The team’s AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, has had a hard time stopping the puck this season, but still has a solid 16-10-1-2 record. The team’s ECHL affiliate, the Alaska Aces, are coming off a great season in which they went to the Kelly Cup finals. But the Aces are surprisingly last in the West Division this season, with an 11-13-2 record.
Lars Eller, C
Acquired: 1st round, 13th overall, 2007
5-8-1989, 6’0, 198 pounds
Eller has not had a hard time adjusting to the North American style from the SEL. In 24 games with the Rivermen, he has five goals and 16 assists. His passes have been amazing at times and has done a great job of creating chances for his linemates. He is proving to be a very selfless player.
On the other side of the ice, Eller has been good as well. His fore-checking is sound, and he is -2 on a generally minus club. His skating is smooth and has proven that he is not afraid to get physical. Eller has even seen five games at the NHL level.
Brett Sonne, C
Acquired: 3rd round, 85th overall, 2007
5-16-1989, 5’11, 200 pounds
After a great final season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Sonne has had a rough time adjusting to the professional style of hockey. He has four goals and five assists in 26 games, but he has been pressing too hard the entire season. He has played with Aaron Palushaj for most of the season, but they have not yet gelled.
Sonne’s defensive game is hurting as much as his offensive. He is tied for worst on the team with a minus-10 rating. His skating can be improved and he is having a hard time keeping up with defenders.
Aaron Palushaj, RW
Acquired: 2nd round, 44th overall, 2007
9-7-1989, 6’0, 185 pounds
Like Sonne, Palushaj is in his first season with the Rivermen. He has just two goals and 12 assists in 27 games. However, Palushaj’s defensive game has looked solid, and he does not appear intimidated with the higher level of play. He is +1.
The former Michigan Wolverine is not a huge player, but is not afraid to get physical. He makes solid passes, but is not much of a goal scorer.
Nicholas Drazenovic, C
Acquired: 5th round, 171st overall, 2005
1-14-1987, 6’1, 200 pounds
This season had been a breakout one offensively for Drazenovic, but an upper-body injury has kept him on the sidelines for all of December. Before the injury, Drazenovic led the team with goals with eight, and had 17 points in 22 games.
The center has used his size to make the scoring chances happen. He has been more physical than ever, and is not letting bigger defenders push him around without a fight. He’s still playing his solid all-around game, but now he is making the most of his chances.
Jonas Junland, D
Acquired: 3rd round, 64th overall, 2006
11-15-1987, 6’2, 198 pounds
In his second professional season, Junland looks like he has put it all together. He is tied for third in the AHL for points by a defenseman with 22, and he leads all Rivermen in points.
On the power play, Junland has been a very capable quarterback. Four of his six goals have come on the man advantage, and he is doing a good job of finding open teammates. His defense is solid. He leads the team with a plus-10 rating, five over the next player.
Chris Porter, C
Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2007
6-29-1985, 6’1, 210 pounds
Porter has looked more like the player who earned an NHL stint so far this season. In 29 games, he has seven goals and eight assists. More importantly, Porter has played very solid hockey along the boards and in his own zone. His +5 is second on the team.
The fore-checking from Porter has been much improved so far this season, and it has paid off offensively. He is no longer pressing for his chances, and is doing everything that his role calls for him to do. He earns his minutes, and is playing a solid, scrappy game.
Steve Wagner, D
Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2007
3-6-1984, 6’2, 200 pounds
The acquisition of Brendan Bell limited Wagner’s time on the power play, but since Bell was traded, Wagner has seen more time there. He has one goal and five assists in 27 games, which is not a lot, but he still knows what to do with the puck on the offensive side of the ice.
Wagner’s defense still needs work. He is often overmatched, and does not look comfortable with his stick handling. He still does a good job when his team is in transition.
Ryan Reaves, RW
Acquired: 5th round, 156th overall, 2005
1-20-1987, 6’2, 193 pounds
Playing with Julian Talbot has been good for Reaves’ offensive chances, but he has not looked as strong as he did last season. His skating and hard work are still his best attributes, and Reaves has been the Rivermen’s strongest enforcer this season.
Three goals and three assists in 29 games are not surprising for Reaves, but the minus-10 is, and ties him for worst on the team.
Anthony Peluso, RW/D
Acquired: 6th round, 160th overall, 2007
4-18-1989, 6’3, 222 pounds
Peluso has brought his energy to the Rivermen this season. He has one goal and 43 penalty minutes in 13 games this season. Peluso has played mostly forward this season, but can play defense when needed.
At any position, he will be expected to crash the boards hard and win puck battles. He does not have much offensive touch, but he has a hard shot. Peluso has also spent some time with Alaska this season.
Ben Bishop. G
Acquired: 3rd round, 85th overall, 2005
11-21-1986, 6’7, 205 pounds
Bishop has split time this season with Hannu Toivonen. In 15 games, Bishop has a 2.60 GAA and .902 save percentage.
The 6’7 netminder is a second-year pro, and given his other numbers, his 10-4-1 record shows he is making some timely saves.
Ryan Turek, D
Acquired: 4th round, 94th overall, 2006
9-22-1987, 6’0, 185 pounds
Turek continues to do his job for the Aces. With not much of an offensive touch, he does have a goal and three assists in 22 games. The strong defenseman continues to play well in his own zone, and does a good job at getting the puck out.
T.J. Fast, D
Acquired: 2nd round, 60th overall 2005
9-2-1987, 6’1, 190 pounds
Fast has been the complete opposite of Turek. His offense appears to be coming around with three goals and four assists in 13 games, but his defense has been terrible.
He is a minus-9, and is often slow at getting back for the opposing rush. His stick handling has not been solid, and isn’t working hard when he does not have the puck.