It was a busy weekend for the Hitmen, and the upcoming schedule doesn’t get any lighter.
The Hitmen took both home games in a three-in-three weekend, and dropped a road decision in Red Deer.
Friday night’s game marked the home-debut of newly acquired Keegan Kanzig. The new big man hit the score sheet with an assist and a curious penalty, and showed off a little of the upside that made him a third-round draft pick in 2013. Kanzig showed high-end hockey IQ, and better puck-moving ability than I ever imagined he’d have. He was maybe even better during Sunday evening’s game, as he seemed to have more confidence in his teammates and took a few offensive chances–and a few more hit chances.
All of which is to say, I think I’m going to like having him around.
Some draft notes from the weekend:
Terrell Draude didn’t play in either home game for the Hitmen. Last weekend, Draude played very sheltered minutes in Calgary’s game against Saskatoon two Sundays ago, starting almost every shift in the offensive zone. Despite that, Draude’s line produced zero points and spent a whole lot of time skating back to their own end. The Hitmen went with other options against stiffer competition.
From Friday night’s game, if you’re looking for a sleeper who could shoot up draft boards the way Ben Thomas and Travis Sanheim did last season, you might want to check out Moose Jaw’s Ryan Gardiner. The speedy blueliner has just two points (both against Calgary) in 23 games, hardly a jaw-dropping number. But he was named the third star after scoring his first WHL goal (in a rink that loves to give home-team star sweeps) and played a very good game. He was strong with the puck, showed very good speed, had a couple of nice passes, and on his goal, made a great read to jump into the play and tap home a fast break cross-ice pass. If he can get a few bounces and start piling up points, he’ll be on a lot of radar screens before the spring.
Sunday, the Red Deer Rebels visited, looking to sweep a home-and-home after beating the Hitmen 4-0 Saturday night. The Rebels roster is loaded with Central Scouting listed players, most prominently Adam Musil. His biggest impact on the game came late in the third period when he hit Calgary’s Jake Bean pretty hard from behind. The hit was one of several questionable hits that went un-called, and instead of answering to any referees, Musil scrapped with Hitmen defenseman Michael Zipp. Musil did have a couple of other good rushes, but for the most part, the Rebels as a group–and especially Grayson Pawlenchuk–seemed a whole lot more interested in Rock ‘em Sock ‘em action than trying to win the hockey game, and none of their other listed players really stood out.
Surely, if you’re reading this, you follow @DubFromAbove on twitter. You likely saw this little nugget Tuesday afternoon.
18% of the #WHL players drafted into the NHL in the past 3 seasons were in either their 2nd or 3rd year of eligibility for the NHL Draft.
— Cody Nickolet (@DubFromAbove) November 25, 2014
A later tweet indicated the real numbers were four, seven, and eight players in each of the last three drafts, respectively. It’s an interesting trend, and I’ll be curious to see if it continues in the next draft. One Hitmen player who could fit the bill as a second-timer is forward Taylor Sanheim. He’ll earn a longer look from most scouts by virtue of being Travis’s brother, and the 1996-born rookie looks like he might fit the bill to join the above club. The tenacious forward has a nose for the net, and although his skills aren’t elite, he creates chaotic situations with his forecheck and has a knack for ensuring his team gets an offensive zone start after one of his shifts.
Looking ahead, Prince Albert, Swift Current and Vancouver are visiting over the next four days, though I’ll miss the Swift Current game. Should be another good test for the Hitmen as they look as though they’re just about rounding into something closer to the shape we’ve grown to expect them to be in. Check back next week for another update.