HockeyProspect.com’s Todd Cordell attended the Barrie Colts training camp this week. Here are a few of his thoughts on the camp.
The 2014-15 OHL season is just a few weeks away and, though the Barrie Colts are expected to lose a few key pieces – Aaron Ekblad, Andreas Athanasiou and Jake Dotchin, among others – there is still reason to be optimistic in Barrie.
The team will be hoping to put together a successful season in the team’s 20th year as an OHL franchise, and some things I saw in camp lead me to believe a deep run may not be far fetched.
Here are some takeaways from the eight scrimmages I saw:
- Rasmus Andersson is projected as a high-end prospect in 2015, and it didn’t take long to see why. He was certainly as good as advertised. Andersson was physically engaged, confident with the puck and almost every pass he made was on the tape. He pinched a little too often, but he made a lot happen and for the most part he was able to get back in time. He looks like he can be an elite player in this league, which is great news for a team expected to lose their No. 1 defenseman to the Florida Panthers.
- All indications suggest Sharks prospect Kevin Labanc is in line for a breakout season. He looks like a much-improved player in camp, which is good news considering the Colts are losing quite a bit of talent up front. Labanc was electrifying almost every time he touched the ice. He consistently used his speed to back defenders off and gain the line with control of the puck, and created a ton of offense shift-after-shift. He was more decisive and creative, and the pace he played at was incredible. If he’s not the Colts leading scorer, he won’t be far from the top.
- Brendan Lemieux’s skating continues to get better and better. A little over a year ago it could have been viewed as a weakness, and now it looks to be a strength. He was able to gain good speed through the neutral zone and beat defenders wide with speed quite frequently, which allowed him to take it to the net and generate more chances in the danger zones. Expect a big year from him.
- Andrew Mangiapane will do his best to make NHL teams regret their decision to pass on him at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He’s certainly not a big player, but he plays a lot bigger than his size, and with his puck skills, he’s a threat whenever he’s on the ice. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Mangiapane post big numbers and be selected as a re-entry next year.
- Joseph Blandisi looked very good in each showing. He’s fully healthy now, and was able to create offense on a consistent basis regardless of whom he was playing with or against. The Colts will rely on him heavily this season, and it looks like he’s ready to carry the load.
- Colts 2014 1st rounder Givani Smith was quite impressive this week. He was strong on the puck, finished his checks, took care of his own zone, and generated chances regularly. He gets around pretty well, too. I think he’ll make some noise as a rookie this year.
- C.J. Garcia looks like a new player. He’s confident, assertive and was able to consistently make plays at both ends of the ice. Garcia was able to skate the puck out of trouble whenever necessary, and created quite a bit offensively. The Colts need him to take a big step forward this season, and it looks like he’s ready to do so.
The Colts may not be world-beaters, but they figure to be a pretty good team this year. If the players play to their potential and they’re able to add some help along the way, they could make some noise in the East when the playoffs come around.