i got up painfully early (*ahem 8am) to go watch the group B session this morning, and there is no doubt in my mind that the standouts were all former first round selections.
1. matt pelech
i have yet to lay eyes on john negrin this summer, but pelech is definitely looking NHL ready to me, and the most likely for promotion. the other 3 group B blueliners (aulie, wilson, deilert) were easily a step or two (or eight) behind pelech, both developmentally and physically. at 6'5" & 227 lbs, this guy stands out like a lumberjack playing shinny with some teenagers, and could probably do some serious damage on the boards, given a game-day opportunity... his passing was generally tape-to-tape, with very few bouncing or rolling pucks (showing excellent powerplay potential) ---even after the 'dome ice got decidedly choppy. he appears to have a rifle of a slapshot, and a pretty accurate wrister... oh, and the dude can skate.
verdict: buy me a tshirt for the matt pelech fanclub.
2. mikael backlund
i'm still not sure i see what all the hype is about, but it's the little things that are promising about backlund. he's definitely on par with the other group B skaters in all aspects, but he has a way of finessing the puck (see: huselius/forsberg) that gives him an upper hand. in a shootout drill, most of the skaters opted for wristshots, while backlund did a nifty toe drag move, and he seems to hit the net topshelf with some serious accuracy. in another drill he opted for a fancy drop pass between the legs rather than just tapping the puck to his partner: i'm not certain if this is showboating or a sign of stickwork mastery. he's definitely sizey for a 19-year-old, but looked to be 'illegally' clutching and grabbing in the boardwork, rather than using his body to check. this could easily be a factor of practise vs. game play. i think taratukhin showed more potential.
3: leland irving
i can definitely see the potential here, for this guy to be the successor to heir kiprusoff, but he's got a long way to go. he looked a bit tired today, though he's definitely eager to play, working hard at both ends of the ice (defensive/offensive drills). in the shootout drill, he made a wickedly sweet fivehole save, which was followed immediately but an absolutely terrible fivehole goal. we'll see if this gets addressed in the next days.
verdict: still not as good as keetley (but younger !).
-kyle greentree has a mean shot
-keith aulie is big, but has a long way to go (and was the only guy to fall... twice)
-lance bouma (????) is effin' fast
-chris bouton (????)can shoot from anywhere and score
-dan ryder still looks interested, but also looks like a longshot to make the big club (at best).
-i'm kinda loving JD watt