Game On Magazine September 2015 - Page 35

TAMPA – I go back a long way with Manitoba hockey and the players who learned to play the game there. In fact, I go back to the days of Jack Perrin and the 1954 Winnipeg Warriors of the then-professional Western Hockey League. With the season almost upon us (Bowman has won 13 Stanley Cups as a coach and team executive), Game On Magazine asked me to “scout” the Manitoba players I think will be the players to watch this season. I like most of the players from Manitoba. From Alex Steen in St. Louis to Colin Wilson in Nashville, Manitoba now produces a lot of good, solid hockey players. But from my seat in the press box, here are the three players I’ll be watching the closest. These are the three guys I think will have a major impact on how their teams play during the upcoming season: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks: The thing about Jonathan is his compete level. There is nobody better in the game. There are players at his level, certainly, but nobody competes harder than he does. That’s why he’s the Blackhawks captain and why he’s the team’s leader and that’s why he’s won three Cups in six years. There are very few players in the game who have a better head on their shoulders. His hockey IQ is through the roof. And for a franchise, he is low maintenance. He’s a good guy and he’s not going to do anything stupid. He’s just a smart kid. And Jonathan is still a kid. He’s only 27. He’s got 10 great years ahead of him. He’s going to be a star for a long time. He’s one of the best players in the game and as we saw, the playoffs bring out the best in him. Darren Helm, Detroit Red Wings: He has speed and you can’t replace speed. I saw him earlier last season, before he got hurt, and he was one of the most dynamic players I’ve seen. Every time he’s on the ice, he makes things happen. He is definitely a p[layer to watch. It’s just too bad he’s missed so much time with injuries. The Red Wings love him and that always helps a player, but the again, why wouldn’t you love him? You just can’t replace speed. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a force this aeason. I know (Pavel) Datsyuk loves playing with him and if Datsyuk likes you, that says a lot about your speed, skill and how you fit in. Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders: Maybe the most under-rated defenseman in the NHL. He plays 21 minutes a night and he’s a force in his own end. He has no fear. He hits everybody and he’ll get right down there and block shots. He’s a leader on an Islanders team that has really improved. He’s not offensively gifted, but he can get the puck out of his own end quickly, can make good plays, passes well, is a great skater and has a big shot. He’s one of the most important players on that team. It’s funny, but they got him some help last year with the addition of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy and yet he’s still the most dominant defenseman on that team night in and night out. If he plays well, the Islanders could surprise a lot of people this season. n SEPTEMBER 2015 GAME ON 35