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Kosmachuk hot and cold

After torrid streak, Guelph winger mired in slump

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GUELPH, Ont. -- It's been seven games now since Scott Kosmachuk found the back of an Ontario Hockey League net.

Of course the Winnipeg Jets' draft pick, taken in the third round last June, is squeezing his stick a little.

Of course he's thinking about where the offence has gone.

But maybe the more telling thing about the gifted Guelph Storm right-winger, a Toronto native, is that there doesn't seem to be any panic.

In fact, barely a worry, at least on the outside.

"Streaky? You could say that," the 18-year-old said over the weekend, his November so far not even holding a candle to his 10-goals-in-10-games run in October. "I had a good streak there, but hopefully this is just a little dry spell here and I can get a good one going again."

Through 24 OHL games this season, the 18-year-old has 12 goals and 24 points, still leading his team in goals and second in points.

"I started doing really well with my line (with team-leading point-getter and excellent setup man Tanner Richard) and then we went into a little slump, so there were some changes a couple of games ago," Kosmachuk said. "I don't know, it's just sometimes things don't go your way, pucks bounce, but you've got to keep working at it, stay positive and do the little things right.

"I don't think I'm putting too much pressure on myself to score, necessarily, but I just noticed the last couple of games that the pucks are bouncing on me, just off my stick, and even today, it wouldn't settle. It's something different."

After a 30-goal season attracted much attention and led the Jets to step up with the pick in Pittsburgh, many eyes look at Kosmachuk differently this year.

And maybe one of the reasons the dry spell isn't much of an issue yet is that Storm coach Scott Walker, the former 16-year NHLer with Vancouver, Nashville, Carolina and Washington, is as well a Kosmachuk fan in many ways.

"I think there was a lot of pressure on him last year, heading for the draft," Walker said. "This year, I sense that he has less pressure but he still feels like he wants to do more.

"To me, he's got NHL speed, an NHL shot. We just have to get him to make sure he understands all aspects of the game. I think he's really getting a lot better at that. I'm using him penalty killing a bit now; it's kind of new and he's being responsible about learning it and I think it keeps him in the game."

The locals who watch the Storm say Kosmachuk is increasingly slippery on the ice, has a good nose for the net and that for a good part of this season, the puck's been following him around quite a bit.

Maybe some of that success has led him to be too clever at times, not shooting enough.

Walker said he does have to remind the Jets' prospect of his strengths from time to time.

"But he's always a threat out there with his speed," Walker said. "He's got a great first step and some good hands. I think he can be a complete player, but it's easier said than done.

"Lots of guys are drafted. Lots of guys don't make it. But I think he's got everything he needs and he's starting to put it together.

"And he's got the right mentality. That's one thing I really notice. You always have you antennae up about guys who get drafted -- how are they going to be? Honestly, he's been a real treat. But yeah, he has to be a shooter. He gets his speed going, and when he chips it and drives by a D, he can finish with the best of them."

Kosmachuk said the pressure of 2011-12, the draft year, was intense at times.

Is there a different feeling this year?

"Yes, and no," he said. "It's different obviously because your draft year is big, there's lots of hype around you. Coming into this year, you're drafted but you can't stop working because this is just the beginning of the rest of your life, you know? Tough question."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2012 C4

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