September 14 2011 08:35PM
He may not be the most photogenic prospect, but Adam Polasek made a good impression this evening.
With basically all of their name prospects (Schroeder, Sweatt, Anthony, Sauve, Erixon, Connauton) sitting out - a Canucks rookie squad composed mostly of undrafted invitees, late round picks and Anton Rodin put together the teams best performance so far in the Young-Stars tournament.
The unheralded group negated three one goal leads from the Sharks prospects before going up on a power-play goal late in the second period off of an Adam Polasek point-shot. They didn't look back. In the third period, the prospects were - *gasp* - really solid defensively, allowing only four shots in the frame.
The Canucks rookies who were supposed to "stand out" did for the most part. Archibald and Rodin each had excellent individual efforts that resulted in lovely goals, and a few surprising players like Frankie Corrado and the aforementioned Adam Polasek bounced back nicely from their rocky outing against the Oilers prospect group last Sunday. Though Longpre - the star of Monday night's game, was largely invisible tonight, Kellan Tochkin and Stefan Schneider continued to impress. I have to imagine that both have improved their standing in the eyes of Canucks brass this week.
The Canucks prospects play one more game in the tournament, tomorrow morning at 11:30 am (PST) against the Winnipeg Jets rookies. Most of the "name" prospects mentioned above - probably all of them, except for Bill Sweatt who is banged up - will suit up for the game as the Canucks and MacTavish try to finish off the Young-Stars tourney on a winning note.
For the Right Reasons:
I tend to have a pretty high opinion of Polasek, but I was disappointed in his performance on Sunday. Perhaps it was just nerves, but against the Oilers rookies he looked immobile and struggled to move the puck effectively. It was a totally different story this evening - Polasek was great and his performance impressed me a lot more than a knock-out punch ever could.
Not only was Polasek solid defensively, he also rushed the puck well - especially on the Canucks third goal, which, he probably should've been credited with a point on. He also sent a tape-to-tape cross ice pass to Anton Rodin for the game sealing, highlight reel, fifth goal. He looked reasonably good on the power-play, scoring the game-winner on a blast from the point that bounced off an anonymous Sharks prospect and in. When a vaguely flukey game-winning goal is your third most impressive play in a hockey game - you know you stood out for the right reasons.
Probably more than any other Canucks prospect - Tochkin has stood out to me this week in Penticton. He's undersized, and had a disappointing overage season with Everett and Medicine Hat of the WHL last year but in this tourney, he's been very good. Though he's short, and slight of frame - he's really strong on the puck and wins a lot of puck battles in cheeky fashion. He's also a solid passer, and had two assists on the evening, but his most impressive pass - a cross-ice bullet through traffic that surprised one of his line-mates when it hit him right on the blade of his stick - won't show up on any score sheet. Because he's small and not a point-per game scorer in the WHL, I'm reluctant to project him as an NHLer at any point, but his hand-eye, puck battling skills and solid passing is very intriguing.
For the Wrong Reasons:
Honzik had another rocky outing, stopping 21 of 24 shots and looking panicky at times in net. Though the third Sharks goal was an unlucky break that trickled into the net off his teammates stick, the first two goals were - simply put - all on him. The first goal came off a rebound so juicy, it might as well have been seared on the outside - Chicago style. The second Sharks goal came on the power-play, directly after a mystifying puck-handling decision by the 18 year old Czech tender.
I'm high on Honzik and think he's got a lot of talent. Still, I have to admit, he's been underwhelming in Penticton. Even if he is one of the youngest guys in the tournament, and plays the most technical position on the ice - 9 goals allowed on 47 shots against is pretty bad.
What I like about Honzik is that he's clearly got a lot of raw talent. He's big (6,3), he has really good speed and skating ability, and he's got the potential to be a game-changing puck-handler. But right now, Honzik is all potential and no substance.
If you go back and read our Prospect Profile of Honzik - he's only had a formal goaltending coach for one full season. He's also really young, and struggled mightily in the early parts of the QMJHL regular season, before turning in a stellar performance in the playoffs. He's athletic, he learns quickly, and though in his two games this tourney he's been prone to unforced errors, atrocious rebounds and momentum killing brain-farts - I'm still impressed by what I see.
The rebound control, and the "mental side" of the position will come with experience. And that's what this week is to Honzik - an experience, a taste of how far he still needs to develop in order to make it as a professional hockey player. In two years time, Honzik will be the same age as Karel St. Laurent, and I'm pretty confident he'll blow all of us away.
2011 fifth round pick Frankie Corrado looked like dead-weight to me on Sunday, but he turned in a solid performance tonight. His positioning was good, he made smart plays moving out of the defensive zone and he's a strong skater with good composure on offense. Looks to me like a nice player, with really good potential for a fifth round pick.
Rodin and Archibald were relatively quiet this evening, with the exception of their respective goals. Their line with Monday's hero Nathan Longpre was barely noticeable in the game, and certainly didn't control possession for any extended period of time. On Archibald's goal, he tipped the puck past a Sharks prospect, beat him through the neutral zone and somehow found some space short-side on J.P. Anderson. Really impressive stuff from the big man, and a really nice finish with that wrist-shot. I still think he'll look slow against NHL competition at training camp, and in the pre-season - but his combination of size, smarts and hands is pretty sweet.
Rodin still looks to me like he's hurting. Perhaps I'm wrong, but the way he seems to be shying away from contact implies that Rodin isn't fully healthy yet, and is all too aware of it. Rodin showed some flashes in the first period, then was not particularly noticeable in the second. He scored a really nice goal in the third though, flashing his speed and his dangles. He hung J.P. Anderson out to dry with a slick forehand deke. Rodin isn't healthy enough, or good enough yet to crack an NHL lineup, but there's no denying that he has some NHL quality skills.
Stefan Schneider continued to impress me tonight, and I really think he may get an invite to main-camp. His size and speed are prototypical for an NHL fourth liner, and he seems smart enough, and talented enough to crack an NHL top-12 at some point.
My new favorite Canucks prospect is Alex Friesen, who I've now nicknamed the noisy cricket - after Will Smith's tiny gun, that packs a big wallop in the Men in Black movies. Friesen may not have the stature, but that dude is one tough customer. He lit up a couple of Sharks prospects on the games first shift, and then beat the living day-lights out of a frustrated Sgarbossa after the game clock had expired. I hate fights in rookie games, but seeing Friesen (he's listed at 5,10 - but that's hilarious - he's 5,8 at most) throw down was fun, despite myself.