In the world of junior hockey, a year can make all the difference. The line between contender and pretender is something each team walks delicately as players entering the league make significant leaps in development before leaving a handful of years later. This impact can be seen in the 2008-09 Lewiston MAINEiacs.
After an appearance at the 2007 Memorial Cup as the QMJHL champions, Lewiston fell to the middle of the pack in 2007-08 and this year they find themselves even farther back in the standings, with a record of 11-18 as they rebuild for the future.
Playing in likely his last season of junior hockey, blueliner Reul won’t see the final result of that rebuild. That doesn’t seem to faze the hulking blue liner, as he continues to play with his usual intensity, despite what looks to be a challenging year in Maine. In only 27 games, Reul is well on his way to eclipsing last year’s mark of three goals and 14 points. He already has posted a goal and nine points, with lone marker coming on the man advantage.
As his 49 hits and 40 penalty minutes attest to, the offensive side of things is not the German import’s specialty. A nasty defensive defenseman, Reul is known for his excellent strength and overall conditioning and he makes good use of his 6’4, 226lb frame on the ice. He continues to be an intriguing prospect due to his physical tools and commitment to the game and will be looking to make the jump to professional hockey for the 2009-10 season.
Maxime Sauve, C – Val D’Or Foreurs
Acquired: Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall in 2008
It appears that it will be another long season for the Val D’Or Foreurs. Like Lewiston, the Foreurs sacrificed a lot for a championship run a few seasons back and are now paying the price. In the 2007-08 season, Val D’Or finished the year near the bottom of the standings and was handily dispatched in first-round playoff sweep. This season appears to be more of the same, with Val D’Or currently last in the league with a record of 5-21-1-3.
Sauve, the Bruins second selection in the 2008 Entry Draft is making the best of a tough situation. Acquired from Quebec (via Halifax) partway through the 2007-08 season, the speedy forward leads the Foreurs in nearly every offensive category. In 26 games, he has 12 goals and 25 points. His .96 points per game is a slight improvement over last year’s pace of .93 points per game. Sauve plays the pivot position on the team’s top line and also seeing significant minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill. Sauve also laced up the skates for Team QMJHL in the 2008 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. In the pair of games (a win and a loss), he registered a single goal.
There is hope on the horizon for Sauve and the Foreurs. Val D’Or is icing an extremely young lineup with six rookies and the majority of players (including Sauve) eligible to return for the 2009-10 season. In the volatile world of junior hockey, an extra season of experience may be all that is needed.
Jamie Arniel, C – Sarnia Sting
Acquired: Drafted 4th round, 97th overall in 2008
As the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft began, the Boston Bruins were surprised to find Arniel still available. Trading with the Columbus Blue Jackets to move up a few spots, the Bruins selected the Kingston native. After a tough 2007-08 season that saw him dealt partway through the year, it is still too early to see if picking Arniel is a gamble that will pay off for Boston.
Called upon to help replace some of the missing offensive void felt when Steven Stamkos left the Sarnia Sting for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Arniel is currently third on the team in scoring. In 26 games, he has 14 goals and 27 points, including seven goals with the man advantage (tying him for second in the league). Arniel also played for Team OHL in a single game of the 2008 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, where he was held without a point.
The Sting currently finds themselves seventh in the OHL‘s Western Conference with a record of 12-13-2-1. The good news for Sarnia is that this is not far off of last year’s pace despite missing the presence of Stamkos up front to lead the offense.
Though Arniel has had more than his fair share of problems off the ice, he continues to be a viable prospect on the ice, thanks to his skills and skating ability.
Adam Courchaine, G – Ottawa 67’s
Acquired: Free agent signing, 2007
Signed as a free agent by the Bruins during his OHL rookie season, it would be an understatement to say that Adam Courchaine‘s road to professional hockey has been unconventional. After a rookie season that saw him play 48 games with the Ottawa 67’s, Courchaine went on to play exceptionally well in three games for the Providence Bruins in the AHL.
He returned to the 67’s for the 2008-09 season, but so far has found himself spending more time on the bench than between the pipes. Chris Perugini, his backup from last season has taken over the bulk of the goaltending duties for Ottawa. Courchaine suffered an early groin injury that saw him miss the Bruins camp and the start of the OHL season and has yet to be able to recapture his starting position from last year. So far, Courchaine has seen action in just nine games, posting a 3-6 record with a goals-against-average of 3.25, a save percentage of .894 and a single shutout to his name.
Overall, the 67’s are off to a strong start, with their record of 15-12-0-2 placing them third in the Eastern Conference. The 67’s finished sixth in the East in 2007-08.
Michael Hutchinson, G – Barrie Colts
Acquired: Drafted 3rd round, 77th overall in 2008
The first goaltender drafted by the Bruins since 2003, Michael Hutchinson is still trying to establish as the go-to netminder for the Barrie Colts.
After back-stopping the Colts to a first-round upset, second-seeded Brampton in the 2008 playoffs, Hutchinson is looking to build off that experience in 2008-09. Unfortunately for the big goaltender, he currently finds himself splitting time with fellow 18-year-old Peter Di Salvo. In the 15 games he has played, Hutchinson has a record of 5-8-0-1 with a goals-against-average of 3.11, a save percentage of .912 and two shutouts.
Overall, it appears to be more of the same in Barrie. The Colts find themselves in the middle of the OHL’s standings once again, with a record of 12-13-1-1 for a winning percentage of .481. They finished the previous season with a winning percentage of .456.
A gritty all-weather forward that the Bruins chose with their last pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Mark Goggin has seen spot duty in the USHL so far. Playing for the Chicago Steel, Goggin saw action in five games prior to returning to Choate Rosemary Hall for the beginning of the prep school’s hockey season.
In those five USHL games, the Illinois native recorded a single goal and was credited with nine shots, four penalty minutes and a +2 rating. Chicago finds themselves well back in the USHL standings with a record of 10-9-1, placing them fifth in the six-team East Division. The team won three of the five games they played with Goggin in the lineup.
Goggin returns to Choate for his senior season, where he led the team in scoring during his junior year, but he is expected to see additional action in the USHL at the conclusion of the prep school’s season. Goggin is committed to play for Dartmouth College for the 2009-10 season.
Radim Ostrcil has returned to the Czech Republic after playing the 2007-08 season with the Ottawa 67’s. The defenseman was selected 169th overall by the Bruins in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.