The month of January presents an opportunity to NHL prospects playing at all levels of hockey. The start of a new calendar year can inspire a change in attitude and improved play or, more commonly, a comfort level that wasn’t previously there.
There were a handful of prospects this past month whose stock has risen thanks to a tremendous January, but one player stands out above them all.
Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month – January 2015
Christian Dvorak (ARZ)
Currently playing for the London Knights (OHL)
London Knights center Christian Dvorak has increased his point total from the month prior in every month this season. A late second round pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2014, Dvorak put up 24 and 25 points in November and December respectively. He topped both of those months in January with 10 goals and 18 assists in 12 games. Playing alongside crafty and creative Mitch Marner (2015), Dvorak, like Marner, has risen to the top of the OHL scoring leaders. Dvorak is currently third in the league with 90 points, behind only Marner (93) and Dylan Strome (2015).
With fellow Coyotes prospect Max Domi out of the Knights’ line-up in early January, Dvorak started off the New Year triumphantly. In a win against Sarnia on Jan. 2nd, Dvorak scored once and added five assists. He had four other games in the month in which he recorded three points or more, and had three multi-goal games.
The 6’0”, 190-pound pivot is coming into his own as a top-flight junior player this season. Last year, Dvorak scored just 14 points in 33 games on a deep Knights team, but this season, with a larger role on the team, he has performed above and beyond all expectations.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ)
Currently playing for the Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Held pointless in just two of 12 January contests, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand had the best month of any WHL forward. In five of those 12 games, Bjorkstrand recorded at least three points, highlighted by a month-ending, six-point performance against the Everett Silvertips, which included Bjorkstrand’s second hat-trick of the month. In total, the Dane added 30 points to his point total, giving him 70 through 40 games. He is third in the league in scoring and first on a strong Portland team.
Zach Hyman (FLA)
Currently playing for the University of Michigan (NCAA)
To say Zach Hyman is finally putting all of his offensive tools to work this season would be an understatement. The senior, who plays for the University of Michigan and was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft, is third in the nation with 36 points – and January was his most productive month yet. In just six games, the 6’1”, 195-pound winger posted 16 points, including a pair of six-point weekend sets against Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Esa Lindell (DAL)
Currently playing for Assat Pori (FIN)
Signed by the Dallas Stars last year, Esa Lindell is developing while playing big minutes (he averages 25 a night) in Finland’s top pro league, Liiga. The sturdy, mobile defenseman is among the league’s top 50 scorers with 24 points and is an astounding +31 through 42 games. In 13 January contests, Lindell scored two goals and added seven assists for nine points, while adding to his ever-climbing plus/minus. He has been one of the more consistent players for Assat Pori, his team this season after being loaned to Assat by Jokerit.
Teemu Pulkkinen (DET)
Currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
This is not the first time Teemu Pulkkinen has been mentioned in the Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month discussion. His point totals in November and December was 15 and 14 points respectively; in January, the rapidly-rising Detroit Red Wings prospect scored six goals and added five assists in seven games for the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Finn ended the month strong, scoring a hat trick and adding an assist against Iowa on Jan 29th. He also took part in the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
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