Jere Karalahti had his first taste of the NHL last Friday against Detroit, and after being returned to Long Beach, it appears that will be it for the time being. With that in mind, here is the lowdown on his debut.
Firstly, Jere is a big, rugged looking defenseman. As I watched his warm-up in his #8 Kings’ road jersey I thought of what he offered that the two players who most recently wore that number (Kristich and Bodger) didn’t- grit, physical play and toughness.
Karalahti’s first game was not all wine and roses. There were several instances where Jere left his zone and seemed to skate in his own game, often leaving Matty Norstrom alone on 2 on 1’s. The good news is that he often left his position to deliver a hit. In fact, he lead the team in hits for the game. On one of his first shifts there was a little mucking after the whistle. Jere was the first player on the scene which was good to see.
As the game pressed on, Jere seemed to time his hits better. The most obvious thing was the Karalahti can handle the puck. Just as fellow rookie Frankie Kaberle, Jere holds the puck a little longer to make sure the right pass is made. Towards the end of the game he did make a some bad decisions with the puck, but for the most part his blend of grit and puckhandling is unique.
Jere did get some time on the power play in the third period. His only shot of any consequence was a one-timer from Kaberle which he unloaded as he was falling away from the blue line. His shot was as heavy as advertised was in the dead center of the net, where Wings’ goalie Manny Legace was waiting.
On the whole, I thought there was alot of promise with Karalahti. He is definitely in need of some more NHL experience. If you just took his play right now, he is heads and shoulders above the slower, less physical Jaroslav Modry. I understand Coach Murray’s commitment to his players, but Jere has the potential to be special, and he needs to be here now. With Jere, Berg, O’Donnell, Blake and Nortsrom the Kings could have the most punishing defensive corps in the league, which would help against bigger, more physical teams. Here’s hoping that starts soon…
Brian McGrattan was traded from Sudbury to Mississauga. This trade has been great for Brian- he has scored three goals in three games since arriving, including the game winner on Sunday. Brian seems to be finding the necessary blend of offense and toughness that is needed to play in the NHL. I think Brian can be a great power forward ala Darren McCarty someday. It is good to seen him leave Sudbury so he can round out his game.
I appears Scott Barney is home in Canada nursing a back injury that has doctors stumped. Here’s hoping Scott recuperates and returns to the Kings’ organization. Barney is one of a very few Kings’ prospects at forward and is the only one with any real size.