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OHL: Niagara IceDogs – Verhaeghe and Graham

Facing an Oshawa Generals team dressing for the third time in three nights, the Niagara IceDogs skated to an early 4-1 lead before witnessing it evaporate into a 5-4 regulation time loss versus the Eastern Conference powerhouse. Oshawa has lost twice in the last 10 games.

Niagara has dropped three in a row pulling down their record to 5-7-1 while skating to a 4-4-0-2 record in their last 10 games, sitting in the basement of the Central division with 13 points, tied with Barrie, having played one more game (15) than the Colts (14). The five goals pushed their goals differential to 58 goals for and 59 goals against. Niagara is tied for second in PIMs (296) with Guelph in the entire league, behind leader Owen Sound Attack (298).

With few drafted players in the IceDogs lineup, two players are featured here; Carter Verhaeghe (Toronto) and Jesse Graham (NY Islanders).

We start with the Islanders defenseman before getting into the Leafs pivot.

nhl-new-york-islanders Jesse Graham, D (NYI)

New York Islanders pick in 2012, returning for his fourth season with the IceDogs .. listed at 5’11” – 172 pounds, he’s a little undersized for an NHL impact defenseman, but he brandishes a ‘C’ on his chest, indicating leadership, considering he’s on a team with two top-three scorers in the entire league .. plays on the right side blueliner with a right handed shot .. shows some feistiness in front of the crease, but not as physically intimidating, he smartly uses his stick to tie up players, while gaining leverage on bigger player in front of the goal with effective body placement instead of physical force .. keeps his head on a swivel in the defensive zone, monitoring as a crease presence but didn’t always engage with the urgency required for the situation .. maintains both hands on a stick - which seems a little short - in defensive situations which doesn’t eliminate the ice immediately in front of him and gives the opposition more space to operate and forces him to close gaps quicker than needed .. wide skating base, but like an energizer bunny, he doesn't stop moving, with his feet constantly activated in every zone .. gets involved in the offensive zone, actively pinching off the point and supporting the offense down deep by being a weak/soft side presence .. rushes the puck in controlled breakouts on the powerplay .. seems to have a natural inclination is to stick check and doesn’t square up his body in physical altercations .. a lot of good basics to build upon.

nhl-toronto-maple-leafs Carter Verhaeghe, C

Placing among top OHL scorers, the Toronto Maple Leafs 3rd round selection in 2013 (82nd overall) lacked the high end dynamic associated with a high scoring, impact forward. The scouting report on the IceDogs pivot as it appeared in the 2013 McKeen’s Draft Guide is the reference point (this is the statistical breakdown)

Verhaghe draft guide

Skating particularly the start up, a little slushy and lacks acceleration .. skates on a wide base, knees slightly jutted out .. noticed he took long routes at times, for example, while standing off to the side of the net during play action, he skated behind the net to gather momentum as the play turned up ice rather than a quick stop and start heading back the other way .. uneventful first few shifts, both in production and puck touches .. seems to try avoiding contact – mostly along the boards .. lost puck battles due to this avoidance and outmuscled when he did engage physically – strength upgrades are needed .. movement are generally quicker, with urgency peaking when cradling the puck .. (for more info from BCP, here is the link)

.. in contrast to the tweet above, he dropped shoulder while driving to the net from the outside and tried to muscle his way to the front .. the defenseman pushed him off but that’s a quality trait .. mostly working the perimeter not getting involved consistently in scoring areas .. seemed to have taken all but one offensive zone faceoff in the first period – and a majority of draws in the offensive zone throughout the game .. start up is still fairly weak and he glides a lot, resting on the gathered momentum instead of pumping his legs .. lateral agility is is suspect too .. unbalanced/awkward in crossovers and turns aren’t tight, takes long loops to get going up to speed .. gained the zone on the IceDogs second goal, losing it at the line and almost caught on the offside, went straight to the net without the puck and created enough of a distraction to allow teammate Brendan Perlini to get the shot off - didn't receive an assist, but was instrumental in the play ..

 .. used in all situations, along as a penalty killing forward .. solid hockey sense, creative with the puck and some space, senses where he should be on the ice with respect to the play in the offensive zone .. must be more diligent about his defensive responsibilities as a center and engage opposition more when deep in the defensive zone .. coaching staff sends out that the first line coinciding with a down shift where a spark is needed .. excellent scoring totals and flair for making offensive plays, but still very much the project – with some warts masked by the high point totals.


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