September 11 2011 11:35PM
Image courtesy canucks.nhl.com.
The game started out well enough, the gameplay was sloppy, but the Canucks looked to be holding their own against a much deeper Oilers prospects squad. When the wheels fell off in the second period, the Oil's prospects quickly scored six goals and outshot the Canucks prospects by an 18-5 mark in the frame.
David Honzik - one of the youngest players taken in the 2011 NHL Draft - was pulled before the end of the second with the score at 6-1. Though Honzik was somewhat hung out to dry by his teammates, and made one save off a beauty RNH set-up that hinted at his immense potential - he allowed some really weak goals. Overall it was a rough debut for the highly touted Czech. Though the game itself was predictably ugly, we can take solace in the fact that the Canucks prospects play the significantly less talented Flames Prospects squad tomorrow night. Looking forward, Monday night's game will be an opportunity to rebuild some confidence, and end the tournament on a more respectable note.
For the right reasons:
The Swedish forward was impressive - and was essential to the Oilers taking over the game, and putting it away - in the second. His back-hand finish on the power-play was gorgeous, and though his second goal was a gimme - he was dangerous all game. He generated a short-handed chance early in the first, and impressed all game long with his speed (which I didn't expect) while demonstrating comfort and skill handling the puck.
The 29th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft provided Canucks fans with a silver-lining. He was really good in the early going, he used his frame well in puck battles, was effective on the forecheck, and made a couple of really nice passes in and around the net. One of them, to Darren Archibald, resulted in a pretty goal to open the game's scoring. Another flipped dangerously through Olivier Roy's crease with no Canucks prospect getting their stick on the puck. A tantalizing debut for the Danish eighteen year old.
For the wrong reasons:
The Oilers defenseman, acquired in the Dustin Penner trade mid-way through last season, was a bit of an adventure in his own end. I was struck by his slow skating, and he got it handed to him in a fight with Adam Polasek. I don't think you can read too much into one bad game by a "defense-first" defenseman in a poorly structured prospects game - but he was the only Oilers prospect who stuck out to me as a passenger.
I covered it somewhat in the second paragraph, but Honzik's immaturity was the defining impression he made in his debut. His rebound control was brutal, and resulted in some, okay four, bad-goals. On the first goal of the game, he didn't "pay attention to details" and was unable to squeeze his arm to his body to prevent a bad angle shot from trickling in. The games fourth goal was especially weak - a 60 foot sinker that beat him five-hole. He looked shook after that - and didn't make a bad situation any better with a puck-handling error leading to the Oiler's prospects sixth goal of the game. I think we can chalk most of this game up to a learning experience - but simply put, it was a nightmare debut for Honzik.
Grenier was hardly the only Canuck prospect who played poorly, but he stuck out to me as particularly ineffectual. On the Oilers first goal, Grenier - a big checker with limited offensive upside - decided to go one-on-two with a couple Oilers defenseman. The smart play, because his line-mates were changing, was to dump the puck in. Instead Grenier tried to make a pretty play with the puck. Earth to Grenier - that's not what is going to get you to the big leagues! When the Oilers recovered the puck, his teammates were a step behind on the counter-attack. Though the Oilers managed only a weak-angle shot (that flukily scored), I'll bet MacTavish took note of Grenier's poor judgement.
Sebastian Erixon had some nice moments - though I thought he looked a bit lost at times without the puck. When he had the puck he seemed like a calm, competent puck-mover, and generally did well to keep the play alive at the offensive blue-line. He mostly made smart plays in his own end, and with one glaring exception (a giveaway to Martindale with 7 minutes left to play in the third) found creative ways to clear the puck against the Oilers forecheck. He played simple, effective defense - compensating for his diminutive stature by scrambling the play, getting his body in the way, and ably separating skaters from the puck.
Darren Archibald is a bit of a lumbering skater, but he impressed with some grit, some touch around the net, and made a really nice heads-up play on the goal he scored. He created a turnover with a big hit, then, knowing his check was out of the play, went straight for the net where he converted Jensen's feed. Here's the footage courtesy @canucksHD:
In addition to scoring the games opening goal, Archibald made a number of interesting power-moves to the net, and used his size well to protect the puck down low. A very intriguing performance from the undrafted free-agent.
Yann Sauve didn't make any glaring errors (the one play he looked bad on, was really the fault of Honzik's puck-handling) but it seemed to me that Sauve fumbled the puck a few times, and was noticeably reliant on a spin-move to get away from pressure. Sauve is a solid skater for his size, but he's not going to be confused with Drew Doughty any time soon. I suspect that spin-move is a "comfort blanket" that could get him into trouble against higher quality competition.
Jordan Schroeder scored a late goal, but was invisible in the second period when the game turned. He definitely doesn't look to shoot enough, but his speed, creativity and overall skill level was evident. I was more impressed by a nice defensive play he made to strip RNH of the puck in the third period than I was by his late goal.
Anton Rodin is really fast, but I wasn't impressed by his puck control. His feet seem a step or two ahead of his hands. Also, with the way he seemed to avoid contact, I'm just not convinced that his shoulder is completely healed.
Kevin Connauton is very aggressive, moves well and looks like he's bulked up significantly over the summer. His shot is dangerous, and he registered three shots on goal, but must have looked to shoot five or more times. It does seem like Connauton looks to get the puck off from the point everytime he gets possession in the offensive zone. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not in the minds of Canucks brass, but I'd like to see him pass more in an attempt to create higher quality chances.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was just fun to watch. His passing ability was slick, and he single-handedly generated a number of really dangerous chances. I'm pretty excited to watch him skate with some NHL caliber finishers.