The following is a guest post written by Sarah McNeil of Chicks Who Give a Puck. Go read her stuff and follow her on twitter at @sarahdmc. She's a Vancouver resident and watched the two home games for the Giants in the Giants-Americans series, featuring Calgary Flames 2009 fifth round pick Spencer Bennett and 2010 seventh round pick Patrick Holland.
As Arik mentioned, the Vancouver Giants faced the Tri-City Americans in the first round of the WHL playoffs this week, and I took in games three and four of the series at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. After the jump, some notes on Flames’ prospects Spencer Bennett of the Vancouver Giants and Patrick Holland of the Tri-City Americans.
It was a tough series for the Vancouver Giants, and I imagine Wednesday’s elimination game was particularly tough for Spencer Bennett. Bennett’s days with the Giants are done–he turned 20 in October of last year–and I imagine he was hoping for a better end to his WHL career. He finished the regular season with 37-33-70 in 72 games but was held pointless in the post-season, despite spending much of his time on the Giants’ top line with Brendan Gallagher and Brendan Rowinski.
Particularly in game three, Bennett’s line was started more in the offensive than defensive zone, and Bennett was occasionally called upon to take o-zone draws (which he won even more occasionally). By game four his line was also seeing a lot of defensive zone starts, probably in a desperate attempt to generate any sort of offense after the Giants were shut-out. Bennett saw a lot of special teams time, playing on the first PP unit and killing penalties.
In terms of actual play, Bennett was largely a non-factor. His skating is average at best, and it will need some work if he’s going to keep up with the big boys. He tried to use his size to his advantage and did lay a few big hits, but he sometimes took himself out of the play to do so. He also took a particularly bad penalty, behind the Americans net with just over a minute left in the second period of a game that his team was trailing 2-1 (though let’s be honest, taking bad penalties will actually help him fit in with the Flames).
All of which is to say that Bennett is going to need to make a lot of progress if he’s going to become a valuable asset for the Flames going forward.
Things went a little better for Patrick Holland and his Tri-City Americans. Holland, who was drafted in the seventh round last year, put up 22-40-62 in 71 regular seasons games this season and 1-2-3 in the four games against the Giants. I only saw one of those assists, in game three; he showed great patience to hang on to the puck before passing it out front for an easy shot to put the Americans up 4-0. Holland skated with what I think was the Americans second line, though I don’t follow the team closely enough to say for certain.
Holland played on the second PK unit for the Americans, and went about his job quietly but efficiently. He had an active stick and wasn’t afraid to block shots, and was aggressive on the fore-check while killing penalties. He saw more powerplay time toward the ends of both games, when the Americans had the game well in hand, but he showed a lot of jump when he did get a chance with the man advantage, particularly in game four.
Holland wasn’t a player who drew my eye when he was on the ice. He’s not flashy, and he tended to make the safe play. He’s not huge, but he also wasn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice; he camped out in front of the net and was strong on the puck along the boards. His skating could use some improvement, and he undoubtedly benefitted from playing on the team that carried the play; the Giants just couldn’t stay with the Americans. That said, I’d be interested in seeing how he looks this time next year, with another year of junior hockey under his belt. He’s not a blue chip prospect by any means, but he’s a player I’ll keep an eye on.
Seems to me Bennett's development this season was largely due to his being an older player in his last year of junior. With all the cushy ice time he got, he should've put something on the board.
Based on this scouting report, Holland is turning into a player I like. I don't have top line expectations for him, but I wouldn't complain about a great third line penalty killer or energy player. Any kid in junior who's already showing patience with the puck is good in my book.
As a reminder, the Reinhart interview should be up later today, keep an eye out for it!
Thanks again to Sarah for doing this, and make sure to thank her in the comments