Hello again Litter Box Cats readers and Panthers fans. My name is Nathan Wells and I'm the assistant editor over at SB Nation Minnesota. One of the things I do is cover Gopher hockey and get the chance to see and talk to Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau.
Instead of giving an update on both Florida prospects like I normally do, I thought with tonight's game against Denver being nationally broadcast on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) it would be nice to give a quick scouting report on what to look for. With the Panthers off, it's still a good night to watch some hockey (unless you're cool and have Friday night plans) because almost every Florida college prospect is on national TV. My focus is on the Minnesota-Denver game but Connor Brickley (Vermont) plays in the early NBC Sports Net game, Corban Knight (North Dakota) and Joe Basaraba (Minnesota Duluth) face off on CBS Sports Net and Zach Hyman (Michigan) is on BTN if that's available.
The Gophers-Pioneers game is the biggest, however, with five Florida prospects playing. Denver has Drew Shore, Sam Brittain and John Lee with Rau and Bjugstad playing for Minnesota.
More on Minnesota-Denver after the jump discussing how to spot and what to look for in the players.
Ed. Note: Feel free to utilize this post as an Open Thread for this evening's games.
Some quick basics:
19-9-1 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. 15-9-4 Denver Pioneers
Game Time: 10:00 PM EST Friday February 10th
TV Schedule: NBC Sports Network (find channel here)
Announcers: Gord Miller & Mike Greenlay
Location: Magness Arena, Denver, CO
What to Look For With The Florida Panthers Prospects:
#27 C Nick Bjugstad - Plays on a line with #7 Kyle Rau and #24 Zach Budish (Nashville Predators). Leads the Gophers with 33 points and is second in the nation with 21 goals. Besides the scoring touch, look for Bjugstad's chemistry with Rau, vision with making passes and even smaller things like face-offs (he went perfect over two periods a couple weeks ago).
#7 LW Kyle Rau - Things to look for with Rau are his ability to crash the net for a guy who is 5'8", 170 lbs, use his speed in the corners and two-way hockey. He can come out of nowhere to take away an odd-man rush opportunity.
#15 C Drew Shore - Plays on a line with #12 Ty Loney and # 18 Luke Salazzar. Leads the Pioneers with 40 points, which is fourth in the nation, and goals with 17. He's the top-line center but DU's top-six is more of a 1A and 1B (with Drew's brother Nick centering that line). Besides being a top playmaker and scoring option, look for Shore's play in all three zones.
#1 G Sam Brittain - The talk out of Denver is that Brittain will be playing both games this weekend so it would be a shock if he's on the bench. He's only played twice this year after postseason knee surgery so keep that in mind in terms of lateral movement and playing in a butterfly position.
#5 D John Lee - Senior defenseman who spent last weekend playing with #21 Joey LaLeggia. Lee is the more defensive of the two with 11 points to LaLeggia's 29 and is not afraid to get dirty. The physical battle between the two teams is one of the question marks this weekend but regardless look for Lee to be a guy who will block shots and step in when needed.
Hope that helps everyone and as always, if you have questions feel free to ask them in the comments or find me on Twitter @gopherstate. Enjoy the game tonight...or tomorrow on DVR if you're cool and have Friday night plans.