Saturday, September 22, 2012

A tale of 2 debuts

Oliver Bjorkstrand (Portland Winterhawks)
It is the opening weekend for the New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects playing in the Canadian juniors. But I had to see with my own eyes the player who many are tagging (myself included) as the first pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Seth Jones make his WHL debut.

What I learned is that young Mister Jones is human after all as he had a pretty rough home opening night as his Portland Winterhawks got spanked 5-2 by the Seattle Thunderbirds. It is not a knock on Jones as most of went wrong for him was just plain bad luck or teammates not doing their own jobs.

Seth Jones (Portland Winterhawks)
As I joked with others if you wanted to rate this game on the John Tortorella Post Game Press Conference scale then it was a 15 second PGPC. I have to hand it to Portland coach Mike Johnson because either he was as shocked as the Portland fans were or he simply doesn't have any emotions at all.

This one was a veteran Ranger's fan special as Portland outshot Seattle 30-2 after the first period but the score was 0-0. What happened after that was a combination of bad luck, youthful inexperience and just poor decision making by the Winterhawks.

Seattle's first goal came just seconds after Portland had killed a Seattle power play but with the puck still in his team's defensive zone; Troy Rutkowski skated to his team's bench rather than rejoin the defensive zone. It gave Seattle an extra 10 seconds with a man advantage in the offensive zone and they scored for a 1-0 lead.

Seattle also cashed in on their 2nd and 3rd power plays to make 3-0 and added a 4th goal in the final minute of the period to lead 4-0 after 2 periods despite being out shot 41-22. Seth Jones in the meantime was having a rough go from breaking his stick on 2 straight shifts to being picked off by his own teammate on Seattle's 5th goal.

In his defense, Jone's teammates put the team in a huge hole and Jones if anything was guilty of trying too hard to make things happen. Had to be disappointing for Jones to have such a rough night in his debut but now let us see how he reacts to it.

On the other hand I am fast becoming a huge fan of Oliver Bjorkstrand who was a teammate of Ranger 2012 6th round Thomas Spelling. Bjorkstrand was Portland's best player generating several scoring chances including his first WHL goal breaking Seattle's bid for a shut out in the 3rd.

Bjorkstrand needs work on his decision making speed as on a couple of occasions if he had reacted faster then Portland would have had more than 2 goals. Still I really liked the way Bjorkstrand attacked the net, his mix of shots and his skating.

Also want to see more defensively from him as Bjorkstrand was looking too much for offense on a couple of shifts when he should have come back deeper to make sure he covered a couple players.

Game Action

Shane McColgan (Saskatoon Blades)
Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) earned a "Star" for scoring a shootout goal to help his Saskatoon Blades earn a 2-1 shootout win on the road over the Prince Albert Raiders. A very strong performance for McColgan as he looks to earn a Ranger contract.

McColgan looks nothing like the kid I saw for Kelowna last couple of years, body is more developed which is good news for the Blades and bad news for everyone else. McColgan looks like this trade took the weight of the world off his shoulders and has been reborn.

Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) set up Niagara's only goal in regulation as his Niagara IceDogs made it 2 straight wins to start the season after defeating the Brampton Battalion 2-1 in the shootout. The assist was Strome's 2nd and 2nd point of the season.

Teammate Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) was scoreless in the game.

Andrey Pedan (OHL Images)
Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) got his season off to a pretty good start when his 1st goal of the season was a game winner for his Guelph Storm as they set their fans home happy with a 4-3 overtime win over the Saginaw Spirit.

Pedan's goal just 44 seconds into overtime was the final blow as the Storm rallied back from down 3-1 to force overtime and then the win. It was Pedan's 2nd career game winning goal.

Adam Pelech (NYI 2012 3rd) recorded his first point of the season assisting on his Erie Otter's first goal of the game but that was the end of the highlights for him and his team. The Erie Otters dropped to 0-2 on the season losing on the road to the London Knights 8-2.

There are going to be nights like this for the young Otters as they were facing a very deep and experienced London team.

In the QMJHL, Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) may not have scored but he did things in "3's" to help his Baie-Comeau Drakkar to 4-1 win over the Gatineau Olympiques in the Drakkar's home opener. Noreau was a +3 on 3 shots and was credited with 3 hits as he started the game as top pair defender.

New York Islander 2012 4th round pick defenseman Loic Leduc also was top pair defender for his Cape Breton Screaming Eagles but the Screaming Eagles dropped their home opener 4-3 in overtime to the Halifax Mooseheads. Leduc was a -1 and had 1 hit.

Finally to make people feel as old as I do at times, here is a picture from the Edmonton Oil King's home opener. Think you know who the guy in the middle is but the player on the left is 2012 Islander 1st round pick Griffin Reinhart.

(Andy Devlin)
The player on the right is Reinhart's kid brother Sam who plays for the Kootenay Ice. Both players are the sons of former NHLer Paul Reinhart. Also playing in this game was Michael St. Croix (son of Rick), Henrik Samuelsson (son of Ulfie), and Keegan Lowe (son of Kevin).

Oh and the Kootenay Ice are coached by former Hartford Wolfpack coach Ryan McGill.

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