October 27th, 2018 – Saskatoon Blades at Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) – 5-2 EDM
Keagan Slaney (2021 NHL Draft) – Slaney made his WHL Debut as a 15 year old. Slaney played a normal shift through a majority of the game. At first he was quite tentative and timid with the puck, had a few costly turnovers but recovered well. Noticed his decisions with the puck were good, the execution he struggled with at times but all in all it seemed like he knew what he was doing. Held his own physically and had no issue sliding by bigger players and escaping hits.
Trey Fix-Wolansky (Columbus Blue Jackets) – For a player coming off of a road game back home to play one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Wolansky was exceptional. Had himself a goal and two assists in this game. Trey continues to be the driving force of the Oil Kings offence. Wolansky was generating offensive opportunities with his crafty puck handling and vision with the puck. Exploits hole in the neutral zone and is incredibly poised in his zone entries. Wolansky demonstrated NHL calibre skill and hockey IQ, he is still slight in size but absolutely dominated the opposing team when on the ice. Makes complicated plays with the puck look simple on a shift by shift basis.
Quinn Benjafield (Free Agent) – Scored twice in this affair. Benjafield was is the right spot for offensive chances. Flashed skill in his zone entries, was constantly looking to attack the middle of the ice with the puck. Benjafield did his damage on the rush, he’s got loads of skill with the puck and plays with creativity. Benjafield is in his 20 year old season but is a good get for any U-Sport’s team looking for a skilled offensive threat. Benjafield doesn’t exhibit the necessary strength, consistency, or all around play for the pro-ranks.
Kirby Dach (2019 NHL Draft) – Dach was my main target to watch in this game, he impressed with intuitive offensive play. Centered the line of Max Gerlach and Eric Florchuk. Dach played an opportunistic game, he was quick to attack when his team gain possession of the puck and would constantly drive clean offensive zone entries. Dach’s abilities from the blue line in may be the best in Western Canada for the 2001’s. His elite hockey IQ with the puck shines, vision with the puck allows him to read where everyone is and make complicated plays with the puck with ease. You could see defender’s respecting his skills and Dach would attack them in many different ways. For a lanky kid, Dach’s footwork is impressive, he’s able to attack with lateral movement and keep his feet moving with physical pressure mounting on a wide drive. For me perhaps the biggest asset that Dach loves to exploit is his range. He’s got long legs and a long stick, while he isn’t the most dynamic player if he has a step on a defender at this level the defensemen isn’t going to take the puck from him as he is able to keep it out of reach with his range and puck protection, Dach exploits this heavily when attack on the rush. From a stand still position Dach didn’t do much, his shots were often high + wide. Another key asset to Dach’s game i noticed is how well he works the referees, he is always communicating with officials and would get the opposing centerman kicked out of draws for stuff that I thought was okay. You could see Kirby really working on his defensive zone play, he’s a possession driving individual who imposes high pressure and awareness in his defensive zone, he knows who the skilled players are and sticks to them and limits there effectiveness. I noticed him sticking with Trey Fix-Wolansky much of the time and for the most part it had Wolansky contained from receiving passes. A slippery player with under rated sneakiness in transition. For me I’d value Dach as a 4-8 prospect at the draft, I think he is competing with Bowen Byram for that second spot on my Western Canada NHL rankings. Dach needs to fill out, I don’t know how well some of the things he likes to exploit will translate to the NHL but things that will are his size, range, skill and hockey IQ. Ive seen comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf as of late for him which fit very well but I’d almost compare his game more to Jason Spezza in the way he is able to constantly control the play and how often you find him bursting up ice. He’s got similar hands + creativity with the puck and I think that he will likely translate to a Winger like Spezza has.
Aiden De La Gorgeniere (2020 NHL Draft) – Aiden De La Gorgendiere was impressive in this game agains the Oil Kings, on a pairing with 20 year old Brandon Schuldhaus, Gorgendiere seems like he is looking more comfortable in the WHL with every viewing. Played a simplistic style of game with the puck, didn’t make many mistakes and showed poise under pressure to make the best play to relieve pressure with a pass to his defensive partner or a chip into the neutral zone. Gorgendiere was excellent in his defensive zone, he stayed tight with his assignment. Gorgendiere’s defensive coverage was likely the best I have seen from a 16 year old defender in the past couple of years, his got an active head and is aware of everything going on around it. Manages his defensive zone well with an active stick to break up passes or willingness to block shots in close proximity. Wasn’t as active offensively as I had hoped but when he did join the rush he didn’t generate a lot and often retreated to his defensive position quickly. Got bumped off of the puck in battles a few time and needs to add strength. Be more assertive infront of his net, be stronger and contain the net front presence better which will come as he continues to mature and develop. Overall I was impressed by Gorgendiere, he’s not someone who gets a lot of talk in terms of 2020 NHL Prospects but I fully expect he will soon.
Chase Wouters (2019 NHL Draft) – Impressive to see an 18 year old player Captain his junior team in just his third season, but Wouters really showed why he deserved that ‘C’ with a lead by example type of game. Wouter’s was his team’ top all around player, providing a 200ft presence and unmatched work ethic every shift. Wouter’s defensive intensity was spectacular, he takes care of his own zone and is constantly showing urgency. Wouter’s wasn’t involved a bunch offensively, showed some impressive speed with the puck and forced pressure on defenders in transition which led to few turnovers but would always recovery defensively with high urgency. Wouter’s ability to adapt to differing paces of play has improved immensely this season, he adjusts his speed efficiently. A powerful skater with agile and can maintain his top speed when changing direction. Wouter’s was passed over in last years draft but I would value him as a +1 draft pick in the 5th/6th/7th round.
Emil Malysjev (2019 NHL Draft) – Started off paired with Zachary Ashton on the Blades third pairing but worked his way up and down the line up. Maltysjev is a stay at home defender who plays a dependable two-way game. Looked excellent in transition, often moves the puck to the furthest option up ice but does so with precision and timing with his distribution. A poised defender with the puck who rarely makes mistakes. Defensively he was inconsistent, he can get caught puck watching and leave his assignment unmanned. Heavy + active with his stick in the defensive zone. Malysjev is likely a 6th/7th round pick in this years WHL draft. I was expecting a serviceable defensemen but he impressed me with PP2 time and unexpected puck moving capabilities.
Kyle Crnkovic (2020 NHL Draft) – Played limited minutes on a line with Brandon Machado and Roman Schmidt. Crnkovic had his moments in this game. Sneaky is nature, the puck seemingly finds him in puck battles and in a couple of years he will be a gifted finisher with how instinctive he is. Shifty footwork that has translated to the WHL and still remains hard to contain for defenders that don’t have elite four-way mobility. Crnkovic is still small and young, showed to me that he has the tool set to be a quantitative player at the WHL level.