Well, I finally have some time to sit down and write about what I saw this week at the Saskatoon Blades camp scrimmages.
On Thursday I had the tour of Credit Union Centre and had the chance to meet the team staff, coaches and even some players, including Washington Capitals prospect and former Blade goalie Braden Holtby. The dude is a freaking monster and he had a great season last year, his first as a pro.
Following the tour and meet and great I had the chance to catch some game action. Team Black was doing battle with Team Blue and I came away impressed with several of the players:
- Sena Acolatse, D/W. He was acquired last year from Seattle and played 30 games with the Blades. He is one of several 20 year olds still eligible for the team this year as well. He was playing on D for Team Blue. I liked the composure he had with the puck. He was patient and made several nice outlet passes.
- Ryan Olsen, C. Blades first round pick in the 2009 Bantam draft. He’s a big kid at 6’2 and 180 at the age of 16. He has grown 3 inches and put on 35 pounds since his draft day. He had very strong numbers in midget hockey in BC this past season. I think he has a major future in the WHL once he gets more comfortable. He looked a bit cautious at times on the ice, but you can see he has the natural skills to play a big role in the future on a WHL team.
- Josh Nicholls, W. He had a strong year for the Blades last year. Strong enough to be drafted by the Maple Leafs 182nd overall in June. He is a big kid standing at 6’2, and looks to have added some weight since last season. He was under 175 last year, but is up over 185 now according to the team roster issued at camp this week. He showed on several occasions that he has goal scorers hands, scoring a hattrick during the showcase scrimmages. Watch for him to improve his offensive totals.
- Jesse Willingham, D. Big, tall defender who played midget AAA in Saskatoon last season with the Blazers. Not sure if he fits onto this year’s blueline, but he looked more than capable of being a guy who will somewhere down the road if he gets his chance. Impressed with his range and his fluidity for a guy his size.
- Lukas Sutter, C. The guy is thick. He’s up over 6 feet tall but weighs in just under 205. He also had the chance this month to play in the Czech Republic at the Ivan Hlinka tournament for U18’s. He played for the American team as a dual citizen and won a silver medal. The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Duncan Siemens-led Canadian squad took home the gold. He is already a good two way player and will be more than ready to play a checking/grinding game for the team this season. He also has the hands to go with the frame. He was among the leading scorers in the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
- Darian Dziurynski, W. Was probably the best player during the scrimmaging I got to see. He was one of the older players there, and you could tell. He was faster and stronger than most of the other players and made several nice plays to create chances. His shot also stood out to me, strong and accurate.
- Brent Benson, C. I came away most impressed with Benson. The game was his. He was in on two very nice scoring plays, that he created himself. On one occasion he cut across the slot, kicked the puck up to his feet and slid a nice cross-crease pass for a tap in goal, all while falling down. Great hand eye co-ordination and puck skills, as well as hockey sense. You can see he knows where to be on the ice at what times. He is still a bit small standing only 5’11, but is steady at just under 190 pounds. I also think he will be relied on for offense this year, and has the skills to chip in.
Rosters have been set for the intrasquad game that goes tomorrow. It features the final 42 players in camp. The game goes in Martensville at 1PM. Wish I could attend, but will have to follow the team from a distance for the time being.