The Niagara IceDogs defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 5-3 in OHL action on Saturday Night. Edmonton Oilers prospect Kirill Maksimov was the star of the show, with a goal and two assists. On the Hamilton side, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matthew Strome had a pair of goals.
The Bulldogs dominated play in the first period, but the score was 1-1 after 20 minutes. The IceDogs clearly made adjustments in the first intermission and went on to outplay Hamilton over the final forty minutes for an impressive road victory.
Here are some scouting notes on a number of players who stood out.
Niagara IceDogs at Hamilton Bulldogs: March 10, 2018
Kirill Maksimov, Left Wing, Edmonton Oilers prospect
Maksimov put up a three-point night, with a goal and two assists. On the first goal, he drove down the ice into a one-on-one with a Hamilton defender. While he was stick-checked on the play, the puck was picked up by teammate Ben Jones, who picked it up, went in on Kaden Fulcher and beat him with a deke to the blocker side. His goal was also a weird play, as a point shot was blocked by a Hamilton defender, and landed right on his stick. Fulcher did not know where it was, and he shot it into a wide-open net.
His third point was better, as he hit Akil Thomas with a tape-to-tape pass in the slot for an assist on the power play.
Some might say that Maksimov was a bit lucky on his first two points, and while it is true that he benefitted from some good bounces, it should also be noted that he was a dangerous forward throughout the night. One creates their own luck, and Maksimov did that through his speed and creativity on the night.
Ben Jones, Centre, Vegas Golden Knights Prospect
Jones also had a strong game. As mentioned he picked up a loose puck in the Hamilton zone and found himself in on a partial breakaway on Fulcher. He deked to his forehand and beat Kaden Fulcher over his blocker.
In the second period, with Niagara shorthanded, he intercepted a Will Bitten pass and took off for a breakaway. He was hauled down from behind, drawing a penalty.
In the third period, he showed vision and patience on a three on two to find Maksimov cutting to the net for a scoring chance. Later in the period, working off the half-boards on the powerplay, he showed off a strong wrist shot with a good release.
Akil Thomas, Centre, 2018 NHL Draft Eligible
Thomas, like his teammates, seemed to struggle just a bit in the first period. On one play he was carrying the puck on a three on two. Thomas used a quick change of speed and good acceleration to split the d and get himself in a great position for a scoring chance on Fulcher. However, he got too cute, dishing a backhand pass to a teammate, who was actually in a worse scoring position than Thomas. That pass was behind him and resulted in a wasted chance.
Later in the period, he made a nice rush up the right side of the ice but held on to the puck too long, and the Hamilton defence swarmed on him as he ran out of space to make a play.
Things got much better in the second period though. Thomas was more assertive and direct with his play. He made a number of impressive, one-time passes to teammates to set up scoring chances. This shows his excellent vision and anticipation, as well as his passing skill. On another second period rush, he cut to the net and showed off a strong backhand from a sharp angle that just missed the net.
Thomas got better as the game went on, and the third period was his best. He scored a powerplay goal, with a quick release on a wrist shot, going top shelf on the powerplay. He had a great chance to score a second goal late in the third, picking up a rebound and just getting stopped by Fulcher with a quick pad save at the post. Thomas was also instrumental in playing strong defensive hockey in the third period as the IceDogs protected their lead. Again the defensive game was much better in the third than it was in the first period, as he was much more engaged in the play. He even earned the trust of his coaches to be on the ice in the last minute, as the IceDogs protected a one-goal lead with the Hamilton net empty.
Stay Tuned as we will be adding an interview with Thomas talking about the game, his season, the upcoming OHL playoffs, and the 2018 NHL Draft later today.
Mathew Strome, Left Wing, Philadelphia Flyers Prospect
He scored a tap in, from the top of the crease after teammates made a pair of tick-tac-toe cross-ice passes on the powerplay. This tied the game at one-a-piece. Strome found himself standing at the top of the crease, wide open. His second goal again came from driving the net. He went to the slot and found open ice, while Robert Thomas drove behind the net and buried a nice one-timer in the top of the net.
Strome shows good positioning and gets to the front of the net. He also shows soft hands and a knack for scoring when he gets there. However, his skating is below average, and it must improve before he is ready to move to the next level. He should be back in the OHL next year though.
Robert Thomas, Centre, St. Louis Blues Prospect
Thomas was the best player on the Bulldogs on this night. He made a great pass to set up Strome for the first goal, and it was his stickhandling, speed and passing skill that created the second goal as well. He makes smart plays with the puck, but what was most impressive was his ability to find open ice and keep himself as an outlet option for teammates. His hockey IQ is very high end. He also seems to have improved his shot and release this season.
Will Bitten, Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens Prospect
Bitten did not get any points on this night but showed off his speed an creativity. In the first period, Marian Studenic put a pass behind him on the rush. He used his awareness and creativity to lift his leg, let the pass go behind him and took it off the boards to still create a scoring chance off the rush. Later in the game, he created two breakaways with his speed. One created an excellent scoring chance, while the other drew a penalty.
While he made a bad pass that led to a Ben Jones breakaway on the powerplay, he again showed impressive speed to nearly catch Jones. Jones had a good 15 foot lead from his own blue line, but Bitten nearly caught him, eventually being forced to haul him down for a penalty.
MacKenzie Entwistle, Right Wing, Arizona Coyotes Prospect
While Entwistle was also held without a point, it was not for his lack of creating opportunities. In the first period, he made a number of solid cross-ice passes to linemates Matthew Strome, and Robert Thomas. He also showed off his power. On a one-on-one play in the third period, he cut through a check from the defender and powered through to drive the net and create a scoring chance.
Riley Stillman, Defence, Florida Panthers Prospect
Stillman moves the puck well, skating it out of danger in his own end, and making a strong first pass. He threw a long breakaway pass to Bitten in the second period. He also shows the ability to quarterback the power play from the point, and set up plays. However he must get stronger along the boards, and in his own end of the rink.
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