Panthers 2009-10 NCAA prospects update

By Ian Bross

The Panthers currently have 10 prospects in the NCAA — five forwards, three defensemen, and two goaltenders.

Drew Shore, C – University of Denver
6’2, 190 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round, 44th overall, 2009

Shore has skated in more games than any other DU freshman. He hasn’t missed any competition all year. And he leads first-year players on his team in points. Shore has scored three goals and eight assists in 22 games. Two of his markers have come on the power play, one a game-winner.

The Pioneers are ranked first in the nation, and Shore has fit in well. He makes his presence felt with his energy and his grit. In time, with influential figures such as Rhett Rakhshani (NYI) and Tyler Ruegsegger (TOR) due to graduate after the season, Shore will have to play a more offensive role. His ability to provide offense as a top-six forward will be put to the test.

Matt Rust, C – University of Michigan
5’10, 190 lbs
Acquired: 4th Round, 101st overall, 2007

Rust has emerged as a key player with Michigan as a junior. Along with his linemate of several seasons Carl Hagelin (NYR), Rust is breaking out offensively. He is doing more than just filling a checking, energy role. He is on the cusp of surpassing his previous bests in goals and points. Already, he has set a new career high in assists this season. In 24 games, Rust has scored eight goals and 14 assists. Even if he never becomes a prolific scorer, his reputation for well-roundedness is well documented. Rust’s toughness, skating ability, and hockey IQ are still enough make him a viable prospect.

Josh Birkholz, RW – University of Minnesota
6’1, 182 lbs
Acquired: 3rd Round, 67th overall,  2009

Birkholz is getting scarce playing time as a freshman on a deep, veteran team. He is one of only two rookie forwards on the Gophers roster, the other being Zach Budish (NSH). In his limited play, Birkholz has tallied three goals in 21 games. The first Panthers prospect to attend the University of Minnesota, Birkholz is a speedy winger with good skill and two-way presence. He figures to be a key player in a top program in years to come.

Corban Knight, C – University of North Dakota
6’1, 180 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round, 135th overall, 2009

Knight was due to rejoin his AJHL squad the Okotoks Oilers this season, but made the move to the NCAA when a spot opened up late with the Fighting Sioux. He had been scheduled to join UND in the fall of 2010. Like Birkholz, as a newcomer to a perennially competitive team, Knight is seeing little ice in his freshman season. He has also posted similar stats — three goals in 20 games played. Knight is more comfortable in the offensive zone, and has the skill set of a scorer. Knight is out four to six weeks with an ankle injury, but his future next year and going forward is sound.

Ryan Watson, LW – Western Michigan University
6’1, 201 lbs
Acquired: 7th Round, 191st overall, 2007

Touted for his defensive play, in his junior year, Watson is a role player for the WMU Broncos — a checking, defensive forward. Playing in 13 of 22 games, Watson has no points and is a -4. The remainder of the Broncos’ contests were spent by Watson as a healthy scratch. WMU has a 6-12-4 record on the year.

Defense

Matt Bartkowski, D – Ohio State University
6’1, 203 lbs
Acquired: 7th Round, 190th overall, 2008 Entry

Bartkowski burst onto the scene as a freshman last year, and was named Most Valuable Freshman and Best Defensive Player by his Ohio State teammates. He saw his name on the scoresheet often, and played a punishing physical game similar to his favorite NHL player, Dion Phaneuf.

He has continued to strengthen himself, now a sturdy 6’1, 203 lbs. And as a sophomore, Bartkowski has continued to put up points and penalty minutes. He leads all Buckeye blueliners in points (9) and shots (59), and is tied for most goals (3). Bartkowski is the runaway team leader in penalty minutes with 71.

Derrick LaPoint, D – University of North Dakota
6’3, 195 lbs
Acquired: 4th Round, 116th overall, 2006

A major offensive contributor in the USHL, LaPoint has never quite become the same type of force in college. Still, in his junior year, LaPoint is having his most productive collegiate campaign to date. The 21-year-old has one goal and 11 assists in 24 games. His previous bests in assists and points were five and seven respectively, posted in his freshman year.

With three freshmen on the Fighting Sioux blueline, LaPoint has moved into a more prominent role. He mans the power play and kills penalties, his only goal of the year coming shorthanded. He leads all UND defensemen in total points. Though less lanky than in year’s past, LaPoint has definite issues with his mobility and defensive play.

John Lee, D – University of Denver
6’2, 185 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round, 131st overall, 2007

As a sophomore, it is business as usual for Lee, playing a simple stay-at-home game. He is not a highly-skilled player, but plays with an edge. Lee is the team leader in minor penalty infractions on the Pioneers roster, recording a total of 30 PIM so far. He has put up four assists in 22 games, and has an even plus/minus rating. Lee is a solid skater who brings good energy, and he has gotten stronger and added weight over the last year.

Goaltenders

Marc Cheverie, G – University of Denver
6’3, 190 lbs
Acquired: 7th Round, 193rd overall, 2006

In his junior season with DU, Cheverie has established himself as one of the top netminders nationwide. The Pioneers hold the top spot in the national rankings due in large part to Cheverie’s performance. Approximately halfway through the season, the 22-year-old is a likely candidate for the Hobey Baker award.

In 17 starts, Cheverie has surrendered 33 goals, giving him a 1.97 goals-against average, as well as a .932 save percentage. No NHL goaltending prospect playing in the NCAA can boast better marks. Cheverie also has posted a record of 12-2-2. He leads the NCAA in shutouts with five.

Brian Foster, G – University of New Hampshire
6’2, 190 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round, 161st overall, 2005

Foster, in his senior year, has taken a step back. He excelled last season, in entering a starting role, and provided steady netminding to keep UNH competitive in their conference. This season, both he and the Wildcats have not fared as well. Through 20 starts, Foster has posted a 3.24 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage. His record is 9-7-4. In a year in which he is called upon to elevate his play, Foster has instead hit a wall. With the talent and depth the Panthers have accumulated in recent years, Foster’s future in the organization is unclear.