By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
This week's edition of "Prospect Sunday" is pretty long and chock-full o' juicy bits for your enjoyment... so, starting next week, the plan is to go back to last year's format whereby there was an "omnibus" Prospect Sunday feature to start the day, followed by "River Readings," "Trending Up," and the weekly stats update, all spaced about an hour or so apart so as to bring you all the Blues' prospect news you could want at various points throughout your Prospect Sunday.
Watch for our new, old look next week...
POPGUN OFFENSE SINKING RIVERMEN EARLY
It's still early in the AHL season, but there are rough waters ahead for the Peoria Rivermen.
Nine games (or just about one-eighth of the way) into the 2012-13 campaign, Peoria sits dead last in the Midwest Division and Western Conference with a dismal 2-5-1-1 record for six points. New bench boss Dave Allison has been juggling lines nonstop in an attempt to find some combinations that will produce results, but the Rivs have responded with just 13 goals scored in nine games, and the "power" play can only be described as dismal, with just one PPG in 36 tries (courtesy of veteran T.J. Hensick in a 2-1 OT loss at Chicago on Oct. 17) for a dead-last-in-the-league "success" rate of just 2.8 percent.
The defense has not been significantly better, either. The Rivs are being outscored 31-13 so far this year, and have surrendered nine power-play goals against in 40 tries (24th overall, 77.5% kill). Overall, the Rivermen are a combined minus-46 on the season, and enforcer Anthony Peluso is the only player who has been with Peoria since Opening Night to be a "plus" player (plus-1).
There is, of course, still a lot of hockey to be played yet this year... but the longer the Rivs flounder on the sand bar, the harder it's going to be to get back in the race. Following are a few observations from the first four weeks of the season:
1. Allowing Vladimir Tarasenko to go back to Russia was, in my opinion, a big mistake. The organization, once they got him over here in September, should have insisted that he go to Peoria to start the year. He is on an ELC, so if I understand the situation correctly, there would not have been a risk of having him claimed on waivers; Edmonton has sent two past first-overall picks -- Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- to Oklahoma City, apparently without fear of having them claimed.
The Blues did not want to pay Tarasenko an NHL salary to play in Peoria, and I can understand a cash-strapped franchise under new ownership taking that position. But how much would Tarasenko’s presence have meant, from a performance standpoint and from a PR standpoint, to Peoria in the early going? Something tells me that Peoria's "power" play would NOT be 1-for-36 right now if Tarasenko was on it, and I'll go out on a limb and say that Tarasenko in Peoria would have meant at least an extra 1000 butts in the seats at Carver Arena every night of the six-game homestand that they just limped through at 2-3-0-1. There would have been bus caravans of Blues' fans coming up from St. Louis to see "Russian Jesus" play live, and if you think there would not have been, then you don't know Blues’ fans.
Bottom line: If two of the last three first-overall picks can go to the AHL to help their organization be a success at all levels, then Tarasenko should have been STRONGLY encouraged to do so as well. The "he doesn't have anything to prove in the AHL" argument rings awfully damn hollow when you see Hall and Nugent-Hopkins -- both of whom have considerably more NHL time than Tarasenko already -- going to an outpost like OKC and putting the Oilers' organization first. Tarasenko would have had fellow Russians Evgeny Grachev and Sergey Andronov in Peoria to ease his transition; hell, Andronov is making a transition himself, and he has at least managed a goal in the early going. Also, it would have been much easier for the Blues to work with him if he was under their organizational control, and just a two-hour car ride away, rather than on the other side of the world.
2. Once it was determined that the start of the NHL season would be delayed, the Blues should have immediately sent Chris Porter and Jeff Woywitka to Peoria. The Rivermen would benefit greatly from the veteran presence of these two players on the ice, and no one is going to add salary during a lockout by claiming two journeymen off of AHL waivers, so the risk of the organization losing these two players was minimal. For that reason, I would have ALSO tried to sneak D'Agostini, Sobotka and Reaves down to AwesomeTown as well. Again, if I understand correctly how that process works, the waivers could be withdrawn IF someone put in a claim on any of those guys.
Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk are on ELC's still; send them, too. Other organizations -- Edmonton, Chicago, Carolina to name just three -- are stacking their AHL affiliates with NHL-level talent during the lockout. The Blues should have done the same.
3. Since none of the above has actually happened, the Blues' organization absolutely must do something to address the pathetic state of Peoria's offense right now. As has already been stated, the Rivermen have scored just 13 goals in their first nine games, and four players -- Anthony Peluso (3), Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Hensick and Adam Cracknell (2 each) -- have accounted for nine of the Rivs' 13 total goals scored. There are only four other Peoria players with goals so far -- Andronov, Grachev, and veterans Derek Nesbitt and Andrew Murray.
Phil McRae, who scored 23 goals last year, is pointless after eight games played this year, and is a team-worst minus-7. Well-regarded offensive prospect Sebastian Wännström is struggling in his maiden season in North America, pointless and a minus-5 through eight games played. Draft picks Tyler Shattock, Brett Sonne and Anthony Nigro, all expected to chip in on offense this year, have spent most of their 2012-13 in Evansville so far, and have just one assist between them (by Shattock) in six total AHL man-games.
A shakeup of some kind is almost mandatory at this point, whether that be importing veteran minor-league scoring whiz Todd Robinson from Evansville for a look-see, or making some kind of a trade. The bottom line is that something needs to be done -- and soon -- to light a fire under the anemic Peoria offense.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW, PEORIA EDITION:
Peoria 0 vs Charlotte 6, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. LINK to AHL game sheet.
Peoria 3 vs Lake Erie 4 (SO), Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. LINK to AHL game sheet.
Peoria 0 vs Milwaukee 3, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. LINK to AHL game sheet.
THE WEEK AHEAD, PEORIA EDITION:
Thursday, November 8, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM EST at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC. NHL Affiliate: Carolina Hurricanes.
Friday, November 9, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM EST at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC. NHL Affiliate: Carolina Hurricanes.
Thursday, November 1, 2012 ... Game Time 7:05 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate:
Detroit Red Wings The Evil Empire.
ICEMEN, KARPOWICH EARN FIRST ECHL WIN
It only took three weeks for it to happen, but the Evansville IceMen finally earned their first win ever in the ECHL... and Blues' prospect Paul Karpowich stood tall in the net to help lead the IceMen to victory.
Karpowich turned aside 22 of 25 shots from the Wheeling Nailers to "nail" down a 4-3 victory for the IceMen before 3997 fans in Evansville's brand-new Ford Center on Friday night. In addition to Karpowich's first pro victory, fellow prospect Cody Beach also tallied his first professional point, a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first period.
The IceMen followed up that win with another on Saturday, 4-1 over the Toledo Walleye with Rob Madore in the net. Evansville also lost Blues' prospects Anthony Nigro and Brett Sonne to callup this week as the Peoria Rivermen search for something to kickstart their offense.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW, EVANSVILLE EDITION:
Evansville 2 vs Gwinnett 5, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
Evansville 4 vs Wheeling 3, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
Evansville 4 at Toledo 1, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
THE WEEK AHEAD, EVANSVILLE EDITION:
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 ... Game Time 9:45 AM CST at Ford Center, Evansville, IN. NHL Affiliate: New York Rangers.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 ... Game Time 7:15 PM CST at Ford Center, Evansville, IN. NHL Affiliate: New York Rangers.
Friday, November 2, 2012 ... Game Time 8:00 PM EST at Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, IN. NHL Affiliate: Anaheim Ducks.
Saturday, November 3, 2012 ... Game Time 7:05 PM EDT at Ford Center, Evansville, IN. NHL Affiliate: Boston Bruins.
TESINK LEADS BY EXAMPLE FOR QMJHL'S SEA DOGS
2010 draft pick (162nd overall) Ryan Tesink has been a part of two QMJHL champions and a Memorial Cup champion in his junior career, and has established himself this year as one of the front-line scoring threats and a tenacious physical presence for the Saint John (NB) Sea Dogs despite his slight six-foot, 166 pound frame.
"I think me working hard every shift shows the younger guys that you can’t take a night off in this league," Tesink said. "You can’t take shifts off because it’ll cost you. I think the kids are learning pretty quick and doing a great job.
"The kids have really been working hard and I think the vets have done a great job. We’re not as good as past years, but I think we’ve proven that teams can’t take nights off against us. I think we’ve had a good start."
LINK to full article at the QMJHL website.
THREE STAR SELECTIONS FOR THE WEEK ENDING 11-03-12
2010 pick Ty Rattie stayed hot with eight points (3 G, 5 A) and a whopping plus-12 in four games this week for the WHL's Portland (OR) Winter Hawks, who extended their win streak to eight games with four wins this past week. Rattie's offense helped the Hawks outscore their opponents 23-6 in their four victories this week.
Out in the QMJHL, Moncton teammates Dmitri Jaskin and Yannick Veilleux combined for 11 points (4 G, 7 A) and a combined plus-8 this week as the Wildcats bounced back from a 3-2 loss at Acadie-Bathurst on Hallowe'en to post two straight wins, an 11-2 blowout of Shawinigan and a 3-0 whitewashing of Blainville-Boisbriand.
Fellow QMJHL prospect Ryan Tesink, and Russian prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, captured Honorable Mentions this week, and the Blues' fourth prospect in the Q, goaltender Francois Tremblay, just missed making the "Fab Five" this week by posting two wins and a 2.50 GAA in two games for Val-d'Or.
|*** FIRST Star ***||** SECOND Star **||* THIRD Star *|
|Ty RATTIE||Yannick VEILLEUX||Dmitrij JASKIN|
|Portland (WHL)||Moncton (QMJHL)||Moncton (QMJHL)|
|** 4 games played this week||** 3 games played this week||** 3 games played this week|
|** 3 G, 5 A, plus-12||** 3 G, 2 A, plus-3||** 1 G, 5 A, plus-5|
|** 2 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW||** 2 PM, 2 PP, 1 SH, 1 GW||** 2 PM, 2 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW|