Battalion Draft Eligible Player Report

By Mark McDonald

Adam Henrich (LW, 6’4″, 220)

(16-6-12-18, +5, 13 PIM)

Henrich, selected by Brampton with the 7th overall selection in the 2000 OHL Priority Selection, is quickly developing into a power forward that makes defencemen freeze and goaltenders shudder. With the departure of Raffi Torres to the pro ranks, a first-line left winger was one of the team’s question marks in training camp and in the season’s early going. Thankfully for Battalion coach Stan Butler and the team’s loyal core of fans, Henrich has taken the bull by the horns and filled that role admirably.

In a 2000-01 rookie season that saw Henrich see little ice time on a squad that relied very heavily on its veterans, Adam posted modest totals of five goals and nine points in 48 games. However, while being brought along slowly, Henrich showed flashes of deceptive speed and pretzel-tying moves, making fans wonder what might be in store for them in year two.

Playing with overage centre Kurt MacSweyn and fellow sophomore right winger Chris Clayton, Henrich is second in team scoring at the quarterpole of the season (to MacSweyn) and has emerged as a bona-fide scoring threat. Individual efforts that bring crowds to their feet are becoming commonplace at the Bunker, as he has scored the winning goal in two of Brampton’s four home victories, most recently with a spectacular rush around a defenceman and a highlight-reel deke on Kitchener Ranger goaltender Scott Dickie.

Henrich is also beginning to use his size to his advantage when without the puck, and to finish his checks more consistently. While his game is not meant to feature bone-crunching bodychecks that put opposing players out of commission, he is gradually becoming a physical presence that forces defencemen to nervously look over their shoulders when getting rid of the puck.

Among his assets – size, decent speed for a big man, great stickhandling, patience (especially on the power play), and a quick snapshot (ask Adam Munro of the Erie Otters).

Look for Henrich to increase his current point-a-game pace as he continues to develop his positional awareness (which is miles above what it was during his rookie year) and continues to play with the confidence he has shown during his first 16 games of this season. It would not be a huge surprise to see Henrich end up with 30 goals and 75 points, nor would it be a huge surprise to see Henrich selected between picks 20 to 40 of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Incidentally, he is the younger brother of Michael Henrich, selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the 13th overall selection of the 1998 Entry Draft.

Brad Topping (G, 6’2″, 187)

(3-6-2, 0 shutouts, 3.57 GAA, .893 Save Pct.)

Topping was taken with Brampton’s second round selection of the 2000 OHL Priority Selection, and was incidentally the first goaltender selected. After apprenticing for David Chant and then Brian Finley (Nashville, 1st round 1999) in his rookie year, Topping is Brampton’s go-to guy in his second season and despite his record, is providing solid play between the pipes.

Topping has taken to his role quite well this season, as he did have some experience being the number one guy for a brief spell last season. When Stan Butler dealt started David Chant and others to the Barrie Colts for a then-injured Brian Finley, Topping was thrust into the starting role and promptly ripped off a 9-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2), a team record. His performance during the streak had some fans in the team’s online community calling for Topping to assume the starting role full-time for the playoffs, a healthy Finley notwithstanding.

Again, despite his record, Topping has had a strong first quarter to the season. The majority of his losses have been by one goal, and often he has stood tall when his team needed him to not let a back-breaking goal get scored against them. He has been playing behind a young defence that, while showing signs of tightening up, has allowed many more shots and rebounds than Topping saw during his rookie campaign.

One area where Topping has had trouble over the season is lateral movement, and stopping shots that come off lateral passes. However, he hopes that work with Butler (a former goalie himself) and Battalion goaltending coach Luigi Villa will help shore up that deficiency.

Topping shows good positional instincts, is strong at cutting down angles, and rarely gets beaten when he has a clean look at an un-tipped puck. His size can also give him a psychological edge over shooters. He is perhaps short on flash, but long on substance. While he won’t make dozens of highlight-reel saves, he’ll put himself in position to make the save on almost every occasion.

This season’s crop of goaltenders might not quite as strong as the one that supplied Dan Blackburn, Pascal LeClaire, Adam Munro, and Jason Bacashihua, but look for Topping to be near the top of it. His potential draft position will be difficult to project and will depend on individual team needs, but look for Topping to hear his name called on the Saturday of draft weekend.

Chris Clayton (RW, 6’3″, 187)

(14-4-7-11, +10, 2 PIM)

Clayton just missed being eligible for the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, as his birthday falls less than two weeks past the Sept. 15th cutoff. However, Clayton is likely thankful for that twist of fate, as both scouts and opposing players likely do not recognize the 2001-02 version of the Kingston native.

His rookie season was one that saw him see limited ice time, and was one where he was not counted on to provide any offense at all. Predictably, in a defensive role, Clayton put up only one goal and eight helpers during the year.

During his sophomore season, Clayton has frequently been used as the right winger on the team’s number one line (with Henrich and MacSweyn), and he has often been used as half of Brampton’s top penalty-killing pair (with MacSweyn). He does not have any of the team’s three short-handed goals, but has done a solid job of bottling up the opposition’s power-play quarterback in his own end. Despite his decent size, it has been his tenacity and willingness to get under an opponent’s jersey on the penalty kill that have earned him much praise from coaches and fans.

While he has already outstripped his 2000-01 point totals, Clayton’s game could be much more improved were he to develop more creativity with the puck. His speed is an asset, and he plays a strong transitional game. However, on a few occasions this season he has barreled down the wing on a two-on-one and rather than pass, or look to pass, he has drilled the puck into the goalie’s chest. Developing greater creativity and the confidence to look for more opportunity with the puck is something that should come with more experience in an offensive role.

Clayton has been a pleasant surprise thus far this season, putting himself in a position to reach a pre-season 20-goal target that he and Butler had set for him.

Corey LeClair (D, 6’1″, 197)

(16-0-4-4, -11, 6 PIM)

Like Clayton, LeClair missed being eligible for the 2001 Entry Draft by a narrow margin (only one day). Also like Clayton, he figures to have his draft prospects helped by one more season in the OHL. LeClair was brought along very slowly by Stan Butler during his rookie season, as the team had Rostislav Klesla, Jason Maleyko, and Jay Harrison eating up the lion’s share of ice time.

LeClair is a slick defenceman with good puck-carrying skills and good speed. However, despite having the potential to be a prominent offensive defenceman, he has yet to score a regular-season goal in his OHL career (he had one in a playoff game against the Erie Otters). Many fans liken his development to that of Paul Flache’s (Edmonton, 5th round 2000), who scored only one point in his rookie season and then emerged in his second year as a legitimate offensive threat.

The number that jumps out at those looking at LeClair’s numbers is his minus-11, tied with two others for lowest on the Battalion. Corey needs to become stronger at clearing the puck from his zone, as his clearing attempts are often stopped at the blue line. His game in his own zone could stand to be less complicated, as he has a tendency to out-think himself when clearing the puck, rather than simply getting it out of his end.

Again like Clayton, LeClair has shown noticeable development since his rookie season. As he is still quite fresh-faced, he needs time to grow into his more enhanced role on the Battalion blue line this season. A fairer assessment of LeClair’s game and draft prospects will come in the new year.

Joey Biasucci (G, 5’11”, 182)

(3-2-1, 0 shutouts, 3.23 GAA, .910 Save Pct.)

Selected by the Battalion in the 11th round (213th overall) in the 2000 OHL Priority Selection, Biasucci competed for and won the job as Brad Topping’s backup in training camp and has not looked back. With often spectacular play and a flair for the dramatic, Biasucci may have provided the team with its best one-two goalie punch in its short history (with apologies to Scott Della Vedova and Brian Finley). His play has also given Stan Butler the confidence of knowing that he will receive competent goaltending no matter who is between the pipes.

Biasucci has a lightning-quick glove and above-average flexibility. Again, a full assessment of his talents can not be made with only six OHL games under his belt, but those six games have been against some of the OHL’s top marksmen. In his OHL debut he made 44 saves in an overtime victory against Rick Nash and the London Knights. He has since beaten Jason Spezza’s Windsor Spitfires and Derek Roy’s Kitchener Rangers, and suffered narrow losses to the high-powered Erie Otters and Guelph Storm. Watch for Biasucci to make quite a name for himself among scouts during the remainder of the season as he makes further adjustments to OHL shooters and realizes that he can stare them down.