Panthers CHL prospects season review

By Ian Bross

Michael Frolik, Shawn Matthias, Michal Repik, and Keaton Ellerby, the Panthers top four prospects, made their hockey home in the CHL this past season.

Michael Frolik, C

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2006

The beginning of Michael Frolik’s sophomore season in the QMJHL did not go according to plan. In his season opener, he was held off the scoresheet and finished with a -5 rating. Not long after, he suffered a shoulder injury which took him out of action for several weeks.

In his first game back, however, he recorded a hat trick and added an assist, en route to earning player of the week honors for the week of Nov. 22. He repeated that feat later in the season as well.

Frolik racked up assists, ending the season with 41, an improvement on his totals from last season. He added 24 goals. And he managed all of this on a Rimouski Oceanic squad that surrendered more goals than they scored during the season.

He was a consistent performer – at times, he was dominant. But the concern surrounding Frolik is a developing history of injury. Chronic shoulder problems have plagued him thus far in his career, not only this season, but also last.  Other than this, he has still yet to be signed by the Panthers, something that must be done by June 1, else he re-enter the draft.

Michal Repik, RW

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th overall, 2007

When Michal Repik suffered a head injury and ensuing post-concussion syndrome in December, his future was suddenly in question. But the 19-year-old winger would rebound from that injury in impressive fashion, as this most recent season would prove to be a breakthrough for the Czech-born Repik. Seemingly unfazed, his efforts led to the best statistical output of his career in spite of his almost two months of inactivity.

He continued his exceptional play into the playoffs, which he has developed a reputation for in recent years. However, even after a spectacular first-round performance which powered a sweep for his Vancouver Giants, Repik and his teammates were eliminated in the following round of the WHL playoffs by the Chilliwack Bruins in six games.

A lot can be said about Repik, an exceptionally versatile offensive weapon. His head and his feet are equally quick; he thinks the game and moves at high speed. As a prospect, Repik has been flown somewhat under the radar. With little left to prove at the junior level, a venture into professional hockey may earn him the respect he deserves. Still, assuming for sure that Repik advances to the next level at this point would be premature.

Brady Calla, RW

Acquired: 3rd Round, 73rd overall, 2006

In a season split between the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Kamloops Blazers, Brady Calla put up 12 goals and 28 assists. His postseason run was emphatically cut short in the first round of the playoffs by the Tri-City Americans in a decisive four-game sweep. Calla tallied two assists in those four games. 

Wherever he goes, having suited up for several different clubs in the WHL, Calla has invariably been a well-regarded teammate. Almost as consistent are Calla’s annual numbers, which have plateaued a few years ago and have risen little since. He has NHL-caliber skating ability, yet his scoring touch has not proven to be up to par throughout his junior days.

Calla did, however, enjoy a fruitful, albeit brief, six-game appearance in the AHL with the Rochester Americans in which he scored two goals and two assists. This should bode well for his signing a professional contract by June 1.

Keaton Ellerby, D

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th overall, 2007

Already a capable skater and puck handler, Ellerby began to assert himself on the ice more as the season progressed. His ability to read the play on both sides of the puck seems to have benefitted from his added initiative. Ellerby’s offensive production saw an increase since being traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors. He finished the season with two goals and 23 assists.

He is also still, at times, a nasty defender. Ellerby sat out Game 4 of the Warriors’ first round matchup against the Calgary Hitmen while serving a suspension for a slashing infraction he received the night before. The Warriors were defeated in the series in six games.

Ellerby signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Panthers on May 8. As many have pegged him as a “project,” and argued that he was perhaps drafted too early, he now has the opportunity to quiet the doubters.  The Panthers believe Ellerby can compete for a spot in the Panthers lineup next season. The opportunity will certainly be available.

Michael Caruso, D

Acquired: 4th Round, 103rd Overall, 2006

Guelph Storm defenseman Michael Caruso’s season began a month late as the result of an injury. He made up for lost time, producing what would become an all-star season. Caruso earned a new career high in each of the major offensive statistical categories. He more than doubled his previous best for goals in a season with 10, and with 24 assists, nearly doubled his previous best for total points in a season as well.

Caruso is a pillar of strength on a stingy Guelph team. The 6’3 backliner stands tall, at the forefront of Storm defense, posting a team-best plus/minus rating of +21 during the regular season. In the playoffs, the Storm were calmed by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the second round, but not before Caruso managed two goals and eight assists in ten games played.

Caruso’s effectiveness in his own end stems from his skating ability and hockey sense. He is not a dominating physical presence, but he is slowly adding weight to his NHL-friendly frame, and his skill set is rounding out nicely as a potential soon-to-be pro (who must be signed by June 1).

Corey Syvret, D

Acquired: 6th Round, 181st overall, 2007

Staying healthy is a key for Syvret. He appeared to have lost his rhythm this season, his numbers having dropped off considerably from 2006-07. It seemed then that Syvret had settled in well in the 27 games he played after joining Guelph, a teammate of Caruso. He eked out minute improvements, an extra two goals and two assists, in nearly twice as many games played.  His totals at the end of the season: seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points.

In the playoffs, Syvret scored twice, and added two assists before being knocked out in five games by Sault Ste. Marie. Standing 6’2 and weighing 195 pounds, Syvret’s mobility has continued to improve with the passage of time, and he is not at all afraid to play the physical game.  He has another year of junior in which to prove himself.

Shawn Matthias, C

Acquired: via trade, February 2007 (Detroit)

Matthias was on a great point-per-game pace for the better portion of this season, as his Belleville Bulls took the top spot in their conference. Matthias finished with 32 goals and 47 assists for a total of 79 points even as he was in and out of the lineup while facing a variety of health issues. Most recently, these were mononucleosis and tonsillitis, which nearly excluded him from playoff competition .

Matthias finally returned in Game 7 of the OHL finals against the Kitchener Rangers. He scored a goal in that, his only playoff game, but it was not enough to help the Bulls complete their charge back from a 3-0 series deficit.

The 6’4, over 200-pound Matthias is a confident, hard worker and an overall very well-rounded player, contributing in all facets of the game, from the penalty kill to the power play. Belleville is currently participating in the 2008 Memorial Cup, given that Kitchener was the host team, but how much he plays remains to be seen.