Follow Notch's observations all week long at the Leaf's rookie tournament in Kitchener.
It’s morning now and after a terrible sleep at my parents' house, I am ready to recap Monday's events...
In Kitchener at the Memorial Auditorium - or the Aud as it is referred to locally - to watch the Ottawa prospects take on the Pittsburgh prospects. Great seats, first row and right beside the tunnel where the players come in and out.
My eyes first went to the goalies to see who was in the nets. Robin Lehner for Ottawa and Brad Thiessen for Pittsburgh. I paid a looney for a single piece of paper that has the rosters for all four teams in this mini-tourney.
Since Ottawa won the game 3-1, I will start with them. Once again and with the same wording, Lehner is massive. He fills up so much of the net when he goes into his deep crouch. He is down every shot no matter where it comes from. When he is down in his full or half butterfly, good luck getting anything in along the ice or 11 inches off it. He has is covered. When he is down, his body is high, upright and square. He ate up a majority of the shots with no rebound. He did let a couple rebounds out that stud NHL goalies wouldn’t have, but he recovered well and got right back into position if the next shot was coming. Lehner had to make a bunch of quick reaction saves on Ottawa giveaways and he made them with ease. Very, very impressive. He reads the play so well.
In order of how much the players impressed me:
Erik Karlsson has to be next. I don’t see it anymore; he is not as small as people say. He has a baby-face, sure, but he is not tiny out there. When I first got to the rink he was in the penalty box, four feet away from me. Anyways, once his penalty is over he steps out of the box and promptly gets a partial breakaway. He skates in with his smooth stride, I am expecting great things and just as he is about to pick a spot to shoot, the puck takes a bad bounce and goes off into the corner. He made up for it very quickly. His passes are phenomenal, NHL-ready. He led a couple rushes and made passes through sticks and bodies right onto the tape of his teammates. Early in the second period he is sitting at the top of the Pittsburgh blueline watching Peter Regin play with the puck. Regin fed a soft pass over to Karlsson and with one quick motion, a one-timer is fired on net that the goalie doesn’t even try and move for. The puck was already by him before he could react. Everyone knows the struggles Ottawa had on offense last year was due to one reason and one reason only - no puck-moving defenseman;
Karlsson reminds me of Brian Rafalski; a perfect match, those two. Be happy Sens fans, Karlsson will be fun to watch for years to come. He did get caught pinching a couple times in the neutral zone which led to two odd man rushes, so there is room for improvement. Pair him with Phillips, Volchenkov or any veteran presence and you can just tell he will be a sponge and soak in their knowledge. Almost forgot, Karlsson was the defenseman on a 3 – 1 against, Eric Tangradi was the puck carrier who tried to feed a cross-crease pass for a tap in, Karlsson went down blocked the pass, Lehner covered it. No shot on goal. It was textbook.
Peter Regin – Contrary to my previous post. His skating stride looks fine now. He is shifty with his feet and when you add that to his creative hands you have a pretty slick combination. He was the first forward back on numerous occasions and I was very impressed. He is back to being the leading forward candidate to make the big club this year.
Jason Bailey and Brendon Svendsen are hard workers who can skate, skate, skate.
I liked their hustle that they add to their decent skill set. Great pickups for Bingo, who can fill in admirably if multiple injuries were to fall upon Ottawa this year.
Zack Smith was the captain in today’s game for Ottawa and he showed why. A third period fight showed his heart after the refs broke up an earlier attempt at fisticuffs, minors were given. Once the coincidental minors were served Smith skated right over to Zach Sill from Pittsburgh and the fight was on. Lots of heart but that is it. Mike Fisher anyone?
Casey Lee – I liked this kid last night. He played in the University of Saskatewan last year and for some reason I can’t find how Ottawa grabbed him. My guess is another Bryan Murray tryout or undrafted player that he found. Either way, he caught my attention. Made a great play behind the Pittsburgh goal, fed a pass out front to a wide open Jim O’Brien who promptly missed an equally wide open net. He absolutely crushed two Penguins into the boards. He was a mainstay on the PK and was always in the shooting lane with an active stick to deflect passes.
Jim O’Brien – What happened? Where were you? Do you like long bus rides?
Disappointed to say the least, I was. He didn’t seem motivated, was sloppy with the puck on his stick, when he did get rid of the puck on pass attempts, he was way off. He got pushed off the puck too easy and never really seemed like he wanted to fight or work hard. That is the opposite of every scouting report I have ever heard on him. What gives?
Collin Bowman – Just wanted to give you props if you are reading this, great job sticking up for Lehner and his crease when a Pittsburgh player shot the puck into the vacated net on a delayed penalty call. Any player that breaks the force field needs to be dealt with. I think only goalies will know what I am talking about there.
Onto the Pittsburgh Penguin prospects:
John Curry is not at this tourney.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel did not play this game.
The Tangradi vs. Caputi debate – Luca Caputi did not play.
Eric Tangradi showed me nothing at all to be excited about. He got knocked off the puck by smaller defenseman, didn’t really compete. Floated around the neutral zone, waiting for his opportunities. In the offensive zone, the puck does find him a lot; he must position himself in the right areas because he did get chances. Lehner shut everything down on him. He has quite the shot and did get a wrister by Lehner's glove once, but not the post.
Because of my great seats, I was able to talk to many trainers, equipment guys and one Aud worker particular who is in the know. I have a feeling the reason Caputi did not play this game and Tangradi did, is because they have seen enough from Caputi. Enough good things that is. Against Toronto, I was told that Caputi hit everything in sight and had many great chances as he flew around the ice. The goalies in that Toronto/Pittsburgh game stole the show and then Caputi was next. Tangradi was invisible in that game as well says the Aud worker. Do I think this worker has a grudge against Tangradi? No. He talked highly of him from his days in Belleville. Tangradi just hasn’t shown anything in the two games he has played (so says the Aud worker who will by my best friend over the next three days). Caputi did in just one game. Give the edge right now to Caputi, a huge edge.
Keven Veilleux – Big boy, didn’t use the size much though. I saw nothing that I can recommend to you guys for your leagues. I will keep watching though.
So what players did play well for Pittsburgh? Zach Sill. He beat up Smith in a good fight, hit everything that moved, hustled, created opportunities and was just in the center of everything. Sill played in the QMJHL last year for Moncton and I will be looking more into this Sean Avery/Alex Burrows type player.
Joey Haddad form Cape Breton of the QMJHL was a beast on the boards – hitting and cycling. Didn’t notice much offense, but I liked his play none the less.
Stay away from the goalie Brad Thiessen. I think the Pittsburgh brass is saying the same thing.
Pittsburgh showed no life in this game (or the one against Toronto, I am told).
I hope you all enjoyed this. I will probably post some more as I remember them. Please remember I am not a writer, far from it. I am just a fan who is trying to help. I hope I did.
My next game is Wednesday at 2PM, Ottawa vs. Boston