Another in a series of weekly articles summarizing activity in Leafland during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations, commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.
Back to Mother Russia: Vladimir Kulikov, the spunky little Russian goalie who performed so strongly at last year’s Rookie Camp and then again at the Main Camp this year, has returned home to play for Red Army this season … the Leafs were obliged to try find a job for the late-round 1999 draft pick somewhere in North America after he signed their minimum $40,000 contract offer (one that had been made simply to guard the team’s long term negotiating rights) … unfortunately, he had signed too late in order to be included the Canadian Hockey League’s European Draft … as a 19 year-old, he is too young to play in the minors and as a signed player, he’s ineligible for the U.S. junior league where the Leafs had hoped to place him …
Name: Jeff Whitfield
Team: Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHA)
Weight: 200 lbs
Last year the Soo Thunderbirds boasted the OHL’s top draft choice in
centre Patrick Jarrett. This year the Thunderbirds boast another top
notch OHL prospect in defenseman Jeff Whitfield. Whitfield, 15, is 1
year removed from Bantam hockey in the Sault.
Whitfield is considered to be a top notch draft prospect for the 2001
OHL draft. I have seen him play a number of times and was very impressed
with what I saw. There are a few rough spots in his game but that’s
expected, especially considering he is playing against players 3 and 4
years older than he is.
The biggest thing I noticed about him is that he tries not to be fancy.
If he starts a rush he tends to not try to beat the defenseman with an
outstanding move. He is more likely to dump the puck in, let a shot go
or pass the puck off to a teammate.
If there is one problem with Whitfield’s game it is that he has
somewhat of a short fuse. He tends to let his opponents get the best of
him. His size, 6’2″ and 200 lbs, is intimidating enough, especially for
Any other problems with Whitfield’s game, and let me tell you that
there are not very many, will get better as he gets more experience and Read more»
One Oilers whom has stepped up his offensive production is second year winger Shawn Norrie who was drafted by Edmonton in the sixth round this year. At 6-2/185 his has the size to be an effective third line checker with some offensive capabilities in the Ethan Moreau or Josh Green mold.
In the first 7 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, he has amassed 3 goals and 4 assists while adding 17 minutes in penalties. Has shown the willingness to fight and play tough along the boards and crash the net with out fear. At this current rate Shawn will score 30 goals and 40 assists with 170 penalty minutes which is a huge increase over last seasons 12 goals and 13 assists and 94 penalty minutes over 67 games.
With the extra playing time in all situations this season an improvement in his offensive and defensive awareness should propel him to top of the scoring leaders on his team. His gritty play and tenacity are a welcome addition to the roster which has a few rookies this year and his style of play and leadership by example are a much needed commodity.
The coaching staff has given him the new responsibilities and he is beginning to flourish and he may become a steal in the draft for the Edmonton Oilers scouting staff if his play continues and he develops into a solid winger at the next level. If he progresses at this pace for the next couple years and models his play after Moreau and Mike Grier it will not be a surprise to see Shawn sporting an Oilers jersey in the near future.