The Panthers had six prospects in the CHL this season: three defensemen and three forwards.
A.J. Jenks, LW
Acquired: 4th Round, 100th overall, 2008
Jenks had a slow start to the year with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. Head coach Greg Stefan resigned after the Whalers opened with a record of 6-11-2, prompting General Manager Mike Vellucci to take over behind the bench in mid-November.
The team found success under Vellucci. They managed to post a 31-15-3 record for the remainder of the season. They made the playoffs, finishing in fourth place in the conference (they were last when the coaching change was made). All year, but particularly under Vellucci, Jenks made an effort to focus more on offense. But when all was said and done, in terms of production, Jenks has been just ordinary.
Jenks’ numbers on the 2008-09 regular season, 21 goals and 31 assists in 61 games, differ little from his numbers at the end of 2007-08. An assistant captain on his team, Jenks stepped up at times with needed scoring, but left something to be desired.
Brady Calla, RW
Acquired: 3rd Round, 73rd Overall, 2006
Calla signed an entry-level contract with the Panthers in May, and began the year with the AHL Rochester Americans. But the Amerks struggled out the gate, and Calla was not contributing as anticipated. As a result, on Nov. 18, Calla made a return to the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, for whom he skated last season, and where he could be assured of significant playing time.
Calla’s work ethic and leadership qualities made him attractive to a young Kamloops team. But seemingly as quickly as he arrived, Calla departed once again. Calla wasn’t as successful as hoped in attempting to establish himself as a go-to player offensively, with five goals and eight assists through 20 games. In early January, he was traded from Kamloops to the Spokane Chiefs.
With Spokane, Calla continued on a near identical scoring pace, eking out some minor statistical improvements. Even so, his season totals of 16 goals and 22 assists in 48 games are something of a disappointment for an overage player. Calla turned 21 on March 14.
James DeLory, RW
Acquired: Free Agent, 2008
DeLory, a fourth-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2006, signed with the Florida organization as a free agent in the offseason. After failing to make the cut as a defenseman with the Rochester Amerks, DeLory was demoted to the Florida Everblades. He played one game and was returned to the OHL Oshawa Generals as an overage player, in order to attempt to convert from defense to forward. He was named captain of the squad.
Whatever progress DeLory had begun to make was halted on Feb. 9, when he was involved in an incident against the Kingston Frontenacs. In a violent retaliatory effort, DeLory slashed and then sucker-punched Kingston’s Nathan Moon. The incident resulted in a 12-game suspension, and will invariably come to define the 20-year-old’s season.
DeLory played most of the season at forward, but was asked to switch back to defense in January when the team was short there.
With four goals and six assists on the year, DeLory, standing 6’5 and weighing 235 lbs, has the physical skills of an enforcer. However, he will need to mature and learn discipline, and importantly develop his skating, in order to advance his career.
Acquired: 2nd Round, 46th overall, 2008
The 2008-09 season was Robak’s third full season for the Brandon Wheat Kings. It was also somewhat of a breakout season for the 18-year-old defenseman. Robak has started to come into his own offensively. with 13 goals and 29 assists in 65 games.
Robak has the tools to be a threat on the scoresheet down the line. He shoots with accuracy, makes strong passes, and is able to read and react intelligently, and dictate the flow of play when on the attack. Robak’s poise is fundamental to his game on both ends of the ice. Robak plays with consistent fluidity in the way he handles the puck and the way he defends his own zone.
Robak has good size too, and though this season, he was mainly relied upon to ignite the offensive game, as his role expands, he will become a more rounded player.
Acquired: 3rd Round, 80th Overall, 2008
This season was Comrie’s second season in the OHL, both of which he has spent as a member of the Saginaw Spirit. Comrie has been a consistent performer for Saginaw, managing nine goals and 21 assists in 52 games. Not a dominant offensive player, but an active one, Comrie is constantly engaged in the play, a good skater who never stands still. He likes to initiate the rush, and loves to unleash a barrage of shots on the goal. Comrie seems confident on the ice at all times. He is a multi-faceted player who can contribute in a variety of ways.
Comrie is big, standing 6’4. He has had a bit of difficulty, at times, tempering his physical play so as not to take penalties.
Acquired: 6th Round, 181st overall, 2007
The 6’3 rearguard is in his third year with the Guelph Storm. He received no shortage of playing time in all situations, including on special teams. Offensively, Syvret chipped in with three goals and 21 assists in 60 games.
Though he doesn’t score a lot of goals, Syvret is effective getting shots on goal, slipping shots through traffic for deflections and rebound opportunities. He also kills penalties. Despite having the lowest plus/minus rating on the Guelph blueline, a -10, the best asset of Syvret’s game, in fact, will be his shutdown capability. His strength and physicality are the traits that Syvret will be pointed to as he progresses — and will likely be characterized by — when he advances to the next stage of his career.