A - Very Good
D- Let's define this grade as 'D' for disappointing
Colin Long: A
What I Like: Long hasn't let the title of 'Captain' affect his on-ice play. The added responsibility, especially of a skilled player, often times takes away from what they do best - in this case score. Yet no one has put up more points over the last two seasons in the WHL than Colin Long, and he should be applauded for one aspect of his game that is often overlooked, his play in his own zone.
What I Don't Like: Long is used on both the power play and penalty kill, and I wonder how much that takes away from his efforts even strength. If the Rockets could rely on others, allowing Long to play the power play and take a regular shift, I believe both Long and the team would be better off. Why have the Rockets not allowed a power play goal in four of their last five games? Maybe I now know why.
What I Want: A sandpaper type of line mate to keep the flies off him come playoff time.
Jamie Benn: A
What I Like: A pure shooter, Benn takes every opportunity he has to get a shot on goal. When the puck is in Benn's hands, even a low percentage shot on goal has a chance to go in. His quick release is one of the best in the game, and may indeed be better than those of Justin Keller and Chuck Kobasew. The bigger the game the better Benn is. He is clearly a game breaker and a difference maker.
What I Don't Like: Fluctuations in intensity. Often times Benn appears to be disinterested and doesn't skate all out. When he gets pissed off he often times man handles opponents and shows why he has a legitimate shot of playing full time for the Dallas Stars next season.
What I Want: A more intense Jamie Benn. When you see he has the ability to change games and be a difference maker, you want to see it more often. I don't see him being overly vocal in the dressing room but it would be great to see him get into the faces of some players who are not pulling their weight.
Tyson Barrie: A
What I Like: Barrie has come a long way in his play in the defensive zone. He has almost entirely abandoned 'high risk hockey' for a more conservative style which still allows him to show his flare in the offensive zone. A skilled puck handler, you won't find a better 17 year-old offensive defenseman out West than Barrie. I can see him playing in the NHL, but his size will allow Rockets fans to appreciate him for a few more seasons at the junior level.
What I Don't Like: Trying to be critical of Tyson Barrie is extremely tough. You can't expect him to be overly physical but he could use his body more to rub on-coming puck carriers. It would be interesting to see his shot totals at the end of the night. While they may be low, it appears that more times than not when he shoots, he scores.
What I Want: The Rockets quarterback on the power play, I'd like to see him manufacture a little more offense even strength. I don't anticipate teams taking a rash of penalties in the playoffs, so the need to generate more 5 on 5 is a must.
Cody Almond: B
What I Like: Consistent hustle. In Almond's four seasons with the Rockets, the 19 year-old has never shown us this type of urgency in his game consistently. Why this is happening now may be the fact he is facing the prospect of having an NHL contract slip through his fingers. Whatever the motivational tool, Almond - points aside - has been one of the best Rockets this season because he's brought his lunch bucket approach to the game more times than not.
What I Don't Like: The inability to find his name on the score sheet more often. The 19 year-old goes for long stretches without recording a point. For Almond, five games without finding his name on the score sheet is a long stretch. Almond is a difference maker, yet his point totals would have you thinking otherwise.
What I Want: A line mate to complement Almond. In the four seasons Almond has worn Kelowna colours, has he really found a teammate that he totally clicks with?
Having played in the shadows of teammates since he came to the Rockets in 2005, it's time for Almond to step out and be a force to take the weight off of Benn and Long.
Brandon McMillan: C
What I Like: McMillan has shown his versatility this season by playing defense when the Rockets were short staffed prior to the Christmas break. A gifted skater, McMillan will likely finally blossom into the player the Rockets envisioned when he turns 19 next season. That said, McMillan has no excuse for not making a contribution to the teams successes in the final 34 games and the playoffs.
What I Don't Like: Much like Cody Almond, McMillan goes for long stretches without scoring. When McMillan plays a 'soft' game he is ineffective. When he plays with some grit - as he's shown us since the Christmas break - he's extremely hard to play against.
What I Want: For the physical play to continue. That doesn't mean running over people, but it does mean making contact with the opposition player and separating him from the puck. A tendency to shoot more would also aid his cause. My grade would be higher for Brandon if he performed like he has over the last month.
Kyle St Denis: A
What I Like: Up until he was injured, he was on equal footing with Benn and Long has the Rockets best forward. St. Denis can finish, and is a threat to score every time he is out on the ice. Up until his injury, St. Denis was trying to build some chemistry with Cody Almond. The second line center could be the beneficiary in the playoffs as the oppositions top defensive pairing will be focusing on Long and Benn, opening up offensive chances for St. Denis and company.
What I Don't Like: I don't like the injury he sustained. The broken wrist will see him miss in upwards of 30 games this season. The loss has been huge, and you can only wonder what a strong season would have meant in the eyes of NHL scouts. Significant points this season may have swayed some scouts to take him in the late rounds despite being just 5'8.
What I Want: I would like to see St. Denis return to his form that saw him put up 18 points in his first 15 games. If he can regain his form, the smallest man on the ice will make a big impact in this years playoffs.
Lucas Bloodoff: C
What I Like: The elder Bloodoff has a characteristic that is lacking in the Rockets dressing room. Bloodoff is extremely vocal. It's an attribute that he shares with few teammates. Don't confuse yourself with thinking Lucas will ever put up big numbers in the WHL. On pace to score 20+ goals, Lucas is right on target.
What I Don't Like: At 6'2 and 207 pounds, Lucas is the Rockets biggest forward yet often plays a much smaller game. It's not in his nature to fight, yet he can still be far more physical for my liking. His 55 penalty minutes are far to few for a man his size.
What I Want To See: Separating opponents from pucks and wearing down opposing defenseman with solid hits on a relentless fore check. Nothing less nothing more!
Tyler Myers: A
What I Like: His ability to skate with the puck and recover with his long reach are just some of the things that impresses you when watching Myers. His 18 year-old season has also brought out an angrier side to his game, which when controlled, can make him nasty to play against. He was never a feared hitter, until this season.
What I Don't Like: While he has been told by the coaches to pick his spots when rushing the puck, I find he has strayed away from that all together. That threat to rush the puck must be kept in the back of the opponents mind as it provides the Rockets with another cog in the teams offensive arsenal.
What I Want: When he returns from the world juniors, I anticipate Myers coming back to the Rockets with his confidence at an all time high. With his experience of playing for his country behind him, look for Myers to make a huge impact in providing a steady force in shutting down the oppositions top line.
Teachers Note: I am generous when grading. I have never failed a student. Agree or disagree if you wish in the comments below.