Prospect Team of the Week
Halliday had points in both games last week against Penn State with and stood out at Ohio State's best skater on Saturday with a goal, an assist, and four shots. With the Buckeyes playing out the string on such a disappointing season, I would love to see Halliday go pro this spring and just maybe contribute to a BSens playoff push? Less probable things have happened.
Angus Crookshank and Tyler Boucher
One of these things is very much not like the other but the drop-off in production was steep for this Belleville team that suddenly can't get anything right again this week after that brief stretch of dominance that now feels like a fever dream earlier in January. Crookshank got up to his usual shenanigans with a goal on Wednesday, and two goals and an assist on Saturday (averaging just under four shots per game throughout the week). Egor Sokolov matched Crookshank's pace for shots and could have earned this last spot but Boucher got a goal and has had a lot less coverage in this segment than Sokolov over the past couple of years so there you have it.
Jorian Donovan and Tomas Hamara
In the OHL, these two former partners continued to produce despite their recent separation. Perhaps Hamara has simply made the most of his expanded role in Donovan's absence. Hamara had an assist in each game this past weekend and while he didn't get any points on Thursday, Hamara had four shots and finished a +4 (he totaled 9 shots through three games). Donovan meanwhile had points in each of his three games last week and finished +3 while averaging four shots per game for a suddenly terrifying Saginaw team. Could these two face each other in the OHL playoffs?
Since his return from the U20s, Nikitin has performed admirably with two strong starts this past week for Chilliwack. Nikitin stopped a routine 34 of 35 shots last Wednesday against Coquitlam and a whopping 48 of 49 against Penticton (naturally earning first star honours). To date, Nikitin has played backup to Austin McNicholas in Chilliwack so we'll have to wait and see if this warm stretch helps the former carve out a larger role going forward. Enjoy some wholesome content.
Ah, how the mighty have fallen. After a lengthy winning streak, the Belleville Senators returned to earth and are now on a losing streak.
It's not all doom and gloom for the BSens but they'll need to right the ship shortly or they risk wiping out the progress they made in the playoff race earlier in January. Angus Crookshank, highlighted above, felt like one of the only Senators this past week who's offense didn't fall off a cliff, registering three goals and an assist through four games. The other was Matthew Highmore, who provided the exact opposite with a goal and three assists in the same stretch.
The concern in Belleville is that goaltending appears to be the lynchpin for this team. When they're hot, they're unstoppable. When they're off, it's a struggle. You could say this about virtually every hockey team, but the issue for Belleville is consistency. With Mads Søgaard in the NHL, they're relying on Kevin Mandolese and Leevi Meriläinen between the pipes and neither have been able to get hot again. Mandolese was strong in relief of Meriläinen during one of Belleville's losses to Grand Rapids over the weekend, but outside of that both looked shaky, posting sub-.900 save percentages this week.
An interesting development for the team is they're expecting 2022 third round pick Oskar Pettersson to join the club earlier than expected. Originally, the Swedish winger was likely to join Belleville when his season in the SHL wrapped up but after having difficulty playing consistent minutes, the decision was made to bring Pettersson to North America early.
In Pettersson, the Senators will be getting a player with a deadly shot, which will likely bolster the second powerplay unit. The hurdle for product of Halmstad will be the physicality of the league. The AHL plays on a smaller surface than he's used to, and the league is far more physical than any professional league in Europe. It will be interesting to see how Pettersson acclimatizes.
Belleville flips the calendar to a new month with a back-to-back in Syracuse this week - a battle for four important points which could see them leapfrog back up to third if the bounces go their way.