The CHL season is only a few weeks old but there have already been a couple surprises, one of which being Hurricanes goaltending prospect Daniel Altshuller arguably being the biggest standout among Carolina prospects in the league. His Oshawa Generals are off to a terrific start this season and while the team's explosive offense is likely a bigger reason for their success, Altshuller is having a fairly solid year so far. I'd like to see him improve his save percentage from the .905 mark he is posting right now before I begin to proclaim him to be something special, though. He may lead the the OHL in wins with six, but that likely has more to do with the strong team in front of him rather than the play of Altshuller himself. Either way, it's good to see that his team is off to a great start and hopefully the Generals can keep it up so we get to see how Altshuller looks in some playoff games.
I've talked about Altshuller & the Oshawa Generals quite a bit this year but one prospect & club that I haven't discussed much is the Canes 2010 6th round pick Tyler Stahl and his Victoria Royals, who currently sport the best record in the WHL's Western Conference. This is a bit of a surprise since the Royals were one of the worst teams in the league last season but they are off to a very good start this season and picked up a big come-from-behind win over the Medicine Hat Tigers over the weekend. Stahl recorded two assists in that victory and was on-ice for the game-winning goal in overtime as he continues to play well since returning from his suspension at the start of the year. The two points he recorded in that game alone matched his season total from last year, so Stahl is already on pace to have a much better year and who knows, if he can keep it up then maybe he'll improve his prospect status.
It's still way too early in the year to jump to those kind of conclusions but I always like to see some of the organization's lesser-known prospects perform well, so it's refreshing to see guys like Stahl, Altshuller and Trevor Carrick play well while others are under-performing. I don't need to tell you know the player I'm referring to there is.
After the jump, we'll take a closer look at the performances from Carolina's prospects over the weekend.
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers - 2 GP, 0 G, 0 PTS, 4 PIM
Murphy was held pointless yet again in Kitchener's two games this weekend and was on-ice for two goals, one of which was an empty netter. To add salt to the wound, the Rangers powerplay was 2/11 on the weekend, something that Murphy plays a huge role in. After two fantastic offensive seasons with the Rangers, there is a lot expected out of Murphy right now so it's odd to see him get off to such a slow start. At the same time, it's only six games into the season and one has to believe that Murphy will find his stride eventually. We just have to be a little more patient and wait for that moment to happen, though. One point through six games sounds bad, but I have a feeling that he will pick it up eventually. There's too much talent there.
Also, a little fun fact from this weekend is that Kitchener scored their first even strength goal of the year against Sault Ste. Marie. Shows how much this team is driven by special teams. It's also worth noting that they outshot both Sault Ste. Marie and Saginaw despite losing both games (the Saginaw loss coming in a shootout) so they could be close to turning things around. Not that 3-2-0-1 is a horrible start by any means.
Brock McGinn, Guelph Storm - 2 GP, 0 G, 1 PTS, 2 PIM
Guelph went 1-0-0-1 this weekend, beating Plymouth and losing to Owen Sound in a shootout. McGinn was held off the scoresheet in the Plymouth game but recorded an assist in the Owen Sound game. It was the result of him winning a puck battle in the corner and dishing the puck to Hunter Garnlet, who would go on to do the rest of the work and tie the game up for the Storm. This was McGinn's third point of the season, as he has three assist in six games. Not the most impressive scoring line but a decent start to the season for someone who is known to play more of a checking role. McGinn has a game that would seemingly translate well into the NHL as he does most of the little things right to make up for not being that offensively talented. That's the impressive I've gotten from watching him in most of Guelph's games this year.
The Storm are off to a good start this year with a 4-2-0-1 record and will hopefully stay in the hunt as the year goes on.
Trevor Carrick, Mississauga Steelheads - 3 GP, 0 G, 2 PTS, 5 PIM
I mentioned that Tyler Stahl had a good weekend in the opening, but Trevor Carrick may have had the most eventful set of games as he seemed to play a big role in all three of Mississauga's games this weekend. Unfortunately, not all of it was good as he was on ice for two goals in the Steelheads 3-2 loss to Niagra. I didn't notice him make any glaring errors judging from the highlight packages, though which I guess is a good thing. His name would appear in the boxscore in Mississauga's next game as he fought Anthony Camara of the Barrie Colts. He wasn't exactly on the winning end of that fight, though as Camara was able to get a few good jabs in and ended up knocking Carrick's bucket right off his head. To make matters worse, Mississauga ended up taking the loss in a shootout.
Things were much more positive for Carrick and the Steelheads on Monday night as they defeated the Brampton Batallion in overtime with Carrick recording two assists, one of which coming on the game-winning goal. Mississauga's defense was also strong in this game in allowing only 25 shots on goal, something that Carrick played a big role in. Carolina's fourth round pick has been a pleasant surprise for the organization this year, so here's to hoping that he can keep up the strong play.
Keegan Lowe, Edmonton Oil Kings
Lowe is still ailing an injury and didn't play in any of Edmonton's games this weekend. The Oil Kings ended up beating Saksatoon 4-1 but lost to Calgary and Prince Albert. Hopefully Lowe can find his way back on the ice soon.
Tyler Stahl, Victoria Royals - 3 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS
Stahl's week got off to a great start with the aforementioned win over Medicine Hat where Stahl recorded two assists. He played a major role in the second one as his slapshot was deflected in by a forward to give the Royals a big powerplay goal to cut the Tigers lead down to 3-2. Stahl was also on-ice for the game-wining goal but forward Logan Nelson deserves most of the credit for that goal as he went coast-to-coast to create a scoring chance that was finished off by Brett Cote. Thing were less than spectacular for the Royals the next game as they lost 5-3 to the Spokane Chiefs but Stahl ended up being a +2 in that contest. However, he was also on-ice for Spokane's game-winning goal. The Royals would then rebound in their next game by defeating the Vancouver Giants 2-1 where Stahl had a relatively uneventful game.
Ever since returning from his suspension, there have been more good things to stay about Stahl than bad and that should lead to some promising things down the line if it continues.
Matt Mahalak, Plymouth Whalers - 1 GP, .833 SV%, 5 GA
The rough start to the year for Mahalak continues as he was lit up for five goals in the Whalers 5-4 loss to Guelph, a game where they also blew a 3-1 lead in the third period. However, it's hard to blame Mahalak for any of the goals he gave up if you look at the highlights. Two of the goals he gave up, including the game-winner, were off breakaways, another came off a quick wrist shot through traffic while another was deflected in. Still, it's fair to say that Mahalak has been somewhat disappointing this year as he is sporting a .876 save percentage through five games. He did not start the Whalers next game against Niagra, which they won 6-3.
Daniel Altshuller, Oshawa Generals, 2 GP, .875 SV%, 7 GA
Oshawa won both of their games this weekend but Altshuller wasn't spectacular in either game. He gave up four goals on 29 shots against Kingston and looked very weak on the second goal where he left the net wide open after over-committing to the other side of the crease. He had a better performance against Belleville and gave up three goals on 27 shots, but some of the goals he gave up were questionable to say the least. On Belleville's second goal, it looked like he made the save but the puck would go onto trickle off his pads and into the net. You could say that it was a good shot but it looked stoppable on the replay. While this goal was questionable, the third goal he let in to let the Bulls tied the game was just inexcusable. The Belleville forward let a long slapshot from the boards go and Altshuller attempted to catch the puck, only to have it bounce off his glove and into the net. Those are goals that you absolutely can not let in close games and he is lucky that the Generals were able to win in overtime.
Altshuller is still sporting a save percentage above .900 but some of his flaws are being exposed and I'm not sure how much longer Oshawa's high-powered offense can continue to bail him out. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Generals and Altshuller when they start to play in more low-scoring games. They have been held to fewer than four goals only once this year and their OT win against Belleville was the first time they were involved in a one-goal game. I'd like to see how Altshuller performs when there is more pressure on him because this offense has been carrying the Generals so far this season.