Toronto Maple Leafs fans nervous about their blueline need only look to the future for a little excitement.
Earlier this week, 2012 first-rounder (fifth overall) Morgan Rielly gained some attention by scoring this nifty goal (apologies for the grainy video), but he’s not the only defenseman picked by the Leafs last summer who is creating a stir on offense.
Second-rounder (35th overall) Matt Finn is leading the charge along the Guelph Storm blueline with four goals and eight points in his past seven games. All told, the Toronto native has 12 points through 12 games good enough for sixth among all blueliners in the Ontario League in points, while his five goals top the league.
At six-foot, 207 pounds, Finn is roughly the same size as Rielly and the fact both are leaders along their bluelines (with Finn as captain of the Storm) should provide some optimism for fans of the Blue and White.
On Sept. 28, the Blazers lost in the shootout on the road in Victoria and that was the only time they've dropped a point this season. They've outscored opponents 49-19 since that loss and carry four of the WHL's top six scorers (J.C. Lipon, Colin Smith, Tim Bozon and Brendan Ranford). Domination.
Jonathan Drouin, ranked No. 10 by ISS heading into the season, returned from a shoulder injury that forced him out of six games and promptly put up two goals and two assists against Drummondville. Just another day at the office for the Mooseheads, who haven't lost since Sept. 28.
With 2011 Lightning draft pick (58th overall) Nikita Kucherov expected to join Quebec’s lineup for the first time Thursday night, the Remparts are left with three capable Europeans, of which they can only dress two per game (Mikhail Grigorenko and draft eligible Dane Nick Sorensen are the others). Sorensen is expected to be the odd man out of Thursday's lineup and on the trading block, despite sitting fourth in QMJHL rookie scoring with 14 points in 12 games.
A night after being pulled against the struggling Kitchener Rangers, goalie Daniel Altshuller turned aside 26 of 27 Owen Sound shots and stared down one of the league's top goalies, Jordan Binnington, in a narrow 2-1 win. Boone Jenner has only managed three points in the past seven games.
New Jersey first-rounder (29th overall) Stefan Matteau had already been suspended by the league once this season for being an aggressor when he received another one-game ban for a check from behind last Saturday. The difference this time? The Armada tacked on an extra game, thereby suspending their own player.
Owen Sound Attack
Dallas Stars draft pick (104th overall in 2012) Gemel Smith has a motor that continues to impress the Attack and has logged at least one point in every October game so far. Owen Sound faces Kitchener and Windsor this week, two teams that haven't settled into their groove yet.
Even though Jason Dickinson is the highest-ranked draft eligible prospect on the Storm this season, it was Hunter Garlent (ranked No. 100 by ISS to start the season) who earned CHL player of the week honors with eight points in three games. But the week quickly went bittersweet for Garlent, who injured his ankle and will miss three-to-six weeks.
Prince Albert Raiders
The Raiders won seven of their first eight games of the season, but have dropped four of their past five. Chicago draft pick Mark McNeill (18th overall in 2011) has faded, too, with only four points in his past five games. Prince Albert will try to avenge an embarrassing 9-0 loss to Moose Jaw two weeks ago when they host them twice this week.
Mac Carruth, the goalie who's led Portland to back-to-back WHL finals, was returned from the Rockford IceHogs two weeks ago, which caused a logjam in the crease and forced Cam Lanigan out via trade. Carruth, another Blackhawks pick, is making Portland one of the most difficult teams to score on, logging a .961 SP, 1.00 GAA, perfect 3-0 record with one shutout. Sunday's home game against division-leading Tri-City will be a telling match.
Back-to-back losses to London and Brampton had to be disappointing coming off an eight-game win streak. The good news is Mark Scheifele has moved into a tie for the OHL's scoring lead with 20 points in 13 games and is carrying Zach Hall (undrafted) and Anthony Camara (2011 Boston third-rounder) up with him.