Two morning practices down and one game later it is time to take a look at who some of the standouts are for this Team Canada U18 Summer Camp. Of course going into the camp there were already expectations that players like Nathan MacKinnon and Aaron Ekblad were as close to locks as you could get. Then you had the outside players who with a very good camp could shake up predictions. After talking to several OHL players over the day and a half at camp it is evident that they know there is no such thing as a lock when it comes to a roster spot. I am not going to recap all 17 OHLers but just the ones who stood out or disappointed in Game 1:
In the first period Jordan Subban was exactly as advertised. A puck moving defenceman who likes to join the rush at opportune moments. Jordan had a few shot blocks and a rush with his fellow blue liner, Shea Theodore that resulted in a goal. My only criticism was that while on the penalty kill, with the two forwards engaged, Subban joined the forwards when it wasn’t necessary. Steven Harper was a stand out as he did what he told me he would do. Try to use his size and be more physical. Narrowly missing a big hit on Soo defenceman Darnell Nurse. I am expecting something gout of Brandon Robinson and he appeared to be a step behind his line and opposition after the first 20 minutes. Max Domi and Ryan Kujawinski have some good winger chemistry and two solid chances and when Darnell Nurse, is not avoiding hits, was able to carry the puck successfully through the zone to create a few chances.
After 40 minutes we saw the goalies switch and Spencer Martin took his place on the bench. Not a spectacular night for Martin, allowing 2 goals but showed rebound control and the ability to ‘swallow’ the puck. Brett Ritchie continues to hit while benefitting from playing with Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Ritchie is also working down low extremely well showing his strength. Team White does some line juggling; Brandon Robinson, Hunter Garlent and Zach Nastasiuk are playing together but remain a quiet line thus far. Bo Horvat showed some flashes including a solo rush but hasn’t been able to find some chemistry with his line mates in the period. Darnell Nurse continued to hit and be physical, he even low bridged Nick Baptiste. Baptiste, Chris Bigras and Aaron Ekblad continue to look below average after 40 minutes of play.
In the third the trend of Nick Ritchie crushing everything that was in his path continued. Ritchie continued to show that he, Trouin and MacKinon should continue to be a line in this camp and for the tournament. Darnell Nurse continued to show dominance amongst the defenceman, keeping the opposition away with his long reach and physical play. Chris Bigras came alive dishing a great saucer pass from behind the faceoff dot in his zone, cross ice to the blue line. Couple that with some Power Play smarts and his defensive awareness and Bigras opened some eyes as he showed that he is going to do everything to make this team. Nick Baptiste who was quiet after 40 minutes had a very good period where he was able to work down low against the boards, including cutting out and crashing the net to give Team Red a scoring opportunity that Brent Pedersen was able to capitalize on. A shocker on the night was the play of Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Robinson. Both players seemed to struggle while playing the game; Either a step behind or getting crossed up with teammates and the opposition. I do expect both of them to bounce back during the practices tomorrow and the game on Sunday night.
If I have to give a star to an OHL Player after game 1 it would have to be Nick Ritchie with an honourable mention to Darnell Nurse. Some players hurt themselves today, but it is only game number 1. 2 more to go.