The Columbus Blue Jackets hold the rights to 12 prospects playing this season in the junior leagues across North America, including three prospects in each of the QMJHL, the OHL, and the USHL, two in the WHL and one in the AJHL.
Maxime Frechette, D – Drummondville Voltigeurs
5th Round, 142nd overall in 2006
It has been a frustrating season for both Frechette and his Voltigeurs teammates. Frechette injured his shoulder during the third game of the season and missed seven weeks of playing time. Upon his return, he re-injured the shoulder, and has yet to return to action.
His team has struggled without him in the lineup. Frechette is the Voltigeurs only NHL-drafted player, and playing without him they have trailed at the bottom of the QMJHL standings, currently in last place with a 6-21-1-1 record.
Frechette has to get back in the lineup, because the 2006 draft pick will have to be signed next summer if the Jackets wish to retain his rights. The towering blue liner has played in five games without registering a point.
Matt Marquardt, LW – Moncton Wildcats
7th Round, 194th overall in 2006
Marquardt is playing in his last season with the Wildcats, who are currently tied for sixth place in the Eastern Division of the QMJHL with a 10-15-2-2 record good for 24 points. The 20-year-old has played in 26 games this season, and is third on the Wildcats with 22 points. Marquardt is tied for 14th in the QMJHL with 15 goals.
An overager this season, the North Bay, Ont. native must be signed next summer if the Jackets wish to retain his rights.
Jakub Voracek, RW – Halifax Mooseheads
1st Round, 7th overall in 2007
Considered by many to be the best player not playing in the NHL this season, Voracek has taken his game to the next level, dominating the QMJHL while leading the Mooseheads to near the top of the CHL. Voracek missed several games early in the season due to his participation in Blue Jackets training camp. He has been blazing the league since his return, currently ranking second in the league in scoring with 11 goals and 32 assists for 43 points in only 21 games. He should continue to challenge for the league’s scoring title despite his two-week absence for the World U-20 tournament next month. The Blue Jackets may have found a true gem with this selection.
Voracek was selected as QMJHL Offensive Player of the Month for October.
Stefan Legein, RW – Niagara IceDogs
2nd Round, 37th overall in 2007
Legein is considered one of the premier players in the OHL despite his small frame at 5’9, 170 lbs. Selected as one of the OHL All-Stars for the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, Legein might also be playing for Team Canada at the World U-20 tournament next month. A tireless worker, Legein is third on the IceDogs with 26 points, and his 16 goals tie him for seventh in the OHL. He has 54 penalty minutes.
The IceDogs are fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 12-12-0-1 record in 25 games.
Steve Mason, G – London Knights
3rd Round, 69th overall in 2006
Mason has also been chosen to represent the OHL All-Stars in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, and also has a legitimate shot at being chosen to Team Canada for the World U-20 tournament next month. The 19-year-old Oakville, Ont. native started the year backing up Pascal Leclaire with the Blue Jackets, but was sent back down to the OHL without entering into a game.
Since returning to London, it has been business as usual for Mason, who is tied for the league lead in wins with 15, fourth in the league in save percentage at .918, and 11th in the league in goals against average with a 2.73 average. Mason also won the ADT CHL Goaltender of the Week award for the week ending Oct 21.
Mason, the top goaltender in the Blue Jackets system, has helped to lead the OHL’s Knights to a 15-8-0-1 record. Mason has been in nets for all 15 wins. In fact, the Knights started the season with six straight losses before Mason returned to their nets on Oct 12. The Knights hope to continue their recent success, capitalizing on the good play and leadership of their goalkeeper.
Robert Nyholm, RW – Kingston Frontenacs
5th Round, 129th overall in 2006
It was a challenging off-season for Nyholm. Nyholm suffered a severe cut to his hand in a freak accident while playing a pick-up hockey game with his brother in Finland. The cut was severe enough to threaten his playing career. Luckily doctors were able to repair the damage, and Nyholm, who was not meant to play until January, healed faster than expected and has been a regular in the Frontenacs lineup.
Just playing hockey again is a success for Nyholm, but he’ll also have the challenge of getting back the lost agility in his hand. So far this season Nyholm has only one goal and three assists in his 20 games played. This is mainly due to the adverse effects of the hand injury. Hopefully Nyholm will be able to fully recover this season and increase his production in the second half of the season.
Jesse Dudas, D – Prince George Cougars
6th Round, 159th overall in 2006
Dudas has shown good production when healthy enough to play, but injuries continue to disrupt his progress. The 6’1, 214 lbs St. Albert, Alb. native is fifth on the Cougars in points, and tied for 21st in the WHL for points by a defenseman with 1 goal and 14 assists in only 19 games played. He has been out for the last few weeks with a charley horse. To make matters worse, it is the same leg that kept Dudas out for much of last season. He is expected to return to the lineup soon.
In his absence, Prince George has struggled, finally ending a nine-game losing streak on Saturday. They are currently in last place in the B.C. division with a 10-18-0-0 record.
Ben Wright, D – Lethbridge Hurricanes
4th Round, 113th overall in 2006
Wright has continued to develop nicely in the WHL, steadily amassing points and being recognized as one of the more reliable defenseman of the WHL. Wright has been chosen to represent the WHL All-Stars for this week’s ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, which is an honor for him and a testament to Columbus’ shrewd drafting of WHL defensemen. Wright is currently tied for fifth on his team with 17 points in 28 games. He is also tied for 15th in the league for points by a defenseman.
Wright’s Hurricanes are currently in second place in the Central Division with 38 points, two points behind Calgary in the battle for the division lead.
Jake Hansen, RW – Sioux Falls Stampede
3rd Round, 68th overall in 2007
Hansen is enjoying a solid first full season in the USHL, before moving on to University of Minnesota, where he is committed for the 2008-09 season. Hansen is tied for 21st in league scoring with 14 points in 15 games. He is also tied for sixth in the league with eight goals.
The Stampede are in third place in the West Division with 17 points after 15 games.
Trent Vogelhuber, RW – Des Moines Buccaneers
7th Round, 211th overall in 2007
Vogelhuber, the first central Ohio player ever taken in the NHL draft, was the victim of bad luck again this season. Already having had an operation on his knee, Vogelhuber suffered another serious knee injury in only the second game of the season for the Buccaneers. He has since been released by the team, and his future is uncertain. Vogelhuber is committed to play for Miami University next season, but first he must rehabilitate his knee and come back from his second serious knee injury in two years.
Will Weber, D – Chicago Steel
2nd Round, 53rd overall in 2007
Weber, the first overall selection in the USHL draft, is playing well for the Steel this season. Committed to play for the Miami next season, Weber is tied for ninth among USHL defensemen with eight points in 16 games. He was awarded the USHL Defensive Player of the Week award for the week ending Oct. 15. Weber is also tied at 14th in the league with a plus/minus of +4.
The Steel are in fourth place in the East Division with 15 points in 16 games.
Allen York, G – Camrose Kodiaks
6th Round, 158th overall in 2007
York is currently second in the AJHL with a 2.16 goals against average, is tied for first with 12 wins, and is third in the league with a .920 save percentage. The Wataskiwin, Alb. native has recently committed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for the 2008-09 season.
The big 6’4, 185 lbs. goalkeeper is leading his team to first place in the South Division of the AJHL. The Kodiaks are 22-2-0-3 in 27 games.
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