Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. If you missed any of my previous articles you can find a complete listing of my them here.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend the OHL contest between the Guelph Storm and Sarnia Sting in the beautiful Sleeman Centre in Guelph, one of my favorite arenas in the league. For those who haven’t been to Guelph, the Sleeman Centre is an exceptionally intimate setting and a great place to watch a game. I highly recommend it. The only issue I have is that parking in Downtown Guelph feels like an “afterthought” at times, and if anyone out there has some tips on where to park near the rink, I’d love to know.
Now for those who have followed this column, I don’t normally do individual game reports, I normally take a look at one or two players and describe them after a number of viewings, however last night was a little different. In a random occurrence I ran into the Montreal Canadiens’ Head Scout Trevor Timmins. In my opinion Timmins is one of the best scouts in hockey and his track record with Ottawa and Montreal certainly supports that belief, so even if it was only for five minutes after the second period, I was going to take that opportunity to pick Timmins’ brain.
Now as stated, this was a chance encounter, and not a planned interview so forgive me if I have to paraphrase my conversation with Timmins here instead of giving direct quotes. But I will give you a little about what we talked about.
First, since we were watching Sarnia, the obvious topic was the man Timmins and the Habs selected at #3 overall in Alex Galchenyuk. Timmins raved about Galchenyuk, saying that he is an absolute stud, and was really impressed watching him recently. He stated that Galchenyuk looks at 100% and that the only thing holding him back from scoring more points is that he really has no one else on his level with Sarnia. His linemates are just not at the same level as Galchenyuk and often fail to convert great setups that he makes.
We spoke of one particular play* in the first period of this game, the Sting were short handed and Galchenyuk won a puck battle to steal the puck in the Sarnia zone. He carried the puck through the neutral zone, and deked through two defenders and set up Craig Hottot with a wide open net. Guelph goalie Garrett Sparks had no chance on the play. Hottot managed to somehow miss the net from 4 feet in front. On the play which occurred nearly 38 minutes of hockey earlier, Timmins stated that he still didn’t know how the net was missed.
Another play was where Galchenyuk, faced with no other option due to the way he was positioned and the way a missed shot by Connor Murphy rebounded off the end boards, made a behind the back, through the legs pass to Reid Boucher in the slot on the Powerplay. Boucher also shot wide.
While Galchenyuk had one assist, Timmins stated that he would have a lot more points tonight, and all season long, if he had someone who could keep up with him on the Sting.
*Side Note: My own notes on the Hottot play, not Timmins…. The moves to get through the defenders were outstanding and I recalled the play vividly as it had me out of my seat and saying WOW when it happened. As I stated in my draft preview, Alex Galchenyuk has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen on a prospect. In other good news for Habs fans , I counted Galchenyuk as 5/6 in the faceoff circle tonight. He played Centre on special teams, but was at LW 5 on 5.*
Edit: Here is the youtube of the play. It appears the miss was by Anthony DeAngelo, not Craig Hottot. I apologize for my earlier error as the number was hard to see from where I was positioned in the rink
We also discussed Charles Hudon, who recently left a Chicoutimi game with a concussion. Timmins stated that he felt it was a bit of a head shot, and that while Hudon does have a concussion, the reports he got was that it was minor. Timmins stated that Hudon was a heck of a player, he was very happy to draft him in the 5th round, and that he was having an excellent start to the season.
My overall impression of Timmins was very positive after meeting him. While I only had a couple of minutes to speak to him, and obviously given his position, and my own, he has no need to pay me any attention at all. However he was willing to listen to all my questions and to provide answers. He even asked for my thoughts on the players in question (though I doubt whatever I told him would influence his opinion). I know he’ll never read this, but if on some chance he does, I’d like to thank him for the opportunity to have a short chat in the second intermission yesterday.
For those still reading I thought I’d make a few other comments on things that stood out in this particular game, which was a 6-3 victory for the Storm. Remember that this is a one game report and not a thought on my overall impressions on these players with multiple viewings. A couple of players (particularly Anderson and Murphy) had uncharacteristic rough nights.
J.P. Anderson, Sarnia Sting, Goalie: Anderson is a prospect for the San Jose Sharks, who is back in Sarnia this season. He was pulled after giving up 5 goals on just 17 shots tonight, and when he left Guelph had a 5-0 lead. I can’t put much blame on Anderson for the 1st or the 5th Guelph goals as he had little chance to stop either of them. But the 2nd, 3rd and 4th goals were issues for him. He had particular problems with his rebound control on this night, as he just seemed unable to find pucks in his feet, leading to three goals and plenty of close calls for Guelph.
Craig Hottot, Sarnia Sting, Right Wing: The good, the bad, and the ugly was the story of Hottot’s night. The good was a nice second period goal on the powerplay where he took a pass from Galchenyuk, cut to the net, and scored putting one over the glove of Garrett Sparks. He also seemed to get a 2nd goal when a bad angle backhand squeaked through Sparks in the third period, but the ref ruled that he had blown the whistle, saving Guelph on the play. In the bad, we already spoke of Hottot missing the net on a wide open chance. In the ugly, expect Hottot to be hearing from OHL head David Branch about a suspension shortly. With about 3:00 to play, he absolutely destroyed Ryan Horvat with a dirty hit to the head. What made it worse is that it occurred away from the puck, and was clearly interference. He seemed to target the head in replays as well.
Ryan Horvat, Guelph Storm: Horvat was playing an excellent game with 2 goals and 1 assist tonight. It may have been the best game of his OHL career. It was unfortunate how the game ended though, as Horvat was clearly hurt on the hit by Hottot. He was out on his feet, and was very wobbly. He had trouble standing up, and could barely skate to the bench. A definite chance of a concussion here.
Connor Murphy, Defence, Sarnia Sting: The Phoenix draftee had a rough night. He was turned inside out and made to look absolutely silly on the 5th Guelph Goal. On the Powerplay he couldn’t hit the net with his shot, and on a 5 on 3 in the second period for Sarnia, he tried to gain the zone himself and skated right into a defender, losing the puck rather easily. Zone entries on a 5 on 3 should not be that difficult or ugly. Chalk this one up as a bad game for Murphy as I’ve rarely seen him in this type of form.
Brody Milne, Guelph Storm, Left Wing: Milne had a goal and 2 assists, combining with Ryan Horvat to be Guelph’s most dangerous 1-2 punch on the night. The Guelph native showed good work along the boards and some really nice vision and passing ability. This was the first time I’ve seen Milne in action, but he was very impressive. Like any rookie who I’m watching for the first time though, I’ll need a few more viewings to get a good read on him.
Jason Dickinson, Centre, Guelph Storm: The 2013 NHL Draft eligible Dickinson had a very good game. He showed good vision and playmaking ability, as well a nice balanced skating stride. He’s also got great hands and the ability to stickhandle and protect the puck is excellent. He’s showing why he’s yet another good centre in a draft class that is very deep with them.
Joshua Chapman, Defence, Sarnia Sting: So here is the situation. Your team was losing 5-0, but you have scored three straight goals and its 5-3 in the third period. You pass the puck up to your team’s best player and spring him (Galchenyuk) and his linemates on a 3 on 2 rush with 15 minutes left in the third and give them the chance to cut the lead to just one. So what do you do next? Well if you were Joshua Chapman last night you would start a fight with Scott Kosmachuk, taking away your team’s scoring chance. Now people who read my column know I’m not a fan of fighting in general, but this play has to be considered the absolute WORST possible time for a player to fight. Jacques Beaulieu looked pissed on the Sarnia bench and I don’t blame him. Oh and Chapman lost the fight too.
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