With the news that Owen Power will represent Canada at the Olympics what, exactly, is Team Canada getting?
Power offers everything you want in a top-pairing defenceman. He’s big, skates like the wind, is extremely agile and most importantly, he plays with the poise of a 10-year NHL veteran. There doesn’t seem to be a challenge that he can’t overcome.
First it was the 2021 men’s worlds, where he went from playing three seconds in his first game to playing the second-most minutes (24:17) in the overtime game-winning final against Finland. He thinks the game well and while he isn’t overly physical, he defends with his feet, and has an active stick with extended reach and strength. Not only is he effective at breaking pucks out, but he has the moxie to keep plays alive on the offensive blue line.
Based on his play at the worlds, there’s no reason to think he won’t be given time on special teams at the Olympics.
The Olympic men’s hockey tournament starts Feb. 9 and Canada's first game comes on Feb. 10 against Germany. The gold medal game is scheduled to go on Feb. 20, with the bronze medal game on Feb. 19.
Barring anything disastrous, the Buffalo first-rounder should return to North America in time to play in Michigan’s final Big Ten regular season weekend, scheduled at Notre Dame Feb. 25-26.
The Big Ten tournament is scheduled to begin a week later, with the Frozen Four scheduled to take place in Boston from April 7-9. And, don’t forget, the potential for the world juniors to be re-scheduled some time after that.
In the most recent edition of the NCAA rankings, Michigan was placed fifth, with a record of 14-6. Power returned to Michigan after being selected first overall by Buffalo in the 2021 draft because he wanted a chance to experience college life, play in the world juniors and win a Frozen Four title with the Wolverines. At the time he made the decision, I’m sure the Olympics weren’t part of the thought process.
Prospects on Hold?
The CHL/NHL Top Prospects game that was lost last year is once again in jeopardy. Scheduled for Feb. 2 in Kitchener, the game typically features the top 40 draft eligible players from across all three CHL leagues. With COVID-19 protocols wreaking havoc on players, staff and with limited if any attendance allowed, it looks like that game will be held at a later date.
The speculative make-up date is sometime around the NHL Combine, which is scheduled for May 29-June 4 in Buffalo. With half the building already sold, the CHL/OHL would like to keep the game in Kitchener. By that time, a full crowd may be allowed in the building, and CHL Prospects deserve that.
Of note, the last prospects game to be played took place in January of 2020 in Hamilton, Ontario. Eight players (Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Jamie Drysdale, Seth Jarvis, Dawson Mercer, Jake Neighbours, Nico Daws, Cole Perfetti), from that game have already played in the NHL. Marco Rossi would be the ninth when he steps on the ice with the Wild.
Originally the QMJHL was going to be on break until Jan. 7, but with the Omicron variant’s easy transmission, the league decided to extend the break to Jan. 14, and may have to extend further, especially with the restrictions currently in place in the province of Quebec.
Best Mantha for the Job
On Wednesday, the QMJHL announced Elizabeth Mantha had joined the league’s officiating staff for the second half of the 2021-22 season. She will become the first female to officiate a QMJHL game. Mantha worked her first AHL game Oct. 29. Mantha is the older sister of Washington’s Anthony, who starred for the Val-d’Or Foreurs from 2011-2014.
O No, Not Again
It looks like the OHL will try and push through what is expected to be a three-week restrictive period in Ontario. Over that time, it is expected no fans will be allowed to attend games, but the thought is those restrictions will be eased towards the end of January.
The OHL, which did not play at all last season, is in dire need of completing even a shortened season this year.
WHL Moving Forward
At this point, the WHL has no plans on a league-wide pause. There have been a number of postponements and some teams have had to pause activities, but as of now, there are no plans to change course.
In talking to one WHL team official, “our days are, at times, literally hour-to-hour,” as the league and its teams try to navigate provincial restrictions with the latest variant.
Go Marco Go
One of the great COVID comeback stories has to be that of Marco Rossi. Minnesota selected the Austrian-born Rossi with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 draft. Rossi won the 2019-20 OHL/CHL scoring title with 120 points in just 56 games played in the first of what is now likely three shortened seasons thanks to the pandemic.
Uncertain of what play in North America was going to look like, Rossi started the 2020-21 season with Zurich of the Swiss pro league. After one game, Rossi contracted the coronavirus in November, but was back on the ice with Austria at the 2021 world juniors. Then, after attending Minnesota’s January camp, he was diagnosed with myocarditis, or swelling of a heart muscle. He returned home to Austria to recover, having played just five combined games to that point of the 2020-21 season.
A clean bill of health, and a point per game start in the AHL this season resulted in Rossi getting called-up to make his NHL debut Thursday in Boston.
I get my Peaches...
Bailey Peach is an interesting study. Born in Falmouth N.S., Peach was selected 11th overall by the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the 2017 QMJHL draft. He played four years in the QMJHL with Sherbrooke and Charlottetown, amassing 40 goals and 107 points in 167 games played. As a result of having too many overaged players, he was waived out of Charlottetown and ultimately out of the QMJHL before signing with WHL Victoria.
In the past, CHL player movement was restricted to those moving from west to east and not the other way. The CHL passed a rule prior to the 2020-21 season that saw those restrictions lifted, to allow player movement both ways. Because of the pandemic, and because of play restricted to bubbles, no team took advantage of the rule last season.
Charlottetown had four overaged players, leaving Peach on the outside looking in. He worked out for a short time at Acadia University before being picked up on waivers by the Royals. Victoria head coach and GM Dan Price said they were looking to fill an overaged spot, and had done their due diligence on Peach.
Not one to complain, thanks to a great upbringing by parents Andrea and Mike, Peach made his way 6,000 kilometres from home and the Royals were happy he did so.
Peach is far and away Victoria’s leading scorer with 20 goals and 44 points through 30 games. In fact, going into weekend play, he’s tied for fifth in the league scoring. Peach has played most of the season on Victoria’s top line with first-year draft eligible Brayden Schuurman and veteran Tarun Fizer.
Peach is the WHL’s reigning Player of the Week and Player of the Month.
Lo, Lo, Lo
Nice to see former Brandon Wheat King Logan Thompson make his first career NHL start this week. He got his first taste of NHL action last season when he made his debut on March 10, 2021 making two saves in 8:15 of relief work, replacing Marc-Andre Fleury in a 4-3 loss at Minnesota. He started Tuesday night against Nashville, stopping 21 of 24 Nashville shots in a 3-2 loss.
Thompson, who was signed as a free-agent in the summer of 2020, was named the AHL’s goalie of the year for the 2020-21 season. He went 16-6-1-2, 1.96 GAA, and a .943 save percentage in 23 games.
Defenceman David Jiricek of Czechia played just 9:05 in his team’s first game against Canada at the 2022 WJC. A knee-on-knee collision with Windsor’s Will Cuylle forced him out of the game in the second period. He underwent knee surgery Wednesday and is expected to be out for an extended time frame. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound defender had five goals and 11 points in 26 games for HC Plzen of the Czech Extraliiga before leaving for the WJC.
Jiricek was ranked eight in our December NHL draft rankings.