I won't be taking in Sunday's game so no need holding off the thoughts on Avs prospects in Lake Erie. Both games were good solid outings for LE with a late goal sealing the win in both games...unfortunately one was a Barons' win. A lot will be said about the Barons' being rusty, not having Hall, etc. but whatever the excuses, LE was as good if not better in every area but the starting line-up. Good news? It's not who you start but rather how you finish. Bad news? LE needs some help finishing...but that will come with time.
Focusing on the actual "prospects" of the Avs, it was a good showing for the group. While many players had solid games, the standouts were clearly Aittokallio, Malone, Carey, Barrie and Elliott. Not that the others didn't mostly look good, it's just these 5 stood out.
Aittokallio. Probably a name everyone needs to learn, especially if he continues to be so calm and athletic in the crease. He made the saves when needed and had others help him out at times but overall played very well. The lone goal he let in was on a 5 on 3 pk where he came out to the top of his crease for a possible Schultz shot only to see it end up being a pass for a tip in behind him. Should get the start Sunday without a doubt.
Malone was a beast. He used his size to create havoc. I always envisioned him as a bottom 6 forward at the NHL level as either a very physical energy guy on the 4th line with the potential to be a good third line physical two-way forward if everything fell into place. So far he has been taking key face offs, pk/pp time and playing his game making him tough to contain at the AHL level. While his offense is still developing, everything else has looked good. He was moved from the dominant Carey-Malone-Olver line due to injuries it seemed.
Carey may not have Malone's sheer size and big hits but he makes up for it with another gear (or two) when skating and a shot that comes from everywhere. Having no problem moving the puck up or getting it to the net in some way, Carey's all around game was causing fits for the Barons. He saw important time on the PK and some on the PP. Hey may be seeing time on the supposed 3rd line with Olver, but their line is just as dangerous as the others.
Barrie played well in both games. He is fast and confident. Match that up with his stick handling and shot and he is dangerous. He was the best D for LE without a doubt and his numbers will improve once LE's forwards get things really going. Not much more can be said as he played well both games.
Elliott played well for the most part. He had the unfortunate role of seeing a lot of Eberle and RNH at first, so he wasn't trying to move the puck as aggressively as Barrie. He did have his spots of concern with the biggest being his over handling of the puck. Some breakdowns here and there that the goalie didn't bail him out on. Elliott looked to be seeing time on the second PP unit. I know a lot is expected of Elliott offensively and the numbers should come in time.
As for the others, all of them held their own and showed what makes them enticing prospects. Olver was Olver and Gaunce was what we expected after what looked to be trying to do too much in the first game. Then again he had the weakest D partner so he may have been trying to compensate for that. Some nice physical play as to be expected.
Sgarbossa has the unfortunate situation of high expectations after a huge year last year and no Hishon to take the spotlight off him at center. He was active at both ends of the ice and had no problem going to the net or back checking. Sgar showed good speed and shiftiness that unfortunately doesn't show up on the scoreboard when he and his linemates are still developing chemistry. He faced a great AHL team and handled himself well.
Heard played "his" game. That is good and bad. He likes to shoot, cause ruckus and hit. Unfortunately his body hasn't added on the extra weight and muscles to be overly effective. That should come with time. Probably a miss match to Olver and Carey, he still held his own. He wasn't "sheltered" at all and was involved at both ends. When he fills out, he will be very tough to play against but for now he will be bouncing off some of the bigger players.
Pickard had the unfortunate situation of a few bad bounces (one could be tied to him) but played well. I'm sure getting down 2-0 early in a game can effect a goalie but he held up just fine against the Barons' firepower the rest of the way...especially the power play. Unfortunately only one game played so not much to go on but he looked good with some shaky play mixed in. Needs time to settle in more and adjust completely to the speed of the pro game. Unfortunately it may have been a LE win if Aitto continued his Friday night play into the Saturday game.
There you have it, good showing by Lake Erie so far. Got the split against a tough Barons' team. I would like to see Malone slide back to his old spot with Olver & Carey, and Agozzino (or Heard) move up where they may be better utilized. I've mentioned it before, the team is deep and will be even more dangerous when the offense starts clicking (odd fascination with backhands so far) and Connolly returns. It will be a challenging first month but after that this team should really start to roll.
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