Image via Darren Kirby
The Nations Network sent some Jets Nation writers to the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. They’re judging your team and bringing you the view from the Press Box.
After a mostly one-sided, choppy affair between Edmonton and Calgary, the first shift of the Vancouver game felt like watching a different league. The game was very near NHL pace and physicality from the puck drop, and the star power of the Canucks forwards was on display through all three periods. Below I’ll go through my take on each player’s game and some broader notes about the contest itself.
Systematically, both teams played a very predictable but well-disciplined dump and chase style with a low centre in the defensive end and the weak-side forward transitioning to F3 in the offensive zone. In other words, both teams cycled in one corner at a time and the play was mostly a tight-quartered melee once possession was established. In transition, the Canucks speed was extremely dangerous to the Sharks and equally impressive to this observer. Jensen, Shinkaruk, and Mallet were particularly speedy and could be seen creating turnovers on the back check all night. Horvat wasn’t as quick, but read the play like few other players in the game and was almost always in position to be part of the play.
The Canucks were not so dominant on their back end, and Frank Corrado was a notable absence for the team. Guimond, Tommernes, Johnston, and Andersson all had head-scratching moments in the game, and Cederholm was protected mostly because of limited minutes. Jordan Subban – the hopeful bright spot of the blue line – had a very poor showing. Granted, it was a single game, but he looked years away from being ready for professional hockey. His first 10 minutes went like this:
- Takes a very hard hit because he put his head down and turned his back
- No-look, no-pressure pass to Andersson’s skates that gets his partner leveled
- Gives away puck in corner, can’t push player off his path, goal scored against
- Pinched at red line after centre ice face-off
- Couldn’t move Sharks forward in front of net on PK
- Tried to carry puck through Sharks during a Canucks line change
His night got better, and he showed his raw skills as a tremendously quick skater and confident puck mover. Still, his play on the PP was underwhelming and though very willing to be physical, his limited effectiveness at it was a problem all night.
The surprises of the game came from individual players, so let’s jump straight into the player report.
#75 Joacim Eriksson: Eriksson was outstanding all game. Officially he faced 40 shots, and the Canucks defense was of little help to him. His positioning was solid and he handled traffic extremely well, including crease crashing. He was strong on the puck and tracked the play well. His glove save in the 3rd just prior to the Sharks second goal was even more impressive than it might have appeared on TV, as the Canucks forward was more in Eriksson’s sight line than in the shooters’ lane. The Sharks second goal shortly after appeared to be a case of Eriksson losing track of the play off the faceoff and may have just been a brief mental lapse, though the shot was very well placed.
#43 Sacha Guidmond: During play in the 3rd, Guimond smacked his stick on the ice in frustration after another soft-pass turn over. In one shift, he lost the puck, eventually got it back, skated to the top of the circles where he was checked, lost a glove, lost a battle on the boards to get the puck back, and then made a poorly timed change. He clearly knew he was struggling, but just didn’t have the tools to handle the sharks in such a fast-paced game. He played on the second PP and PK pairings with Tommernes, and at EV with Johnston but didn’t look comfortable with either.
#57 Anton Cederholm: Played the fewest minutes of the defenders, and almost exclusively with Tommernes. Made very little impact.
#60 Henrik Tommernes: The worst play of Tommernes’s game came when he tried to skate behind Eriksson with the puck and then, flustered, gave the puck away at his own blue line with the Canucks forwards already transitioned into the neutral zone. His best play? He seemed to know where the water bottles were, I guess.
#62 Daniel Johnston: Johnston had a moment of heroics with a late goal on Groesnick (who replaced Anderson for the 3rd), but mostly struggled. Didn’t stand out except when chasing the play.
#67 Jordan Subban: We’ve covered Subban’s first 10 minutes already. I’m not sure if he was just every excited, but he struggled to make effective, patient reads and was often either ahead of or behind the play as a result. In the second period, he was at the blue line when Andersson made a poor pass and it was Mallet who made it back before him to check the Sharks puck carrier. He was frequently shrugged off the play, and despite being the biggest name on the blue line, the Sharks forwards happily attacked his side of the ice.
#80 Peter Andersson: Andersson was out there to be Subban’s safety valve, but couldn’t read what Subban was going to do better than anyone else. As a result, Andersson played a fairly conservative game and rarely pressured the puck. His play on the powerplay made him seem like a chucker in the George Costanza vein. He was ineffective, but not as mistake prone as some of the others sharing his gate.
The forwards are where the Canucks really shined.
#46 Niklas Jensen: Jensen was all over the ice all game. He showed tremendous speed and range, an opportunist mindset, and closed off lanes on the back check line no other forward in the game. He was definitely not afraid of contact, and his goal was an incredible shot. His body control. physical skills and hockey awareness were extremely impressive all game. He did make passes in ‘cute’ ways (for lack of a better word) such as through his own feet or with a flick of his stick when it wasn’t necessary. It could be that he felt he had a lot of space (he backed off defenders often) or that he is habituated to it. Overall, a very exciting game.
#48 Hunter Shinkaruk: The game’s first star to my eyes, Shinkaruk was a huge surprise to me. He was mouthy, physical, mean, and a little dirty. His cross check on Mirco Mueller put the Sharks’ best defender out of the game but it wasn’t Shinkaruk’s last unnecessary bit of extra contact. Also, it’s easy to forget that it came after Shinkaruk threw a hit in the neutral zone on the back check, dumped the puck in, and fought through traffic to chase it. But that’s all a digression as Shinkaruk was also the most dangerous offensive player on the ice, showing exceptional quickness, hands, and awareness, cycling well with Horvat, and generally frustrating the Sharks all night. They were head-hunting him and it wasn’t until the third that Bigos was able to get good hit on him (for which he earned an elbowing penalty). His two-way play was better than advertised, and he improved visibly on the penalty kill as the night went on – learning how to manage and trade-off the middle lane attacker.
#50 Brendan Gaunce: I’m not sure why this is, but Gaunce was clearly playing hurt. He looked laboured in his skating stride, lost, slow, and avoided contact. He was behind the play often and looked like he’d earned a 4th line assignment. He was even benched for most of the 3rd period. He did skate today, but is not in the lineup for tonight. With a 28 skater roster in the tournament, I’m not sure why the Canucks would let him play at all.
#51 David Pacan: The third part of the Horvat/Shinkaruk line, Pacan was, well, the third part of the Horvat/Shinkaruk line. He did show good awareness when Horvat made a rare mistake by dropping below the goal line while both his defencemen were also behind the net. Pacan slid down to support.
#52 Cole Cassels: In Gaunce’s absence, Cassels appeared to be a poor man’s version. He was up and down the ice, defensively responsible, attacked the net, and frequently made an impact. He didn’t have much in the way of scoring ability, however, and was rarely dangerous.
#53 Bo Horvat: Horvat’s goal was another beautiful shot. He also made excellent two-way plays all game, tracking his man through the slot and covering for Tommernes in front on one critical chance. He played in all three disciplines and looked very comfortable everywhere on the ice. His cycle work with Shinkaruk was adequate, and he showed creative hands on a PP deke into a shooting lane. Hard to ask for more.
#58 Ludwig Blomstrand: I like anyone from Uppsala, but Blomstrand didn’t even make my notes.
#59 Wesley Myron: Myron loved to run around and hit things but didn’t show much from the checking line with Cassels and Mychan.
#70 Kyle Hope: I found myself saying ‘never trust Kyle Hope to call a play’ in the 3rd when he pointed for help on a 3-on-2 where he was the back-checker and closest one to the puck. The defender slid over one lane, his partner did too, and the Sharks got the puck to the open trigger man on the weak side. He did hit a lot, though, and helped generate turnovers for Mallet and Jensen.
#72 Zach Hall: Hall had a better game from the 4th line than it may have appeared. As strange as it might sound, he had to cover for Gaunce and was the most effective player on his line. He made hits, had strong transition play, and attacked the net. He moved around a bit with Mychan in the box.
#78 Alexandre Mallet: Mallet had a poor season in 2012/13, and I didn’t have high expectations. But from his first shift, he was creating space and opportunities. He hit everything that moved, showed great range and speed, and was effective (though far from elite) at both ends. His pass on the PK in the 1st for a chance in front was executed perfectly and only existed because of his forecheck. He was a presence on every shift and scoring chances came often while he was playing.
#79 Jesse Mychan: Mychan was big, fast, and loved contact. He made some questionable choices and his effect on the game was low.
*The Canucks take on the Calgary Flames Friday night at 7:30PST.