Wolves have it, but can they use it

By: Scott Haddow – Straight Up Sports

 | Mar 06, 2014 - 11:14 AM |
The Sudbury Wolves all need to be on the same page to go deep in the playoffs, but much of their success will rest on the performance of goalie Frankie Palazzese, says Mark Seidel, chief scout with North American Central Scouting. Photo by Scott Haddow.

The Sudbury Wolves all need to be on the same page to go deep in the playoffs, but much of their success will rest on the performance of goalie Frankie Palazzese, says Mark Seidel, chief scout with North American Central Scouting. Photo by Scott Haddow.

Chief scout breaks down East's top team's

When professional hockey scouts take a look at the Sudbury Wolves, they see a team that can do some serious damage in the post season — if the players are healthy and, more importantly, on the same page.

North American Central Scouting chief scout Mark Seidel watches a lot of hockey, especially major junior, junior A and minor.

He is often on the road five to seven days a week watching prospects and seeing teams. Seidel sees a lot of the Wolves and Eastern Conference contenders like Oshawa, North Bay, Kingston and Barrie.

This week, Northern Life and Seidel take a look at where the Wolves stand in the conference and how the post season picture might shape up.

Seidel sees a major power struggle between the top five teams in the east. Oshawa, Sudbury, Kingston, North Bay or Barrie could come out on top when the playoff dust settles on the Eastern Conference.

“We are seeing a dogfight to the finish with the top five teams in the east,” Seidel said. “Oshawa is going to end up first. They have good experience, a solid backend and quality goaltending. The Generals will be hard to beat.

“Sudbury can certainly do damage as they have a talented roster depth-wise. The Wolves need to be healthy and it will come down to goaltending. Franky Palazzese has to be good for Sudbury for them to advance.

“North Bay is difficult and will grind out opponents. Kingston is a high-scoring team and skilled team. Barrie is coming on strong and they have game-breakers. All five teams have their warts, but have the pieces to go to the conference final.”

Scouts have been watching closely as Sudbury lost its vice-tight grip on second place in the Eastern Conference standings over the month of February, only to regain it last week. Scouts see a team trying to establish its identity and a team that could be a force if the pieces come together in time.

Sudbury has shown it can beat the best in the league and lose to one of the worst in the league in a matter of less than a day. (Sudbury beat the OHL’s top team Guelph 6-5, but then lost 5-2 to lowly Niagara the next day last week.)

“It’s been no secret the Wolves have struggled since the trade deadline,” Seidel said. “February is a difficult month for a lot of teams. It can be difficult to keep player’s attention and teams go into a funk. There is some cause for concern.

“I think the moves Sudbury did at the deadline (bringing in defenceman Trevor Carrick and forward Radek Faksa) were good moves quite frankly. It changed the dynamics of the team, but they are still geared up to be a viable candidate in the East. Their veterans have to step up and scoring in the playoffs.

“If the Wolves are healthy, teams will be worried.”

Player Pulse

North American Central Scouting chief scout Mark Seidel has been impressed with the play of Sudbury forwards Danny Desrochers, Nathan Pancel and Nicholas Baptiste and defenceman Kevin Raine.

“Desrochers does a lot of good things on the ice,” Seidel said. “Pancel is one of the best players in major junior hockey in terms of scoring. He gets it done and isn’t pretty, but is dangerous.

“Baptiste has taken his game to the next level and using his speed to score more. Raine has been a stud, leader and warrior for Sudbury and he will carry this team as far as he can in the playoffs.”

With less than two weeks left in the regular season, now is the time for Sudbury to seize first place in the Central Division with two games against divisional rival North Bay and two games against Belleville and one against Oshawa in the final stretch.

Enemy lines

Bulls and Battalion

A critical Central Division game is on tap for this weekend with huge implications on first place and the key second place spot in the Eastern Conference standings for the post season.

First things first though, the Sudbury Wolves host the Belleville Bulls on Friday night at Sudbury Arena at 7:30 p.m. The Wolves then hit the road for a Sunday afternoon tilt against Central Division rival the North Bay Battalion at 2 p.m.
Heading into the weekend action, both Sudbury and North Bay were nearly neck-and-neck in the race for first in the division. Here’s a quick look at both Belleville and North Bay. Stats are as of Tuesday press deadline.

Belleville (plays in North Bay Thursday night)
The Bulls have gone from best to worst in one season. Last season, the Bulls were the class of the Eastern Conference, trading away some of the future for a run at the league title. The Bulls lost in seven games to Barrie in the conference final after finishing first overall in the east.

This season, the Bulls are in last place in the conference and stand a good chance of missing the playoffs — the price of going for it at the Major Junior hockey level.

The Bulls sit tenth with a record of 19-37-3-3. They need a miracle to make the post-season dance.

As with any rebuild, there is no shortage of bad, but there are good signs to give Bulls fans hope for a brighter season in 2014-15. The Bulls traded away forward Brendan Gaunce to Erie earlier this season for a ransom of draft picks and forward Stephen Harper.

The key to the deal for the Bulls is Harper as he has come in and provided skill and offence to the roster. Harper has eight goals and 30 points in his first 36 games with Belleville after recording 14 points in 22 games with Erie.

The 6-2 forward has 14 points in his last 12 games going into Thursday's action. Big power forward Remi Elie has given the Bulls a scoring touch since coming over from London in a trade at the start of the season. Elie had 25 goals and 56 points in his first 56 games with Belleville.

North Bay (plays Belleville Thursday night)
The Battalion were in the shadows for most of the season, going along in the first half with a .500 record. Not much thought was given to them as a contender in the east.

Any negative perception about the Battalion has been washed away in the second half as North Bay is a serious threat in the conference. The Battalion play a game that can be stifling and suffocating. Some call it boring.

Head coach Stan Butler would call it effective. Whatever you call it, it works. The Battalion are no longer in the shadows. North Bay is wedged in at the top of the Central Division and proving they are not going to fade away in the final stretch before the post-season.

A case can be made for rugged forward Ben Thomson as the team's MVP. Thomson came to North Bay in an early season deal with Kitchener. He has 21 goals and 33 points in 37 games, while also provided a big physical presence up front.

Forward Barclay Goodrow has stepped up his game down the stretch, leading the team in scoring with 30 goals and 58 points in 57 games. Goodrow had eight goals and 18 points in his last 15 games going into tonight's game.

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