The calendar has flipped into the final month of 2021. Amazing to think all that’s happened even in the few short months of the MJHL season.
Things are picking up on the trade front after teams learned a lot from the MJHL Showcase in Portage.
It was a terrific, terrific event. Getting to see all the teams in action and call the games was a real treat. Shoutout to Kevin Pauls who did a wonderful job doing the games, Jamie Roy who did the in-arena announcing, Andrew Marsh who ran the camera for every single game, Chelsea Leskiw & Tori Nadeau who did online scoring and timekeeping, Erik Swar & Kyle Prystupa of the MJHL and Commissioner Kevin Saurette.
Hat tip to all of you
Now, for this week’s takes, we’re going to go back to the Showcase and I’ll share my thoughts on all the teams in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League that I saw with my very own eyes!
Take 1: Dauphin Kings – Absolute wagon. Slow start? Doesn’t matter. Give up some goals? They’ll score more. Wanna play physical? That’s cool, they do that too. The Kings are atop the MJHL for a reason. They are the best team in the league right now. The Turnbull Trophy isn’t handed out in November so there’s still time for them to get even better. They played very well at the Showcase and more than a couple guys opened some eyes. They are a beast.
Take 2: Neepawa Titans – If you would have asked me who I thought would put up the most goals in a single game at the Showcase, I would not have guessed Neepawa, but they did! They showed they have some legit scoring threats but I think most impressive was a couple of their blueliners who can really wheel and make some incredible first passes. Don’t know about the depth but they can be a sneaky team if you take them lightly. Side note: best jerseys in the MJHL. Just super cool design, color and logo.
Take 3: OCN Blizzard – Flat out, really un-impressed by the Blizzard at the Showcase. I thought they were going to be a steamroller but they came out really flat. Granted, playing at 10:30 in the morning isn’t easy but their opponents did it too and they didn’t make it look as hard as the Blizzard did. They did come out of the event and stun the Blues so maybe it was just a little wobble. Their captain is a great interview, though. Spoke to him prior to their first game and “team first” doesn’t even being to describe him. He’s “team all the way”. The heart and passion he has for his club and teammates is something special.
Take 4: Portage Terriers – Biggest positive surprise out of the Showcase was the hometown team. They grinded out a pair of wins and really played well in both games. They brought in some new guys who contributed right away. The goaltending was solid. They work hard and their structured. They had the biggest crowds for their games and the fans were treated to a show both times they hit the ice.
Take 5: Selkirk Steelers – It wasn’t the best two game stretch for the Steelers. They showed a ton of heart in their first game though. I think they proved they are never out of a game and if you want to sleep on them, you’ll be in trouble. They move the puck really well and they have some guys that can flat out score. They have areas to improve on but if they can keep building, they’ll be one of those teams that you don’t want to play in the playoffs.
Take 6: Steinbach Pistons – I think Steinbach was the team that learned the most over the Showcase. They played two of the top West teams and figured out what they need to do if they want to be successful not just in their own division, but in the league. They have the scoring but now they have to learn to score those dirty goals in front of the net. Players have to pay a price to score against good teams. Steinbach learned it and they’ll look to carry that forward.
Take 7: Swan Valley Stampeders – I left the showcase a big fan of the Stampeders. I really enjoyed watching them play. They move the puck well, they have some guys who can really finish, a number of guys can flat out fly and they were an entertaining team to watch.
Take 8: Virden Oil Capitals – I don’t know. I just don’t. I can’t figure this team out. One game they are clicking then the next game, they can’t get anything going. They are so talented, it’s got to be frustrating to all involved. When they are using their speed and their physicality, it really opens up for their shooters. They have smooth skating defensemen that really can put on a show. Another one of those teams that if they can put it all together for several weeks, they’ll do some damage against East division teams.
Take 9: Waywayseecappo Wolverines – If there was a hardhat award or something for hardest working team, it would go to the Wolverines. They are just relentless. They make a hit every time the other team touches the puck. They work hard in the corners, they have great transition from defense to offence and they are fast. Up and down the lineup, they have guys that can be dangerous. A really fun team to watch and despite not getting a win over the two games, they were right there and it could have easily gone in their direction.
Take 10: Winkler Flyers – A frustrating couple of games for the Flyers. If they could just be consistent, they would solve a lot of their own problems. One game they look almost dis-interested and then the next, they look like they’re a step ahead and can dominate for long stretches. When their big guns are firing, they are a top-notch team. If they are not, they have to rely on their goaltending to keep them in. If they can bottle what makes them good, they will surge ahead in the standings but if they keep doing this one on – one off dance, it just won’t fly.
Take 11: Winnipeg Blues – Another team I’ve seen a lot of but it just hammers home that if you turn the puck over to them, you’ll get burned. The Blues displayed some depth up front as a few guys have really stepped up with the chances they’ve been given. They may not be the biggest team but they defend very well. They don’t panic and they have the goalie that makes all the saves he should and a number of ones he probably shouldn’t.
Take 12: Winnipeg Freeze – Really strong game coming off the surprise news of parting ways with the head coach during the event. Not an easy thing for the staff or players to deal with but they handled it about as well as you could have hoped. Congrats to the staff on the bench for getting that win. I’ve seen the Freeze plenty but watching others see just how hard they work was pretty neat. They are not a joke, they are a team that has earned respect around the league.