CHL-February Edition

Now that the world junior hockey championship is over, the CHL can now return its focus back to the Memorial Cup race. The Peterborough Petes are looking like the early favorites in the OHL and are pulling away from the rest of the league. There is a great battle for tops in the QMJHL and out west, Justin Pogge is leading the Calgary Hitmen to WHL supremacy. In this issue, we will profile Nashville, Tampa Bay, and Detroit prospects. Also, the latest International Scouting Service top 15 rankings for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is out and there are a few surprises. Ontario Hockey League

Simply put, the Peterborough Petes is the team to beat this year in the CHL. They are leading the league in points without a top 20 scorer. This is what makes the team very dangerous just like the Canadian WHJC team. They are well-balanced net out and have Canada’s best forward Steve Downie (PHI) in the mix. Strong defense, goaltending and superior team play makes the Petes a good bet to see in Moncton at the Memorial Cup. Robbie Schremp (EDM) and the London Knights are next in the league but the resurgent Kitchener Rangers lead by Evan McGrath (DET) are nipping at their heels.

Player Profile: Evan McGrath, Kitchener Rangers

After high expectations, the Rangers started off the season on the wrong foot. At points, there was fear the Rangers would not even make it to the playoffs. Lead by their star centre Evan McGrath, the Rangers are now back in the playoffs and looking to leap frog the division leading London Knights. McGrath, Detroit’s 2nd choice (128th overall) in the 2004 entry draft is definitely proving his worth. The 6 ft 192lbs right shot from Oakville, Ontario is second on league scoring. While he still needs to add some weight to provide more dimension to his game, McGrath’s speed combined with his technically sound one on one abilities and puck handling, will be a compliment to any sniper winger. He can play both sides of the red line effectively and is all about team play and hard work. Detroit will welcome McGrath into the professional fold adding depth to the centre position.

Western Hockey League

What can I say but Justin Pogge (TOR), Justin Pogge and more Justin Pogge. The Toronto blue chip prospect is continuing his outstanding play from the WHJC and has the Hitmen sitting first overall in the WHL. He has a miniscule 1.58 GAA and a .928 save percentage. The Hitmen are having some very close opposition from divisional rivals, Darren Helm (DET) and the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Kootenay Ice are slowly slipping away from the Hitmen and the Tigers but forwards Adam Cracknell (CAL) and Ryan Russell (NYR) will keep the Ice in contention for the Memorial Cup.

Player Profile: Justin Keller, Kelowna Rockets

Justin will forever be immortalized in the Rockets organization. The 2004 8th round Tampa Bay draft pick scored the 2004 Memorial Cup winning goal for the Rockets. The left winger from Summerland, BC leads the league in goals. The sniper has bulked up from 172lbs to 190lbs filling in his 5’11” frame over the last couple years. He has a tenacity to pull the puck out of high traffic areas and use his excellent wrist shot to pick corners. While Justin has improved his speed game, more improvement is needed if he wants to make an impact in the pros. Judging by his progress since the 2004 draft, the likely hood of seeing this winger in a Bolt’s uniform is not a question of if, its when.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League:

The host team Moncton Wildcats are making a strong case that they are deserving to be at the Memorial Cup finals on merit alone instead of the automatic bye host teams are privileged with. Led by centre Philippe Dupuis (CLB), they are in a heated race that involves 5 teams separated by only 5 points for the league’s regular season crown. The first 50 goal scorer Maxime Boisclair with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, winger Alexander Radulov (NAS) with Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts, the balanced Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and hulking defenseman Mathieu Roy (EDM) of the Acadia-Bathurst Titan are all in the dog fight with Moncton. This is the league to watch for fast paced, high scoring playoff hockey. It’s really a crapshoot to determine who will come out of this league as the representative for the Memorial Cup.

Player Profile: Alexander Radulov, Quebec Remparts

Nashville fans get ready for this Russian sniper. Your 2004 first round draft pick is playing his last year of juniors and ready to turn pro next year. The right winger hails from Nizhi Tagil, stands a respectable 6’1” and weighs 188lbs. He was one of Russia’s top players at the world juniors and is Quebec’s top player this year. While being criticized in the past about his selfish play and lack of defensive effort, he is third in the league in assists with a very impressive +33. He has premier scoring abilities with his precise wrist shot and quick release. While he needs to improve his temper that causes many unwanted stick infractions, his overall game has improved and will be an asset to the Predator’s organization.

ISS Rankings:

It came as a surprise to see Phil Kessel drop down to 3rd in the rankings when he is was touted to be the number one overall pick in the 2006 entry draft. While he started out strong in the WHJC, his lack luster finish was probably the culprit of his drop in ranking. Solid US college defenseman Erik Johnson takes the number one spot but Jonathan Toews could inch up to number one as he continues to impress in North Dakota.

International Scouting Service Rankings as of January 19, 2005

1. Erik Johnson, Defense USNTDP (USA)

2. Jonathan Toews, Forward University of North Dakota

3. Phil Kessel, Center University of Minnesota (WCHA)

4. Jordan Staal, Center Peterborough Petes (OHL)

5. Peter Mueller, Center Everett Silvertips (WHL)

6. Michael Frolik, Right Wing Kladno (CZE)

7. Nicklas Backstrom, Center Brynas (SWE)

8. James Sheppard, Left Wing Cape Breton (QMJHL)

9. John DeGray, Defense Brampton Battalion (OHL)

10. Bryan Little, Center Barrie Colts (OHL)

11. Bob Sanguinetti, Defense Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

12. Kyle Okposo, Right Wing Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)

13. Alexander Vasyunov, Left Wing Yaroslavl (RUS)

14. Derick Brassard, Center Drummondville Voltiguers (QMJHL)

15. Nigel Williams, Defense USNTDP (USA)

6 Responses to CHL-February Edition

  1. Tweek says:

    The Petes have 3 very strong lines and in the CHL thats tough to do. Should be close between them and London.

  2. Rysto says:

    To be honest, I think that Kessel was really overrated after seeing him in the WJC. People were calling him the American’s answer to Sidney Crosby but that clearly wasn’t the case. He showed terrible decision-making, seemed to shoot the puck every time he had the puck rather than at least looking for a pass and, worst of all, kept trying to pull dekes that defencemen handled easily. I say worst of all because Ovechkin and Crosby were pulling those types of moves all the time when they were in the WJC, so it’s clear that Kessel has no where near the passing skills of those two. He certainly doesn’t have much of a shot either. He might be an excellent passer, but I couldn’t get a read on that because he never passed the puck!

  3. simplyhabby says:

    London has the killer PP. If the Petes can stay out of the box, I think they are Mem cup champs.

  4. simplyhabby says:

    I think Kessel was a victim of a very divided American team. Kessel should have stepped up more to lead his team but, it was a very fractious team full of talent but little team play.

    Its his skating that makes him a top pick. In combination with his passing abilities which will come out more in the future, he wil have an impact but you are right, he tried to do too much at the WHJC and did not do a very good job at it after the first couple games.

  5. jody200411 says:

    This years Memorial cup goes to the winner of the OHL final for sure. The Peterborough Petes or the London Knights. HOwever, don’t count out those Barrie Colts yet. Led by a strong goaltender from here in Newfoundland, Daniel LaCosta, the Colts have what it takes to win the OHL this year.

    But you would have to call the Petes the favorites right now. Steve Downie, Jordan Staal, Daniel Ryder, Jamie Tardiff, JOrdan Morrison and Liam Reddox are forces to be reckoned with up front. They may not have a top 20 goal scorer but they have 8 guys with more than 40 pts. Daniel Ryder currently leads the team with 28G and 30A in 45 games.. What a steal by the Calgary Flames!

    This could be named the year of the Staals…

    Eric – Stanley Cup

    Marc – World Junior Gold Medal

    Jordan – Memorial Cup

    *As a side note, I’d hate for the hurricans to win the Cup…. Tampa Bay?? Then Carolina?? Lord Stanley must enjoy that hot weather.. (Come on Global Warming!! Get that cup back to Montreal!! lol)

    *Speaking of Montreal. anyone see their late pick Sergei Kostitsyn(brother of Andrei) with the London Knights???? 62pts in 43 Games??? He has to be the Rookie of the year unless he drastically goes on a slump. And I don’t think he was drafted until like the 7th round?? Hate to say it but he will probably suck in the NHL like all other Hab picks.

  6. simplyhabby says:

    As in any playoffs, there is always the dark horse and the Colts may serve that title but watch out for the Rangers too.

    I don’t think Daniel will be as good as his brother Michael but Micheal was not even supposed to be an AHL regular, let alone Montreal’s leading goal scorer so you just never know.

    Actually the Habs have drafted respectably over the last 10-15 years. Here is a snapshot of some of the best players the habs have drafted since ’92. No superstars but some solid talent.

    1992: Craig Rivet

    1993: Saku Koivu, Darcy Tucker

    1994: Jose Theodore, Tomas Vokoun

    1995: Poor year…Stephen Robidas

    1996: Mathieu Garon

    1997: Jason Ward (another poor year)

    1998: Mike Riberio, Andrie Markov, Micheal Ryder

    1999-2000: Crap years

    2001: Mike Komisarek, Alexander Perezhogin, Tomas Plekanec

    2002: Chris Higgins

    2003: Andrei Kostisyn, Corey Locke

    2004: Kyle Chipchura, Alexie Yemelin

    2005: Carey Price, Guillaume Latendresse and Sarhei Kostisyn

    As you can see, Montreal has developed some decent talent and a large chunk is still in the organization. Yes, some of the prospects are performing under expectation but look at Ryder who was an 8th rounder and Plekanec (if you watch this guy, you definately see the talent) are playing above expectation.

    The habs still have a great youth mix with the likely hood of a majority becoming NHL regulars.

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