Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kleinendorst on the U18 tournament in Minsk

I didn't intend to write this article. I intended to get some material to use in a couple features about NTDP guys who are eligible for the draft. But Kleinendorst talked so much about the tournament itself in answering the questions that this review just kind of wrote itself. Besides, the USA won and it was hugely undercovered, even in the prospects media. This team is so accessible and has a history of winning, yet they are largely ignored.

Kleinendorst himself seems destined for greatness. I suspect he'll be an NHL head coach in a year or two. He's already got AHL head coaching experience, and NHL assistant experience. Very professional, says all the right things and means them. I look forward to talking to him next year too.

I'll have a couple features and a ranking article before the draft.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NHL/CHL agreement: Why juniors have to be 20 to play in the AHL

Here's something I wrote up a couple years ago, but it's pertinent every year at this time, so I'll repost it.

There's a good bit of confusion about the rules surrounding junior players because they're not in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, something everyone can access. The rules are in a private agreement between the NHL and CHL (Canadian Hockey League, made up of the QMJHL, OHL and WHL). A lot of people think the AHL has a rule that someone has to be 20 to play there. Common misconception. It's not a rule made by the AHL. If it were up to them, they would take everyone over 18. Officially that's the AHL's policy in fact.

The NHL/CHL agreement states that a player with junior eligibility signed by an NHL team must be returned to his junior team if he's not playing in the NHL. It's part of a deal that provides CHL money for players produced (sort of like the IIHF agreement between the NHL and European countries). The NHL agrees to send the teenagers back because CHL needs these players - its top players -- to make money. If the CHL didn't make money, they couldn't produce players. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.

Specifically, the rule says that if a player played in junior before they were drafted by the NHL, then they have to either be 20 years old by Dec. 31 OR have played four years of junior in order to play in the minors . That second condition rarely comes into effect. It would only apply to players who began in the CHL at age 15.

Players who are not drafted from the CHL, like NCAA and European players, aren't held to these rules. Players who were drafted out of Europe and then play in the CHL later, can play in the minors under the age of 20. European players drafted out of the CHL are held to it. Nationality is not part of the equation -- it's where you were drafted from (which league developed you).

In the long run, it's probably helpful for the prospects' development as people to stay in junior a bit longer. Teenagers are better off living with billet families instead of on their own, far from home. One issue that keeps coming up is that some players are clearly ready to move on from the CHL, but not quite ready for the NHL. They end up playing junior, but it's hard to keep them challenged or motivated in that final year.

Normally this rule means that players play two more years of junior after being drafted before they turn pro. There are two exceptions - the really talented who make the NHL at 18 or 19, and those lucky enough to be born between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31. Those lucky fall birthday players were the oldest in their draft class (a player must be 18 by the year of their draft to be eligible), and are old enough that they only have to play one more year of junior after their selection, then can move to the minors.

And on a related topic, CHL players are eligible to play in the AHL once their junior season is over even if they don't yet meet the age criteria listed above. So you could see 18 and 19-year-old juniors in the AHL late in the season. They can and do return to junior the next year.

Also important to note: if a junior player is returned to the CHL before he plays 10 games in the NHL (or AHL) in a given season, the year does not count towards the player's entry-level contract and the contract itself does not count towards the team's 50-contract limit. The team has to make a decision to keep or return him before game 10 starts.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comments on Central Scouting's final ranks for 2010

A few comments on the final rankings for the 2010 draft by Central Scouting.

First, it's so important to remember that a lot can happen between now and the draft that will raise and lower someone's stock. The junior leagues are still in their playoffs, and we have the U18 World Championships, a major scouting event. Then there's the Combine, with not just physical testing, but interviews. A player's drive means so much towards whether they will make it. So, with all that said, always remember that the final ranks are the April rankings and if they made another list in June, it would look different.

They have Riley Sheahan down at No. 22, from No. 5. I think this is too low. Yes, he didn't score up a storm this year, but he was on the third line, with Ryan Thang. Now, Thang is an OK player, but he'll max out at a third liner in the NHL because he just doesn't have the offense. Sheahan would send Thang and Ben Ryan beautiful passes, which went unconverted. Put Sheahan on a first line, and he'll shine.

This is a bad year for European goalies, and not a great year for Europe period. There are some Russians, but with question marks, as always.

They have Calvin Pickard over Jack Campbell among North American goalies. For my money, I take Campbell. He's a big-game goalie, a bit cocky and while that can be bad day to day, ultimately that's what you want.

I like that Justin Shugg and Greg McKegg moved up. Shugg had no business being next to Josh Shalla on the mid-terms. They are now more in their proper place.

In general the NTDP guys seem high, except for Forbort who is rightly very high. I would never take Jason Zucker over Shugg, as he doesn't have the scoring ability. Former NTDPer Jake Fallon seems way too high as well for as little as he produces.

Telegin is too high at No. 33. I saw him in February and don't get the hype. Sadikov seems too high at No. 12 among goalies as well.

Luke Moffatt is below Aaron Harstad at 95 and 94, and I would not just flip them, but get them far apart from one another. Moffatt impressed me when I saw him, and Harstad was a healthy scratch.

Missing from the rankings: Brian Billett, Adam Polasek, and Cab Morris. Polasek and Morris were both overlooked in 2009, but Polasek seems likely to be taken, and Morris is certainly better than Jared Coreau. I think a lot of teams will take goalies because they didn't last year, though I'm not certain this draft class is much better in the goalie department. Certainly at the top, but I'm not so sure it has depth.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Comments on the 2010 NHL Combine list

The list of the 100 invitees to the NHL Combine in Toronto came out a few days ago. A few comments on it.

I've watched OHL, USHL and NCAA games this season, and no one jumped out at me as missing from this list. I was mildly surprised that Philip Grubauer or Nick Mattson weren't on it. Mattson (Indiana) came on strong very late in the year, so he got off a lot of radars. Grubauer's draft potential has a lot to do with how he performs for Windsor in the OHL playoffs. So far so good. Josh Shalla wasn't on the list -- it looks like people are starting to see what I saw in February.

The list was light on USHLers, just four, which doesn't surprise me because I think this is a bad year for the USHL. Even the four who were invited are not exceptional.

Only two guys invited were eligible last year and went unselected - Brandon Davidson of Regina and Jonathan Johansson of Sweden. Johansson is a June birthday and Davidson is an August birthday.

Last year, eight guys who were invited to the Combine were not drafted. The highest drafted guys who didn't attend the Combine went 31st and 35th. The World Championships and the CHL playoffs can really affect someone's draft position, and this list comes out before either of them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dalton feature

Yesterday I finished a feature on Matt Dalton, a Boston prospect who's a very interesting guy. Self-taught goaltender/farmer, it doesn't get better than that. When he came out of the locker room to find me, he was still buttoning his shirt and getting on his shoes -- he said he didn't want to keep me waiting. We talked for about 14 minutes, and it didn't feel like I was keeping him. He was very relaxed for a goaltender too. All in all, very impressive off the ice. I'm surprised more features haven't been written about him.

I don't think Reading has a very good team this year, but if Dalton puts them on his back, who knows.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NTDP at Indiana

A few photos from the USNTDP at Indiana last night. I'll have features on Johns and Moffatt in a few weeks.

Frank Simonelli with a high leg kick in warmups. I don't think this is in the textbook.

Luke Moffatt yakking it up on the faceoff. You might think he's just catching up with a former teammate in Mattson, but he seemed to chat up a lot of people on the faceoff. He's just a chatty kind of kid.

Jarred Tinordi vs. Brian Ferlin. Tinordi stood him up hard at the blue line, that's what brought this on. It was just a good defensive play.

Tyler Biggs vs. Chris Martin. I think Biggs grabbed him by the mouth here. He's someone I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. He looks like a great player for 2011 though.

This image cracks me up. Rather than smush into the end of the bench in a chair like most backups, Jack Campbell stood behind the bench with the coaches. Looks quite out of place. He got ice water dumped on him in the shower later and screamed quite loudly. A bunch of jokers these guys.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Indiana vs. Green Bay (USHL)

I came back to Indianapolis to catch the NTDP, but also caught the game against Green Bay last night. After bad experiences with poor lighting in the building last time, I was spurred to pull the trigger on the new camera purchase, which I'm very happy with. If they would only use all the lights during warmups.

Notes on players:

Mattson (IND) -- I was pleasantly surprised how he's come along. I didn't like him much at last year's U18 WCs, or the USHL All-Star Game. But he looks very good now. I'll put together a feature on him soon.

Morris (IND)-- He looked good during the game, beaten high only on a couple high shots. The shootout was a different story. More broadly, his glove placement looks too low. His coach acknowledged it was an issue.

Fallon (IND) -- I just don't see much here, other than hustle. I think he'll be a big dropper on the spring 2010 rankings.

Crane (Green Bay) -- He was benched after taking a roughing penalty that resulted in a goal. That was the first period, so good thing I was paying attention early. His game isn't pretty, but is effective. Spoke to him afterwards, an interesting guy. Late rounder, but I think he'll get picked. He's committed to OSU, and has been asked to come this fall (now that Dalpe etc are gone), but told me he might report to Windsor depending on what the NHL team who drafts him wants him to do.

Lee (GB) -- Islanders fans seem to think we overlooked Lee on the latest Top 20 list. I've looked at him twice this year, but I still can't get onboard. He has size and skates well, but ultimately is disappointing.

Max Cook (IND) -- He's a 1990, so he probably won't be drafted, but he should be. Late bloomer. Miami University is going to be happy with him.

Harstad (GB) -- Healthy scratch. That won't get you drafted.

Ferlin (IND) -- Poor skater. He's going to have to correct that.

A few photos.

Ref catches some unwanted air.

Coach Jeff Blashill draws on his white board with his back turned.

And now the reveal.

Green Bay won in a shootout. The funny part of this photo is Crane in the upper right corner hugging his teammate like they just won the championship. Note he hadn't been on the ice for 2+ periods at this point.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

College free agents 2010

Some names that may be signed by NHL teams in the coming weeks, in no particular order.

Tom Gorowsky, F, Wisconsin, 23
Dion Knelsen, F, Alaska-Fairbanks, 21
Carter Hutton, G, UMass-Lowell, 24
Chay Genoway, F, North Dakota, 23
Darcy Zajac, F, North Dakota, 23

There doesn't seem to be a hot commodity out there, like there is occasionally. Generally college free agents get overrated though. They are already 23 or 24 when the come out, which is near the top of the development curve. They won't improve much once they are signed. What you see is pretty much what you get.

Simon Gysbers and Casey Wellman already went to Toronto and Minnesota.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coaching prospect: Chuck Weber

Usually I write about player prospects. But today I want to say a word or two about a coaching prospect, Chuck Weber.

I first encountered Weber when he was coaching his Cincinnati Cyclones in the 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. After the game, he came into the room where the press conference was set up, and instead of sitting down at the table and microphone, he stood. Here's a picture I took that day:

It was obvious that he had a lot of energy. He struck me as very intense, businesslike. And he got it done -- his team won the thing on the road in Las Vegas.

For the fourth straight year, Weber's got his Cyclones in playoff position, leading their division. The most impressive thing about it to me is that they're doing it this year with two 20-year-old rookie goaltenders -- one from the Predators, one from the Canadiens -- who are not top prospects. These are the kinds of goaltenders who most teams wouldn't want to have to rely on. But the Cyclones play such great team defense that it's working. Weber was himself a defenseman and he knows how to teach it, obviously. He never played pro hockey himself though.

I interviewed Weber about the goalies last night as his team came through town. I wanted to hear about them, but equally I wanted to know more about how he goes about things too.

He was again very professional, fully answering every question. It was after a loss, so this was a good test. Some coaches don't hold it together very well after losses. That's not the case with Weber. He made thoughtful comments and treated the little people (me) with respect.

He won't likely be in the league long. Or, if he is, it's the AHL's loss.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shugg vs. Shalla

On paper, Justin Shugg and Josh Shalla look fairly similar. They're both offensive OHLers who tend a bit more towards goalscoring, both eligible for the 2010 draft, and have similar names. When I was planning my trip to see Windsor and Saginaw, I had some trouble keeping them separate.

Boy did that change. The thing that impressed me the most about Shugg was how hard he worked. Windsor was down by two goals (rare I know, but they had some guys out of the line-up), and Shugg played as if he thought they could quickly get it back. His hard work was rewarded with a goal, though they did still lose. I spoke to him and he's a stand-up guy. Here's the interview.

Shalla, who I saw the next night, did not impress at all. He was even benched in the second period. He seemed to just have one speed, and no intensity. I had questions prepared for him, but instead decided to head to the Erie locker room and talk to Robbie Ftorek about Greg McKegg. McKegg deserved the time, Shalla did not. After I was done with that though, I swung by the Saginaw locker room, wanting to speak to a coach about why Shalla was benched. I wanted to know how different this was than his normal play, so we know where to rank and rate him. I was treated so rudely by associate coach John Kisil, that I just had to laugh. Someone doesn't take losing well, and takes it out on everyone else. In any case, it will make me remember Shalla for sure. And not in a good way.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Consensus and the NHL draft

Fans of the NHL draft often speak as if there is a lot of consensus about who is likely to go where in the draft. They might follow the ISS lists that come out every month, not see a lot of movement, and think that this means consensus is building. That notion needs to be dispelled.

First, we only see the lists of scouting services, not of the teams. So we only see a small portion of the qualified lists out there. Second, it's only the very top guys which scouts can agree on, and here we're only talking say top three. Beyond that, as you move away from the top, there is more and more variance, to the point where someone who is very high on one NHL team's list may not even appear on another's. Teams vary in their draft philosophy and tastes. There are 30 NHL teams, and that means 30 very different-looking lists. Teams usually only rank 125 guys per year. They did this even when there were nine rounds of the draft (290 taken) because no one likes the same guys and all 125 would never be taken.

First rounders regularly bust and guys who went undrafted regularly make the NHL. Thus it shouldn't be surprising that at age 17, opinions about these players should vary. But leading into the draft, when someone voices an opinion about a player that is seen to go against a perceived consensus, they are too often thought a fool. The Phoenix Coyotes took Blake Wheeler at fifth overall in 2004 and it raised a lot of eyebrows. It shouldn't have. The only thing they did wrong there was fail to take advantage of how little other teams valued Wheeler by trading down.

Back to the lists. There is usually a lot of change over the course of the season as well. Players who were good at age 15 and 16 often will plateau (Angelo Esposito), while the late-developers start to shine (Calvin de Haan). Seventeen-year-olds are only halfway developed. And at 17, players will develop just from the beginning of their draft year to the end. Late risers get taken high in every draft -- guys who are thought to have a lot of upside because they are still developing rapidly.

The Combine is a big factor in teams' rankings, with the battery of tests and interviews that it has. Peter Holland fell in the eyes of many, with the exception of Anaheim, after last year's. The playoffs are key too. And the playoffs for the junior leagues are still in the thick of things when the Central final list comes out. There's still lots more to go. Plus the U-18s, don't forget those. They can make or break someone.

All of this variance means that trying to do a mock draft before about April is pretty much ludicrous. You're much better served simply learning the players early in the year rather than trying to match them up with teams. NHL teams don't make their final list until early June just after the Combine. This is when mock drafts should be done.

Some people find scouting service Red Line Report to be "out there" -- believing they have far-out opinions. I don't think they are any farther out than an NHL team is. Some things they get right, some things they get wrong.

Personally I find my opinions closest to those of Central Scouting. I think they overvalue size a bit, but if I know that going in I can mentally correct for it. Their goalie rankings are decent. They had A. J. Thelen lower in 2004 than some others did, and turned out to be correct.

In sum, scouts are paid to have strong opinions about players. And they do. And they vary -- widely.

If we knew which 40 or so guys from each draft were going to make the NHL, we could stop at two rounds. But it goes seven rounds, because no one is sure where the next player will come from.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Greg McKegg is an underdog

In my feature on Greg McKegg for Hockey's Future, I called him an underdog in the teaser. A reader asked why I used that term. He has good stats, how could he be an underdog?

Let me tell you how. Erie is one of three OHL teams that are on the American side of the border. Most NHL scouts live on the Canadian side. Right off the bat these teams gets scouted less. Are there still scouts at their home games? Yes, but only a few.

Second, Erie had some ownership, management and coaching issues in the recent past that soured a lot of people on the franchise. Former NHL coach Robbie Ftorek has been there for two and a half years now, and seems to really be whipping the team into shape. But the poor reputation is hard to shake.

These things lead to Erie's players being underrated. Happened last year with Ryan O'Reilly. You could also possibly include Jaroslav Janus in there, as he is now doing quite well as a 20-year-old in the AHL.

What about Andrew Yogan, you might ask. He's rated fairly high for the 2010 draft. Yes, he is, but he has been on scouts' radars for the 2010 draft for several years, long before he went to Erie in a trade last season. Yogan was the best player in the State of Florida and was going to go play in the USHL, when scouts intervened and steered him to the OHL. He ended up in Windsor, one of the rich teams, which wasn't a coincidence. But he disappointed there. He's got an NHL body and skates pretty well, so he'll probably go in the first three rounds just due to having the tools, but in my opinion he's a long shot to make it. He doesn't seem to have the desire. He seems to play like the game should just come to him.

McKegg on the other hand, hasn't had it easy. He sure is the apple of Ftorek's eye though. I went to Ftorek's post-game "press conference" (all three of us), and was a little nervous about asking him questions, knowing his penchant for yelling at people. But as soon as I said McKegg's name, his emotions changed, almost like a dad talking about his son. It's a high compliment when Ftorek likes you, so that speaks very well of McKegg. He seemed like a nice kid to me too, though he talks a little too fast for my taste. Makes it hard to transcribe.

Next year, for the 2011 draft, Erie will have David Broll. To me, he looks like he should be at least top 100. But I haven't seen anyone talking about him yet. What a surprise, given the team he plays on.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Some USHL features

Last week I went to Indianapolis for the USHL All-Star Game. It was very enlightening as far as the 2010-eligible pool goes. I'm probably making one more trip to see more games later in the year and then will write one big ranking article. So I'll hold comments until then.

Indianapolis is very easy to get around with good public transportation. I was able to take a city bus to the arena, which made me happy. Three-quarters of the bus/shuttle drivers I had were women, interestingly.

So far I've written features on Nate Condon, Jaden Schwartz and Cab Morris from that trip. I've got a few more to go, but they may have to wait until I get back from seeing some OHL games this weekend.

I enjoyed talking to Morris as he's an interesting guy, and Nate Condon was one of the few interviews when I wish I had my video camera going instead of a recorder. He has comic delivery that print just doesn't capture. He'll be a telecast favorite as he moves up. Schwartz I didn't get the feeling is a big talker.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Charlotte to the AHL, how it could go down

Dave Andrews, President of the AHL, was on XM Radio yesterday talking about Charlotte, NC coming into the AHL in the next year or two. This has been in the works for a long time, and I'm glad to hear it's coming along.

The logistics of this are interesting because unlike European leagues where there's relegation and promotion -- teams drop down a league if they come in last in the standings -- the minor leagues in North America don't work like that. Moving a city from one league to another is trickier and means buying and selling franchises.

The first thing that needs to happen for Charlotte to have an AHL team is to move the current ECHL Charlotte Checkers out of town. Who has the money and the interest do this? It's looking like the Checkers owner himself actually, with the understanding that they would affiliate with the Carolina Hurricans. It would be nice to have your top farm club nearby instead of in Albany, NY wouldn't it? And the Canes affiliation with the River Rats is up this year.

So now there's an ECHL team without a home. The owner could fold it up if he wanted, but how about moving it somewhere else, somewhere nearby that has a nice hockey say Greensboro? This city is strongly rumored to be getting an ECHL franchise next fall, and putting two and two together, I think it could be the former Charlotte franchise. The Canes could then have their NHL team and AHL and ECHL affiliates all in the same state. This makes for easy travel and good marketing. (Their ECHL affiliate is currently the Florida Everblades, but they don't send many players there.)

The investors in the Charlotte AHL team would need to purchase another AHL franchise to be able to move it to Charlotte. There are a number of struggling northeast teams, and the Iowa Chops franchise is also dormant. Any of these are candidates. The Edmonton Oilers own a dormant franchise too, but that's destined for Oklahoma City.

Could Charlotte to the AHL happen for fall 2010? It would be quicker than normal, but yes I think it could. There don't seem to be any big obstacles to overcome. I think the Charlotte fans would accept the new team. The arena can certainly accommodate what would likely be a somewhat bigger crowd; it is the NBA Charlotte Bobcats arena after all. It seats 14,100 for hockey.

Charlotte's closest AHL neighbor would be the Norfolk Admirals, located on the coast in Virginia, 327 miles away (5.5 hours). This would make Charlotte an outlier, but still much closer than Abbotsford, BC, whose closest team is in Winnipeg, Manitoba, half a continent away. Interestingly, Charlotte would not become Norfolk's closest neighbor, as Hershey is a hair closer at 318 miles away.

Brian Burke, when he was GM of the Anaheim Ducks, wanted to begin to move the AHL to the west coast. Maybe instead we'll see it move south, which has the advantage of keeping it closer to the existing teams. Travel costs can never be underestimated as a factor.

Charlotte has a metro population of about 1.8 million and is considered an up and coming city.

The last city to successfully move from the ECHL to the AHL was Peoria. They kept the moniker -- Rivermen -- which is rare.

Update (2/13/10): I'm hearing that rather than Greensboro, there's been some interest in moving the ECHL franchise to the midwest. But it's equally likely that it will just be folded.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sheahan feature article

I finished my feature on Riley Sheahan last night. He's a better player than he is an interviewee, but that's fine. And he'd have to be a reeeeally good interviewee to accomplish that anyway. But I did get some interesting information out of him I thought.

Having interviewed Kevin Lind the night before (also 2010-eligible and coincidentally a Notre Dame recruit), it was striking how young Sheahan seems. Most of the draft-eligible guys are really smooth already when you talk to them, but he's still kind of rough around the edges. Kind of the way Calvin de Haan was when I talked to him before his draft stock rose.

Regarding the Rick Nash comparison, Thang and I both thought of Nash independently, each of us with our own reasons (which are stated within). But I don't want to overstate the comparison. I think Nash is more power forward than Sheahan. Sheahan doesn't try to go through people the way Nash does, or used to when he was young.

The Lind piece is still forthcoming. We talked for 15 whole minutes, so there's a lot of transcribing involved.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Notes on Notre Dame

I recently saw Notre Dame at the Shillelagh Tournament. Here are some notes on the prospects.

Kyle Lawson (CAR) -- I was surprised to see him listed at 5'11, because he doesn't look small on the ice. Defense is pretty good, he gets offensive chances. Usually plays D but was moved up due to shortage. Made a terrible giveaway trying to send the puck up the middle.

Riley Sheahan (2010) -- He's kind of boring to watch, actually. Not flashy, and in fact, doesn't look like he's doing much. But he really is, it's just so effortless for him that it fools you. Very good offensively and defensively. Spoke to him -- nice kid, but he's still really a kid. Not confident in himself yet. His game will probably take off even more when he is finally confident. The funniest part of the conversation was him saying it was a coincidence that he's Irish and ended up playing for the Irish. Said his family really liked the school. Yes, he said he is Catholic. Let's see, and Irish Catholic going to Notre Dame, gee I don't think it's a "coincidence."

Teddy Ruth (WAS) -- Very good defensively, smooth skater. It's surprising that he doesn't score more, given how well he skates and is in good position. He may just be cast in a role. But I think he's capable of more.

Ryan Thang (NAS) -- Typical third liner, effort but not slick. He's on a line with Sheahan so I asked Thang about him. He had some interesting things to say. We agreed that Sheahan reminds us of Rick Nash, but we each had different reasons for it.

Ben Ryan (NAS) -- Has good skill, shifty through traffic and protects the puck well, but has some real size issues that may hold him back.

Sean Lorenz (MIN) -- I cringed when he got near the puck. The Wild don't have great prospects and this is one more example.

Ian Cole (STL)
-- Probably the best player on the ice, though Sheahan will rival him soon. Cole's strengths are well documented so I won't list them all. Nice kid too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Comments on Steel prospects for 2010

I caught a USHL game when I was in Chicago for a college tournament last weekend. I can tell the league has improve just from a few years ago when I saw it the last time. Here are some observations on some 2010-eligible prospects from the Steel and one from Lincoln.

Kevin Lind (2010) -- I liked him quite a bit, more than expected given his rankings. Very good defense and skating. Physical. Adequate puckhandling and offense. He needs to mature on the ice, but he's 17 so that's normal. Spoke to him for 15 minutes afterward and was very impressed by him personally. Should be a mid-round pick.

Andrei Kuchin (2010) -- Very good playmaker, and fast. I don't see how he slips through the draft again. He's getting PK time, so that will help his defense. Coach was bullish on him.

Brendan Woods (2010) -- It was his first game of the year due to a broken leg. I thought he looked good given the situation, can dangle and stays with the play til the end. Would be a late rounder if he gets taken.

Safir Gill (2010) -- Went home for a family situation, coach does not expect him back this year. This won't help his slim draft chances.

Jared Coreau (2010) Lincoln Stars -- Tall goalie with decent lateral movement, but poor glove and blocker. He has his glove OK in his stance, but as soon as the shot is coming, he drops it with open part down, and you're never going to catch pucks like that. He would need a complete makeover to have a future.

Mark Adams (Buffalo draft pick) -- Good size and skating, but very poor positioning.

Here's a photo of the action with Lind (7) and Kuchin (91) included in white.