This past Saturday, I had the chance to see Michael McCarron’s London Knights
as they travelled to Barrie to take on the Colts in a rematch of the league
finals from last season. Although Montreal’s 1st rounder found himself in
a bottom line role throughout the game, he still managed to make a positive
impact on the game as his Knights defeated the hometown Colts 5-4.
McCarron started and spent a good chunk of the game centering Dallas 4th
rounder Gemel Smith and undrafted winger Brett Welychka on the Knights’ 3rd
line. However, after losing a shorthanded faceoff that yielded a goal
immediately thereafter, he was moved back to the wing for the latter stages of
the game. Also on the negative side, he took a checking to the head
penalty (on his next shift after losing that key draw). Barrie scored on
that powerplay as well. He also had a stint in the second period where he
was more interested in the rough stuff and not the actual play. However,
the same could be said for quite a few players on either side as this was a very
chippy affair that the officials lost control of at times.
Onto the good stuff though and there was more good than bad. McCarron’s
decision making was solid and he did well passing the puck to his wingers who
could then enter the attacking zone with speed. He had a good nose for the
net, generating a couple of quality chances on top of scoring a breakaway that,
for a time, made the game look out of reach. McCarron certainly won’t win
any fastest skater contests but given his size and Barrie’s team speed, he
certainly didn’t look out of place in that element.
After really scuffling to start the year, it looks like McCarron is starting
to find some consistency in his game. Over his past five games, he has six
points (2-4-6) and is also a +6 in that span. Don’t count on him seeing
big minutes down the stretch though as London is stacked up front; the only way
he is moving any further up the depth chart is if the injury bug strikes.
Instead of looking at some already-drafted players, I’ll comment on some of
the draft eligible prospects from this game. The Colts have a few players
Central Scouting. London only has one and he didn’t play (Christian
Dvorak, 68th among NA skaters) but there are some players from the Knights not
yet selected to look at.
D Aaron Ekblad (#3, NA skaters): We all know he’s going to be a top-5 pick
but he wasn’t on his game often in this one. He got a little too caught up
in the after-the-whistle stuff while in the 3rd period, he really struggled with
making the first pass out of the zone. I’ve seen him enough over the last
few years to know that this was a one-time below average game, it’s nothing to
be too concerned with.
W Brendan Lemieux (#38, NA skaters): I saw him a few weeks ago and was really
impressed. This game? I couldn’t have been more frustrated with him.
His head clearly wasn’t in it from the get-go. He had three minors and a
misconduct and was lucky to not be assessed three others (two for equipment
throwing and one for abuse of official). He has the talent to be a 2nd
round pick but it’s games like this (and this was not a one-time thing) that
will scare teams off. Teams looking for character players will stay away.
W Kevin Labanc (#88 NA skaters): He played better than he did in my first
viewing of him but the ranking still seems high. He has offensive skills
but is otherwise invisible out there and he doesn’t have the size or skating
ability to compensate. He’ll be a nice junior player in a year or two but
he isn’t worthy of a mid-round pick in my books unless he can really pick it up
down the stretch.
W Andrew Mangiapane (not ranked): Undrafted in the OHL Priority Selection,
Mangiapane is a player on the rise; he sits 3rd in OHL rookie scoring.
After being a fourth liner at the beginning, he has worked his way into a top
six role and doesn’t look out of place. He’s a bit on the small side but
given his rapid improvement, he may be worthy of a late round pick.
D Alex Basso (UDFA): Basso is no longer eligible for the draft but is an
offensive blueliner that will likely earn at least a minor league contract for
next season. A former teammate of Alex Galchenyuk, his skating is
impressive and he makes a good first pass out of the zone.
D Zach Bell (UDFA): He was a thorn in Barrie’s side all game long (especially
Lemieux’s). There’s nothing fancy to his game, he primarily hits and
blocks shots. That doesn’t get noticed as much at the junior level but
reliable stay-at-home blueliners are always in demand at the pro level.
G Jake Patterson (unranked this year, #20 NA G last season): Patterson wasn’t
tested early on as the Knights really controlled the play in the first two
periods. In the third period he was tested a lot more and didn’t fare
particularly well. He plays a butterfly style and he really likes to stay
on his knees. Although he has good numbers this year, I don’t see him
getting more than a rookie camp invite this year.
W Brett Welychka (unranked): He spent a good portion of the game alongside
McCarron and the two complemented each other well. He is a strong skater
and reads the play well. He isn’t the most skilled player on the ice but
his smarts got him an invite to Tampa Bay camp last year and someone will bring
him to their camp next offseason as well.