Saturday, December 31, 2016

Canada/U.S.A Observations

The Americans who I quickly determined the tournament's most complete today looked just like it today in what some would consider a dismantling versus Canada. The three S's: Speed,size and skill all favoured the Americans as today it was made abundantly clear that they did not need the Minnesota Miracle Man himself Gordon Bombay to propel the troops against Canada.

I think whichever side of the ledger Ducharme turned to between the pipes would've been viewed as a controversial decision. Connor Ingram is who received the nod but in retrospect Carter Hart would've been the apt choice as now he'll have to shake out the cob webs as I foresee no scenario where Ducharme can turn back to Ingram in the quarterfinals. The most staunch Ingram supporters will have you believe that he settled down as the game progress but the summary I took out of his performance was that he struggled handling the nerves early and nothing indicated we wouldn't be in for a repeat showing in whomever Canada draws in the all important quarters. I'm no goaltending expert and don't pretend to be one but what I was able to discern from Connor's technical ability is often times he stands too deep in the net and I lost count how many times the Americans, particularly Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway crashed the net without getting challenged in the crease area. Naturally Carter Hart entered this pinnacle contest peeved that the staff didn't show the confidence in his abilities. Well Carter lest not worry anymore, he'll be the individual all eyes will be pointed to on January 2nd.

Ray Ferraro the colour commentator for this prestigious championship stipulated on several occasions that Canada's advantage over the States was the speed game. Unless Ray and I were watching two different games, the decisive skating advantage gets awarded to the Americans. Taylor Raddysh is a shooter, not a skater but just because pristine skating isn't in your repertoire doesn't excuse not engaging in the competition. The four goal accolades that he received versus the Latvians was the worst thing that could happen to the player due to the fact that began to develop the mindset that everything will go in without moving his feet. Charlie McAvoy and Ryan Lindgren, two of the U.S.A's best defensive defenders take pride in positional work that when it comes to somebody like Raddysh they know that if they're in his face they'll have neutralized his one weapon, that being his shot. Against inferior opponents where there's more time and space available Taylor will flourish but pertaining to elite oppositition as we saw today it becomes perfectly clear why his name was ommited from the Summer Camp roster. On  a more positive note upfront, I loved the adjustment made by the coaching staff midway through the game flanking Tyson Jost alongside Dylan Strome and Michael McLeod. Strome for a lack of a better word was astute this afternoon but the one individual who really seized the increased icetime was Michael McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads. Prior to roster selection in the forums I was perusing the consensus appeared to be that Michael was renowned for his skating abilities but had NO offensive flare. At twenty eight points through twenty six games perhaps I let this false rhetoric cloud my judgment because from what I saw he is a player who possesses the proper amount of offensive creativity to fit in just fine with Jost and his former minor hockey teammate Strome. That's not to say Dubois was poor in this game. Wher Dubois thrives is with his legendary hand eye coordination and is a handful in front of the net on a power play. Goaltenders and opposing defenceman have to respect his ability to make seam to seam passes with little time and space because if not you get burned. Essentially he needs little room in the office to get to work By saying all of that I have yet to see a complete enough to justify the scorching Columbus Blue Jackets selecting him third overall in the 2016 entry draft.

As I've said in so many other words previously I just haven't been impressed with the complexion of this defence make up.  I analyze the list of d-man 1 through 7 and the missing toughness has been noticeable the entire tournament but specifically reared its ugly head today. The unit American head coach Bob compiled is monstrous to that of the Canadian entry so you begin to ask yourself, do we have the horses to beat the red, white and blue. The defenceman who held their own admirably today were Noah Juulsen and Thomas Chabot. Juulsen will always size up favourably against a group such as this because he grasps at asserting himself physically and because the Americans recripocate he'll always be the most important horse in the stable. Let's nor kid ourselves Juulsen has limitations offensively but the reason I was so impressed today is because he was the one guy who stood up to the Thompson's, Greenways and Harper's and didn't head back to the bench intimidated. When Phillipe Myers left a game with  a pirported serious injury, Jeremy Lauzon was asked so step up and fulfill a top four role and unfortunately for us Canadians he failed to live up to the billing. I've been awfully critical of Boston Terrier Dante Fabbro but maybe playing against five of his BU teammates woke him up as he actually showcased competent tendencies. For Fabbro, skating isn't his forte but the more big hits he's able to lay the better his overall game transitions to and I think once Ducharme scurries through the tape and presuming Myers can't go in the quarters(unknown as of this writing) I suspect we'll Fabbro supplant Lauzon on the depth charts.

Time for the game rankings....

1.Noah Juulsen(16)
2.Mathieu Joseph(36)
3.Thomas Chabot(19)
4.Michael McLeod(44)
5.Dante Fabbro(60)
6.Dylan Strome(33)
7.Tyson Jost(45)
8.Nicholas Roy(40)
9.Kale Clague(40)
10.Dillon Dube(61)
11.Pierre-Luc Dubois(39)
12.Anthony Cirelli(33)
13.Matt Barzal(33)
14.Julien Gauthier(34)
15.Jake Bean(53)
16.Blake Speers(38)
17.Taylor Raddysh(49)
18.Jeremy Lauzon(54)

Phillipe Myers-left the game early enough that he won't be included in my ranking
Mitchel Stephens-DNP

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Canada/Latvia Observations

While Pool A in the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship has made for dramatic theater, Pool B Canada's group has gone very well to form as Canada comfortably took care of the Latvians 10-2. The real test, the first real test will commence on New Year's eve day when they take on the United States of America.

In net, many have read into Dominique Ducharme's decision to start Carter Hart against the Latvians differently but the way I've interpreted the situation is that he'll run with the Carter the rest of the way.. A few different reasons why but essentially even in the exhibition series Hart was given the net solely in the intersquad games while McNiven and Ingram were left to battle it out for the back-up job. If they revert back to Ingram against the states I'll be more shocked then I would be if Rex Ryan lands another NFL Head Coaching job. I thought in the early going that Hart was solid when needed as the Latvians applied loads of pressure and whether it was fatigue or simply getting out skilled the true colors of Canada began to eventually shine as shots in the second and third periods were 26-15. I was personally indifferent pertaining to who I felt deserved the nod and aside from a couple late softies Hart did nothing to bring forth cause for concern for the coaching staff. For Latvia the starter Mareks Mitens looked stellar in the first and I perceived from the Latvian administration to yank Mitens after the fourth goal as sheer brilliance because as tournament goers are aware, the Super Bowl for Latvia is tomorrow against Slovakia as an appearance in the quarterfinals in dependant on securing the win. No sense exhausting Mitens in this meaningless at the time out of reach game.

In the game against Russia it would've been difficult to argue the assertion that the line of Tyson Jost-Nicholas Roy-Julien Gauthier was the most dominant threesome but in the last two games I've noticed timidness from Roy and Jost. I'll speak to Jost particularly and quite honestly a few of the Western Canadians on this team but for the purposes of focusing on forwards I find Tyson is playing hot potato with the puck and  for someone that possesses such high octane skill everyone and their grandmother Tyson can carry a line but he needs some confidence instilled in him Against the former Soviet Union he was all over the ice, a threat 5 on 5 and on the penalty kill. In this game v Latvia, too much north-south action without enough truculence. I referenced timidness from some if not most Western Canadians earlier and my conspiracy theory behind why this is due to the fact that with the tournament being hosted in Toronto/Montreal, their's an obvious comfortability factor for the Eastern Canadians on the roster and players like Jost  are still attempting adapt to unfamiliar conditions. One of the narratives of this game will naturally be the four goal performance from Taylor Raddysh and what some other forwards can take from Raddysh is just to get pucks to the net. The best example of this would be Seattle Thunderbird Matt Barzal who is illustrating flare with the puck but often it's a lot of weaving without purpose. If opposing defenders and goaltenders start respecting the shot threat then it will inevitably open up more time and space for the likes of the aforementioned Barzal and Dylan Strome.  They're scoring at a frequent pace which is a re-assuring sign for Hockey Canada but what internally concerns me is how they're manufacturing offence. The Americans are  a big, mean bunch that may look to prey on Canada's diminutive nature and pound the cycle thus creating odd man advantages that way. It's not necessarily that the Canadians are overly small, it's that some of the forwards that have been blessed with size, Michael McLeod and Pierre-Luc Dubois to name two are refusing to engage physically.

What this game and tournament have taught me is the Philadelphia Flyers have an embarassment of riches on defence. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim are the high draft picks that Flyer faithful clamours over however the undrafted, signed free agent in Phillipe Myers could be the best out of the bunch?Unquestionably Canada's breakout star,someone I didn't know a lot about but what stands out is his eagerness to ALWAYS jump into the rush and does so maturely and responsibly. His penchant to jump into the rush only works if certain forwards forego statistical capital and cover Phillipe's assignment, and in a hockey game like this that could prove difficult for teenagers. Noah Juulsen was a rock defensively. For a first period that was filled with turnovers Noah was the one constant that you knew would make a good first pass at no risk. Don't let the obscurity of the nation fool you, Latvia has a couple premier stalwarts up front in Connor Ingram's Kamloops teammate Rudolf Balcers and Martin Dzierkals and I formed the impression in thee early going that they were going to push the forecheck and Canada's D would have to be on their toes which they were for the second and  third periods. The one last thought about tonight's game I wanted to make is I've seen Kale Clague play out of Brandon several times and it donned upon me tonight that he has  a real accurate shot. If he could ever beef up his frame then the Los Angeles Kings have a nice prospect on their hands.

Ranking time....

1.Phillipe Myers(16)
2.Taylor Raddysh(32)
3.Blake Speers(22)
4.Julien Gauthier(20)
 5.Dylan Strome(27)
6..Thomas Chabot(16)
7..Noah Juulsen(15)
8.Pierre-Luc Dubois(28)
9.Matt Barzal(20)
10.Mathieu Joseph(34)
11.Kale Clague(31)
12.Michael McLeod(40)
13.Nicholas Roy(32)
14.Anthony Cirelli(21)
15.Dante Fabbro(55)
16.Tyson Jost(38)
17.Jeremy Lauzon(36)
18.Dillon Dube(51)
19.Jake Bean(38)

Mitchell Stephens(DNP)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Canada/Slovakia Observations

In game two in what I'll consider a series in which I chronicle each Canadian game at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship. In tonight's tilt, a game I was able to view on tape delay was a rout featuring the Canadians and the lowly Slovakians.

It's hard to read much into this hockey game. For what it's worth as evidenced by a previous post I forged prognosticating this championship I don't think highly of the Slovaks as I predict we'll see the Latvians upending the Slovaks thus dropping them down to relegation which from what I know now could be a scary proposition with the Fins in danger of playing in that game. Getting back to the particular goaltending matchup, with the shots 44-6 in favor of Canada, University of Connecticut goaltender Adam Huska was bombarded and had very little chance on any goal. The only point I'll make regarding Huska is the disappointment I have in the Canadian Hockey League for not taking advantage of the European goaltending market as all it's done is push the NCAA's agenda as it's provided them a recruitment chip to lure the best backstoppers internationally. The objective from "banning' European netminders was to further develop the North American tender but in all actuality it's had the opposite effect. Pertaining to Conor Ingram,there's nothing insightful to report here other then to say if I was the man in charged I'm giving Ingram the start versus Latvia but I suspect Hart will called upon.

Does Dominque Ducharme read this masterpiece? Evidently so as I was pleading that Anthony Cirelli receive an extended role and Ducharme delivered on this wish as Cirelli was much more noticeable in all situations and my further down player rankings will showcase how substantially his effort enhanced in all areas. I think Cirelli could admirably inherit a first line role as linemates Dillon Dube and Blake  Speers didn't do a lot from  my vantage point to compliment the work ethic of the Oshawa General. Let's face it, back in 2009 and 2010 Jordan Eberle was renowned for scoring big goals and Anthony is no stranger to scoring in the clutch as he potted the golden goal in the 2015 Memorial Cup Final. However, for whatever reason Cirelli doesn't seem to garner the notoriety that Ebs once did and hopefully with tournament stardom will come exposure. Two games has told enough of the story that Tyson Jost and Julien Gauthier haven't found the chemistry and shouldn't be linemates, it's time to test the compatibility of Jost and Cirelli.  The Slovaks played a style particularly in that first period that was all about sitting back and waiting for mistakes. When you're the inferior representative that's not a valid strategy. Aggressiveness enhances the chance that you may get blown out worse then the Cleveland Browns on any given Sunday but conversely allows you to take risks that could lead to the unorthodox goal. For Slovakia tonight it was abundantly clear that very few stood out aside from Boris Sadecky. After observing his season statistics courtesy of I was surprised to notice he's only accumulated four points in thirteen games. This is most definitely an indictment of the Slovakian Hockey Association and how they need to do a better job of promoting offence.

I was rather harsh on the play of Kale Clague on opening night. The smallish soft as butter defenceman came out with an edge today and will need that the rest of the way. Admittely I haven't been the biggest Clague fan in my viewings of the Brandon Wheat Kings but will say the thing that's always stood out has been his willingness to jump into rushes and not be afraid to make a mistake fully understanding that physical limitations make it impossible for him to stay on a level playing field. He was more proactive in attempting to lay out the big hit tonight and was smart in picking his spots. Getting back to my belief that Ducharme must read this(tongue in cheek),Jeremy Lauzon was afforded a larger role although the score could've dictated that. A lot of complaints were vocalize that this team was too Eastern Canadian heavy on defence specifically with the conspiracy theory being that they wanted to cater to the Eastern Canadian bias with it being hosted by Toronto/Montreal. Lauzon was the poster child for this criticism but hasn't looked out of place one bit. As the tournament progresses and the wins continue to be compiled Lauzon's responsibility will only pullulate. Latvia will be a tricky test with the game plans being built around stymieing San Jose Shark prospect Rudolf Balcers and if the trend of Lauzon replacing Fabbro in key situations, Lauzon and the two other Quebecois defenceman best prepare for a high dosage of Balcers.

Now off to the game rankings.....(in parentheses will be the players overall score for the tournament)

1.Anthony Cirelli(7)
2.Kale Clague(20)
3.Noah Juulsen(8)
4.Julien Gauthier(16)
5.Jeremy Lauzon(19)
6.Thomas Chabot(10)
7.Mathieu Joseph(24)
8.Jake Bean(19)
9.Matt Barzal(11)
10.Pierre-Luc Dubois(20)
11.Blake Speers(19)
12.Michael McLeod(28)
13.Dylan Strome(22)
14.Phillipe Myers(15)
15.Tyson Jost(22)
16.Nicholas Roy(19)
17.Taylor Raddysh(30)
18.Dillon Dube(33)
19.Mitchell Stephens....injury situation unclear as of this writing(38)
20.Dante Fabbro(40)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Canada/Russia observations

As will be the case with every Team Canada contest at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship I will attempt to pen a personalized game summary whilst at the end in highly subjective fashion rank the players based off off performance from 1-20 excluding goaltenders.

In net tonight even though on the losing end of the spectrum it was easy to ascertain that Ilya Samsonov was the better of the two goaltenders. The Washington Capital goaltending prospect faced the more dangerous scoring chances the entire game and was equal to the task. It's not as if I've spent much time analyzing the tendencies of Ilya but what caught my attention in this tilt was his propensity to give up  a lot of  the top half of the net. Side to side he's Tom Goodwin-esque fast but that athleticism he possesses can also be a hinderance because he reverts to the butterfly far too often without regard for the high glove side particularly. For Canada Carter Hart did very little to increased the confidence of Head Coach Dominique Ducharme.  The Kaprizov goal can't be charged to the imcompetence of Carter but the other two are goals that the Canadian side can ill afford especially with medal round contests that are played tight knit and close to the vest. In brings into question and of this writing I have yet to read any post game comments from Ducharme but with Slovakia on deck tomorrow one could presume that Imperial,Saskatchewan native Conor Ingram will get the nod but that's complete conjecture on my behalf.  Goaltending controversies are a yearly occurence at no fault to anyone because with how the tournament format is constructed with very game holding high importance(not as high as yester-year since regretfully removing the bye) each game is scrutinized profusely and deserving or not, an average showing from Hart will open the door to others. The Slovakian game is a given(I think), the real determinant will be who has their name called in the third game beyond.

Defence wins championships. Not this Team Canada defence with the way it exerted itself today any way. My biggest complaint, and truly a grudge that has carried over from the exhibition game is the way the defenceman were manufactured, the pairings that Ducharme has signed off aren't complimenting one another. A pet peeve just not from myself was the diminutive nature of this group. I don't think Russia is the most physically intimidating team in the tournament but when retrieving data from this one off you could've fooled me. Dennis Gurianov has been a hot button prospect ever since having his name called by the Dallas Stars twelfth overall in the 2015 draft. Some question his hockey I.Q and those questions will run rampant after some foolishly undisciplined penalties but from a size perspective he utilized his burly attributes to perfection by being  strong on his skates and causing nightmares from some of the smaller d-men. I referenced the lack of height qualms in the beginning of this paragraph but I ask this simple question, why at any point are Kale Clague and Jake Bean on the ice together? I'm not exactly how often this occurred but can difinitively say it happened a few times and everytime the two saw ice together, specifically when the likes of Gurianov were on the ice they were like a fish out of water.  I will never suggest and if at any point I do call me out for it immediately that Phillipe Myers and Thomas Chabot aren't Canada's two best defenceman but for that very reason accounting for the undersized nature of this collection as a whole I would love to see the coaching staff jiggle the pairings.I'm a proponent of Noah Juulsen see time with Phillipe Myers with Jake Bean pairing next to Thomas Chabot. Additionally, I can't help but scratch my head as to why Jeremy  Lauzon is being criminally misused. Dante Fabbro and Kale Clague had rough games as will be evidenced from my below game rankings and to bring forth accountability to the aforementioned two it would be a logical endeavour to parlay an extended role to Lauzon so Clague and Fabbro don't take this Team Canada assignment for granted. I love Chabot and Myers and the game tonight did nothing to dissaude this notion but we need more production from the rest to remain serious contenders.

From all accounts even from his own mouth Matt Barzal didn't come running out of the gates upon his return to the Seattle Thunderbirds. It doesn't necessarily surprise me however as motivation can sometimes be elusive for those returning from the National Hockey League but tonight Barzal returned home to the big stage and never missed a beat. Here was my assessment of Barzal as the tournament began, dynamic with the puck, legendary shiftiness and one of the best passers for his age group.Conversely the knock on Matt is and was that he becomes laxidazical at certain moments and hasn't mastered the defensively responsible art. All that being said he took the platform he was given tonight and was unarguably Canada's best forward. When he twists and turns at the speed he's able he makes opposing defenders nauseous as it would be very difficult to keep up with the puck and the open space he created to gift Dylan Strome was a belated Christmas present. Speaking of Strome I thought he showed flashes tonight. I've been awfully critical in past postings on how I perceive Strome as a player. I generally feel he's lethargic out on the ice and doesn't  do much else aside from hanging out in the slot waiting for primo set ups. In fairness to my previous feelings I will give credit where credit is due by vocalizing that he was engaged the entire night and by extension opened up more free space for Pierre-Luc Dubois who had his moments. Ducharme made the late pre-tournament lineup change by swapping Blake Speers who now finds himself on a line with Dillon Dube and Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Stephens who was awarded top line duties. I don't believe the swap paid dividends today. Stephens was largely ineffective and what boggles me is why Taylor Raddysh and Dylan Strome, teammates in Erie aren't thrown out on the same unit. The counter argument to all of this would be why meddle with Dylan Strome's productivity but keep in mind  a lot of his effectiveness was on special teams and the pre developed chemistry could serve both young lads well. Stephens is a C level skater(as is Strome) but doesn't read the game like Dylan does so to get Dylan and Taylor going 5 on 5 it's advisable they're put together. The other alarming facet tonight that reared it's ugly head was the glaring scoring depth outside the top two lines. Strome can't score unless it's on the PP, Barzal has not been handed a finisher on his line and for whatever the reason the best overall line, that being the third line of Julien Gauthier, Nicholas Roy and Tyson Jost sees sparing special team time even though they create on almost every shift. The last remark I'd like to serenade my ever growing audience with is Oshawa Generals stud Anthony Cirelli deserves a bigger role but these kind of desires happen frequently when you compile the countries best players under one roof.

Now time for the rankings.........

1.Phillipe Myers
2.Matt Barzal
3.Nicholas Roy
4.Thomas Chabot
5.Noah Juulsen
6.Anthony Cirelli
7.Tyson Jost
8.Blake Speers
9.Dylan Strome
10.Pierre-Luc Dubois
11.Jake Bean
12.Julien Gauthier
13.Taylor Raddysh
14.Jeremy Lauzon
15.Dillon Dube
16.Michael McLeod
17.Mathieu Joseph
18.Kale Clague
19.Mitchell Stephens
20.Dante Fabbro

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 World Junior Hockey Championship Game by Game Prognostications

What I've set out to do in this particular post is prognosticate each preliminary game followed by how I perceive the medal round to shake out. At the bottom of the post, I'll divulge my first and second team All-stars. Hope you thoroughly enjoy!

December 26th,2016

Sweden v Denmark= 9-1 SWE
U.S.A v Latvia=5-2 U.S
Czech Republic v Finland=4-1 FIN
Canada v Russia=4-3 RUS(O.T)

December 27th,2016

Czech Republic v Switzerland= 6-2 CZE
Latvia v Russia=6-2 RUS
Canada v Slovakia=8-0 CAN
Denmark v Finland=5-0 FIN

December 28th,2016

Switzerland v Sweden= 4-3 SWE
Slovakia v U.S.A=6-2 U.S

December 29th,2016

Denmark v Czech Republic=8-3 CZE
Russia v U.S.A=2-1 U.S
Finland v Sweden=6-2 SWE
Latvia v Canada=6-2 CAN

December 30th,2016

Switzerland v Denmark=5-1 SUI
Slovakia v Latvia=5-1 LAT

December 31st,2016

Sweden v Czech Republic=3-2 CZE(SO)
U.S.A v Canada=4-0 U.S
Finland v Switzerland=4-2 FIN
Russia v Slovakia=7-1 RUS


Pool A:

1.Finland 9 points
2.Czech Republic 8 points
3.Sweden 7 points
4.Switzerland 3 points
5.Denmark 0 points

Pool B:

1.U.S.A 12 points
2.Russia 8 points
3.Canada 7 points
4.Latvia 3 points
5.Slovakia 0 points


January 2nd,2017

5A(Denmark) v 5B(Slovakia)=5-0 SVK
1A(Finland) v 4B(Latvia)=4-3 LAT
2A(Czech Republic) v 3B(Canada)=4-0 CAN
3A(Sweden) v 2B(Russia)=6-2 SWE
4A(Switzerland) v 1B(U.S.A)=9-1 U.S

January 3rd,2017

5A(Denmark) v 5B(Slovakia)=3-1 SVK

January 4th,2017

3A(Sweden) v 4B(Latvia)=7-1 SWE
1B(U.S.A) v 3B(Canada)=3-2 U.S

January 5th,2017

Bronze: Canada v Latvia=6-1 CAN
Gold: U.S.A v Sweden=3-2 U.S(O.T)

First All-star team:

F-Carl Grundstrom(SWE)
F Rudolfs Balcers(LAT)
F Jeremy Bracco(U.S.A)
D Charlie McAvoy(U.S.A)
D Thomas Chabot(CAN)
G Jake Oettinger(U.S.A)

Second All-Star team:

F Calvin Thurkauf(SUI)
F Julien Gauthier(CAN)
F Alex Nylander(SWE)
D Gvido Jansons(LAT)
D Olli Juolevi(FIN)

G Carter Hart(CAN)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Outwit,Outplay,Outlast and Outrank

Do I think the finale was fair? No, the production interference Ben received greatly aided his reign and this ranking of worst to best winners will reflect that. Let me clarify, this ranking by no means digests the personability of said winner but uses the below criteria when analyzing their overall game play.

-Did a twist greatly benefit their plight?
-Did they put their game ahead of others, or in some cases, did they put others ahead of them?
-Did they manufacture the use of an idol the best way strategically?
-Strength of cast, quantity of fellow strategists.

As always, will rank in descending order.

35.Rob Mariano: Season 22-Redemption Island

Rob Mariano is a popular contestant amongst fans. However, popularity aside as that was not a criteria for ranking the winners, it took Boston Rob four tries to reign supreme on a Survivor title so that explains to me that were flaws in his game. From a strategical point of view, aligning himself with Philip Shepard was sheer brilliance as Philip was loyal to a fault. Natalie his other finalist sitting beside him when facing the jury was a teenager and didn't have the wherewithal to know when to dispose of the veteran who had returned. I also liked his decision to cut Grant because Grant may say all the right things about being devoted to Rob but in reality he was growing close to Ashley and Natalie and in an ideal world would've envisioned an end game for those two girls. The cast as a whole wasn't particularly apt but their's really not much I can pick out negatively in his game that season. Other than winning on the fourth try for which I couldn't look past that and seeded him 32nd.

34.Ben Driebergen:Survivor 35-Heroes/Hustlers/Healers

Only the "great" Rob Mariano receives a pouros rank as I conduct this list. Some will snark that recency bias and my own personal emotion has heavily swayed this number as I was clear in the opening that I didn't like the way production interfered in a game that was shaping up for a Chrissy victory. Was I necessarily rooting for Chrissy, I wasn't as the story of Ben, the former Marine who overcame PTSD is an admirable one but doesn't translate to him being  a deserving winner. I won't even suggest that the convenient stumbling upon three consecutive idols from the final seven onward was manipulated by the production team however the twist they threw in after the final immunity challenge screamed "We want Ben to win". Additionally, the other juncture of the game where Ben was thrown a proverbial bone was when the four person alliance of Lauren, Ben, Devin and Ashley was formed and under Devin's guidance was told to be a double agent unbeknownst to Ryan and Chrissy. When someone allows you, frankly encourages you to work both sides to truly only your benefit you do it and don't think twice. It was a heroic tale for the marine but one of the messiest, contrived wins in Survivor history.

33.Vecepia Towery: Season 4-Marquesas

When you reminisce about Marquesas the turning point for all that are fans of this great game was the moment when faced with the feeling that they were on the outs with Tammy, Zoe and Robert,  Neleh and Paschal orchestrated a flop handing the majority over to Sean, Vecepia and Kathy. Retrospectively, if Neleh and Paschal had stayed the course the narrative of Marquesas would be written vastly different The decision shifted the power and put her in a position of power. One of the more underrated characters in Survivor lore is Kathy O'Brien, although she was granted a berth in All-stars, I feel like some of the Survivor historians don't concede that she;s one of the greatest non winners as she ruled the roost that season.  Vecepia realizing that Kathy had the respect of the jury was wise, but I remember my sixteen year old self thinking back then that Neleh was going to win and being very surprised when Jeff Probst revealed the votes. So two primary reasons for this ranking, the dominance of Kathy and perhaps some of the remaining Rotu members on the jury being bitter at Ms. Dennis due to the flip.

32.Michele Fitzgerald:Season 32-Kaoh Rong

Our most recent season brought us Michelle Fitzgerald as it's winner. The tribes, as is usually the case in modern day survivor were divided based off themes and this go around saw Beauty v Brains v Brawn for which Michele found herself on the Beauty tribe. Early on her tribe was immune from Tribal Council and based on interviews post-season she can count her blessings as she purportedly may have been an early target.  What benefited her post merge was Tai got thirsty for power and with his idols and advantages. he allowed Michele to hide in the shadows as a few of the females formed a alliance in fear that some of the men had bonded together and could combine idols and form this seasons "Super Idol". Michele's victory was a classic case of some of the Brawns and Beauty, Michele's closer friends forming the majority of the jury and ignoring Aubry's excellent game. Michele's happy go lucky attitude endeared her to Scott, Julia and Cydney which unfortunately for Aubry blinded them against superior game play. You can't fault Aubry but having Joe in her back pocket the entire season rubbed some the wrong way as she always had two votes in her stable. At the end of the day, the best player didn't win and the money was awarded to a lady who exuded outstanding morals and a friendly attitude. Morals and attitude isn't enough to get you higher on my list.

31.Bob Crowley: Season 17-Gabon

Another likeable personality that triumphed on this show. Here's the thing about Bob, in a season that gets panned for generally  producing a boring, unlikeable cast, Bob came in and played off the Grandfather type, someone that everybody would willingly confide in. When I was internally breaking down the game of Crowley, the first thing that came to mind was that yes he won, but I feel his strategy was backwards when he committed to his alliances. Corrine and Randy, two players that he blatantly turned on for no apparant reason. I mean Corinne and Randy were more mature(age wise) and  could relate to Bob on a more personal level. Also because Randy and Corinne were so disliked by the other cast members, riding along with those two would've been the ultimate meat shield and a breeze win. His win speaks to the lack of competence from the likes of Matty and Sugar because on no universe is it advised to take the nearly retired Science teacher to the final because his story compared to youthful stalwarts who have a whole life ahead of them wasn't going to compare. Additionally, the moment where Randy is sent home and Bob manufacturers a fake Idol to throw him off was an unnecessary evil and if anything alienated him further with  people he should've grown closer to. Too many risks taken but luckily for Bob it didn't alter the path to the winner's circle.

30.Natalie Anderson: Season 29-San Juan del Sur

In this second rendition of the "Blood v Water" format, you could say she had a disastrous start to the game with her sister Nadiya eliminated, or another school of thought will have you believe that this is a blessing which is why this format has it's peculiar intricacies.  In the first Blood v Water, Survivor Borneo Alum Gervase Peterson's niece was the first to be booted and by proxy you then become  a valuable free agent. No coincidence that Gervase was a finalist and Natalie won the game. By playing singularily, she was able to team up with a duo thus forming a threesome, siding with Missy and Baylor for the end game.  She definitely drew fortune when Jon and Jaclyn began to waver with Missy and Baylor which would have been a threatening alliance and by virtue opened the door like I mentioned earlier for Natalie to slide in and ride to the end. Personally, contrary to popular opinion I favor this format but will agree to the notion that this format creates more straightforward play as it's nearly impossible to target the free agent when you need to converge on the pairs. The best move she made all season was Nadiya becoming the early boot which she played no part in so for that I can't justify a hefty ranking.

29.Adam Klein:Season 33-Millennials v Gen X

If this list revolved purely around likeability factor then Adam would be at or near the top. As many have pointed out post-season and I'm in complete agreeance this turned out to be one of the more fun seasons but it doesn't change the fact that his personal game was filled with shortcomings.  Obviously the freshest season on our minds so in fairness to Adam it's easier to single out the criticisms. The biggest one for me was how at the final six when David won the immunity in a challenge botched by Jay,Adam's advised play there would've been to keep Jay around because Jay came across as a loyal guy, would be someone David and Ken would've wanted to target at the final five and if Adam's such a super fan of this game which I have no  doubt he is then he's got to be aware that historical precedent would be that someone of Jay's elk wouldn't perform well at the final five immunity and could've been targeted then. A trusted ally could've been useful at least one more vote.

28.Tyson Apostol: Season 27-Blood v Water

Wasn't purposeful that I rated the two Blood v Water winners next to each other. When I carefully assessed each winner, particularily with the returning players cast, I tried not to account for pre-game alliances and how they may have furthered a winner's game but in Tyson's game I can't ignore the pre existing friendships he had with the Baskauskas brothers and Gervase and how these friendships protected  him in unforeseen ways. Coming into the game, on the returning tribe, a core alliance was in power, you can argue if they had an agreement in place prior to stepping foot on the Island and Tyson & Gerv coasted until it was time to betray a friend and construct a new alliance involving Hayden,Caleb, Monica and them. Aside from the simple fact that I hold the pre-game funny business against him, his non chalant enthusiasm for wanting to draw rocks the week where Katie went home is unforgivable. Between the three finalists he was the deserving winner but the risk taking doesn't make him one of the better winners. Risk taking if a necessity I commend, however sometimes swallowing your pride and moving on to the next move is the appropriate play.

27.Todd Herzog: Season 15-China

This was a difficult one to appraise. He came in and in his editorials he made it perfectly known that he was a super fan and up until that time, he truly was the first super fan to win the game. It was a perfect storm early on, when you imagine what the perfect alliance looks like, you have the jock who can physically dominate(James), the attractive, innocent yet proficient in competitions(Amanda), the naive who doesn't grasp the game(Courtney), and the Mom(Denise). Credit to Todd, he was gaming as soon as the clock struck twelve and when the idol clues started presenting themselves in China which were in different in the sense that they were on the plaques located right on the shelter. As fate would have it, Todd found the first idol only to bring James into the fold after "kidnapping" him from the other tribe. Listen, I'm all for confiding in trusted allies but there comes a time where too much information is revealed and this was the case in this scenario. A plan that Todd had was to hand the idol over to James to ensure someone they were targeting from his tribe but in all actuality the plan failed and James located the second idol and well......we all know what happens next. The failed Idol plan and the fact that he wasn't covert enough in hiding his super fandom plays well on television but it's never good for your cast members to know your level of game knowledge.

26.Jeremy Collins: Season 31-Cambodia

If you read the Tyson criticism you're then aware I despise the pre-gaming that lends itself to any returning season and this season with America's vote, this was pre-gaming on steroids. Naturally when you get flown to location you first become acquainted with who you'll be playing the game with but in this situation these players knew long beforehand the different permutations and combinations that could exist. Shane Powers who unfortunately did not make the cut this go around went on Rob has a Podcast for an exclusive interview and stated he had  a concrete final four deal. As a viewer, I understand this comes with the territory but doesn't make for an enjoyable season of Survivor. Apologize for that tangent, now to dissect Jeremy's game. Jeremy entered the game with the reputation of being really trusting, once he set something up he was content running with it. That was the San Juan Del  Sur Jeremy, the strategy he brought forth to Cambodia was more cerebral. His manipulation with Kimmi was stuff legends were made of. Kimmi was loyal to no end to Jeremy as multiple times Kimmi rejected the premise of working with an all girls alliance, much to Jeremy's gain. The logic for placing him this low in my rankings is due to the Savage vote. Unless the edit wasn't representative of his true feelings, Savage was somebody who was on his side but from his ouster what came of it was that it ingratiated himself in further with Stephen as for the longest time Stephen and Savage were butting heads.  Savage leaving allowed him to forge more lasting friendships in the game and he can thank Kelley Wentworth for it as it was Kelley's well timed Idol reveal that blindsided Savage and the game shaped up amicably from there. If the idol wasn't played at that exact moment I do ponder at times if we're not having a Andrew Savage champion conversation.

25.Tina Wesson: Season 2-Australia

One of two "pure" winners in Survivor history as the  original Borneo and Australia were the two seasons that didn't implement any game changing twists. You landed on your beach, you waited until a certain number and merged the two tribes. There were no idols, there was no mid season tribe swaps, it was Reality Television at it's finest. When I recollect the game of Tina, I pose this question....were any of her actions impactful in the strategy for 3/4 of the game? It's a resounding no, in some respects she utilized the Sandra Diaz-Twine strategy which wasn't a thing back then. You're probably asking yourself, what makes the ideology of Sandra any different than that of Tina? There's one glaring difference and I understand edits can portray stories that CBS wants us to see, but right from day one Sandra made it known that it was "anybody but me" whereas I maintain Tina thought she was making headway with some of the younger ladies in her season when in reality she couldn't make the proper connection to gain traction. In episode twelve,  Tina thought she was pulling a fast one by flipping a vote and eliminating Amber. It was after this though that Elizabeth lost complete trust in Tina and it took damage control from Colby to keep her in the game. And speaking of Colby and this is the primary reason why I value her win so lowly is because Colby KNEW, he said as much that he could beat Keith in the end but because Tina was the kinder hearted person, he desired to take Tina to the final two. That's what you get when you cast an aspiring Model and Actor who had no issues making money before the show, he just didn't care. Tina's win is in deference to Colby Donaldson. Any rational player would've and should've cut Tina at three.

24.Chris Daugherty: Season 9-Vanuatu

The first season in it's franchise where the eventual winner due to a poor challenge performance was nearly voted out first. It was a season originally divided by gender and for a someone that exhibited a guy's guy mannerism, he adapted to the female dominated merged tribe surprisingly well. There was clear conflict arising between Scout,Twila and Eliza and Chris acted as a mediator. It was his mediating artistry that allowed him to rise to the cream of the crop. Eliza was under the impression that it was her and Chris ready to take a run at the finals, and even earlier in the season Julie had a corresponding belief. I thought although Chris was very shaky in the early portion of this game, his end game is one of the better finishes out of any Survivor winner because not many physically fit guys surrounded by woman can convince them that he's not a threat, and that's exactly what he did. Going on an immunity run certainly didn't hurt. There was lot's to like about Chris's Vanuatu experience but being in such imminent danger in the opening episode was cause for concern and enough validation that he couldn't be ranked higher.

23.Natalie White: Season 19-Samoa

Personal disgust with Russell Hantz aside, CBS's preference to flood our T.V screens with the elder Hantz, and little did we know that was just the beginning of the Hantz/CBS relationship took away from most of the game play showcased by the others. I want to make this statement, and feel free to disagree that the alliance, and I'm terrible with alliance names that was cultivated among Natalie, Russell, Jaison and Mick was more of a collective effort than the certain few wanted us to have believe. At any point, Natalie or any one of the Foa Foa four(their I go!) could have turned against the dwindling group and rode on with the numbers but the ardor exuded wax exemplary. There was a turning point where Natalie grew self aware that Russell was becoming public enemy # 1 and everybody sent to sit on the jury viewed Hantz in ill will so I partially equate that to why Natalie stuck by his side. Cushioning up next to a "villain" is a tip of a cap move, however we must also analyze the bad. It took a lot of foresight, perhaps too much that Russell wouldn't eventually view her expendable. As much as the name of the game is sitting beside someone you think you can beat, if I'm playing in Samoa I'm at least a little weary that I'm not next on the totem pole. She admitted as much that her level of knowledge headed in wasn't all that strong and in a sense her naivity prevented her from fearing the wrath of Russell. A good winner, a winner that many pendants can't accept but with me she's the twenty second best winner.

22.Amber Brkich: Season 8-All Stars

There's a unnoticed craftiness in her repertoire that doesn't get discussed often enough. Rob was the vocal leader of the romantic duo, but take a second to appreciate who they were aligned with in their end game. Alecia and Amber were castmates in Australia. Jenna and Amber being Survivors in the first couple years of the franchise attended countless charity events together, much more than the modern day Survivor partakes in now a days. If Jenna were to of conquered the final immunity challenge, she clearly is taking Amber along with her, Amber is winning the game under less clouds of controversy. The masses don't respect the win because Rob was the "voice of reason", but in every decision that was made, it was made mutually with shades of aiding Amber moreso. Let's look at the season's most climatic moment where their was a tribe switch and Rob pleaded with Lex and Kathy to do everything in their power to keep Amber safe. While Lex and Kathy exerted sour grapes towards Rob when it was all said and done, you're not going to keep somebody around that you feel isn't workable. It was the intuition of Lex and Kathy that proved incorrect and they have no one to blame but themselves. Do I think Amber reigned supreme due to bad blood towards Rob, sure that played a small part but I want to ensure Amber receives enough credit because like mentioned earlier, every decision made helped both but helped Amber more.

21.John Cochran: Season 26-Caramoan

For clarification, I happen to like Cochran. The part where I'm torn is in the competence of the cast. The cast for Caramoan was similar to Big Brother 13(US) where in a Fans v Favourites theme, essentially all the fans were star struck by the returning players. Here's another, to reference a word Survivor Tocantins alum Stephen Fishbach loves to repeat, "truthism" was that the decision by Sherri to scrap the fans alliance sealed the deal for Cochran. With Sherri's vote in tow, it gave him numbers to go after Andrea,Brenda and Philip. I'm sure I could cite better examples but from my vantage point I don't think there's been a finalist then their was with Sherri who had a less compelling case to win a million dollars. A business owner who didn't make any personal connections, that sounds like my kind of ride or die. Cochran's jury management was brilliant I refuse to look past Sherri's willingness to hand the game over to him.

20.Sarah Lacina:Season 34-Game Changers

I briefly considered bestowing Sarah a better ranking but I couldn't look past one particular instance that a good winner should ever find themselves in. Full disclaimer that I'm probably critiquing this move too harshly, that's for you to decide but when Sarah had the advantage and wanted to ingratiate herself with Cirie by gift wrapping the advantage to her to gain her trust, it reminded me of the move infamous Erik Reichenbach tossing over his immunity to Natalie Bolton, the only difference being she wasn't privy to the consequence. Also, I'm a bit impartial negatively speaking as Game Changers as a whole was one of my least liked casts which could represent this average allotment.

19.Jenna Morasca: Season 6-Amazon

If I were to construct a ranking where I listed my seasons based on enjoyability, the Amazon would be right up there. When profiling the triumph of Jenna Morasca it's a difficult one to prognosticate. In my opinion, the tale of the tape of this  season revolved around certain players getting thirsty with power(Deena and Dave come to mind) that allowed the people on the outside such as Jenna to align with others in a similar boat out of necessity. The great Rob Cesternino who's solo efforts have revolutionized the state of Reality Television made a mistake that season, his idea that just because he taught Mathew the game meant that Mathew would be internally reliant on him where in reality Mathew who fell for Jenna and Heidi's physical attributes was relaying pertinent information to the two girls. Jenna's strength was her ability to soak information in and use it against said individual at the absolute right time. The majority of men didn't take her seriously, because to be perfectly honest at that time in history, a young aspiring model arch type failed miserably. The pre conceived notions on her character carried her to victory.

18.Judd Birza: Season 21-Nicaragua

The man affectionately known as Fabio was the fun loving goofball that joked his way to the winners circle. I've taken a lot of grief for this summer of Big Brother eighteen proclaiming that Corey adopted a similar strategy, even at one point citing Judd as a comparison and what most fail or refuse to believe is that just because you don't uphold the Master strategist label doesn't mean that you're not well liked within the confines of the game and if you're sitting in front of a jury you stand a good chance. For the record, I was debating where Judd belonged on this  list and let the record be shown that I have a slight reservations that he needs to be higher(lower) on this list. Nicaragua one of RHAP staple Josh Wigler's favourite seasons was a fun season, fun from an entertainment perspective any way. Due to the lack of game play it's hard for me to sit here and critique areas where Judd could've improved but I will say one point distinctly stands out and that was the respect he earned from some of the "elder" tribemates. Sitting next to Sash and future Country phenom Chase Rice, Fabio was really the only one who didn't recieve an earful. Even firey NaOnka vocalized early on in the game that she found Fabio annoying but as the game progressed came around to his personality. Game wise I maintain that Chase and Sash didn't do anything less, it just boiled down a likeability and respect factor. One of those seasons where he didn't really do anything wrong or right so when I dug deep his personality meshed well for the cast at hand and will likely be rated higher then most doing a comparable list would have him.

17.Ethan Zohn: Season 3-Africa

Evidently when a season hits the airwaves this long ago, in the case of Africa it hit the air in October 2001, prevalent details become fuzzy but after some quick google searches regarding the finer details, a couple thoughts became clear. For starters, after catching wind of an RHAP interview featuring Lex and Big Tom Buchanan who came on to promote their short lived National Geographic series, it didn't take a rocket scientist coming out of that interview for how well spoken Lex really is and if I was behind the RHAP bookings, I'd try to get Lex back on for a Survivor recap....just saying Rob. Secondly, and more importantly when assessing the winner of the season, I had forgotten how much  he really controlled that season. The turning point was when Lex convinced Brandon to flip on his trusted comrad Kelly that opened the door for the Ethan, Lex and Big Tom threesome to rule the roost. While the game is in progress, you can only make internal assumptions about what you perceive is going, but post show interviews hammered down that Lex and Big Tom had entered into a pact and put the pact above a more realistic chance of winning a million dollars. They valued the friendship which was commendable but because Ethan already had the image of being the leader, he was almost assuredly guaranteed victory. I was a big fan of Ethan if for no other reason than his goals to open up recreational camps for under priveleged children but from a game overview, the fact that two in particular valued friendships so greatly widened the room for error.

16.Sophie Clarke: Season 23-South Pacific

We just got off a season that for all purposes abandoned loyalty, whether due to weekly voting blocks are "trust clusters", however what happened in the South Pacific as the evolution of the season masked the original Borneo season, as best it could any way.  Sophie found a devout group to walk in front of. The edit had us believe that Coach was the individual in charge but because this was Coach's third rendition natural resentment was evident on someone receiving three cracks and from my vantage point Sophie was respected by the masses. Originally I had Sophie much higher on my list but then had an epiphany that her game was largely benefited by one Brandon Hantz. Hantz's decision to forego individual immunity to Albert opened the path  to axe Brandon on that very vote erasing the volatility he brought to the game. Coach and Rick were robotic in their actions,refused to decieve and due to Sophie's scholar approach was able to manipulate that to her advantage. Brandon voted himself out of the game essentially and the self removal of the wildcard slightly diminishes her personal greatness.

15.Earl Cole: Season 14-Fiji

Not withstanding the fact that Fiji(the season fourteen escapade) was one of the more unlikable casts manufactured by CBS in quite some time, I don't necessarily agree with the notion forged by many that Earl played such a flawless game. Earl capitalized on the naivity of "Dreamz" to put plans in motion that often times went against the better interests of the first ever homeless contestant. Earl knew that in order for him to reign victorious he had to devise a plan that would eliminate Yau-man which was sound logic as Yau-man had many friends on the particular jury. The eventual 'Truck for immunity" deal orchestrated between Yau-man and Dreamz, a deal later reneged on was a turning point that further turned the voters against Dreamz. Earl did what he needed to do to cement a path to final tribal council but one of my biggest problems with the season was there were too many players who were there to create egregious moves as opposed to formulating strategic maneuvers to move forward in the game. Alex, Edgardo and Mookie are three that clarify the angle I'm critiquing. Three educate young men should've been adversaries to Earl but instead were more interested in goofing off and making good television. I can't discount the clean sweep in FTC but not enough saviness for my liking. Almost a win by default. Probably much too high on these rankings.

14.Parvati Shallow: Season 16-Micronesia

This, like many others is a difficult one to rank not due to the winner herself who undoubtedly is one of the series most popular winners but some of the dubious game play. Parvati has penned quite the lengthy legacy in her three season Survior career but the move that everyone correlates her game with was the decision to convince Erik Reichenbach to hand over his individual immunity in the final five Natalie Bolton. Now was Parvati instrumental in this? Sure but more credit honestly needs to be forwarded to Natalie for engaging in a private conversation with Erik that sealed the deal. As much as I give full marks for Natalie for that, the creation of the All girls alliance, one that actually worked has Parvati written all over it. In Big Brother, producers have desperately tried to cast females that could work together with little accomplishment and what Parvati did was show that a group of strong females CAN work together and flourish as evidenced by the all female final four. I know in lists I've read throughout the years the consensus is that she's a top three  player of all time and while I commend her competence, the move by Erik knocked out somebody that had he gotten to the finals would've likely won. Good but not great.

13.Tom Westman:Season 10-Palau

This in many respects was the tail end of the original era of Survivor. From season eleven onwards we started to notice network executives at CBS really put together storylines revolving around the characters and less around strategical game play. In Palau it was all about creating unbreakable bonds and solidifying those bonds throughout the course of the game. This season will also be remembered by the imbalance competitively from the tribes. The 'Koror' tribe dismantled the 'Ulong' tribe to a point where future three time contestant Stephanie Lagrossa was on a tribe by herself until she was absorbed by the other tribe. In doing some reading about this season eleven years later I think a giant misnomer was that a core five person alliance controlled the game consisting of Gregg, Caryn,Katie, Ian and Tom but truthfully from my recollections it was a trifecta alliance of Ian, Tom and Katie with the other two trailing behind. Palau was unquestionably one of my favourite seasons and Tom one of my favourite winners but the reason he doesn't hold a more prestigious ranking is due to the final challenge. Ian wins and he's not being beaten, no if's ands or buts. It was the "guilt" that Ian felt for properly playing the game that had him remove himself for the challenge with the amendment that Tom take Katie to the final.No idea what Ian is upto in life now but that definitely was a million dollar blunder.

12.Tony Vlachos:Season 28-Cagayan

"Spy Shack", "Bag of Tricks", all unique to Vlachos' game, all wonderfully translated to the television screen but not necessarily prudent strategy in a game in it's essence built around outwitting, outplaying and outlasting. In what capacities did Tony excel? For starters, Tony was all business out on the Island. He didn't care to cater to the pre-existing popularity that former NBA star Cliff Robinson had among other things. His no care perceptive attitude as aforementioned related admirably to the audience and where Tony flourished was he left no stone unturned. The most memorable episode in my opinion was the episode where Tony had provided trusted alliance member L.J a false sense  of security by playing an idol on him after L.J had just finished distributing an idol his way. The false sense of security came from the fact that Tony was self aware that he needed LJ as a, to steal an overused reality television adjective', "Meat Shield" and it worked beautifully. Not only was L.J due to his physique always going to go before Tony but conversely he didn't have to worry about getting plotted against because of the loyalty factor. A great game but it just speaks to some of the gems further down on this list for why he's only ranked at the twelfth position.

11.Richard Hatch:Season 1-Borneo

The man that paved the legacy for this crazy yet wonderful game to remain on the airwaves sixteen years later. The strategical concepts of Borneo pale in comparison to the way the game is played now. For the original season the only thing on people's minds was to survive both in the game and ensuring sufficient nourishment. Richard Hatch presented us with this archaic character who was further evolved then his fellow castmates. He was competent as a provider which during those seasons wasn't viewed as any kind of threat, he connected with everybody on a personal level even Rudy Boesch, the former U.S. Marine who had zero similarities with Hatch. These bonds propelled him to victory when he ultimately reigned over Kelly Wigglesworth. The area in his game that leaves some to be desired was his decision at the final three. Philosophically he made an egregious decision although there will be some surely who will argue that when weighing the complexity of the game in this current era forfeiting your shot at immunity could be construed as sheer brilliance depending on the particular circumstances. Stepping off the mantle and allowing Rudy and Kelly to battle it out for immunity was far too risky of game play because had Rudy won then Rudy would've been the player receiving the cheque, not Hatch.

10.J.T Thomas:Season 18-Tocantins

The unsuspecting partnership between Southern Boy J.T and New York nerd and RHAP staple Stephen Fischbach was a beautiful friendship that played out in front of our very eyes. Stephen was labelled as the strategist and J.T the competition beast but this assertion is a major slight on J.T. The Alabaman Thomas was very much engaged in the strategical discussions as although the show portrayed Stephen having his fingers in many alliances and close knit bonds it was the innocent aw shucks personality of J.T that drew him to Debbie, Coach, Brendan and others. There was a memorable scene where Brendan confides in Sierra where he states that he'd be happy if J.T won the million bucks. I'll cosign the following, Stephen Fishbach is a exceptional strategist but in his outing, at some point he lost sight of the prize and the blinders were put on far too early by aligning with someone he frankly could never beat.

9.Mike Holloway:Season 30-Worlds Apart

I vividly recall watching the pre-season press and quickly identifying Mike as a winners pick. In his interviews, he came across as a hard worker, a type of player that's almost always assured of reaching the merge. In the first few episodes, I started to develop a fear that  perhaps he was too interested in preaching hard work at camp and wasn't exhausting enough energy into solidifying bonds. As much as I'm willing to credit Mike for playing a great game which my ranking of nine should clearly illustrate that, the point I'd like to make is the inclusion of Tyler signalled a dynamic that not many have spoken of from articles that I've read. Tyler, and I'm sure if you asked him in interviews would admit that he thought he had control of the game and by proxy was using Mike as a puppet when in actuality it was Mike using Tyler. When Tyler led the charge along with Carolyn and Joaquin in an effort to work alongside the Blue Collar remaining  players it was believed by him that Mike would be a shield and his majority(turned out to be minority) numbers. The misnomer of this season was that Tyler was an irrelevant character but from where I stand was a principal reason for why Mike succeeded.

8.Danni Boatwright:Season 11-Guatemala

As I eloquently opined in the Palau synopsis, season eleven in Guatemala marked a noticeable change in the way CBS began to cast it's players. Less on strategy and more on personality. My point is confirmed by both Judd and Jamie. All you had to do is watch the season premiere for no more then two seconds to understand that these two had a 0% chance of winning the game. What Danni's best move was very subtle and that was ingratiating Stephanie, the returnee from Palau. Stephanie "Yaxha" tribe members were unwavering in their loyalty and had numbers as we headed to the merge but to further touch on what I opened with, the wacky characters Stephanie brought over from her tribe drew no fear into the opposition and on the laurels of  a couple clutch immunity wins victory was all but assured. I don't take Danni's win lightly and originally I had her inside the top three but had to back off the lofty rankings after realizing there were just too many players on the cast that couldn't win.

7.Brian Heidik:Season 5-Thailand

As a disclaimer, a boring season does not correlate with an undeserving winner. As a super fan of this game I'm not afraid to label this season a flop but that shouldn't take away from the greatness of Brian's game. As a used car salesman, especially in the early days of the game the attributes taken from that profession came in quite handy because the game hadn't seen many ruthless schemers which defined Brian to a T. Those that may disagree with the ranking, the question I pose to you is where did his misstep happen? I vouch to say that there was no misstep as he elected to work with individuals that weren't challenge threats, didn't know a lick of strategy and could be construed as relative fodder.  The term goat is thrown around frequently in this era, not so much in 2002 but if it was Clay Jordan would've fit that bill.  Clay alienated castmates with his pompous attitude, showed no willingness to work around camp and was the obvious runner-up to just about everyone. Look at the final five of this game, the aforementioned Clay, Helen, Ted and Jan along with Brian. I don't think anyone would classify Brian as an athletical specimen but against this particular crop always went into the challenges the favourite and should be commended for being vocal when it came to the Ken Stafford and Penny Ramsey votes.

6.Denise Stapley:Season 25-Phillipines

What a disastrous tribal draw to commence the game for Denise. The Matsing tribe was a trainwreck from the start and as the numbers begun to decimate and the inevitable tribe shuffle became a reality the odds were stacked against her and betting money would've suggested that she was destined to get eliminated in week five or six in the game but found loopholes in her Kalabaw tribe that gave her life. Dana's medical evacuation didn't hurt the cause but where Denise took the bull by the proverbial horns was taking advantage of the fact that her new tribe consisted of a lot of players who fell into her age bracket and she quickly befriended both Jeff Kent and Penner providing her goodwill. I sat back and tried to pinpoint mistakes she made, a critique that could be a stretch was how she was confrontational with Abi-Maria at times but her decision to sacrifice Malcolm in the final four thus weaving a better final tribal council alignment was one of many prudent moves.

5.Yul Kwon:Season 13-Cook Islands

A 'controversial' season only from the standpoint that the contestants were divided based on ethnicity. Yul Kwon could safely be classified as the series smartest winner.His educational background served him well on the Island as he was able to connect on an intellectual level to each and every opposing comrade. Whether it was conversing with Penner or Becky on a complex strategical level or bro'ing down with Adam and Ozzy, he was able to escape from ever being on somebody's radar even though at a particular challenge he blatantly showcased his immunity Idol and due to relationships formed even that didn't make him a threat for others. Yul receives a great deal of commendment for being a intellectual but I think the most impressive part of his game was that he excelled in most challenges and still was an after thought for the opposing alliance though having challenge beast Ozzy in the game certainly didn't hurt. Without knowing why each respective juror placed their vote towards Yul in a tight knit 4-3 vote, I could surmise that the reasoning was due to at the infamous mutiny he stood his ground at the expense of staying in a staggering minority and I think as eliminated contestants look back they appreciated the loyalty.

4.Aras Baskauskas:Season 12-Panama

What I'm about to say may ring hollow amongst fellow Survivor enthuiasts while others may vehemently disagree and that is Aras is the ONLY winner in the franchise history that came into the season as 'the athlete' and reigned supreme and I don't take that feat lightly. Some will frantically argue J.T from Tocantins is another example of this but I suffice to say that Tyson was the more physically imposing player, after all he had a professional cycling background. The fact that Aras walked onto the young males mat on the opening day and looked around and quickly asserted himself as the challenge dominator and still survived being picked off is a miraculous endeavour. Additionally for those reading this with their arms up in the air pertaining to Terry Deitz....get over it....he was a forty something that was exceeding his physical will. Aras a collegiate basketball player and that will always take the cake. Aras should've been an early merge boot, we've seen this arch plenty of times before and after Aras' season and I thoroughly maintain what he was able to weave through deserves utmost admiration, A useless tidbit about this season, I'm generally staunch about avoiding spoilers but to this day Panama remains the only season I accidentality spoiled myself with.

3.Kim Spradlin:Season 24-One World

If Sandra Diaz-Twine hadn't returned a second time and won then Kim Spradlin is the runaway choice to be ranked the greatest winner ever. As I hinted on in an earlier synopsis, in the history of reality television the premise of forming all girls alliance falls by the wayside almost every time. The reason I view Kim's win over Parvati's in a much greater light is because Kim didn't need the presence of a Ice Cream truck operator who was so desperate to make good television that he forfeited immunity in the final five. For Kim, she had all her bases covered.  Her alliance was carefully picked to ensure that it included females who each brought with them their own deficiencies. For Kat, it was the over emotional outburst and childish antics that led to some bad blood amongst her tribemates. With Alecia, it was her mouth that often got her in trouble and would have trouble winning at a final tribal council. Both Sabrina and Christina gave off the perception that they had more interest in just advancing vote to vote compared to actually playing the game. With Chelsea, and to my knowledge she's never stated this in any of her interviews but I refuse to believe that given the opportunity to dwindle down to the final two that she would've actually taken Chelsea. She played a perfect game to that point, why would she change then?

1/2. Sandra Diaz-Twine:Seasons 7 and 20-Pearl Islands and Heroes v Villains

"Anybody but me". It's a glorious strategy that doesn't always translate well to televison. For production it would be difficult to build a season solely around Sandra because frankly she doesn't have an interesting enough story but the facts do speak for themselves, she's played twice and won twice. In the Pearl Islands, it was Lill who wasn't popular among her tribemates because in their minds she harped on honour coming from a boy scout background but seemingly were a okay handing Sandra the money who didn't push herself in any challenge, never really worked her way in any core alliance and was the lesser of two evils when it came down to who Lill wanted to sit next to in the final vote. Arguably Lil was the deserving winner that season. In the returning season of Heroes v Villains her advantage was that the season was flooded with larger than life personalities who were targeting each other while Sandra hid in the background, The label of "villain" for her is about as laughable as it was when Monica Culpepper got brought back a second time for making zero impact in her first go around. You'll be able to opine that I don't think too highly of her game play but two wins in two attempts she stands in a class of her own.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What's in a trade?

Hello, I thought something different I could write about was scouting out the possible noteworthy names that could dealt at the upcoming January 2017 trade deadline. What I'll do is, in descending order is decipher ten of the  biggest game changers that given the right offer could be moved and list plausible destinations with ultimately deciding on where I think said player will land. I completely understand that every player on this list isn't guaranteed to be moved, in fact I suspect no more than four will but for fun will complete the list of ten.

10.Zach Sawchenko(Moose Jaw)

This is an interesting one. Sawchenko entered the Western Hockey League with high praise but  has followed it up with inconsistent play. What would make this trade difficult for  Tim Hunter and co is how do you sell to your fan base that you're serious about winning when you elect to ship away your soon to be nineteen year old goaltender. The emergence of Brody Wilms(.902 Save percentage) has opened up the possibility for a team that I was convinced would look to move Wilms in the pre-season.

Possible Destinations: Seattle, Medicine Hat, Kootenay,Spokane:


Yes the Ice have Peyton Lee but beyond Lee don't have much in the stable, The acquisition of Sawchenko would provide stability beyond this year.

9.Devante Stephens(Kelowna)

Devante who I was very high on at the end of the last season has been in an out of Jason Smith's dog house. General Manager Bruce Hamilton made the peculiar transaction shipping out seventeen year old defenceman Jonathan Smart whilst bringing in fellow nineteen year old James Hilsendager. Stephens has been tremendous for a surging Kelowna team of late but with the decision to bring in another veteran defenceman, one would think Hamilton will look to replenish some younger assets for a middling team.

Possible Destinations:Medicine Hat, Seattle, Moose Jaw, Lethbridge.


The player before Stephens was Sawchenko being traded away and now you're thinking why does he envision Moose Jaw acquiring a veteran after just shipping one out. Well, it speaks to the faith they have in Wilms and I honestly believe they're convinced they can compete with Regina in a playoff series.

8.Cam Hebig(Saskatoon)

There's been a bit of a mystery brewing around the state of Hebig's ailment but the fact of the matter when assessing the state of Saskatoon's overagers next year(Flodell,McCarty and Shmyr) one of these will naturally and even though I may or may not include Shmyr later, at the end of the day one will stay and one will likely go hense why in the opening I stated I'm not naive enough to expect more then four of these to actually be traded.  If up to full health Cameron could conceivably reach the twenty goal plateau in the second half alone which makes him an intriguing asset.

Possible Destinations: Regina,Everett,Kamloops.


The Zwerger transaction aside, the fact of the matter is they've only accumulated ninety three goals for. To legitimally contend they would need at least one more scoring forward.

7.Zak Zborosky(Kootenay)

Zborosky is almost certainly the league's biggest enigma. The question hovering around Cranbrook is has General Manager Jeff Chynoweth set the price tag too high on Zak. When you analyze the package that was returned for fellow twenty year old Ryan Graham you can only begin to speculate what the cost truly is, Working against Kootenay is the dwindling number of teams scouring over an impact twenty.

Possible Destinations:Tri-City, Swift Current


I remain skeptical that Zborosky ends up getting moved but with the open overager spot in Speedy Creek that appears to be the one logical spot. Swift's direction is a little unknown, bringing in Zborosky would send a strong message across the rest of the league.

6.Braylon Shmyr(Saskatoon)

My comments about Braylon are applicable to those of Cam Hebig aside from Braylon not having that injury cloud hanging over this head. Braylon left Brandon hoping to receive an increased role and I would say his time in Saskatoon has been met with mixed results.  Thirty-six points a year ago I construe majorly disappointing because while a member of the  Wheat Kings I thought we were on the precipus of a budding superstar.

Possible Destinations:Everett,Tri-City, Kamloops,Regina


At the end of the day I think Shmyr is the perfect fit for the third line winger position beside Jake Leschsyshyn. Everyone talks about Regina's spotty defence and goaltending and for good reason but what worries me more and this may come off as surprising due to the fact that they've scored a myriad goals is scoring consistency beyond the top two lines.

5.Adam Musil(Red Deer)

If you took my latest edition of the Power Rankings to heart, you'll easily grab onto the assertion that I'm not the biggest proponent of the direction of the Red Deer Rebels however am a huge proponent of Adam Musil the player. He's a rugged player who can succeed on a top line just as well as he could in a checking, grinding third line role. Being the captain of the Rebels, Head Coach and General Manager of the Rebels may have a difficult time delivering that phone call but unquestionably would be a welcome addition to a contending team.

Possible Destinations: Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Prince George


Admittedly teams aren't generally too keen making in division trades but when I look at the Tigers what's the biggest detriment to their current nucleus? That would be their lack of grit and Musil would be an excellent compliment to the likes of Mason Shaw and Chad Butcher.

4.Aaron Irving(Edmonton)

I don't know if there's a more  underrated defenceman in the Western Hockey League then Aaron Irving. Irving entered his "prime" at unfortunately the wrong time as his entire usefulness as a player has been marred in a lengthy Oil Kings re-tool coming off their 2013 Championship run. The obvious thing working against Edmonton in trade negotiations is  his age, 20. Although Irving could admirably fit in to a lot of programs there are sadly not many teams who are in need of a twenty upgrade.

Possible Destinations: Swift Current,Tri-City,Lethbridge.


For what it's worth, I'd give Aaron a 90% likelihood of not  being dealt but when overlooking Tri-City's depth chart one wonders whether Aaron would be a tangible upgrade over Dalton Yorke which he would be in my estimation. The one question is though would Bob Tory stomach the thought of expending assets in  a season where at the best case scenario they're the third best team in the U.S Division.

3.Tyler Benson(Vancouver)

Can Vancouver finally admit that the rebuild that was built around Benson has failed and the time has  come to cut the cord? I don't quite know the answer but what I do know is because Benson has two years remaining the price tag would be extraordinate.  I think there's a misconception about what kind of player Benson projects to be. He's not an individual who will carry the play with the puck always on his stick but the strengths of his game are his board work and willingness to drive the net. On a very good Western Hockey League team he's a second liner and  I'm sure Tyler wouldn't be happy to hear that but such has been his slow career progression.

Possible Destinations: Regina, Seattle, Everett, Prince George


If you would've asked  me a month or two ago I probably would've sided towards Regina as being the paramount destination but after further consideration keep in mind that is an Everett organization that has yet to win a WHL title and with Carter Hart and Noah Juulsen in two, two cogs that expect to be major players for the Canadian World Junior entry the onus will be on the organization to give this real run an honest effort and what bigger splash could be made then the Benson acquisiton.

2.Ty Ronning(Vancouver)

If you watch tapes of his father Cliff and then revert to current video of son Ty, there's an uncanny resemblance for the way they conduct themselves. A lot "experts" will tell you that size works against Ty which it does but there's a certain level of grittiness that he plays with that makes him a valued commodity. He's a battler and with his goal scoring acumen widely celebrated,thirty one last season he will be a cheaper but important addition for most teams.

Possible Destinations: Swift Current, Prince George,Tri-City, Kamloops.


This boils down to Kamloops wanting to make a splash without sacrificing many future assets. Collin Shirley, Rudolfs Balcers, and Matt Revel would be very happy to have Ty brought in to the fold to take some pressure off their respective shoulders.

1.Jake Bean(Calgary)

This has the making of being a very difficult trade to orchestrate because of a few different reasons. First and foremost Calgary will have a natural hesitance to trade away their franchise player because even though Calgary sits well back of  a playoff spot, it's real wide open from the second wildcard spot and holding on to Bean could be enough to squeak in. However is just squeaking in enough for this proud franchise? And likely what will make this possible transaction near impossible is because he's a two year player he won't be sent away lightly. If you thought the value of Benson was going to be crazy, it would pale in comparison to what Jake could bring back. Due to all of these reasons listed, I'm just not sure a trade happens now even though it would have positive rippling effects for years to come.

Possible Destinations: Regina, Medicine Hat, Brandon, Seattle.


I don't think Russ Farwell is going to concern himself with the fact that he's a 1998 born player Farwell is well aware that if a banner is going to raised to the rafters in Kent, Washington the time is now to be all-in and even if that means exploring the possibility of trading Bean away again next trade deadline I think you do it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The 2016-2017 Western Hockey League Power Rankings(Volume 6)

Keep in mind when perusing through these rankings that the objective of this  article isn't to rank the teams based off of current position which would skew the rankings, it's a ranking where enlies my thoughts on where teams currently situate when assessing the likelihood or lack thereof of said team hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

1.Seattle Thunderbirds(Last time # 2)

The Everett Silvertips have encapsulated the imaginations of the Western Hockey League faithful with their blazing 19-3-4 beginning but in my opinion when the cookie crumbles aren't even the best team in the U.S Division, that classification belongs to the Seattle Thunderbirds. In the last preview I made mention that contrary to popular belief scoring depth up front was more of a soft spot compared to the thriving back end Konowalchuk has assembled. About a month ago and I understand the tide has softened since the return of Matt Barzal there was calls from particular T-Bird supporters that the squad should look to deal the likes of Ethan Bear and Keegan Kolesar but frankly this isn't happening for an organization that was league finalists a year ago. Ethan Bear and Turner Ottenbreit have done an admirable job spearheading the d-core but a name that for whatever reason seems to be forgotten about, receives little accolades at the very least is Jarrett Tyszka.  Persuing plenty of mock drafts over the past while and not many include the Langley product in the first two rounds but when you watch him play,although only seventeen he plays a mean, burgeoning game that is compounded by stellar skating abilities. When I sit down and analyze the game of Jarrett the first name that comes to mind is Bryce Salvador. A really explosive stride and you just  know he'll continue to physically mature and by the time he's embarked on his eighteen year old campaign it's not out of the realm to suggest he'll be in the 220 LB range. An enticing prospect and the lack of respect amongst the hockey masses behooves me. He'll be one of those consummate steals when Jarrett gets his name called. 

2.Everett Silvertips(Last time # 3)

Hot take that Carter Hart is the best goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League. Sarcasm overtones aside, in all seriousness this is no hot take and the scary thing to consider for the rest of the Western Hockey League is that his play has elevated since having his name called for the Team Canada World Junior Selection camp.Not allowing a goal in one hundred and eighty minutes is startling and a perception that I may of had going into the year was that the systems implemented are conducive to gaudy statistics but what I've learned is it's one giant misnomer. Carter Hart(along with Noah Juulsen) are the best at their respective positions and with that it's almost guaranteed that they'll remain competitive throughout. It'll be a great measuring stick when they go head to head against the powerful Medicine Hat Tigers to see where they really stand pertaining to Western Hockey League supremacy.  One last tidbit about the Tips and you  may find this interesting is that the last time an American Western Hockey League franchise had  a goaltender and defenceman on the World Junior team,  a near certainty this year with the aforementioned two, that team being the 2008 Spokane Chiefs ended up winning the Memorial Cup. Will history repeat itself? Time will tell.

3.Regina Pats(Last time # 1)

To say the now finished road trip through British Columbia was shaky would be an understatement. Exerting their domination against lesser opponents throughout the first two months it was difficult to gauge the outlook of this hockey club because not once did they face any adversity. The B.C trip finally brought adversity and you could argue they caved under it at specific points. The panic button with the goaltending has been pushed several times but if anything that's the one position that we can now breath a huge sigh of relief with as Tyler Brown was one of the lone bright spots in the absence of injured backup Jordan Hollett. I understand Jonathan Smart was acquired from Kelowna but it's apparent from this bloggers eyes that a third line winger to assist Jake Leschyshyn is a pre requisite as is one more veteran defenceman. Nineteen year old from Portland forward Alex  Overhardt would be a welcome addition and should come relatively cheap as Paddock keeps a watchful eye on the 2018 Memorial Cup bid.

4.Kamloops Blazers(Last time # 5)

In this last edition of the rankings, I was noticeably hard on Garrett Pilon. Since that ranking was issued (November 15th) all Garrett has accomplished is seven points in five games boosting his overall mark to twenty four points. It's almost as if he read this looked to prove a certain doubter wrong and I'll eat crow when necessary and I've unquestionably been proven incorrect. Garrett is maybe more of a playmaker opposed to a scorer than I originally thought but that's okay when you have gifted scorers in Devin Sideroff and Rudolfs Balcers. Let'st talk about Sideroff for a second... any time you get shafted by Hockey Canada for whch Devin and a lot of other quality players do you automatically get a chip on your shoulder and it's a great test of character for how he'll respond. I remember him for playing in an under eighteen international event and was extremely impressed from what I saw then so it's hard to say what's happened for Hockey Canada's opinion to be soured. One angle worth exploring are consistency issues. Although the Anaheim Ducks saw enough to exhaust a third round pick, to stay inside the 'Program of Excellence'it doesn't help to lay goose eggs on ten separate occasions this year. Sideroff is an elite player in the league, has tremendous speed and isn't afraid to track down the dirty areas but because he's in his nineteen year old season simply put the Blazers can't afford any off nights. This type or trajectory could prove detrimental come playoff time.

5.Medicine Hat Tigers(Last week # 10)

It's natural that as teams immerse in the four year junior cycle that you're always left  with a couple players who are fringe commodities in the dub but I can honestly say the Tigers aren't enamored in that problem as team depth is a definite strength. I suppose if you were to become nit picky you may ascertain that Shaun Clouston hasn't shown a lot of confidence in the backup goaltending position but with a plethora of available goaltending options I could surmise this is an easy fit. Continuing with the goaltending conversation, what a tumultuous road Nick Schneider has been on in his Western Hockey League journey. He went from a young prospect with the Regina Pats, who at one time perceived as the goaltender of the future to arguably landing in a worse situation in Med Hat. From what I gather his play before 2016-2017 was hot and cold which was part of the reason why Tiger administration brought over Mack Shields before last season which amounted inconsequential as injuries hindered Mack's career but what that trade did as well with riding the pine behind Marek Langhammer before that was it reverberated the idea that in order to secure the coveted National Hockey League contract he had to re invent himself in net and that's exactly what he's done.  With no one looking over his shoulder this go around he's battled thus far to a .908 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA which may be the formula that gets him signed after all.It's been a rollercoaster journey for Nick but being how  Nick resides it he abysmal Eastern Conference with only Regina being a feared foe, a near guaranteed trip to the conference finals will grab the scouts attention. Additionally I'd be remiss if I didn't speak to my surprise towards the  play of Zach Fischer.  Injuries have clearly stunted his development as a player but now with full health regained he's showcasing that he has the wherewithal to crack the thirty goal plateau.It helps that the team around him may score a thousand goals this year but we can't ignore that the former Lloydminster Bobcat is a rare sniper on a team flooded with playmakers and that bodes well for the coaching staff allocating important late game minutes for himself. As important as Mason Shaw and Chad Butcher are to the puzzle, don't sleep on Fischer.

6.Prince George Cougars(Last time # 7)

A lot of hurt egos at this current juncture in Northern British Columbia. I don't remember a scenario off the top of my head that so many players had the potential heading into the season of finding their way on the Hockey Canada but none received the call. Jesse Gabrielle, their have been rumblings that purported attitude deficiencies have gotten in the way because as a  pure scorer there aren't many that rival Jesse. With Jansen Harkins, I'm torn because on one hand you have to respect the hockey bloodlines with father Todd piecing together a commendable professional hockey career but where I think transgressions come into play are he doesn't possess one great skill set, is just above average in all areas. I believe it was TSN's Craig Button who said post draft who opined that he was surprised that Jansen fell to where he did but this blogger had him pegged right where he was selected, as a late second rounder His game won't translate well to the National Hockey League level. Ok to summarize,with Jesse it's off the ice issues holding him back, with Jansen it's him not standing out enough but for my strongest take, I present you Brendan Guhle. As loyal readers are well aware I had the Prince Albert Raiders pinpointed as a pre-season contender and two of the main reasons were because of Reid Gardiner and Guhle. Not many,including myself could've foreseen Reid sticking in the American Hockey League which in many respects led to a face palm moment for how I prognosticated Prince Albert. I'm sorry though, if you own the rights  to a defenceman who nearly made the NHL himself in Guhle and can't field a competitive entry then there are serious questions that need to be asked. I genuinely feel sorry for Brendan as I believe firmly if we would've started the year with any other organization he not only gets invited to camp but is on the team. Commissioner Ron Robison has to step in and correct the monstrosity that has become the Raider organization. It has directly impacted Guhle. 

7.Tri-City Americans(Last time # 4)

 At twenty, Tyler Sandhu's Western Hockey League career is riding into the sunset but one of the greater mysteries is how his skillset  didn't lead to getting noticed by National Hockey League scouts. The impressive thing about Tyler is his pure playmaking abilities. Some will theorize that Sandhu is far too passive to ever progress professionally but what is at least giving him a fighting chance is Mike Williamson's sudden tendency to pair up Sandhu and sniper Michael Rasmussen. The two are polar opposites to each other which makes the combination all that more enticing.I read somewhere that Michael hasn't scored a pretty goal in his life which is a fairly accurate representation and with Sandhu now on his line at moments it will create even more open space for someone that unequivocally has the best wrist shot in the Western Hockey League. Brilliant coaching really and for an organization prospering to the level they are I think we have to consider Mike Williamson as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate because not many pendants expected Tri-City  to remain the hunt. Unfortunately for the Americans they reside in a division which includes the T-Birds and the Silvertips which surely will cause Bob Tory headaches when contemplating whether to add at the deadline.I'm a proponent of this group but making a tangible addition is the only way they'll stay on the same playing field. Holding status quo and moving forward to 2017-2018 is the calculated endeavour.

8.Brandon Wheat Kings(Last time # 8)

Without knowing the character of Reid Duke completely, I'm curious as to how he's going to handle the inevitability that in a few short weeks this becomes Nolan Patrick's team again.  There will be an adjustment period to be sure because once Patrick is back in the fold and of this writing we're not sure if Nolan will get in any game action prior to World Junior selection camp you know the coach David Anning will construct his nightly game plans around Patrick and for Reid, an individual that anticipated fulltime employment in the American Hockey League this season it'll be a difficult pill to swallow. Reid has bought in to the team concept often times finding himself on the third line a year go during the championship run so it'll be a storyline to pay attention the rest of the way to see if he's willing to adapt to a lesser role Defensively it's been night and day since the opening of the season.Czech Republican Daniel Bukac who's vying for a World Junior spot has become a steadying presence. He's never going to present much acumen on the Power Play but in the Eastern Conference specifically has developed into one of the premier shut down guys. If Bukac keeps stymying the gifted scorers in the conference and if Clague keeps up his defensive player of the year pace then the Wheaties will not be a kind out in the playoffs. 7-3 in the last ten.

9.Swift Current Broncos(Last time # 15)

Is it possible with the way that Manny Viveiros has managed his team this season that he's changed the course on how to allocate the twenty year old positions? So many times nineteen years old from the year before are invited to Training Camp and are given preference because of the loyalty an organization shows but in reality there's a reason they're still in junior as an overager. It's becoming rarer and rarer that an elite twenty is returned to the league and dominates. Yes, examples of Adam Brooks, Dryden Hunt and Tyler Johnson are brought to the forefront however when scouring through piles of data a lot twenties end up being liabilites. What the Broncos elected to do is enter the campaign with one twenty and then assess the climate to locate exterior twenties. Since the commencement, Ryan Graham from Saskatoon has been brought in and if Kootenay ever lowers the price on Zak Zborosky.then you may see Swift enter those sweepstakes. It's an innovative concept, one that may be used more often in the future. I am one of those people that when analyzing then Broncos predicted that next year could be the pinnacle season but with the aggression showed thus far they've signalled to the rest of the league that they shouldn't be taken lightly.

10.Victoria Royals(Last time #  9)

To begin this synopsis there are two players I wanted to focus on, not necessarily players that will separate the teams success from it's possible failures but two unsung heroes who play integral roles for Dave Lowry in Ralph Jarratt and Kaid Oliver. Jarratt has formed an intimidating shut down pairing with Marcel Ibragimov and while I originally knew little about Ralph heading into the year,it's clear the mentorship offered by the veteran Russian has rubbed off on the eighteen year old Fort St.John native.  The best scouting report I could give is he's a hard nosed player, has an underrated passing ability in his arsenal and once the pending graduations of Ibragimov and Ryan Gagnon transpire he could be the staple heading into 2017-2018. I vouch that the most impressive thing about Jarratt is his discipline. Too many times do you see a player who likes to exert himself physically get into penalty trouble,ie Radko Gudas but with Ralph he finishes checks and isn't running around aimlessly. Pertaining to Kaid Oliver, I see tremendous upside, in the last edition I name dropped Brenden Shinnimin and that's exactly who I recollect when watching Kaid play. Comparing his style to that of the last couple Royal entries it's actually very non-traditional to the type of players they tend to covet. A third round pick from White Rock he plays with a high level of energy and responsibility in his own end  As mentioned I expect contributions to be minimal  In my opinion and I'm not one to speculate into draft politics but Oliver has a higher upside then first round pick Eric Florchuk does.  I've made my thoughts known in this blog that the narrative of this season is it's thin at the top and even at the number ten rank I question if Victoria are true contenders. Chaz Reddekopp as potential trade bait?  Long term pain over short term gain.

11.Kelowna Rockets(Last time #13)

What's a rebuild in Kelowna any way? Just when I thought the mandate may of been to get younger, they roll off a few wins in a row and make a trade to get older although questionable if it made them better.  To trade former first round pick, Kelowna bred to boot Jonathan Smart has me surmising if something went on behind the scenes because it's unconventional to trade away a hometown first round pick when many will tell you this isn't Kelowna's year. But once again as I attempted to illustrate in the opening it's against General Manager Bruce Hamilton's philosophy to throw in the towel so the question must be asked, where does the team go from here? Positivity has been a trademark of this particular edition as after reading back I don't think I've been too hard on any such player or team thus far but that will change with my observations of Nick Merkley. I'll just lead with the thought that Merkley's invitation to Team Canada was unwarranted as his play from two seasons ago has regressed alarmingly.  Call first round-itis or what you want but after the Arizona Coyotes selected NIck in the 2015 first round(30th overall) there's been a wide scale of laxidazical play and under the tutelage of Jason Smith it's not getting any better. In retrospect maybe we've understated the loss of Rourke Chartier but as the leader of the Rockets he has to lead better by example so the future building blocks of Kole Lind and Leif Mattson can soak in valuable information and the next crop that carries the Rockets to a championship. In the absence of consistent productive from Nick, the emergence of Calvin Thurkauf has in many respects saved the campaign.Thurkauf's best asset is si strength along the wall  Most of the other core forwards are small in stature so Calvin's ability to win puck battles down low is a trait most of these other forwards don't have. I love this defensive group and it's the absolute strength of the team and if they have aspirations of pulling off a first round upset then it's imperative Smith's defensive first mindset continues.

12.Moose Jaw Warriors(Last time # 12)

The characterization of this Warriors has not changed an ioda from the characterization of last year's Warriors team. The Brayden Burke transaction aside the concerns I had heading into the season remain unchanged Top heavy up front with scoring depth an increasing problem with an incredibly shotty defence.  I opined in the pre-season preview if the tendencies of Head Coach Tim Hunter riding his first line at no end would catch up with him and it honestly has. From a lineup management perspective what I would love to see is Brett Howden, Noah Gregor and Nikita Popaguev split up on separate lines. There's always that team the dub, the Regina Pats on a couple of occassions, that has explosive goal scoring potential but are exposed for a lack of depth in the playoffs. The onus is on Hunter and coaching staff to get Luka Burzan and Tristin Langan specifically going. Everyone is familiar with Burzan due to his first round status but Langan is a relatively unknown commodity but has the potential to be a good player in this league.  The Swan River,Manitoba native has been heralded for his penalty killing prowess but when I watch Tristin play I'm left wanting and expecting more offensively. You know what player he reminds me of, chanelling this back to Regina Pats lore is Dyson Stevenson. Many in Dyson's early days with the Pats perceived him as a grinder with virtually no hands but the minute he was given the luxury of playing with upper echelon talent his stat line took off.This verifies my belief that if you put Langan with someone like Brett Howden is boost the productivity and balance out the scoring. Getting to thirty points should be the measuring stick.

13.Lethbridge Hurricanes(Last time # 11)

Peter Anholt has picked up a new nickname this go around, that being" trader Pete" as he's figuratively made a million trades this season.  He's reportedly cleaned out the hinderances in the dressing room but the question must be posted, is it any better today than it was yesterday? Brayden Burke was only the first domino that also included Jesse Zaharichuk, Brady Reagan and former Wheat King Kord Pankiewicz. For a team that captured the Central division title last year this ship has suddenly and sadly  transformed into the Hurricanes of the early 2010's. Tyler Wong has taken the team on his shoulders and shockingly the Canes reeled off five straight but to me it has  a long way to go to garner back respectability.  This may come off as an unpopular opinion amongst Canes fan but I think it's safe to say this team is in need of an identity and how does an identity come about mid-season, by capitalizing on your most prized asset, Stuart Skinner. An 11-10 record in front of this colossally bad backend is nothing to be ashamed about and I know for a fact he ha strong value throughout the league and would fetch an arm and a leg on the trade market. Lest this be a lesson though that it's never advisable to build your team around a goalie because you can be Carey Price but if the proper nucleus isn't around said franchise player you've wasted his formative years. Nothing more than a premonition but Skinner is navigating Swift Current waters in January.

14.Spokane Chiefs(Last time # 16)

Scouring message boards and most will have you believe that the B.C division is the strongest in the league but I'm here to alter that thought by proclaiming the U.S division as the deepest division. The Spokane Chiefs are  a solid club, were very high in my pre-season prognostications but circumstances, mainly the division they reside in have drastically dampened my outlook. Aside from the herculean division they're forced to navigate through, part of the equation that's been wrong has been the disappointing play between the pipes from Jayden Sittler. The statistical line of Sittler has been porous which I find perplexing as it was my opinion as a member of the Lethbridge Hurricanes a year ago he was the more trusted netminder. An .881 Save percentage is simply unacceptable and if keeps this up I don't know what choice they'll have but to call upon Dawson Weatherill more native Meager goaltending is generally correlated with inconsistent performances from the back end but in the case of Spokane that's not a fair assertion. The Chiefs have a fairly balanced attack and the player who's having a breakout season aside from the obvious Ty Smith has been Jeff Faith. Before venturing to Spokane Jeff was a highly recruited defender courtesy of the Notre Dame Hounds midget program and it's taken him  a while to adapt to his surroundings as his former penchant was to hit everything and everyone in the site and frankly when entering  a stronger league as a seventeen year old he may of had that idea in his head but the optics of the situation just made it impossible. That, and I put some blame on coach Don Nachbaur for arguably sheltering Jeff too much and in many respects this translates into his rookie season. If you appreciate truculence, I know Brian Burke does, he'll become a instant fan favourite however the more comfortable he gets is code for his penalty minutes increasing It's been a staple his entire young career.

15.Calgary Hitmen(Last time # 6)

The Calgary Hitmen to put it mildly have been a major disappointment at this juncture. I spent some time discussing identity with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and an identity crisis is also prevalent in Cow town. I thought coming in their identity coming in was going to be that of a defensively responsible forward group, a defence that could hold their own and extraordinary goaltending out of Cody Porter. I still hold the notion that Porter is the conferences best goaltender but where the things have fallen off the tracks is the inability to score whatsoever. Fifty one goals on the year isn't going to cut it and it begs the question why second rounder Noah  Geekie, brother of Tri-City American Morgan didn't make the cut for a team so thirsty for goal production. He's having a wonderful season in Midget AAA and it's about that time Mike Moore smell the coffee and starting supplanting more scoring in this lineup. Normally I'd advocate and condone Calgary's decision to slowly develop someone like Noah but not when the division is "gettable" and the Hitmen should be looking to take advantage of  a soft year in the central. That's not to say this group isn't endowed with some top tier talent but the top tier talent they do possess are better suited for fulfilling defensive minded roles. It's a near certainty that Matteo Gennaro gets dealt ignoring everything I've said about the Hitmen having an opportunity but when push  comes to shove it's a case of too little too late. Matteo may find himself donning the rival Med Hat Tigers sweater in a couple months.

16.Portland Winterhawks(Last time # 14)

It's possible for the purposes of this blog that I've never vocalized my opinion that I expected Cody Glass to slow down from his current 1.39 points per game pace but to my surprise he hasn't and maybe I'm the delusional one in this facet as any Mike Johnston coached hockey team seems to bolster their offensive numbers, All of that being said, and I'm having trouble pinpointing why I'm not yet sold on Glass the player. He's not the flashiest on the ice  surface and I feel as the season progresses game planning against Cody will be more focal and he'll be forced to utilize some creativity to create space for himself, In a Western Hockey League comparables universe the player he most reminds me of is Devon Setoguchi. Setoguchi has mapped out a solid career for himself so the comparison isn't meant to be insulting but if we harken back to the way Setoguchi used to dominate in this league, he'd use his superb vision and make the simple play. You rarely ever saw a Setoguchi dangle and up until this point a Cody Glass dangle hasn't been a common occurrence.

17.Red Deer Rebels(Last time # 20)

Red Deer fans be warned, the only reason, and I stress ONLY reason why I've chosen to promote the Red Deer Rebels in these rankings because in some way or another every other team  below then has thrown in the towel. I look at the Western Hockey League climate this way, from team 1(Seattle) to team 10(Victoria), I consider this Tier A meaning the only ten teams I foresee winning the league. From Kelowna at eleven until Portland at sixteen I construe as the secondary tier. Red Deer begins the pure pretenders tier and like mentioned  would be a lot lower if other teams didn't begin to fold up shop.  Now for some constructive critique, Colton Bobyk has had a commendable season to date  His shot is one of the best in the league but how many times can he get caught up ice without facing any punishment from Brent Sutter? Sutter will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest coaches ever but I'm starting to hypothesize the good ol' hockey game has passed him by. No longer in this generation can you build a solely tough and rumble team and expect results. I bring this back full circle with my concern about Bobyk by saying because Bobyk would be labelled a big defenceman who CAN lay the big hit he gets away scotch free but defenceman such as Josh Mahura and Carson Sass get publically,lamented through the media by Sutter. I'd much rather see Mahura and Sass continually push the pace,put up points while making frustrating mistakes. This is an offence first league and someone in that Rebel organization has to forward the memo to Brent.

18.Prince Albert Raiders(Last time # 18)

I'm not one to usually cosign thoughts penned by anonymous fans online but the constant dialect I've been noticing is that of disbelief that the Raiders aren't willing to provide their young up and comers substantial playing time. The Brendan Guhle deal finally happened and as I touched on in the Prince George synopsis I'm happy Brendan will get to strut his stuff on  a playoff contender. The aftermath with the parting of Guhle should correlate to some of the younger defenders receiving more minutes. Two names, one on defence that constantly get brought up are Zack Hayes and Spencer Moe. Hayes from all accounts is having a superb season but point levels are down because he's been rotting away on the third pairing and isn't recieving any specialty minutes. Judging from his stats in Midget AAA with the Calgary Northstars he may never be a power play specialist and that could be why Marc Habscheid has been timid providing any PP time but at the very least allocate some penalty killing time because so far the second the Raiders are caught short handed he's stapled to the bench. It's shortsighted thinking because in a year from now him and Max Martin become your top pairing so why not start the audition process a little early? With Moe, I sense more frustration from Hockeytown North as there's been a few occasions that Spencer has sat down as a healthy scratch. Moe is a feisty individual who has a nose for the net and with the Guhle trade you've already signalled the rebuild, don't go halfway and play the remaining veterans at nauseum while not seriously shooting for the playoffs. The "half-assery" has been too prevalent in recent year and is par for the course as to why they've struggled holding on to stars in there nineteen year old seasons(Morrisey, Draisatl, and Guhle). Hunker down, formulate a plan and stick to it!

19.Saskatoon Blades(Last time # 17)

How about Braylon Shmyr of late? After a stretch in late October where he went seven games without accumulating a point he's caught fire in the latter half of November scoring eight of his eleven goals in the last fourteen games. That saying that get involved with Kelly McCrimmon in a trade negotiation and you'll usually get fleeced has historically held true with the irony being in the Wheat Kings championship run the trade that brought over Schael Higson for Braylon heavily worked out in Saskatoon's favor.......and the Wheaties still reigned victorious. I  just finished talking about Prince Albert not having a plan where as, and I can understand Blade fans running short on patience at least in Saskatoon you can understand the direction. Grybowski(likely butchered the spelling) who's spending the year in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is the distinct goaltender of the future and the blue line prospects engineered by Jantzen Leslie and Nolan Reid make room for optimism, for the first time in a very long time. It is too bad thought that the Blades couldn't reach an agreement with Johnny Tychonik who's right were transferred to Calgary The wherewithal to secure his rights would've sent a strong message to the fan base.

20.Edmonton Oil Kings(Last time # 21)

My pre-season preview was very complimentary of 2014 first rounder, Lloydminster product Kobe Mohr but safe to pronounce that he's underwhelmed to date. He always looks so disengaged from the play,I'm not seeing any compete and for someone entering hjs NHL draft year and I find that awfully perturbing. I'm going to assume and keep in mind that this is me going on a wild goose chase that when Oil King administration settled on Kobe's name in the first round of said 2014 draft that they projected a physical that to date hasn't happened. So what are the options with Kobe?  Would he accept a re-assignment to Midget AAA or would he frown at the notion? Do you undeservingly appropriate first line ice time for Kobe at the risk of peeving off teammates who have been put in the work? Do you scout out a change of scenery for Mohr in hopes of capitalizing on a dwindling asset?  So many questions, does Edmonton have the answers?

21.Kootenay Ice(Last time # 22)

Bravo, bravo Cranbrook! So many teams ahead of them in this ranking don't seem willing to just let it ride with their younger  commodities but full marks go out to young Coach Luke Pierce for completely buying into this rebuid and putting the future ahead of the present.  Giving the most recent first overall pick Peyton Krebs an extended audition was sheer brilliance and even more brilliant was just not using the call up in fourth line minutes but during his short stay he saw time with leading scorer Zak Zborosky. At the start of the season and I touched on this in the last edition was the ice time was tipping too much in the direction of Zborosky and other veterans but the tide has turned and now the future of this organization are also the now.  There's generally not much to talk about when I get this far down in the rankings so I'll give a shout-out to former Ice standout Elgin Pearce for being named the most recent WHL graduate of the month.

22.Vancouver Giants(Last time # 19)

Has the firesale started yet? No seriously has it? When Tyler Benson was fortunate enough to have his name called first overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, the premise was to build around Tyler in order to contend in the 2016-2017 season which is now because at the time the widely thrown around theory was that by the time Benson turned nineteen he'd be NHL bound.  Those that bought into that myself included sure look red in the face now. In Benson's defence for a management group that made moves to strengthen his stock in retrospect all they've done is lower his value significantly  It's been a mitigated disaster from step one. From Claude Noel to Lorne Molleken to now Jason McKee their's never been any rhythm in the message and that's probably effected Tyler's psyche. Secondly and likely most importantly can we touch on the fact that when attempting to build the roster around Benson that it's been a disastrous effort. I'm not saying injuries haven't played a role but this very well may be Brendan Guhle all over again where a change of scenery could benefit both the player and the organization.  Unfortunately for all those involved this type of linear thinking is non existent with Giants ownership and just like the parent NHL team will continue to flounder until responsible hockey operational decisions are made. Also, what's happened to the potency of Brendan Semchuk? Has not scored a goal in sixteen games and because he's an integral part of the future I'm just surmising here that potential partnership of Benson and Semchuk could be what both need to knock them into gear.