Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Rodney Southam answers the bell - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • Captain Southam. Has a nice ring to it doesn't it? I think it was the right choice to name Rodney Southam the captain when I evaluate all of the likely candidates. The fact that 20 year-old Tyson Baillie will wear a 'A' on home ice and overager Cole Linaker is an associate captain on the road is a nice touch. Baillie has been with the team for five years while Linaker has spent four seasons in Kelowna.    
  • What Southam's appointment does within the dressing room is clear the air if indeed a captain would be named this season. Was it the white elephant in the room? I wouldn't go that far, but I think many players were wondering of the 22 teams in the league, why did they not appoint a captain? Now that question is answered and we can move on. Did it affect the team's play without a captain? Look at the record. It clearly did not, which shows either that having a captain is overrated or the leadership in the Rockets dressing room is indeed a shared responsibility. I'm guessing a bit of both.
  • It isn't often that a WHL rookie is leading his team in plus/minus. Kelowna Rockets defenceman Gordie Ballhorn finds himself leading the team with an impressive +23 rating. That means the 18 year-old defenceman is on the ice more times when his team scores than when they allow a goal against. "It was a lot tougher in the beginning of the year, coming in here in the first five to ten games. I was getting used to it with little ice time and feeling it out. Once I got more is like a mini NHL. It is professional. You are playing in sold out barns. What more can you ask for?" Ballhorn has 9 points in 47 games this season. The Wetaskawin, Alberta resident is one of only three players on the Rockets roster to play in all 47 games this season.
  • Fifteen. That is the number of players that the Kelowna Rockets have sent to participate in the CHL Top Prospects game. The first Rockets player to ever take part in the game was Luke Curtin in 1996. Curtin would eventually be selected in the 5th round of the 1996 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche.  
  • Five of those 15 players that have played in the CHL Top Prospects game are now in the NHL. Tyler Myers (Winnipeg), Luke Schenn (LA), Blake Comeau (Colorado), Damon Severson (New Jersey) and Tyson Barrie (Colorado) now all earn a pay-check in the league after playing in the prospects game. Yes, four of the five are defenceman.
  • Hasn't Michael Herringer been a great story? To be thrown into the fire by playing nine consecutive games with an injury to starter Jackson Whistle was a tough position to be put into. The fact that Herringer, who turned 20 this week, has earned points in 7 of those 9 starts is impressive. Herringer has dealt with the immense pressure like a pro, considering he doesn't exactly have a quality back-up to rely on if he struggled. Nothing against 19 year-old Brady Lenardon, who was brought in to be Herringer's back-up, but Lenardon likely isn't ready to see even a small workload at the WHL level. Could he eventually be ready if Whistle is unable to return? Probably, but stopping pucks at the major junior level in comparison to the KIJHL shooters he would face are on two completely different levels.    
  • With 25 games left in the regular season, 20 year-old Kelowna Rockets forward Riley Stadel knows what area of his team's game needs to improve. Stadel says they need to implement a consistent work ethic. 
    "Ever since I have been here with Huska and Lambert and now Ralph, that has been the main key that we need each night is to work hard and win your battles and you are working harder than the other team. That will never change. That is what the Rockets are known for. We are known for our waves of offence and good defence and outworking teams and making Prospera Place a hard place to play in".   
    Stadel leads the Rockets in penalty minutes (with 65) and in fighting majors with six. 
  • Going through scoring slumps is never fun. Especially for those that are expected to score. Gordie Ballhorn is not expected to score, so we shouldn't be surprised that he hasn't found the back of the net in 27 games. The good news is he is shooting the puck. Cole Linaker is without a goal in 17 games and Tomas Soustal hasn't found the back of the net in 11 games. If Linaker and Soustal can contribute a bit more, look out! 
  • The most confusing team in the Western Conference for me to evaluate are the Prince George Cougars. I think they have an excellent squad. They seem to be able to compete against the best in the WHL but often struggle against those they should easily skate away with a victory. How the Cougars lost to the Medicine Hat Tigers Monday night had me scratching my head. The Tigers were winless on a BC Division road trip with losses in Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna, yet on the last game of the road trip, likely with little to no confidence and fatigue setting in, the Tigers managed a 6-4 win. Despite that confusing result, whoever faces the Cougars in the opening round is in a heap of trouble.  
  • I want to thank the Kelowna Rockets analytics's team for supplying our broadcast with interesting data for us to share with you on our AM 1150 broadcasters. The data includes ice time totals for every player, face-offs won and lost and shots taken per player. It is an awesome resource that we will use from now on until the end of the playoffs.     
  • The Rockets play three games in three night's this weekend. While that is a daunting task, what makes it ever harder is playing in Seattle Sunday afternoon with a 5 pm start after playing the night before against the visiting Victoria Royals. But it could be worse. The Everett Silvertips just finished a stretch of 10 games in 15 days, so you won't get much sympathy from those across the WHL with the Rockets scheduling woes this weekend.
  • One of the highlites of the season for me was Braydyn Chizen's naming of the first star Saturday night against Medicine Hat.  It was such a cool moment to see the rookie being recognized in that way. It may go down as one of my favourite moments of the regular season.

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