Here’s How I Saw It

By Larry Bradley

OHL West vs. WHL East

I was generously given the opportunity to attend the 2001 Hersey Cup for the CHL All-Star Series Wednesday night at the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre. The game boasted the best players from the WHL East and the stars of the OHL West. It is a new all-star format that definitely has its pros and cons. Sure it was nice to see a couple future stars in Pavel Brendl and Jay Bouwmeester, but I would have preferred to see my all-stars from the OHL East. Most of the OHL all-star representatives I support were shipped off to Quebec where many of the fans missed out on seeing their favourite players participate in high level competition. I mean, isn’t that why the OHL presents an all-star game, so fans can watch their best against the rest of the leagues best. That being said, let’s talk about the game itself.
Most of these contests usually lack the defensive intensity of a regular league match-up but on this night, the talented scoring machines on hand couldn’t get their engines going. It was a rough, tight checking game by all-star standards. A 5-2 victory for the OHL West squad was not what most in attendance expected. When you can assemble this kind of firepower you demand a shoot-out. The chippy affair created some bad blood, which culminated in a game-ending tussle between Red Deer Rebel Jim Vandermeer and Sarnia Sting winger Alexander Buturlin. It was hardly a heavy weight tilt and was quickly broken up before any damage could be delivered.

After a chance to sit back and reflect on the individual performances this is how I would rank this years OHL West prospects at the All-Star game.

Number #1

(Centre) Derek Roy – Kitchener Rangers

CSS Mid-Season Ranking: #31

Last years OHL Rookie of the Year brought everything he had to the rink Wednesday night. He was clearly my selection as the OHL All-Star MVP, although local favourite Craig Anderson had a solid enough effort for the judges to award him with the honour. Roy chipped in with two assists and frustrated WHL defenders all night with his creative stick handling and explosive speed. He looked dangerous on every rush and could have put a couple more points on the board if not for the acrobatic saves of WHL netminder Brent Krahn. Add a couple more inches (5’8 ½”, 187) to this kid and he would easily be contending for a top five spot on draft day. His feisty, “no fear” attitude often draws valuable power play time for his team. The second year Ranger loves to drive the net and is not afraid to go in the corners with the big boys. Roy was easily the best skater on the ice in this showcase of talent.

Number #2

(Centre) Stephen Weiss – Plymouth Whalers

CSS Mid-Season Rankings: #2

This highly ranked Whaler forward opened the scoring, converting a centering pass from Damian Surma on the power play, at the 4:50 mark of the first frame. The line of Surma, Joel Ward and Weiss produced many scoring opportunities and combined for four points Wednesday night. Weiss is super creative with a talent to find the open ice. He is a very good skater with excellent vision to spot open teammates for a quick attack. His ability to play at both ends of the ice have drawn many comparisons to Red Wings superstar Steve Yzerman. The second year Plymouth centre plays very disciplined and has sacrificed offensive numbers to lead a defensive minded squad to outstanding back-to-back campaigns.

Number #3

(Defence) Kevin Dallman – Guelph Storm

CSS Mid-Season Ranking: #N/A

A solid effort from this talented, third year defender from the hometown Storm. Dallman displayed his ability to shine in both ends of the rink. The St. Catherines native was very patient and made several smart passes to advance the puck out of his zone. Looks to stand his man up with a heavy body check just inside the blue line. Has great positioning in own end but must tie up his opponent’s stick when away from the play. Very good quarterback with the man advantage, will wisely wrist a low shot towards traffic instead of winding up the big slapper. All-Star coach, Peter DeBoer, displayed a lot of confidence in Dallman’s defensive skills with plenty of ice in penalty kill situations. A very talented two-way defender that should, if scouts will look past his height (5’11”), receive more attention before the draft. Currently, leads the league in scoring from the blueline.

Number #4

(Defence) Carlo Colaiacovo – Erie Otters

CSS Mid-Season Ranking: #12

Carlo definitely lived up to his mid-season billing as one of the top defensive prospects for the 2001 entry draft. The Otters’ second year blueliner played a terrific game for the OHL West All-Stars. The highly tauted defenceman gave us a sampling of his patience on the power play and his ability to skate with the puck. Colaiacovo offensive effort was rewarded with a power play point on the opening goal of the game. The York, Ontario native is smart with the puck and will jump up into the rush to act as a fourth forward. A little overaggressive at times, but will learn to pick his spots with experience. The Erie defender likes to use his mobility and take his man wide to the boards, with authority.

Number #5

(Centre) Jason Spezza – Windsor Spitfires

CSS Mid-Season Ranking: #1

Jason didn’t have the same jump he displayed at the World Juniors earlier this month. There were a lot of expectations for the Spitfire’s “Top Prospect” to shine against the best of the WHL East in Guelph. The Mississauga native was not able to feed off the spark provided by fellow Spit Steve Ott and did not have his most productive outing. Spezza had a couple promising trips up the ice but he could not connect with an open winger to find the score sheet. He is not the fastest skater but possesses size (6’3”, 195 lbs.) and the ability to dance around defenders with shifty stick handling skills. Will definitely have to work on his defensive zone coverage to make the jump to the next level. He has a lot of raw talent and with the right work ethic will evolve into a future NHL superstar.

Number #6

(Defence) Jay Harrison – Brampton Battalion

CSS Mid-season Ranking: #7

This Brampton defender lost a lot of exposure by taking a few undisciplined penalties. Sat out two minutes for elbowing early in the second period and then received a double minor (roughing) call with five minutes remaining in the same stanza. When on the ice, Harrison showed his physical presence when clearing the net and taking his man to the boards. A stay-at-home defenceman who was responsible for the defensive coverage when partner, Battalion teammate Rostislav Klesla, went deep into the offensive zone. Supplies a lot of experience for a young man, but needs to control emotions to stay out of penalty trouble. Was a member of the Bronze medal winning Team Canada at the 2001 World Juniors.

Number #7

(Centre) Greg Jacina – Owen Sound Attack

CSS Mid-Season Ranking: #190

Played within his capabilities but was overshadowed with so many other talented prospects at the centre position. Coach DeBoer moved Jacina to the wing with Windsor Spitfires Jason Spezza, at centre, and Steve Ott. Possesses decent speed but his major asset is his magical stick handling skills. Displayed his soft-hands and ability to elude would-be checkers in offensive zone. Passed up a few scoring chances in favour of low percentage passes to covered teammates. Has the size (6’1” 190 lbs.) to play a physical game and will go digging along the boards to claim pucks.