The Toronto Maple Leafs are without their first-round pick for both this year and next – a major concern when trying to rebuild one of the NHL’s worst teams.
However, it is not as if the Leafs cupboard is completely empty, and proof of that lies in Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month for January – Nazem Kadri of the London Knights.
Kadri had a poor start to the season considering the expectations laid upon him by the Leafs organization. He played out the month of October, registering just 12 points in 12 games, but as the season has picked up steam, so has Kadri. He was named to the Canadian World Junior team, and while he probably didn’t perform as well as he would have liked to, he has set the OHL on fire upon his return.
The London native tallied 25 points in just 11 games, scoring over two points per game. More importantly, 19 of those 25 points were assists, a facet of his game that Kadri seemed to be neglecting more so this year than in years past. He is now back on pace to match the 53 assists he posted last season, and has already notched a career high of 26 goals in just 39 games this season.
Despite improving his offensive game in January, Kadri has also continued to show the pugnacity and testosterone that made him coveted by Brian Burke. His on-the-edge physical play was highlighted at the World Juniors, and he recently proved he doesn’t shy away from the fisticuffs either, taking on, and knocking down fellow first-round pick Tyler Cuma of the Ottawa 67’s.
Morin had 14 goals in just 12 games in January. Morin had five multi-goal games, including a natural hat trick on January 18th against the Erie Otters. He also recorded two four-point nights throughout the month. He ended the month as a +4, and like Kadri, has also showed the ability to stand up for himself despite being one of the team’s premier offensive players. Morin stood up for teammate Mike Catenacci in the team’s final game of the month, instigating a fight with Alex Hutchings of the Barrie Colts. Though Morin received a two-game suspension for the incident, it is a reminder that he has one other talent besides scoring.
Eberle didn’t have the monstrous month offensively that he has been accustomed to this season, but he was easily the most talked about prospect. As a result of his play, especially in the latter stages of the World Juniors, Eberle not only proved himself as one of the top prospects in hockey, but cemented his status as the best clutch player in Canadian World Junior history. He scored eight times in just six games for Canada, including a pair of goals in the final minutes of the gold medal game which lifted the team into overtime, and thus erupted an entire nation. Since returning to the Regina Pats, Eberle registered just 12 points in nine games, well below his season average. The first round pick of the Oilers currently sits third in WHL scoring, six points behind leader Craig Cunningham, but amazingly has played 16 fewer games.
After recently being named the WHL Player of the Week, Tyson Barrie gets a mention in discussion for the HF Prospect of the Month. He scored eight points, including four goals in his past four games to earn the honor, and throughout the month, the Avalanche draft pick accumulated 18 points in just 14 games and was a +6. He is currently tied for first in defenseman scoring with Kevin Connauton with 58 points, but has played seven fewer games. On January 29th, Barrie became the Kelowna Rockets all-time leading scorer for a defenseman with 156 career points, surpassing Josh Gorges’ mark of 152 points. Gorges took 245 games to accumulate those points, while Barrie, a model of consistency, has amounted his point total in just 184 games.
Jonathan Bernier has been good during his time in the AHL, but the future Kings netminder has been spectacular this season. The month of January was arguably his best month, posting a 5-2-3 record, with a 1.65 GAA and .942 save percentage. He’s given up more than three goals on just one occasion, proving to be a steady force for the Monarchs all month long. However, it was his final two games of the month that really pushed Bernier into mention for the Prospect of the Month as he recorded back to back shutout wins, compiling 54 saves total. Jonathan Quick has been good in LA, but there is no doubt that Bernier may be in line for a starting role next season with the big club.