CHL- December Edition
Some familiar teams remain at the top of their respective leagues and those teams were well represented at the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. Unfortunately for the Russians, they were completely dominated and it was a great display of some of the key players you should see on Team Canada’s world junior team. The ADT challenge consisted of 2 games for the Russians against each of the three league’s top Canadians for a total of six games. I will profile the future of Toronto goaltending in Justin Pogge, Montreal’s top OHL prospect, rookie Sergei Kostitsyn and the Quebec’s Rempart’s rookie sensation, Angelo Esposito.OHL
The Peterborough Petes continue to lead the OHL and their left winger Liam Reddox highlighted the OHL sweep of the Russian Selects. Reddox scored two goals in the OHL’s 5-1 win in the second game that should help him earn a possible roster spot at Canada’s World Junior Camp. The roster will be selected between December 11th to 16th. Brampton Battalion captain and Avalanche draft pick Wojtek Wolski scored a hat trick and an assist to lead the OHLers to a 5-2 victory over the Russians in the first game all but cementing Wolski a spot on the World Junior team. Wolski should be one of the key players in Canada’s attempt to defend their gold medal.
Player Profile: Sergei Kostitsyn, London Knights
Everyone knew the London Knights would remain competitive this year but few believed they would still be first in their division after the losses of Cory Perry and Danny Syvret. The Knights have managed to still have 3 out of the top ten point leaders this year and Montreal Canadiens prospect Sergei is one of them. The younger brother of Andrei (Montreal prospect) is the top rookie in the OHL this year. The 6 ft 190lb winger from Belarus has adapted well to the North American game. He can take and dish the punishment but his elite skill is definitely his skating. A very strong lower body makes him a tough assignment for anyone trying to contain him or knock him off the puck. Sergei and Andrei compliment an already deep Canadiens’ talent pool. It looks like the 7th round pick is a steal at this point in his young career.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titans remain the QMJHL powerhouse and look on track to continue their dominance. Drummondville Voltiguers’ power forward Guillaume Latendresse so far has had a mediocre season after making a huge splash at the Hab’s training camp but Gui sure knows how to come back to the spot light when it counts. In the first game of the QMJHL vs. the Russian Selects, Latendresse powered 3 goals on route to a 7-4 victory for the QMJHL. In the second game, he scored a pair of goals beating Russia 6-4 and being named game MVP in consecutive games. Look for Latendresse to make a huge impression at the World Junior training camp.
Player Profile: Angelo Esposito, Quebec Remparts
The QMJHL version of the rookie sensation is easily Angelo Esposito (no relation to Phil or Tony) and will be of NHL draft eligibility in 2007. He is making a great case to be only the 5th 16-year-old to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors as he leads all rookies in scoring and sits 5th overall. The smooth skating centre has drawn much praise from his coach and GM Patrick Roy. “From what I have heard, he has excellent chances being invited to the final selection stage of the Canadian Junior Team,” said the proud future hall of famer. What makes Esposito such an exceptional centre is not just his great playmaking and scoring abilities on offence, but his defensive game is very well rounded making him a threat in all situations. The 6’1 174lb Montreal native is still growing and is one of the fastest players in the game. He definitely has all the tools to prosper in the new NHL.
The Medicine Hat Tigers, Calgary Hitmen and Kootenay Ice have been in a 3-way dog- fight for WHL supremacy. In the ADT challenge, Devin Setoguchi, a Saskatoon Blade forward and San Jose Shark prospect scored a hat trick leading the WHL to a dominating 9-2 victory over the Russian Selects in the first game of the series. Team Canada world junior captain hopeful Kyle Chipchura who is a Montreal prospect and top forward on the Medicine Hat Tigers led the WHL with a goal and assist in the second game against Russia. The WHLers won 3-1 with solid goaltending by the Calgary Hitmen’s Justin Pogge and the Kelowna Rocket’s Derek Yeomans.
Player Profile: Justin Pogge, Calgary Hitmen
This season has been Justin’s break out year. The Maple Leafs first pick in the 2004 draft stands second statistically amongst goaltenders in the WHL. He is the backbone of the Calgary Hitmen’s successes this year. He is a large goalie standing 6’3 204lb but his size is not indicative of his agility. The Penticton native is a great puck handler and has amazing crease movement allowing Justin to challenge all shooters but still being able move across the crease to protect the open side. This is his last year in the WHL and should at the very least be playing on the Marlies next year. His jump into the NHL really only depends on when Eddie decides to hang up the pads as Justin continues to improve his game.