Tonight I was fortunate to take in the Guelph storm – London Knights game live at Bud Gardens. I was really looking forward to this game to get a long look at Ryan Merkley up close again, draft eligibles Cam Hillis, Owen Lalonde and also Oilers Prospect Dmitri Samorukov. Not to mention all the draft eligible Knights in Evan Bouchard, Liam Foudy, Alec Regula and Nathan Dunkley. Here’s my recap:
London won the game 5-2 despite being down 2-1 with 4 mins to go. They got a PP late so pulled their goalie, scored to tie it then scored again a minute later and topped it off with two empty net goals. Alex Formenton and Evan Bouchard were the best players on the ice hands down but the Knights had plenty of guys that showed well. Formenton who has made tremendous strides since last year looks like he is going to be a heckuva NHLer. He has ELITE speed, ELITE skill, he’s physical and just so damn smart. Bouchard, continues to play like a seasoned vet. His two biggest assets are his poise and his ability to get his shot thru. It’s weird but I don’t see a lot of upside with him it almost seems like he has already peaked as he is mature beyond his years. He had a goal and 3 assists (2 of his assists were shots from the point that were tipped in) +3 with 6 shots. No big deal.
Courtesy of LFpress.com
Liam Foudy is a another guy who continues to impress with his blazing speed and terrific work ethic. I projected him in the 3rd round earlier based on several scouting services but at this point I find it hard to imagine he makes it out of the 2nd round now. He’s been on a 2 month tear. He’s fast, relentless, creates a pile of chances and never gives up on plays. He plays on the PP & PK. He reminds me so much of Formenton last year but is further ahead in his development than him I think at this point now. That’s a scary thought because Formenton is a dominant player this year. I’m not sure the Oilers will be targeting LH Centers in this draft but if they are serious about adding guys with a ton of speed and skill – Foudy fits the bill.
For Guelph, Isaac Ratcliffe was their best player by a mile. The London native who is a 2nd rd pick of Philadelphia last year clearly looks like an NHLer. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s skilled and he can skate. Every time he’s on the ice he’s making things happen. The rest of the Guelph team tonight however underwhelmed greatly. (Of note: Cam Hillis did not play) . I was specifically paying attention to Ryan Merkley & Dmitri Samorukov who at times were paired together. I scribbled down a bunch of notes every time they were out. Here’s what I saw:
Courtesy of GuelphStorm.com
Ryan Merkley – I thought Ryan Merkley tonight was borderline awful. In fact, this isn’t the first time I have thought that watching him live or on TV. If I had more time I wish I could show you his game shift by shift. Clearly, he can skate and he has great passing ability but boy is his decision making questionable and the attitude I keep hearing about? I saw and heard it up close. He swears A LOT on the ice and always seems to be visibly frustrated on the bench. Terrible body language and a real lack of poise. I was so disappointed of his performance (yet again I might add) I think at this point it is safe to say I wouldn’t draft him in the 1st round for sure and maybe not at all. Way too many Red Flags for me surrounding this player. It’s very possible he is nothing more than Anthony DeAngelo 2.0 in a best case scenario.
Offensively, he really didn’t do much tonight. A couple of weak wristers from the point, earned an assist chipping a puck over to a teammate but also had 3 or so bonehead passes or plays at the blueline resulting in offsides each time. Didn’t register a shot till halfway thru the 3rd period. On the PP you could tell that was where he was most comfortable and engaged. He made a few nice passes there but he still holds the puck too long trying to walk around the entire team one of which led to a 2 on 1 shorthanded chance the other way. While Bouchard looked like a bonafide Top 10 pick, if you didn’t know who #6 on Guelph was you would have just assumed he was maybe a late round pick at best.
Defensively, Merkley is pretty much a waste of space back there. I hate to say things like that regarding prospects but he is such a soft, disinterested player playing defence it really makes me wonder why he doesn’t just play forward. I counted at least half a dozen times where he actually avoided the puck or skated away from his Defensive partner altogether in his zone letting him fend for himself. Does a poor job at puck support for his dman and when he does get the puck he’s looking to get rid of it fast before he takes a hit. He literally looked like he didn’t want to have anything to do with the puck in his own zone it was bizarre. He tried a couple of stretch passes that didn’t work, got easily pushed around by guys like Foudy and did a poor job of defensive reads.
Overall, it was pretty much a piss poor effort from a guy considered the biggest enigma in the draft. Don’t get caught up in the stats folks, this guy is nowhere near an NHLer right now and may never get there in my opinion.
Courtesy of GuelphStorm.com
Dmitri “Dima” Samorukov
There’s not a lot to say about Dima’s game that I haven’t already said here.
Like Merkley, Dima likes to join the rush and get involved offensively. He is a good skater and has good power on his shot though accuracy is an issue. I counted 5 or 6 missed shots from him and the boxscore shows he only had 1 registered SOG. His passing was hit and miss nothing of significance there. Really, he wasn’t a threat offensively at all.
Also like Merkley, he shows a real lack of desire to play effective defence. Physically, I didn’t see a single hit from Samorukov. He’s a lazy stick checker. On the PK instead of fighting for position or clearing his man out in front he does this thing where he gives up position easily but turns sideways and tries to hook the stick of the defender LITERALLY EVERY TIME. Several turnovers in his zone, several poor reads. Guys got behind him regularly. ZERO intensity he was just kinda standing there all night playing zone a lot while swiping at pucks with his pokecheck. Very disappointing as at times last year he was a real physical force defensively. That part of his game is all but gone now it appears.
Overall, as I mentioned nothing really changed from the last time I saw him a month or two ago. I do not consider Samorukov a bonafide Oilers prospect despite the offensive skill. Too often he lacks intensity, consistency and an overall desire to perfect his craft instead just looks like a player going thru the motions. He is just another example of a guy with some skill but no will in my opinion.
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