Recently, Cody Nickolet, an employee for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL was kind enough to answer some questions on some of the Blades players from the 2011-2012 season. The Blades just finished up a 40-29-3 season.
1. Matej Stransky was your teams leading scorer this year, what can Dallas Stars fans expect from Stransky in the future?
It’s hard to say exactly how Stransky will turn out as a player.
He took massive strides this past season, more than tripling his point total from his draft year of 2010-2011. He’s a big body with great hands and his skating improvement was a big key for his breakout. I think he will still need to work on that area of his game as well as improve his defensive commitment, but with a few more years of seasoning he could be an impact player at the NHL level.
2. Dalton Thrower is a name many people are talking about as a first round draft pick in this June’s NHL entry draft, what are your thoughts on him? What can the NHL expect from Thrower? Do you think he can jump to the NHL next year as an 18 year old? Which NHL defenseman does he compare to?
I’m a big fan of Dalton Thrower’s game. He does a little bit of everything, he skates well, rushes the puck, moves the puck well, hits hard, fights anyone and has a great slapshot. He was a key for Saskatoon this year as the team suffered major blueline injuries down the stretch and he was forced to play over 30 minutes a night against other teams top lines. He likes to model his game after Kevin Bieksa and that’s not a bad comparison. I expect Thrower to be picked anywhere from 25th to 40th in the upcoming draft, but it might be a couple more years before he sees some time at the NHL level.
3. Drafted last year in the first round, how has Duncan Siemens improved since being drafted?
Duncan Siemens was faced with a lot of challenges this season. To start the year off, he was named as the captain of the team as a freshly-turned 18 year old. That kind of leadership role at that age proved to have his ups and downs. But, his play on the ice was solid as the Avalanche prospect was matched up nightly against players like Emerson Etem, Jordan Weal and Mark McNeill. His offensive numbers declined, but that was due mostly because of his change of roles with the team, the fact that the Blades weren’t as gifted offensively this year and the fact that his playing partner from last season Stefan Elliott moved on to pro hockey with the Avalanche organization. He was much improved in the defensive end of the rink this season and the Blades will need to see continued growth looking ahead to next year as he’s the key defender for their 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup club.
4. Your starting goaltender, Andrei Makarov,had a pretty good season, where do you think he’ll get drafted? What NHL goalie he compares most to?
Andrey Makarov had an interesting season. It was filled with highs and lows, but overall it was a success as he transitioned from the QMJHL to the WHL. He was named as the Blades MVP and also took home a silver medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships. With all of that being said, his play did decline a bit as the season wore on. It was a long year for him, his first as a starter and he also suffered a concussion shortly after returning from the World Juniors. I suspect he’ll be taken in the 5th or 6th round of the NHL draft this year. As far as his style goes, he reminds me a lot of fellow Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov of the Islanders. He plays an upright style but is very agile and athletic.
5. Will Lukas Sutter follow in the Sutter family footsteps with a long NHL career?
I really do think Lukas Sutter has what it takes to put together a long NHL career. He took amazing strides this season, improving his skating and his hands, while still playing with that rugged edge. Along with his great growth offensively, he was also counted on as the Blades shutdown center all year. That versatility, mixed with his bloodlines, means all 30 NHL teams will be after him on draft day. Will he ever end up as a top 6 forward? Probably not, but I could definitely see him ending up as a Steve Ott type of player at the NHL level, and that’s nothing to scoff at.
6. Who else on the Blades should the NHL look out for?
That’s a good question, but one answer that comes to mind would be Darren Dietz. He was selected in the 5th round of the 2011 draft by Montreal after being a 17 year old rookie for the Blades that season. Since that time, he’s done nothing but grow as a player. He’s mean, tough, is a good skater and has grown offensively. That offensive growth peaked this past year as he put up a 4 goal game against Swift Current in February. That marker tied the WHL record for most goals in a game by a defenceman. Habs fans shouldn’t be expecting an offensive dynamo at the next level, but he’s definitely a guy that is underrated in regards to future pro potential.
7. How would you describe the teams season for those who werent able to see any games?
The Blades season was definitely up and down. It was filled with a little bit of everything, massive injury problems, a change in leadership, a red-hot start, the addition of a new assistant coach and big time winning and losing streaks. But, the Blades were one of the youngest teams in the WHL this year and looking back it was surely filled with a ton of learning experiences. Those lessons will be huge looking ahead to next year as the Blades are the proud hosts of the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
A huge thanks to Cody for taking the time to answer these questions and here’s to the Saskatoon Blades having a strong showing in the draft in two weeks and in the 2012-2013 season.
Follow @Getrealprspects for more prospect and draft updates through the NHL and all over major sports.