Final 1st-round mock draft and Bruins draft preview (audio)

Well, NHL Entry Draft time is upon us…I can hardly believe that I will be flying to Buffalo, N.Y. in the morning and that by this time Friday night, Bruins fans will know who the next big hopeful will be.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but rather than write an excessively long post here, I’ll take the advice of a recent blog critic who didn’t like the length of my Bruins draft strategy piece and break it down for you in about 15 minutes. He’s out of luck on the bolded names, though- sorry pal. As Kenny Loggins once crooned- I’ll meet you halfway. I’m sharing my thoughts on where the Bruins are heading into the draft, and where I think they’re going, and not just in round 1. Keep in mind this is just one person’s opinion, and lots of things can happen between now and pick No. 14 in the First Niagara Center.

Here’s the audio:

I am not going to weigh in on internet rumors surrounding Jimmy Vesey. Look, until he either signs with the Buffalo Sabres or he doesn’t and becomes an unrestricted free agent on August 15, I’m going to do my level best to stay above the fray. Because of my relationship with him and members of his family going back to his prep school days, that’s precisely *why* I’m not going to get into the middle of what is flying around. I give full credit to the Sabres for stepping up and getting his rights- that puts them in the driver’s seat, at least for the next some-odd 60 days, and Tim Murray will either convince him to forego the chance to pick his destination, or Vesey will stay the course. My thinking- and it’s just my own intuition here- is that he’s come a full four years since Nashville drafted him in Pittsburgh. What is less than two months more at this point? But if Murray and Sabres owner Terry Pegula (and don’t forget Jack Eichel) make a convincing enough pitch, there’s not much stopping him from ending the soap opera.

But, if you’re looking for me to repeat things flying around various message boards- that’s not happening.

Now, onto the mock draft:

1- Toronto- Auston Matthews, C; The Leafs get their man- Arizona native’s the wire-to-wire No. 1 overall selection and with good reason.

2- Winnipeg- Patrik Laine, LW; The first big winners of the NHL’s new lotto jackpot system cash in with this pure shooter who turns goal scoring into an art form.

3- Columbus- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW; GM Jarmo Kekalainen pounces on this Finnish horse who isn’t quite the threat his countryman is, but isn’t that far off, either.

4. Edmonton- Matt Tkachuk, LW; On a team whose GM once saw firsthand what Milan Lucic could do, the Oilers grab a high-end power forward with serious bloodlines.

5- Vancouver- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW; The Canucks need help everywhere, so Jim Benning can’t go wrong here with as complete a two-way threat as there is in this class.

6- Calgary- Logan Brown, C; Described by my pal Reed Duthie (who calls Hamilton Bulldogs games) as an “aircraft carrier with feet”, this massive center is also highly skilled, meaning- he’s off the board in the blink of an eye.

7- Arizona- Olli Juolevi, D; Is this Finnish version of the old Val Kilmer movie ‘Real Genius’ the first defender off the board in Buffalo? Very possible.

8.- Buffalo- Jakob Chychrun, D; After making a splash with the Vesey trade, the Sabres fire more shots across the bow, picking up this big name at 8, but his hockey IQ has raised some doubts.

9- Montreal- Alex Nylander, RW; The Canadiens seek skill and scoring, so why not grab the player who might have absolutely been the most talented player in the OHL draft class, even if he doesn’t always bring it.

10- Colorado- Mikhail Sergachev, D; The Avalanche land a big talent that has scouts divided on his overall defensive awareness, but may be at the top end of the skill factor in the OHL.

11- New Jersey- Tyson Jost, LW-C; Ray Shero blinks- he can’t believe Jost is on the board here, and after landing Pavel Zacha a year ago, grabs another potential elite forward bound for North Dakota in the spirit of one Zach Parise 13 years ago.

12- Ottawa- Michael McLeod C; The Senators are betting that McLeod’s blend of size, skating and smarts propels him to stardom up the middle, even with questions about his NHL upside.

13- Carolina- Clayton Keller, C; Small but dynamic center has major league potential as an uber-dangerous playmaker.

14- Boston- Dante Fabbro, D; Knowing what the Bruins tend to value in their players and what they need at this stage, this defender is right up their alley at 14.

15- Minnesota- Luke Kunin, C; St. Louis native did a great job as a freshman on a poor team- the sky’s the limit and the Wild can’t resist.

16- Detroit- Charlie McAvoy, D; A player who could just as easily go to Boston two picks earlier, if he’s still on the board here the Wings pounce.

17- Nashville- Jake Bean, D; The Predators know Bean has a high-end skill set and grab him with outstanding value at 17 where others had him projected inside the top-10.

18- Philadelphia- Kieffer Bellows, LW; Passed up by his hometown Wild, Bellows doesn’t have much time to dwell  on it & makes sense as a fit in Philly with his deadly release and penchant for filling the net.

19- NY Islanders- Riley Tufte, RW; Big, massive, skates well, tremendous long-term promise and the Isles struck gold with Brock Nelson in Minnesota before, so why not take a big payoff project here?

20- Arizona via NYR- Julien Gauthier, RW Major concerns about hockey sense and a tepid second half after tearing it up early in the season mean that the Val d’Or standout slides, but he’s solid value here.

21- Carolina via LAK- Max Jones, LW; Speedy power forward has some nasty play that has gone over the line, but if the Hurricanes can harness that raw aggression- he could be one of those role guys you win with.

22- Winnipeg via CHI- Logan Stanley, D; When you pick Laine at 2, you can afford to take on more of a project player with your bonus 1st-rounder, and with Stanley’s size, skating and snarl- he looks like a solid bet to play even if he tops out as a mid-tier shutdown D.

23- Florida-German Rubtsov, C; The Russian forward in class is someone worth jumping on in the early 20’s and Dale Tallon does just that.

24- Anaheim-Tage Thompson, RW; Huge but raw with an upside that some in the NHL scouting community feels is too legit to quit, the UConn Husky becomes a part of the West Coast quack attack.

25- Dallas- Dennis Cholowski, D; It sure looks like the late-surging BCHL two-way defender is bound to land in the 1st round, and he looks like a good fit for the resurgent Stars under Jim Nill.

26- Washington- Pascal Laberge, C; Speedy and skilled, the Capitals need to find secondary scoring behind Ovechkin and Backstrom- this Victoriaville Tigre brings that in spades.

27- Tampa Bay- Brett Howden, C; Some say he looks a lot like his older brother, but this Howden seems to have more killer instinct and finish around the net. Stevie Y. will take it.

28- St. Louis- Lucas Johansen, D; With Kevin Shattenkirk likely to leave via trade, the Blues will look to infuse more offensive talent and potential with this latest product of the Kelowna D machine.

29- Boston via SJS- Markus Niemelainen, D; The B’s could go with a forward with their second pick like a surprise 1st-rounder in Wade Allison here, but if they add another 6-5 D who can really skate, this Finn will complement the right-shooting Brandon Carlo nicely at some point.

30- Anaheim via Toronto via PIT- Boris Katchouk, LW; Anaheim grabbed the big RW earlier, now they get the gritty, in-your-face and underrated Soo Greyhounds scorer at the end of the round after giving up Frederik Andersen to the Leafs. (Thanks to the readers who pointed out my mistake)

Alex DeBrincat drops out of the 1st round, but he won’t last long in the 2nd.


Okay- that’s it. I’m off to Buffalo.

Reminder- if you want breaking NHL draft news, picks, analysis and hot takes (or is it “taeks?”) give me a follow on Twitter: @kluedeke29 I might be able to get some Periscope action going as well, so look for that.

Will be on TSN 690 with my Red Line Report boss, Kyle Woodlief, with host Tony Marinaro this Friday, June 24, from 11-noon (Eastern) live from First Niagara Center to talk draft, draft and nothing but draft.

Will do some deeper dives on the draft at the blog in the coming days, but this is pretty much it until the big event, and even then- will just hit the wave tops, but keep checking in- I might have some Easter Eggs and surprises for you.

Scouting Post Podcast: Dominic Tiano and Reed Duthie on the 2016 NHL Draft OHL edition Pt. 1

So, here we are…the long awaited podcast with two friends and experts on the Ontario Hockey League, Dominic Tiano of OHL Writers and Reed Duthie, play-by-play announcer (for home games) of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

We did 2 hours of material, but breaking it into a pair of one-hour (pretty much) parts, and we’ll start this one with quick intros and then a brief discussion of the 2017 Stanley Cup final series between Pittsburgh and San Jose, recapping keys to success for the Pens and Sharks and then taking a closer look at what the Bruins might need to do to get things back on track.

After that, it’s a holistic focus on the OHL players eligible for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, starting at the very top with Matthew Tkachuk and getting to Markus Niemelainen before technical difficulties forced a tactical pause.

We’ll be back with part 2 soon so Dom can finish his thoughts on Niemelainen, and then we have an amusing point-counterpoint going on Sean Day between Reed and Dom before we continue the march down the list of OHL prospects.

So regardless of what NHL team you happen to root for, if you want a comprehensive look at the guys coming out of the OHL for this year’s draft, both podcasts are for you!

Will let you listen to this and chew on it for a bit and then will post the second hour of the OHL-centric NHL draft podcast later this weekend.

Oh, and the video was just me being a rookie and not paying attention to what I was doing…part 2 will be audio only, but you’re all stuck looking at half of my face and my shiny bald head for most of this…apologies!


TSP founder on TSN 1260 (EDM) to talk Memorial Cup and 2016 Draft

TSN 1260 radio (Edmonton) host and friend Allan Mitchell aka “Lowetide” had yours truly on today to talk about the Memorial Cup.

We covered 2016 draft eligibles from the London Knights powerhouse Matt Tkachuk, Jesse Puljujarvi and Olli Juolevi, then segued over to B’s prospects Jake DeBrusk and Jeremy Lauzon, before going back to the draft. Covered the bases on: USA NTDP d-men Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, plus a little on Trent Frederic, Will Lockwood and then closed out on UConn freshman Tage Thompson. Also was asked about Oilers prospect and Bay Stater (North Easton, Mass.) D John Marino (who just won a Clark Cup with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm and is Harvard-bound), and answered. Boom.

Here’s the audio…I come on at about the 8:15 mark. Thanks as always to Al and his producer Lieutenant Eric for having me on.

TSP 2016 NHL Mock Draft v 1.0 (non-playoff teams)

As we finalize the Stanley Cup semi-finalists, with San Jose and Nashville duking it out in Game 7 tonight on the West Coast, I’ll expand the mock to cover all 30 1st-rounders, but for now, I had done this on another forum and will post it here.

A couple of notes- mock drafts are fun, but this one obviously needs a lot of work and as we get closer to June, certain picks will come more into focus. After all, we still have the Memorial Cup to get to.

In the meantime, a Twitter user had asked me to do something like this, so thank AJ/@fantefuturist for this first of several versions of a mock draft for next month’s big event in Buffalo.

1. Toronto- Auston Matthews, C- The talk about fantastic Finn Patrik Laine being selected here is intriguing, but ultimately, Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello are all about rebuilding the Leafs franchise- and getting a potential No. 1 cornerstone center is the way they’ll go.

2. Winnipeg- Patrik Laine, LW- The Jets jumped into the top-2 from 6 and the breaks continue to go this franchise’s way. They have one of the more robust scouting staffs and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been willing to spend a lot of money on drafting and development- they’re about to hit a homerun with a future 40-goal man who will fire up the already fanatical Winnipeg fanbase for years to come.

3. Columbus- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW- Another team to jump up and push the Edmonton Oilers out of the top-three, even if GM Jarmo Kekalainen wasn’t a Finn, they’d be taking this high-end forward with size and skill who is deadly on the PP. Speaking of the GM, some might not remember this, but he was a bit of a thorn in Edmonton’s side when he was with the Bruins for a cup of coffee during the 1989-90 season (11 games), scoring his only 2 goals of the year against Bill Ranford.

4. Edmonton- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW- There’s talk that Peter Chiarelli will deal this pick to get some higher-end D help, as the Oilers don’t really need another early draft pick. But if they stand pat, they get a well-rounded forward with a high ceiling that might allow them to move other players up front for a good return.

5. Vancouver- Matt Tkachuk, LW- If the Oilers (or whomever sits at No. 4) takes Dubois, then Tkachuk here is about as no-brainer a pick as there is. He had an outstanding year in the OHL and is a coveted package of productive power forwards and big-name bloodlines. Can’t imagine Keith’s kid slipping out of the top-5.

6. Calgary- Jakob Chychrun, D- At one time thought of as a cinch to be taken No. 2 overall, he’s still the best defenseman in the draft and the top talent available here to the Flames. They don’t hesitate to add a potential cornerstone after falling out of the top-5.

7. Arizona- Olli Juolevi, D- The Desert Dogs address a need and a top player on the board. Juolevi’s buzz is quite high among the NHL scouting community and it makes sense that he goes here. If the Flames opt for Juolevi at 6, then Chychrun is probably the pick here.

8. Buffalo- Alex Nylander, RW- The Sabres grab another high-end winger to go with their marquee center in Jack Eichel. Nylander is a sexy name with a high ceiling, and the Sabres will swing for the fences here, even if Nylander might be one of those players who feasts on weaker competition but has trouble getting it done against better opponents and in tighter checking games.

9. Monteal- Mikhail Sergachev, D- If they don’t take Logan Brown here, the Habs will look to find a potential key D to fill a void if they eventually opt to move on from PK Subban. The Habs like their Russian D and Sergachev has the talent to be better than anyone they’ve had in recent memory.

10. Colorado- Clayton Keller, C- After a strong U-18 performance, Keller’s stock is up and he could end up being the second-best center in the entire draft class when all is said and done.

11. New Jersey- Jake Bean, D- The Devils could use help just about anywhere, but they go high-end scoring defender here…24 goals is 24 goals and he’ll kill the interviews, too.

12. Ottawa -Tyson Jost, LW- The Senators get good value from this electric forward who lit up the U-18s and looks like a future NHL fixture on the left side.

13. Carolina- Logan Brown, C- Just a hunch, but the Hurricanes are hurting for centers, and I could see them being enamored with Brown’s tremendous size and skill set. The ‘Canes are hurting for centers, and their GM (who knows the value of a 2-way guy up the middle) pounce on the Windsor product who was born in NC when his dad played there. Win-win.

14. Boston- Dante Fabbro, D- Even with Charlie McAvoy on the board and a choice between the two similar BU (with Fabbro headed there this fall) blue liners, the B’s will go with the more complete D-man in Fabbro. Assuming, that is, they hold onto this pick and don’t trade it for NHL help at the position.

Guys who could crack top-14:

Michael McLeod, C
Charlie McAvoy, D
Julien Gauthier, LW
Luke Kunin, C
Kieffer Bellows, LW

The Duthie Dish- top OHL player in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Pt. 2

Earlier this week, the Scouting Post published Hamilton Bulldogs’ play-by-play announcer Reed Duthie’s recap on the top OHL candidates for the June NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. You can click here to read Duthie’s thoughts on Jakob Chychrun, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikhail Sergachev and Alex DeBrincat.

Now, we’ll continue through the list of impressive names and talents in the second part of the Duthie Dish- as he provides some firsthand insights into the key players from the late ’97/98 birth year group in the OHL.

Alex Nylander, RW Mississauga Steelheads- The second of former NHL star Michael Nylander’s sons, the Steelheads winger is an exceptionally skilled player who made some positive inroads as a member of Team Sweden at the 2016 World Jr. tourney. He’s a human highlight reel who can push the pace and shows off tremendous offensive creativity. Here’s a look at what Nylander can do from earlier this season posted by DRL Productions:

GP- 33 Goals- 21 Assists- 28 Points- 49 PIM- 6

Reed Duthie: Along with his brother, undersized but tremendously talented player with a great skating stride, but he’s more of a playmaker than a shooter. He has tremendous passing hands and he can find guys through lanes and angles that you just don’t believe the puck is going to make it through there. When you watch Mississauga play, there are a couple of occasions where it seems each game that there should be a certain goal off a Nylander pass and there will be a double-clutch on the shot because the receiver of the pass can’t believe he could get it through in the situation he did. On the power play, he’s positively dynamic. Two things that burn me a little bit about Nylander are effort and defensive positioning. He’s just as likely to cover the point as he is to fly the zone and he will disappear for stretches in a game. I know his brother and his dad would do that at times, but Alex is almost to an extreme- where you wonder where Alex Nylander is and when is he going to show up? And when he does show up, the game changes entirely, but for long stretches of the game, you can be frustrated with him and unless he can sort that out I could see his draft spot falling a bit.

Olli Juolevi, D London Knights- Legitimate two-way defenseman has high-end skating and overall ability with a high potential NHL ceiling in time. He can skate and move the puck effectively and has a real cannon of a shot that he’s uncorking more and more. Juolevi needs refinement in his defensive game and in working on the little things as he adjusts to the North American game, but he could end up being the most productive defenseman to come out of the class of ’16. A look at Juolevi’s 1st OHL goal from this season posted by Hokinaittii:

GP- 28 Goals- 4  Assists- 19  Points- 23 PIM- 6

RD: He was really impressive against Hamilton and anytime I’ve watched the Knights he’s been a real standout player. When he was against Hamilton is when I got the best look at him obviously- being in the arena for those games- but watching him skate is something fun to see. He’s the kind of player that you can put on the ice in any situation. One of the knocks I’d heard on him coming into the season was that his defensive ability could be questionable- maybe not to an Erik Karlsson extent- but he’s definitely an offensive defenseman. Against the Bulldogs we saw him on the penalty kill and I honestly- maybe against your Sarnias or Kingstons you wouldn’t see him on the kill- but he didn’t look out of place whatsoever. He made some nice clears, was in position, wasn’t screening his goaltender, wasn’t trying to look for the offense every time, got it down the rink. Offensively- he’s just a standout. He might be the smoothest defenseman in the draft with the puck, and has a great shot and will find lanes at even strength to get it through to the forwards out in front of the net for good chances. I thought his compete level was right on point- he didn’t take any shifts off. I was very impressed with Juolevi.

It’s the little things- the stick position and the tendency to make himself vulnerable at times and using the wheels to get back into plays at times…those things will have to be addressed. But, I think as people start to see Alex Nylander or even Max Jones, unless there’s an improvement from them, you could see him jump over them at the draft as the season progresses if they aren’t able to address the shortcomings in their respective games.

Max Jones, LW London Knights- Talented winger with good size and pro tools as the son of former NHL forward Brad Jones. He gets lost a little bit in London’s galaxy of stars at times, and he’s struggled to generate consistent offense the way Tkachuk has in his first OHL season. Where Jones showed off potential to be a dynamic scoring forward coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, he might project more as a complementary kind of forward and a third-line option than a legit scorer at the next level.

GP- 33 Goals- 17 Assists- 17 Points- 34 PIM- 59

RD: When he played the Bulldogs (at the beginning of the season) he wasn’t getting a whole lot of ice. What I’ve seen of him- he’s a nice shooter and you can teach his size at 6-2, 200-plus. When he’s on his game, he can play in any situation- you can put him on the power play or penalty kill, he’s got decent defensive awareness, he’s a solid skater- I don’t have a whole lot of issues with him, except that against the Bulldogs, he just disappeared and wasn’t a factor.  He reminds me a little of Matt Fraser with better wheels.

Michael McLeod, C Mississauga Steelheads- Playmaking center with size and ability- superb skater for his size who can push the pace and is showing an improvement in his all-around game. His play away from the puck is showing signs of improvement, and while not considered a high-end pivot with elite skills, he looks like a safe pick with the potential to develop into something more.

GP- 38  Goals- 16  Assists- 28  Points- 44  PIM- 45

RD: We’ve seen a lot of Mike McLeod in Hamilton and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Mississauga has absolutely haunted the Bulldogs- Hamilton has not beaten the Steelheads yet and McLeod usually plays on that top line with (Nathan) Bastian and (Alex) Nylander and this is not some sort of Nylander making him better thing- McLeod would be just as effective if you put you and me on the wings with him. Super creative player- very quick feet. He’s got quick acceleration, but I don’t think he has top-end speed like you see with Nylander. He’s got quick feet to start the stride but he almost maxes out at a certain level, but especially at the OHL level, it’s not holding him back at all and I don’t think it will at the higher levels either. His vision is right on, and he has a great back check as well. He’s breaking up plays, he’s in the zone, he’s in that center of coverage and he’s forcing everything away from the middle of the ice- you can’t play through him and Mississauga’s got some good defensemen as well that will work along in concert with that. But, you just can’t find your way through the middle of the ice when McLeod is there- his stick is too good, and I think that is only going to benefit him at the next level because he’s not just a one-way player.

Logan Brown, C Windsor Spitfires- Huge center is the son of former NHL defenseman and current Ottawa 67’s GM/coach Jeff Brown. He’s still pretty gangly with his big body and long limbs/skating and foot speed, but there are a lot of impressive raw talents here for NHL teams to ponder. The bigger knocks on him right now are consistency and intensity, so those concerns might drop him a little further than his natural talent would normally dictate, but if the light ever comes on, he could pay off in a big way. Major boom-or-bust potential with this one.

GP- 31 Goals- 6 Assists- 29 Points- 35  PIM- 18

RD: I’m not as bullish on Brown. I think you’re looking at a guy that has a lot of skills but there are some things that have stuck out to me about him that I don’t necessarily think are going to translate at the next level. Obviously, the size is outstanding, at 6-6/215-220- you’re looking at a player that has a little bit of Jimmy Hayes to him or even Joe Thornton if you want. Doesn’t really use the size- tremendous size- and is not really effective with it. It could be that he hasn’t learned how to properly use it yet and I hope for him that’s the case. His numbers are impressive in that he’s a set-up man and anytime you can have his size down the middle, that’s a positive, but his skating stride is probably not where it needs to be, his compete level isn’t  where it needs to be, the use of his size isn’t where it needs to be, but that said- I think he has outstanding offensive skills and vision when he gets set up. I think he could be a real asset if he improves his all-around.

Adam Mascherin, C Kitchener Rangers- Short (5-9), but stout (200+ pounds) and packs a wallop with his NHL-caliber shot and refined offensive game for one so young. He uses his natural tools and high-end instincts to find seams against defenses and has raised his production to an impressive level. He’s not a complete player, but his offensive dimension is so tantalizing that he could be similar to another former undersized but dangerous Kitchener player who went a lot earlier in the draft than projected in Jeff Skinner– a top-10 selection in 2010.

GP- 34 Goals- 19 Assists- 28 Points- 47 PIM- 8

RD: Mascherin’s going to be an NHL player. That’s a guy who every time you watch the Kitchener Rangers, he makes an impact. There’s no way to watch that team and not notice him. You’re looking at a team that’s loaded up for more- they want a Memorial Cup in that building and they really want to take a big run and show London that the Knights aren’t the only ones that can compete year in and year out. So, I think you get a better look at him as the playoffs come along and where does he slot in when the games mean the most. He’s got a world of skill, but I don’t think we’ve seen him in a pressure situation yet and that’s where I’m interested in seeing him the most.

Victor Mete, D London Knights- Small defender who is a top-end skater with jets strapped to his skates. Wheels the puck out of his own end so fast that he’d have his hair on fire if he served on a ship with black sails back in the day. Has the vision, passing ability to make an impact offensively at the next level, but like most undersized players on defense, struggles with handling the bigger, stronger forwards he goes up against.

GP- 37 Goals- 4 Assists- 20 Points- 24 PIM- 12

RD: I seem to notice Mete the most on the power play. He has tremendous speed and skill with a good shot, but outside of the man advantage, I don’t notice him as much.If he’s not leading the rush, then he becomes a little bit of a liability on the ice, but then again, he could turn that around pretty quickly. I’m sure it’s something the Hunters are addressing with him and that team produces NHL players like it’s going out of style. I like Mete- he’s the kind of guy that depending on where he goes is going to be key. If he was taken in the third round, let’s say- I would be all over him, but I don’t think he’ll fall down that far. For me with Mete it’s all about the value- when he leads the rush it’s something to watch because he can absolutely fly! When you can skate away from Niki Petti at full speed, that’s impressive., but it will all depend on where Mete is drafted because of some of the other issues.

We segued a bit to talk about one Hamilton Bulldogs player in particular that might not be considered a top-end OHL prospect for the NHL draft but will probably be selected as high as the the third round or more likely in the middle rounds.

Cole Candella, D Hamilton Bulldogs- 

RD: I love the kid. What a player. The recent injury he suffered might hurt him a little because he is going to have a little time out- they’re hoping to get him back some time not too long into the new year- but on night one of the season, Justin Lemcke, captain of the Bulldogs, went down with an injury and it was Candella who stepped into the void and has done so very well. He’s a solid defenseman in every zone. His positioning is good- he can carry the puck, he can run a power play. He may not be a prototypical PP quarterback but he’s capable of it. On the penalty kill, his speed and his quickness to the puck is exciting to watch. The Bulldogs usually end up in their zone long when they’ve got the pair of (Connor) Walters and Candella on the ice. They’re just very good at getting to loose pucks and getting them out of the zone. His compete level is very good-  you never see him take a shift off. He gets into the corners and drive opponents nuts. We’ve seen him go in against Lawson Crouse and drive Crouse off the puck. It’s the kind of thing you get excited about when you watch him because you can see what there is to grow out of Candella and at 17 years old, he’s been one of the better defenders I’ve had a chance to watch night in, night out that very few people are talking about.

GP- 28 Goals- 3 Assists- 13 Points- 16 PIM- 12