It's time to catch up with the Mooseheads and their top young stars, any of which could be chosen with one of the Jackets' three first rounders in June.
The three young stars on the Halifax Mooseheads roster have been busy keeping their squad at the top of the CHL rankings and QMJHL standings.
Since my last update, the Mooseheads have played eight games, six at home and a pair on the road. They went 7-1-0-0, and were led by their big trio. I attended four of the home games, and I'll share my thoughts on those games in a moment.
The two home games I missed were a 4-3 victory over the Val D'Or Foreurs, in which MacKinnon finished with a pair of helpers. Drouin led the way with a pair of goals, but Fucale was rested in favor of backup Chris Clarke. I also missed the Moose take out the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Battle of Nova Scotia 4-2. MacKinnon finished with a goal and a couple of assists, Drouin tallied a pair of helpers and Fucale got the win.
The Moose split their two road games over the span, losing 3-0 to the red-hot Moncton Wildcats, but were able to beat Cape Breton again, this time by a 5-3 score. Fucale was rested again, and MacKinnon and Drouin finished with an assist each.
On the 16th of November, I watched the Moose put a beat down on the Rouyn Noranda Huskies by a score of 8-3. I took my father, as it was military appreciation night and he just recently retired after a long and illustrious career in the RCAF. Though the game itself lacked entertainment, the top line of MacKinnon, Drouin and Marty Frk put on a show. MacKinnon finished with a goal and two assists, and showcased his ability to play in all three zones. His playmaking skills has improved game by game, to the point where he and Drouin seem to share duties setting Frk up for goals. Drouin, ever the playmaker, finished the night with four helpers. Fucale got the 'dub, saving 18 of 21 shots.
On the 21st, I witnessed another big win, this time over the surprising Baie-Comeau Drakkar. This game was hyped as having the potential to be a high-scoring affair for both squads, but Halifax was the only team to respond to said hype. The final score was 6-2, with Fucale getting the win, while Mac and JD each finished with three assists.
A week ago Columbus prospect Lukas Sedlak and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens came to town, and were promptly shellacked by the Mooseheads. The final score was 7-1. Drouin struggled for most of the game, turning the puck over and at times he was a bit too cute. He finished with a helper. MacKinnon dominated however, showing those in attendance his commitment to all three zones, his willingness to muck it up, and ability to put the puck in the net. He scored a pair and assisted on another. Of course I payed special attention to Sedlak. One thing I noticed was his size, on paper he's not the biggest guy, but he looks big out there. His team was getting its ass handed to it, so there wasn't really an opportunity for Sedlak to showcase his talents to the utmost, but he did have a handful of plays with and without the puck that left me impressed. I still prefer the outlook of his Czech countryman and Czech CBJ/QMJHL prospect predecessor Tomas Kubalik, but Sedlak deserves a look. He'll likely be on the Czech team at the World Juniors so we'll get a good look at him again against his top peers.
This past Sunday, the Moose hosted the Victoriaville Tigres in a rare matinee game. It was one of the most entertaining games of the season, and ended with a 3-2 victory for Halifax. Drouin didn't look especially sharp again, guilty once again of perhaps being too cute with the puck, but this time around he made the fans forget about it by pulling off some sick stickhandling maneuvers at various times throughout the game. He finished with another helper. MacKinnon was snakebit on a pair of chances, and like JD, finished with a solo helper.
MacKinnon's Current Stat Line:
Drouin's Current Stat Line:
Fucale's Current Stat Line:
What's impressing me the most about MacKinnon is his improved playmaking. Not only is this reflected in his increased assist totals, but on the ice he is not firing pucks every time he gets it on his stick. He's looking for teammates more often, and so much more offense is naturally flowing out there because his creativity is through the roof. Marty Frk was having a tough start to the year, with poor play and suspensions, but since moving the the big line with Mac and JD he's been on fire. Mac's ability to set the slick Czech up has benefited the whole team.
Drouin remains the team's best playmaker. He's so creative and skilled with the puck, and makes opposition defenders look silly on so many occasions. As I mentioned above, he has been guilty of being too cute at times in recent games. I'll give him benefit of the doubt however, in most cases the Mooseheads have already won the game and he's likely trying out new moves when the there is little on the line. He reminds of Kristian Huselius in terms of his playmaking and perimeter play, but I think there's more creativity with JD. If he shows a willingness to do what it takes between the hashmarks, he will be far more than a perimeter player.
In the "wow, really?" file, Fucale's numbers were pretty ho-hum for the first part of the season. Granted, he hasn't been tested as often, but in the last ten games he's faced more rubber and has stood tall. His save percentage and goals against numbers have improved, but I'm surprised that he still has a sub-.900 save percentage. You'll often see this with uber-high scoring teams though, and it will do nothing from stopping him from being one of, if not the top goaltender taken in June.
Current Draft Rankings:
NHL Central Scouting: MacKinnon and Drouin are 1-2 in QMJHL Preliminary rankings. Fucale is the top ranked goaltender.
International Scouting Service (ISS): MacKinnon 1st, Drouin 4th (November Rankings)
Future Considerations: MacKinnon 1st, Drouin 6th, Fucale 28th (November Rankings)
CHL Subway Super Series - 5th, 7th November, 2012 (QMJHL Portion)
World Junior Championship - 26 December, 2012 -> 6 January, 2013
CHL Top Prospects Game - Halifax, 16 January, 2013
Mooseheads Team Update
The Moose remain the top team in junior hockey. In addition to the three draft eligibles, Frk has been a huge contributor of late. That said, he still has to be careful of crossing "the line". He's a physical player who's always on the edge, but when he crosses the line he takes bad penalties. He has suffered suspensions and benchings due to this, but when he successfully toes the line, he is very effective. His NHL-caliber shot and physical play make him a very intriguing prospect for the Detroit Red Wings. I'm going to enjoy his play for as long as I can before my CBJ DNA kicks in and forces me to cheer against him.
Overager Stefan Fournier, a co-captain for Halifax, has been huge, especially on the powerplay. Halifax has found a winning formula with acquiring overage forwards who contribute on the scoresheet and off. Last year, Cam Critchlow was the heart of the team, after coming over as an overager.
Top defender Konrad Abeltshauser has been sidelined with an injury. In his place, Randy Gazzola has stepped up offensively, and Steve Gillard continues to be the shutdown stud on the blueline. Mac Weegar is second in the league in defenseman plus/minus. For the record, MacKinnon leads the QMJHL with a +27.
The Mooseheads are on the road in New Brunswick this weekend, playing Bathurst tomorrow and Saint John Sunday. They resume play next Thursday when they start a three-in-three against PEI, Bathurst and Moncton, respectively.