It's Thanksgiving, which means it's pretty likely that no Americans are reading this site today. That makes it the perfect opportunity to write a little about the CHL. I watched the Saginaw Spirit take on the Plymouth Whalers from the designed-for-people-shorter-than-six-feet-tall seats of the Compuware Sports Arena on Wednesday night.
Saginaw is off to a great start this season, but it was certainly difficult reconciling their shiny record with the team that played on Wednesday night. Plymouth cruised to a pretty easy 3-0 win. Saginaw was playing without a couple key players in Ivan Telegin and Michael Sgarbossa, who were out with injuries, but they just looked flat and got outplayed pretty much the entire night.
Lots of good players in this game, and lots of thoughts on individual players after the jump.
Draft Eligible Players
Brandon Saad- Saad has been given a lot of hype as a potential first round, maybe even top ten draft pick. Like the rest of his team, Wednesday certainly wasn't his night. He had two great scoring chances in the slot, one of which went wide, and one that got fired straight into the goalie's chest, and otherwise, he wasn't that noticeable. I've seen enough of him to know he's much better than that, but he struggled here. He'll maybe get some consideration for the US World Junior team, but I had him on the outside looking in, and tonight did nothing to change that opinion. Perhaps if the US loses a lot of eligible players in the AHL--D'Amigo, Morin, Palmieri--Saad might get a look, but for now, I think there's better options out there for some holes on the lower lines.
Vincent Trocheck-Trocheck was perhaps the biggest surprise on the NHL Central Scouting list of OHL prospects, when he was ranked in the top five. I was surprised he was ranked that high, and after seeing him, still think that was way too high. Granted, I can't stress enough that this looked like an off night for Saginaw, but Trocheck's only contribution to the game was taking an incredibly stupid penalty by tripping the goalie while his team was already short-handed. He's a talented enough player to consider picking in the draft, but I don't think he has the overwhelming ability to overcome his size.
Stefan Noesen-It's been about two years since I've seen him play and I was very impressed by how he's developed in that time. I was worried his skating would keep him from ever reaching that elite level, but he's improved greatly in that area. He's a pretty good-sized kid with a lot of strength and skill in the offensive zone. He's one of those players that has a great nose for the net.
Rickard Rakell-The Swedish import was another decent-sized kid that was playing alongside Noesen and looked very good here. His hands looked just okay, but he used his size and toughness to make plays happen.
Garrett Meurs- Still a fairly small kid that needs to add a lot in terms of strength. He was getting pushed off the play pretty consistently early on, but as the game progressed, he got to use his finesse a little more, and made some nice offensive plays.
Anthony Camara- Good looking skater, but didn't really show a lot otherwise
Already Drafted/Free Agents
Scott Wedgewood-Last time I saw Wedgewood, he gave perhaps one of the greatest performance by a goalie ever. That's not even hyperbole. I challenge someone to come up with better. Tonight, he had a pretty ho-hum 37 save shutout, running his total, in games I've seen him play, to three goals allowed on 110 shots, for a nifty .972 save percentage. I should probably show up at more of his games. But as nice as his numbers ended up looking, I wouldn't say he was tested all that much tonight. You could probably find 20-30 saves in that Windsor game last year that were better than his best save tonight.
Austin Levi-Levi has developed quite a bit since last year. While I thought he struggled when I saw him last year, he looked like a legitimate top pairing defenseman here. I've heard some talk of him potentially being looked at for the World Juniors. In a lesser year, I'd agree, but this year, the US has the option of so many great, big, smooth skating defenseman, I don't think there's the need to take a big defenseman that, while playing well, still isn't much of a skater.
Alex Aleardi-Still has world-class speed, and used it to score a nice goal, but it's tough to say whether that speed is enough to make up for his lack of size. He was passed over last year in the draft, but in what I think is a weaker year, he might be worth taking a shot on.
Future Potential Draft Picks
Tom Wilson-He's not playing a huge role this year since he's so young, but he's got nice size, and did some positive things while he was out on the ice. He'll be a player to watch.
Max Iafrate-Still has some rough edges to smooth out when it comes to handling the puck, but he skates well and is a pretty tough kid, which should carry him.
Jacob Ringuette-He sometimes got lost because he didn't have the strength or experience of some of his opponents, but he has some huge skill and potential for as young as he is.