From New Jersey to Mahopac to Drummondville to Gatineau - - A Hockey Road Trip
Drummondville is a great rink. The Marcel Dionne Arena. Fans can be a bit rough and did throw some debris out on the ice. This was a bit of a shock for me, and a few of the players on Halifax, including one Nathan MacKinnon.
“There was one. It was different with beer cans and Pepsi bottles on the ice. It was pretty wild at times. It wasn’t our best game but it was nice to get the win,” MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon was the most impressive player I’ve seen on the trip. He’s a first-line center and he’s draft eligible in 2013. I think he has top-five ability. He has great vision and he’s an above-average passer. He also can speed through the neutral zone. Does he think these are his best traits?
“I think so. I didn’t have very many shots tonight…but we’re happy getting the two points.”
Halifax won this game 2-1 and they are without one of the big players in this year’s draft, winger Martin Frk. I spoke with the Czech prospect and he’s loaded with confidence and he hopes to play after the Christmas holiday. He has been skating but nothing strenuous yet. He is coming back from a concussion.
On the Drummondville side Marc-Olivier Brouillard, a left winger drafted by the Habs is a good skater. He covers multiple zones well. I don’t see a lot of offensive upside for him at the next level but you never know. At 5-9, 165, he could play a role in the NHL someday.
In Gatineau (they had around 3,000 very loud fans) we got to see a thrilling 4-3, come from behind win over Blainville-Boisbriand. Two players really shined in this game. The first was Alex Soumakis, Gatineau’s 5-5, 180 pound winger. He had two goals, the second was a nice backhand shot off the rush. He did a nice job getting behind the opponent’s defense.
“We started out slow from the beginning, but then we picked it up, we didn’t have many shots, but we were going hard the whole game,” Soumakis stated. “We’re missing five guys and its big when a lot of guys are injured. We just worked as hard as we could and came out with two points.”
One other Gatineau player had a great game. He was making his linemates better, and even though he only had one point he was on the ice for a few of the important goals, including that game-winner and that was Tomas Hyka, the winger who wowed the Flyers in rookie camp, scored a goal but still ended up in juniors. He looks faster and his defense is improved. I think he could be a second rounder in the upcoming NHL draft.
“Down 3-1 after two periods. In between periods we said we had to play so much better, better defense,” he said after the game, he was truly excited. “I loved Philly…I scored in the rookie game…it was the best day of my life.”
Hyka is a very popular player on this team and he would be a nice fit for any organization.
For Blainville, I was impressed with Xavier Ouellet (defense), a Red Wings prospect. He covers the “D” zone fairly well. He weaves through traffic well and has a good shot. He's defensively responsible, gets power play time and he has an excellent one-timer.
Look for more on these prospects and more as the draft gets closer.
photo by Feldman