Monday, August 1, 2016

Bellows Impresses at Day One of USA's NJEC

Lots of players with connections to the Winterhawks and the WHL were in action Sunday as part of national camps. Current Winterhawks Caleb Jones, Henri Joikiharju and Cody Glass were just two of those players. First, Portland Winterhawks' drafted prospect Kieffer Bellows and current Spokane Chief Kailer Yamamoto suited up for Team USA White as they took on Sweden's national team at the first game of the National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC).
Sweden 6 Team USA White 3:
-This game was truly a tale of two halves. USA White dominated the early play and posted a 3-1 lead before Sweden got to work and ran off five goals in a row for the 6-3 win.
Kieffer Bellows:
-How can we get this guy to forego his college commitment with Boston University and sign with Portland? Seriously, what do we have to do? He simply is a pure scorer, who should be able to convert it to the NHL level very soon. This is the first time I've seen him play and he did not disappoint. Bellows was drafted in the first round of this last NHL draft by the N.Y. Islanders, so Portland's best route to obtaining him would be them to sign him, making him ineligible for the NCAA. He scored USA White's first goal on a one-timer off a terrific feed from d-man J.D. Greenway and nearly had another as his shot was trickling over the goal line, when a Swedish d-man swept it away. Bellows has some natural chemistry with USANTDP linemate Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes' draft pick) and it showed. The two, along with Vancouver Canucks' prospect Brock Boeser (WHL rights owned by Seattle) were the team's most dangerous line.
Kailer Yamamoto:
-The Spokane native is on his way to being the highest NHL-drafted player from the state of Washington next June, in my opinion. Though he looked undersized out there, the late '98 born Yamamoto did not look out of place. He started out on the team's fourth line before getting bumped up to the third line, to play with Rem Pitlick (WHL rights owned by Prince George-drafted by Nashville) and Troy Terry (drafted by Anaheim). If Bellows' line was USA White's best, Yamamoto's may have been their second-best. Yamamoto got an assist on USA White's third goal. As he entered the zone with the puck he deftly dropped a pass to Ryan Lindgren (WHL rights owned by Brandon-drafted by Boston), who got a great looking shot on net that ended with Terry scoring on a scramble in front. Yamamoto is a passionate player, who can be a nightmare for d-men trying to get the puck out of their own zone. He can take bad penalties sometimes, but this is a gamble a lot of coaches will be willing to take. With a roster this stacked, Yamamoto's best chance to make the team, in my opinion, is as an energetic fourth-line player. Despite not scoring in this game, he had three different great looks that Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom (drafted by Philadelphia) stopped. Two of those were absolute gems of saves.

Next up  on Sunday was Caleb Jones, prospect Jake Oettinger and Tri-City Americans' goalie Evan Sarthou for Team USA Blue, taking on Henri Jokiharju and Tri-City d-man Juuso Valimaki for Finland.
Team USA Blue 8 Finland 1:
The USA fell behind early, but then slowly took over behind a hat-trick by Tage Thompson (drafted by St. Louis) and two goals from Tom Novak (drafted by Nashville).
Caleb Jones:
-After hanging around development camp last year, yet not getting an invite for December's final camp, you had to know Caleb would come ready to do whatever the coaches wanted, in order to make the team. His defensive pairing with Sean Day (drafted by N.Y. Rangers) was USA Blue's most consistent all game. Jones played a more conservative style then we are used to seeing in Portland, but still found a way to get a couple good offensive looks. Interestingly enough, both of his shots were on shorthanded rushes up the ice. Both times, he was giving his team the chance to switch out tired penalty killers and he still got great looks. At last year's camp, he got caught out of position quite a few times. That was not the case even once on Sunday. He has made large strides defensively in that time and looks to have packed on another 10-15 lbs of muscle as well. I am looking for Caleb to be one of the best d-men in the WHL this season and he did nothing on Sunday to discourage that lofty expectation.
Jake Oettinger:
-Jake is a late '98, so he is not eligible to be drafted until next June. He has committed to Boston University, just like Bellows and fellow Portland prospect Henry Crone. He stopped all 13 shots he faced and never really looked like he needed to try that hard to stop them. He is 6'4", so he covers a lot of the net, but he also ha  surprising amount of athleticism. One left pad kick save really stood out to me, as he quickly turned away what looked like a sure goal for Finland. Oettinger was the most impressive and had the best numbers of the four U.S. goalies in action Sunday.
Henri Jokiharju:
-This was my first look at Portland's recently signed import defenseman. Since he is a '99 born player, I was pretty surprised that he was with the U-20 team. He is still eligible for the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament, but apparently is in the running to compete for the U-20 WJC defending champion roster. Jokiharju is really under-sized out there, when playing against 18 and 19-year-olds, but it never really was a detriment in this game, despite the score. I really do not think that he was to blame for any of USA Blue's goals and that says something as Finnish d-men as a unit had a truly awful game. They were really poor at covering passes to players in front of the net, essentially giving them a lot of slam-dunk style goals. Jokiharju was out there on the left-defense on Finland's second power play unit and got two of his three shots on net, while on the man-advantage. He does a really good job of getting shots through and on net, even with high pressure from shot-blocking forwards. He even used his small size in a positive way, by initiating some rough stuff with USA Blue's Riley Tufte, which ended with Jokiharju getting checked in the back and going down. I think a larger player would not have been knocked down by the shot, which was all the better for Henri and Finland.
Evan Sarthou:
-The Tri-City goalie exhibited both his best and worst sides Sunday. He got caught out of position on Finland's only goal, as he slid way too far to his left on a two-on-one, allowing an easy goal into an empty net. After that early goal, he settled down and stopped every shot he faced (nine saves on ten total shots). His positioning was great and he seemed to do a really great job of anticipating where each shot was come from.
Juuso Valimaki:
-Honestly, I did not notice him that much. He is expected to be a possible first round pick next June, but needs to be a little more consistent then he was last season in order for that to happen. He's probably far more likely to represent Finland then Jokiharju is at the WJCs, but Henri was honestly better on Sunday.

Canada White 5 Canada Red 2:
Cody Glass:
-I was not able to watch as much of this game as I did the other two, but Cody played right wing on Canada White's top line, along with fellow WHL players Brett Davis (Lethbridge) and Stelio Matheos (Brandon). Glass seemed to be a magnet for the puck from what I saw and did a really good job of taking the play that was there, rather than trying to do too much. I've always thought that the national team coaches respect that Glass is a responsible player. He plays well on both ends of the ice and though he does not make too many spectacular plays, he always seems to make the right play given whatever situation he is in. This is likely the reason, he has made most of the national teams that he's tried out for.

No comments:

Post a Comment