The following article is part of a continuing series this season, where MayorsManor correspondent David Hofreiter provides commentary on prospects playing in the Canadian-based major junior leagues and US-based college hockey programs. He’ll spend time tracking a player, then offer some opinions and observations based on a single game or multiple games, depending on the points being presented.
While most NHL rosters feature 23 players, not everybody plays the same style of game – not even among the specific positions they occupy on the depth chart. Thus, it’s important for an organization to have a variety of players, with a mix of talents and skill sets at each position.
A recent OHL game between the Windsor Spitfires and Owen Sound Attack featured a head-to-head match-up between Kings’ prospects Kurtis MacDermid and Nick Ebert, allowing both defensemen to show off their strengths a bit.
MacDermid, an undrafted free agent signed by the organization in 2012, is currently playing his third year for Owen Sound. Since he will turn 20 in 2014, he’s eligible to join the Manchester Monarchs (AHL) next season. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 215 pounds, you can’t miss him when he’s on the ice.
Ebert, a seventh round pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is one of the veterans on this year’s Windsor club. He too could play for Manchester next year, as he’ll have four seasons of junior hockey under his belt. Sporting a more modest frame, roughly 6-feet tall and 200 pounds, Ebert can play with a slight edge to his game.
When the two squared off recently, Windsor came out on top, 5-4 in overtime. Yet for this article, rather than narrating the course of the game, we’ll spend more time comparing and contrasting the young blueliners in terms of fundamentals, styles, and skills:
Between the two, Ebert played more priority minutes. He played on the Spitfires’ second pairing, but also saw time with the top penalty killing and power play units. MacDermid was also on his team’s second pairing. Although he spent some time on the penalty kill, he wasn’t used when Owen Sound had the man advantage.
As expected, Ebert was more of an offensive defenseman between the two. To be more specific, he rushed and carried the puck more. Even with the breakout, he favored bringing the puck out himself. Ebert also boasted a hard shot; unfortunately he missed the net quite a bit. Meanwhile, MacDermid’s offense was mostly generated from distributing the puck. He used his defensive partner and forwards quite a bit for the breakout.
Late last season, Ebert spent some time with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL and assistant coach Mark Hardy was quite impressed with his raw tools.
Here, Ebert scored a goal when he joined in on the attack. Things developed quickly, as he pinched in deep and buried a rebound.
Later, MacDermid was credited with an assist when his shot from the point was tipped in by a teammate.
Perhaps more important in the big picture, both had shining moments defensively, with the scales tipped slighting in MacDermid’s direction. Each player was put in precarious positions with odd-man rushes, but MacDermid handled his better. He faced a 3-on-1, and he did a great job forcing the puck carrier to the outside and taking away the pass. Ebert, on the other hand, played a 2-on-1 well enough to force the opposition to the outside, but he lost track of the other player and almost allowed a goal.
MacDermid plays a much more physically efficient game than Ebert. He punished quite a few Windsor players who dared to carry the puck near him with open ice hits. Ebert would separate players from the puck with inside positioning, but he likely didn’t make players think twice about a possible collision.
Ebert played like an exceptionally gifted puck carrying defenseman with a hard shot. He played his best when he was decisive. The 19-year old made good defensive decisions on the fly, but he also had a tendency to roam aimlessly in the defensive zone at times. He definitely needs to improve his strength to be more effective against stronger opponents at higher levels.
MacDermid played a very physical game with good mobility. His instincts defensively were solid. He had a good shot from the point, and he utilized his teammates well. He will definitely benefit from more seasoning and experience as he reaches the next level. What makes him an appealing prospect is his combination of toughness, defensive discipline, mobility and a (perhaps limited) touch of offensive ability.
While the future is still far from certain for both of these young defensemen, they both have some raw skills worth tracking as they mature and develop throughout the season.
For more reports from this series, please see the links below.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please include a link to www.MayorsManor.com