by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)
The Guelph Storm was poised to make a deep playoff run this year and would have been able to turn some more heads if it wasn’t for some key injuries that cost them. Namely on the back end of the lineup. Their defence corps took a big hit when a knee injury took Matt Finn away from the lineup. All of a sudden, it wasn’t the same Guelph team heading into the playoffs and the Storm eventually bowed out to the Kitchener Rangers in 5 games.
Looking forward to the 2013/14 season the Storm lose 3 top defenders: Andrey Pedan, Brock Beukeboom and Saverio Posa, the latter two to OHL graduation while Pedan will be whisked away to the AHL. This leaves the Storm with Matt Finn, leading the blue line, Chad Bauman, Zac Leslie and Ben Harpur. The Guelph Storm selected Kyle Locke in the second round of last year’s OHL Priority Selection draft and played him as a forward for about a third of the season. The Storm then sent Locke down to Cambridge Jr. B where he played defence with the Winterhawks who went to the Sutherland Cup finals.
That gives Guelph 5 defenceman heading into the season.
Earlier this week Guelph signed their first round draft pick from this year’s OHL Draft, Garrett McFadden. McFadden will be the team’s 6th defenceman entering the season, but will most likely play top 4 minutes alongside a veteran like Leslie or Harpur.
McFadden is an alum from the Grey-Bruce Highlanders AAA Minor Midget program who had good offensive production this past season with 14 goals and 30 points in 37 games. The strength to McFadden’s game is his advanced skating ability. He is a very mobile defenceman who has no hesitation in carrying the puck and entering the zone or distributing the puck to start a fast rush. He plays a very high tempo game and is full of energy. Here is an excerpt from what one OHL Scout has to say about McFadden and his possible transition to the OHL.
“Smooth and strong on his edges… excels in the transitional game… slippery player in open ice as he fly’s by defenders with ease… sharp instincts… smart outlets… needs to trust his shot more to generate more offence… structure to his defensive game is needed as he has a tendency to follow the puck… projects as an offensive minded puck rusher at the next level.”
During the OHL Draft, I was very happy to see the former Highlander defenceman get selected by Guelph for the second last point in the scouting report. Tendency to follow the puck. I recall discussing this with Garrett near the beginning of his minor midget season, and asking him about that. He responded by saying that it is something he recognizes and is trying to chase the puck less. His coaches do get on his case about constantly switching sides to defend the rush, or even just trying to trap the puck in the defensive zone.
Although, we mark it almost as a negative, McFadden was able to get away with this last season because his skating was that much more advanced than many of his competitors. But at the OHL level, it isn’t going to be so easy for the young defender if he starts to chase the veteran opposition around the rink. But why do I like that he was draft to Guelph. For McFadden’s development there are very few coaches who could teach him to settle down and to get it in action quickly. Storm head coach Scott Walker, could arguably be the best coach for Garrett to learn and develop under. Walker’s no BS practice style, and his hard-nosed game style will help finish off the skill set that McFadden already possesses and help him become a potential Elite defenceman in the OHL.
The Guelph Storm may have a few holes they still need to plug for the upcoming season, but getting Garrett McFadden signed and in the lineup will definitely steer the focus away from the defence, allowing the management to make those changes in other needed areas.