After 6 games, here my thoughts on the skaters…
Nik Antropov – He won me over pretty quickly after a very uninspired preseason. He’s good with the puck, he takes it to the net, and he looks like he cares. He’s also been much better defensively than I expected. He and Burmi have been magic together.
Zach Bogosian – I think we’re starting to see the Zach Bogosian that got drafted 3rd overall. He plays a very physical game in the defensive zone and is starting to show some offensive flare. He hasn’t registered a point yet, but that should change quickly. He’ll be a key guy in the future if this team is going to take the next step anytime soon.
Alexander Burmistrov – What’s left to say about this kid that hasn’t been covered in the media. He’s been flat out amazing in all 3 zones. He was a personal favourite of mine before the season started and now he basically walks on water in my eyes. I see a lot of Datsyuk in Burmi. We can only hope he develops into that kind of player.
Dustin Byfuglien – I’m a little torn on Buff at this point. He’s literally a one-of-a-kind player in this league so he’s a very nice piece to have. He brings an element to this team that could not be replaced. He just needs to get a little better at picking his spots and he needs to show a little more urgency with the puck in the defensive zone. He has shown some improvement in the last few games.
Tobias Enstrom – He had a few shaky moments early in the season, but it’s very evident that he’s a key player for this team. He plays big minutes, he’s crazy smart, and he makes up for his lack of stature with an active stick in the defensive zone. I feel more than safe calling him a good #1 defensemen in this league, and those guys are hard to come by.
Tanner Glass – He’s been a solid player on a key line for the Jets so far. It says something about the state of the team when the 4th line has been key, but it has. Glass brings some energy, has been good on the forecheck and got a nice goal in the Pittsburgh game.
Ron Hainsey – I’m a big Hainsey fan. He gets a bit of a bum rap because of the bloated salary that he comes with, but you have to be able to separate the salary from the player. He’s been Mr. Consistent so far this season and I got the impression from watching him in Columbus that he’s a solid locker room guy. I’m very comfortable when Ron Hainsey is on the ice.
Randy Jones – He had a really rough first game, but I have to give him a partial pass because it’s a small sample size and he was probably nervous.
Evander Kane – I was expecting big things from Kane this year and I’ve only seen glimpses of it so far. I’m not a big fan of how Noel handled him very early in the season. I get what Noel was trying to do, but I think it back-fired a bit because it almost looks like Evander is trying too hard now if that makes any sense. He’s gripping it a bit too tight right now and is trying to force the play instead of letting it evolve naturally. I’m pulling VERY hard for him to break out soon. Noel needs to find him some better minutes.
Andrew Ladd – Obviously the first line hasn’t brought it offensively and that needs to change fast. Having said that, Ladd brings it in many other ways. It’s very easy to tell that Ladd cares a lot. I put him in a rare category with heart-and-soul guys like Toews and Umberger, and I mean that as a huge compliment. I love having this guy as the clear locker room leader on the team.
Bryan Little – I’ve been unimpressed with Little so far. That may be partly due to the fact that he came so highly-hyped by the Thrashers fans. Perhaps he’s a victim of unrealistic expectations but I think he needs to elevate his game and be a bigger part of that first line.
Brett MacLean – I view this guy as a plug. Maybe I’m just not watching him enough but I hardly ever notice him out there. As I understand it, he’s got good hands around the net, but he doesn’t have the speed for a 3rd line role. I’d love to see Cormier or Klingberg get a shot to bring more energy to that 3rd line.
Derek Meech – Has been pretty solid so far in his first 2 games. Nothing flashy, but that’s not a bad thing for a 7th defensemen.
Johnny Oduya – Obviously had a really rough first game. I was just starting to come around with him after the Pittsburgh and Toronto games, and then he had the gaff in the Ottawa game. The only time you should make a pass up the middle is when a passing lane is open. STOP PASSING THROUGH OPPOSING PLAYERS! I’d love to see him get back to his NJ Devils form.
Mark Scheifele – I’ve probably said enough about this kid in my last post. Bottom line is the coaches have to determine whether he’s physically capable of playing 82 games at this level and they have to determine whether he can contribute to this team’s success (translation: no healthy scratches). If he can, then he should stay. I realize that I’m in the great minority on this topic though.
Jim Slater – I love Slater so far. He is a glue guy that does it all. He wins faceoffs, he plays physical and he can chip in offensively. Guys like Slater are so underrated and so necessary on good teams.
Tim Stapleton – To be honest, I don’t have much to say on Stapleton. He doesn’t seem to be a liability on the ice which is good I guess, but I just don’t notice him much out there. Solid depth guy at best.
Mark Stuart – This is one player that I did not know much about before this season and he’s been a very pleasant surprise. He might be our most solid defensive defensemen, he plays a physical game and he is a well-spoken leader in the locker room.
Chris Thorburn – Another key member of the GST line. Tough to find any faults with his game as he and his linemates are doing exactly what a 4th line should do – getting pucks deep and wearing down the opposing D.
Kyle Wellwood – I really like the offensive depth that Wellwood brings. He sees the ice well and has looked good with Burmi and Antro. What has surprised me the most about Wellwood is his compete level. He comes with this tag as an enigmatic, underachieving forward, but I don’t see that from him. He gets into the dirty areas and gets it done. His biggest drawback is that he’s not exactly a physical specimen.
Blake Wheeler – Along with Ladd and Little, Wheeler has been a bit frustrating to watch. I like his speed and he shows glimpses of passion but for a guy who is 6’5″, I’d love to see him play more physical and take the puck to the net. He’s been a bit of a perimeter player so far and that needs to change. It’s time to go from potential to actual for Wheeler.