OHL Prospect’s Game Report

By Bob Chery

Although just one game, the 2000 Prospect’s Game at the Air Canada Center
served as a microcosm for the scouting fraternity’s lukewarm response to this
year’s crop of CHL draft-eligibles. Complete packages are few and far between,
as players strong in one or more elements of the game leave you wanting for
more in other areas.

Trying to watch a game where everyone on the ice is a prospect can indeed be
a challenge. Sitting high behind the net in the first row of the upper deck, the
game has to be broken down into it’s most basic components. For starters,
who among the forwards can take the puck to the net on a consistent basis?
An ability to do so implies some combination of skating ability, acceleration,
stick-handling, and strength to fight off checks.

Mississauga’s LOU DICKENSON was the only player who was a consistent
threat throughout the game, utilizing his speed and acceleration to penetrate
the opposition net on several occasions. Unfortunately for Lou he came up
empty on each foray. Off this game, it would come as no surprise to anyone
that Lou showed well in the Prospect’s Skills Competition where he placed
in the top three for puck-control, the 60-foot dash, and the full lap.

Several more prospects gave a good account of themselves when the home-run
threat was dropped from the equation and other attributes were looked at.

TEAM CHERRY


Erie’s NIKITA ALEXEEV, fresh off a couple of wins in two skating categories
of the Prospect’s Skills Competition was a physical presence through-out the
night, dishing out several big hits. He showed some good stick-handling in-close
on one occasion to get a wrist-shot on goal, and on another occasion showed some
more good stick-handling through the neutral zone and opposition blue-line to
set-up linemate Shane Endicott for a scoring opportunity.

Plymouth’s KRIS VERNARSKY did manage to get to the net once, fighting off
a check from Rostislav Klesla. He also threw his weight around effectively. At
6-3, 201 pounds, Kris was one of five Plymouth Whalers in this game that I
haven’t had a chance to see too often in the OHL this year, and he looks to have
the makings of a good power-forward 4-5 years down the road with decent puck-
skills and skating ability.

Windsor’s STEVE OTT was Team Cherry’s Player-of-the-Game with two assists.
This kid can play the game. He was setting up plays all night long, probably a bit
too much as he opted to pass a few times when he was in good shooting position.
He shows intelligence in the offensive zone. When he’s not making the play he
shows good anticipation as the third forward, the puck eventually finds him. He
plays good defence in his own zone as well, playing deep to help out the d-men
when warranted although that’s not something I’m too concerned about in general,
these things will be learned with time. He needs to bulk up, his program weight
listed him at 165 pounds.

Erie’s BRAD BOYES had a relatively quiet night but gave glimpses of what he’s
capable of on two shifts. On the first one he moved in from just inside the blue-line
and fired a shot on goal. He then showed good vision in finding the open man on
two occasions with pin-point passes to set up scoring opportunities. One of the
set-ups began from behind the net where he was knocked down by d-man Jared
Newman but managed to maintain control of the puck, get up, look around, and
make the pass. On another shift he undressed Newman by showing good stick-
handling deep in the offensive zone and firing a shot on goal. The pressure applied
was the pre-cursor to a goal scored moments later.

Calgary’s MATT PETTINGER looked like a cut-above for the most part, and
given that he would’ve been draft-eligible last year had he not commited to
play collegiate hockey, he was the oldest player out there, so it was to be expected.

TEAM ORR

Brampton’s RAFFI TORRES was in my opinion the Player-of-the-Game for Team
Orr, even though the award went to Brandon’s Nathan Smith. In addition to his
three assists, Torres showed a well-rounded game as he dished out some big hits,
showed good hustle on the back-check, and most importantly showed an ability to
make quick decisions, whether it be a release on a shot, a manouevre with the puck
in close quarters, or finding a teammate with a pass when a brief opening presented
itself. Raffi looks like a player whose skills can translate at the faster pace of NHL
hockey.

Kootenay’s JARRET STOLL spent a good part of the evening setting up Prince
Albert’s SCOTT HARTNELL on an effective two-way line. Hartnell showed a
good shot but came up empty in the goal-scoring department. He also showed
an ability to get to the net on one occasion, fighting off Klesla.

It was Stoll who found the twine by going to the net with the puck from the corner.
He also showed an ability to get a shot off quickly with some velocity before the
opposing d-man could close on him. Both players were effective in their own end
of the rink. Stoll would go deep into the corners to win the puck, Hartnell would
go deep into the slot on defence and on one occasion tied up Vernarsky just as
Kris was preparing to re-direct a pass into the net. Both players displayed above-
average skating ability and Hartnell even bagged the best time in the Puck Control
segment of the Skills Competition.

Seattle’s DAVID MORISSET showed tremendous skating ability, and generated
a couple of big hits from the momentum his speed had built up. This is one player
that leaves you wanting more. A couple of dangerous rushes up-ice didn’t materialize
as the puck rolled off his stick. I don’t see Morisset play on a regular basis, but if
he has decent puck-skills, this kid could be a good package.

Among the defencemen, the one player most noticeable was Team Cherry Captain
CRAIG OLYNICK of the Seattle Thunderbirds who was hitting everything in sight.
This 6-1, 185-pounder wins the daily double of being this year’s Prospect’s Game’s
biggest hitter and biggest shooter, clocking a 97.3 MPH slapper in the Skills
Competition. The kid looks like a warrior, albeit a limited one who comes to play
every game, a heart and soul type.

Brampton’s ROSTISLAV KLESLA is a player and a lot of fun to watch. A busy
player whether it be engaging forwards in the defensive zone or joining the rush
offensively, which led to his goal late in the game. He has an extensive repertoire
of techniques in the defensive zone with which to neutralize opposing forwards,
some of it subtle, some of it sneaky, and some of it plain in-your-face physicalness.
He is the best draft-eligible defenceman in the CHL right now, and only the fully
realized potential of one or two others in years to come will change today’s status.

Plymouth’s LIBOR USTRNUL is a man playing amongst boys at 6-5, 228. His
skating is pretty good for a big man, especially when skating backwards. His upside
seems limited beyond what you see today, but he could be an effective crease-
clearer at the NHL level.

Calgary’s WADE DAVIS is big 6-5, 195 defenceman who will fill out some more
as time goes on. He showed an ability to keep fast-moving forwards to the outside,
was physical, made the first pass in the defensive zone and showed some puck-
carrying ability. He looks to be a good long-term project for the NHL.

In keeping with the longer-term theme, Prince Albert’s NICK SCHULTZ looks to
have good offensive abilities and a good accurate shot from the point, but like
most young offensive d-men, needs to work on his defensive zone coverage. Like
Davis, he looks to be a good longer-term project for whichever NHL team drafts him.

Between the pipes, Calgary’s gigantic 6-4, 205 pound BRENT KRAHN looked
the best out of the four goaltenders. When he comes out to the top of the crease
and beyond to cut down the angle, there is no net to be seen for the shooter. In
goalmouth scrambles he manages to get some part of his body in the puck’s way.
He has good flexibility and if his quickness improves over time, he could become
a very good goaltender. It will be interesting to see where Krahn is slotted in this
draft in relation to the forwards and defencemen. Given that it’s not a stellar
crop, he might even crack the Top Five of CHL draftees.