The Nations Network sent some Jets Nation writers to the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC this year. We’ll have game reviews and practice notes throughout the week around the Network and on twitter @nhljetsnation, @kevinmccart, and @brettmartinlive
After a 7-2 drubbing of the Oilers prospects, the Jets Young Stars boasted the best goal differential after two games of any team in the tournament – a combined 12-5. The Oilers lost every game in the tournament, and I have commented elsewhere that their forward group is pugilistic and under-skilled. They brought seven left handed defencemen to the tournament, and the Jets played the worst of their three underwhelming netminders. It’s important in these moments that we put the boxcars and the results on the back burner and consider the process.
It was the tale of two games for the Jets, who dominated possession and zone time through two periods and out-shot the Oilers 26-21 through 40. During the second period the Oilers adjusted their forecheck to put the second man in the first passing lane instead of on the puck and the Jets started struggling to transition. Added to the change of possession was the Jets moving to a trap system in the third, which did little to stop the Oilers preferred dump and chase system. The Oilers also changed their powerplay to a funnel in the third (check the Oilers Nation post for details). that the Jets didn’t adjust to. The result? A final 20 minutes in which the Jets were out-shot 17-2, and out-scored 2-1.
System and Team Play
The Jets evolved their defensive system this game to go from a centre-low game to a strong-side overload that looks similar to their NHL system. In this case, the centre works in a triangle that goes from the front of the net out to roughly each face-off dot. He pressures the side boards while the winger stays high and the defenceman stays low. The idea is to prevent a cycle from developing by not giving any uncontested space on the strong side, which means the side with the puck. It forces the play to a covered defenceman (dangerous) or to the corner where the Jets defender can quickly close, pin, and escape (in theory). Olsen was especially effective in this system, and read his assignment very well. Petan and Scheifele didn’t make any obvious mistakes to my eye, while Lowry occasionally sunk too deep toward his net and pursued too low in his own zone.
The Oilers used a collapse system in the defensive end, designed to always keep teams out of the middle lanes and also keep Oiler players between the puck and the net. It was their goaltender Philippe Cadorette that made that plan such a dramatic failure. The Jets kept a triangle offence with a two-man cycle and F3 high. Much like game 1, they had a lot of time at the top of the zone with which to generate chances and adjust the pace of the offence, and also used the perimeter to ‘stir’ for lack of a more descriptive term. The challenge of a collapse is that you’re stuck outside and shooting into a crowd. To pull it apart, the forwards rotate. The defenders are patrolling a perimeter and have to choose when to maintain and when to break off pursuit. Mistakes leave open shooting lanes. For the Jets, it meant a lot of zone time and point shots, but actually all their goals came in transition.
Petan was particularly capable at stirring the Oilers defenders, and was able to draw Oilers out of position from the side boards, while Blomqvist just ran roughshod through the middle all game and was a handful for the Oilers. Trouba let off a number of shots from the point, but often with his head down and was blocked more times than not. The pair of Kichton and Kostalek did a better job of getting shots through, and got creative about using misdirection to slide or slap the puck to Jets forwards on fake shots as well.
The Jets forecheck remained the same, with a classic strong-side pressure 1-2-2 designed to take away the safest board play and force the play up the middle (for F2) or around the back in a reverse (when F3 would activate and become F1). In defending transition, F3 (the highest forward) isolates the strong-side lane so that his defenceman can close his gap in the neutral zone.
The Jet Powerplay remained an umbrella and their PK the 1-3 with the second forward in the middle and loose.
Olsen had a very strong game in the neutral zone and in transition. The Jets ran a fast break in which the centre followed the left winger up the left boards and then made a brief horizontal cross at the blue line for the right defenceman to hit him with a long pass for zone entry in the middle lane. Olsen scored off this play on a pass from Trouba, but it was run with every centre. Kichton occasionally made the pass instead of Kostalek (who was on the right on paper) by carrying up the middle like Visnovsky, and it was the forward’s choice as to whether to deflect the pass in deep and chase or to receive and carry.
#60 Eric Comrie: We should start with the fact that he made 36 saves on 38 shots (ignore the game sheet), and had to deal with traffic for much of the third period. That’s a great result for any goalie. In my opinion, though, Comrie showed everything we feared about his game. He made saves look harder by being too deep in his net. For example, a Fyten (52 Oilers) shot late in the first showed remarkable glove quickness, but Comrie was too deep and at the wrong angle. Could have been a less threatening chance. He fought rebounds on shots to his blocker side. He scrambled a lot. He was scored on over his shoulder by Kyle Platzer early in the 3rd, after which the Oilers were going high on Comrie for the rest of the game. It’s only one game, and the Oilers have a choppy offence, which makes tracking the play a challenge for goalies. Still, his size and angles meant Comrie was showing off his athletics a little too often against the worst forward group at the tournament. That said, his athletics were more than up to the challenge so maybe I’m writing “I’m a dummy” on Tim Thomas’s scouting report.
#3 Jacob Trouba: I’m going to earn some enemies in the blogosphere for reporting on Trouba’s game, but keep in mind he’s the one who played it. His 1st game showed him trying to do too much, getting frustrated, and making decisions according to emotion. I said he needed to work on discipline in his choices. His second game added another series of more worrisome questions about his decision making. His skating his very high level but shy of elite at this tournament, he uses his frame well, he’s a thunderous open-ice hitter, and strong along the boards. His technical passing skill is high in that he reads lanes well and gets the puck to the right position for the recipient. His physical skills are not in doubt, though his shot is poor among defenders at this tournament.
Near the start of the game he had a play where he stared at a loose puck behind the net that was clearly his and didn’t communicate to Morrissey or Comrie who both looked at him as he floated. Morrissey went in to get it, and Trouba didn’t fill the attack lane (i.e. pick the forward), allowing the Oiler forechecker to get a long running start for a huge hit on 36. He made transition passes to covered forwards with little sense for step two of that breakout plan, shot almost exclusively with his head down, and lost containment on players by not anticipating where the play was headed.
Doesn’t find space well, but is almost always yelling for the puck when he doesn’t have it, despite not being open or not having a clear next play. He had another shift in the first in which he skated the puck through his own low slot with a checker on him, later checked his own forward up ice, and later again performed an escape right into pressure. In each case, he recovered extremely well. His athletics, after all, are way above the level of the tournament. But he’s playing reactionary hockey at a tournament below professional level. When the play breaks down, as on Kichton’s poor change in the third that left Kostalek 2-on-1, Trouba is your man. In that case, he charged in from the bench and even leaning could still lift the second forward’s stick. Very small sample size, and we can hope he put his brain in neutral for a tournament that’s below him. Still, there’s no shame in a 19 year old not being dominant at a very complex position.
#36 Josh Morrissey: Another strong outing. Didn’t shy away from contact and took hits to make plays. Even tried to line up a few open-ice hits and rocked the slippery Marco Roy along the boards. His holding penalty was a high stick he grabbed and threw from his face. Skating less on display in game 2, but still clearly plus. It was a more structured game for the Jets and Morrissey adapted well, showing his vision and decision making. He’s very calm with and without the puck. Top end powerplay work owing to excellent blue-line skills and sense. Anticipates well, never seen chasing the play. Not strong enough, even for this tournament in some ways, but his exceptional balance means he’s just ineffective at contact, rather than taken out of the play by it. An extremely dirty hit on Houck from behind when Houck didn’t have the puck. Deserved to be tossed. The Oilers brought a goon-ish team that made everyone mad, but inexcusable in a friendly tournament.
#53 Jan Kostalek: Fewer risks taken by Kostalek while playing with Kichton. Adjusted his game well to a more roaming partner. Threw some good hits, but was mostly out-muscled in that area of the game by the Oiler hit squad. Maintained the best gaps on the team consistently. Puck movement strong again this game. Great awareness in the offensive zone – at one point making a fake shot / slap pass to Kosmachuk in the slot for a tip on. It’s a common enough play, but not in a shot tournament without much practice time. Played in all three disciplines. Struggled with Funnel powerplay by Oilers at end – couldn’t move bodies from in front – but did have a big open ice check and blocked shot on one PK shift in the 3rd. The most impressive part of Jan Kostalek is how complete his game is already. The biggest concern is his high-risk, high-reward mentality, especially at the offensive blue line.
#59 Brenden Kichton: A real bright spot for the Jets in the tournament. Has a very interesting sense for the game, choosing higher-reward plays consistently. At one point he took a hard hit from Kessey not to simply make a play with the puck, but to make a cross-ice pass to the weak side while the Oilers were flooding strong side. He could have avoided the hit and made a simple lead man pass, but that forward would have had to dump and the reward of possession was apparently worth it. His skating is very quick and technically dazzling, but lacks stability in transition, meaning he can’t fight for a puck while making pivots. To avoid this, he keeps looser gaps and plays the puck. Will be a problem at pro levels. Looks calm under pressure and with the puck. His blue line walk is at a high NHL level. Uses misdirection and body cues all over the ice to gain space, which he eats up with an exceptional range. Finds offensive space extremely well.
#64 Cody Sol: I can start to tell which types of players I prefer as the tournament, and Sol isn’t one of them. My bias against ogres aside, I think the challenge with Sol is that his speed problem is also a mental problem. He hesitates to make plays that require more than an adjusting stride, which, of course, makes him even more late to the play. He leaves the front of the net with trepidation and often slows up short of the corner to keep the play in front of him. Couldn’t execute the defensive overload well as a result. He doesn’t close out lanes, either, allowing forwards to move into the zone and establish possession, but preventing them from posterizing him. The result is that for a big man, he makes very little contact and does a lot more pushing and pulling than hitting. Other large men do it well (Hall Gill), but Sol will have to add to his awareness on box out plays and forward movements to control the play that way. Was also late to a loose puck in the high slot that could have been a goal had he confidently stepped into it. Limited range, poor puck skills, below average technical skating. Very strong.
#82 Zach Bell: In contrast, Zach Bell patterns his game on making contact frequently. Was surprisingly effective for an effort-first player, but rarely controlled the opposing forwards with his strength, electing instead for a single moment of bruising impact. Slow feet, turns poorly. Blocked a shot on the PK, then got beat by Schaber wide because he was slow to transition backward. I thought that moment was emblematic of his game.
#38 Nic Petan: The Oilers more aggressive system meant Petan was given less space to make pretty plays.
And yet, Petan was still the best player on the ice.
His drop shoulder deke across the net for the first goal was silky smooth, but the real play came a moment before when he transitioned from F3 to F1 on a reverse around the back of the net and forced the Oilers defenceman (Leach) away from the safer boards. Theoret attacked with Leach now pinned in a lane and turned the puck over. Another dazzling moment was his move on Davidson 2-on-2 with Scheifele in which he drew him in with a change of pace move and then popped past him and delivered a perfect pass to a cutting Scheif. That play, too, started on his defensive backcheck against Schaber, when he pressured him into a useless part of the ice and then took the puck when Schaber tried to change course. Mostly not afraid to take contact, although he had to take a lot more of it in this game. His two-man cycle with Lipon is excellent and the two have real chemistry. Another tremendous game.
#46 JC Lipon: A much more tame game for Lipon – likely a choice by the coaches. Still showed above average to plus speed, a fondness for contact, better puck skills than I expected, and good chemistry with Petan. A team player in the best ways. Took a transition pass from Trouba with the Oilers’ defender stepping up to clock him at the red line. Received the pass despite the danger, calmly made a one-touch play into space for Petan, and then worried about dodging the hit. One of the better Jets in the neutral zone with and without the puck. Trusts his teammates already.
#47 Lukas Sutter: My first sighting of Sutter was watching him on the first penalty kill of the game. Sutter challenged the point, the Oilers’ defender moved the puck past him, and then Sutter literally chased the Oilers’ defender to the red line by the benches to make a hit while the Oilers went 4-on-3 against the Jets. The pressure on this player must be intense at this point, but Sutter has responded mostly with an undisciplined tournament showing limited creativity or anticipation. Attacks the net well on occasion, and his goaltender interference penalty was a reputation call after a strong, clean play by Sutter to take the puck to the net. Not big or fast enough to create space for others, but enough to keep up. Rotates freely according to where the puck is rather than where the other 9 players are.
#55 Mark Scheifele: Another game in which Scheifele tried to do too much. Not using his linemates in this tournament well. Had one PP shift with Lowry and Petan that was promising but ended with Lowry getting a penalty. Takes contact like a professional, collecting his body together and letting the boards take the impact. Has a huge, powerful frame that defencemen can’t handle 1-on-1, a soft touch on the puck, and a rocket of a shot. He makes strong reads on the play and is rarely out of position. We can make up a narrative about trying to do too much to impress or dominate that fits what I’m seeing, and coach Keith McCambridge said as much, but for now let’s just hope he snaps out of it in pro-camp.
#56 Adam Lowry: This guy has pro written all over him. Needs more time to build confidence in a multi-tool approach to scoring. Powers his gigantic body down the ice with precision, balance, and intention. Rarely out of position, and anticipates the play well. Strong technical skating for his size, and one of the very few kids at this tournament who skates with real power from an efficient, compact stride – added to obvious body control and upper body strength. Puck skills are above average, shot is used too infrequently, but strong and quick to release. Very excited to see him graduate to the professional level.
#57 Jean Dupuy: First note about him reads, “Not noticed 57 Blue” late in the first. The second and final entry reads, “Fight, 47W/57B.” The Oilers team site claims he asked Bilke for that fight before the game even happened. Not an impressive showing, even in comparison to Verrier’s underwhelming game one.
#61 Austen Brassard: This guy is Jeckyl and Hyde, usually meaning he lacks focus in his role. In the defensive end, he made a play in the second in which he switched to the wrong wing on the overload and didn’t read that the play was obviously going to go to the player he just left wide open. He then tried to do a sliding block in the middle lane while physically touching another Jets player who was already there and in spite of there being no shot, and eventually was late to his point where the play was always headed. In the offensive zone, occasionally spent shifts chasing.
On other shifts he attacked through dangerous lanes, used his team mates, and generally understood where the puck was going. His neutral zone play is erratic, sometimes involving big hits he crosses the zone for, sometimes involving backchecks with him on the right side of the puck. Average skater for the tournament. Strong, but not feared. Average shot for the tournament. A ’93 birthday with limited scoring and focus. Has an ELC in his pocket, but it’s a tough road ahead.
#65 Axel Blomqvist: A statement game for the youngest player on the roster. It’s understandable why Blomqvist wasn’t drafted – a below average skater at this tournament owing to a slow, sloppy stride, big but not especially physical, puck skills but not a wizard. He has a bit of a Swedish Dustin Penner thing going on, and for some reason the NHL hates Dustin Penner. It wasn’t just Blomqvist’s two goals, one a rebound while driving the net and the other a deke preceded by an anticipation steal and followed by a Hulk Hogan-esque listening gesture at the Oiler-friendly crowd. He used his body to protect the puck and drive the net. He refused to be denied pucks in board battles. He attacked through dangerous lanes all game and supported the puck very well. Kosmachuk’s second goal came on Blomqvist driving wide, drawing Musil and Leach to him to try to contain him, causing some havoc and driving the net again – this time without the puck. When the puck bounced to Kosmachuk, both Oiler defencemen were pushing Blomqvist in front. If he had fought anyone, he’d have 5 ELC contract offers today.
#68 Ryan Olsen: An impressive tournament so far for an under-rated player. Olsen looked comfortable in the Jets overlaod system, covering back door to collect a bad rebound in the first when two Jets defencemen found themselves on the same side the net. Scored a D-splitting breakaway (credited to Trouba who made the pass). Looks comfortable with contact, good range, average technical skating. He has pro-size and plays a very mature, complete game at a young age.
#72 Scott Kosmachuk: I commented after game one that it looked like the coaching staff wanted the offensive-minded Kosmachuk to be a different player. When he undressed Martin Marincin in the first, his role changed. He added a second just to make it clear. The goal on Marincin was interesting. The Oilers had gone to a collapse system for this game, so Marincin is supposed to give a wide gap and his partner (Klefbom) is supposed to read the underneath lane in the event Marincin gets beat. Instead, Kosmachuk got around Marincin, but the 6’5” Slovak slapped the puck on his stick and it bounced as he approached the goal. Kosmachuk actually whacked the puck into the top corner, rather than shot it.
His second goal was similar – slapping a bouncing puck into the top corner, this time from 30 ft instead of 3. Looked dangerous on the powerplay, passed well, used the space at the top of the zone to change the pace of the offence and allow his team to establish possession. Good hockey sense everywhere in the rink, but is clearly more animated in the offensive zone.
#83 Yasin Cisse: I wasn’t very kind to Cisse in my prospect review during the summer. It was my first viewing of the often injured winger, and it was much more impressive than his pedigree suggested. An above average speed with room for growth as he has a galloping first three strides that could be adjusted to be more compact. Strong and physical, but didn’t chase the play and made patient reads. I expected a bit of head hunting, but he was a much more mature player than that, picking his moments and playing to win. Fought Kessey for running around and showed his strength by throwing an Oiler to the ice in the first. But more excitingly, killed penalties, played strong positional hockey in the defensive half-court, and tracked his man well in defensive transition. Puck skills not impressive, but not lacking either and the puck didn’t die on his stick once to my eye. Could make noise at pro camp, and will be a useful addition in St John’s.
#88 Michael Theoret: Good forecheck and pass on the Petan goal. His own goal was just another tap in from the top of the crease, like his first in the tournament. Very opportunistic offensive player. Not much anticipation or creativity with the puck. A big body, but didn’t show much strength. A below-average skater for the tournament and it meant he was mostly ineffective, despite his boxcars. Capitalizes on mistakes, so short tournaments play to his strengths.