Hey All, i just went to my first Moncton Wildcats game yesterday (MON 1 - Cape Breton 0), i do stats sometimes for the coach (shots, offsides/2 line passes, etc) and my friend works as an assistant trainer for the team. (That's how i got the job) Here's my thoughts on certain drafted NHL players.
By the way, i'm not a scout, just some of my opinions:
Steve Bernier (SJ) --- He was FLYING, big time. He was easily the most noticeable player on the ice. He was fast, creative, intense, and threw a lot of big body checks. He will 100% play in the NHL i think. Twice as fast as last year. He reported to the team in great shape.
Adam Pineault (CLB) --- Easily should have been taken in the 1st round. He is competitive and i think he already has an NHL caliber slap shot. First shot he took, my jaw dropped. It was a cannon. He's a big boy too, not easily pushed off the puck. One shot, Houle gloved it, but before that it was heading for as top corner as you can get. Impressive save, but he's a scoring threat at all times.
Martin Karsums (Bos) --- Not much from him, but he's small, with a large frame, and he was one of the noticeable ones that always got in shoving matches, played really chippy. He looks like such a sniper.
Corey Crawford (CHI) --- I was never much of a Crawford fan, but he does look faster than last year, he looks so big in the net, excellent positioning....One problem..There was a mad scramble in front of his net, he went down, and i'm sure it took 20 seconds for him to get back up. The Cape Breton player, Steve Dixon, shot it over the net, if he didn't, the shutout would have been broken. Other than that, good game, he's improved.
Bruce Graham (NYR) --- Soft hands. He plays like Mario, (obviously not as good, don't flame me) he's tall and skinny, and turns on the jets when he has too. He's faster than last year too. He's got a lot of talent, made a lot of impressive passing plays. He's a keeper
Nathan Saunders (ANA) --- He's 6'3, 215lbs, and I truly believe he'll be in the NHL some day. He's tough, strong on the puck, a leader, good shot. We'll see. One of the top 3 QMJHL defenceman, EASILY.
Martin Houle (Phi) --- Great glove i've noticed. Kept Cape Breton in the game, Moncton had over 50 shots last night. Third time i've seen him play, and he's played well everytime.
Steve Dixon (PIT) --- I'm a Pens fan, but he was not noticeable, whatsoever. Not much help from the linemates though.
I had more or less the same reflections of the game as you (I split a flex pass with a friend). What has surprised me in the games I've been to so far is how good Nathan Saunders is. I really was not expecting much from him, but he has been extremely good all season, and I agree, certainly a top defenceman in the league at this short point in the season.
Dixon was entirely invisible yesterday, and he hasn't really had a great start to the season. I've seen him play a few times already this year and if he continues to perform at this depleted level, he will lose his spot on the WJC team.
Houle really kept the Eagles in teh game last night, with, as you noted, about five great glove saves, including one on a back pass from Graham to Karsums I believe that he absolutely robbed the Cats of a goal on. He was good positionally, and the only time he was beaten was that tip by Goulet.
One guy that I think you are overlooking is Oscars Bartulis, the Latvian defender who is playing probably 25-30 minutes per game alongside Saunders. Bartulis was a standout yesterday, and really was the Cats best all around player I thought, even better than Bernier. Bartulis made the only goal of the game, making an amazing leaping play at the blueline to keep the puck in the zone, and then when it came back to him a few seconds later he unleashed a good slapsho tthat Stephane Goulet managed to tip past Houle.
Anyhow, just sort of a secondary post to reinforce the things you were saying.