Sunday, August 27, 2006

The 2006 UAA Rookies

Ryan Berry, Kevin Clark, Paul Crowder, Trevor Hunt, Josh Lunden, Jon Olthuis, Ken Selby and Jared Tuton are the 2006 Freshman Class at UAA. What about Backstrom? Yeah ... well I already had this picture done (editing/resizing, copying/pasting and all that) and adding his picture would blow the whole symmetry; so since his picture is on the last post I'm avoiding redunancy. Ok ... trying to be clever about my laziness is transparent huh? None of the pictures are official UAA headshots like the other class previews. Berry, Tuton and Backstrom aren't on the roster yet so I didn't provide links to them.

A goalie, 4 defensemen and 4 forwards is the breakdown. Jon Olthuis played the 3rd most minutes of all goaltenders in the BCHL last year and finished with a good 2.68 GAA and .905sv% over 48 regular season games. In 10 playoff games for Vernon he posted a .908sv%. Jon is listed at 6'3" and 187lbs. Pretty lean for that much height so hopefully that translates to quickness. No doubt that Lawson will be the number #1 guy going into the season and barring injury UAA will probably depend on him to a great extent. But if Lawson goes down hurt or gets into some freak slump then Jon is likely the guy who'll take the ice; if Lawson stays healthy and plays well there still be opportunities for Olthuis to play. Everyone needs a rest. If Jon shows he can do the job and plays with confidence when he gets his chances then he could see maybe um ... 10 games this season. Mike Rosett showed he could do the job last year and that makes for nothing but positives in the goaltending department in my experience. Goalies feed off of each other and can raise each other's game. Let's hope there's lots of that at UAA practices.

For me, the four defenseman coming in have just as many unknowns as knowns. Trevor Hunt should prove to be a good addition. He finished his third season in the BCHL as the 3rd highest scoring defenseman in the league for the regular season and 4th leading scorer for Chilliwack. 5 of his 15 goals came on the power play and he registered a short hander as well. There's little doubt that Trevor benefitted from being on the ice with the best offensive line in the BCHL last year (Butcher, Lunden, Eppich). His power play experience with Chilliwack should prove valuable at UAA. At 5'11" 185lbs he isn't going to be a big physical presence but hopefully he's strong enough to deal successfully with some pretty big WCHA forwards. Ryan Berry was also the leading defensive scorer with Spruce Grove in the AJHL last season. His 9g and 21a put him 10 points ahead of teammate and 07 UAA recruit Kane Lafranchise. At 6ft and 182 Ryan isn't likely to be an intimidating physical presence on the blueline either. A third of his goals also came on the power play. He had very low penalty minutes (24 in 59 games) so he knows how to play with discipline. Jared Tuton potted 4 goals and 17 assists last year for Merritt in the BCHL. Last September Jared (along with 4 Merritt teammates) was boating on a local lake when a plane crashed during an attempt to takeoff. Jared was one of two who jumped into the water to help the two people who had gotten out of the plane. The only hockey reference I can find regarding Jared is one that calls him a "smooth skating" defenseman. I know he's 6'2" and 190lbs and he's obviously got good character and heart. Useful information on Nils Backstrom (other than what I linked to in the last post) is pretty difficult to find. This link looks to be about the most complete compilation. So what we've got here are 4 clones? They're all similarly sized; they all are reported to be good skating defensemen that are capable of carrying the puck. With 5 returning veteran defenseman returning for UAA, someone amongst these four is likely to not see much ice time (or will one or more returners find themselves competing?).

Kevin Clark, Josh Lunden and Ken Selby could prove to be the "class" of this freshman class. Kevin and Ken both skated in last years CJAHL Top 40 Prospects Game for Jr. A Canadian players. Both were listed on last season's NHL Players to Watch list. Kevin led the Winnipeg South Blues to the MJHL championship last season with 40g, 36a and 250 penalty minutes in 50 games. Kevin sat in the stands for quite a few games serving suspensions for misconducts. He is clearly an emotional player but that "edge" is going to have to be harnassed so that the Seawolves can keep his skills on the ice. He is a shifty-skating, good puck-handling forward that has an important skill set that UAA needs this year and it ain't called "Oglethorpe" ... it's called playmaker/scorer. If Kevin can adapt quickly to the WCHA he "could" be one of the most exciting freshman to hit the ice for UAA in a quite a while. Ken Selby's coach at Dauphin in the MJHL described him as having "world class" speed. Cool. Speed kills .... right? I hope so. Ken won the fastest skater competition at the CJAHL prospects game. He scored 36 goals and added 30 assists as the 3rd leading scorer for Dauphin. I don't know much about his playmaking abilities but finding the twine 36 times means he can shoot the puck and hopefully that coupled with his jets will translate to something positive in his first year. Josh Lunden spent his last season playing on what I keep calling the best line in the BCHL last year with Matt Butcher and Chris Eppich. They put up 104 goals and 158 assists between the three of them; of those Josh got 34g and 47a finishing 5th overall in the league for the season. He more than doubled his point total from the 04-05 season. Josh has good size at 6'2" and 200lbs and obviously knows how to adapt himself to top players and contribute to scoring. Based on that I'd think that Josh might have the best chance of all the freshman to quickly adapt to the WCHA.

Now the caveat. These guys are all freshman. Expecting too much out of them is folly (personal lesson learned). The WCHA is the toughest league in D-1 hockey with the most skilled players. But that said ... with an incoming class of 9 the chances that a couple (or more) of these guys will step up quickly and contribute aren't bad. Who's it gonna be?


Suze said...

Another nice job ... I sure am glad you are doing this blog for UAA hockey. Someone told me something about Clark, and I tend to agree. He said that he'd much rather see a player who has heart, passion and drive (like Clark) than someone who the coaches have to kick in the butt to motivate.

All in all, a very nice incoming class. Can't wait for the first game!

Donald said...

Thanks very much. This is the best time of year to write about UAA hockey. All the pieces are in place. In a few months we'll have a good idea how well they fit together and if any "noise" is possible this year.

I totally agree that it won't take much to motivate Clark to play. I just hope he and the coaching staff find a balance in their viewpoint about penalty minutes. I don't think a kid like Clark can play "his game" without taking some penalties.

Anonymous said...

where does everyone seeing clark fit in on the team? He would be a huge addition to the powerplay and as long as he adapts well at the start of the year he could be an important piece to uaa this year. I expect Lundeen to have a good year as long as he stays healthy. i hear he has some injury issues. Can't wait to watch some hockey come september 30th.

Donald said...

I would think Clark is likely a shoe-in for a role on the 2nd power play. At least until he adapts and shows enough to earn a first line power play spot.

If he does get a role on the 2nd power play unit he'll get a chance to show his skill. And if he produces then the sky is the limit for playing time.

All the freshman need to be ready to rock and roll when they hit the ice. If I could give any of them a message it would be to skate with confidence. Some aspects of the college game may seem overwhelming at first but that is no reason to get down. They should all keep their head up no matter what happens this season. It's possible it could be ugly. It's possible it could be a pleasant surprise. But the goal here is to build a team for the future and if the freshman keep that in mind then by the time they're seniors we might be making some noise.

Anonymous said...

u suck at uscho. what'd you do this time to get axed for life?

Donald said...

When the dickless wankers at uscho tell me then I'll know.

Anonymous said...

clark only sat 2 games for misconducts and was hurt for 12 games around the all-star break

Donald said...

I should have said "a few" instead of "quite a few" ... from following the boxscores and reports last season I'd have thought he had to sit more often.

Wasn't there a cummulative rule in the MJHL about game misconducts? I know the MJ has the 3 slashes (or other stick penalites) and your gone for the game.

Anyhow, the context was really intended to make clear that since there's only 34 games in a season that having to sit in the stands because of something you did on the ice the night before isn't acceptable anymore.

Post a Comment