Seattle Thunderbirds (3)
Nolan Volcan – C/LW – Competitive as per usual. Quick to pressure defenders in the neutral zone, catching them when slow on the transition. Keeps his feet moving over the course of the game, but has the odd off shift which is normal. Good positionally in the defensive zone which helps his line quickly transition out of the zone. Maneuvers them through the neutral zone and is quick to attack the net upon entry, but intelligent enough to slow the play down at times and work down the wing. Awareness in all three zones is one of his top qualities given how well he anticipates passing plays. Works well down low, good use of the wall to make quick plays. There is no better model of a “tenacious forward.”
Dillon Hamaliuk – LW – Big forward, fluid skater in terms of speed/agility and his ability to cover ice in all three zones. Played through physicality well, assuring the puck got past the attacking player, taking some big hits in the process but preventing bad turnovers. Net front on the power play, but as his puck skills and puck control improve he will be more than capable of playing in a larger set up role. The defensive zone he was on par with what’s expected of most players his age in that he played well in the system positionally and was fairly quick to pressure the puck carrier. Going to be a good WHL player (top 6 forward), but clearly has some pro potential.
Austin Strand – RD – Easily one of the top defenders in the WHL. Calming presence every time he touches the ice. Maintains good defensive positioning and can be physically dominant when it comes to clearing the front of the net as well as in puck battles low in the zone. Effortless passer, delivering heavy and accurate passes, however forwards tonight tended to be a step behind or were unable to reel it in. Excellent along the blue line in terms of mobility and adjusting his angle to the puck carrier. Scored off a slap shot on the power play on his off side which he got off quick. He’s one of the best in the league and there are very few who have played as much hockey as Strand.
Edmonton Oil Kings (3)
Andrei Pavlenko – LW – Played well at times, becoming more confident in his skills, but appears to get a bit overzealous at times and can get caught out of position. He has speed, and accelerates quickly when he wants to get going. Leon Draisaitl-like skater in terms of top-heaviness, but still has a lot of power in his legs. Has good puck skills and good control in motion. Not an overly deceptive puck transporter and at times has tunnel vision, but he’s improved on that from the beginning of the year. Pavlenko is an okay prospect, he just needs to be a bit quicker on his situational reads in all three zones and more efficient in execution.
David Kope – RW – Limited ice time but played very well once again. Beginning to show some confidence in his skating abilities, making defenders keep up as he moved down the wall. The range he has with his stick given his long arms and height give him a huge advantage working down low in the defensive zone, and given how quick his hands are he creates good chances out front. His reach also is showing to be effective in the defensive zone in terms of taking away passing lanes. Given his quickness he’s able to pressure defenders quite quickly, limiting shots on goal from the point when he’s out there. He’s young, and like most young players he will play a fourth line role, but seeing him tested with 12-15 minutes alongside Trey Fix-Wolansky or Davis Koch would interesting.
Ty Gerla – LW – Played with some jump tonight, quick on the forecheck, keeping his feet moving all over the ice. Had a few quiet shifts, but overall was an effective player. Anticipated passing plays from the opponent well tonight and was quick to pressure and recognize passing lanes. Complimented his line mates well and played a heavier puck control game in the offensive zone, but struggled under pressure from some of Seattle’s bigger defenders. He’s been good this season, but still not sure what to make of what he’s going to be as a 19-20 year old, as he is still fairly young (1999-07-01) in terms of WHL age.