So the NHL and NHLPA have finally locked themselves in a room, become adults and are attempting to hammer out something resembling an agreement; media are tearing up the twittersphere about it and for the first time in recent memory I could really care less. Both sides can eat a big fat one for all I care. A little harsh? perhaps but the league needs a wakeup call. In the days of social media we now know more about the discussions and the money than we most likely ever cared for and the tagline of billionaires fighting with millionaires is starting to ring true. Its us average joes/janes that got them where they are and it is my hope that en masse that we send them a message once the lockout ends. Without OUR money you are nothing, just remember that.
Ok rant over and back to the task at hand, talking about the Marlies/Leafs. One thing I will admit at looking forward to with the impending lockout is not the NHL games which I will personally ignore this year regardless of the lockout outcome but the roster shakeups that will occur in the AHL. There are a number of really talented players on the Marlies roster that really look poised to take the next step.
From Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka, Paul Ranger to Mark Fraser, there are a number of defensemen that are looking sharp and will make NHL training camp really interesting when it does occur. (I didnt mention Gardiner because thats just a given). I love Frasers grit…he is aggressive, has some sandpaper, hits, blocks shots and seems to give it his all every single night. A stay at home guy that is looking to make you pay the second you cross over HIS blueline and suits that shutdown role to a ‘T’. Paul Ranger appears to be putting it all back together from where he left off and although appears to need more games to get his timing back, when was the last time you saw a Marlie defenseman (other than Gardiner) join the rush and score a topshelfer?
Mike Kostka is proof that some just take longer to develop and the Leafs scouts should be applauded for keeping tabs on this guy; watching him is a treat and some of his passes have been sick, springing full blown breakaways. Korbinian Holzer has been a little invisible (except for that massive hit he threw the other night) which is exactly what you want to see…
…a guy that comes in and does his job, chips in and isn’t flashy just consistent. 9 games 3 pts +/- 0 . Perfect.
Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri appear to be getting back into serious game form and unfortuantely were not necessarily being rewarded for the opportunities they were generating earlier on in the season. Now the rewards are starting to trickle in and they both look prepared to make a significant contribution this year at either level they end up on.
There has also been some surprising play earlier on in the season as well from some perhaps less than likely sources. You cannot tell me that anyone could have accurately predicted that both Greg McKegg and Spencer Abbott would be not only on the roster and getting in a fair number of games but also providing a fairly steady number of points towards the campaign. Two completely different players in terms of their game (I see McKegg as more of a JVR type player and Abbott more like Kessel) but its nice to see some of the young guys shining early on. (Note: Kenny Ryan should be applauded for his efforts as well).
So with all that being said who is going to the December 26th game being held at the ACC between the Marlies and the Bulldogs? I can’t wait and hope the building sells out, these guys deserve it!
Also mentioned in the in title of this posting was the ECHL and for the first time ever I find myself not only watching some games but paying alot more attention to the players in that league. Here are some guys that were mostly never drafted (love the underdog’s) and are working their way up the hard way that I hope will find their way into the AHL in the near future:
Brandon Wong signed his first pro contract with Hartford (now the Connecticut Whale) and was loaned to the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors where I fully suspect that once the NHL season resumes Wong will be brought back up to the AHL; for all intents and purposes he is earning it, going almost a point per game in the ‘E’. He was a points monster back in his junior days in the BCHL posting 116 points in 60 games one year and was better than a point per game during his ECAC career.
Doug Jones is in his first full ECHL campaign playing for the Gwinnett Gladiators after finishing a noteworthy four seasons with Darmouth College. The 25 year old 6’0, 205 pound Marietta, GA native is already on a point per game pace and sits at a +10. The Reebok Hockey ECHL Rookie of the Month for October recorded 5 goals, added 5 assists and was a +4 in eight games during the month. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Denny Urban. What can I say, I mention him alot and still strongly believe he should at minimum be developing in the AHL. On the smaller side for a defenseman at 5’10, 185lbs but has proven in multiple years that he belongs in a higher league and already has 4 goals, 10 points and is a +3 in 10 games which is third best in point production on the Reading Royals squad.
Chris Versteeg has a younger brother and he plays D, bet you didn’t know that! Mitch Versteeg seems to be putting it all together in the ECHL nicely with 5 points in 11 games and sits even. The 6’2, 205 pound rear guard does appear to be a bit of a PIM machine but someone who takes care of business in their own end is never a bad thing.
Food for thought and thanks for reading.