A play-by-play scouting take on the new Habs arrivals
A couple weeks back, we looked at the Montreal Canadiens arrivals Brian Willsie and Mike Blunden. The Canadiens later dealt for Mark Mitera, a former first round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks.
Stats pages and a few reviews don't always paint a fair picture, so I decided to expand on it a bit more by reaching out to those who watched these individuals for most of last season.
I was fortunate to get some insight from Hershey Bears play-by-play man John Walton and Syracuse Crunch broadcaster Jason Lockhart to give us their thoughts on Willsie and Mitera respectively.
I also reached out to Springfield Falcons play-by-play man Mike Kelly for some insight on Blunden, but have yet to hear back.
Walton noted that Willsie had a career year with the Bears. "Brian is coming off the best offensive season as a professional, reaching the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career," he said, noting the 33-year-old's ability to play multiple positions. "What really made him valuable last season to Hershey was his versatility, as he played every forward position, the point on the power play, and also logged a lot of time on the penalty kill."
This kind of player is likely the reason Pierre Gauthier signed him, thinking ahead in the event of injury or the occasional lineup change by Willsie's respective coach, be it with the Canadiens or the Hamilton Bulldogs. "No question Montreal/Hamilton is getting a good veteran presence that can help out in a lot of areas," Walton added.
Mitera on paper might appear to be a first-round disappointment. But from what Lockhart saw, it might not be what it seems.
"Mark is a good skating defenseman with offensive upside," Lockhart said, and noted the 23-year-old's improvement through the season. "Under the tutelage of Mark Holick and Mike Stapleton last season he became more adept on the power play, doing a better job at getting his shots through from the point.
"He had some moments of brilliance with a number of end-to-end rushes and tape-to-tape home run passes."
Lockhart did point out things that still need to be worked out for him to make it to the NHL. "Defensively, he still has some work to do. Despite his 6'3" frame, he can be more physical in front of his net. Also, he has a tendency of making a number of egregious turnovers in his own zone."
With only two seasons of pro hockey under his belt, after a career in the NCAA, Lockhart feels with more improvement, especially on the defensive side, that Mitera may get his shot in the near future. It will now fall on Bulldogs coach Clement Jodoin to see if the can get the young defenseman to the next level that the Ducks once envisioned him.