Monday, November 05, 2007

Elite League NIT Recap

Here's my recap from the Elite League NIT. I saw the first two games on Saturday, and everything on Sunday. The teams are listed in order of finish the tournament, with their record in parenthesis.

1. Minnesota Red (3-0)

By far the best team of the tournament. They dominated everyone. Not only were they a talented team, but they moved the puck with remarkable ability for a team playing their first games together. They were able to keep a little continuity with the Wisconsin line of Seth Soley, Nate Condon, and Jeff Costello. All three players were fantastic. Soley has an incredible snap shot. On defense, Aaron Ness played fantastic. He really does a great job of controlling the play and moving the puck.

2. LA Jr. Kings (2-1)

Probably the biggest story for LA was Shane McColgan, who was born on January 1st, 1993. It’s pretty impressive for a kid that young to be playing at such a high-level, but McColgan didn’t look out of place at all. He’s an incredibly fast skater, with a pretty good shot. What surprised me most is that he didn’t look like he was the youngest player out there. He wasn’t afraid to play with an edge and get his nose dirty. He picked up two penalties in the second period of the championship game; one for driving hard to the net and poking at the goalie, and one for getting into a shoving match with a Minnesota player.

Tyler Maxwell is a player that had gotten some attention from USA Hockey, and he looked like a solid player. Garrett Taylor was supposed to be another top ’91 birthdate on their team, but he took a spearing penalty and got kicked out, so he didn’t play much.

3. Shattuck-St. Mary’s(2-1)

Shattuck was probably the favorite heading into the tournament, but was upset by LA on Saturday. They beat Malmo pretty soundly in the third place game.

Shattuck’s top line of David Toews, Jordy Murray, and Derek Stepan was pretty dominant, though I don’t know that they racked up a ton of points. Jordy Murray really impressed me, just because he looks like he’s developed so much over the past couple of years. Toews was quietly effective. He didn’t do anything that screamed “first round draft pick,” but made a lot of really nice little plays.

It was my first chance seeing Alexander Fallstrom play, and I was pretty impressed. He’s got good size, and always seems to be causing trouble for the opposition. Seniors Brian Elser and Luke Grenier also played very well.

Stepan Novotny also seems to be developing quite well. His skating looked much better than it did at this time last year. His combination of size and skill kind of reminds me of Andreas Nodl. He just needs to work on getting better at finishing. I must have counted four or five scoring opportunities that he sailed over the net.

’92 Emerson Etem showed some flashes of great play, but still needs to get a little older, and add a little more muscle before he’s dominant at this level.

David Carle was another player that was quietly effective. He’s not very flashy, but plays very solid defense. I overheard one coach say that they were pretty sure he’d be playing college hockey next fall, rather than making a stop in the USHL. Defenseman Mac Williams and Ben Montgomery also played well on the point.

4. Malmo Redhawks (1-2)

It was a little tough to get a read on them. I saw them play against Minnesota Red and Shattuck, and they were way overmatched in both games. They had three ’92 birthdates on their team: goalie Fabian Sivnert, who played very well against Shattuck, forward Victor Ohman, and a 6’4” defenseman named Victor Mangs. Considering how young they were, they looked like pretty nice prospect, especially Mangs, who will be eligible for the 2011 NHL draft. It should be interesting to see if their trip to the US results in any NCAA scholarship offers.

5. Team Michigan (2-1)

As far as skill, they may have been the weakest in the tournament, but they brought an experienced, gritty team to the tournament that fought hard and was able to come away with two wins. They had a big upset over Minnesota White on Thursday. On Sunday, they had a dramatic win over the Dallas Stars to take 5th place for the second straight year.

Goalie Adam Janecyk started Sunday’s game for Michigan, and he was outstanding. He was probably the best goalie at the tournament. Defenseman Brock Carlston and Greg Merrill played close to every other shift for Michigan, and were solid, especially Carlston. At forward, Ryan Baratono scored a nice goal to open the game on Sunday, and Billy Balent looked like a speedy, talented player.

6. Dallas Stars (1-2)

’91 forward Anthony Hamburg played on Dallas’ top line, and he looked like one of their better forwards. Forward Trevor Gerling scored a pretty goal on Sunday, and also played pretty well. Defenseman CJ Ludwig was tabbed by NHL Central Scouting as a player of interest. I’d be surprised if he got drafted just because of the combination of playing midget hockey and that he’s not overly big, but he’s a nice player that should play college hockey somewhere. He’s got a powerful shot from the point, and plays nice defense.

7. Minnesota White(1-2)

Definitely the most disappointing team of the tournament. Conventional wisdom before the tournament was that they would be Shattuck’s biggest competition in the tournament. Instead, they lost to LA on Friday, and were then upset by Michigan on Saturday. There was a brief stretch in the second period on Sunday were they looked great and put together 3 or 4 goals, but other than that, they had a pretty bad weekend.

The two defenseman from Minnetonka, Jake Gardiner and Anthony Raiola both played very well. They’re excellent skaters. Tyler Barnes, Jake Hendrickson, and Danny Mattson played on a line, but they didn’t seem to get much going while I was there. Mattson left late in the third period on Sunday with a shoulder injury that hopefully isn’t too serious.

8. Team Illinois (0-3)

Team Illinois had some talented players, but not as much depth as the other teams in the tournament. Their most impressive players was ’91 forward Cody Murphy. He looks like he will be a star some day. ’91 defenseman Ben Hughes also played pretty solid on both days that I saw TI.

UNO recruit Fredrik Csisar looks like he has developed a lot over the past year. He didn’t do much on Saturday, but played pretty nicely on Sunday. I don’t think he’ll be a star in college, but should be a nice player.