Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Overager prospects - as of the end of July

Shane McColgan:

I really like this deal.  If I was in charge, this is one of the guys I would be going after.  Saskatoon has something like 10 overagers - they almost all have to be available.

Most of my opinion on this guy stems from that 6 game series with Kelowna a few years back.  I mean, that series was largely Adam Brown & Tyson Barrie - but McColgan was huge in that series.  I want to say he was on a line with Franko, who was also really good.  Sometimes I get the feeling he's been riding that playoff run ever since, but looking at his numbers - they are pretty good, and oddly consistent:  He was within 3 points of leading his team in scoring as a 16 - and was the leading scorer the next two years.  He's maintained approximate a point a game pace for his entire junior career:  Kelowna, Saskatoon, regular season, and playoffs.

The Rangers took him in the 5th round, and passed on signing him.  One could make comparisons to Troy Rutowski, as he just went through a similar situation.  McColgan should be motivated, and this forward group should put up a ton of goals this year.  Of course, is there room to add a top 6 forward, with the guys who need ice time?  That's a longer discussion, and a nice problem to have (see also, Jonathan Milhouse).

Garrett Haar:

I've been following this story since he was deemed academically ineligible - I'm guessing that Drinnan posted it first.  Haar's rights belonging to Medicine Hat left them with 6 overage candidates, so there's room for movement there, and voila. 

Haar was picked 4 spots from the end of the draft, which is the same neighborhood as the winningest playoff goalie in WHL history.  Take a look at Dylan's piece about Haar - he's got some good links on there.  If you piece them together, I get the impression the Capitals took a flyer on him with that 7th round pick, and shortly thereafter decided they really liked him.  Seems like the Caps found him a college, rather than the player finding the right fit.  This appears to have alienated his USHL team as well as his NCAA team.

Haar's running out of options at this point - so he's got to make the most of this year.  Guys who run hockey teams often times love the reclamation project:  "I can straighten this player out.  He just needs the proper guidance...."   Not making grades doesn't concern me all that much - many of us aren't cut out for university studies.  I'm a big second-chance guy.  I feel that this country is founded on second-chances.  That being said, this Andy Murray quote is fairly damning:

“I met with Garrett more in the two years that he was here than I’ve met with any player I’ve ever coached in my career in wanting to help him,” said Murray, who has more than 20 years of NHL coaching experience. “We feel for Garrett and his family, but ultimately our team comes first.”
I poked around the Caps website, and didn't see any obvious connections between Mike Johnston and their front office, but that doesn't mean they don't have a working relationship - and if they don't already I'm sure they have started one.

The 'Hawks have stayed away from players who could be distractions in the past (Charles Inglis, I'm looking at you).  I'm optimistic that MJ can handle it.

 Cody Thiel:

 Let me just say - I've never heard of this dude.  The only reason I'm aware of him is that Alan Caldwell has him listed as Winterhawks property on his overager shuffle post.  According to hockeydb, he's got 105 games of WHL experience, albeit nondiscript service.  I see no harm in bringing him into camp and seeing what happens.

The 'Hawks have had success in finding late bloomers & players that were overlooked lately:  Joey Baker, Adam de Champlain, Joe Mahon, Shaun MacPherson - hell, no one wanted to give Ryan Johansen a shot in this league.  I'm not sure what MJ could teach him that Brent Sutter didn't already, but you never know in juniors. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and what it means to you

What is the Ivan Hlinka tournament, you say?  You are not alone - it takes a certain level of hockey nerd-dom to follow it, as well has having players involved that you already follow.  You are in luck.

Short story is that this is a pre-season tournament, world junior style, featuring players in their 17 year old year.  This creates a buzz due to having the top draft eligible players representing their countries, even if its off the radar of your casual fan.

The 2012 Team Canada entry brought home the gold, featuring Nic Petan (as well as McKinnon & Drouin).  Derrick Pouliot has a gold medal from his 2011 efforts.

The 2013 tournament runs August 5-10.  Why it matters to you is that there are 3 Winterhawks playing, all for Team USA!  Paul Bittner, Dominic Turgeon, and Keegan Iverson have been named to the team. One could interpret these developments as the 'Hawks have 25% of the best forwards the USA has to offer.  We've been fortunate enough to watch these 3 players for a season now, and the sky's the limit with how far these guys can go.  Coach Johnston recently told Yahoo! that this trio will be taking on a bigger role with the 'Hawks this year, which should be fun to watch (there's some other interesting MJ quotes in there - give it a read).

Our friends over at the Pipeline Show had a segment which touched on this USA team, as well as some other levels of USA hockey.  Sounds like the enthusiasm for these kids' potential extends well beyond Oregon.

I'm not sure what kind of coverage this tournament will have.  You would guess there's some sort of webstream - I'll keep an eye out for it, and will try and post via twitter.  If you come up with anything, let me know.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Open letter to Gustav Olofsson

First off, congratulations for being drafted #46 overall by the Minnesota Wild!

I'm sure that it was a pretty special experience:

I'm sure that your hockey journey has been a pretty fun ride to this point - from your native Sweden, as well as Northern California & Colorado.  As a guy who grew up in USHL country, I'm sure that your season in Green Bay was great for your development, and the Wild appear to feel the same way.

Folks in Colorado Springs are pretty excited about the prospect of seeing you suit up for Colorado College this season, and I can't blame 'em.  Defenseman like yourself with good size & a knack for moving the puck well are really valuable to a hockey team.

Being able to play the game at a high level coupled with a quality education is a great position to be in, which is what playing for the Tigers represents.  Earning a 4 year college degree is a great move, especially with life after hockey.  Of course, the Wild most likely have you penciled in to go pro around 2 years from now - being a high draft pick and all.

Some would make the argument that if a player like yourself is probably going pro in 2 years, that you would be better off playing in a pro-style league, like major junior.  Playing in the WHL means a 72 game regular season, as well as 4 rounds of 7 game series for their playoff format.  William Wrenn, also a defenseman & 2nd round pick, played 1 1/2 seasons for Denver University, as well as 1 1/2 seasons in Portland.  Ultimately he played more playoff games in the WHL than total games in his NCAA career.  That workload did wonders for his development.

Players in the WHL are required to take classes in addition to their game schedule, so they have a head start if they choose to pursue a degree later.  They also have a year of school paid for every year played, although signing a pro contract voids this benefit.

My advice to you would be to reach out to some of your new Wild family.  Nino Niederreiter would be a good one to ask about playing in Portland, how Coach Johnston runs his bench, what a long playoff run is like.  Jared Spurgeon would be a good guy to touch base with, as a D man who played in the US Division of the 'dub.  I've got to guess that you know Dominic Turgeon from both being Denver kids - ask him some questions next time you see him around town.

There are a lot of Winterhawks fans who have been excited about the idea of your brother Fredrik playing in Portland - when he visited our barn it looked like a nice fit.  For a guy who likes to play an up-tempo style, there's not a better place to play than Portland:  they love to push the pace.  A guy who makes a good first pass out of his own zone is going to rack up assists on a team like the 'Hawks.  There are tons of quality forwards to go up against in this league, which can only help you grow.

Portland is bringing back 5 of their top 6 forwards, including the top two scorers in the league.  This is a team defending a championship, and we expect them to do some damage again in the playoffs this year. They just need you to get 'em the puck.

A player like yourself is in a great position, and there is no wrong answer between playing in the NCAA and the WHL.  You would be wise to look very closely at both options, and things will work out well in the end.


Chad Balcom