Welcome to the January 2015 edition of On the Rush, a monthly column featuring prospects at various levels of competition who are either exceeding expectations or falling a little behind.
Hockey fans were treated with some great performances over the past month, particularly at the 2015 World Junior Championship, which featured some of the world’s best young talent on display in Montreal and Toronto.
In other leagues all across the globe, the 2014-15 season has taken shape as team’s battle for playoff positioning. This month, we feature a pair of Islanders goaltenders trending in both directions, several players who are playing under the radar to lead their respective teams, and those who are trying to make the best of their second chances to chase their hockey dreams.
It is about time to recognize Nick Shore as a leader for On the Rush. He has had a fantastic 2014-15 and each month has been a runner up as a leading candidate. It seems fitting that Shore would make it this month as he recently received his first NHL call up from the Kings.
With the Monarchs losing some key offensive figures from 2013-14, Shore has stepped his game up in filling the void. Along with lineman Brian O’Neilll, the University of Denver alum has racked up 20 goals and 42 points on the season. In December alone, Shore had 19 points and eight goals in 13 games. He is often looked upon by coach Mike Stothers to play big minutes in all situations as well. Shore has always been coined as a more two-way centerman with the potential of somewhat limited offensive upside at the pro level. However, this season he has completely obliterated that notion by shooting and scoring more. He is going to likely spend most of the remaining season in the AHL, but it will be interesting to see how he fits in with LA moving forward.
There was not much information on Alexey Marchenko when Detroit took him in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Draft. What the Red Wings quickly found out was his persistence to raise his game to the next level. Since he has come to North America, the Russian defenseman has put in countless hours of extra work on and off the rink to improve all areas of his game. Now that may pay off as he appears ready to become an NHL regular.
Marchenko has so far built upon his solid rookie season from last year to become a quiet leader on the blue line. Where his strength lies is playing stout defense. He also developed a bit more offensive acumen than he was originally expected to have in the pros. He also plays a respectable possession game which should help him fit in with Detroit. In 41 games played, he has 15 assists and 17 points, 22 penalty minutes, and a plus-15 rating. He has also been named to the AHL All-Star Game for the second consecutive year.
While much of the focus on London goes to Max Domi, his Arizona draftee counterpart is having one heck of a season as well. Christian Dvorak had a December to remember. In 10 games he had 25 points and 10 goals for the Knights. This includes back-to-back six-point games against Sarnia. Dvorak’s fine play has seen him rise to third overall scorer in the OHL. The Knights top line of Mitch Marner, Domi, and Dvorak have dominated the OHL all season.
Having dealt with injuries last season, Dvorak had to prove himself worthy this year. He has gone above and beyond so far. While he has certainly benefited from playing with a world class prospect like Domi, he has shown his skills are worthy of standalone praise.
Columbus has grown into a young, exciting team who are strong down the middle. When Oliver Bjorkstrand turns pro next season, his aggressive, two-way game should fit right in. His numbers have been gaudy (57 points in 36 games played this year coming off a 109 point 2013-14 campaign), but there is still lingering uncertainty in some corners over whether his offensive skills can make the transition to the pros.
At the World Junior Championship, Bjorkstrand was a key player for Denmark. The assistant captain played a big role in the Danes win over Switzerland—their first ever win at the WJC—with two goals and again in the shootout. They would give Russia a scare then eventually fall to Canada in the first round. He finished with four goals and one assist in the tournament.
Boston College lost quite the offensive force when Johnny Gaudreau (CAL) graduated. However, his goals have been replaced from a rather unlikely source this season. After a four goal 2013-14, Chris Calnan has taken up the banner and is one of BC’s leading goal-scorers, with 11 in 24 games. The sophomore added to his season total with five goals in the month of December and early January. A number of his season tallies have come on the power play, where his willingness to go to the dirty areas has paid off.
Calnan has shown more of a willingness to use his 6’2 frame this season and that has paid dividends for himself and Boston College. He might not be the most gifted of goal-scorers in terms of pure sniping ability, but he has the mindset that NHL teams love; if you fight to get to the high scoring areas you will be rewarded. The Eagles have definitely been rewarded so far this this season.
Stephon Williams, G, Minnesota State Mavericks (WCHA)
Drafted by the New York Islanders
4th round, 106th overall, 2013
When Stephon Williams started in college two years ago, he was considered one of the nation’s best puck stoppers. He struggled as a sophomore and lost the starting job to Cole Huggins as the 2013-14 season progressed. Williams has returned to form this season and has been a rock behind Minnesota State’s tear through the first half of the season. The Mavericks have been in some tight situations with Williams all but the difference between losing a lead and losing a game. Because of his stellar play in goal, Minnesota State became the number one team in the nation over the winter. Williams is 15-3-1 this season with a 1.79 goals against average, .918 save percentage, and two shutouts.
Like Team USA, Finland had a disappointing tournament. However, goaltender Ville Husso had an exceptional one. Finland entered the tournament with Juuse Saros (NAS) and Husso battling as the team’s number one starter. However, after suspect starts in the second and third games, Saros was relieved by Husso for the remainder of the tournament.
Husso would go on to post a 1-1-1 record with a .933 save percentage and 1.97 goals against. This includes a wonderful 36 save performance to open the tournament against Team USA. The Finn received little goal support from the Finnish team, seeing just six total goals for while he was in net. While he was roughed up a bit by Sweden, the 19-year old emerged as Finland’s best player.
Peter Cehlarik is not likely to become a star player in the NHL, but his combo of size, strength, and skill are elements found in a prototypical Bruins forward. That was on display at the World Junior Championship as the forward returned to provide leadership for Slovakia. The big man complemented his teammates with his physicality and made some big plays with the puck. Possibly his best moment was when he scored a goal against the Czechs to help propel Slovakia to the semifinals. He finished the tournament with two goals and an assist.
Cehlarik returned to Sweden to resume his duties with Lulea. Through 34 games, he has 17 points and a plus-three rating. With his hands and hockey sense, he poses a threat down low that opponents cannot ignore.
Sometimes players need a change of scenery to spark them. Former first round selection Louis Leblanc failed to live up to expectations with his hometown club of Montreal and after three years of struggles the change of scenery came in the form of the Anaheim Ducks. While Leblanc got off to a solid start with the Ducks AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, his play has slipped yet again. Once coined as a strong possession player and a tantalizing power forward, Leblanc’s inconsistencies have ruled his pro career. After logging 12 points in his first 18 games on the year, Leblanc has just five over the last 23. He is failing to get on the scoresheet with regularity lately, and it is starting to look like more of the same from the once promising prospect. It remains to be seen how much longer he will last with the Ducks if he cannot get his game together.
Coming off an 89 point campaign with the Regina Pats, there was some excitement for Chandler Stephenson’s debut in the AHL. Things have not gone as planned as the Saskatoon native is having one of his worst seasons of organized hockey. Because of his size, he was going to struggle physically, but the usually intelligent centerman appears mentally affected as well. He has played with Stanislav Galiev and Nathan Walker but neither have been able to get Stephenson on track. Lately, he has only scored two points in his last 20 games and six points overall in 37 games played. A silver lining is that he is being used on the penalty kill despite seeing fourth line minutes.
Nick Magyar turned some heads last year by leading the Kitchener offense in points alongside Justin Bailey (BUF). Just a year removed from his strong 2013-14 and Magyar looks like a different player. His point pace is down by a considerable amount from last season and a stretch of three goals in his last 25 games is not helping.
Last year Magyar played alongside Bailey, which looks to have been the key in him having such a strong offensive season. With the two separated this year, Magyar has seen his point pace cut in half. Kitchener is struggling again this season, and with the recent departure of Bailey to St. Sault Marie, they need Magyar to find his 2013-14 form.
The talented Dominik Masin is in the middle of his first season in the OHL where he continues to undergo some tough adjustments. The 18-year old defenseman has mainly been used in a depth role with the Peterborough Petes, but he has struggled against lesser competition. He plays an aggressive style that complements his skillset but it has put the blueliner in precarious situations defensively that he must learn from. After 33 games, he has 17 points, 53 penalty minutes and a minus-22.
Masin answered the call for the Czech Republic and joined his country at the World Junior Championship. The team overall did not have a great tournament as Masin was used in a similar role he is playing in the OHL. He looked more comfortable playing against players his age, but he was unable to make an impact on his underachieving team. He finished with an assist and a team worst minus-4 rating as the Czechs were bounced in the first round.
Iacopelli was a standout last season in the USHL with Muskegon and was off to a similar hot start to open 2014-15. However, as the season has run into November and December, the Blackhawks prospect has hit a nasty cold snap. Last year’s 41-goal scorer has found net just four times in his last 18 games. With only 15 total goals on the season it is safe to say that his 41 goals from last season will not be matched this year. Iacopelli and the Blackhawks looked to cash in on his big 2013-14 when he was taken in the third round. However he has a lot to prove now to make people believe his phenomenal goal scoring feat of 2013-14 was not a fluke.
In the past five years, the Notre Dame has made great strides to fight their back onto the college hockey landscape. Now they are on the big stage in their second season in the Hockey East. Leading them is Steven Fogarty, who in his first two seasons showed good pedigree as a strong two-way center and a leader. Yet like so many defensive-forward prospects, the development of their offensive skills is usually the area that needs the most work.
Fogarty started the season on fire for Notre Dame with seven points in his first six games. That included a four-point outing against Lake Superior. The offense dried up for Fogarty however, and he managed only six points in his past 20 games. That includes back-to-back two-point games against UConn.
Telegin may be on his last chance with Winnipeg this season. After a completely lost 2013-14 season due to contractual disputes and a suspension between the KHL and the NHL, the Russian looks very much like a player who missed an entire year.
He has bounced between the press box and the starting lineup for CSKA Moscow, and has failed to show any offensive life whatsoever when inserted into the lineup. He has just three goals on the season, and was a healthy scratch for much of the month of December. After a successful junior career and a promising start to his AHL career, Telegin has hit a definite setback in his development.
Ilya Sorokin, G, Novokuznetsk Metallurg (KHL)
Drafted by the New York Islanders
3rd round, 78th overall, 2014
Sorokin seemed primed to take the starting job for Mettallurg Novokuznetsk this season but he has taken a step back. Both he and Rafael Khakimov have struggled this season, but the Mezhdurechensk native has had a hard time stringing together quality performances despite coming in relief in seven games. This poor play in goal has buried Mettallurg Novokuznetsk in the bottom of the standings. In 22 games played, he has a 3.25 goals against average and .906 save percentage.
Sorokin played decently at the World Junior Championship for Team Russia. He started the first game of the tournament against Denmark making 24 saves in a 3-2 win but lost 3-2 to Sweden and made 23 saves. Igor Shestyorkin (NYR) then became the starter all the way to the gold medal game. Sorokin relieved Shestyorkin after Canada blitzed Russia with two early goals, but he surrendered three more in the second period. Russia had to settle for the Silver Medal after the comeback fell short 5-4. Sorokin finished with a 2.66 goals against average and .886 save percentage.
Article was written by Jason Lewis and John Iadevaia.