Panthers CHL 2008-09 update

By Ian Bross

A total of six Florida Panthers prospects currently reside in the CHL, three defensemen and three forwards.

Forwards

A.J. Jenks

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2008

Jenks had a slow start to the year with the Plymouth Whalers. He missed the first two games of the season, returned briefly for one game, before suffering a knee injury and falling back out of action for another two weeks. In all, he missed five games.

Jenks reestablished himself as a regular in the lineup on Oct. 10, but was not his usual self. He tallied his second goal of the season in the month’s final game, and carried that scoring touch with him into November. Presently, he has accounted for six goals and three assists. Compared to last season, when he leapt from role player to offensive force, Jenks has exactly half as many goals and assists. At the same point in time last season, Jenks had posted 12 goals and six assists.

Historically, head coach Greg Stefan was not afraid to use Jenks in all situations on the ice, and perhaps his being in and out of the lineup was a detriment to the team’s stability. Stefan re-signed as the Plymouth head coach after the Whalers opened with a record of 6-11-2, and took a job with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Plymouth general manager Mike Vellucci took over behind the bench Nov. 11. The Whalers currently sit in last place in the Western Conference. Though Jenks, one of the team’s go-to guys, has not produced at the expected pace, their lack of success can be primarily attributed to their poor defense. Their average allowance of goals against per game is higher than any other team in the OHL.

Brady Calla

Acquired: 3rd Round, 73rd Overall, 2006

Calla signed an entry-level contract with the Panthers in May. After not dressing for the Rochester Americans all month, on Nov. 18, he returned to the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers, his former club, with which he played his last season in juniors. The 20-year-old played in eight games with the Rochester Americans this season and had one assist before making the move. Since then, he has played in one game and has two assists.

James DeLory

Acquired: Free Agent, 2008

DeLory returned to his former OHL club, the Oshawa Generals, after making the move from defenseman to forward. He was approached through the Panthers Director of Player Personnel, Jack Birch, as well as Jacques Martin, about the change.  "They just felt that in the role they see my playing as a physical presence, it would probably be easier to do it as a power forward," DeLory told Hockey’s Future recently. "Get out there and stir it up a bit."

DeLory said that Birch and Martin wanted him to work on his skating as well, which forwards are forced to do more of. DeLory also said that this possibility was outlined for him at the time he signed his contract with the Panthers during the summer.

Since he’s new to the position, DeLory has vowed to play the simplest game possible as a forward.

Defensemen

Colby Robak

Acquired: 2nd Round, 46th Overall, 2008

Now in his third year with the Brandon Wheat Kings, the 18-year-old Robak is receiving plenty of minutes on the power play. He has shown he has good shot, and possesses lots of composure at the blue line. Robak is also patient with the puck, rarely forcing or rushing passes. As a power-play quarterback, he shows the ability to dictate the pace of play; he may slow things down at times, or at others, kick into high gear. Robak has been proficient finding the back of the net this season. He has lit the lamp six times, and also included eight assists in 19 games played.

Only beginning to come into his own when it comes to his offensive game, Robak transitions from the attack back to defense well. He is an above average backwards skater. Robak uses his strength, and throws his weight around from time to time. He doesn’t shy away from physical play, and takes the body effectively. But more often, Robak likes to use his stick, utilize his long reach, to take the puck away from his man. His positional play is sometimes lacking. He is currently day-to-day with a shoulder injury and his missed two games.

Adam Comrie

Acquired: 3rd Round, 80th Overall, 2008

Comrie was absent from Saginaw Spirit lineup in the club’s first two games of 2008-09, but it didn’t take long for Comrie to make a mark on the scoresheet upon his return. The big man started off with a bang, two assists in the season opener. A few games later, two weeks to the day, Comrie had his best offensive night of the season, posting a goal and three assists. His production leveled off since then, but has certainly not disappeared.

In 19 games this season, Comrie has six goals and seven assists, for 13 points. Comrie makes powerful outlet passes with ease. He also has a good shot at his disposal, which he loves to use and use often — if anything, too often. But in the very least, his willingness to shoot demonstrates plenty of confidence.

A strong skater, with a surprisingly explosive first couple of strides, particularly for a player of his size, Comrie is very mobile overall, and uses this to his advantage in both ends of the ice. When carrying the puck, he can use speed on the outside to gain entry into the offensive zone.

Comrie is not overly physical with play, but he is sound positionally. His quickness allows him to make good reads in the defensive zone, and break up would-be scoring chances. A key for Comrie will be to maintain his speed as he adds necessary weight to his 6’4 frame.

Corey Syvret

Acquired: 6th Round, 181st overall, 2007

Syvret is the only member of the Panthers organization from the CHL a year ago to return again in 2008-09. Things are looking up though, for the 6’3 rearguard in his third year with the Guelph Storm. Syvret’s role has increased significantly in the early going, as he becomes a more seasoned player. No other current defender has been with the team as long as Syvret.

He went eight games consecutively without a point, from the beginning of October, until Oct. 19.  Now in a position where he is expected to produce Has been consistent ever since. By and large, Syvret has been a more effective player in the early going than in past years. He has scored once and added nine assists so far.

Syvret logs lots of minutes on special teams. He sees an about equal amount of ice on the penalty kill as he does on the power play. Syvret has a powerful wrist shot that he is able to get through traffic for just that purpose. In his own zone, he can be physically overpowering at times, particularly along the boards, but is still a bit inconsistent in that regard. Syvret is on the right track as he nears the halfway point of the season.