Hey Silver Seven!
So yesterday I had the pleasure of watching the Niagara Ice Dogs route the Oshawa Generals, taking an early lead and going on to win 7 - 3, taking the East semi-final 4 - 1. Next they play the Mississauga Melynk's Majors in the East final!
While this in itself was an exciting and goal filled game (Oh, and I also learned that Ice Dogs fans hate Lucas Lessio, more on that later) The best part was getting to see some possible future Sens in action, namely Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton and Nicklas Jensen. I'll do a bit of analysis on them here, but first I have to state that I am now absolutely dumbfounded that Darren Archibald, the Ice Dogs leading playoff goal scorer, was passed over in two drafts, and only just recently got a pro contract, from the Vancouver Canucks. The kid is an absolute beast and has shown he's clutch in the playoffs. But I digress. after the jump I'll give a little blurb on each player, followed by their strengths and weaknesses as I saw them. And remember, I'm no scout, just a fan. So, on to the analysis!
Ryan Strome - C/LW
Age: 17 Height: 6'1"
Weight: 183 Shoots: R
Stats on the night: 1G, 0 +/-, 6 PIMs
What I saw in Strome last night was a shifty, smooth and composed 17 year old. He is one of those players who has natural offensive instincts and who can create offense from multiple areas. While he is more of a passer, he also has the ability to finish, as evinced by a nice little goal last night. Overall he had a relatively quite night (while he had a goal, he had just one point while his team put 7 up on the board) but I generally liked what I saw.
Passing: Strome is capable of making crisp, accurate passes, most of which find their target
Good one-on-one skills: He has no problem going one-on-one with an opposing player and has the moves to back it up. He has very soft hands, and while his moves don't always work, they will improve as he matures.
Gets to the open areas: Has a natural ability to find the open areas of the ice, which was directly responsible for the goal he scored last night.
Can work from any area: One thing I definately liked is that he will try to work from anywhere. He loves to work off of the boards, but will go to the slot, the net or the point, depending on the available areas. He also played a couple PP's moving between the half-wall and the point.
Can slow things down: Strome is generally a very composed skater, and can slow down everything around him through his puck handling ability.
Excellent burst of speed: At the other extreme, when Strome turns on the jets, he GOES. I first saw this on TV a week or so ago. a D-man bobbled a pass, sending it into the neutral zone on the PP, and an Oshawa player gave chase. I thought he had a break, but Strome absolutely took off, beating the Gens player back, retrieving the puck, and turning the corner to rush back up ice. The guy can fly when he wants.
Needs to add some strength: His upper body strength is not where it needs to be, and he has trouble with getting knocked off the puck and not being able to win physical battles. If he can add 10 - 15 lbs before he hits the NHL, he could be a very effective player at the next level. Adding strength will also greatly improve his success in one-on-one battles.
Has a tendency to "float": One thing i did not like to see is that rather than come into his own zone to defend when the Gens had the pucks, he would just sort of do circles between his and the neutral zone. Basically, he'd turn circles until the Dogs got the puck, then head up ice.
Needs to work on backchecking / defensive responsibility: A two-way player Ryan Strome is not. He absolutely needs to work on his defensive play and back checking. I was dissapointed that a player with his speed didn't work harder on the back check. He could be very good at using said speed to strip players of the puck.
Closing thoughts on Strome:
Best described as a shifty playmaker, Strome has good vision, soft hands and a great burst of speed. He describes himself as a blend of Joe Thornton's vision with Pat Kane's agility and speed, and I am inclined to agree. He has a good skill set, now he just needs to bulk up and work on his defensive game. One thing I absolutely did not like seeing, however, is that he took a 4 minute double minor for spearing, with just 10 minutes left in the game. I was not impressed. All in all though, I would definately not be opposed to seeing us draft him, and envision him as a solid 2nd line centre.
Draws comparisons to: Joe Thornton, Patrick Kane
Dougie Hamilton - D
Age: 17 Height: 6'4"
Weight: 193 Shoots: R
Stats on the night: 3 A, 2 PPP, 2+/-, 2 PIMs
Dougie Hamilton is a solid defenseman who can play in all three zones, in any situation. Last night he saw plenty of ice time on the PP, on the PK and at even strength, logging plenty of minutes in the process. I definately liked what I saw, and what I saw was a player who was willing to go into the dirty areas, can contribute offensively, and, while it didn't happen often, is willing to throw his weight around.
Passing: Makes accurate, crisp passes. Has a good first pass.
Good offensive skill: strong on the PP and can man the blue line by himself.
Great shot: Has a hard shot and a knack for getting it through to the net.
Active stick: Uses his stick well in his own zone to break up plays and knock the puck away.
Uses his body: Has no problem mixing it up and throwing his weight around.
Looks lost at times: Has a tendency to get a bit out of position in his own zone, spinning around trying to figure out where to go. It's nothing terrible (he's not curled up at centre ice crying) but he could work on it a bit
Needs to keep his feet moving: I'd say some of his "looking lost" can be attributed to his tendency to stop moving. He also needs to work on his pivots a bit. The bizarre thing is that he's actually quite mobile for his size, so I'm not sure why he gets caught standing still at times.
Needs to add a bit more strength: While its not as much of a problem as at the start of the season, he still has a tendency to get moved off of the puck. Once he gets his weight over 200lbs though, that should all but dissapear.
Strength or Weakness?
Pinches extremely deep: Not sure what to classify this as. It didn't cost him in the game, but he pinches extremely deep at times. Like, "I'm the only one forechecking" deep, or "Don't worry, I'll drive the net" deep. More than once he ended up behind the net in this game.
Closing thoughts on Hamilton:
Basically what I see in this big kid is a number 3 or possibly number 2 D-man, who can play lots of minutes and who can be effective in all three zones. He's relatively solid in his own end, has an accurate first pass and has great offensive vision. He's got a hard shot and is good at getting it through traffic. As a right hand shot, his awesome package of size, skill and mobility could eventually be a perfect compliment to Cowen for a fantastic top pairing. Overall, Hamilton is the player I was most impressed with of the three. Also worth noting, Hamilton won the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year award, with an overall average of 94% in 6 grade 12 courses. Duncan Keith is said to play a very "cerebral game", and I can't help but draw comparisons between the two in that regard.
Draws Comparisons to: Alexander Edler, Duncan Keith
Nicklas Jensen - RW
Age: 17 Height: 6'3"
Weight: 186lbs Shoots: L
Stats on the night: 1 A, 1+/-, 2 PIMs
I didn't spend as much time watching Jensen as I did the other two, but I will say this: Mark, I am now 150% on board with us drafting him with our Nashville pick. He's got size, strength and skill, and is a prototypical big two-way forward. Not to mention that on a night where his team got lit up for 7 goals, he had an assist and was +1.
Strength: Strong player who uses his size to his advantage. He fights through checks and drives the net.
Good net presense: He has no problem going to the net and fighting for those dirty goals.
Goes to the dirty areas: Willing to fight for the puck in the corners and doesn't shy away from the physical aspects of the game.
Soft hands and finishing ability: Despite his sand-paper-ish approach, he has legitamite finishing ability, and showed some creativity with the puck as well.
Defensively responsible: He backchecks hard and when the puck is in his end, his only concern is getting it out.
Nothing glaring, but I'm unsure of where he fits in the NHL. With a bit more skill he'd be an excellent 2nd line winger. As it stands now, he may never be better than a checking RW who is a threat to score.
Closing Thoughts on Jensen:
I really liked what I saw, he's a fiery player with no regard for human life (kidding). He's a strong player who uses his size effectively and has legitamite scoring ability. With a bit more improvement, he has 2nd line potential. But hey, as perhaps the best prospect to ever come out of Denmark, I'd be thrilled if we drafted him.
Draws comparisons to: Rick Nash.
Overall it was a fantastic game, and I really hope I can get back for another game or two before I head home from school for the summer. Oh, and as for Lessio, apparently he chose not to report to Niagara after being drafted by them in 2009, as he intended to go to college. Instead however, he changed his mind and signed with Oshawa this past summer, to the chagrin of Ice Dogs fans. The best part? After being booed all game and having to listen to chants of LES-I-OOOOOO!!! all night, he got in a fight with less than 5 minutes left, and as he was escorted off the ice, he threw both hands in the air and flipped off the crowd, making them go nuts. Clearly, it got to him.
Well, I know this dragged on a lot longer than I intended, but I had a lot of fun writing it, and if anyone has any questions, feel free to post them in the comments, and I'll answer as best I can based on what I saw.