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HFNHL Ducks Top 20 Prospects - Midseason Edition

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02-25-2011, 05:19 PM
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HFNHL Commish
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HFNHL Ducks Top 20 Prospects - Midseason Edition

Since the time of my last prospect write-up, the Ducks have graduated three prospects of significance – Ryan O’Reilly, Kevin Porter, and Davis Drewiske – and traded away one – Michal Jordan. No significant prospect additions have been made. By and large, all of my prospects have progressed at about the rate I expected, which I suppose is a rare feat, in and of itself. Onto the list…

1. (1) P.K. Subban – D
After a whirlwind 2009-10 season, the amusement park ride that is Pernell Karl Subban continues. With Andrei Markov once again succumbing to injury, the Canadiens have relied heavily on Subban throughout the 2010-11 season. He leads Montreal defensemen in goals, is second in points, second in TOI, first in hits, and first in takeaways. Without a doubt, he is one of the top rookie defensemen in the NHL. What makes his success all the more remarkable is the microscope he’s performed under. Not to take anything away from Cam Fowler or Kevin Shattenkirk, but they don’t have national media types watching their every move, just waiting for them to F up. Yet Subban just seems to take it all in stride. Someone will have to move over to make room for Subban on the Ducks’ 2011-12 roster.

2. (2) Magnus Paajarvi – LW
The artist formerly known as MPS, for the most part, has answered the questions concerning whether or not his game was mature enough for the NHL. With the Oilers deciding to forego a “Wunderkinder” line of Paajarvi-Hall-Eberle, Paajarvi, to some extent, drew the short straw among the rookies. Having spent most of the season on the second and third lines, and not getting as much PP time as Hall and Eberle, predictably, Paajarvi is third among his peers in points. However, he has still managed to post 24 points in 59 game, good for 13th among NHL rookies. Moreover, while his offensive game still needs polish, Paajarvi has speed to burn, and he puts it to good use as a responsible backchecker. All in all, Paajarvi’s rookie season in the NHL has been productive enough that he should be ready to contribute to the 2011-12 Ducks.

3. (5) Michael Grabner – LW/RW
With the graduation of Ryan O’Reilly, Grabner moves into the third position on this list, and with good reason. Grabner’s stellar performance between mid-January and mid-February was enough to at least vault him into the Calder Trophy conversation, if not quite make him a leading candidate. Add that to the fact that Grabner won the fastest skater competition at the NHL All-Star Game, and suddenly, he’s a household name. Thus far, Grabner has 25 goals and 36 points in 58 games. However, I always expected him to score. What has impressed me is his growth as a two-way player. He leads the Islanders with a +9 rating and 51 takeaways, and is a regular on the team’s PK. Has performed well enough to probably convince the Ducks’ front office to let Andrew Brunette walk as a UFA.

4. (6) Jaden Schwartz – C
It’s not often that a player misses a significant portion of a season due to injury, yet moves up on a prospect list. Through Christmas, that’s how impressed I was by Schwartz’s play. For a smallish player who’s not a super-elite skater, I expected a little bit of an adjustment period for Schwartz in transitioning from the USHL to the NCAA. However, his offensive smarts and vision are lights out, and by the time the WJCs rolled around, he was in the Hobey Baker conversation. At the WJCs, he found himself on Brayden Schenn’s wing on Team Canada’s first line. That is, until he broke his ankle two games into the tournament. Schwartz is just now getting back into games for Colorado College. While it’s certainly too late for him to work himself back into Hobey Baker contention, he figures to play a huge role in determining the Tigers’ postseason fortunes.

5. (4) Thomas Hickey – D
After missing a huge portion of the 2009-10 season due to injury, Hickey has rebounded fairly nicely with a steady, if not spectacular season, in the AHL. Given a chance to make the Kings’ opening night roster due to injuries to Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, Hickey lost out to a big preseason from Jake Muzzin (who has since been returned to the AHL). In Manchester, Hickey is wearing a letter, and he has posted 22 points in 58 games, while also sporting a +15 rating for the Monarchs. While the Kings’ blueline seems to be getting a little crowded, the Ducks still project Hickey as a top-four defender who will be capable of playing in all game situations.

6. (7) Michal Repik – RW
Having just turned 22, Repik is as young as you could be while having already played 3 seasons in the AHL. In that time, he has posted 147 points in 188 games for the Rochester Americans. Clearly, the kid has nothing left to prove in the AHL. Yet, for some reason, the Florida Panthers have never really given him a chance to stick with the big club, and it’s not as though the Panthers are typically a franchise spoiled for choice. Given the Panthers bizarre decision to waive another one of my prospects, Michael Grabner, during the preseason, methinks it’s also time for a change of scenery for Repik. In the meantime, the Ducks still see Repik’s upside as that of a second-line winger.

7. (10) Martin Jones – G
In my last write-up on Jones, after he was finished winning a TON of hardware in 2009-10, I called him a “second-tier goaltending prospect”. Clearly, he disagreed with my assessment. At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Jon Quick and Erik Ersberg held the goalie spots in LA, while Jeff Zatkoff and Jonathan Bernier held the spots in Manchester. So off to the ECHL with Jones, right? Wrong! LA waives Ersberg, Bernier heads to the NHL, and Jones takes over as #1A for the Monarchs. From there, Jones gets himself named to the AHL All-Star Game, and he hasn’t looked back. All told, in 32 games played, Jones is 21-7-1 with a 2.17 GAA, a .927 save %, and 4 shutouts. Obviously, the road to LA is quite blocked at the moment by Quick and Bernier. That said, Jones is looking more and more like a player who’s capable of performing at any level.

8. (8) Taylor Beck – RW
While the results haven’t necessarily been there for his team this season, 2010-11 has been more of the same for Beck – and that’s generally a good thing. As expected, Beck currently leads the Guelph Storm with 36 goals and 78 points in 52 games, which is about the same clip that he produced at in 2009-10. This comes on the heels of an impressive training camp during which Nashville brass gave serious consideration to keeping him with the big club. While I’m sure there was some disappointment over not being named to Canada’s WJC squad, Beck has continued to show that he’s a hard-working player dedicated to rounding out the rough edges in his game. Definite upside as a top-six power forward.

9. (14) Nicolas Deslauriers – D
Were it not for injury, Deslauriers probably would’ve made Team Canada, and he probably would be second or third among QMJHL defensemen in scoring. As it stands, Deslauriers has posted 37 points in 39 games, which is still good enough for third on Gatineau in scoring. On potential alone, Deslauriers probably could be higher on this list. He’s an excellent skater who moves the puck adeptly, yet also defends well against the rush and is developing a penchant for throwing the odd bone-crunching check. Not much not to like. As with Hickey, Deslauriers does face an increasingly crowded blueline in LA, where there’s also going to be competition from the likes of Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Derek Forbort, Viatcheslav Voynov, and Colten Teubert. Something’s gotta give.

10. (11) Ty Wishart – D
Much like Michael Grabner, Wishart seems to be making the most of his time out on Long Island. Dealt to the Islanders in exchange for Dwayne Roloson, Wishart spent some time with AHL Bridgeport before receiving a call-up from Garth Snow (unlike Evgeni Nabokov, Wishart was eager to pick up the phone!). Since then, Wishart has put up 4 points in 8 games, and has displayed a lot of the qualities that made him a first-round pick. He’s mobile for a big man, sees the ice well, and while he’s not the most physical 6’4”, 222-pound blueliner you’ll ever see, he shows a firm grasp of gap control, body positioning, and angle-of-attack. Because he’s such a solid physical specimen, there’s still the potential for him to become a first-pairing shutdown guy. More likely a second or third-pairing stalwart that sees some occasional PP time.

11. (13) Nick Bonino – C
As I said at the beginning of this article, by and large, all of my prospects have progressed at about the expected rate. No truer an example of this than Bonino. Going into camp, I had feeling that Bonino would secure a spot with the NHL Ducks, but I wasn’t sure in what role. It ended up being a bit role, and while Bonino didn’t play altogether poorly in that role, he was guilty of gripping the stick a bit too tightly and put up nada in 26 games. Off to the AHL, Bonino has 21 points in 28 games. In my book, just a case of a really good all-around college player learning to be a pro. His ultimate success will be a case of his individual determination to get bigger, faster, stronger.

12. (15) Greg McKegg – C/LW
With 39 goals and 77 points in 57 games, McKegg is producing at a slightly better clip than 2009-10, and he has already surpassed last season’s goal totals. He also was just named OHL Player of the Week for the third time this season. While he certainly isn’t the flashiest player around, and questions regarding his skating still persist, McKegg has a good set of hands and a knack for getting into scoring areas. By most accounts, represented himself well at Leafs’ training camp. Top-six upside.

13. (HM) David Desharnais – C
I’ll be the first to admit it: I love to root for the little guy. As such, part of me wants to put Desharnais even higher on this list. Here’s a guy that puts up great numbers in the Q, but no one drafts him because he’s 5’7”, 177-pounds. So, as a favor to Guy Carbonneau (part-owner of Chicoutimi), Montreal signs Desharnais. He blows up the ECHL no problem. Then, for three seasons, he bides his time in the AHL, averaging over a PPG. Finally, in 2010-11, only because Maxim Lapierre is traded, he gets his call-up to the show. The results so far – 13 points in 23 games, playing only 12 minutes a game. Am I claiming second-coming of Marty St. Louis? That would be incredibly rash – St. Louis has far better wheels, to start with. However, Desharnais is proving so far that he can think the game at a high enough level for the little guy to survive, and quite possibly, thrive.

14. (HM) Trevor Lewis – C
After losing most of last season to a shoulder injury, to some degree, this had the feel of a make-or-break year for Lewis. He responded to the pressure fairly well – playing well enough to convince the Kings to send Brayden Schenn back to juniors, and establishing himself as a solid energy line guy and a reliable contributor on the PK unit. His 6 points in 51 games won’t wow anyone, so second-line upside is starting to seem like a longshot. However, if he can improve on draws, he’s a complete enough player that he could be centering someone’s third-line for years to come.

15. (NR) Atte Engren – G
This is a name that might cause more than a few to go: “Who?” In 2009-10, Engren led TPS to the SM-Liiga championship, as well winning the league’s Best Goaltender award. In 2010-11, Engren has posted a 2.88 GAA and a .916 save % in 45 games – one of the heavier workloads in the SM-Liiga, especially for a younger goaltender. Engren’s reputation is as a very quick, athletic goaltender. The pipeline in Nashville is a tad jammed, with Pickard, Lindback, and Dekanich all ahead of Engren on the depth chart, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up next season.

16. (12) Toni Rajala – RW
After a fairly successful 2009-10 in the Dub with Brandon, I’ll have to admit I was disappointed to see Rajala loaned back to Ilves for the 2010-11 season. However, as the SM-Liiga season has worn on, Rajala has improved – he’s put up 22 points in only 38 games. Let’s face it, though – for Rajala, the song remains the same. Until he comes to North America permanently to answer the size and strength concerns, there will be a huge asterisk attached to his status as a potential top-six forward.

17. (17) Jason Gregoire – LW
Gregoire’s solid all-around game is just one reason that North Dakota is the top team in the NCAA at the moment. While he missed a bit of time due to injury, Gregoire is still second on the Sioux in goals, and in total has posted 28 points in 26 games. As opposed to a flashier teammate like Danny Kristo, who’s scoring line or bust, Gregoire won’t look out of place anywhere in your lineup as a pro.

18. (19) Edward Pasquale - G
Pasquale’s first professional season has been an up-and-down one. Unexpectedly the number-one goalie for AHL Chicago out of the gate, Pasquale started off the season on fire. Then he stumbled, got demoted to ECHL Gwinnett, and has struggled to find his footing since. Pasquale grew a lot during his time in Saginaw, thanks in part to the amount of rubber he faced. What makes or breaks goaltenders at the pro level is mental toughness. Pasquale received a D on his first test, so here’s hoping he learns from the experience.

19. (NR) Matt Martin – LW
I’ll say this – Martin’s certainly making a reputation for himself, and it’s a fair bet that Colin Campbell has his phone number stored in his cell phone now. The donnybrook with the Pens aside, Martin has had a solid rookie season, posting 9 points in 48 games, to go along with 103 PIMs and 212 hits. My hope is that Martin’s following somewhat in the footsteps of Cal Clutterbuck, although Martin’s value as a middleweight is likely to play a shaping role in his development.

20. (NR) Vinny Saponari – RW
What a bizarre year for Saponari. After getting dismissed (along with his brother) from BU by Terriers coach Jack Parker (who I hold in tremendously high regard) for conduct unbecoming/underage drinking/who the hell knows, Saponari has seemingly taken it on the chin and responded with a solid 2010-11 season. Choosing to play a season in the USHL, thus preserving his NCAA eligibility, Saponari has posted 48 points in 42 games, good for 3rd in the league. In 2011-12, he will be playing for BU archrival Boston College. Feel the love.

Honorable Mentions: Matt Rust, Nicola Riopel, Tye McGinn, Blair Jones

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02-26-2011, 11:56 AM
  #2
MatthewFlames
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Nothing wrong with the top of this list for sure. I watched a lot of Hickey in person during the pre-season, having not seen him since he was in junior and it was like watching a different player. Sure he was outplayed by Muzzin, but I thought he looked like an NHL defender now, his stature aside. I think he still has a bright future ahead, perhaps never to justify his draft position, but the Kings were smart to be patient and it will pay off. The main problem I see for him is the depth at that position with other prospects developing well around him.

While the Kings were patient with Hickey I feel they weren't with Lewis. He should have started in the minors and got on a roll before they brought him up. I don't see full time second line skill there all the time, but I think his lack of production is due mostly to a lack of confidence when the puck is on his stick.

Two other players I know well from your list are Repik (who I drafted) and Jones, who I watched regularly before I moved South.

Repik has the tools thats for sure but is struggling to adapt them to the NHL and I think it's just a matter of time before incidents like the one in last nights Panthers games have different outcomes. Repik shows blazing speed through the neutral zone, great puck control to beat both defenders, gets a breakaway but can't finish. He should reach his Zednik like potential.

And then Martin Jones. I think he, and at the other end of the spectrum, James Reimer, demonstrate how hard it is to predict or determine a future value of a goalie at the junior level. Reimer played on some horrible Red Deer teams and wasn't thought of as much of a prospect because despite being very good it was impossible to stop everything thrown his way.

But I think Jones wasn't thought of as much of a prospect because the team he played on was AllWorld almost every night and it was just not possible to tell how good he actually was, since he very rarely ever had to carry the team or make a game changing save. Glad he's worked out for you - I think in the long run youve got yourself a future star at the next level.

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02-26-2011, 01:33 PM
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Always a good sign when you have a lot of prospects I've got opinions about. It means you have a lot of notable prospects. Deep list.

I'll admit I'm not a Subban fan. I think there's a Phaneuf-like quality to his game and I could see his game regress once the book gets out on him. I couldn't care less about his attitude, I've just never been a fan. But I've been wrong before.

I'd have Jones up a few spots. He just keeps getting better, and goalies who can come in at 20 and perform in the AHL like he has are serious prospects.

Schwartz was a great pick last year. And I'm still disappointed you snagged McKegg.

Deslauriers is an interesting prospect. He's an extremely underrated player at this point, and would have probably made the WJC team if not for injury.

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