On this evening as the rookies from the two Alberta rivals took to the ice at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, it was Edmonton prevailing 4-3 in overtime, despite being outshot 38-28 in the entertaining tilt.
Starting off the 3-on-3 extra session alongside Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, slick skating blueliner Oliver Kylington had a chance to win it that first shift when he was set up neatly in the slot.
But as compelling and dynamic as the 19-year-old is to watch, he is prone to the poor decision or mistake and that was what unfolded. Kylington chose to attempt a pass instead, the puck was intercepted and on the hockey version of a pick-six, Oilers forward Jaedon Descheneau converted the ensuing breakaway to end it after just 47 seconds.
Six Post-Game Impressions
1. So Much Hostility
Usually, "a guy you can't take your eyes off" is a label reserved for Johnny Gaudreau. But it's quickly becoming an apt description for Matthew Tkachuk too.
What I've learned in the last 48 hours is there are four types of shifts in Tkachuk's repertoire:
- He will set-up or score a goal. He authored the game's first goal on Saturday.
- He will take a penalty, or two
- He will draw a penalty, or two
- He will piss someone off
Without his stick but seeing Chase sitting on the ice near the blue-line after a previous collision, Tkachuk took a stride then dove at him like a football linebacker trying to sack a quarterback.
Fast forward to the second period. Mere seconds after Kylington took a blindside high hit in the slot that left him temporarily shaken up, Tkachuk was in the penalty box serving a double minor for spearing. Yep, as soon as play went back up the ice, he had gotten back at the assailant.
Tkachuk must fill up an entire notepad every game as he jots down, for his own reference, the jersey numbers of opponents guilty of various transgressions.
Things did settle down in the third period and Tkachuk needs to learn to dial it back a little bit, but this guy is a Costco-sized container of piss and vinegar. Built out of the Ryan Kesler or Brad Marchand mould, he is going to be an agitator that the league is going to hate in no time and when is the last time Calgary's line-up boasted someone of that ilk.
The Anger was Infectious
The shenanigans on this night from the team in red were not only from Tkachuk, many got into it. When Tkachuk was checked heavily along the end boards, long after dishing off the puck, by 6-foot-3 Oilers blueliner Kayle Doetzell, Hunter Smith stepped in and dropped the gloves. The result was a true, heavyweight scrap with haymakers being tossed by both.
Austin Carroll also got into character as someone must when playing alongside Tkachuk for a second straight night. On the same sequence Tkachuk got his spearing penalty, Carroll could have had both cross-checking and slashing penalties only to elude the sin bin. Soon after that crime spree ended though, he got caught for slashing.
Notably, 5-foot-11 (barely) Dillon Dube also ignited a skirmish with a whack to the back of the leg of an Oilers defender. Playing in the middle of Tkachuk and Carroll, even Mark Jankowski was starting to show a mild mean streak as the game went on, getting into a couple of shoving matches and barking at the referee at one point. It's as if he was feeling excluded.
Arrival of Matthew Tkachuk in the NHL -- this year or next, will be the best thing to have happened to the Battle of Alberta in decades.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) September 18, 2016
2. Lomberg the Locomotive
One wonders how good of a player Ryan Lomberg would be if only his body was as big as his heart. Off the ice, the scrappy 5-foot-10 spark plug looks like someone that would be carrying a skateboard.
But no half-pipe to be found here, this guy loves playing hockey and his motor goes non-stop. He is absolutely relentless in pursuit of the puck and anytime and all the time he will go into battle with players of any size.
In one sequence in the first period, Lomberg's dogged pursuit of the puck on a seemingly innocuous neutral zone forecheck, eventually forced the Oilers defenceman to retreat back into his own end. Then, as if he had a pit bull latched to his pant leg, he eventually coughed up the puck and had to haul Lomberg down to prevent a scoring chance.
A perfect example of the native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, taking absolutely nothing and making something out of it by earning Calgary a power play.
He doesn't have Tkachuk's size, finish or pedigree, but the scrappy center signed to an AHL deal for this season is very much Tkachuk-like in his ability to wreak havoc and that makes him a real fun player to watch.
3. Small Guys and Big Shots
The Flames brought a giant line-up to Penticton. Of the 25 skaters, 17 stand 6-foot-1 or greater. But when Calgary gets a power play and after a string of early penalty kills, they did eventually get a few chances with the man advantage, it was an opportunity for the Smurfs to get out there.
In particular, the trio of Dube, Matthew Phillips and Andrew Mangiapane moved the puck around smartly with the extra man. If you closed your eyes, you could hear the snapping of the puck going stick-to-stick-to-stick.
"They can make plays, they're all offensive guys," said Huska. "Dillon has a little bit of edge and grit to him so we wanted him to be around the front of the net."
Despite whistling the puck around with such authority, they did not produce a goal, partially because almost every blast from the blueline ended up high and wide. Loading the cannons were Kenney Morrison on one unit and Ryan Culkin on the other. But the only damage they were doing was adding a plethora of puck marks to the plexiglass. But they were dangerous and the pucks were exploding off the sticks of both of them.
Dube and Phillips are a couple years away from leaving junior so seeing that particular cast together is very much a limited engagement, but there is loads of skill there. Dube, in particular, is a guy to keep an eye on. A possibility to play on Canada's World Junior team this winter, next year he should have a really good chance of cracking that roster.
4. Polar Opposite Goaltending
In net, Tyler Parsons and Mason McDonald split time. While the two second rounders (Parsons in 2016, McDonald in 2014), who were both one of the top two goaltenders selected in their draft class, each got 30 minutes of work, the similarities stopped there.
There was one barrage in particular where he was under siege with the Oilers on a 5-on-3 and he battled and battled and refused to let that puck get past him.
"A couple bounces back and forth and I ended up having to dive across the crease to make a save," said Parsons, who noted that Jonathan Quick is his favorite goalie. "Growing up, I loved watching him. I'm really flexible and I like to compete, that's one of the strongest aspects of my game -- my compete level -- and that's what he does too."
The only blemish came when he mishandled the puck behind the net. In trying to clear the puck up ice rather than make the safe play of around the boards, it never made it past the Oiler racing in to forecheck. It got caught up in his skates or equipment and suddenly the puck dropped into the vacated net.
"Those happen once in a while. It's a tough bounce," Parsons said. "I didn't like it, every goalie would say that, but I got back into it right away and made a couple big saves right after that."
Rotten Outing for McDonald
On the flipside, McDonald had a rough night, surrendering three goals on around 10 shots -- give or take.
The Halifax native then whiffed on another stoppable shot six minutes into the third that put Edmonton ahead by two goals.
He did mix in a couple sharp saves after that. In one close call, he jabbed out his left leg as he slid across the crease to thwart a dangerous chance from close-in and keep Calgary's deficit at one.
"Tough spot to come into. They're jumping on to a power play after we've had no momentum and they've had all the momentum," assessed Huska. "I think he'd probably like to have that one back and probably the second one, but he made some saves for us in the third period."
The OT goal, while on a breakaway, was again one that the team and especially Kylington would have liked him to have stopped. But perhaps caught too far back in his net, he was beaten clean.
5. Belarusian Sensation
Saturday was an opportunity to see intriguing Belarusian defenceman Stepan Folkovsky in action for the first time.
Sure enough, the guy gets around not bad out there. Paired with Kenney Morrison, he ragged the puck in deep on more than a few occasions, one time controlling the puck like a first line centre, he lugged it all the way around the back of the net and out the other side.
It looked like he was going to get beat at the blue-line a few times but he'd jab out out his stick and somehow reel in the puck and avert the crisis.
While he made the wrong choice a couple times, he definitely has offensive instincts you don't expect to find in that size of package.
"He's a hard guy to play against simply because of that size and for that size, he can skate well," Huska said about Folkovsky, who reportedly speaks zero English. Based on conversations some team personnel have tried to have with them, the only thing he is fluent in is the blank stare. That, and his native language, one would assume.
You can see why he would be someone the scouts would want to take a chance on with a final pick in a draft. When you have a giant man like that does have the ability get around with the puck OK. But you can also understand why the most common description I've heard is "raw".
From Penticton, #Flames defence prospect Kenney Morrison opens eyes with an impactful performance on opening night. https://t.co/hbAYCLbIuQ— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) September 18, 2016
6. Amateur Hour
They're not tracking ice time in Penticton but if they were, the fourth line comprised of Hunter Smith and two guys hunting for a contract in Mikkel Aagaard and Brayden Burke, would probably have been at around 10 minutes each.
|Mikkel Aagaard (Photo by Terry Wilson, OHL Images)|
First it was Aagaard, the great Dane, with a long-range snipe at 7:54 to cut the third period deficit to 3-2. Gobbling up a turnover just inside the blueline, he promptly whipped a rising shot past goaltender Dylan Wells.
"It's important. I come here on an invite and I'm really honored and proud to be here. For me, I'm just taking one day at a time and really making sure that everybody knows that I'm working hard," said Aagaard, who also deflected a Smith shot off the crossbar in the second period.
On an odd-man rush three minutes later, Burke took a short pass from Smith -- the puck moving in the right direction in that scenario -- raced in and snapped in a shot to tie it.
"They turned the puck over the blueline. Smitty made a really good pass to me, I just went in and took a shot and got it under the blocker," said Burke, who led the Lethbridge Broncos in scoring last year with 27 goals and 109 points in 72 games.
Considering Back to the Future had just premiered at the theatres the last time the Flames fourth line produced two goals in a game, never mind in the same period, it was an effective and productive night for that trio.
Aagaard is Raising Eyebrows
"That line in the third period, they got us going and the momentum came off that," Huska said. "Mikkel, the two games he's played, he's made a good impression on me. He's a quick, young man and he's got some good skills, and you can see some hockey sense there."
It was back-to-back quality appearances for Aagaard, who was the last-minute fill-in for injured Morgan Klimchuk on Friday. The centre's resume includes captaining Denmark at the World Junior Championships in 2015. That team also featured Winnipeg's Nik Ehlers and Columbus' Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Last year as an overager in the OHL, he had 24 goals and 53 points in 64 games. Twenty-one of those goals came in 44 games after he was traded from Niagara to Sudbury.
He's another small guy at 5-foot-11 but he doesn't play that way, seemingly not afraid to get involved when the play gets physical as it has been in both games.
Flames are back in action on Monday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
- Penticton 2016: Looking to Make a Statement, Morrison Off to Impactful Start - After a year that Kenney Morrison called an "eye-opener", he opened up the rookie tournament with a performance his coach said he'd never seen before. It's a good sign. (September 17, 2016)
- Penticton 2016: Flames 4, Jets 1 - Six Post-Game Impressions with Quotes - It was quite the entertaining game as the Young Stars Classic got underway with Matthew Tkachuk making quite a statement. How Ryan Huska described his play was bang-on too. (September 16, 2016)
- Penticton 2016: Klimchuk Works on Rediscovering his Scoring Touch - No goals the final 33 games. Just three all year. For a 30-goal guy, Morgan Klimchuk's first year as a pro was a grind. But he's spent the summer working on his scoring touch. (September 16, 2016)
- Penticton 2016: Eight Flames Prospects That Pack Some Intrigue - Eight prospects including Eetu Tuulola, Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Jankowski and Matthew Phillips that carry an element of fascination for me, going into this year's tournament. (September 13, 2016)
- Penticton 2016: Eight Flames Storylines to Follow at This Year's Rookie Tournament - Subplots to keep an eye this year include the battle of the Swedes, Josh Jooris 3.0, go-time for Klimchuk, depth chart battles at C/D and a four-headed monster in net. (September 12, 2016)