Beginning with the start of the 2008-09 hockey season, Hockey’s Future will highlight the top performances, once monthly, of some of the NHL’s up and coming prospects.
The selection will go to those prospects not yet established as full-time NHL players. Eligible players span the various North American minor pro leagues, and major junior leagues, as well as professional leagues in Europe. This month’s selection, the third-round draft choice in 2005 of the Colorado Avalanche, center T.J. Hensick.
Hensick led the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters in points during the month of October, and was one of the most productive players league-wide. Hensick scored five goals and assisted seven over the course nine games, for a total of 12 points. He closed the month with a goal in each of his last three games, and a point in each of his last six. His most productive game came against the Toronto Marlies on Oct. 12. Hensick had three points — a goal and two assists.
Hensick’s quickness has been his greatest asset thus far. He has shown quick feet and good agility. He has utilized his speed effectively, and has been quick on puck carrier, and able to get behind the defense. In true Avalanche fashion, Hensick makes use of his keen offensive awareness working in the low areas of the zone. He is able to dish the puck well from the half boards and behind the goal, with a good touch of his own around the net, as well.
The Lake Erie power play began to click as the month progressed, with Hensick as a key factor, when at one time he was not the team’s clear-cut No. 1 center. Hensick has been a model of consistency, with at least a point in all except for one game. His October efforts earned him a call-up to the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 6.
In the OHL, only Ryan Ellis scored more points than Sarnia’s Justin DiBenedetto in the month of October. DiBenedetto, however, averaged more points per game. His 24 point output of 11 goals and 13 assists by the time the month reached its conclusion was highlighted by a five-goal, two-assist performance against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Oct. 12. The sixth round pick in 2008 also posted a five point performance in the following game, on Oct. 17. The Sting went 6-7-1-1 in October.
Blum was named the WHL player of the month of September/October, leading the Vancouver Giants out of the gate by opening the season with a seven-game point scoring streak. In only one of his ten games played did Blum go without a point. Blum went on to finish October with four goals and ten assists, leading all defensemen in points per game with 1.36. He also posted a plus 20 rating. The Giants concluded October in first place in the B.C. division, as well as the Western Conference, with an 11-0-0-3 record.
Cherepanov was considered by some scouting services to be the top European talent available in the 2007 Entry draft. Amid concerns of a lack of a Russian transfer agreement, the Russian winger slipped surprisingly to the 17th overall selection, where he was grabbed by the New York Rangers.
Playing for Avangard Omsk, Cherepanov held the Russian Super League record for goals in a season by a rookie. His mark of 18 goals surpassed some of the great talents before him at the same age, such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Bure, who had held the record previously.
On Oct. 3, Cherepanov tied the Avangard record for most consecutive games with a goal, with six. Cherepanov had three points in four games in October. Overall, he scored eight goals and five assists in 15 games on the season. His march toward a promising NHL career, however, would be tragically ended on Oct. 13.
In a road game against Vityaz Chekhov, in which he scored the game’s first goal, Cherepanov passed away after collapsing on the bench at the completion of a shift in the closing minutes of the contest. Cherepanov had since been reported to have suffered from heart complications, though his cause of death has yet to be officially determined. Cherepanov was 19 years old.