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Hamilton Bulldogs Young Pups

On Saturday October 20, 2012, the Hamilton Bulldogs completed the first set of home and home dates against provincial rivals, the Toronto Marlies. They won the first game 4-1 the previous night in Hamilton as the home team, and the Marlies took the return affair 5-0 in a game where Toronto went up 3-0 midway through the first period and then shut down the Bulldogs attack the rest of the night.

Hamilton boasts a very young lineup, with an influx of prospects, housing 18 players 25 years old or younger as of September 15, 2012, and seven players aged 21 or younger.

I was at the game and made notes on a few of the notable prospects. (note Joonas Nattinen did not dress in this game).

Patrick Holland (RW) - Arguably the best Bulldogs skater on the ice notwithstanding a 5-0 loss .. demonstrated good core strength and strength on his feet .. played in all situations, even strength, power play and penalty kill duties .. keeps his stick at his waist and can miss passes that go right past him as he’s unprepared for the quickness of pucks zooming by .. could improve with a more active stick .. great poise with the puck and heads up playmaking imagination .. played the point on the PP with Nathan Beaulieu and even controlled the play at the top of the umbrella with Beaulieu creeping in off the point .. good vision and distribution .. faked passes/shots and drew as much time as he could before making passes from the top of the point .. flamingoed on one foot to block a shot twice during the same power play where he could have dropped and saved a scoring chance .. solid creativity and offensive imagination .. robbed on a second period scramble on the power play where a loose puck ended up next to him as he maintained net presence, but failed to jam it in .. poised and patient, he rarely panics with the puck and always finds an outlet to push the play .. solid outing, a positive on to which he can keep building.

Brendan Gallagher (RW) - Listed at five-foot-nine and a lean 182 points, he started on a checking unit .. came back deep to help cover down low on the Marlies second goal, overshooting his position and missing the puck which bounced out front and sent into an open net .. shown keen sense covering in front for both defensemen that were both covering the play in the corner .. some glimpses of hands quickness, but didn’t have many opportunities to create offense .. anticipated the play well staying close to and involved in the play in range of the puck .. makes himself available for passes with a good prepared stick .. willingly went to the front of the net, taking abuse, especially with his smaller stature .. rarely static, standing in one spot, constantly moving his feet.

Michael Bournival (C) - Former Shawinigan Cataractes captain was uncharacteristically wobbly skating, with acceleration a bit sloppy, flailing his arms at times .. wide skating stride, feet are well past the extremities of his hips .. lacked some top end speed .. was caught stick handling standing still a few times, some others while skating into dead ends along the  boards without support to pass the puck .. dangerous net presence without the puck, staking a claim in front .. defensively available with his stick in passing lanes and positioning well down low taking away the slot, mixing in a gritty games along the boards .. could stand to be more consistent in pursuit and when fighting for pucks .. still more to see here, competing well even past the point where a comeback from 5-0 was unlikely.

Louis Leblanc (C) - Left Saturday’s game in the second period after being tangled up with Jesse Blacker .. started the game .. followed the puck well enough in all zones, but can drift down too low in the defensive zone, leaving space up top .. lost positioning chasing his man and ended up taking a stick penalty (slash) .. can be pushed off the puck too easily at times, but battles and with some bulk he’ll be winning most of those confrontations .. kept his feet moving every shift.

Aaron Palushaj (RW) - Former Blues 2nd round (44th overall) in 2007 uncharacteristically struggled periodically to keep up with the play Saturday versus the Marlies, caught flat footed or going in the wrong direction .. was the victim of an ill-timed turnover at the top of the Hamilton zone taking too long to find a man to pass the puck to instead of just trying to get the puck out over the line – the intention was clever, but the turnover in which he overplayed his defensive position skating too low into the zone to atone that ended up as a scoring chance from the empty space just at the top of the faceoff circle ..disappointing outing creating little and involved sporadically, falling into the background .. a step slow and too peripheral to be effective.

Blake Geoffrion (C) - Could have shared ‘best player’ honours with Patrick Holland .. ‘Boom Boom Jr’ or ‘Bam Bam’ as called by some fans was solid in his positioning in all aspects of the game .. improved net presence and set up in the slot without the puck and with teammates in deep taking care of the board battles below the goal line .. formerNashville2nd round pick in 2006 (56th overall) has a mature and healthy approach to his physical game despite a medium build (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) .. not afraid to use his body at all times to gain leverage and separating the man from the puck .. uses his rump and developed upper body to protect the puck in close .. can be guilty of trying to hold off opponents when his feet aren’t fully activated .. clearly a defensive first mentality, plays as the center high in the zone and waiting for pucks in the slot when teammates have engaged board battles otherwise is very willing to get in and dig out pucks .. hands are a bit rigid and he doesn’t carry the puck much .. solid positioning overall, very rarely out of position to make a play .. fought Kenny Ryan .. Habs legacy has a good shot in a shutdown role with the big club.

Greg Pateryn (D) - Former Leafs 5th round draft pick in 2008 (128th overall) was acquired in the deal that sent Mikhail Grabovski and a 2nd round pick in 2010 – which was traded to Chicago for Robert Lang, and back to Toronto before being included in the package to Boston in the eventual Phil Kessel trade (became Jared Knight) .. good edges, quick on his feet and slick lateral agility and motion for his size .. played the first unit penalty kill over on the left side .. was caught chasing the puck carrier at times, fixating on the man instead of minding his zone .. doesn't get his stick effectively into scoring lanes and as a result ends up chasing missed pucks and then engaging the puck carrier .. also has to be quicker with the puck in possession, trapped holding on to it too long and forced to make hasty decisions and plays .. that characteristic led to multiple turnovers .. partnered with Tinordi .. didn't display too much of a big hitting mentality, and misses a natural mean streak for his 6-foot-3, 214 pound frame, but willingly gets in the way of opposing players to impede their momentum .. some good building block foundation elements coupled with growing pains and adjustments required to be an effective pro player.

Jarred Tinordi (D) - Son of former NHL blueliner Mark Tinordi, the Habs 1st round pick in 2010 (22nd overall) didn’t waste any time inducing his physicality right off the bat using his 6-foot-6, 212 pound frame forcefully with a big hit on the first shift .. showed some hesitancy going down to block a shot in the first period, cutting down space quick, but seemed to visually change his mind about dropping to the ice and stayed as tall as he could instead .. puck skills aren't mature for the AHL yet .. has a tendency to get the puck off to a teammate instead of playing it out himself .. panics somewhat with play selection, instead of keeping it simple .. really exploits his good stick placement and long reach to takes away space quick .. instinctively reads the play but can be periodically slow to react, take too much time to get in the way of the opposition .. can overextend himself looking for the big, crushing hit .. captained the London Knights to an OHL Championship in 2012 and named to the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup All-Star team to add to his Under-18 World Junior Championships gold for TeamU.S.A.

Nathan Beaulieu (D) - Former Saint John Sea Dogs standout had a mixed outing, showing glimpses of an effective rushing and offensively creative skill set, only to be marred by some questionable decisions .. has to be more mindful of his limited space and initiate making plays quicker .. still getting used to the pace and could increase his urgency at times .. when he’s stationary he’s unbalanced and can be easily stripped of the puck .. also still learning the pace of the stops/starts required at the pro level – he tended to make circles instead of quick stops and directional changes .. rushing instincts are ready for the professional ranks, on display as he carried it out and into the neutral zone, finding lanes with lateral shifts and top straight away speed .. sneaked in from the point down low – which is a good quality on it’s own - on the power play as the lone defenseman with four forwards, leaving Patrick Holland alone at the top of the umbrella, something likely to bite him if there’s a turnover with no defensive support .. quick to unleash a well timed and heavy one-timer .. skating stride is long, but wasn’t particularly strong, getting up to speed within a few strides, but looks raggedy doing so .. will abandon defensive positioning to enthusiastically join the rush and will learn to be selective about that moving forward .. offensive instincts are mature and AHL ready, just needs to round out the rest of his game .. gaps weren’t as tight as they need to be and he was reactive to puck carriers instead of taking away their space or impeding forward momentum .. a small work in progress.