Noah Juulsen's fortunes set to change
To say that the Everett Silvertips have been indecisive on the trade market would be an understatement. At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, the 'Tips made a massive trade for Nikita Scherbak. Despite making a huge move for one of the WHL's top talents, they failed to stock up at the trade deadline. At the beginning of this season, they traded away their only remaining high-end offensive threat in Ivan Nikolishin.
The Nikolishin trade seemed to signify a rebuild for the 'Tips. Instead, the team has surpassed expectations, sitting just four points back of the division lead with two games in hand. Furthermore, they have allowed just 44 goals; by far the fewest in the WHL.
In hindsight, moving Nikolishin stings a bit, as just a couple of days ago they traded for Brycen Martin, a Buffalo Sabres pick and solid two-way defender at the WHL level. The package included Jantzen Leslie (a top WHL prospect) and a second-round pick.
The addition of Martin adds a serious offensive threat to the WHL's best defensive team. While Everett allows the fewest, they've also scored the second-fewest. The team possesses just two noteworthy scorers: draft-eligible Patrick Bajkov and point-per-game centre Remi Laurencelle.
To make up for the lack of fire power up front, the 'Tips play a north-south game based on age-old hockey adages of defence-first and cycling the puck. On the blue line, the team relies on three duos of shutdown defenders, of which the most relied upon is the pairing of Lucas Skrumeda and Noah Juulsen.
Juulsen is the team's best defender by far, and has thrived with the added pressure. His defensive-zone play continues to stand out for being absurdly good for a player his age. He has begun to command lots of respect from opposing forwards, as they rarely venture down his side of the ice, fearing his hard shoulder and lightning-fast stick. While Kevin Constantine's rigid structure and poor puck luck has limited Juulsen's production to just ten points in 20 games, the chances have been there.
Check out this assist versus Moose Jaw (Nov. 27):
It looks like Juulsen is either going to fire a pass to the forward across from him or load up a shot, instead he makes a tremendous back door pass to Graham Millar, who buries it.
With an excellent offensive toolkit, featuring a rocket of a shot, tremendous vision, and smooth skating ability, it's only a matter of time before Juulsen starts to rack up the points like he did last season. The addition of Brycen Martin should alleviate some of the pressure from Juulsen at both ends of the rink. There's also the possibility that Juulsen and Martin are paired together considering their handedness and complementary styles.
There is even more good news, as Juulsen was named to Canada's World Junior Selection Camp. As one of just two right-shooting defenders invited, he looks to be a very solid bet to make the team.
Jeremiah Addison demonstrating playmaking ability
Jeremiah Addison has been heating up lately, with three consecutive multi-point games and seven points in his last four. Surprisingly, it has not been his goal-scoring ability that has been earning him points, but rather his playmaking. Take these two slick feeds for example:
Addison, who is the net-front presence on the power play, shows good vision, finding Sam Studnicka:
Against Sarnia (Nov. 27), Addison set up Travis Konecny with a perfect saucer pass:
While Addison's recent production has been wonderful, it's tough to call this a successful season thus far. The Ottawa 67's have scored 98 goals, fifth in the OHL, and just two below the third-place team. Even if you remove Addison's first three pointless games, 22 points in 23 games simply isn't good enough for a once-highly-regarded fourth-year OHLer playing with high-end talent such as Dante Salituro and Travis Konecny.
A powerful wrist shot with an explosive release is Addison's best weapon, but he still doesn't effectively utilize it. Through 26 games, Addison has just three even-strength goals - not enough for a player who has shown the ability to be an effective long-range shooter at the junior level. Watch the way the puck explodes of his stick on this goal versus Kingston (Nov. 22):
Perhaps his goal-scoring woes stem from getting so few shots on goal. Addison's 2.48 shots on goal per game sits fourth on the team, sitting more than a full shot back of the top two. Or maybe his struggles stem from a lack of natural scoring instinct and/or ability to find shooting holes. Either way, Addison is going to need a monstrous second half.
With Travis Konecny trade rumours swirling, the 67's have won eight of their last 11. If Konecny gets moved, that means the 67's are going into rebuild mode. If they pull the trigger and believe that Addison won't come back for an overage year, he could get end up getting shipped off, too.
Alaska Nanooks easinginto lineup
Nikolas Koberstein, a fifth-rounder in 2014, has experienced a bumpy development path. Following an underwhelming start to his USHL career with Sioux Falls, he was traded to Bloomington, where he grabbed 11 points in 31 games. Since heading to the NCAA, he has appeared in just eight of 14 possible games.
Koberstein is an intriguing prospect from a developmental standpoint. He owns some fairly good tools, including hockey sense and competitiveness. Offensively, he owns a powerful shot, a slick set of hands, and a willingness to jump into the rush. But it didn't result in points at the AJHL or USHL level. Defensively, he remains a work-in-progress. Often times he's too aggressive and his lack of foot-speed doesn't allow him to recover when he gets caught behind his opposition.
Considering how raw Koberstein's skills are, it's not surprising that they have taken a cautious approach. He hasn't played much yet, receiving just third-pairing minutes while getting into the lineup. The good news is that he has played three of the past four