Through a few things (mostly being sick), I didn't get around to writing up a report on last weekend's Minnesota-Vermont series. I'm sure no one cares about my well-being or maybe even these reports, but at the very least as an outsider I'm very impressed with the Panthers prospect pool. And that includes Connor Brickley.
Some "quick" highlights:
Minnesota and Vermont split a two game series last weekend with the Gophers winning 6-0 Friday and the Catamounts winning 5-4 Sunday. Friday's game was a complete rout by the Gophers while Sunday's game hinged on Vermont taking advantage of power plays and a four goal second period.
Each prospect scored twice with Bjugstad scoring both of his Friday, Connor Brickley scoring both of his Sunday and Rau scoring one each game.
If you missed it, here are Nick Bjugstad's two goals and Kyle Rau's goal Friday night. Both players were fantastic moving the puck and created real havoc for the Catamount defense. It's amazing how Rau, who now leads the Gophers with six goals, is able to use his speed to get low and crash the net despite being 5'8". Four of his six goals happened within five feet of the goal.
At the same time, Bjugstad was noticeable in the Minnesota zone as he threw his body around and broke up a couple opportunities on the backcheck. He was easily the best player on the ice Friday night and at certain points like a man among boys. While I'm not so sure Rau's style works at the next level, Bjugstad could step in now.
Despite the 6-0 loss Friday night, I thought Brickley was the best Vermont forward. He played left wing on Vermont's second line with Matt White and Matt Marshall and was the only Catamount creating offense. That was an issue all night with Vermont between playing on the Olympic ice sheet of Mariucci Arena and being rusty in their first game - the Catamounts had four consecutive power plays without a shot on goal - but Brickley had a couple good opportunities.On one he tried to go through two Minnesota defensemen and was able to stay on his skates and get a shot off.
It was no surprise Sunday that Brickley scored twice then. Like Rau, he was able to create space and find ways to get low. In fact, Brickley almost had a third goal in front of the crease but it was waved off as having been kicked in. I thought that he could have been more physical but Brickley skates well, has a high motor and good vision. Both of his goals came from hard work and while I don't know if has the tools to be a NHL top-six player, he's a guy who you want on your team.
The Gophers face Alaska-Anchorage this weekend and unfortunately I won't have anything other than stat lines and radio since the games aren't televised. However they are supposed to be streamed here so that may work.