A couple of quick notes on the Ottawa Senators 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the annual rookie tournament which was shown on Rogers locally tonight:
- Right off the start, rookie goalie and 2009 draft pick, Robin Lehner (46th overall) looked really good and made some highlight reel saves throughout the game. It's probably no surprise to some as Lehner was the number one ranked European goalie going into the draft and his father is a renowned goalie coach who instructed Ranger superstar Henrik Lundqvist early on in his career.
It was strange, but Lehner looked dominant and about as close to an NHL goalie that a rookie from Sweden could look like in these circumstances. You really noticed his quick legs as he made multiple stops by shooting out his pads in that butterfly style and his rebound control was almost perfect.
It's only one game in a rookie tournament, but Lehner couldn't have gotten off to a better start in an Ottawa uniform. He's going to stay in North America this season and play for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
- Erik Karlsson was the other star of the night and was silky smooth as expected, scoring a nice goal from the point on a laser beam shot. He's a great skater and looked calm and cool at all times.
-Others who impressed were Mike Hoffman, a speedy forward who scored 52 goals in the Q last year. Bryan Murray snagged him with his fifth pick (130th overall) and that may end up being a steal if Hoffman develops as hoped. A lot of you might wonder how a guy who scored over 50 goals in Major Junior could drop to the 5th round but the wide-open QMJHL is notorious for players putting up wild offensive numbers but then falling back once they face professional competition. Hoffman is a little small (175 pounds on draft day) but he has wheels and hands that should take him far.
Peter Regin looked great in the 1st period and then kind of disappeared until the late going of the 3rd. He looks like an NHL player to me, more so than Zack Smith who didn't really do much except get into a nasty scrap at the end of the game. He looks a little like a Cody Bass clone but I'd have to see him in more games to really get a take on his game. Bryan Murray and the organization are really high on him so that says a lot for his chances. He wore the captains "C" on the ice tonight.
Geoff Kinrade and Craig Schira looked solid on defence and Erik Condra really stood out for me out front tonight. His name was mentioned every time he was on the ice and he seemed "pesky" for lack of a better term. The product of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey program, Condra will surely make the Bingo Senators this year and hopefully make an impression there. I really like his game and hope he makes some noise this year.
- Not much in the negative vein except that Jim O'Brien continues to underwhelm. I'm just not sure what O'Brien really does well and he was invisible most of the night. He did have a great year with Seattle in the WHL last year and will get a chance to play more games with Bingo this season. But it's hard to believe that O'Brien was a 1st round pick (29th overall) back in 2007. Maybe I'm wrong about O'Brien and he ends up being a good checking forward in the NHL someday. We'll wait and see.
The entertaining game ended with a series of scraps, one of which left try-out prospect Brett Parnham dazed and confused at centre ice. He had to be helped off the ice by teammates after getting cranked pretty good by a Penguin player whose name I now forget. Parnham ended up with 50 goals for Oshawa last season and played 7 games for Rochester in the AHL. He could end up as an over-ager with the Generals again this season.
For those who are interested, Rogers is showing the Senators first real exhibition game next Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. It will be interesting to see who survives rookie camp to make the main camp which starts this weekend.
Just flipping through some old Hockey News yearbooks and came across this hilarious piece about Dominik Hasek from the 98-99 edition. Hasek was then just coming off two consecutive MVP trophies, four Vezina's in five years and an Olympic gold medal in Nagano. He was also about to lead the very ordinary Buffalo Sabres to the Stanley Cup final, only to lose on a controversial goal by Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars. In other words, Hasek was by far the best player in the NHL at that point. Yet....
"Sure he's quirky. A few years ago, during one team huddle at center ice, someone noticed Hasek down on all fours in the corner of the rink. His gloves were off. "So it was like 'What the hell is this guy doing?' " remembered Rob Ray. They yelled to him. "Dom, what are you doing?" " I'm playing chess," came the reply. Apparently, he was melting out squares of the chessboard with the body heat of his fingertip. Hasek denies the story. "They thought I'm playing chess, " he said, "but I was playing with the snow on the ice because it was a boring practice."
I love Hasek, man, I love him...