Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Interview with Anthony Mantha

Anthony Mantha brings all the physical traits a scout can ask for: size, smooth, coordinated skating and strength. You could group Mantha in with a few other names like Alexsander Barkov and Seth Jones whose freakish athleticism would see them suceed in almost any sport. Athleticism is not all Mantha brings to the table however - an innate ability to read the play from the perimeter, soft hands and an elite shot have helped Mantha cement his status as a 1st round talent early in his draft year.

Some things Mantha needs to work on are his compete level without the puck, which is an issue on the backcheck and his physicality. When a player with a big strong frame like Mantha doesn't use his size on the boards consistently it raises a red flag.

However, Mantha has been one of the dark horses leading the scoring race this year in the QMJHL, very few followers could have predicted his name at #5 in QMJHL scoring (tied for goal scoring lead) 25 games in. Mantha has gone from a disappointing 3 goal scorer through his first half of last season to scoring goals at a frantic pace, with 64 points (35-29) in his last 36 games played, split between the end of last year and the start of this year.

I spoke to Anthony after Sundays game in Halifax, and here is what he had to say.

Whats your biggest focus heading into your draft year?

I'm aiming for 90-100 points and I'd love to be invited to the U-20 camp in December.

What are your strengths and one thing you need to work on?

My biggest strengths are my vision and my shot. I'm definitely trying to work on my competitiveness, like battling harder on a consistent basis.

What do you think of playing on a smaller market team like Val d'Or?

It doesn't change much. Talent is spread all across the league, but it takes off a little off-ice pressure.

Whats something an average fan wouldn't know about you off the ice?

I'm a big fan of golf, I do it alot in the off-season.

Best of luck in your draft year Anthony!

Mr. Steady - Matt Murphy

When you watch the Val d'Or Foreurs, a team with several marquee names, Matt Murphy isn't likely jump out at you as a fan.

The Foreurs 5th overall selection in the 2011 QMJHL draft plays a quiet, steady game that can be relied upon in any situation. Coach Mario Durocher does just that, giving Murphy 2nd power play and 1st penalty kill minutes. Murphys style of play may not leave fans in awe, but NHL scouts appreciate his poise and puck-movement. One part of the game Murphy is trying to improve is his offense, something he didn't show as often as he would like last year as a 16 year old, with 3 goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 61 games. Through 24 games this season, Murphy has already reached last years point totals with a goal and 15 assists and is a +5 compared to last seasons -15.

Murphy shares duties on the Foreurs back end with more experienced defensemen Artyom Sergeev, Jérémie Fraser, Julien Leduc and Guillaume Gélinas and has had to earn the 2nd pairing minutes he receives. My personal take on Murphy when watching him he does all the little things a defenseman needs to do right to keep him on a coaches good side: taking a hit to dish the puck out of trouble, making quick reads on the breakout and being a step ahead defensively to interrupt the opposing teams possession. He has a fluid stride that can keep up with the fastest forwards the QMJHL has to offer, and isn't afraid to get physical on the boards.

I had the chance to speak to Matt Murphy after Sunday Afternoons 4-3 loss to the Mooseheads, and here is what he had to say.

RE: What is your biggest personal focus to start this year, where you're eligible to be drafted?

MM: I'm really trying focus on not paying to much attention to it all, I'm just trying to keep things simple.

Describe yourself as a player to someone who has never seen you play.

I keep things simple, I'm a two-way defenseman but I focus more on defense. Offence is definitely something I'm trying to bring more of this year. I've got good vision with the puck and my skating is a strength. I think I play a steady all-around game.

How do feel about playing for a smaller market team like Val d'Or? Do you think that it brings any advantages to you personally?

It's good. It keeps you more focused off the ice because sometimes it's easy to get distracted in bigger cities.

TSR wishes you the best of luck in your draft year Matt!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin walks into this year in an enviable position - one of several elite threats on a star studded CHL contender. His Halifax Mooseheads roster possesses names such as Nathan Mackinnon, Zach Fucale, Martin Frk, Konrad Abeltshauser and Brent Andrews, all of whom have been drafted or are high on NHL draft radars. With such a star studded roster, it is not difficult to overlook the talented Jonathan Drouin. Drouin is an outstanding player in his own right, and will get the spotlight he deserves this season as NHL scouts will schedule plenty of trips to Halifax this winter.

The Scouting Report's #12 Preliminary prospect was the subject of big attention early last season when, after being selected 2nd overall by the Mooseheads, Drouin chose to stay in Lac St.-Louis and did not report to the Mooseheads training camp. Drouin dominated the Midget AAA league with 53 points in 22 games until Christmas, when GM Cam Russell and Drouins camp finally agreed the time was right to come to the QMJHL. When he arrived, he instantly made his presence felt as a playmaker, putting up 7 goals and 22 assists in 33 games for the Mooseheads, but when the playoffs rolled around - Drouins as advertised competitive nature shined through as he put up 9 goals and 17 assists in 17 games in Halifax's playoff run. Drouin scored the series winning goal in overtime to complete the Mooseheads comeback against Quebec, and had some highlight reel goals such as this one in game 6 of the Quebec series:

Scouting Report - Drouin is a good skater with deceptive agility that allows him to avoid punishment from bigger opponents. He has elite hands and supreme vision and his creativity makes his linemates better. Although undersized, Drouin competes hard and shows a willingness to finish checks. A lack of an explosive 'next gear' is the main concern for Drouin at the next level, but this year he’ll have an opportunity to address that.

I had the pleasure to sit down with the Mooseheads winger and last weeks CHL player of the week after yesterdays game against Acadie Bathurst, and we discussed several topics related to his draft year.

So Jonathan, after an exciting playoffs, you ended up having a fairly short summer - Walk us fans through your off-season.

JD - Well I took two weeks off to recuperate after the playoff run, then went to Toronto for 6 weeks with Anthony Duclair to train. I trained with some teammates in Montreal for a while, then I went to train in Minnesota for 2 weeks. I had a great great time at Ivan Hlinka, wearing the sweater and winning gold was a great experience for me I won't forget it anytime soon.

What are expectations like in the locker room for the Mooseheads early this year?

JD - We have a great team, but we're taking it one game and one team at a time, we can't win the Memorial Cup overnight so we plan to stay focused on the present.

What are your expectations headed into this year for you - and what are you looking to improve upon leading up into the NHL draft?

JD - To be honest I have no expectations, it's 100 percent about the team and helping us win through whatever is needed of me, and that's what I'm focused on from here until the draft.

Last question - Tell us something that no one knows about Jonathan Drouin outside of the rink.

JD - Well, I actually like to cook.

I guess we can assume Drouin dishes out sauce both on and off the ice.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Mooseheads Weekend Recap 9/28-29

The Halifax Mooseheads escaped this weekend with an even split, going 1-1 over their Saturday and Friday match-ups. This was a favourable outcome when you assess how they played and who they played against.

On Friday, the Mooseheads had their home opener against Gatineau and the Metro Centre had a wild atmosphere. Almost 9,500 people packed in to see the Mooseheads coming off an 8-1 victory in P.E.I, and most expected the Mooseheads to cruise through the 0-2-0 Gatineau Olympiques. The Mooseheads likely believed the same hype, because from the very start they appeared unfocused and hesitant. That statement excludes Mackinnon, Drouin and Lewis, who played well and provided a necessary heartbeat until the game got out of reach.
The first period was fairly even, with the Olympiques getting some chances and playing physical and the Mooseheads throwing some huge hits and Mackinnon and Drouin creating some great opportunities. In the 2nd, things started to unravel for them. Tomas Hyka scored for Olympiques, and Mackinnon and Drouin hooked up for a beautiful 2 on 1 goal making 1-1. The Olympiques then scored 4 unanswered goals with Tomas Hykas second goal, Martin Reway (2) and Dominic Poulin. At the end of the period, Co-Captain Stefan Fournier got in a fight with Mikael Beauregard and Nathan Mackinnon got in a fight with Olympiques pest Adam Chapman, who beat him handily. Being the second fight in the same altercation, Mackinnon and Chapman were kicked out and the Mooseheads came into the third showing the knew they had lost this game. They appeared a step behind and if not for back-up Chris Clarke filling in well, the final score could have been a lot worse than 6-1.
2. GAT Tomas Hyka, (1) (Mikael Langlois), 3:47
2. HAL Nathan MacKinnon, (4) (Konrad Abeltshauser, Jonathan Drouin), 4:19
2. GAT Martin Reway, (1) (Gabriel Bourret), 9:55 (PP)
2. GAT Tomas Hyka, (2) (Mickaël Beauregard, Emile Poirier), 11:52
2. GAT Dominic Poulin, (1) (Yannick Dubé), 13:20 (PP)
2. GAT Martin Reway, (2) (Taylor Burke), 15:58
3. GAT Dominic Poulin, (2) (Martin Reway, Samuel Courtemanche), 8:37

On a better note, the Mooseheads came into Saturdays game against Cape Breton looking a lot more focused and making the right play more often, as opposed to going for big hits or dekes. Luca Ciampini opened the scoring, the first sign of life from the Mooseheads depth scorers. Brent Andrews then deflected a Trey Lewis point shot and had the Metro Centre fired up, until two opportunistic goals by the Screaming Eagles silenced the crowd before the end of the 1st with goals by Alex Lavoie and Bronson Beaton.

The game was solid back and forth hockey, with the Mooseheads separating themselves and getting a ton of chances in the last five minutes. Overtime was a similar story, but the game ended up in a shootout. Here are the only two goals. (Video: Halifax Mooseheads official youtube)

1. HAL Luca Ciampini, (1) (Martin Frk, Matthew Boudreau), 5:00
1. HAL Brent Andrews, (2) (Trey Lewis), 16:12
1. CAP Michael Clarke, (2) (William Carrier, Alexandre Lavoie), 18:09
1. CAP Bronson Beaton, (1) (Justin Haché), 19:57

All in all, this weekend was likely a lesson for the young Mooseheads squad, that no matter how many things are going well for them, they need to stay focused on a team game and they will succeed. It was only when the Mooseheads depth players started creating chances when the ice opened up a little for Mackinnon and Drouin.

Quick Scouting Hits for draft eligibles:

- Martin Reway had two goals and an assist against the Mooseheads, but I'm not certain he'll be drafted. He's an excellent skater and tremendously skilled, but did not even engage in a battle let alone win one. He literally would allow the Mooseheads defensemen to walk out of the corner with the puck untouched. Without a dramatic adjustment from Benoit Groulx, I could not see an NHL scout interested in that.

- Emile Porier looked alright against Halifax, no outstanding trait about him just a solid player with good hands. Could see a team taking him in a later round.

- 16 year olds (2014 eligibles) Kameron Keilly, Clarke Bishop and Alexandre Carrier did not look out place. All stood out as slight, nice skating two-way players. Carrier left in the late 1st with an injury so I did not get a great read on him.

- William Carrier was dominant for the Screaming Eagles, winning most of his battles and creating space with his solid frame. He also showed a great prowess for passing and shooting at full speed, he did not look far off of Mackinnon and Drouin in terms of talent.

- Bronson Beaton blended in with the rest of the Screaming Eagles two-way forwards, scored a goal and showed better skating than last season. He could be on a few teams draft radar.

- Mackinnon and Drouin looked themselves, but Drouin is a lot more poised and prone to controlling the pace of play this season. It seems teams are not as afraid of Mackinnon and are simply backchecking harder on him to defend his lethal speed. The gap offensively between Jon and Nathan has closed, without a doubt.
(Stats via the QMJHL)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Gatineau at Halifax - Season Opener Preview

Can the Moose make it 3 straight wins to start the season?

Tale of the Tape
Halifax vs. Gatineau
Mooseheads won both match-ups last year - 5-3 in Halifax and 6-2 in Gatineau
Injuries - GAT: Robert Steeves (starting goalie) & Mathieu Boily HFX: Steve Gillard
Leading Scorers - HFX: Jonathan Drouin 2-2-5-7 GAT: Rock Regimbald 1-1-0-1

Halifax Mooseheads fans are buzzing over the Mooseheads (2-0-0) season opener this Friday night against Gatineau (0-2-0), and they have plenty of reason to do so. Coming off an exciting overtime win against Cape Breton and 8-1 schlacking of the P.E.I Islanders Rocket, optimism is abundant in Moose Country. Offensive wizards Nathan Mackinnon and Jonathan Drouin have exceeded expectations to start the season, with Drouin putting up 2 goals and 5 assists for CHL player of the week honours while Mackinnon had 3 goals and 2 assists over the weekend. The Mooseheads have been so dominant in their first two games, they outshot their opponents 91-39. On the injury front, the Mooseheads are healthy with the exception of Steve Gillard, who could be out this weekend with an undisclosed injury. Gillard did not practice this week per Matthew Huest of Metro News.
Gatineau, though off to a slow start, still must be respected in this match-up. Coming off losses to Baie-Comeau and Chicoutimi where they put up only one goal in two games, the Olympiques will be hungry for their first win coming into a season of high expectations in Gatineau. In this off-season, the Olympiques acquired a lot of talent (Yannick Dubé, Martin Reway, Taylor Burke & Robert Steeves) and appeared ready to contend. Watch for Gatineau to come out flying to show the QMJHL they are ready to match up against the best.