This is the time of the year when everybody starts asking "who do you want to see the New York Rangers use their first round pick on?" Seriously was seven weeks ago until the 2012 NHL entry draft my answer right now is that I don't know.
If you watched the opening game of the 2012 Memorial Cup then you got to see one of the players that I would like to see the New York Rangers use a draft pick on (preferably a second round pick). That player is Henrik Samuelson of the Edmonton Oil Kings who wound up scoring the game winning goal on Friday night.
We'll talk about him later.
It was the the WHL champs, the Edmonton Oil Kings with Rangers prospect Michael St. Croix (2011 4th)
taking on the host team the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL with New York Islander prospect Kirill Kabanov (2010 3rd)
On the surface it didn't look like it would be much of a matchup as the Oil Kings were five days removed from game seven of the WHL finals while the Cataractes had not played in over five weeks since being eliminated in the second round of the QMJHL.
The fun part is going to be which side is going to be more believable after the Oil Kings escaped with a 4-3 win over the Cataractes. It was a game that honestly I did not think would be as close as it was but NHL fans will be glad to know that shot blocking and blown calls are not limited just to the NHL.
Michael St. Croix had a very good first period setting up Edmonton's first goal of the tournament when he took advantage of the turnover forced by his linemate Kristians Pelss then on an odd man rush to Shawinigan's net; St. Croix held the puck for as long as he could then slid the puck over to Pelss for an easy goal.
The goal came at 2:41 of the first period and it gave the appearance that Edmonton was going to roll all over Shawinagan. This is where your perception will tell you whether Edmonton got sloppy and played poorly or Shawinigan shook off all their rust and got back into the game.
Shawinigan got the goal back on the power play creating a stalemate that lasted all the way until the third period. The second period was a brutally played period with both teams showing almost no life at all.
But in the 3rd, Edmonton got going scoring the go-ahead goal just a minute into the period and then made it a two-goal game with a third goal close to 5 minutes later. Now if we were the CHL then we would be rather embarrassed at how Shawinigan was awarded their second goal of the game.
Roger Sportsnet who is providing the coverage of the game had a camera in the replay booth and miked up the conversation between the referee and the replay official. If you're a WHL fan than you think this was a very suspect call but if you're a QMJHL fan then you are rather pleased about the ruling.
From my own perspective it was a referee and a replay official who truly the meaning to the term "a failure to communicate." Couple minutes after Edmonton scored there was a wild scrum in the Edmonton crease.
The first ruling was that the referee had said no goal but he went to the replay officials to get a ruling. It was to be polite a lame exercise in nobody wanted to make a call.
The official in the booth kept saying that the puck had crossed the line and it was up to when the referee had blown his whistle. The referee on the other hand kept asking did the puck across the goal line and repeatedly asked "was a good goal?"
And here is where the confusion in my eyes takes place; the referee believes that the goal was good because the replay booth says it had gone in. The replay official kept saying over and over that it depended on when the referee had blown his whistle.
Neither side answered the others question so the referee ruled goal thinking that the replay official said it was a good goal. However the replay official never once says that but instead he says repeatedly it depended on when the referee blew his whistle.
In this case, and you can say I have a bias as a West Coast person that it should have been the original call of no goal since there was not anything conclusive to overturn the original call. It depended on when the ref blew the whistle but that question was never answered.
It made the score 3-2 and it gave Shawinigan new life as they tied the game at 13:19. Edmonton though struck back just 23 seconds later when Henrik Samuelsson off 2 excellent set up passes tapped in what proved to be the game winning goal at 13:42.
Edmonton wins game 1 of the Memorial Cup 4-3 and has the weekend off before taking on Saint John Monday evening. Very much looking forward to that game as it will feature the two teams I see as favorites to win this tournament.
The Prospect Report
Michael St. Croix had an assist but not very much else as he put up 3 shots but none of them were legit scoring chances. On the Islanders side Kirill Kabanov took a puck in the face during the first period and I believe it was bothering him the rest of the game as he missed on a couple of good opportunities to score.
Kabanov was more active than St. Croix but really did not have anything to show for it. Shawinigan gets a day off and faces London on Sunday which will be televised in the US by the NHL network.
Unlike many, I was always a fan of Ulfie Samuelsson because he didn't care that he was "the villain" when he played. They talk about how you hated him until he played for your team but in a strange way that's what made his appeal for me.
His son carries the same chip on his shoulder that Ulfie played with and yes Henrik does need to do some maturing but I see a player who may be ranked 75th in the final CSB rankings but I will take him much higher.
For starters, his ranking is because his conditioning was nothing like one would be had he started the season in North America. His skating which many people say is trouble; I disagree I say it's correctable and as his body matures and he gains lower body strength will improve his skating.
He wins me over with his work ethic, his willingness to take a beating if it meant making a play and that he can drive everybody on the ice nuts with his attitude. Henrik has had five goals during the playoffs but three of them have been game winners.
Would I take him at 28-30 maybe, maybe not because there is a world of potential here. Only 18 still growing at 6'2 200 and I can project him to be a solid two way second line center who kills penalties and does all the dirty jobs you need for your star players.
Samuelsson I also believe will bring a consistency to the Ranger center spot that right now is very much lacking. Rangers need a strong face-off guy who has some serious size and character to him.
The Rangers are also known for trading down and in this year's draft only have picks in the first four rounds because of trades. Samuelsson will move up in the draft but I don't see him reaching first-round status but second round where you can possibly pick up more picks makes Samuelsson worth consideration ifI can move down say 10 spots from the first round and gain an extra pick (aim at Colorado who missed playoffs and does not have a first round pick).
And again please understand this is a personal favorite NOT who I see the Rangers zeroing in on today.
(Samuelsson- Edmonton Oil Kings)