September 14 2013 01:06PM
It's game one of the pre-season tonight for the Jets, facing off against a team that clobbered them last year by a goal differential of 20 to 8. But you know what? That was last year. It was probably all Mike Ribeiro anyway.
Somehow every summer I think I'll never make it to September, that by the time the fall arrives I'll have forgotten what hockey looks like, or Gary Betman will have stolen all the skates from Hockey-ville. For me, this is the day it becomes real. And part of me still thinks I'm going to turn on CBC today to find static (like it's 1973 and static is still a thing).
So everyone please cross your fingers on whatever hand you aren't using to click the 'Read Article' link below.
Winnipeg sent Group A, winners of the first scrimmage over Group B 3-1, to Belleville today.
- Kane - Scheifele - Setoguchi
- Tangradi - Petan - Kosmachuk
- Thorburn - Slater - Lipon
- Albert - Wright - Brassard
It's very early, and of course Claude Noel will try a number of different combinations over the next two weeks. Still, there are a few tells from the roster. Lipon and Petan have been split up after spending the Young Stars tournament together, with Lipon in a decidedly checking role. Could it be that Noel wants to see if Lipon has chemistry with Slater for a shot at starting on the 4th line?
Or is it that he simply has been more impressive than Austen Brassard? Brassard had a poor showing at the Young Stars tournament, with some nice puck plays combined with mostly poor decision making and looking lost on occassion. He has a contract in hand, but it's going to be hard to impress from that 4th line. Perhaps he's already marked himself for AHL action three days into camp.
The fourth line provides some further fodder for gossip. I talked just yesterday about using James Wright as a test case for how Claude Noel is going to approach managing his team this year, and here we see him with two pros hopeful for a spot on the IceCaps - certainly lesser linemates than Slater was given - and presumably auditioning at a new position (though, in fact, his old position before turning pro). Could it be that Noel took notice of Wright's poor season?
Finally, we get to see our first live action of the supposed second line of the team in Kane, Scheif, and Seto. If it works out, we're going to have a lot of work ahead trying to name that line.
- Morrissey - Bogosian
- Melchiori - Redmond
- Chiarot - Trouba
After Bogosian, the most experienced defenceman in the group is Ben Chiarot, with 80 AHL games and 24 in the ECHL under his belt. In that way, Huddy (I presume) has tried to spread out the experience through all three lines. Chiarot may be a good, steady partner for Trouba as the slightly-more-rich man's Cody Sol.
The Morrissey/Bogo pair is in some way a redux of the Enstrom/Byfuglien pairing in the regular season. Apparently Huddy organizes his lines on the 'Big Buddy' system. Both move the puck vertically extremely well, and may do well against a typically aggressive Capitals forecheck.
I've never seen Melchiori play, so I'm most excited to see the second pair, with Redmond back from horrific injury and Melchiori still trying to find a place in the organization after being drafted in the 3rd round in 2010. Both have size and mobiiity, so I'll be watching how the move and support the play in transition and how they read forward movements in the defensive zone.
Pasquale is supposed to play the whole game, with Comrie testing his hat-wearing skills for 60 straight minutes. Pasquale has been a below average goaltender at the AHL level, topping out at a .911 sv% on a team that went 43-25-8. I suggested over the summer that Olkinuora may replace him this year, and that he may be flushed out of the organization once some of Hellebuyck, Kasdorf, Phillips, and Comrie arrive. We should keep in mind that he's fighting for a job this year as we watch his performance.
- Johansson - Backstrom - Ovechkin
- Walker - Stephenson - Brouwer
- Volpatti - Beagle - Wilson
- Byers - Wellman - Galiev
That top line looms large on an otherwise pre-season-looking forward group. With Grabovski still waiting for a visa, and now Laich hurt, just one member of a likely second line is dressed tonight. Brouwer skates out with two rookies, Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker. If having your heart warmed by stories of young men making the show is your thing, you can see more about their excitement at Mike Vogel's blog here. If you prefer to just know who Bogosian is hitting so hard, Stephenson is a 3rd rounder from 2012 who scored a point-per-game for the Pats in 2012/13. A smaller two-way player with a worse scoring record than the team might like, but was still a stand-out for the 25-38-9 Pats. Nathan Walker is a tryout 19 year old Australian who played his junior years in the Czech Republic before coming over to the USHL last season to pot 27 points in 29 games. You read all of that right.
The third line is classic vertical hockey from the Caps. My predictions for Aaron Volpatti: likely sparring partner for Chris Thorburn, throws a dirty hit on Morrissey, it's dirty because it's really late after being behind the play for 25 whole seconds. Jay Beagle was once seen screwing up the name of former teammates Andrew Gordon on HBO's 24/7. And Tom Wilson is a 2012 first rounder (16th overall) who has played 6 professional playoff games before making his debut in the pre-season. As a 19 year old in the OHL, collected 58 points and crossed the century mark in PIMs in just 48 games. That more than doubled his points-per-game average from his draft year, so maybe he has a surprise in store for us tonight.
Stanislav Galiev, listed on the fourth line, is a 2010 3rd rounder who scored a point-per-game in the ECHL last season, and played just 17 games in the AHL during this past year - his first in pro hockey. Some may remember Casey Wellman from a couple stints with the WIld. He scored 53 points in 70 AHL games last year and is on the cusp of being an AHL veteran rather than a bubble player at 25 years of age. The thid member of the 4th line played for a good Oklahoma team for most of last year - Dane Byers. He racked up 144 PIMS in 58 games before being moved to Hershey, where he dressed just 6 times including playoff contests. Realistically, all three are playing for AHL minutes.
- Alzner - Green
- Hillen - Olesky
- Schmidt - Carrick
Another lead-off pairing of NHL quality, followed by bottom-pairing pros, and a pair of rook's. Nate Schmidt and Connor Carrick are also making their pre-season debuts tonight. Schmidt is a '91 birthday signed as a college free-agentlast season after three years at University of Minnesota. Carrick is last year's 5th round pick off the US National Development team, and played his 19 year old season for the Plymouth Whalers. Both players are slightly under-sized but boast offensive acumen.
Holtby leads off the Caps and it's hard to imagine he doesn't out-duel the Jets' AHL netminder.