I am fortunate enough to be in Penticton this weekend, so I will be providing some scouting notes for the games I am able to attend. Last night I was in the building for the Flames’ 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers hopefuls.
Overall I thought the Calgary kids carried the balance of play at even strength and probably could have won the game but for a few key mistakes and questionable performances. Here are my thoughts on some of the individual performances from last night.
Mark Jankowski – A decently strong outing for Jankowski. His line with Matthew Tkachuk and Auston Carroll was completely dominant in the first period, generating endless zone time and multiple quality chances – including Tkachuk’s first period goal, which Janko set up with a pretty feed from behind the net.
At 22 years old and with four years of college under his belt, Jankowski is one of the more mature players in this tournament and it showed. His defensive play was good, featuring a particularly strong backcheck on an odd man rush in the second that resulted in him defusing the chance and turning the puck back up the ice.
The lone criticism for Janko (and his line) is that their dominance faded as the game went on. After a first period where it looked like everyone would end up with three or more points, their influence ebbed in the second (the team’s worst period as a whole) and they weren’t nearly as dangerous in the third. Jankowksi himself needs to concentrate on being consistently assertive and active in the play. A persistent problem I’ve seen with him over the years is he can be caught waiting for the play to come to him rather than the other way around.
Matthew Tkachuk – Although he’s still young, aspects of Tkachuk’s game are already very mature. His puck pursuit, board work and puck protection are already pro level and he has a rather bull-in-the-china shop feel to his play down low in the offensive zone. He eagerly leans into the opposition and drives his way into scoring areas and isn’t afraid to mix it up anywhere on the ice (or after the whistle).
His game wasn’t perfect, however. After the first period, Tkachuk tried to do too much on occasion, skating into coverage or attempting dekes that resulted in turnovers. As a result, it looks like Tkachuk can get into trouble when he tries to get too fancy.
In addition, his aggression is sometimes too overt and not necessarily designed to benefit the team. He is definitely a character who can draw penalties by getting under the other team’s skin, but he needs to pick his spots better and avoid needless penalties like the four minute spearing infraction he took in this game.
Rasmus Andersson – A complete, steady game from Andersson who was active at both ends of the ice and easily of the Flames’ best defenders on the evening. He isn’t the fastest guy, but he gets around well enough and is capable in board battles and defensive positioning. He is also confident enough to lead the rush or jump into the play in the offensive zone, but was rarely caught taking bad risks. His huge hit in the third period resulted in the Flames turning around the play around and scoring.
Oliver Kylington – An unfortunately underwhelming performance for the other young Swedish defender. Kylington at times displayed the skills that make him such an intriguing prospect – smooth hands, skating and stickhandling – but his decision making is suspect. Sometimes he takes risks and makes reads that don’t have a good cost/benefit ratio. When he accomplishes them, they don’t necessarily result in a grade-A chance or impactful transition, but when they go wrong, they are completely detrimental.
As the game wore on, Kylington seemed to struggle to keep himself in check, culminating in a disastrous overtime shift. At first, he was sent off on a two-on-one odd man rush where he chose to shoot and fired the puck over the net. The Flames recovered from that and generated another odd-man rush shortly thereafter (three-on-two). This time Kylington was the late man and he received a pass from Andrew Mangiapane, giving him the best look from the top of the circles.
Instead of shooting, Kylington opted to try to return the puck to Mangiapane. The pass was easily intercepted by a defender, resulting in a breakaway the other way and the game-winning goal against. Three-on-three hockey should benefit a player like Kylington given his skill set, but he ended up being the main reason the Flames lost in OT.
Kylington has great tools, but he needs a better tool box in order to take another step forward. If he can put everything together, he could be a dominant force.
Andrew Mangiapane – I expected to see more out of Mangiapane in this one. Which isn’t to say he was bad, but his impact was mostly muted on this night. There were a few sequences where his stickhandling and offensive awareness were on display, but it wasn’t consistent enough to make a big impression on me.
Brayden Burke – A fairly quiet night aside from an impressive snipe on his third period goal. He was consigned to a mostly fourth line role, so he didn’t get as many chances to make an impression. That said, his trio had a decent few shifts in the third and he made the most of his scoring opportunities.
Matthew Phillips – The combination of Phillips, Dillon Dube and Brett Pollock seemed to grow in effectiveness as the evening went on. Phillips’ ability to find pucks in scrums, make moves in tight and find players through traffic helped generate more than a few chances on the evening, with the line managing to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone in the third.
That said, Phillips is tiny and susceptible to getting pushed over in just about any board battle. He’s quick enough to escape with the puck in some circumstances, but in others he’s merely brushed aside.
Hunter Smith – Still big and awkward. Smith can’t skate or handle the puck well enough to be considered a prospect of note in my eyes.
Stepan Falkovsky – I didn’t know what to expect out of the Flames’ latest seventh rounder, but there were some intriguing flashes from the big man. Although Falkovsky suffers from the same lack of agility and fine motor skills that most big men do (when things go south, they go south quickly and he can’t recover), there seemed to be some offensive ability there. He’s not a bad skater for such a big guy and he was assertive in the offensive zone, jumping into rushes and driving into the zone off the line.
A long shot to be sure, but I’ll be interested to see how he develops this year.
Mikkel Aagaard – One of the pleasant surprises of the evening. The 20-year-old tryout got better and better as the night went on, scoring one of the Flames’ third period goals and driving more than one quality chance by himself. Aagaard isn’t big, but he seems to have good hands, decent skating and instincts.
Ryan Lomberg – A non-stop motor and an endless appetite for annoying opposing players, Lomberg managed to stand out as one of the more active players all night. He even drew a penalty on the PK by creating an offensive zone drive out of nothing, causing the Edmonton defender to hook, hold and eventually trip him in response.
I’m not sure Lomberg has enough offense to ever get to the show, but he was a fun, effective checking presence for the club last night.
Roman Dyukov – I didn’t spend much time watching Dyukov, but what I saw of him seemed really solid. No bad giveaways or decisions, good fundamentals and overall skill set. Would like to see more.
Tyler Parsons – A strong performance aside from his puck-handling miscue that led to the Oilers’ first goal. Parsons seemed calm and capable in the net, making all the routine saves (and a couple of stops on high-quality chances as well).
Mason McDonald – In contrast, McDonald struggled. He allowed a goal on his first shot against after relieving Parsons, a rising wrist shot from the goal line. The Oilers’ third goal was also a completely routine play that he just flubbed. It’s hard to blame him for the OT breakaway goal, but it would have been nice to see him make at least one difficult save, particularly after giving up two stinkers.
As always, take observations from a single game with a grain of salt. The Flames kids had a great first period, good third period and could have won with more discipline or better goaltending from McDonald. I’ll add more thoughts after the Monday contest.