Thomas Welsh – after only hearing about Welsh, and never getting a chance to see him play, I was very eager to get a look at him in the Canada East camp held a few weeks ago. The Mississauga Steelheads prospect really impressed and showed that he is a budding talent on the blueline. Standing at 6’0” 200 pounds (approx) and was a key stand out not only for the Canada East camp but at this weekend’s Cougars’ Challenge Cup with the Georgetown Raiders. To be concise, Thomas Welsh is an OHL caliber defenceman. Thomas is very strong on the puck and confident when skating with it. You can tell when the play is bearing down on Welsh he is thinking of what the forwards will attempt to do to get around him. They rarely do get around Welsh as he is strong positionally and able to force the forwards to make mistakes without giving up his position. A play this weekend resulted in Welsh causing a turnover and getting into a foot race with a forward. Welsh was able to force the player wide, using his stick to create some distance between the forward and his goaltender without panicking. The play resulted in a broken scoring chance where his goaltender was able to keep the puck out of the net. Welsh is strong on both sides of centre ice but doesn’t reach to join the offence. If the opportunity presents itself and he is able to join the offence without weakening the team’s defence he will join to pressure the opposition. I believe Thomas only took a handful of shots towards the net during the weekend and one of them was a ‘seeing eye’ wrist shot that found the back of the net. I would like to see more off Welsh’s offensive side. But there is no need to doubt his defensive abilities.
David Miller – The Mississauga Rebels forward was drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 6th round and will be in their plans next season. This season however Miller will be playing for Georgetown and could potentially earn top minutes in the OJHL as a rookie. Miller’s game is a two-way centreman who is strong at both ends of the ice. In limited showing this weekend, Miller displayed his defensive ability, not quick to join the rush, making sure the puck leaves the zone before switching to offence. Miller is a really smooth skater and has a knack for finding the open holes on the ice to create trouble for his opposition. Miller has a quick shot and can play down low but has been more of a passer this weekend. If he were to play in the OHL this season, he may not make it past the third line with the Greyhounds, but playing for the Raiders (OJHL) this season, he will learn to complete his game while growing into a stronger defensive centreman.
Kegan Blasby – After being selected by the Kitchener Rangers in last years priority draft, Kegan spent last season with the Markham Waxers and is now playing with the Hamilton RedWings. Kegan is a big 6 foot forward who knows how to use his weight. Blasby is comfortable carrying the puck down the wing but not so strong up the middle. Kegan can anticipate the play very well and has a good defensive stick in that he can cause turnovers and disrupt the play. His skating needs some work but once he is moving he is a comparable to Devante Smith-Pelly a ‘freight train on skates’. And he also has a nice quick shot which will deceive some goalies and create scoring chances when crashing the net. If Blasby does play for the Rangers this season he could see some second line minutes and power play time.
Kyle Jenkins – Jenkins is another familiar name from this years OHL Cup Champions, Mississauga Rebels. Jenkins only saw time in the first game of the tournament but was able to showcase his smooth skating and his offensive mindset. Kyle is able to make crisp tape to tape passes which allows for quick transitions and breakouts. While he appears to be an offensive minded defenseman you can see that as a blueliner he is able to position himself properly to cut down angles and force the opposition to the outside. Being one of four fourth round picks by the Soo, Jenkins will play out the year in Oakville. Learning to tighten up some parts of his game before hopefully making the jump to the OHL next season.
Stefan Leblanc – Like his teammate Kyle, Stefan saw limited time this weekend and in that short viewing I was able to recognize that he was a rookie. Something about his play made him stand out as one. But that isn’t a knock against Leblanc as he was playing some heavy minutes in key situations for Oakville. Once you recognize he is a rookie blueliner you realize the poise he has with the puck. He is calm, not rushing or just dumping the puck, but you can see that he is making the play. In the defensive zone you notice his head on a swivel always reading and interpreting the play before him. More often than not Leblanc will not only make the smart play, but the correct play in the given situation. Leblanc has an active stick and played strong positionally. What was noticeable is that he attacks the opposition, he wont just sit back and wait, he will antagonize his opponents with his stick, whether a swipe or poke at the puck that will result in some turnovers. The Sudbury Wolves prospect will play for Oakville this year, while filling out in preparation to crack the Wolves roster next season.