It was an East vs West matchup in Hamilton, as the Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires were in town to battle the Hamilton Bulldogs. Given the disparity between the conferences this year, and the stacked nature of their lineup, Windsor had to be considered the favorite coming into the game. However, it was the Bulldogs, lead by a hattrick from Brandon Saigeon who came away with a 6-3 victory.
Mikhail Sergachev, Defence, Drafted by Montreal 1st round, 9th pick 2016
Sergachev opened the scoring on a beautiful rush, picking the puck in his own end, going coast to coast past three Hamilton players, and scoring a short side backhand in the top of the net. Throughout the game he showed off his offensive ability and was a threat to go coast-to-coast with it on multiple occassions. He also showed off powerful wrist and slap shots as well as excellent passing skills. His offensive instincts are there, and its very close to NHL ready.
However, Sergachev’s defensive consistency still needs work. Two of the Hamilton goals were scored by plays in close to the net where Sergachev had lost his man. He needs to get better in his play without the puck, and in boxing out his man in front of his own net.
Gabe Vilardi, Right Wing, Eligible for 2017 NHL Draft
Vilardi showed off the skill that could make him a top five pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was strong on the forecheck, pressuring defenders into mistakes. He also is a very good stickhandler, protecting the puck and driving the net. Vilardi showed off his hands deeking out Hamilton goalie Dawson Carty to score a goal in the first period. He also made a nice pass to assist on a goal by Graham Knott in the second. He showed tenacity throughout the game, chasing down loose pucks, and playing strong on both ends of the ice.
Graham Knott, Left Wing, Drafted by Chicago, 2nd round, 54th overall in 2015
Knott is another power winger who gets in quickly on the forecheck and caused havoc in the Hamilton zone. He also showed off some great hands, taking the pass from Vilardi and making a quick move on a defender before letting go a quick shot to the back of the net. He gets to the front of the net without the puck, and battles hard for loose pucks in the corners. Knott also shields the puck well and extends plays in the cycle.
Jeremy Bracco, Right Wing, Drafted by Toronto, 2nd round, 61st overall in 2015
Bracco might not have gotten on the scoresheet, but he was noticeable in the game. He is an outstanding skater with great speed and edgework. He also controls the puck well at top speed, and forces defenders to back off and give him room, or he will go right past them. Bracco also showed off good vision and passing skills as well as a quick release on his shot.
Sean Day, Defence, Drafted by New York Rangers, 3rd round, 81st overall in 2016
Day continues to confound. He is a tremendous skater who seems to glide around on the ice. However he just doesn’t seem to drive the play like you would want from someone with his size and skating ability. His defensive positioning also continues to be a work in progress. He has improved since being traded to Windsor, but its still unclear where his ultimate upside is. Day has all the tools. Its time to put it together though.
Logan Brown, Centre, Drafted by Ottawa, 1st round, 11th overall in 2016 and Logan Stanley, Defence, Drafted by Winnipeg, 1st round 18th overall in 2016
I mention this as I know I’ll get a ton of messages asking about the Senators and Jets first round picks. They did not play in Hamilton.
Brandon Saigeon, Left Wing, Undrafted in 2016, Eligible for 2017 Draft
The hero of the night for the Bulldogs with three goals. He showed quick hands in front of the net, scoring all three of his markers right in front of the net (one was an empty netter). He battled hard in front of the net and established good position near the crease. Saigeon needs to continue to work on improving his skating and stick handling to become a legitimate prospect.
Will Bitten, Centre, Drafted by Montreal, 3rd round, 70th overall in 2016
Bitten picked up three assists on the night (all primary assists). He shows good speed and acceleration and combines this with excellent agility and edgework. Bitten is undersized, but he is relentless on the puck, pressuring it all over the ice. He also shows excellent vision and set up a number of teammates. An agitator, he drew penalties and got a number of Spitfires off their game.
Matthew Strome, Left Wing, Eligible for 2017 NHL Draft
It was a relatively quiet night for Strome on the scoresheet but he showed off some of the attributes that make him a possible first round pick in June. He has very good vision and excellent passing skills, including the ability to thread the puck through tight areas. Strome also has a very good wrist shot and release. He could stand to work on his skating. Stome plays a more powerful game than his two older brothers.
Cole Candella, Defence, Drafted by Vancouver, 5th Round, 140th Overall in 2016
Candella is a good skater, with strong edgework and pivots. He transitions well and can handle the puck and create offense. He seemed to have trouble containing the size and power that Knott and Vilardi brought in this game though. They overpowered him in battles both down low and in front net. He will need to get stronger.
Ben Gleason, Defence, Undrafted in 2016, Draft Eligible in 2017
Gleason has excellent mobility, which allows him to play a very effective two-way game. He has very good edge work, agility and pivots; allowing him to cover a ton of ice. Gleason’s defensive game has continued to improve, as he did well in puck battles. He also showed good playmaking ability from the blue line.
Matt Luff, Right Wing, Undrafted in 2016, Signed with the Los Angeles Kings as a Free Agent
Luff scored late a third period goal to put the Bulldogs up 5-3 and ice the game. He walked in off the right wing on the rush and fired home a wrist shot past Mario Culina. The play showed off Luff’s strong wrist shot and good release. He has strong offensive instincts and makes the smart play both with and without the puck.