Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2017-2018 Western Hockey League Preview(Team 4)

4.Moose Jaw Warriors: The Warriors must really hate the Canadian Hockey League's MasterCard Memorial Cup selection committee! You take one glance at the Moose Jaw Warriors  this year and you come away with the confidence that they're primed to take a run but are currently venturing down a slippery slope because how aggressive can you be knowing that your Eastern Division rival, the Regina Pats are the hosts of this year's National Championship and essentially have a free pass in making bold moves at the trade deadline with no immediate consequence. Any other year the Warriors confidently enter this campaign as the clear conference favourites. Maybe they still are but the road to the final won't be as smooth sailing as hoped.

I've went on record by stating the cut-off is at team six(Medicine Hat Tigers) for teams who realistically could rise to the top and capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup and out of these six contenders undeniably the Moose Jaw Warriors were hit the softest pertaining to the twenty year olds they lost to graduation. Josh Thrower and Matt Sozanski along with Thomas Foster who was brought over from the Vancouver Giants at the deadline were in no way shape or form impact players and in lieu of this there's a high retention level coming back to the Jaw which translate into pre built in chemistry and by virtue of this will eliminate those usual beginning of the season growing pains.Unlike last year where the overagers were patch work the group of three forwards set to fill leadership positions are all accomplished and all three barring injuries could surmount the seventy point plateau and  collectively could produce the highest offensive output nation wide. Those three of course are Jayden Halbgewachs, Tanner Jeannot and Brayden Burke and the interesting tidbit about these three is they all bring a different strength to the table. Tanner is an elite penalty killer that throughout last year grew exponentially in learning to position himself in the offensive zone. There's presumptively not another player on this Warriors roster that veteran coach Tim Hunter has done more for as two years ago you'd watch Tanner play and to put it bluntly he was a detriment to sustaining a rythym.  A classic case of someone that took a while to mature and define himself as a player and full credit goes out to Hunter. It's common practice to see someone have success in Bantam/Midget and then progress to Major Junior expecting to replicate previous results. Tanner needs to work for all the success he's been privy to an d there enlies the difference as two years ago he was complacent and wasn't committed to a well rounded game. Fast forward to now and that dedication has paid off by earning NHL rookie camp invites with Minnesota and Washington respectively the last two summers. It remains to be seen if he's bound for Canadian University hockey or whether he'll continue exploring professional opportunites but one thing is for certain, the fire power he has around him should lead to a career season far surpassing the sixty five tallied in 2016/2017. With Halbgewachs, I'd task anyone to find me a more exciting player in this league over Jayden. The way he plays is everything the hockey governing bodies coveted when the rules were changed to dissuade clutching and grabbing.In 2002/2003, a player enamored with his skill set  might channel success in junior hockey but the minute he turned professional he'd be buried in the minors as punishing old school defenceman such as Scott Stevens or Marcus Ragnarsson would've ate him for breakfast, there just wasn't an avenue fo a player like that. Regina will be getting the '17 Memorial Cup edition after last hosting the cup sixteen years ago and the reason I bring that up is because their was a player on the QMJHL champion Val'dor Foreur by the name of Brandon Reid,  a onetime Vancouver Canuck prospect that he resembles.It's the way he(they) cradles  the puck and displays a fearlessness by crashing the net at all costs that justifies the comparison. Much has been made over his anemic playoffs where he only accumulated five points in the series versus  Swift Current four of which were in one game but for fans of Moose Jaw reading this don't put too much stock into it as the true reasons for falling short were disciplinary issues and a red hot goaltender in Jordan Papirny. Could've he been better? Absolutely but for fans clinging to the disappointments rest assured that'll be short lived as a better measuring stick are the exploits visible to the regular season. One seven game stretch is an aberration And lastly with the profile regarding Brayden Burke, I have no idea nor do I care what went on behind the scenes spearheading his trade to Moose Jaw and regardless of what off-ice rules were broken the trade was viewed as  a clean slate for Brayden. I will say, as a general rule I think the work of Coach Hunter has been masterful but the one small  critique I need to vent on is why Burke and Halbgewachs weren't permanent linemates post trade as from the outset they appear to be tremendous compliments of one another.Halbgewachs propensity to drive the net would seem to match well to Brayden as he's someone that loves to coral the puck on his stick and favour the stretch pass and when asessing Halbgewachs robust speed you have to ascertain the notion that these two belong together and to harp on the criticism from my viewings Tim chooses to tinker with lines too much bordering on problematic. On the forwards I'll finish with this thought. Tanner Jeannot who I just finished describing has morphed into a well rounded stalwart but given his veteran status will be asked to assist the offensive cause and that has me theorizing if GM Alan Millar will look to bring in a nineteen year old defensively responsible to off-set the wave of creativity they possess. It's dependent on whether they will attempt to match wits with Regina. They definitely should.

I can't state definitively but it's my perception that Warrior loyalists seem to be divided over the upside of defenceman, Roblin native Josh Brook. Some have long internally questioned if Josh has the capability to headline the Friendly City's defensive core but if you read my brief snip it when I graded some teams NHL draft performance, I've always been a proponent of Brook's game and the Montreal Canadiens have secured the rights(2nd round,56th overall) to a polarizing figure who I project will be a contributing member of the red,white and blue in three seasons. Montreal has been desperate for a legitimate number one blueliner and when they finally found one Bergevin exchanged him for a power play specialist so go figure! There's honestly not a facet that Josh doesn't excel in. After it was quickly learned that Thrower and Sozanski would act as liabilities out on the ice and sixteen year old Jet Woo wasn't quite ready for primetime action, Brook and Dmitri Zaitsev, the second best Zaitsev to make his North American debut last year were perhaps prematurely thrust into the number one pairing. When I broke down Josh's game by game totals from a year one thing became abundantly evident.  In the first half there were fewer games where he was held scoreless and that's conducive to him being more mindful of increased responsbility in the second half. I sound like I'm contradicting myself here as throughout this preview I've repeated my disdain for the plus/minus category but the frustration moreso applies when examining players who played on mediocre teams but on a team like Moose Jaw who at worst was middle of the pack from January 13th onward there was only one game where he was in the negatives which equates to shoring up his structure. He's always been comfortable in the o-zone but the one thing I'm hopeful he worked on in the off-season(well maybe not too hopeful as I'm a Pat fan) is his shot. His shot last year would make Troy Stecher's look like a howitzer of a shot. If he can bulk up, the double threat of Brook(skating, defensive reliability) would then become a triple threat. I referenced that Jet Woo wasn't ready for primetime, well then again not many sixteen years old are but in his draft year scouts are going to flock Mosaic Place, if they can find a parking spot that is. At the under eighteen Ivan Hlinka I believe it was TSN's Craig Button who when analyzing Woo cited the comparison because of his skating to that of Duncan Keith. His skating for being that young is off the charts but to bestow such a heightened comparison is dicey territory because the pressure that adds to the young player is immense. With Brook and Zaitsev a lock to oversee the first pairing you could see Jet paired with the player I'm already coining 'Moose Mountain', 6'8 Oleg Sosunov. The jeckle and hyde pairin is perfect for Woo as if the scouting reports are accurate on the Ryazan,russia product then Sosunov is someone that is a caretaker on the backend but has no desire or aptitude to join the rush.  He didn't tally one single point last season and that should explain all you need to know. A scoreless season out of Oleg is par for the course but for Jet that would raise the red flag. Unless more transactions are imminent then he's almost certain to receive plenty of power play time on a stacked team thus will pad the totals. London Knights standout Bo Horvat in 2012-2013 wasn't necessarily a first round target for most NHL teams at the beginning of the season but after a strong campaign toppled by a deep playoff run he bustled himself to the thirteenth overall selection. Jet enters this season with ample fanfare but if he's a strong performer on a potentially Memorial Cup hockey club then what's projected top ten could improve to a top five lottery selection.

Let me be frank, those left in disgust over the 'abrupt' departure of twenty year goaltender Zach Sawchenko need a reality check. Sawchenko who had an admirable 3.32 career Goals Against Average with Moose Jaw and a two time Del Wilson Memorial Goaltender of the year finalist wasn't going to be brought back with the strength of overagers up front and made a decision to pursue an education early at the University of Alberta which should be commended. Not knowing the intracicies of what was completely behind the decision aside for being content with a new chapter in his life the writing was on the wall and likely wasn't comfortable with the possibility of being shipped off a teneous organization. At deference of the pending starter Brody Wilms even though I just finished saying the importance of Halbegwachs, Jeannot and Burke played a factor, the ability of Wilms was the final straw to reach the decision of going in this direction. Brody always looked up for the challenge in a limited role and I have complete faith that no future upgrade will be needed andhe can eloquently fill the large shoes left by Zach.

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