OHL Prospect Report: Colt King and Aaron Lobb

By Bob Chery

(GUELPH – January 16)……..A Tuesday night match-up between the
Guelph Storm and the visiting London Knights promised plenty of
fireworks as a fight-filled game earlier this season between the
two clubs led to allegations that London coach Lindsay Hofford
was instructing his players to start fights. He would ultimately
receive a 12-game suspension for his actions that night.

The game also featured the two premier power-forward prospects
from the OHL for the upcoming NHL Draft. Both right-winger Aaron
Lobb of the Knights and left-winger Colt King of the Storm came
out of the gates trying to establish a physical tone. Lobb
wasted no time in lining up Frank Burgio for a hit, but the
sturdy Guelph defender withstood the body check well. King spent
his first shift in the game’s third minute colliding with Lobb,
and after getting the better of that exchange, just missed an
open-ice hit on a London player trying to go east-west through
the neutral zone.

With both teams determined to set a physical tempo, London’s
Daniel Bois let his exuberance get the better of him as he
needlessly roughed up a Guelph blue-liner after the defender had
cleared the puck out of his own zone.

The ensuing power-play saw Knights goaltender Aaron Molnar make
a great save on Brian Passmore after a nice cross-ice feed from
Charlie Stephens, but eight seconds after the penalty expired, a
Steve Chabbert knuckler from the point was re-shot rather than
re-directed by teammate Martin St. Pierre past Molnar to give
the Storm a 1-0 lead.

<dd>Guelph then committed back-to-back penalties giving the Knights
3:56 of uninterrupted power-play time, and allowing Lobb the
opportunity to show his wares on the 1st PP unit.

The first power-play was uneventful for Aaron. He showed an
ability to carry the puck from behind his net to open ice, but
he couldn’t quite get it to to the center red-line for the dump
in. This seems to be a defining characteristic of Lobb’s at this
stage of his development. If only he could beat ONE MORE MAN.
He’s almost there, but not quite. During the same shift while
battling along the half-boards in the offensive zone, he ignored
the point as a passing option when he seemed zoned into trying
to get it deep. With experience, he should be able to better
adapt to the circumstances presented to him, and learn to look
for a second option when the first one is taken away.

His shift on the 2nd power-play was much better. He took the
face-off in the offensive zone and won it. In puck pursuit he
showed quickness in his stops and starts and change of
direction. With no shooting lane at the top of the face-off
circle on the right-wing, he showed an ability to handle the
puck while skating backwards and releasing a slapper when a
shooting lane opened up. He backed up a pinching blue-liner at
the point and made a boot save on a clearing attempt to keep the
puck inside the blue-line. Later in the shift, he fed a teammate
in the slot with a good pass from the boards behind the
goal-line, showing patience while waiting for a passing lane to
open up.

After failing to capitalize on their opportunities, the wheels
began to fall off for the Knights shortly thereafter. At 13:40,
Guelph goaltender Andrew Sim’s theatrics after coming out of his
crease to play the puck sold referee Spada, as Andy Burnham
clearly avoided contact while skating between Sim and the
vacated net. It took the Storm only 20 seconds to capitalize on
the ensuing power-play when King flattened Bobby Turner behind
the London net, took the loose puck and set-up St. Pierre
in the slot for his 2nd goal of the night.

Eleven seconds later Lobb took a bad penalty when he upended a
forechecker in his own zone. When Brent Varty was flagged for
roughing at 15:24, the Knights found themselves two-men down for
47 seconds.

It took the Storm all of seven seconds to capitalize when Kevin
Dallman’s point-shot eluded Molnar and staked Guelph to a 3-0
lead. Still enjoying a one-man advantage, the Storm went up 4-0
when Dustin Brown’s burst of speed down the right-wing left the
London defencemen in a cloud of dust, and he showed good finish
in beating Molnar. Ten seconds later it was 5-0 on a goal by
Nick Lees, and nine seconds before the period ended, Dallman
scored his 2nd of the game on a point-shot that Molnar saw all
the way and should’ve stopped.

If the Knights had any aspirations towards making a comeback in
the 2nd period, they were afforded a power-play just 10 seconds
into the frame to get it started. This would last for all of 11
seconds until Daniel Bois took another undisciplined penalty
after the whistle to negate the man-advantage. However Kevin
Dallman would restore London to an extra man after he left his
feet to make a hit and was called for charging at 1:34. An
elbowing penalty to Guelph’s Ryan Thompson at 4:56 continued the
parade to the penalty box.

Lobb had productive shifts on both power-plays, punctuated by a
rush from behind his own net to the offensive zone face-off
circle. Again, if he could’ve beaten just ONE MORE MAN, a
highlight-reel goal may have come out of it. He set up Rick Nash
for a close-range shot off a rush down the right wing, but Sim
came up with the big save, as he did on a Junkins cannon from
the
right-point set up by a nice fake-shot/hard pass at the left
point by Nash, and on a close-range shot that saw Sim sliding
across the crease right-to-left to rob Jason Davies of a sure
goal.

The Knights were finally able to solve Sim at the 9:20 mark when
they scored the only goal of the middle frame. Andy Burnham’s
shot from the top of the face-off circle eluded the Storm
goalkeeper.

Meanwhile Colt King was racking up some impressive shifts the
other way. He went to the net and was stoned from in close by
Molnar after a nice feed from St. Pierre. On another shift he
did a lot of the little things that suggest good anticipation
and hockey sense, attributes usually reserved for guys named
Spezza and Weiss from this year’s crop of OHL draft-eligible
forwards.

While pursuing the puck on the forecheck, he routinely reads and
anticipates where the puck is going to go, and gets his share of
interceptions. On this shift, he veered to his left just as
Molnar was releasing a clearing attempt around the boards, and
corralled the puck. Alone in the offensive zone and a defenceman
approaching him, he held onto the puck to buy some time for his
linemates to join him, and then smartly dumped the puck back in
deep as he absorbed a hit. His work along the boards is strong,
and he shows patience with the puck, able to hold onto it until
a passing lane opens up.

In the defensive zone he has a good understanding of the system
and where his teammates should be. He’ll go behind his net if he
must to to lend defensive support, and when he wins the puck he
can smartly get the puck to a teammate without panicking under
the pressure of opposing forecheckers. He has his head on a
swivel in the defensive zone much like a defenceman. His
anticipation gets him to many pucks, and he can headman the puck
to linemates on the breakout.

In another instance he showed awareness in reading a London
line-change, positioned himself at the center red-line to
receive a long outlet pass, showed nice touch on a re-direct to
the speedy Paille, followed the play as a trailer and got a good
shot on goal from Paille’s drop pass.

The 3rd period saw more chippy play and a couple of pretty goals
by the Knights. At 7:40, Rick Nash led a break-out from his own
zone and made a smart drop-pass to Anning who had a clear
passing lane to the streaking Joel Scherban on the right wing.
Scherban crossed the Storm blue-line, made a pass to Nash on the
other wing, back to Scherban, back to Nash who then one-timed it
past a sliding Sim.

20 seconds later Sim was forced to make a good save on the ever-
dangerous Nash, and as the play went back the other way, a shot
on goal after the whistle led to a rumble in the corner of the
London zone. Give Charlie Stephens credit for coming to the aid
of his teammates, the only problem was that he chose Sean
McMorrow as a dance partner. Sean scored a convincing TKO over
Stephens whose courage far surpassed his abilities in the
fisticuffs department.

The Knights closed out the scoring at 18:02 on the power-play.
Lobb had the puck at the half-boards on the left wing. He
carried it to the high slot looking for a shot, and when there
was none to be had he went down low at the right face-off
circle, BEAT A MAN (there it is!) and fed Scherban in the low
slot. His initial shot was stopped by Sim but Joel followed-up
on the rebound and cashed it in.

Curiously, Central Scouting’s mid-season rankings have
Spezza-Weiss and Then the Defencemen in their OHL Top Ten (Chris
Thorburn being the one exception – must’ve been an oversight !)
From this observer’s viewpoint, both King and Lobb should be in
the Top Ten.

Out of these two power-forwards, King is the more polished at
this stage, the only part of his game that isn’t above average
is his skating, but it is certainly adequate. Brendan Shanahan’s
average skating ability hasn’t detracted from his effectiveness
and I don’t think it will detract from King’s either. There were
some issues regarding King coming into this year, about his
fitness and about his commitment, but it looks like he has
gotten both his attitude and his game together.

Lobb epitomizes the term “prospect.” He has size, he can skate,
and he can handle the puck. It looks like London is grooming him
to be one of their “go to” guys over the next two years. After
taking a careless penalty, he’s thrown right back out on the
penalty-kill. He gets regular power-play time and his
effectiveness has been steadily improving. The next step is to
replicate that effectiveness on a consistent basis in 5-on-5
situations. He has shown a greater willingness to impose his
size on a game. Lobb especially, is ranked far too low in my
humble estimation.

Both King and Lobb look like OHL Top Ten material, and no worse
than 2nd-round draft picks in the 2001 NHL Draft.


OTHER NOTES…….
Three impressive prospects for the 2002 NHL
Draft were on display in this game, Guelph’s tandem of Dustin
Brown and Daniel Paille, and ESPECIALLY London’s Rick
Nash………The Storm have a custom of having their players
gather at center-ice after the game and saluting the crowd. Nice
touch……. My next report will focus on some of the Euro
draft-eligibles in the OHL, and I will be dedicating that report
to Bob Nicholson……