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With the regular season quickly approaching (a week away), there's still a lot up in the air when it comes to the Ice Wolves. Who will be on the roster on the 16th of September? A lot of that will be riding on Sunday's exhibition game in Melfort (7:30 p.m.). After that point, I expect the roster will be close to set as Bob Beatty tries to get this new squad prepared for the opening week, which is pretty busy.
Players will be coming in and out of camp, many from BC and Alberta as they look for opportunities in the SJHL. Lots of teams have benefited from picking up a good player who was, for some reason, passed over. The Ice Wolves did exactly that last season when they brought Fort McMurry native, Graham Smerek on to the roster.
Alberta Midget AA Statistics:
2010-11: 49 GP - 6 G - 11 A - 17 P
2011 Playoffs: 17 GP - 3 G - 4 A - 7 P
2011 Anavet Cup: 7 GP - 0 P
Break it Down:
-Midget AA stats unavailable as the league's website is new or doesn't archive.
-Most of points concentrated in the back half of the season.
-Points per game increased during SJHL playoffs (drop with Anavet included).
-Played fourth line minutes
Much like Nathan Boyer, Graham Smerek took a while to find his scoring touch in game action. I was always assured by various members of the Wolves that Smerek contained a lot more scoring prowess in practice, but it never really came to fruition. Though, that's not entirely true. For about nine days, Smerek was an offensive dynamo racking up four goals in five games, two of them game winners including an absolute beauty against the North Stars.
Smerek's greatest weapon is his speed. When he gets moving it's tough for any player in the league to keep up with him. This helps make him an effective player both offensively and defensively as he was a very good penalty killer for La Ronge last season.
Smerek is another tough player to predict. A lot of it comes back to how well these players who were skating with fourth line minutes react to considerably more ice time and responsibility. Something I've noticed about Smerek this training camp is his hands are catching up to his speed. Some players have decent skill and great speed, but can't attach the two. A good example is Matthew Lombardi during his Flames days. When the hands and skills catch up to the speed, it can be a thing to behold, and Smerek is taking a step towards that.
Even with an added offensive element, I still see Smerek as a player that will be shutting down opposing offences. However, based on some of the players he has been skating with at camp, Smerek could be playing on more offensive minded lines. He'll likely be a fixture on the penalty kill, and I expect he'll see some limited powerplay time as well. Time on the PP during the Ice Wolves Intrasquad game led to, "What am I supposed to do, I've never done this before" (not a direct quote, but very close).
Smerek's offensive prodution really depends on his role with the team this season, and that could really shake down either way. Because Smerek falls into that kind of utility role, I wouldn't be surprised to see him fit into a role similar to Aaron Enns last season as the offensive side of the shut-down line. So he'll see a fair increase in ice time and the points will reflect that.
Projected 2011-12 Stat-Line: 12 G - 16 A - 28 P