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Hockey Challenge 2014

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9.02.2014

What I learned this weekend in Everett

Here is a list of what I learned from watching 8 hockey games in one weekend between 6 teams

  • Evan Wardley has one mission right now, and that is hitting everyone that comes near him as hard as he can. Really, really hard. 
  • Jared Hauf is being just like Wardley, and throwing his size around. 
  • Seattle still has an issue at goaltending and which two they will keep.  All three looked good this weekend, with of course Flodell stealing the show with Sunday's performance. 
  • Luke Osterman is a little antagonizer in a big frame. 
  • Nick Holowko showed why he really wants to make this team. 
  • The same can be said for Lane Pederson. 
  • Shea Theodore is averaging 2 points per game.  That puts him on pace for 144 on the season.
  • Alexander True left the team, but TRUE to his word, he came back. 
  • Man can Florian Baltram skate well
    • On the rosters they handed out, Baltram was listed as being from Vienna AUS.  I had to idea we had a player from Australia. 
  • Taran Kozun only got to suit up in one game.  I guess being 20 and taking up a valuable game sheet roster spot if dressing has its advantages. 
  • Giving up 10 powerplays in one game is not good. 
    • Only allowing 1 goal in the 10 is not bad. 
  • A note to Seattle shooters, the idea is to put the black puck in the net when you shoot, not wide, not over the top, but inside the net. 
  • EVERY Seattle player was either even or plus on the +/- side of the scoresheet. 
Some non Seattle observations

  • Victoria has a lot of players that are under 6 feet tall (shortest was 5'6), but they hustle like crazy and can really skate. 
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand is one damn good player.  If he is not the best pure offensive player in the WHL this season, then whomever is better is a really damn good player. 
  • Everett still has the worst goal judges in the league.
    • Note to the goal judges, the puck must go across that little red line in front of you in order to turn on the flashy light, not wide, not in front, but behind. 
    • Note number two, a shot on net is only counted when the puck would go across said line in note number one, but someone stopped it from crossing. 
  • If you can believe it, the off ice officials in Everett are even worse. 
  • The WHL still doesn't know how to schedule officials.  How does every game of the 9 have 2 officials, except the last game. 
  • Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria still has amazing pizza, but their service still sucks. 
  • The price of beer at a hockey game is way to high. 
  • Spokane's Tamas Laday is listed at 6'6, and that is tall.  Everyone was going after him to see just how tough that size is. 
  • Don Nachbaur is still the best dressed coach in the WHL. 
  • Wearing your mouthguard is a very important rule now. 
    • Having your mouthguard fall out, and keep playing is ok. 
  • Doing a dry cut on the ice between regulation and OT is......whats the words I am looking for.......STUPID, BORING, MOMENTUM BREAKING, EXCITEMENT DOWNER, and most of all USELESS. 

8.27.2014

Blue/White/Camp Thoughts

"Training Camp" wrapped up Monday with the annual Blue/White scrimmage where Team White took down Team Blue 4-2. It's always exciting to see some hockey again but I also think fans and bloggers alike tend to get a little too worked up over a few scrimmage sets. The fact is, these kids are only showing what they have over a very small set of days and I would hate to think that decisions of any large scale magnitude are being made based on a few days over, say, an entire season(s) worth of a players history.

That said... here are a few thoughts I had from watching the Blue/White game and one of the scrimmages.

8.25.2014

Thoughts on Schuldhaus and Wolf

If you've followed on twitter or talked to most of the people that have been to the scrimmages and main camp and you bring up the name Brandon Schuldhaus, you get an answer that might go something like "Wow, that kid sure has looked impressive.  I would keep him on my team for sure, possibly even replacing a couple veteran players we have"

But lets look at the options he has for the upcoming, and look at it from his side of things.  I think he has two options (or more, who knows).

Option 1:
Play in Seattle as the #6-7-8 defender, sit half the games, and get some ice time in the others, probably not play on PP or PK, and learn the ropes.

Option 2:
Last season he played for Shattuck Saint Mary's prep academy.  It is arguable one of the top 5 prep schools for hockey in the world.  Its alumni include the likes of Crosby, Toews, Kessel, etc.  Not only is it a great hockey school, it is also a very good educational school.  The team plays roughly 50 games a season, and Schuldhaus would most likely be a #1-2 defender, and play on the PK and PP.

So which would you choose as the player or the players family?

As bad as this sounds being a Seattle fan, I know my choice would be to go back to Shattuck for another year, work hard, get better at all aspects of the game, and come back to Seattle as a 17 year old and look to become a #4-5-6 player that plays every game.  This is why I feel he will not be on the team this season.

If the situation was a little different, and Schuldhaus was looking at going back to Midget and his team played 30 games against lower talent, my answer would be totally different, but it is not.

The next player that seem to be in people's discussion list is Kevin Wolf".  He is the player that most fans think is competing with Schuldhaus for a defensive spot.  So if you tell them that Schuldhaus is not on the team, they say, well then Wolf can be.  He can play half the games, sit out the rest, be ready in case of an injury, and when that happens, become the #6 defender, play a little, and that is all.

So I ask all those fans to look at it from Wolf's side of things and would you be happy with that situation.  I will remind you that is the situation he did as a 16 and 17 year old.  So the answer is of course "No way would I do that again if I was him", which usually leads to silence while they try to figure out where to go next.

So all of a sudden, if you look at the situations from the players side of things, you now have two players that are not playing on the team, and one open spot.

Do I have an answer for who will fill in the spot.  Well, no, not really, but I do have an idea.  This is going to sound really odd and almost counter intuitive.  Everyone knows Seattle is deep of defense, and needs some offense, but why not trade Wolf to a team that is not deep on defensive, needs an 18 year old, and in return, take a younger 16 year old defender that is willing to fit the role of learning this season.

Don't be surprised if you see neither Schuldhaus nor Wolf on the roster this season.

Training Camp Report

I'm going to withhold some bigger comments until after the Blue-White scrimmage tonight but I did attend the morning session on Sunday and while it is quite exciting to watch hockey again I didn't really notice anything earth shattering. Barzal, Gropp and Hickman are good... etc.

After the scrimmage tonight we'll have a clearer picture about who is in the mix but I still expect at least one and perhaps two trades in the next couple of weeks.

8.22.2014

My thoughts on the 1st two days of scrimmages and rebuttal of 15's

I thought I would start this off with my rebuttal to Tyler's post on the 15's

Oddly enough, this wont appear like much of the other side of an argument, as I agree with what Tyler says.
First off, you hear the hype about drafted players, and you want to see if they stand out above all the ones in their age group.  You know that late round draft players that are big wildcards.  Are they really a wildcard, or did they not even show up at all? There are always undrafted players that take things by surprise.

But the biggest reason I love it is that it is KIDS, trying out.  Kids giving 120% of what they have.  Leaving everything on the ice, trying for a dream.  That is not to say that the older players don't do this, but by the time the veterans roll in, the roster is almost set, and they are having fun going through the motions of proving they have the talent to stay.  But the 15's don't have that ability.  Look bad or lazy in front of every scout we have, every coach we have, and everyone will remember it.  The same can be said about looking good.

As Tyler put it, this doesn't mean the dream is over or that their chances are gone, etc.  But of the 32 kids born in 1999 at camp, maybe 4 or 5 will play in the WHL.  For the rest, they can be proud of the fact they got to tryout, and use it as motivation for the future.

The one thing I want make perfectly clear, Every player out there and every parent of those players should feel so proud they got the chance to tryout at this high of level.  Everyone of them has the ability to play at the level, there may just be a couple more players with more ability.  I would not be ashamed for anything that happens.  UNLESS, you don't leave it all on the ice.

So now that is over, on to what I thought about the 3 scrimmages I have watched.

To me, there are 4 players that stand out head and shoulders above all the others.  And I am talking about talent, and not how tall they are.  And not to anyone surprises, they are all 16's.  I would keep all 4 on the team (assuming they are committed to the WHL), but I am guessing they only keep 3 (and those three are already signed (Volcan, Elder, and Khaira).  Schuldhaus is the one that really impressed me and kind of came out of no where (being a 5th round pick).

The other 16's appeared to each be just one step below those four.

Now the 15's that I talked so much about above.  I think I have a different opinion on them that others do. Each year, 3 or 4 stand out.  Two for the reason of being better then the rest, and two for being noticed because of their mistakes.  This year, each scrimmage I walked away very confused, because no one stood out very much to me.  Now some people will say "Yikes, that cant be good", but I think of it more as a GREAT sign.  No one stood out because they all had very good shifts and a couple bad shifts.  For every very good forward, there was a very good defender to counter that.  Colin Alexander (Director of player personal, I think is his title) did a very good job of distributing the teams.  I will also say the goalies all had flashes of greatness.

These scrimmages are mostly where you see the individual talent come out, because the players for the most part don't know each other.  They do not know where their line mates will go.  No chemistry.  Not a ton of flow.  So you really notice a play where the forward goes through three players and puts a shot in the top corner.  But you also notice the three players that let that happen.  And this year, those types of plays were few.  It can be frustrating watching a forward bring the puck off the boards and attacking the net, instead of passing to the wide open defender at the point for the shot.  Just as it is frustrating watching a 2 on 1 where the player with the puck always shoots.  But that is what also brings players out and gets them noticed, is making everyone around them better by making that pass, giving up your great chance for someone else to have a better chance.  Basically, being a team player not really knowing your teammates.

The hitting and physical play picked up in each session along with the pace.  You could tell players started relaxing and starting to work together more.  More players started not liking each other, taking late shots, big hits, going back at each other.  Again, it is the players giving their 120% that makes it better and better.  Some players that had better games in scrimmage yesterday had no so great games today, and the opposite true.

To end it all, HOCKEY IS BACK, and that is the best thing of all.



Veterans and older players practice

After the morning skate Friday, the older players that will join camp on Saturday got to visit the ice for a little workout.  And by little workout, I mean true training camp.  There were 6 stations set up, and the players were divided up into 3 or 4 players per group.

The really cool thing for me is that the drills they were doing, all but one of the stations work for any age group of players.  And even the one that worked on skating could easily be adapted to work down to the youngest of beginners.

I have embedded YouTube videos's of each station for your viewing pleasure.

Why I don't care about 15 year olds

Jon is going to counter point this later today but since I'm here stuck at work and he gets to watch hockey I get to fire the first shot on this debate.

I don't care what the 15 year old's look like in camp. Why?

Raise your hand if you thought Brenden Dillion was going to play in the NHL when he was a 15 year old?

I'll wait.

Now... Raise your hand if you thought Erik Fleming looked great as a 15 year old? Connor Sanvido? Steve Chaffin? How about Cody Hanson?

I admit that I'm taking extremely unfair shots at these 4 guys right now and I feel bad about that but my point is that we've seen plenty of 15 year old players who looked good and didn't pan out and we've seen 15 year old players that came out of nowhere to become good players and some that looked good immediately and also become good players.

15 year old players don't really concern me because the amount of physical and mental development that can happen between 15 and 17 (much less 15 and 19) is enormous. Players who are small now might grow and players who were big for their age group as a 15 year old might have already reached their peak size.

We. Just. Don't. Know.

And that's why I'm much more interested to see how the 16 year old players look because not only are they one year closer to their actual development but they (obviously) also have the actual ability to potentially contribute to the team this year.

Getting excited about a 15 year old player is fun... but I just don't think it means very much at this point.

8.21.2014

Rosterbation

On the day that training camp opens, let's take a look at what the roster might look like from my eyes.

The usual disclaimer applies... the reason why this is called "Rosterbation" is because it might be a fun exercise to do but it really doesn't get you anywhere and it is ultimately unsatisfying. Things are bound to change a lot before opening night, there are always a few camp surprises and I can guarantee you there will be another couple of trades made before the start of the season.

Without further ado and bad metaphors... let's start with the 20 year old situation.

Last week, General Manager Russ Farwell took a muddy situation and turned it into mere murky waters by trading Jaimen Yakubowski to Moose Jaw in exchange for a 3rd round pick.  We also sent a 7th round pick as part of the deal but I really don't care about that. This felt like really good value to me. Yak was a nice player who added some toughness, defense and accountability to the group but with the number of returning candidates for the 3 O/A spots I think it was going to be an uphill climb for him to make the team.  Do I think this makes the trade last year for Yak and Sam McKechnie a bust? No, I don't. Riley Sheen was going to be in the same situation as both Yak and Mac and losing Carter Folk seems appropriate for the chance to get better overall (and I think you did).  Trading Yak to get back the 3rd you gave up in the deal means it was essentially Carter Folk for MacKechnie and if you wind up either keeping Mac or trading him for a pick to replace Folk the deal seems quite reasonable.

Mac and Yak didn't quite give Seattle the offense they might have thought they were getting but they formed a stout shut down defensive line that logged some pretty important minutes down the stretch.

So who does that leave. Russell Maxwell has elected to forego his final WHL season. Alexander Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs were not going to be coming back and Seattle has replaced them with two new Import players. Branden Troock signed a contract and won't be back. That leaves us with Taran Kozun, Justin Hickman, Evan Wardley, Adam Henry, Connor Honey and McKechnie.

Who stays? I'm betting on Kozun, Hickman and Wardley. Here is why.

Kozun played lights out after coming over from Kamloops in a mid-season trade and even though Seattle's defense should be improved it will also most likely be the featured strength of the team. Seattle's offense will be much younger up front and a 20 year old goaltender would likely form the best defensive core Seattle has seen in several years. Farwell loves to have veteran goaltenders and the combination of his age, experience and play last year justifies giving him a spot. I don't think being a camp counselor at Tbirds hockey camp is a sign that he is assured a spot but I do think it is an indication of where they are leaning.

Justin Hickman was Seattle's Captain last year and most teams don't willingly cast aside their Captain. I'm not saying that it never happens but I'm very doubtful that Hickman won't have a spot on this team. He is known for being a hard worker and a popular figure in the locker room. I'm more sure of this pick than Kozun.

I think they keep one experienced defender around and I think that man is Evan Wardley. Am I sure of this? Not a chance. I think the situation with the 3rd spot is very fluid and could change depending on how things shake out this weekend. Wardley and Adam Henry play the same position but they bring very different things to the table. Wardley destroys things on skates and Henry prefers to do more of his work with a puck. Henry's skill set is one that I think Seattle can replace with their other defenders while I don't believe that anyone in the rest of the defensive unit can replace the physicality that Wardley brings to the table.

Connor Honey.  I don't have any knowledge about the health of Connor Honey. I hope he is healthy and I think even if he is I wouldn't put him on this team. To me, it's too much of a risk when a guy has been out for the amount of time that he has. O/A spots are tough to fill and would present a problem should he go down to injury again. If he's healthy and Seattle is in a gambling mood... I could certainly see a scenario where they might go Kozun, Hickman and Honey to solidify the front lines. In that scenario I think Seattle could probably still get trade value for both Wardley and Henry and they would probably do that.

Sam McKechnie also has a very real chance to make the team and that will become a little more obvious after I break down the numbers... so let's get to it.

Assuming my first scenario of Kozun, Hickman and Wardley/Henry here is what the rest of the roster looks like.

Forwards:
Justin Hickman (20)
Sam McKechnie/Connor Honey (20)
Forward Spot (19)
Ryan Gropp (18)
Calvin Spencer (18)
Scott Eansor (18)
Mathew Barzal (17)
Lane Pederson (17)
Keegan Kolesar (17)
Alexander True (17)
Florian Baltram (17)*
Luke Osterman? (17) Per Andy Eide Tweet
Nolan Volcan (16)
Kaden Elder (16)
Forward Spot (16)

Others who could be in the mix dependent on being at camp: Latrell Charleson (19), Ashton Clark (18), Michael Sauer (18), Donovan Nuels (17) and Nick Holowko (17)

*Baltram was said to be reporting to the team but as of this moment I don't see a transaction confirming this. I *think* he is going to be here.

Defense:
Evan Wardley/Adam Henry (20)
Shea Theodore (19)
Jerret Smith (19)
Jared Hauf (19)
Kevin Wolf (18)*
Ethan Bear (17)
Luke Osterman (17)*
Sahvan Khaira (16)

*I'm not sure Kevin Wolf is a lock to make the team but depth would dictate that he has a very good chance to make it if he plays well. Luke Osterman has not signed yet and I'm assuming he will be at camp. He'll have a pretty good shot to make it if he signs.

Goaltender:
Taran Kozun (20)
Danny Mumaugh (18)
Logan Flodell (17)

As you can quite clearly see, under the first scenario Seattle carries only 12 forwards for sure (hint... that isn't enough) and upwards to 8 defenders (hint... that's probably too many) and 3 goaltenders (hint... you don't really *need* 3 goaltenders).

This opens the door to a number of scenarios where the team may take a chance on Connor Honey being healthy or they keep a guy like Sam McKechnie.  I also think there is a strong possibility that we will see one of the goaltenders traded for a forward. If I had a choice, I probably move Danny Mumaugh for a 19 year old forward (or any forward) not because I don't like Mumaugh but I think you'd get a little more value out of a goaltender who has already proved he can play in the WHL and also sets things up a little better for Flodell to be an understudy to Kozun this season and be ready to take over in his 18 year old year. Mumaugh would also probably welcome a trade if it was to a team that would give him a chance to be their #1 goaltender.

The other thing you'll notice here is just how many spots are truly up for grabs. If Seattle chooses to go with Mac or Honey instead of a 20 year old defender that opens up at least one other spot on defense (possibly two). If Seattle chooses to go with Wardley/Henry on defense that probably opens a spot in the forwards for either another 16 year old forward or a player they bring in via trade (which I think is much more likely).

I think we will see Farwell go out and grab another body on either Forward or Defense as I think they would probably prefer not to carry more than three 16 year old's if they could help it.

As I said when I started this, the situation is very fluid and I think the only thing we know is that this roster won't really be confirmed for us until they hit the ice opening night.

8.13.2014

Why we should have seen this trade coming

Here is a list of trades the last three seasons Russ has made in the first two weeks of August.
So why change anything.  Add one more to the list of early August moves.

08/15/13 Taylor Green to Brandon for a 5th Rnd '14 cond
08/01/13 Connor Sanvido and Andrew Johnson to Swift Current for a 4th Rnd '14  

08/03/12 Colin Jacobs to Prince Geroge for Jesse Forsberg, a 5th Rnd '13, and a 7th Rnd '13
08/29/12 Chance Lund to Swift Current for a 6th Rnd '13

08/11/11 Kyle Verdino from Swift Current for a 5th Rnd '13 (cond.)

Perhaps a coincidence but it seems as though Russ likes to make his 20 y/o deals in the month of August.

Players report in one week (Happy happy, joy joy)

Or less depending on when you are reading this.  August 20th is approaching fast.

But for me, the 21st can't get here soon enough.  As Some of you my remember from last season, the first day of training camp is one of my top days of the year.  It is a day I mark on my calendar and look forward to for a couple months.  It is a day I take off from work to go see friends, players, parents, fellow fans, but most of all, the future.

From the training camp schedule, I should be at both sessions on the 21st, the afternoon session on the 22nd.  The 23rd, that one becomes difficult because it is my oldest son's birthdays.  Usually I find a way of attending the scrimmages, and then taking him out to the family fun center in Kent for lots of arcade game playing.  I will probably only attend one of the scrimmages on the 24th. And Monday the 25th, I will be there for sure.

This season, since one of my best friends son was drafted by the Silvertips, I am going to try and attend one of their scrimmages, so I can watch a kid I held as a baby try out.  So that may effect my schedule somewhat.

Since everyone knows I love to talk and talk and talk about this stuff, please leave in the comments section anything you would like me to talk about.

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