Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017-2018 Western Hockey League Preview(Team 14)

14.Vancouver Giants- I'd sincerely hope for the patrons that have taken the time to thoughtfully read over this season preview to date haven't found any one criticism too harsh but that's bound to change after finishing scouring through the profile of the G-Men. It's my position that under this Glen Hanlon managed regime has been grossly mishandled. The common belief as the off-season began was that former first overall pick Tyler Benson could present himself as the league's most attractive trade chip as 2017/2018 got under way but after the mind boggling acquisition of twenty year old Brad Morrison, the question in Langley that is now repeatedly getting asked is if the Morrison hauls signals a shift in philosophy and if Tyler Benson will spend the duration of his career with the Giants. If you would've posed this question to myself in early May I would've been blunt by unhesitatingly  stating a Tyler Benson trade(the Memorial Cup host Regina Pats were salivating) was inevitable and a proper retool around the enigma himself Tyler Popowich and 2016 Bantam Draft third overall selection Bowen Byram was in store but after all of this tomfoolery transpiring within the Giants administration I'm doubting any one of the tradeable chips get moved. Congratulations Vancouver, by staying pat you've secured the ranking of fourteen in a year that should've had you around nineteen or twenty. To repeat,I apologize for my direct criticism but I didn't feel as if providing a false sense of confidence to the Langley fan base was at all beneficial. If  a mediocre team is what you want.....well a mediocre team is what you'll get.

I've hopefully clearly illustrated my stance that the likes of Tyler Benson, Brad Morrison and Ty Ronning presuming he returns and I've heard nothing to the contrary should be dealt but none of the rhetoric put out by Glen Hanlon and coach Jason McKee is backing that narrative so instead we'll spend some time profiling the young pupils who will be here beyond this campaign. The opening saw me label Tyler Popowich an enigma so it's only fair that I elaborate on that.Any one who watches Tyler out on the ice knows the talent is undeniable but what residents of the Greater Vancouver area(is that what folks of Langley call themselves?) are seeing isn't meeting the eye when glancing the scoresheet. Additionally you can't use lack of playing time as an excuse as although I just cited a stubborness for not unloading some veterans particularly in the second half Coach McKee allocated reasonable minutes, reasonable enough that accuulating nine points will not cut it. Popowich was a standout with the Okangan Prep Academy but without knowing difintively I'm wondering if a late growth spur led to the style change he was forced to implement. The scouting report coming out of his draft was that he was a swift skater that excelled in creativity. In this instance the provided report greatly differs from the way he's forced to channel himself now. Giant fans, does that sound like anybody you might know,er...maybe your team captain? The comparables between Popowich and Benson are uncanny and I'm not for a minute suggesting their bantam numbers are similar because as we all know Benson received national praise going as high as receiving a shout out from TSN icon Bob McKenzie when Tyler was fourteen. Simply put, the Oiler prospect Benson has been called the second greatest Bantam from Alberta with only Ty Rattie surpassing him in reputation. Kids his age as Benson progressed to the dub eventually caught up with him and wrapping this back around to  Popowich, that's exactly what's been happening to him. To differentiate himself now it's important that he take lessons from his captain and implement a truculent brand of hockey because that's how he'll get noticed from NHL scouts in his draft year.As a general rule we see this time and time again where a player goes through minor hockey scotch free but reaches the Western Hockey League and doesn't know how to adapt. Against(insert any Surrey,BC minor hockey player here) he'll win a one on one battle in his sleep but when pitted against some of the Western Conference's stellar defenceman, Juuso Valimaki, Cal Foote and Chaz Redekopp to name a few he'll be taken to school and you best believe as his profile rises you won't see too many opposing coaches not respond back with their top pairings. Some time in the proverbial classroom will be of great benefit to him.
Continuing on the theme of Tyler's next on the docket is someone who received a cup of coffee with the club last season but will be looking to cash in on a double double this year in Tyler Ho. I hope I can get through penning my thoughts without growing tired of typing the name Tyler but this Prince George Cougar draft pick was the sticking point in negotiations at the deadline that ultimately saw Radovan Bondra head over to PG and I'm genuine in my approval of this trade as Hanlon and co made out like bandits. Assuming he does stick around the entire season but you truly never know with this organization then I think he immediately becomes a breakout candidate for this team. An interesting tidbit about Tyler, well there's actually a couple in that with his October 2000 birthdate he's not eligible until the 2019 draft and that piece of information alone insinuates the sky is the limit and if he can contribute consistently for the next two seasons which I have no doubt about then a first round bid won't be farfetched at all. Secondly, in addition to attempting to impress not only his own coaching staff and NHL scouts he's mindful of even a greater opportunity down the road, five years to be exact. Ho's family applied for a program sponsored by the Chinese hockey federation to attend a camp that has the goal identifying young talent for the 2022 Winter Olympic in Beijing. With Ho's Chinese ancestry and early inclusion on the Chinese hockey radar in a few years we may look back fondly and remember him as Giants star, NHL star and international pioneer for an infant hockey program.

It'll be up to the likes of Darian Skeoch, rising star Dylan Plouffe and incoming future franchise bluechipper in  Bowen Byram who comes in with assurances to fulfill a top four assignment to rectify what was a hot mess defensively. The Giants allowed a conference worst two hundred and ninety six goals against which can't be tolerated for a playoff aspiring unit. For starters and full dislcosure a struggling penalty kill isn't always due to an anemic d-core but the problem with the make up last year at least from my perspective was that it didn't bother hatching down on key assignments instead grew a penchant for running around recklessly and getting caught with numbers flying down the other way. In my viewings the two players most directly responsible for the aforementioned reckless nature were Skeoch himself and Marcus Kichton. In earlier previews I endorsed aggressive hockey because that breeds winning hockey but there are a multitude of cases where some of the league's greater defenceman such as Nolan Foote, using his name for a second time, won't hesistate to join the rush but only after the job is completed in their own end. Knowing when to assist the forwards is an art for and the Foote's and Josh Brooks's have mastered the craft but hopefully McKee and assistant Dean Chynoweth can accenuate the importance of playing physical but to play within yourself. As someone who could tell my hometown Pats were on the verge of something magical last season one of the names I was advocating to my friends as to who they should bring in for the playoff run was Skeoch. Purportedly well received in the locker room, he has earned the reputation as one of the feared defenceman with his monstrous hitting ability but as a 20 in this league and I suppose I should clarify that I'm assuming he'll win a job as an overager and really when looking at projected depth charts it's really a no brainer. In fact if the long awaited Benson trade ever does materalize then he's the logical replacement to fill the captaincy void. My plea to Darian is this, your reputation precedes you, players grow timid when engaging in the corner against you so use that your advantage. The sheer threat of being hit is more powerful then the hit itself and as a leader taking an egregious penalty kill knowing your squad kills penalties at a 72% clip is not advised. On a brighter note,does anyone else subscribe to the theory that a fault of National Hockey League teams is they tend to prematurely write off players from non playoffs in the second half of the season.It's the only plausible explanation for why Dylan Plouffe didn't have his name called! Purely unexplainable! While Skeoch exudes physical components that Plouffe and most other defenceman are envious of, it's Plouffe's polished repertoire at the tender age of eighteen that leaves me in amazement. I don't think I'm straying out of line by pronouncing Plouffe as the overall defensive M.V.P for the club a year ago. The one knock and likely the reason he was left undrafted professionally was because he has to pack more punch to his game. I can recite countless examples of kids who head home after their seventeen year old season concludes and come back a different looking player physically. A more recent example of this would be Medicine Hat Tiger Ty Schultz(jeez, another Ty). Throughout his first couple seasons Ty would routinely get pushed off pucks and wasn't strong enough to make up for his mistakes on the backcheck. Fast forward to a couple years later and Schultz protected the puck more confidently and Shawn Clouston could safely use him in any situation. With age comes experience and this is exactly why Giant faithful should expect more from a player that was already fairly spectacular. His hockey I.Q is through the roof and is already a silky smooth skater. Teams may have had apprehension this past June but NO chance he goes undrafted. Anchor this defence and he could go as high as the third round.

It's Ryan Kubic's job to lose but not necessarily by choice.You ask any WHL observer and the consensus there may have never been a year like this where the goaltender market is so thinned out. If a more enticing option comes along naturally you would see the Giants jump all over it but the truth is right now,he's the best option and that's sad state of affairs. An .895 save percentage at first glance doesn't look to good and what Ryan(and the coaching staff) are petitioning for is a sounder defensive structure which will have a ripple effect on his numbers.Barring a miracle this will be Ryan's last kick at the can in the dub so he should soak it all in.

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