Quick Hitters: Five Thoughts on Game 1 Between Team OHL and Team Russia

By Bryan Thiel (@BryanThiel_88)

The CHL moved to 3-0 vs Team Russia in the 2015 CHL Canada Russia Series on Thursday night with a 3-0 win in Owen Sound.

Spencer Watson (Kingston) finished with two goals, while Dylan Storme (Erie) had a goal and an assist as they formed a deadly top line for Team OHL.

Here are five more quick thoughts on Thursday’s win:

1) Lawson Crouse (Kingston) was the third member of that line and he looked like a guy who knew what he had to do to make Team Canada. That makes sense, because he’s one of only a handful of candidates across the CHL to return from last year’s team. Crouse was flying around from the first whistle creating chances and laying hits. He was captain of Team OHL on Thursday, something he called a huge honour. Before the game, Hockey Canada’s head scout Ryan Jankowski talked about expectations for Crouse and the fact that it’s a balancing act for the Panthers’ prospect one year to the next: Not only will Crouse have to show the same intangibles he did when he helped Canada win gold, but also steady improvement in other facets of his game. Hockey Canada is probably pretty happy with what they saw out of him last night.

2) Travis Konecny (Ottawa) also had a strong showing last night. He flashed speed, skill and tenacity with the puck that earned him a couple of good scoring chances. A player with some positional versatility, Jankowski mentioned how it’s an asset for a player to have the ability to move around and give the team options. The future Philadelphia Flyer also got the chance to reunite with Crouse, as the two are childhood friends and called the opportunity special; he even laughed a bit when he looked up during a stoppage to see that Sportsnet had dug up a photo of the two of them for use on the broadcast. When asked about the possibility of going to Team Canada’s camp together and maybe even representing their country, both acknowledged that it would be a fun opportunity but that there’s also plenty of work that needs to be done before it’s a reality.

3) Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie) ended up making 25 saves for the shutout last night, but he didn’t have to sweat out too many of them. There were a few opportunities where Blackwood had to stand on his head, but for the most part he played a quiet-yet-confident game – the kind he says he has to play to make Canada take notice. A second round pick of New Jersey this year, Blackwood is hoping to be part of an open competition in Canada’s crease. A shutout against Russia (the OHL’s first full-game shutout in nearly a decade) certainly helps his case, especially with how easy the team in front of him made things.

4) In terms of who may represent the OHL on the blueline this year, it’s a wide open competition with no clear-cut favourites. Roland McKeown (Kingston) played well and received plenty of ice time in all sorts of situations and Travis Dermott (Erie) stood out with a physical edge that didn’t take him out of too many plays. Physicality is something Canada is looking for, but Jankowski says it doesn’t have to define the player. He’s also looking for defenders that have a level of balance to their game and can both skate back comfortably to the puck in their own end and bring it up the ice. With that in mind, two interesting names to watch in Windsor will be sophomores Victor Mete (London) and Jacob Chychrun (Sarnia).

5) The fourth line consisted of three players in their second OHL seasons. Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian from Mississauga played with Taylor Raddysh (Erie), and the trio would have ended up on the score sheet if Bastian’s goal wasn’t waved off because of a kicked puck (there was also plenty of contact with Russian goalie Maxim Tretiak on the play). The three draft eligibles didn’t get too much action throughout the night, but McLeod did get some time on the penalty kill as early as the first period, and they put some pressure on Russia with a good shift late in the second where they were able to control the puck. Eight 2016-eligible players will have played for Team OHL once the series shifts to Quebec, which indicates there’s a bright future for Ontario internationally.

Extra, Extra!: Owen Sound put on a great show last night. The Bayshore was filled up and loud. The crowd booed the London Knights logo during an in-game promo, so it would have been interesting to see them cope with a Knight on Team OHL. Hometown favourite Damir Sharipzyanov was a starter for Russia and got the loudest cheer of the night.

Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.


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