Photo by 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.
With all the talk of rekindling the Battle of Alberta from Edmonton fans, the opening of the Young Stars tournament was a joyful shot across the bow for the Flames. Their team box remained full and talkative all through the Vancouver/San Jose game, long after even Edmonton Head Scout Stu MacGregor had left the building. The 5-2 score was generous to the Oilers who benefited from an own goal by Ryan Culkin and were out-shot 32-18. Below we’ll look at some noteable players and the game they had.
The Oilers forwards are among the least skilled group in the tournament on paper, and weren’t much better on the ice in this game. However, it’s important Flames fans not extrapolate too much about the relative talent in the teams’ respective development systems. It was clear that the Oilers struggled with disorganization and poor defensive coverage by their centreman, and played the game with 6 left-handed defencemen. All of Klefbom, Marincin, and Musil played their off-hand sides and particularly Klefbom and Musil struggled with the assignment. That said, the Flames offence took clear advantage and, in particular, the line of Monahan-Poirier-Elson was dominant almost every shift.
If timing is all there is to offence, Monahan is a stud already. He and Poirier showed impressive chemistry, but it was obvious who stirred the offence on that line. Poirier attacked the net with zeal all night, frustrating Bunz and the Oiler defenders, but it was Monahan who drew double coverage, protected the puck down low, and generated chances into the slot all game. Most impressively, Monahan seemed to have an intuitive sense for both the timing and placement of his passes through throngs of sticks and skates, rarely needing to look at his intended target. Though the Oilers were disorganized, it was this line that turned that into a thing of beauty. Granlund and Baertschi were consistently impressive as well, while Corban Knight and Patrick Sieloff frequently caught my eye.
#1 Laurent Brossoit: The Flames didn’t give up many chances, but when they did, Brossoit was equal to it. It can be challenging for a goalie to track a choppy play, but the Flames netminder did well at it. The two goals against came from a tipped shot and an own goal. The Oilers defence put a number of shots on, and Brossoit was able to carefully control most of the rebounds.
#50 Patrick Sieloff: Sieloff had a tremendous game, moving the puck with confidence, showing quick feet, and using his body effectively against a rugged group of Oiler forwards. It seemed as though any time something we done well by a Flamed defender, it was Sieloff I was watching. He earned an assist on Poirier’s goal and looked comfortable running the point on the powerplay.
#56 Tyler Wotherspoon: Despite some hype at the tournament, Wotherspoon had a very quiet game. As a big, reasonably mobile defender, his job was simple (if pain-filled) in this particular contest, and he will be called upon more against the speedy and skilled Canucks forwards tonight.
#67 Ryan Culkin: Scored on himself, so it wasn’t a perfect night. He was used in all three disciplines and was effective in each situation. His transition skating (forward to backward, backward to forward) and lateral movement were not quite NHL level, but he was never exposed for it. His assist came on Granlund’s weaker goal (a slapshot from the top of the circles), but his passing was nevertheless strong all game.
#73 Keegan Kanzig: Kanzig is… really big. He’s also a reasonable skater. His straight ahead speed was more than adequate for the game. Still, his feet are heavy, and he had to make a number of plays with an awkward body position as he struggled to pivot with power. His puck skills are also questionable. He could be exposed by a faster, more dynamic forward group.
#10 Corban Knight: As the third oldest player on the team, perhaps we can afford to have higher expectations for Knight. Still, he was a positive surprise for the Flames, moving the puck with vision and rhythm, tracking his man through the slot in the defensive end, and being consistently dangerous on the powerplay. He was a smooth play maker with a strong awareness for the play.
#23 Sean Monahan: Though Granlund scored twice in the game, my first star would go to Monahan. His soft hands, quick puck movement, and use of open spaces was dangerous all game. But so too was his play in the contact areas, as he protected the puck well and often drew Oiler players out of position. The game seemed to flow around him when he was on the ice. His hockey IQ was clearly extremely high, and his playmaking was among the best in the tournament so far. My only concern was that his offence is frequently timing-based, and I wonder how his game will evolve as he moves up levels.
#47 Sven Baertschi: Showed why he’s seen NHL time already. Baertschi’s shot was dangerous each time, and he filled space with confidence and awareness. He needs linemates to support him, as he is better away from the puck than with it at times. Knight provided that in this game.
#57 Emile Poirier: Poirier lived up to his reputation as a gritty, hard-nosed player with great hockey sense and soft hands. He drove Bunz to distraction during the game, and his penalty was because Bunz finally took a dive to give the ref a call. His two-way play was almost unnecessary in the game, but it appeared as though he knew his assignment. It was in the offensive zone that he flourished with Monahan, executing a short two-man cycle over and over. The two stars had instant chemistry, but it was Poirier that worked the forecheck and puck retrieval on the line. An exceptional game.
#60 Markus Granlund: In addition to his two first period goals, Granlund had an extremely mature game. He was physical, played both ways, generated offence, and read the play well. He frequently looked a cut above other players in the game, and would be my second star if only because he didn’t control the game like Monahan seemed to. Still, his physical skills are very good. Still needs to add some explosiveness to his skating to be NHL ready.
#65 Turner Elson: It was clear that Elson was the third player on his line with Poirier and Monahan, but nevertheless had a solid game himself. His skating is very strong and he read the play well. It would benefit him to see time on other lines, despite fitting in admirably with the team’s best.
#79 Michael Ferland: A wrecking ball with hands, Ferland was a frequent presence in the game and created a lot of space for Granlund and Hanowski. He had such a strange season last year, playing for four teams, but he made a case as a real prospect in game one.
(Tomorrow, Kevin’s observations from the Canucks/Flames tilt).