We've reached the 18 game mark....a quarter through the 72 game regular season. This is what I've seen from the goaltenders and the top ten scorers on the Kelowna Rockets roster this season.
Adam Brown: Goaltending hasn't been an issue thanks to this guy. Brown has found more consistency is his game this season and is coming up with big saves at crucial times. Outside of two games, he hasn't had an easy night. The 19 year-old has avoided allowing soft goals, something that plagued him last season.
Jordon Cooke: Little was known about this rookie goaltender when he earned the back up duties to Brown. A win in his WHL debut, Cooke is going to be the Rockets goaltender of the future with his quick glove. Cooke isn't ready for prime time yet, so a season of watching from the bench and getting his feet wet with an occasional start won't hurt his progress.
Mitchell Callahan: The most consistent Rockets' forward in the first 18 games. When he wasn't scoring and the team was struggling, he was still working. Now that Callahan hasn't had to carry the mail all by himself, the points are coming. Callahan is still his old feisty self, but realizes he will have to pick his spots at the next level if he wants to stay healthy. By exploring the offensive side of his game and not just fighting, he provides the team with a nice one-two punch. Sure he can scrap, but more importantly he can beat you up on the scoreboard.
Shane McColgan: The 17 year-old has been kept off the score sheet just four times this season. McColgan won't wow you with his end to end rushes, but you will often find his name on the scoring summary. McColgan has his sights set on being a high pick in this summers draft. The solid start doesn't hurt his cause. Trying to stay focused and keeping his mind off the draft may be his greatest obstacle. So far so good.
Brett Bulmer: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. The old saying holds true for Bulmer, who came back from Minnesota Wild training camp with fractures in his game. He was playing tentative and his work ethic was not where it needed to be. Over the last four games though, we have seen the Bulmer of old. Observers were frustrated by his slow start, but when he is on his game, the 18 year-old is one of the best players in his age group. If he plays with an edge, he's deadly.
Zach Franko: It's always nice to see a rookie among your top five scorers, and the 17 year-old finds himself as the teams third leading scorer after 18 games. No question he is benefiting from playing alongside McColgan and Callahan, and the power play time he receives only pads those statistics. But Franko's game is all about offense and the stronger he gets the more dominant he will become. Franko has 15 points in his first 18 games. By comparison, McColgan had 23 points in his first 18 games in his rookie campaign.
Tyson Barrie: As Tyson Barrie goes, so go the Kelowna Rockets. It's just the way it is. When Barrie is on, not only is he the best at his position, but he makes those around him better. An early season injury had him out of the lineup and the team struggled. Now healthy, the team is winning. That's why he was named the Rockets MVP last season. He is just that valuable.
Kevin Smith: What were the Rockets getting when they traded Collin Bowman to Moose Jaw for Kevin Smith? Smith was forced to log big minutes and quarterback the power play when Tyson Barrie was injured in the early part of the season. It was a role he looked uncomfortable with. Possessing a good shot from the point, he needs to get it on goal more often. When he does, it either goes in or goaltenders have problems handling it.
Colton Sissons: Sissons is the player the Rockets wanted to get in the Curt Gogol deal with Saskatoon. Sissons is a fearless 17 year-old rookie, who isn't scared of the corners and loves to go to the 'dirty areas'. Like Franko, more strength will make him an even more dominant player. Great size has scouts looking his way. That said, because of a late birthday (Nov 5), he isn't draft eligible until next season.
Geordie Wudrick: A tough start for a 20 year-old player who is capable of no less than 30 goals this season. Whether he gets there or not is all up to him. Wudrick scores in bunches...he's always been that way. He's a streaky player which makes it frustrating for those watching on the bench, in the stands or in the press box. Yet, Wudrick can score big goals in big games. Look to last years opening round playoff series with Everett as an example. Wudrick hasn't been rewarded with a ton of power play time this season meaning he will have to work his tail off 5 on 5 before he is rewarded with that 5 on 4 luxury on a regular basis.
Evan Bloodoff: I don't want to make excuses for Bloodoff, but he played in just 9 games last season because of knee surgery. He hasn't seen the score sheet much this season, but has he ever? He has scored goals in back-to-back games just three times in his career so shouldn't be relied on to put up big numbers. Energy, speed and a solid fore check make him a nice addition to the team. Don't let the point totals blur your vision of the player he really is. Do I think he could score 20 goals? Yes. He had 15 two seasons ago.
Spencer Main: A defensive forward in my books, Main is a good face-off man and does a lot of his good work on the penalty killing unit. The biggest thing I've seen from Main this season is his willingness to not only win puck battles, but actually using his good strength to gain possession. It's one thing to get involved along the boards, but it's another thing to win the puck for your team. I see him as a captain down the road, I really do. If not captain material, an 'A' on his shoulder can't be far away.
Do you agree, disagree? Leave your comments below. If you are going to run a player into the ground, let me warn you, the comment won't be published. Hacking players to pieces isn't necessary. Constructive criticism and then some praise is a good balance.