Sorry for the delay in returning. Taking a much needed holiday has kept me from my blog. Originally I was going to look at Mr. Feaster's possible off-season moves, but I think I pretty much missed the boat on that one.
So now I am going to turn my attention to Junior Camp for the WJC and talk a bit about my impressions of some of Canada's hopefuls, concentrating on Flames prospects, while bashing Vancouver's prospects since I live on the coast. ;-)
Game 1: Canada 5 Finland 3
The original lines started by Sutter were:
The first two periods were back and forth with both teams looking to have momentum at times, but Canada seemed to have a deeper lineup which made me think they would probably prevail. Especially if they could contain the Tervainen line.
In the same time frame the best player on the ice was probably Tervainen, and the best line was Leipsic-Petan-Poirier. They looked dangerous on most shifts and drove the play with a lot of speed and a good forecheck.
Poirier looked impressive with good wheels, good push and the ability to generate offense coming off of the wall. His speed opens up the ice as well.
He battles hard along the boards using his size, winning most of the puck battles I saw. He also showed a willingness and ability to provide good speed and pursuit on the backcheck.
If there was a negative, he seemed to be pushing a bit too hard at times, resulting in a couple of rushed bad passes when he had time. That being said, these games are uber important and it is understandable he would be pumped.
Although it is only one game on this stage, I can already see why Calgary chose Poirier over Shinkaruk. He has a lot more dimensions to his game and better speed. Shunkaruk had a couple of decent shifts where he maintained possession in the offensive zone and was in a position to make plays, although not much materialized due to good defensive coverage by the Finns. But I also noticed he was easily dominated along the boards every time he went in. He is a very strong skater, but not really quick or really fast. That being said, he showed great puck control and hands on his empty net goal on a high pass from Sam Reinhart to ice he game. I thought he looked better once Reinhart replaced Mantha on the top line.
For the last period Sutter changed up the right side:
This seemed to be a better combination all around. Mantha really got the 4th line going. Brendan Gaunce was good on faceoffs and going to the net. Rychel started moving his feet better and the line had a few good shifts. Gaunce scored when he went to the net after some good work by Mantha. I thought Gaunce tapped it in, but the announcer said it was actually kicked in by a Finnish defenseman...either way...
i have to say Brendan Gaunce's skating is a notch below the rest of the forwards. He is slow and not too agile, which resulted in a couple of dropped possessions and being left a bit behind the rush when he couldn't quite keep up on a three on two. However when he is left out he drives hard to the net and is a handful for the defensemen. He is very strong and tenacious which serves him well as this level, but he needs to improve his skating a lot to make the NHL.
Poirier was consistent with his new linemates and got an assist after his shot just failed to trickle in, and Girard poked it home. He looked very good and very consistent throughout the game.
But there was more good news for Flames fans. Jankowski really got it going in the third. He looked marginally OK on a couple of shifts in the first two frames, but he looked very good in the third. He has great offensive instincts and really showed his pass-first mentallity making a couple of really nice passes, but went to the net a couple of times as well. That line created chances nearly every time they were on the ice. They were on for one of the Finn's goals though.
Despite lining up on the wing you can tell Jankowski is a natural center because of his positional play and awareness. He showed a knack of seamlessly shifting from offense to defense which seemed to keep him in position as well as in the play a lot. When I first watched him in prospects camp, I thought he was a bit of a floater, but now I understand his style better. This kid covers a lot of ground in a hurry with his long, smooth skating stride.
On the negative side it looks like he could work on his shot, and could be a bit more physical and aggressive. But I see more of what the Flames must have seen in him at the draft now. I didn't think he had much of a chance to make the team, but after today, I think if he continues to improve, he may get a shot.
Comrie was excellent in goal. Enough said.
On defense I thought Morrissey and Pulock both played well. But I thought Slater Koekkoek who started on the top pairing was another player who looked slow and lacked mobility.
Not a bad first pass at times, but gave away the pick a couple of times as well. Seemed to be a bit lost when he wasn't on offense. Pretty one dimensional performance and was a defensive liability for a lot of today. That being said he is coming off of an injury which could be a factor. But I think once Pelech got hurt they should have called up someone else.
Overall I wasn't that impressed by our defensemen.
Finland had a couple of their top players sitting today as the Coaches and staff evaluated the hopefuls on the roster.
Factoid: Although Calgary has no defensive prospects on team Canada, Goaltender Jon Gillies and defenseman Patrick Sieloff both look to play prominent roles for team USA