJC 2010 draft eligibles resembled mine. It just means that we saw a lot of the same things, but for a rank amateur like me- it also represents continued growth and understanding of the game. I give them the definitive nod because they were there in person and I was not, to say nothing of their professionalism and established credentials as scouts. But, my scouting reports are a nice place to start if you're looking for information on some of the key 2010 prospects, but didn't get a chance to see any of the games.

As always if you have an interest in finding out more about Red Line Report and their pay service, you can go to

Kyle Woodlief will publish his monthly USA Today column in the next 1-2 weeks, but for now, this will give you a nice head start on where he and his publication stands on the draft.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Capitals- Maple Leafs Live Blog on B2010DW

Well, folks- settling in here at the Verizon Center and the players are taking the ice.

Starting lineups:


G- Jose Theodore
D- John Carlson
D- Shaone Morrisonn
LW- Jason Chimera
C- Brendan Morrison
RW- Eric Fehr


G- Vesa Toskala
D- Carl Gunnarsson
D- Francois Beauchemin
RW- Alexei Ponikarovsky
C- Matt Stajan
LW- Nklas Hagman

And away we go!

Period 1

That didn't take long...Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom on the right circle, snapped a wrister over Vesa Tosakala's glove, 1-0 Caps. Just the way the first game here at Verizon began back in October. Less than a minute in- 49 seconds to be exact- No. 29 on the year for AO.

U.S. WJC hero John Carlson was recalled from Hershey this afternoon and is out there now wearing No. 74 in red.

Nice flurry of saves there by Theodore to keep it 1-0 at the four minute mark. Wait...puck's in the net but it came off its moorings. Play is under review. Lee Stempniak shot it in, but no goal.

Worcester's own Tom Poti in the box here for delay of game at 4:29. Leafs on the PP. Nice puck movement from the Leafs with the man advantage, but no quality shots in the early going. Tweet! Nice positional save by Theodore on a hard snapshot from Ian White.

Caps killed it, but they're right back in the box- 2 min. to Backstrom for boarding. Caps keeping this PK opportunity to the perimeter: a few outside shots from Niklas Hagman, but nothing Jose Theodore couldn't handle. Killed it off.

Leafs are outshooting the home team by an 8-2 margin right now- that reflects the two PPs they've had to none for Washington, but Theodore looks on his game right now.

Not a lot of Capitals shots are getting through so far...nice hit along the boards by Boyd Gordon on Garnet Exelby.

Tomas Fleischmann denied by Toskala on a nice give-and-go from Alexander Semin. That was close...nice save by Toskala.

Not much action going on in last few minutes...both teams having trouble getting any sustained offensive pressure going.

Fehr had the open net with Toskala down and out, but shot it high.

Bang! 2-0, Caps just like that. Jason Chimera moved it to the point where Ovechkin blasted from the point. Fehr in front redirected it past Toskala for the 2-0 lead. 12th goal on the year by Fehr who is one of my favorite guys to cover on the Caps going back to the '03 draft when I got to hang out with him a bit. He's starting to come into his own offensively this season after being a big-time goalscorer with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

First 20 minutes are in the books- Theodore had to make a late save on Hagman as he broke in off the left wing and took the puck to the net. No rebound. Caps being outshot 14-8, but they're up by two.

Scoring for the period:
1-0 Ovechkin 29 (Backstrom- 34) 0:49
2-0 Fehr 12 (Ovechkin- 30, Chimera- 13) 17:51

Saw Leafs GM Brian Burke upstairs before the game started and he looked his usual intense self...this can't make him happy the night after his Leafs played so well at home against Philly in a 4-0 win.

OK- going to take a break. Be back for the 2nd.

Second Period

The second period is going on.

Doink! Toronto rings iron at one end, and Ovechkin breaks to the other. Puts the puck on net and Mike Knuble sweeps it into the open net. 3-0, Caps with a little under 16 minutes left in the 2nd. It is old friend Knuble's 11th. Ovechkin has a 3-point night. Backstrom with the other assist.

Caps on the PP thanks to Jay Rosehill's hooking penalty.

That's Knuble with another one...great tic-tac-toe passing with Ovechkin (his 4th point) and being Johnny on the spot in the goal mouth allowed him to sweep it into the cage after Ovechkin's shot rolled to him. Semin drew the secondary helper.

Toronto looks, well...tanked. Not much hustle behind the plays, and they're down 4-0 while outshooting the Caps 15-13. I watched their body language and they just seemed to sag when Ovechkin scored 49 seconds in. They got it together a little, but this is a team with a fragile psyche from the looks of it. When Fehr scored, they just seemed to go in a shell.

Phil Kessel...MIA. Haven't noticed him much out there, to be honest. Sure looks to me like he's a man in need of a legitimate NHL center. I don't see much creating on his own from him tonight.

Washington just blitzed out of their own end and down the ice with speed...Toronto barely contained it. And then I realized...that was the Caps' 4th line. This team has a lot of firepower and balance...when they get the goaltending, they're unbeatable.

Caps on the penalty when Toskala's cleared skied over the glass. Scratch that...Mike Green called for hooking. 4-on-4...where the Caps are most dangerous.

Referee Chris Rooney hearing it from the Caps fans for a cross-checking call on Fehr. Sounded like Boston fans for a second there...

Wow...nice standing 'O' the U.S. military seated in the "Tickets For Troops" section by EADS just got from Caps fans when announced on the Jumbotron. I love stuff like that.

Tomas Kaberle breaks the gooseegg with what looked like a weak snapshot from the point that had eyes and beat Theodore through a screen. It is a power play goal. Kessel with one assist, Stempniak with the other.

Caps up 4-1 after 2 periods, Maple Leafs still outshooting the Caps 21-17, but the home team up by three.

I'll be back for the third.

Second period scoring:
3-0 Mike Knuble 11 (Ovechkin- 31, Backstrom- 34) 4:03
4-0 Mike Knuble 12 (Ovechkin- 32, Semin- 40) 6:48 PPG
4-1 Tomas Kaberle 5 (Phil Kessel-13 Lee Stempniak- 4 ) 18:37 PPG

3rd Period

Is underway...not much happening.

Hagman with 10 of Toronto's 22 shots so far.

Caps go to the PP with Stempniak off for tripping. Pace has slowed considerably in this game, btw.

Ovechkin again...just 28 seconds into the man advantage. Took the puck near the left point, skated in and wired a shot that Fleischmann deflected, beating the hapless Toskala. That's 5 points for AO for those scoring at home, 5-1 Caps at 6:47.

Green off for slashing at 8:52...Toronto on the PP.

We're under 10 minutes in the game. A clearly dominant performance by Washington so far, as Toronto has looked pretty poor for the most part. A lot of their shots are from the perimeter, and aside from Rosehill pushing Green in the second trying to goad him into some kind of foolish fighting attempt, haven't seen much emotion.

Whoa...Poti just looked like Bobby Orr there. Swooping in the zone and bursting up the middle, taking a Semin pass and firing it high into the net for a 6-1 lead. That's Poti's 2nd of the season with the second assist to Green. This one's a laugher, folks. And Toskala's save percentage is taking a beating...again.

Stempniak just hit the goal post...puck stays out. It's been that kind of night for the Leafs.

Well, folks- not much else to do here but wait for the final seconds to tick down. I'm going to go ahead and close up shop so I can go interview the players and whatnot. I'll be back later with final observations, some relevant quotes and so on.

Oh, look- a donnybrook. Looks like Shaone Morrisonn just got hammered there. Who was he fighting? I didn't catch it. Rosehill? No- Colton Orr. Mike Green, too it looks like. Uhhhh, Toronto- too little, too late, guys. Actually- on replay, Big Mo handled himself OK against Orr.

But, on this night- if Leafs Nation was feeling pretty good about their team after the win over Philly, they've certainly come back down to Earth after this one. Just not impressed with the Leafs for the second time I've seen them live here in Washington this season. Both games, they fell behind early and showed no real moxie in trying to get back in it. Yes, we all know the Caps are good. But, Toronto doesn't have Washington's talent. Nor do they stack up against most teams in the East on paper. They have to outwork their opponents and when they don't, it shows.

Third Period Scoring
5-1 Fleischmann 16 (Ovechkin-33, Green-35) 6:47 PPG
6-1 Tom Poti 2 (Semin-41, Green-36) 11:07

Final thoughts Post-game wrap up.- 11:45 pm ET

Talked to three Caps players afterwards: Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and John Carlson. Here are the highlights:

Alexander Ovechkin

Q: You guys were taking the puck to the net hard all night, Alex. Was that a big difference in the game for you?

Alexander Ovechkin: Yeah- I think we didn't play well in the last couple of games especially in the first period. We gave up too many chances to them to score goals, and today we decided to go right away to the net, make some traffic and shoot more pucks. So, it worked well.

Q: What were your thoughts on Toronto tonight? You scored so early that it seemed as though they sagged a little...

AO: It was a little bit frustrating for them but this happens to everybody. They have pretty good team, but we used our chances all night.

Mike Knuble

Q: Are you feeling more comfortable with the (injured) finger? It looks like you might be shaking off the rust and getting back into form...

Mike Knuble: I do what I do and I think that people who watch the Capitals and watch me as a player it's kinda where I go and what I do. I'll be honest- I was getting frustrated not getting my little bounces and all that around the net. That's my game- I can't really change it- that's what they expect out of me and that's why I play with those guys to be the net presence out there.

Q: What kind of effect do you think that has on Toronto? They see Alex getting going like that and have to deal with the fact that he's on his game and the force we know he can be?

MK: As opposition, you hope he's going to sleep a little bit. You hope he doesn't get woken up. He's a real self-starter obviously, he wakes himself up. He doesn't need- right from the drop of the puck he's always going. That's why he is who he is because he never stops. Like the Terminator.

Q: What are your thoughts on Toronto? Are they as bad as the standings show?

MK: No, I don't think so because last night was probably a tough game for them. They came out with a good win. But, it's probably a bit of a buildup to the game- it was probably an emotional game for them last night. Giving up one in the first minute isn't- is not a great thing either when you're on the road like that. I guess our series ends up even, and all the home teams won. We're happy with our points- we're happy with the way we finished the game. That's all that matters. We're worried about ourselves and not anyone else.

John Carlson

Q: What time did you get here today after being called up from Hershey?

John Carlson: About 6:10 or 6:15...a lot of fans were already in the building by the time I got here.

Q: Did your parents make it here tonight to see you play?

JC: My dad did. My mom didn't- she was at the eye doctor all day and had to do some stuff, but my dad was here to watch it.

Q: Was it pretty special to have him here to see you announced as a starter and be on the ice when the opening puck dropped?

JC: Yeah-I was pumped to even start in the first place and to get that ovation was unbelievable.

I also asked Carlson about Jack Campbell, but I'll save those comments for another time when I'm posting about the U.S. WJC gold medal-winning goalie. Carlson is laconic- you don't get a whole lot from him in terms of an in-depth and extended response to the questions you ask him, but he lit up when I mentioned Campbell's name.

So there it is. A pretty convincing win for the Capitals tonight. B's fans are happy because that's another regulation loss that makes it tougher for Toronto to climb out of the cellar. The Caps players were pretty charitable on the record about their opponent, which is what you would expect, but let's face it- the Leafs didn't play with much inspiration tonight. If they're serious about making a go of this year, then they'd best pick up a sense of urgency.

I stopped by the Toronto dressing room...things there were pretty somber and there was no sign of Kessel so I moved on.

That does it for tonight. Thanks for checking in.

Red Line Report's January issue just arrived, so I'll digest it and post some commentary on it. I always love the January rankings because it is chock full of information from the WJC. I was also happy to read that their impressions of Nino Niederreiter jived with mine...I will tell you that he's moved up to 9th overall on their list. When you consider that he started out 47th- that's quite a jump from August to present.

Tonight: Liveblogging Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center

I'll be at the game and liveblogging the action for those of you who are dedicated to following the Tank Nation, but may not have access to the video for the Caps-Leafs game tonight at 7 pm ET.

Since becoming captain, Alex Ovechkin and his team have scored 25 goals in five games- the most of any NHL team over that span.

Vesa Toskala is fresh off of his first shutout of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers last night, so it will be interesting to see if the home team can keep the offense going.

Oh, and the Bruins kept their 12-point lead over Toronto intact by stopping their three-game skid with a shootout win over San Jose. Still scratching my head over the fact that one of Zdeno Chara's bombs though Evgeni Nabokov's five-hole was the winning strike in the shootout. Claude Julien shouldn't make a habit of putting Chara out there just because it worked this once. Oh, and hat tip to Tim Thomas, who made 41 saves to steal a win for the Providence...ahem...I mean BOSTON Bruins, who were missing their top three centermen last night with David Krejci joining Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard on the injury list, growning more and more obscene by the day.

So, looking forward to seeing the Leafs and Phil Kessel live. They opened the Verizon Center this season sans Kessel and it was a brutal performance. We'll see if tonight has a different outcome. Leafs have actually matched up well against Washington, winning twice against the Caps at home after losing in DC.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston on New England Draft Prospects

I had the honor of talking to Gary Eggleston today, longtime New England scout and Central Scouting's most experienced talent hound for the region. His responsibilities have expanded beyond New England as you can see below, but he's forgotten more about hockey than most of us will ever know.

Here's his bio from (published in '06 so it's a little dated):

In the Eastern United States, Gary Eggleston is the longest-serving scout with Central Scouting -- in his 26th year in this capacity. Gary calls Boston, Mass., home and is responsible for all Eastern U.S prospects including, NCAA conferences, Hockey East and the ECAC Hockey League, Eastern Junior League, and the vast array of New England prep schools. Gary will also crossover to see top prospects throughout North America.

We chatted extensively about Kevin Hayes, Charlie Coyle, Bill Arnold, Connor Brickley and Brian Billett, all of whom are the top-ranked New Englanders for the upcoming draft. Three of them graded out in the first 30 spots, which speaks well to the class's depth this year. A fourth, Danny Biega, is not a native son and hails from Quebec, but led the Salisbury School (along with New York goalie Andy Iles) to last year's New England prep championship and is now skating well for Harvard.

Biega, one of three brothers skating for Ted Donato with the Crimson was 31st on the midseason rankings and in listening to Eggleston rave about his ability, smarts and shot, I have to think that he'll move up into the first round when all is said and done. I saw Biega in the prep championship tourney last spring, and along with Chris Kreider, he was clearly the best player on the ice, keying Salisbury's come-from-behind win in the semifinal game against Andover.

Billett's low spot on the goalie list (25th) is perplexing to me, but Eggleston explained that it had a lot to do with inconsistent (read: poor) play over the summer and injury woes that kept him off the ice in the early part of the season. He's expected to move up, because he's played very well lately and his numbers with the NH Jr. Monarchs (EJHL) are solid.

Also intriguing is the omission of Deerfield Academy defenseman Nick Lovejoy. The younger brother of current Penguins farmhand Ben Lovejoy has size and ability on his side. The older Lovejoy at one point was thought of as a solid draft candidate back in 2004, but he was passed over completely and looked like a bust after leaving Boston College for Dartmouth (not the greatest program for producing NHL players). But, to Lovejoy's credit, he earned a contract with Pittsburgh as a free agent and has seen some NHL action.

At this stage, I wouldn't write his little brother off. If he has the same kind of natural size and ability, and the same kind of drive and desire to be a player that his older brother has shown, then Nick Lovejoy may be someone to watch in the later rounds.

I've written a feature on the prospects for the New England Hockey Journal website and it should be up on soon. I'll link to it when it's up for those interested.

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 14: Here is the link to the story on the New Englanders ranked by the CSS at midterm:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hurricane Wardo Blows Through Toronto

We had another goaltending clinic put on at the Air Canda Centre tonight, this time by Carolina Hurricane Cam Ward, who made 38 saves in a 4-2 win after the Leafs outshot his team by a 40-18 margin.

Jonas Gustavsson was decent and probably deserved a better fate tonight. He had no chance on the winning goal, a deflection by Pat Dwyer in close that got past him with less than five minutes left.

The 'Canes have won three in a row and have quietly crept back to within striking distance of the Leafs after getting left in the dust in November and December. Carolina is just four points behind Toronto, with two games in hand.

This is one more devastating loss for the Leafs, who are now eight games below .500 with 23 losses on the year...and that doesn't count the nine OT losses they've accrued.

This was two more points they really needed to have from a team chasing them in the standings and didn't get. Luckily for them, the Edmonton Oilers have been just lousy, winning only one game in their last 12. And that came against...guess who? You got it. Da Leafs.

Tough schedule coming up for Toronto, first up against the surging Philadelphia Flyers and then Friday on a road trip starting with the Washington Capitals. Toronto's won the last two games against the Caps after getting dropped badly in Washington's home opener way back in early October.

I knew that January was shaping up to be a tough month for the Leafs based on their schedule, but with losses to teams behind them in the race, their road out of the NHL's cellar has gotten signficantly tougher.

NHL On The Fly Monday Night: Midseason Rankings Edition

The 30-minute special of NHL Network's On The Fly which focused on the 2010 NHL Draft and the Central Scouting Service's midseason rankings was worth watching last night.

CSS Chief E.J. McGuire didn't have a lot of time to talk about the prospects, and the obvious focus was on the Dukes of Windsor: Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler, who could become the first teammates to go 1-2 in draft history come June in L.A.

The highlight films of the featured players like Hall, Fowler, Tyler Seguin, Mikael Granlund, Vladimir Tarasenko, John McFarland, etc. was a nice primer for the kinds of things these kids are capable of, but any hardcore draft fan was left wanting more.

There was a live interview with Hall and Fowler together in Windsor, and I plan on lining the two of them up myself soon. They came off extremely well, and I've heard the same kinds of things from several scouts about them: they are quality people and teammates, to say nothing of their talent and upside.

Pierre McGuire was also on to provide his analysis and commentary, and he's firmly behind Hall as the top pick for this draft.

All in all- this is great programming for the NHL Network. It doesn't always have to be all NHL all the time. These kids are the league's future, and we're going to see more focus and coverage of the draft as the season progresses and we get closer to June.

Speaking of coverage, next week, the CHL Top Prospects Game will be on the Network live from Windsor. That's a must-watch for anyone reading this blog who has access to NHL Network. If you want to catch a quick glimpse of the who's who of this draft class playing against one another in what is essentially a fast-paced All-Star Game, then this is just what the doctor ordered. It used to be that I would get VHS tapes of the game from my friends in Canada every year and would have to wait 1-2 weeks before I could watch it. Being able to catch it live is so much better!

Monday, January 11, 2010

NHL Central Scouting Service Midseason Rankings: Europe- How Far Will The Russians Fall?

Here is the link to the European midseason rankings by the NHL's Central Scouting Service

The big question will be how far the skilled and talented Russians near the top of the list, headlined by Vladimir Tarasenko (I posted a scouting report on his WJC performance here last week) drop on draft day.

I've talked a bit before about how the imperfect storm of a nonexistent IIHF transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia, the competition and lucrative contracts of Kontinental Hockey League and cultural barriers are providing a major impetus for NHL teams to stay away from Russian players at the top of the draft in recent years.

The risk is proving to be too high, and the death of Alexei Cherepanov (17th overall by the Rangers in 2007) and defections of Alexander Radulov (15th by the Predators in 2004) and Nikita Filatov (5th by the Bluejackets in 2008) to Russia, depriving their NHL teams of their talent and services after investing the major capital of picks and in the latter cases, money, have hurt the chances of prospective Russians in future drafts.

I'm not saying these guys won't be picked, but the guess is that they'll drop lower than what their talent and upside dictates they should be picked given where they were going a decade ago.

Bottom line: Even if Tarasenko continues to impress on the ice, don't be at all surprised if he drops completely out of the top-10 and closer to 20 at the draft. NHL clubs have nobody protecting their interests as they apply to Russian players, and even with the most honest, heartfelt cases made by those players to their scouts and management in pre-draft interviews, what has happened with Filatov and Radulov will weigh heavily on the minds of the decision-makers who own those critical high picks who could have a significant impact on a team's fortunes in a cost-certain hockey world.

Now, the CSS list has Finnish forward Mikael Granlund at the top and deservedly so. He's a fine prospect who has amazing hockey sense and great hands. His skating isn't bad, but not exactly a strength either. But, he's been so productive playing against men as a 17-year-old. I've heard people in the know cautioning away from the obvious Saku Koivu comparisons because Granlund isn't believed to have the former Montreal captain's maturity or intensity, but he's still a heck of a grab in the early 1st.

Three Russians are next in Taresenko, big Maxim Kitsyn and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who showed some positive flashes at the WJC.

Last year, Sweden had the greatest draft in history, and while not as top-heavy as it was in '09, there are eight Swedish prospects in the top-20 of CSS's rankings.

I don't know a great deal about these guys, but will do some research and learn more about them. Patrick Nemeth (13th out of AIK Jr.) is a nice blend of size and skill, but some feel he lacks that high-end offensive upside you look for and may not ever develop it.

German Tom Kuhnhackl has dropped a bit this year and is a tough find in the German pro leagues, especially since his country was relegated to the B Pool in the WJC this year. A very skilled player, he's not been all that productive bouncing between Germany's top pro league and the second division, but could be a steal if he drops into the bottom-20 or lower. He's currently ranked by CSS as the 10th-best European skater.

Jokerit winger Teemu Pulkinen is 17th, but like Kabanov, that ranking is colored by injuries and a lack of playing time. He's a highly skilled, if undersized scorer who has nice potential if he can play to his abilities.

Swedish forward Victor Ohman of Malmo Jr. is a surprise to me ranked all the way down at 38. I'd heard him being mentioned in some circles as Sweden's top forward, so once again- you see the disparity in hockey scouting with Ohman's position here.

Finally, Slovakian D Martin Marincin is 11th and showed off an intriguing game at the WJC. If you only watched him against Team USA, he's a solid top-15 selection given his size, mobility and all-around game. Unfortunately, he struggled with his consistency, so he's one of those rough-around-the edges guys who will require a lot of time and patience, but who could pan out for whichever team grabs him.

It's a weak goalie crop coming out of Europe, with Swedish netminder Jonas Gunnarsson leading the class. But, Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz, passed over last year, is fifth on the list, no doubt owing to his very good performance in Saskatoon. He got lit up against Sweden in the bronze medal game, but the guy held his team in about every game he played and keyed a huge quarterfinal upset over Russia.

Don't forget the Midterm Rankings Show on the NHL Network tonight- 7 ET. And, can't wait to check out the NHL Prospects Game right around the corner.

NHL Central Scouting Service Releases Midterm Rankings: North America No Surprise- Hall Numero Uno

The Central Scouting Service's midseason rankings are up over at

I can't say that I'm all that surprised by who is near the top of the list (Riley Sheahan at No. 5 overall ahead of Moncton D Brandon Gormley is a mild one), but there are some guys ranked much lower than I expected, namely Kitchener Rangers uber-scorer Jeff Skinner, who is 47th but has 34 goals in 42 OHL games to lead that league (mainly thanks to Taylor Hall's WJC hiatus). Call me crazy, but even with concerns about Skinner's size and defensive game, you mean to tell me that 46 guys are better than he is with that kind of production?

Hall is No. 1 and that's exactly as expected. In fact, the top-three is pretty much what every scout has been projecting this year, with Plymouth Whalers C Tyler Seguin second, and Hall's Windsor teammate Cam Fowler following close behind at three.

Prince George winger Brett Connolly is fourth, and on talent and upside alone, that's a solid place to have him. The problem is- he's battled a nagging hip flexor injury all year that could end up being worse than is being reported. NHL teams will certainly keep a close eye on that and judge his play (assuming he can stay on the ice enough between now and the draft) within that context.

Sheahan at five validates the Red Line Report's belief in him; they started talking about him two years ago when they saw him playing in Ontario Jr. B. Now that he's in South Bend getting prime minutes as a true freshman, everyone else is onto him, too.

Kingston defenseman Erik Gudbranson is sixth, ahead of Gormley, and this despite having injury woes early on and missing time, then being recently diagnosed with mononucleosis, which will not only keep him off the ice for a good few weeks, but will likely hamper him a bit going forward. Curious selection given the situation with him this year, but there is no denying his size or skill level.

Russian flash Alex Burmistrov of the Barrie Colts has been outstanding, and he grades out at seven. Well deserved there, but there will always be a hesitation by NHL teams taking Russians because of recent situations surrounding Nikita Filatov, Alexander Radulov and even the deceased Alexei Cherepanov, who died under dubious circumstances during a game in his native Russia.

Gormley, whom I've heard great things about all year, is ranked a little lower than I would expect, but I still think he's a top-seven or earlier pick. We'll see how the two-way defender, whose upside is not as high as Fowler's, does in the final half.

Rounding out the top-10 are a couple of suspect players based on what I've been hearing.

Edmonton Oil Kings defender Mark Pysyk has all the physical tools to be a player, but has been "passive" and "inconsistent" in the words of a WHL scout I know. He's not a bad prospect, but thus far, has been a disappointment given expectations coming in this year.

Sudbury's John McFarland is a terrific talent, but he's had issues scoring this year, and does not grade real high in the intangibles department, namely, attitude, effort, compete level and leadership.

Not all that surprised either that Russian scorer Kirill Kabanov, who missed time early while waiting for an arbitration ruling on whether he could play for the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats, was lost for considerable time in December with a significant wrist injury. Skill-wise, Kabanov is much better than 15th overall, but you can't blame the CSS scouts for having him lower than others because he simply hasn't played enough this year, and furthermore, that injury will be a cause for concern going forward.

New England has a pair of regional prospects at 18 and 19 in Nobles forward Kevin Hayes(Dorchester, Mass.) and South Shore (EJHL) forward Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass.) who is Tony Amonte's cousin and will play for BU next season. Both are being projected in the second round for June at present.

No. 42 and 43 guys, a pair of blueliners in the US NTDP's Jarred Tinordi and Troy Rutkowski of Portland are a little lower than I expected, but Tinordi is more of a meat-and-potatoes, in-your-face defender while Rutkowski is an offensive d-man who Red Line Report scout Mike Remmerde told me recently was having a "Thomas Hickey-type" season, in that Rutkowski demonstrated a terrific offensive dimension as a 16-year-old, but this year, seems to be intent on playing more defense. While not bad news in itself, it has hurt his production and correlates to his lower-than-expected position.

The goalie rankings are about what was expected with Seattle's Calvin Pickard (Nashville 1st-rounder in '08 Chet's brother) No. 1 followed by USA star Jack Campbell second. I've spent a lot of time in this space on Cambpell, but Pickard is like his brother: a big, athletically-gifted and technically-sound goalie with a bright future.

However, I am intrigued by Gatineau's Maxime Clermont sitting way down at the 10th spot. I was led to believe he's a much better prospect than that, so the ranking is a surprise.

As far as New Englanders go, Kennebunk, Me. native Brian Billett is putting up very good numbers for the NH Jr. Monarchs of the EJHL, but is only 25th on the list. That's not even tops on the list. That honor goes to Martin Ouellette, who plays for Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, NH, who greaded out at 17.

What does this all mean? We're looking at a very good year for goalies, which is welcome news given how '09 went in that regard.

I'll be back with another post about the CSS's Midterm rankings for European skaters and goalies next.

And, don't forget- the NHL Network will have the Midterm Rankings special on tonight at 7 ET. Probably worth watching if you have even a passing interest in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Boston Bruins Pick Update 2010, 2011 Jan. 11th

Hiya folks- I'm here with what has become a ritual for B2010DW this season: the Monday pick update.

I'm also going to start including the rest of the rounds (estimated) AND throw in the total number of picks in 2011 given that it's impossible to project where those are going to be 18 months out.

The Boston Bruins are hurting with the injuries to Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference. A team that had trouble scoring goals before its top two centermen and best playmakers went out with thumb and knee injuries respectively is positively hamstrung without Bergeron and Savard. And the defense is banged up, too- with Stuart yet to return from a broken sternum and Ference out with a groin injury suffered against Ottawa last week.

The good news for B's fans is that Toronto has been just plain lousy lately (2-6-2 in their last 10). Let's face it- we all knew they weren't that great a team going into the season, but this latest version of the Maple Leafs has underachieved in major fashion in Brian Burke's first full year as GM.

So, Toronto is holding the third-worst spot in the NHL, but Edmonton is just two points behind them with a pair of games in hand, while Carolina has quietly creeped up from the basement, just six points behind the Leafs with the same number of games in hand. Clearly, getting Eric Staal and Cam Ward back have helped the Hurricanes, and where they once looked buried in the cellar a month ago, they could play their way out of a last-place finish if they keep it up.

Best of all, the teams ahead of Toronto have been winning lately, putting some distance between them and the Leafs. So, it's going to be tough for Ron Wilson's team to climb up in the standings unless they go on a major hot streak. Possible, sure, but not the way Phil Kessel and Co. have been playing for them lately.

That's it for the Monday analysis. Now, here are the B's picks (not taking the lottery into account) if the season ended today. After round 2, the picks are estimated and won't be carved in stone until the Stanley Cup playoffs conclude in June. But, it's close and will give you, the hardcore draftniks out there, something to template for your mock drafts between now and then:

2010 Boston Bruins draft picks

1st round (2)
3rd overall (Toronto- 39 points; 15-22-9) *Kessel trade
17th overall (Boston- 51 points; 22-15-7)

2nd round (3)
33rd overall (Toronto) *Kessel trade
36th overall (Tampa Bay- 44 points; 17-17-10) *Recchi trade
47th overall (Boston)

3rd round (0)
None- Buffalo *Paille trade

4th round (2)**
91st overall (Carolina- 33 points; 13-24-7) *Ward trade
107th overall** (Boston)

**One 4th-round conditional pick (Boston's) obligated to Buffalo as part of Paille trade if he scores 16 goals this season (based on reports- exact performance measure not confirmed)

5th round (1)
137th overall (Boston)

6th round (1)
167th overall (Boston)

7th round (1)
197th overall (Boston)

2011 Boston Bruins draft picks

1st round (2)
Toronto * Kessel trade

2nd round (2)
Minnesota * Kobsasew trade

3rd round (1)

4th round (1)

5th round (1)

6th round (1)

7th round (1)

Not a bad 100th post. I hope you guys are getting something out of the blog, and if there is anything in particular you want to see or have questions about, let me know.