Over the last two days we have gotten to witness 2 of the very best teams in all of Canadian Junior Hockey and despite it being still early in the CHL season we can not help but admire the play we watched.
Yesterday it was the 6th ranked Belleville Bulls and today it was our 2nd look at the Top Ranked team in the CHL the Windsor Spitfires. The Spitfires held off Evgeny Grachev and his Brampton Battalion 5-3 thanks to a 3 goal third period.
Grachev did not score but that was more because of the efforts of the Spitfire goalie Andrew Engelage who despite giving up 3 goals was huge during key points in the game including killing off a full 2 minute 2 man Brampton power play.
Grachev had several chances to score both on the power play and at even strength but just could not solve Engelage. The loss for the Battalion dropped their record to 2-4.
This was the start of a long 4 games in 5 days for the Battalion as they spend 3 straight days on the road before spending the Canadian Thanksgiving at home on Monday.
It is always special when an undrafted free agent beats the odds and earns himself a professional contract as was the case for 6'5 defenseman Tysen Dowzak from the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.
Dowzak is going to start the season with Hartford and as we have been saying all along that he is a project player who is worth the gamble. Dowzak like Justin Soryal is a self made prospect who has put in a ton of work to turn himself from a undrafted free agent to his first professional contract.
How can one not like a stay at home defenseman who is 6'5 220? What really is scary is how strong Dowzak is going to become once Ranger Strength and Conditoning guru Reg Grant gets his hands on Dowzak?
Dowzak in our opinion just might be the strongest person in the entire Ranger system. His conditioning has always been first rate and that was due to his own work ethic. Dowzak has also helped his own cause by working out in Kelowna during the off-season with former Ranger and current Kelowna assistant coach Jeff Finley.
Finley made his mark as a defensive specialist during his 15 year NHL career and you can say that Finley had an impact on turning Dowzak's career around. From a -24 during 2006-07 to last season's +29 is the kind of turnaround that gets someone into a professional contract.
Kelowna Rocket radio broadcaster Regan Bartel is someone we have to consider an expert on Dowzak having gotten to watch Dowzak during his career with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. In his Regan's Rant blog, Bartel made this interesting observation about what Dowzak needs to do to make it
But thanks to a free-agent tryout with the New York Rangers this fall, Dowzak did something to impress. I wasn't there to see it, but he likely went out of his comfort zone to play physical - not once in a while - but consistently. He even fought former Rockets teammate Brady Leavold in a exhibition game in Traverse City. Whatever Tysen Dowzak did, the New York Rangers liked what they saw, offering him a contract.
Here is that fight that Bartel is talking about from Traverse City
If Dowzak plays a consistent physical game then Ken Germander is going to have a very solid defensive core when you put Corey Potter with Dowzak and when he gets healthy Michael Sauer.
If Dowzak doesn't then it will be a shame as the one thing you can never teach is size
(Taylor Hall couresty of the Windsor Spitfires)
3 hours ago