Sunday
Nov242013

Charlie Graham - Prospect Profile

by Dominic Tiano (@DominicTiano)

Charlie Graham, Belleville BullsThe 6’0 and 175 pound netminder is a native of Toronto and is in his third Ontario Hockey League season, all with the Belleville Bulls. Graham was drafted in the 2011 Priority Selection in the 7th round, 127th overall.

He played his Minor Midget AAA with the Don Mills Flyers prior to his draft where he posted a 1.06 GAA in 15 games. He spent the beginning of the 2011 – 2012 season with the Wellington Dukes of the OJHL. While appearing in 14 games, he posted a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. He got the call up to Belleville, and the rest, as they say is history.

He finished that OHL season with a 3.95 GAA and .870 save percentage. In 2012-2013, he backed up former NHL first rounder Malcolm Subban for the most part. But when Subban went to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships, not only did Graham do the job, but he performed admirably.

He finished the 2012-2013 season with a 2.59 GAA and .922 save percentage. It was at that time OHL Writers ranked Graham as the number one goalie available for the NHL Draft, one spot ahead of Spencer Martin who was the only OHL goalie selected in the 2013 NHL Draft.

With the one-third mark of the season upon us, Graham ranks sixth among OHL goaltenders in minutes played this season. He leads all goaltenders in shots faced and shots per game – 29 more shots faced than Martin who leads the OHL in minutes played, the equivalent of 3 more games than Graham has.

Graham has appeared in 18 games to date this season and in five of those has faced 50 or more shots with a record of 4-1-0. He faced 60 shots once and 72 shots once – both victories. Quite simply: he gives his team a chance to win. But when your team is sporting a minus 34 goals for/ goals against ratio and has the third fewest goals scored in the entire league, wins are hard to come by.

Like any goaltender still developing his skills, Graham will occasionally let in a “soft” goal. But he has the mental ability to shut that out and not disrupt him the rest of the game. He’ll then make a save that leaves you asking “how did he stop that?”

Graham is a very athletic goaltender who tracks the puck well. Occasionally, he’ll overplay a shot but his excellent athleticism allows him to get back square. He’ll challenge shooters and he controls his rebounds very well. In a lot of ways, he’s very similar to Subban. That’s not to say he is comparable to Subban, but there are some similarities.

The goaltending position is a strange one when it comes to the NHL Draft. More often than not, goaltenders passed over in their first year of eligibility do not get drafted the second time around and are more likely to sign as a free agent somewhere no matter how deserving. Probably because the pool is so large, finding a goaltender won’t be as difficult and thus no need to “use” a draft pick. Michael Houser is the most recent to go undrafted in two drafts that was, in my opinion, worthy of a draft pick and signed as a free agent. Graham could very well be in that same class. 

Sunday
Nov242013

London's Back End Just Got Stronger

by Dominic Tiano (@DominicTiano)

Okay, so the Mighty Mouse (for those old enough to remember) video may be a bit much and saving the day may be a bit far fetched. Or is it?

We all know by now that the London Knights will be hosting the 2014 Memorial Cup and after falling short in back to back appearances in 2012 and 2013, anything short of victory will be viewed as a disappointment. 

The Knights currently sit third in the Midwest Division and fourth in the Western Conference, seven points behind division and conference leading Erie Otters. With defencemen Scott Harrington (AHL) and Olli Maatta (NHL) both moving on in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, and Nikita Zadorov starting out the season with the Buffalo Sabres, a big hole was left on the Knights blue line.

The Knights have a reputation, and a knack, for bringing in the right players at the right time, more specifically - near trade deadline. Dale and Mark Hunter and assistant GM Rob Simpson brought in some help yesterday while also getting news that had to put smiles on their faces. Waiting was not in the cards.

First, they pulled off a deal that should bolster their blue line. The Knights traded Miles Liberati to the North Bay Battalion in exchange for Zach Bell and a conditional fourth round pick pick in 2016. The move now gives the Knights three overage and highly experienced defencemen.

Then the news everyone was waiting for: The Buffalo Sabres were returning Nikita Zadorov back to junior. 

In one swoop and a matter of minutes, the Knights served notice to the rest of the OHL : We're coming for you!

Tuesday
Nov192013

2014 NHL Draft Eligible 3 Stars - Week 9

by Dominic Tiano (@DominicTiano)

With week 9 completed in the Ontario Hockey League season, its time to look at the 3 stars available for the 2014 NHL Draft from around the league.

1st Star – Brendan Lemieux – Barrie Colts: Lemieux scored five goals in leading the Colts in three games last week. He notched three goals including the winner in a 7-1 thrashing of the Sudbury Wolves. All three tallies came on the powerplay and he was named the game’s first star. He was held off the scoresheet in an 8-2 romping over the Niagara Ice Dogs two nights later. He closed out the week with two more goals in a 6-0 win over the North Bay Battalion. Again he scored the game winner and was named the game’s first star.

2nd Star – Ryan Foss – Windsor Spitfires: Foss scored five goals last week in helping lead his Windsor Spitfires. He scored three times in Windsor’s win over the Mississauga Steelheads. His first goal was the game winner and he was named the first star in the game. He scored once in the following game, a 5-4 decision over the Peterborough Petes as his goal started a third period comeback. He scored once more against Oshawa, a 4-1 Windsor victory and his empty net goal secured the victory for the Spits.

3rd Star – Nikolay Goldobin – Sarnia Sting: Goldobin scored four goals and added an assist in three games for the Sting last week. He began the week with a goal in the Sting’s 5-0 win over the Kitchener Rangers. The following night he scored twice and added an assist and was named first star in a 5-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit. He closed out the week one night later with a goal in a 4-2 win over the Plymouth Whalers. 

Wednesday
Nov132013

Once A Patriot, Now a Knight?

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

Micahel Prapavessis, Toronto Lakeshore Patriots / OJHL ImagesA King’s ransom, the rich get richer, flexing their muscle… whatever you want to call it the London Knights may have done it again.

On Tuesday the 12th, the Knights made a trade with the Saginaw Spirit for the rights to Michael Prapavessis, a defenceman who is currently playing for the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots in the OJHL. London gave up a 15th round pick in 2015 for the chance to talk to the NHL draft eligible blueliner and a conditional 5th round pick in 2015. What’s the condition you may ask? Saginaw will get the second draft pick if Prapavessis breaks his commitment to RPI and steps foot on OHL ice.

You guessed it, another ‘strong armed’ power play by the Knights to lure top level NCAA commits to come to a winning program.

Well not exactly, unlike other NCAA commits that have put on the black, gold and green, Prapavessis isn’t in college yet. His commitment is set to begin in 2014/15, although that may not be the end of the Knights pursuing the young blueliner. Dakota Mermis and Anthony Stolarz both suited up in college before suiting up in the OHL. To a degree, Michael McCarron is in the same boat, although signing a pro deal pretty much came with the add on, go play in Canada.

It is a scene that many OHL fans are use to and something that London fans love. The top team is always able to get there man.

But this may be a different case entirely. London may be acting on complete blind faith in making this deal. Sure, they have the facility, the players, the television network and all the other accoutrement to change anyone’s mind, but there is something not right. The London Knights have yet to speak to the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots about Michael Prapavessis.

I am not saying for certain that there is a rule that you inform the team that you want to pluck a player from the roster, but isn’t it good manners to do so?

The long and short of it is that Prapavessis is a talented defenceman who was pegged as a late bloomer, and surprise! After half a season in the OJHL he already was thought of as a grizzled veteran and two months into this season he has shown his growth and commitment to improve not only on the ice but off the ice. A smooth skater who isn’t afraid to skate with the puck, who can spot the open lane and lead his forwards with a pass. A good shot that will produce rebounds and his defensive skills are some of the best in the OJHL.

But that is the OJHL, and not the OHL. Whether or not Prapavessis suits up for the London Knights is still a question mark. Where would he fit on the blueline this season? You have veterans Alex Basso and Brady Austin patrolling the blue line, Dakota Mermis and import Tim Bender to round out the top 4. What you have is then three players for the bottom two spots: Santino Centorame, Miles Liberati and Aiden Jamieson. To bring in Prapavessis, I would think you give him top 4 minutes because sooner or later he is going to earn them. Does that make Basso expendable? Or moveable down the depth chart? London is hosting the Memorial Cup this season… Or on the flip side this is a futures move because you lose Basso, Austin, more than likely Mermis next season and then have Prapavessis come in and be a top 3 guy after he is drafted by an NHL team in the late round or offered to come to rookie camp as an invite.

An interesting move none the less and has me thinking, how many OHL teams pay that close attention to what goes on in the OJHL. Many hidden gems as the league improves and a few more players are drafted. So did they do it again or are the reigning OHL champs, just trying to defend their territory?

Tuesday
Nov122013

2014 NHL Draft Eligible 3 Stars - Week 8

by Dominic Tiano (@DominicTiano)

Here are our Ontario Hockey League’s draft eligible 3 stars for week 8. 

Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa Generals / OHL Images1st Star – Michael Dal Colle – Oshawa Generals: Dal Colle had a fabulous week scoring three goals and adding 6 assists for nine points in just four games last week. Dal Colle had 5 assists in a 7-1 win over the Ottawa 67’s and was named the games second star. His dominant performance was overshadowed only by teammate Cole Cassel’s 4 goals. He followed that performance up with a single assist in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Erie Otters. He then put in a first star performance when he scored three times in a 5-3 win over the Niagara Ice Dogs. His final two goals were the game winner and clincher. On Sunday night, he was kept of the scoresheet in regulation and overtime, but as clutch players always do, came through in the shootout with the game winning goal as the Generals defeated the Belleville Bulls 6-5.

2nd Star – Nick Ritchie – Peterborough Petes: Hard to top Dal Colle’s effort last week, but Ritchie had a very good week of his own scoring four times while assisting on two others in three games. It began with 2 goals and an assist and first star honors in a 7-0 thrashing of the Kitchener Rangers. He followed that with another goal in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Sudbury Wolves. The week ended Saturday with another goal and an assist in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Soo Greyhounds where he was named the games second star.

3rd Star – Artem Rasulov – Mississauga Steelheads: Rasulov scored once and added five assists in three games for the Steelheads last week. He assisted on both Mississauga goals as his team went down in defeat to Barrie by a score of 5-2. He then scored once and added an assist in a 6-4 victory over Belleville earning himself the games third star. He capped off the week with another two assists – including on the game winner as Mississauga defeated Sarnia 4-3.