The Pipeline Show: A Memorial Cup Review & The Draft Spotlight Shines on Kastelic, Ross, Okabe
This week on The Pipeline Show we recap the 2019 Memorial Cup with the help of someone who has covered the host team in Halifax for many years. Plus, we present a trio of 2019 Draft Spotlight segments that will introduce the audience to players who could potentially become middle to late round gems.
2019 Memorial Cup Review
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies were the No. 1 seeded team for the last half of the CHL’s regular season and they proved the rankings right by claiming the 2019 Memorial Cup over the host Halifax Mooseheads.
I spoke with Willy Palov of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald the day after the tournament ended to get his perspective on what made the event a success. We began with the Huskies, a team coached by Mario Pouliot who won the tournament for the second consecutive year but with a different team. Most remarkable, the Huskies roster consisted of 20 players drafted by the team with only Joel Teasdale and Noah Dobson trade acquisitions this year.
The Mooseheads were terrific hosts but go into the summer stinging after losing to the Huskies at home in the last two weeks. Worse still, they blew a 2-0 lead midway through the championship game. That said, there are things the Mooseheads can be happy about.
Palov also complimented both the Guelph Storm and the Prince Albert Raiders who came to the tournament with size but appeared to run out of gas. We discussed some of the players from the OHL and WHL that stood out in Halifax.
Lastly, we talked about one small rule change that might help the two travelling teams and also what one takeaway Willy will remember from the 2019 event.
2019 Draft Spotlight: Mark Kastelic
While the top-rated players for the 2019 NHL Draft interview and workout for scouts, GMs and media at the Scouting Combine in Buffalo, I thought this week would be a good time to get to know some of the guys who were overlooked in years past or came onto the radar later this season. One of them is Mark Kastelic, the captain of the Calgary Hitmen.
Kastelic turned 20 in March and having gone through two drafts already, isn’t a lock to be taken this time around either. But, after a 47-goal campaign with Calgary, the 6-foot-3, 225 lbs power forward has to be getting serious consideration. He has one more year of junior eligibility remaining and at this point, his 2019-20 plan is to return to Cowtown where he will be one of the top overage players in the WHL.
Born and raised in Arizona, Kastelic comes from hockey bloodlines. Both his father and grandfather played, the former spent three seasons in the OHL with the London Knights before a pro career including plenty of NHL action. We talked about why the WHL was the right path for him and also what, if anything, he thinks the league could do better to entice more Americans to come north of the border.
We also discussed the draft, how he sees himself as a player and what his career in the WHL has meant to him.
2019 Draft Spotlight: Roddy Ross
One player who wasn’t on the radar at all for NHL scouts at the start of the year is Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Roddy Ross. You can excuse that fact though as Ross began the year in the AJHL with the Camrose Kodiaks, his fourth team in as many seasons. But it wasn’t until he agreed to join the T-Birds in early January that he started to make a name for himself.
I spoke with Ross, the product of Meadow Lake, SK, about his path to the WHL, how long Seattle had expressed interest in him and why it was the right time for him to make the jump in January.
Of course, I talked to Ross about the NHL Draft and if he, ranked 17th in North America by Central Scouting, has any expectations come June 22nd in Buffalo. I also asked him for a self-scouting report and came to the conclusion that the self-taught goaltender has a lot of untapped potential having not had a lot of guidance or coaching until this season.
The 6-foot-4 keeper ended the year with a record of 16-5-1 with 2.76 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
2019 Draft Spotlight: Zach Okabe
It’s a story you’ve heard a million time. The kid is born in Japan, moves to Australia and learns how to play hockey with inspiration from his NCAA experienced father then relocates to southern Alberta where he eventually becomes a Canadian citizen.
Oh, you haven’t heard that one before?
That’s the path that Zach Okabe has taken and that has led him to the Grande Prairie Storm and onto NHL Central Scouting’s ranking ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. I spoke at length with Okabe about his unique journey and how it’s helped him get to where he’s at. We discussed playing internationally for… someone… as he holds three passports.
Obviously, we spent time discussing his game and why the 5-foot-9, 168 lbs forward hasn’t been slowed down by being undersized. We also talked about his college aspirations which changed from a commitment to the University of Vermont to his father’s old stomping grounds of St. Cloud State.
He’s ranked 201st in North America by Central Scouting so there is a good chance that Okabe isn’t chosen at all at the NHL draft but we talked about the advantages of that scenario as well.