Prince Albert Raiders:
Braden Pachal – Captain of his Prince Albert Raider’s team, Pachal had a good game for himself. Pachal was quick to activate in the rush and scored a nice goal on a two on one feed from Leason. Four-way mobility and footwork defend the rush as well as recover defensively when up in the rush. Pachal’s strived to be a difference maker every time he stepped over the boards. Excellent d-zone presence with his engaged awareness and structured positioning. Compete is through the roof and he does what he can for his team to succeed.
Max Martin – I thought Max Martin was his team’s best defenseman in this viewing. A puck moving rearguard that blends mobility and calmness, allowing him to make calculated decisions with his puck distribution in all three zones. Martin’s style of game is one I love where he isn’t active offensively but instead makes an impact with strong positioning in his defensive zone and smooth skating to create space for himself with the puck. A bit under sized and doesn’t impose himself physically. A nimble defender on the blue line that can creep into a soft spot or work the puck off the line to generate something out of nothing. His maturity and anticipation to pressure forwards into turnovers and quickly transition pucks the other way. Overall I think Martin had 6-7 long range passes that he hit with precision most of the time.
Kaiden Guhle – It was interesting watching Guhle and Robertson go head to head because I feel like they are so similar in the way they play. Guhle’s game transferring to the WHL has changed quite a bit, he’s much more engaged and physical in his defensive zone while maintaining good positioning. Guhle’s elite skating is still above average in WHL, having brilliant escapability in his defensive retrievals and executing veteran like plays under pressure. Holds a suffocating gap and closed off a few passes in the neutral zone. Didn’t create much offense but showed flashes of his offensive game in the third. Overall while he isn’t a guy who pushes the offense, Guhle’s steady two-way game is something that his coach showed comfortable with as he played some heavy minutes for a 16 year old.
Brett Leason – By far and in a long way his team’s best player tonight. Leason’s a catalyst for smart offensive plays and offensive prowess. Leason’s skating still isn’t NHL level, his balance on his skates and acceleration just don’t separate from other plays at this level. Instead, he’s agile and exploits his long legs to protect the puck when under pressure and play with a slippery nature that defenders this age just can contain off the rush. Leason’s hockey IQ is top three I have seen out of any WHL eligible in this NHL Draft class, it blew me away how well he was able to read developing chances both with and without the puck to be the trigger man for creating offense. I would describe him as a playmaker rather than a scorer as he sees the ice so well from deep in the offensive zone and can thread the needle with his passes. Leason’s shot isn’t elite for a player his age, not much of a threat from far out but he can make it work for himself as he possesses a fairly deceptive release. Versatility to play on both his team’s top power play and penalty killing units. While I did love the kid’s creativity and hockey IQ, Leason’s shift to shift consistency could also have been better. I’d regard him as a late second to early third calibre NHL draft pick.
Ian Scott – Scott had an average viewing for me. While his positioning in his crease continue to be his biggest asset, his glove side also continues to be his downfall as Wolansky had two goals with far proximity shots. Scott’s athleticism was much better in this game for me, he’s really developed not only his reflexes but how he contains pucks around his body. Scott had some healthy numbers coming into this game and that likely isn’t going to change as he’s one of the top three net minders I had seen this year so far.
Parker Kelly – Kelly in my opinion has proven to be one of the WHL top’s forwards. A nose for the net and seemingly always in the right spot at the right time, putting himself in a position to succeed and demonstrating good hockey sense. Kelly for me has pushed away from that power winger style of game I always felt he played into a well-rounded playmaker. His vision from the perimeter and ability to work off his passes into space’s were the reasons why he scored both his goals. Still plays on the edge and can be an agitator out there.
Noah Gregor – Gregor was decent in this game. He didn’t wow me with skill or two-way presence but more with his strength and agility with the puck. The maturity and confidence of being a 20 year old veteran is something that makes him so touted as he knows where to go and how to use his physical tools to generate offensive chances. Good from the blue line down.
Edmonton Oil Kings:
Matthew Robertson – Had highs and lows with his games today. Shined more in the third. Robertson’s engaged defensive zone play and elite versatile skating were on full display. Didn’t generate a whole lot of offense off the blue line but had a couple shots that were ineffective. Conservative and didn’t look to push the offense but adhered to a steady stay at home game. Logged heavy minutes and was his teams most depended on defender.
Jake Neighbours – Looking better and better with every viewing. Jake Neighbour’s high end hockey IQ that he possessed in Midget and Bantam’s has slowly begun to translate to the WHL level’s. Wasn’t afraid to mix it up after whistle. Got moved off the top power play unit which I didn’t like but allowed him to create from the half wall on his own with the second unit.
Trey Fix Wolansky – In 6-3 loss, Wolansky contributed all three of the Oil Kings goals with a hat trick performance. Played with a bit more jumped to his game and generated offensive chances every time he stepped on the ice. Exploited Ian Scott’s glove side with a couple of his goals. His NHL calibre shot and release were too much for Scott to deal with. Speed is slowly improving as he’s winning more puck races now with acceleration and pushing the pace of the game becoming a high tempo player. His quickness, craftiness and puck possessive game blends well into a catalyst offensive pivot that the Oil Kings continue to rely on.