Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Strome kind of a week

Ryan Strome (OHL Images)
While the US Presidential election was a toss up even down to the last minute; picking a prospect of the week for the New York Islanders and New York Rangers was a breeze in comparison. What makes these two picks nice is one is an offensive whiz who by all rights should be in the NHL now while the other is an example of the program the Rangers run for development.

I have to admit that I have not been much of a fan of Ryan Strome (NYI  2011 1st) or the Islander's using the 5th pick in the 2011 on Strome. Strome to me disappeared in the big games when his team needed him the most.

Strome for 2 straight years in the OHL playoffs was shut down by playing a physical game against him and star players have to find ways to produce under any kind of circumstances. That was my knock on Strome but to his credit; Strome silenced my criticism during the summer when Team Canada was facing the Russians as part of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 hockey summit.

It was this goal that Strome scored that told me that Strome was going to be OK. Watch the first 30 seconds and you will see why.

It was supposed to be just an exhibition game but any time Russia and Canada play hockey there is no such thing just an exhibition game. Flash forward to this OHL season or more specifically this past week as the Niagara IceDogs were playing 3 games in 4 nights.

On November 1st, Strome had a goal (game winner) and an assist to help the IceDogs earn a 2-0 win over the Kitchener Rangers. Nothing super special but on Saturday November 3rd that changed as Strome recorded his very first 5 point game of his career.

Strome with a 1-4-5 effort helped his IceDogs defeat a pretty good Guelph Storm team 9-4. Strome was not even our star of the night as teammate Mitchell Theoret was 2-3-5.

On Sunday it was Strome repeating his 1-4-5 performance to help Niagara go 3-0 for the week with a 6-4 win over the Peterborough Petes. Strome may have only scored 1 goal but it was his 2nd game winning goal in his last 3 games.

In 3 games, Strome was 3-9-12 with 2 game winning goals and oh I also forgot the 12 points that Strome scored also pushed him to the very top of the OHL scoring race with a 12-21-33 mark.

Samuel Noreau (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)
Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) is an example of the investment that the Rangers have made in their prospect development program. Gordie Clark has always stressed the need for a prospect to show forward progress if they want to earn a contract from the Rangers.

The Rangers will work with the prospect to develop a program that is designed to help the prospect reach his potential. Is Noreau a future Norris Trophy winner? No but with the Rangers lacking in defensive prospects these days, Noreau could become a good 3rd pair defender.

Noreau is a 6'5 225 mountain who at the time the Rangers drafted him was a goon who was very much a huge project on a Baie-Comeau Drakkar team that was at the bottom of the standings. That was then and this is now as Noreau has become a top pair defender wearing an "A" and used in all situations by the Drakkar,

In a week where the coach of the Drakkar Eric Veilleux had to leave the team due to the death of his father, Noreau and his teammates stepped up and swept a "home and home" series with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

Noreau only had 2 assists for the weekend but it was his defense that caught our attention. Noreau and company did not allow a power play in 11 attempts and held the Saguenéens to just 3 goals as the Drakkar ran their unbeaten streak to 7-0-0-2.

Noreau for the season is 3-7-10 but it is the +8 that stands out almost as much as Noreau having 2 game winning goals this season after never having one before. Right now Noreau is the clear cut leader for "Most Improved."

Game Action

The knock on Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th), Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) and their Edmonton Oil Kings was that they had not beaten any of the top WHL teams despite having a 10-4-1-2 record. Tuesday night the defending WHL Champions sent a message to their critics by defeating the Kamloops Blazers 2-1 on their ice.

The Blazers are the top ranked team in the entire 60 team CHL and until Tuesday evening had only lost once during regulation. Michael St. Croix set up Henrik Samuelsson's power play goal at 12:58 of the first period giving the Oil Kings a 2-0 lead that eventually turned out to be the game winner as the Oil Kings held on for a 2-1 win.

St. Croix's assist was his 14th of the season extending his scoring streak to a season high 7 games (6-5-11) as overall St. Croix is 11-14-25 in 18 games (7th in WHL). The Predator is also 7-10-17 on the power play which is 2nd best in the WHL.

But after St. Croix finishes scoring then it is up to the captain of the Oil Kings Reinhart to shut down the other team. The Oil Kings have the best penalty killing unit in the WHL stopping 91.6% (8 for 95) and Reinhart is the leader out there.

Reinhart is a stopper on the blueline and watching him playing defense is a guilty pleasure. Reinhart is one of the very best at reading the ice and seeing what the other team is trying to do.

As I have said before I would be shocked if Reinhart is not playing for the Islanders next year.

In Spokane, Brendan Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) is best known for his offensive skills but to think he is just a one-way player would be a mistake. The captain of the Spokane Chiefs is used in all situations and against the Everett Silvertips, Kichton's only point was a primary assist on a shorthanded goal.

Kichton and his Chiefs shutout the Silvertips 4-0 as with the assist Kichton improves to 7-14-21 on the season.

In Peterborough, the Peterborough Petes dropped their 4th straight game; this time it was 5-3 to the Barrie Colts. Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) had the primary assist on the Pete's first goal for his 1st point in 6 games (1-2-3 overall).

Not sure what more I can say about the Pete's situation as they are fighting it out with the Erie Otters for the worse record in the OHL. It is not something anyone enjoys seeing as these are kids with a dream and rubbing salt would be unfair.

Excuse Me but

I have tried really hard to avoid coming across as a "homer" but the Portland Winterhawks are currently the 2nd hottest team in the CHL after spanking the Red Deer Rebels 5-1. 5 different scorers for the Winterhawks is only thing but the most impressive number that the Winterhawks have is 34.

34 is the number of goals that the Winterhawks have given up all season which is the very best in all of the CHL. The Winterhawks have turned into one of the best franchises in all of the CHL after once upon a time being one of the worst.

If I owned an NHL franchise I wouldn't think twice before hiring Portland's Mike Johnson and Travis Green to GM/coach my team. What is really scary is that Portland is one of the youngest teams in the WHL and I want to see them next year.

One other thing and that is while I still believe Portland's Seth Jones is my choice for the first pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft; set your DVRs for 7PM EDT/4PM PDT and the NHL Network USA for your chance to see another superstar in the making.

Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads is off to a 18-12-30 start after 18 games. As much as I like Jones there is also no denying how talented MacKinnon at 17 is so make sure you watch this wonderkid.

If the NHL does wind up wiping out the season then Columbus most likely would have the first pick and the Islander's the 2nd. The NHL would kill to have MacKinnon in Columbus and Seth Jones joining his father at the Barclay Center.

Here is the bad news for the rest of the NHL which would be a Jones/Griffin Reinhart pairing on the blueline. If you want to talk about a huge rebirth to the Ranger/Islander rivalry then this would do it.


Ethan Kaiser said...

Nice write up as always! Glad to hear that Strome is really developing well; as I recall you were one of the few who disliked the Strome pick at 5th overall (I disliked it too, but mainly because I wanted a defenseman). It makes me confident if he's changed your mind on the ice.

Just one question - how would the Islanders have the 2nd overall pick in the entry draft next year if there is no season?

Ethan Kaiser said...

Nice write up as always! Glad to hear that Strome is really developing well; as I recall you were one of the few who disliked the Strome pick at 5th overall (I disliked it too, but mainly because I wanted a defenseman). It makes me confident if he's changed your mind on the ice.

Just one question - how would the Islanders have the 2nd overall pick in the entry draft next year if there is no season?

Jess Rubenstein said...


Got to give a kid his due when he does what I am saying he needs. The goal against the Russians was to me a perception changer.

I like the kid, he has a ton of offensive skill but he just wasn't bringing it when his team needed. That was then, this is now as to his credit, I see Strome looking to score when the game is on the line or looking to finish a team off.

As for your 2nd point, you know I was wondering the exact same thing last night. IF the season is lost but they do hold a draft then I believe that the Islanders would have the 2nd overall pick.

They went by records in the 2005 draft and I would expect the same to happen. Either case the Islanders would wind up with a legit franchise player whether it would be Nathan McKinnon (if you have the NHL Network USA then watch Fri at 7PM EDT) or Seth Jones.

Seth Jones as an Islander would do wonders in helping the Islander's sell tickets in Brooklyn. That young man is special really talented.

Ethan Kaiser said...

I thought they went by some sort of lottery system for the 2005 draft?

And didn't the Islanders have the 4th worst record last year?

Jess Rubenstein said...

They used the "Gary Bettman takes care of his pals" which is how Pittsburgh wound up with Crosby.

Gary Bettman would kill to have a Seth Jones playing in New York, the son of a former NBA player playing hockey would generate interest.

While Daddy is working for the Nets, Seth is playing for the Islanders paired up with Griffin Reinhart no less.

Ethan Kaiser said...

I don't want to jinx it, but I'd sure love to see it happen! Add in Hamonic, Donovan, Mayfield, and any of de Haan, Pelech, Pedan, Pokka, Robbie Russo and I'd actually have confidence in our defense down the road.