Saturday, May 30, 2015

2015 NHL Draft Preview: 36th Overall Pick (New Jersey's second selection) Write-Up

My look at previews for the Devils’ selections at the upcoming 2015 NHL Entry Draft has brought me to the first selection in the second round, 36th overall (the Devils have two selections in this round). I will be chronicling the picks at the top of each post.

6th Overall – Mathew Barzal

Today I’ll look at one of the lesser-known elite talents of the draft. Before I start, I must say that it is very possible that this player does not fall to the Devils at 36th overall as he is all over the draft board (as high as 11 and as low as 66), but if he were available at the time this pick came around, there should be no hesitation in selecting him. For those who feel like this pick is not realistic, I will write alternative player profiles when I am finished with my initial write-up. Without further ado, let’s look at our next player.

Denis Guryanov
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs
Position: RW/LW
Shoots: L
Team (League): Ladia Togliatti (MHL)
ISS rank: 24
CSS rank: 7 (for NA skaters)
FC rank: 24
THN rank: 66
Statline for 2014-2015 Season: 23 GP, 15G 10A 25P 39PIM, +4, 1.086 Points/Game

To start off very, very bluntly, if this guy was named Andrew Smith and came from Thunder Bay, Ontario, he would be a lock for the Top-10 in this draft. The big Russian winger, who was voted to have the hardest shot out of the entire draft class by Future Considerations, plays a very pro-styled, prototypical Russian power-forward game. He has very strong legs and can propel him quickly to the net, and his hard shot is far from the only weapon in his arsenal. His strong legs also enable to him to win most of his corner and board battles.

Guryanov is a natural goal scorer and was the best player whenever he stepped onto the ice. He has an incredible set of hands, is good in 1-on-1 situations, and can easily burn past defensemen or just truck right through them. He does a great job not only creating space for himself in the slot, but making use of what space he has. He protects the puck very well and is able to weave his way through traffic. This allows him to excel on the cycle. He is definitely able to use his size and strength well in combination with his soft hands.

Defensively, Guryanov is responsible, as he plays the full 200-foot game. He plays physically and is able to take away space from attackers. There are tendencies for him to prematurely leave the zone, but overall he keeps his feet moving, is able to track the play well, and commits to puck battles and blocking shots. He has good awareness, good vision, and a strong tendency looking to cause turnovers and start the breakout.

Guryanov is committed to playing the entire next season with Lada Togliatti of the KHL (Ladia Togliatti’s KHL affiliate), as opposed to just an 8 game stint (where he scored an assist). He has not yet talked about whether he wants to come over to North America to play, which really does seem to scare some people; I doubt teams. I’m not going to elaborate further on this, because I’m not putting too much stock into a player’s birth certificate.

Guryanov is very competitive and has all the skills that would transfer well to the NHL, and has one of the highest prospect ceilings out of forwards in this draft class. The majority of his goals are scored from between the face-off circles. I feel like if he adds some more muscle to his already large frame, then he will be even more effective as a power-forward. He is only 17 years old (birthday 6/07/97), so I believe he has the potential to grow an inch or 2 taller as well.

My reasoning for selecting Denis Guryanov with this pick is a combination of factors, really. He is a combination of great hands, a ridiculously hard shot, good playmaking ability, a willingness to drive to the net, defensive responsibility, etc. Guryanov has a tendency to try and do too much on his own, especially when it comes to gaining the zone, or trying to do too much offensively. Guryanov also helps address the lack of RW depth for the Devils’ prospects. When I see Guryanov, I see a top-line RW potential. I’d say his potential floor is a 3rd line RW because of the physicality he plays with.

One sort of thought that occurred to me when thinking about this pick was how well I think Guryanov would play on a line with Barzal (the projected player I wrote about for the 6th overall pick), in terms of Barzal working the perimeter while Guryanov drives to the net and creates space for either his own shot or for Barzal to make a play, especially with Barzal passing to Guryanov while in the slot (Guryanov, not Barzal) for a good shot opportunity and scoring chance.

Typically, most of the Devils’ offensive game the past few seasons has been to drive to the net and work on “greasy” goals, as well as create chances through a strong cycle game. With a new head coach coming in, hopefully soon, and the addition of a new General Manager, we may see a slight change in that style, in terms of shooting more from the slot. Regardless, I feel that either way, Guryanov would work well in the Devils’ offensive game, especially in regards to the cycle game. If the Devils institute a strong forechecking system, then Guryanov would have a pretty good impact as well, as he’s not bad throwing his weight around on the forecheck. One quick note is Guryanov’s ability and experience playing on the Penalty Kill unit. New Jersey has always valued strong defensive forwards, or at least those that can do more than just hold their own in the defensive zone. Guryanov is a strong penalty-killer with his good defensive play, but also, very much like Barzal, with his good offensive transition skills and ability to quickly make a play. This specific trait was seen during the IIHF World U18 championships when Guryanov scored a very nice short-handed breakaway goal for Team Russia against Team USA.

Some other players that are projected to go around this spot would be Dennis Yan, Anthony Beauvillier, Yakov Trenin, Filip Chlapik (all forwards from the QMJHL – it’s a very strong draft class from the Q this year), Jordan Greenway, Thomas Novak, Jack Roslovich (all forwards from the USNDP)…but I feel like Guryanov has the best combination of skill, smarts, style, and potential to be a top-6 RW for an NHL-team.

I don’t like having to add this, but I feel it’s important when discussing Russian prospects for the skeptics. I see no trouble in a young man wanting to develop his game in the Russian leagues. It may raise a red flag for some people, but personally I think that there is a strong argument for the Russian MHL-to-KHL path being a better development path than the CHL, but that’s just a side thought. To me, a good player style comparison for Denis Guryanov would be Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets.

Up next I will write about who I project the Devils to select with their second selection of the second round, the 41st overall pick.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to let me know!

Follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlogfor more updates.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 NHL Draft Preview: 6th Overall Pick (New Jersey's first selection) Write-Up

I’ve been meaning to do write-ups like these for a while now, and at this point post like this seem like a dime-a-dozen, but I wanted to give my input from what I’ve seen throughout the year. With the draft only 4 weeks away, I wanted to look at some players who I think would be viable options for the Devils’ draft selections.

This post is a conglomeration of all of my viewings (all online and none in person, unfortunately…maybe one day I’ll be able to do some scouting in person), as well as considering and referencing some of the various scouting reports I have read about Barzal including but not limited to, Dub From Above, Future Considerations 2015 Draft Guide, TheDraft Analyst, Last Word On Sports, The Hockey News 2015 Draft Guide, various HFBoards threads, and other sources. While I have not personally spoken to the aforementioned sources, I felt it absolutely necessary to reference their hard work in the field and how much I appreciate looking at a player from another perspective. Long story short, this is my viewing opinion of the players, all while adding and taking into consideration the viewing opinions of others, sometime more experienced and professional opinions. I’m an amateur, with no affiliation to any scouting organization or any team scouting department. If there are any questions, I would be happy to answer them.

These are my opinions and I know they will come back to bite me because when looking back at draft picks, hindsight is 20/20. There may be, and in some cases probably are, and if you disagree with my selections I’d love to discuss it with you!

With the first profile I’ll look at, we’re exploring options for whom to select with the 6th overall pick. There are many options available and still a handful of talented players projected to go in that range. I think it’s important to address the most blatant team need for the Devils with this pick: a top-line center. There are some other team needs, mainly depth at the RW and top-6 players in general. However I do feel like this pick is the most likely to be able to develop into that top-line center. We can use picks #36 and/or #41 to address some of the lack of RW depth in the organization.

Mathew Barzal
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 181 lbs
Position: C
Shoots: R
Team (League): Seattle (WHL)
ISS rank: 8
CSS rank: 11 (for NA skaters)
FC rank: 10
THN rank: 10
Statline for 2014-2015 Season: 44 GP, 12G 45A 57P 20PIM, +13, 1.295 Points/Game

If you’ve never heard of Barzal (pronounced Bar-zel), I know what you’re probably thinking: Why would we consider taking a guy who’s ranked around the #10 spot with our 6th overall pick? Hear me out on this one; Barzal is the best draft-eligible player out of the entire WHL this season. If you’re looking specifically at ranking numbers, then remember that each team has its own drafting crew with their own lists. Some of them can really very strange when compared to “the consensus”, which is comprised of public draft lists. One example of how different some of each team’s lists are (after the top 2 or so contenders for each year) was when the Vancouver Canucks accidentally showed a video of their draft list, or at least one of their scout’s list. This article on looks more into detail about it.

Okay, so looking more specifically at Barzal: (I will quickly discuss other draft options besides Barzal after his overview)

Where do I start with Mathew Barzal? Well, to say he’s highly-skilled is a bit of an understatement. Future Considerations considered Barzal as the 3rd best stickhandler and 3rd most creative playmaker out of the entire draft class. The only two people ahead of him are consensus top-5 picks (I won’t say who the rest are out of respect for the purchasing of the FC Draft Guide…I’ll give you one guess who’s #1 though).  There are several factors that stand out to me for Barzal, and I will discuss those a little later. But two things that really shine out from the rest of the players projected to be drafted in his range are his vision and IQ. I’m a firm believer that Barzal’s vision is the second-best in this draft class. With his vision comes some elite passing, and his ability to pick apart a defense with his pinpoint passing has been a real treat to watch. IQ-wise, he’s an incredible positional player in the offensive zone, and is still working on his game in the defensive zone.

By this I mean that he is no ways irresponsible defensively. Actually I was rather impressed from what I saw from a player his age in terms of responsibility and positioning. His great understanding of the game (high IQ) as well as his stellar hands helps him anticipate passes and start a transition. He is also pretty good at blocking shots as well. The concerns I have for his defensive game are his tendencies to stop moving his feet and overall consistency in his own end. In regards to his defense though, I feel that it can certainly be refined, and will be. Barzal has a great skillset to be dangerous in his own zone. His skating, quick hands, vision, and general sense of the ice will all play key roles as he learns to refine his defensive game. Don’t look for him to be a shutdown forward, but that’s not what his role will be if the Devils do pick him (or whoever else picks him). He has played on the Penalty Kill though for Seattle. This is moreso a testament to his quick ability to transition and make plays whether they be on the breakaway or an odd-man rush than his ability to shut down an opponents’ Power Play, but this is important for his development as well.

Barzal’s skating is incredibly impressive. John Williams from Central Scouting describes Barzal as “…the best skater [he’s] seen in the WHL in terms of [Barzal’s] east-west game while creating time and space with his feet…” What this essentially means Barzal has a large number of ways to beat a defense. This method of “east-west skating” mentioned above, for those who aren’t too good with terminology like that (like myself), is in regards to how Barzal is able to skate around defensemen using his acceleration and top-end speed.

Offensively, Barzal is the full package. There are some cons to his game, which I will address later, but overall, he is an incredible playmaker; an absolute pure playmaking center. He has the ability to not only make plays while at his top speed but also to slow the game down to whatever pace he wants. A term I would use to describe him is a “slippery skater”. He is able to work his way around defensemen, and is able to win a solid number of board battles because of his stickhandling ability.

I remember before Jack Eichel showed up on the draft scene, this draft year was initially the battle between Connor McDavid and Mathew Barzal. For anybody wondering why Barzal played significantly less games this season, it occurred when he cracked his patella (kneecap) in an off-ice incident (I believe it was a fall in the locker-room) which sidelined him for quite some time. When he returned from injury, it was as if he was never injured at all and over the course of the latter part of the season after he returned, he scored 39 points in 24 games. I feel that while there may be a consensus top-5 for this draft year (McDavid, Eichel, Hanifin, Strome, Marner in some order), I believe if Barzal stayed healthy all year he would definitely be in the discussion of the top-5 for this draft.

Barzal is the type of player that makes the other guys on his line better. He is more of a playmaker than a scorer. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a good shot, in fact he really does have a good, fast, and deceptive snap shot. He showed me that during his play at the IIHF World U18’s championships. Barzal has been an offensive stud for Seattle. He’s been their top-line center for the past 2 seasons (his only 2 seasons in the WHL) and has been carrying the offense since. Outside of Shea Theodore and Ryan Gropp, there really isn’t much, if any, offensive firepower in Seattle. He was able to take control of Team Canada’s offense at the U18’s, running the Powerplay (much like he did in Seattle as well).

Barzal has a tendency to “over-pass” or to try too much in the offensive zone. He does not shoot as much as he should, but it is really good that he is an unselfish player. I feel that his frame will allow him to be able to add on 15-20 pounds of muscle, which will significantly help his all-around play, specifically board play when without the puck. One of the issues that I do have with Barzal is that he is a perimeter player, and does not drive to the slot unless there is a calculated risk. I would also like to see him play with a bit more physicality too. Barzal said he models his game after Claude Giroux, of the Philadelphia Flyers, which I can definitely see. I can also see elements of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in his game. I believe Barzal has the potential to be a top-line center in the NHL if he can work out in his offense against the larger defensemen in the NHL. He certainly has the offensive skill to do so. Cody Nickolet from Dub From Above says that Barzal might be assigned to play 2nd line center so he can be somewhat sheltered away from “the bigger lines at the next level, stopping [Nickolet] from classifying [Barzal] as that ‘true #1’ type of center…” (Dub From Above – if you haven’t gotten a chance to read his blog, I would HIGHLY suggest it).

Next year will be a big developmental year for Barzal, to see if he can continue on his path of progression post-injury.

I have the Devils selecting Barzal with the 6th overall pick because he fits the mold of a type of center that we need, a pure playmaking one. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want Pavel Zacha, Mikko Rantanen, Lawson Crouse, Kyle Connor, etc. I just believe Barzal is the perfect combination of speed, skill, IQ, playing style, defensive responsibility, and overall talent that we need. Barzal drives the offense and is an elite playmaker with an excellent shot. Barzal is the exact injection of speed and lethal offense that the Devils need. If the Devils do not take Mathew Barzal, or if he is off the board by the time we pick, then my preference would be Pavel Zacha, or whoever falls out of the top-5 (If that's Marner, the Devils staff should sprint up to the podium and run to the hills with Marner, but that's a different discussion). I really look forward to following Barzal's career wherever he ends up...even if he ends up on Philadelphia, I can't see them passing on him, since he's almost a Giroux clone.

Barzal will need another year in the WHL to hone out and refine his overall game, but I don't see him needing more than that until he is NHL-ready. As a Devils fan, I can't stop thinking about the possibility of matching him up on a line with Reid Boucher. The two may not work well together, but if Boucher can find the space in the slot, and if Barzal can feed him, then I really think it's worth a shot (no pun intended).

The next write-up will be for the Devils' draft selection: 36 overall

Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to tell me!

Follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for my next draft pick write-up!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 NHL Draft Darkhorse Potentials

With the draft a little more than a month away, I wanted to take a quick look at some lesser-known prospects that still have the potential to make an impact at the NHL level.

I will make a post in a little bit on who I feel the Devils should take with their 6th overall pick this year, but for now I would like to take a general view at some potential late round steals.

My list of draft Darkhorses (in no particular order):

Austin Wagner - LW/C - Regina Pats (WHL) - 6'2" 182 lbs

While not entirely a "late round steal" per say since he's projected to go anywhere from mid-2nd to 4th round, Wagner brings a strong power forward game to an already strong power forward draft class (Crouse, Rantanen, Bittner just to name a few projected to go in the first round). Wagner scored 39 points (20G 19A) in 61 games in his second full year for Regina this year. This is a massive growth of progression for Wagner, scoring 2 points (1G 1A) in 42 games last season for Regina. He plays a solid, physical game and is incredibly fast. His offensive production is still a work in progress, and there is still, as Dub From Above Scouting Blog puts it, "major untapped potential" for growth. Wagner does have a deceptively good wrist shot as well. His frame is also massive, so he has the potential to put on at least 15 pounds more of muscle. He is still a work in progress though, as he needs to continue to progress his offensive capability and how fast he processes the game (and moves his feet). Not afraid to throw the body around, and defensively responsible (logging plenty of PK minutes), and with the combination of size, speed, ferociousness, and defensive responsibility, he's a guy to keep an eye on.

Reminds many scouts of an Erik Cole - type player

Robin Kovacs - RW/LW - AIK (Allsvenskan) - 6'0" 170 lbs

Projected to go late in the 3rd round is the speedy winger from the 2nd highest league in Sweden, Robin Kovacs. Kovacs put up 28 points (17G 11A) in 52 games, which was highest on his team, which is quite good considering the second and third highest scorers on the team are 6 and 7 years older than him, respectively. Future Considerations describes Kovacs as "A skilled forward who has a strong understanding of the game…very fast on his feet and quick agility make him dangerous both in the offensive zone and in defensive situations…impressive offensive instincts…creative and quick hands with the puck… has a great shot that can turn into a goalie’s nightmare…sees the ice well and makes some impressive passes…likes the puck on his stick and will go to the net…skating and instincts make him a dangerous penalty killer…can be hot-tempered and takes undisciplined penalties…willing to talk and get under his opponent’s skin, but is not overly physical or strong. (December 2014)" I believe Kovacs has some immense offensive potential, especially with his great shot. If Kovacs can work on his overall consistency, as well as his maturity in not taking as many undisciplined penalties, his quickness, strength, and awareness, he has the potential to make an impact in the NHL.

Rodrigo Abols - C - HK Riga (MHL) - 6'3" 180 lbs

Unranked by Central Scouting, I believe Abols in the very definition of a darkhorse draft candidate. Scoring 38 points (20G 18A) in 35 games for HK Riga last season, and getting 14 games of KHL experience -scoring 5 points (1G 4A) during that stint - Abols has a good raw frame to grow into and build more muscle upon. He has some incredible hands and some tremendous offensive potential. Played recently in the IIHF World Championships for Latvia, did not put up any points, but got very good international experience playing against men much older than himself. Abols was also recognized for his talent by playing in the MHL All-Star Game this year. I really do look forward to seeing what Abols can do next year. I think he certainly has the potential to be a solid impact player once he refines his game further. I'm not sure if he will be drafted, but definitely deserves a good look.

Kevin Stenlund - C - HV71 J20 (SuperElit) - 6'3" 205 lbs

Ranked #21 for Euro Skaters by Central Scouting, and projected to go around the 5th round is the big Swedish center who captained his team. Stenlund scored 36 points (14G 22A) in 36 games and got a good stint of experience playing 17 games with the big club in the SHL. While Stenlund has very good size, I believe his best asset is his mind and how he processes the game. In addition to this, Stenlund has excellent puckhandling skills and plays a simple, yet complete game. He has soft hands, a quick release, and already a good frame. While a good passer with a good shot, he needs to play more physically in his own end and improve upon his skating and acceleration strides. He is certainly a good long-term project pick because the style of game he plays would transfer well in the NHL, in my opinion.

Veeti Vainio - LD - Blues U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga) - 6'2" 172 lbs

Ranked #25 for Euro Skated by Central Scouting, projected to go in the 7th round, Veeti Vainio is a highly-offensive defenseman working in the Finnish top-level, Liiga, and it's junior leagues. Vainio has some incredible skating ability and is very agile. He is very willing to jump into play in the offensive zone, and has some top notch vision, passing ability, and instincts. He has some concerns with his positioning and decision-making in his own end. Vainio was able to score 44 points (13 G 31 A) in 42 games last season, and was the 5th highest scorer on his team. After a disappointing U18 tournament for him, next season will be very important as he is set to play in the Liiga full time. In his 2 game stint last season he scored 1 assists. He can check hard, but as mentioned before, has trouble deciding when to do what when he is in his own zone.

Brad Morrison - C - Prince George Cougars (WHL) - 5'11" 163 lbs

Projected to go in the 6th round this year, and ranked #124 in North American skaters by Central Scouting, is Brad Morrison of the Prince George Cougars. Scoring 49 points (23G 26A) in 67 games in his second full season of the WHL is a good mark of progression. Morrison is very speedy and works very hard. He is able to work in the corners and other tough areas of the ice despite his smaller weight. Morrison has great vision and is able to finish. His big concerns surround his defensive zone play (which has improved over the past year) and his size with the potential for getting knocked off the puck. Plays a very creative game and drives well to the net through traffic.

There are several others, but these are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoyed this quick look at these players.

If you have any comments or suggestions for any other players feel free to comment or send me a message. Follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more updates!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

NJ Devils Prospect Update: 5/9/15

With Ryan Kujawinski's North Bay Battalion eliminated from contention from the OHL championship playoffs, the last New Jersey Devils prospect still in play in the CHL is center and 2014 first round pick (30th overall), John Quenneville. (Devils 2012 6th round pick, Artur Gavrus, is currently playing for Belarus at the IIHF World Championships, and depending on if he continues his scoring pace, I will do a write-up on him)

 The WHL Championship series, game 1: Kelowna Rockets at Brandon Wheat Kings. The Rockets had a scoring burst in the second period where they jumped ahead of the Wheat Kings by a score of 3-1.

John Quenneville ended up without a point for the night, but still had an impact. He played 3rd line center last night, so he found himself in more of a defensive role for the game. He also got time on the second powerplay and penalty kill units for Brandon.

Brandon would ultimately fall to Kelowna by a score of 4-3. Quenneville excelled in his defensive-first role, much like he has all season for Brandon. He's not offensively-challenged, it just shows how deep of a team Brandon is that he's on the third line center duty. In case you've read any of my previous reports, Quenneville has been playing a role of second-line center for most of the year, but has also bounced to the third line center position too. When Quenneville gets consistent top-6 minutes next year,  his offensive numbers will improve.

This year was very unlucky for Quenneville as well. He was able to make significant strides, mostly in his two-way game, but whenever he would hit a new tier for offensive output, he would get injured or hit a real cold streak. He was really snakebitten for the better part of the year as well. This could all be coming from the pressure of being a first-round pick. This piled on to affect some of his confidence and caused him to overthink things. He's really coming through these playoffs though, building off an already-strong playoff performance from last year.

As for this particular game, Quenneville was not absent at all, despite his flat statline may suggest. He was really solid in the face-off circle and created good chances by driving to the net. I see more and more of Adam Henrique's game in Quenneville; the ability to not necessarily show up on the scoresheet but to have a good effect on the game around him. I am looking forward to the second game of the WHL Championship tonight in Brandon against Kelowna, starting at 8:30 PM EST. Here's hoping all the best to JQ!

Follow me on twitter @dtj_ahockeyblog for more updates!
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

NJ Devils Prospect Update: 5/2/15

Last night saw two Devils prospects in action for their prospective CHL playoff tournament: John Quenneville (2014 30th overall) and Ryan Kujawinski (2013 73rd overall).

Ryan Kujawinski had a rough night, as did the entire North Bay Battalion team. Kujawinski was on the ice for 2 Oshawa goals and registered a -1 on the night. He got some time on the second penalty kill unit, which was nice to see. Maybe I haven't been paying good attention, but I haven't seen him play on it before, or just very sparingly at least. Kujawinski was solid in the face-off circle all night, and just had some pretty bad luck overall. He was given a 5 minute major and a 10 minute game misconduct (automatic ejection) for a kneeing penalty in the third period. I will try to sound as objective as possible, but it was an extremely weak call caused by incidental contact. At first glance if looked like Kujawinski's elbow was thrown out to hit Oshawa defenseman Mitchell Vande Sompel, but the replays showed that Kujawinski's elbow didn't even hit Vande Sompel. Vande Sompel was skating with the puck in his own zone out towards the blue line when he shifted back awkwardly with the puck and Kujawinski tried to make the big hit with the forearm, when he ended up hitting knee-to-knee. Maybe I'm just a homer, but it looked like Vande Sompel was down on the ice harboring a potential upper-body injury, which is strange because Kujawinski's arm/elbow never actually made contact with him. I wasn't on the ice though, and I only got a view that the broadcast cameras were showing. Either way, a weak call, and hopefully the league sees it fit that no more supplemental discipline is needed. If North Bay wants to win their next game, and ultimately the series against Oshawa, they need Kujawinski in the lineup. His offensive tools will be much needed.

Kujawinski played second line forward and also played on the second power play unit. Additionally near the end of the game (as mentioned above), he played on the second penalty kill unit. This was probably because North Bay's only goal of the night came shorthanded and by adding Kujawinski to the PK they could possibly add the firepower to get another.

Oshawa won the game 4-1 and goes up in the series 3-2. Game 6 is Sunday at 2 PM EST in North Bay.

John Quenneville is probably still smiling this morning from his game last night. The Brandon Wheat kings beat the Calgary Hitmen 8-2 and win the series 4-1. So this means that Brandon is the WHL Eastern Conference champion and will play the winner of the Protland-Kelowna series to determine the WHL champion, and who represents the WHL this year at the Memorial Cup hosted in Quebec. I tried to take notice of a lot more details in Quenneville's game, not only so I can write better about him, but also so we can all get a better look at him. I see more and more of Adam Henrique style of play in Quenneville, which is making me very happy.

Quenneville scored 2 goals last night including one on the powerplay. He now has 32 points in his last 24 playoff games. Besides his offensive production, I was extremely impressed with the amount of defensive zone face-offs Quenneville was on the ice for (and drew for, before getting kicked out of one). I did not count specifically, but he must have had at least 6 defensive-zone draws where he won the significant majority of them. In fact, Quenneville was pretty on-point for his face-offs most of the night. He logged significant time as second-line center, on the first powerplay unit as well as what looked like the second penalty kill unit. One thing I also noticed from Quenneville was his ability to gain the offensive zone with possession, without having to dump the puck in. Overall I was very impressed with Quenneville's game last night and look forward to Brandon's series against whoever wins the Kelowna-Portland series.

On an off-hand note, Devils prospect, Blake Coleman (2011, 75th overall) has not signed a contract with the Devils or their AHL affiliate, Albany, yet. He has until August 13 (I believe) to sign otherwise he becomes an unrestricted free agent. This is not cause for concern though because I believe he wants to finish up his degree and graduate before signing with the team. From his interviews he sounds excited to be a Devil, so I'm not too worried about that. Graduation for Miami Ohio starts May 16th, so after that we will see a deal struck. The only timeline to meet is the August deadline since neither the Devils nor the Albany Devils are in the playoffs this year.

Keep updated on Devils prospects by following me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog.

Thanks for reading!