Thread: Prospect Info: Jonas Brodin (Part III)
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02-28-2013, 09:34 AM
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brodin currently ranked 10th espn rookies. NHL [Print without images]

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Rookie Rankings: Galchenyuk into top 3

By Grant Sonier
ESPN Insider

Playing in the NHL is a tough business, as two of the front runners for the Calder Trophy race have learned the hard way. Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues was placed on the IR after a concussion caused by a scary hit that forced him to be helped off the ice. Meanwhile Brendan Gallagher was diagnosed with a minor concussion and missed two games. Both had been playing very well but may start to slip in the wake of their injuries.

Who might seize the opportunity to grab a few additional headlines? For one, Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau has generated the most recent momentum among the first year players in the league. Last week he brought himself back into the conversation with some solid play and offensive output. This week he did not slow down and now sits second in the overall rookie scoring race and leads all rookie goal-scorers with 8 markers. But he still has a ways to go to reach the top of the peak.

Let's take a look at how things shape up this week. Statistics are through Sunday, Feb. 24.

1. Cory Conacher, forward, Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous rank: No. 1

Conacher continues to lead the scoring race among a great crop of rookies this year and while the team is struggling to find consistency, the 5-foot-8 center is nothing short of the hardest working player on the ice -- every shift. The Bolts have lots of young players in their lineup, including other rookies Richard Panik and Alex Killorn, which makes it tough to win consistently.

A fellow scouting colleague and friend said recently, "When I watch this little ball of fire play, it is hard to imagine he is a rookie. He works and makes things happen like he has played in the league for years."

In 18 games played he has 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) and is averaging 15:24 of ice time per game.

2. Vladimir Tarasenko, forward, St. Louis Blues
Previous rank: No. 2

We will have to wait and see how long the Russian winger remains out after a major collision with Avs forward Mark Olver. The TV replay clearly showed Tarasenko was in trouble, as his eyes rolled back and he struggled to collect his bearings. The hockey world and the Blues are hoping their bright young star is back soon.

3. Alex Galchenyuk, forward, Montreal Canadiens
Previous rank: No. 5

His steady rise to the top should not surprise anyone that has watched this young center play at the junior level. The Canadiens sit atop the Eastern Conference standings and Galchenyuk has certainly helped the club climb there. He has 3 goals and 9 assists for 12 points and is an impressive plus-9 while playing 12:14 a game. His coach clearly trusts him. "He is proving himself each day and he is continuing to work hard, which are both good signs," Habs head coach Michel Therrien says.

4. Justin Schultz, defenseman, Edmonton Oilers
Previous rank: No. 3

Schultz slides out of the top three mostly because Galchenyuk has simply been that good. The Oilers are hovering at .500 and the highly skilled offensive defenseman has also stalled somewhat. Early on Schultz took the league by storm and the accolades poured in, but his play has dialed down from great to good and the club has slowed as well. As one Western Conference scout suggests, "As he goes the Oilers go." That is a lot of pressure for a rookie blueliner, but the team must know that as well; he leads all defensemen in ice time, averaging almost 23 minutes a game. His 4 goals and 5 assists still have him leading rookie defensemen in the scoring department, but the gap is narrowing.

5. Dougie Hamilton, defenseman, Boston Bruins
Previous rank: No. 4

The Bruins are off to their best start in more than 30 years and they are doing it in part with this rookie defenseman averaging 17:32 of ice time. In 15 games he has 1 goal and 7 assists, just one point shy of Schultz in Edmonton, who has generated a lot more talk for rookie of the year. The two would make for a great argument as to who teams would rather have going forward. In terms of this season's debate the biggest difference I see is that the Bruins are winning a lot of games and the 6-foot-5 Hamilton does not have to do too much on a solid team. Like Schultz he slides in my rankings only because of Galchenyuk's rise.

6. Brendan Gallagher, forward, Montreal Canadiens
Previous rank: No. 6

After missing two games due to a minor concussion, the undersized, high-energy, hard-working forward bounced back Saturday night against the Rangers with 14:09 of ice time and looked to have no ill effects from his time in the press box. The Canadiens continue to be one of the surprise teams in the league this year and lead the Eastern Conference standings with a 12-4-2 record. Gallagher's contagious play seems to be rubbing off on everyone, but his production is helping too. In 14 games the right wing has 5 goals and 3 assists.

7. Jonathan Huberdeau, forward, Florida Panthers
Previous rank: No. 9

A 4-point night (2 goals, 2 assists) can put anyone back on track and it has vaulted him back into this race statistically. Huberdeau is taking the faltering Panthers on his shoulders as they try to snap out of their inconsistent play. He leads all rookies with 8 goals and his 13 points are second only to Conacher.

"He is gaining confidence and when he has the puck he makes things happen," said one Eastern Conference scout who saw him play this past week.

Huberdeau's 13 points is tops for the Panthers and when he is not scoring they can't seem to win. He was held off the score sheet as Boston just cruised to a 4-1 win on Sunday. Leading an offense is a lot of pressure for any young player, but clearly the team feels his importance as he is now averaging more than 16 minutes of ice time a game.

8. Nail Yakupov, forward, Edmonton Oilers
Previous rank: No. 7

Like his team, Yakupov has been scuffling, stuck at 5 goals and 5 assists.

"He has some very good shifts and then he has some mistake-ridden shifts," says a western-based scout who works for an Eastern Conference team.

I am sure the Oilers are like most people who watch the young Russian star, they want more out of him because you can see there is so much talent. He currently sits fifth in rookie scoring, which is noteworthy in such an impressive year for first-year players. Don't give up on Yakupov in this race just yet, as he is certainly capable of rising to the challenges in front of him.

9. Marcus Foligno, forward, Buffalo Sabres
Previous rank: No. 8

Lindy Ruff is no longer his head coach and it appears the new bench boss, Ron Rolston is going to make the rookie earn back his high volume of ice time. Before the coaching change, the big rugged winger led all rookie forwards in ATOI with well over 16 minutes. In his first two game under new direction he only saw 12. He remains in the top 10 in rookie scoring with 1 goal and 7 assists in 19 games.

10. Jonas Brodin, defenseman, Minnesota Wild
Previous rank: No. 10

Brodin is not going to be found at the top of the rookie scoring race and thus is probably not going to win Rookie of the Year, but there is much more to hockey -- particularly for defensemen -- than point production. As one Western Conference scout put it, "He may not produce many points right now, but he is one of Minnesota's most valuable players on the back end."

His ATOI is over 22 minutes, which is impressive and second only to Schultz among rookies. His ability to retrieve pucks under pressure and advance them separates him from many in the league and his upside as an NHL player is tremendous.

Honorable Mention

Drew Shore, forward, Florida Panthers
Previous rank: NR

Shore has quietly entered the scoring race and is now tied for sixth with his fellow rookies. The 6-foot-3, right-shot center is American-born and a former star at the University of Denver. At 22 years old, he has been centering fellow rookie Huberdeau and both are producing as the Panthers try to find a winning forward combination.


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