Now that we've went over the progress for our forwards, let's have a look at the blue line and the crease, eh? Detroit is looking like they are starting to form depth in both positions, which is a sight for sore eyes. There are both offensive and defensive minded D-men in the system, as well as a bright spot in net. Though it's really hard to gauge how a goalie is going to do when he switches to pro-style play, you can't ignore the assets we possess as an organization in net. As far as defense goes, we have lots and lots of size. That's an understatement too. The best thing about these players with size is that they are young, so they are only going to get bigger.
A = Excellent / blew away expectations
B = Above average/exceeded expectations
C = Average/met expectations
D = Below average/ didn't meet expectations
F = Fail
The Goalie Grade:
Jake Paterson: A
|57||Jake Paterson||G||Saignaw Spirit||OHL||29||1593||999||907||92||1||3.47||0.908||16||10||2||0|
Kyle: Jake is fantastic in every aspect of a goaltender. He's a little weird personality wise, he has great skill, drive, and excellent form. Though his stats don't really sell him as a good goalie, you must take in account that he doesn't really play for a very good hockey team. When I saw Saginaw play, I didn't see them execute very well on defense. Patty is a workhorse for this team. He got two starts at the WJC and went 1-1-0 before being swapped out for Zach Fucale. Upon returning from the WJC, Jake started in back-to-back games winning both tilts including one shutout. He is 5-2-0 with a 3.0 GAA and .930 SAV% in the month of January. You can expect to see Jake in Grand Rapids next year to begin his development as a professional level goaltender.
Michelle: Jake Paterson is good. He currently has stats that put him on pace to have a career best year in pretty much every category. He's doing that while playing on a mediocre team (at best) that does not have good defense and doesn't score a lot of goals. Basically, the Spirit would be up chocolate creek without a Popsicle stick without Paterson. Jake was chosen for Team Canada again this year, and saw some action this time. He only played in the first couple games, but that's not a reflection on his play. Since returning to the Spirit, he's gone 5-2-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .930 SV% and 1 shutout. That's a pretty good way to respond after what must have been a little disappointment of not playing int he rest of the World Juniors. He's had an enormous work load all season and has taken it all in stride and posted impressive numbers, often despite his team. Nothing phases him and he just keeps getting better.
The Defense Grades:
Mattias Bäckman: B
Kyle: His offensive stats aren't anything to be wowed by, that's for sure.. But that's not what Mattias' bread and butter is all about. He's the kind of defenseman who will stay at home and move the puck to your forwards. Judging by the videos I have seen, he has a very good ability to outlet pass and set up his team to crash the net. He was taken 156th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, and I think that's a pretty damn good pick. I would like to see him gain some weight and bulk up though.
Michelle: Bäckman isn't known as a particularly offensive defenseman, but by his standards he's doing alright this year. He has twice as many goals as he did last season, and will probably end the season with about the same point totals. He's a very smart defeneman who's in the right place at the right time, is very mobile, and plays a calm smart game. Not being able to watch him play an entire game makes it difficult to thoroughly judge his performance, but he leads the entire SHL in +/- and is 17th in scoring among defenseman, which are both indications that's he's doing what he does pretty well. He has a careen low 8 PIM in 42 games despite playing the 4th most TOI/game on his team, which tells me he's very good without having to take penalties or getting caught chasing. He seems to be improving his game and has become a top 2/3 defenseman on his team.
James de Haas: C
|2||James de Haas||D||Clarkson Univ.||NCAA||24||2||6||8||-4||14||30||8|
Kyle: James has an NHL frame. He is 6'4", and has a fantastic hockey sense and is second to none when it comes to skating abilities. He's not really an uber point producer, but with proper development can be turned into an NHL caliber stay-at-homer. I would really like to see him take more shots for the rest of the season, as well as block more in his own zone. Scouts have praised him for his first pass. I think he just needs to get stronger.
Michelle: Production wise, James is only slightly below his pace from last year (.33 pts/game this year vs. .433 pts/game last year). Of course, points aren't the biggest factor for this young defenseman. This is his first year of college hockey, so he's making the growth to playing at a higher level, and with and against bigger, stronger, more skilled players. He seems to be making the transition quietly well, and I guess not being incredibly noticeable at this stage isn't a bad thing.
Ben Marshall: C
|10||Ben Marshall||D||Univ. of Minnesota||NCAA||23||3||9||12||7||48||48||38||1||1|
Kyle: I think my biggest problem with Ben is that he is tiny. 5'9" 179 lbs is just not something you want to see on the blueline in the NHL nowadays. Once you get past that you can see that Ben has done a fantastic job playing the power-play QB style defenseman for U of M. He plays for one of the college powerhouse teams in the NCAA so you can take that as a very nice upside to him as well as far as his development goes. He is an offense first style defenseman who shoots the puck every chance he gets, he can wheel and deal better than most collegiate defensemen possess the ability to do. If he doesn't grow much more, there is always the possibility that Ben gets converted into a forward, as he has all of the attributes that a good offensive play-maker should have. He's been great this month. Keep an eye on him. He good!
Michelle: Marshall is on pace to pass his college point total for previous years. He plays on the 2nd PK unit and also sees time on the PP, though I'm not sure how much. I really don't have a lot of information on him, but it sounds like he's about where he should be. He was ejected from their last game for a hit to the head, that may not have actually been a hit to the head. Here's the video of the hit. After the game, Farley said he didn't see Marshall coming, and that his shoulder was sore. It looks like it was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that was hard and caused Farley's head to snap back. I'm not going to punish Marshall for that hit.
Mike McKee: D
|2||Mike McKee||D||Western Michigan Univ.||NCHC||11||0||0||0||0||46||1||4|
Kyle: Mike McKee is a guy I really haven't been able to fully dissect. I made it out to a game just to watch him play, but he was a scratch. Mike is one big MF'er, and from his scouting reports, it seems as if he moves surprisingly quick for his size. He is new to playing defense, as he was converted from power forward at the age of 15, but we definitely want to see him start taking more shots due to the fact that his shot looks like it weighs as much as a Mack Truck. Less penalties would great too. As you can see, 46 PIM in 11 games is just too much.
Michelle: McKee is an interesting case. He's been a healthy scratch for about half of the Bronco's games. His biggest asset has always been his size and physicality. This is his first year of college hockey, and he's having to change his game a bit since there's no fighting in the NCHC. He has 0 points and 46 PIM in 11 games, which isn't impressive. Something I do find interesting is that he's been playing both defense and forward this season. David Drew said he played defense in juniors because of his size, but now it's thought that he may physical, checking forward at the higher level. He seem to be having a tough time adjusting so far.
Marc McNulty: B+
|3||Marc McNulty||D||Prince George Cougars||WHL||46||11||16||27||-6||79||6|
Kyle: McNulty is 6'06", and to my knowledge that is the tallest defenseman we have in the system. Usually when you deal with players this tall, you have players who have massive wingspans, which usually means you have great ability to cover, and a hard shot to boot. With his reach he makes a pretty difficult player to pickpocket. He's only 18 years old, so he's going to keep growing.. Which is both awesome and terrifying to me. He's having himself a career year in the WHL this season nearly doubling his points from last year so far.
Michelle: This tall, lanky defenseman has already surpassed his goal and point totals for previous seasons and is 7th on his team in points. He is second on the team in power play goals and also has a season high in penalty minutes, and has 3 fights so far this season. He's having a career year so far.
Mitchell Wheaton: B+
|6||Mitchell Wheaton||D||Kelowna Rockets||WHL||33||5||16||21||21||26||2|
Kyle: Here's another guy I haven't really gotten the chance to look at much, but judging by his injury report, he's doing pretty well this year. He's another massive framed defenseman for the Red Wings, which is always welcomed. He is praised for his ability to prevent forwards from moving the puck towards the net and is also ranked at being underrated with his puck movement skills. 20 points and +21 thru 30 games is pretty damn good for a defensive-minded D-man.
Michelle: Wheaton is more of a defensive defenseman, but has almost tripled his point production form last year. He was injured at the end of last year, and missed about 13 games this season with injuries as well. Now that he's healthy he seems to be making up for lost time.