Welcome to the February edition of On the Rush. It is getting down to crunch time, and soon the playoffs will commence for the players who have managed to advance. In hockey, momentum can be as much of a deciding factor in the postseason as seed order. This month, Hockey’s Future will have a league-by-league look at who is hot, and who is not—as we head into every hockey fan’s favorite time of the year.
Joni Ortio was absolutely superb in the month of January for the Calgary Flames, after being called up to fill in for an injured Karri Ramo. The 23 year old Finn posted a 4-1-0 record with a .931 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against. His only real slip up came against the Anaheim Ducks, where he allowed 4 goals on 11 shots before he was pulled. Despite that, he played admirably in limited starts for Calgary. It is worth noting that all of his victories were on the road against division rivals, including a 36-save shutout in Vancouver.
Since Ortio returned to the AHL’s Adirondack Flames, he has been hit and miss. However, the huge games he played for the Flames in January will be remembered going forward.
At the beginning of the season, there was concern about whether or not Hudon’s small frame (5’11,178 lbs) could handle the physicality of the pro game—but those worries have since been put to rest.
Hudon is arguably the best rookie playing in the AHL this season. Through 51 games, he has 12 goals and 32 assists for 43 points—primarily on the left side of T.J. Hensick and Drayson Bowman. Hudon’s 40 penalty minutes indicate that he has not let bigger opponents push him around. As long as he continues to show his offensive flair and stay healthy, Hudon will continue to work his way up the depth chart, ultimately earning a call up to Montreal.
Sadowy’s development has been very impressive over the years. After a breakout season in Saginaw last year, he has followed it up with an even more impressive 2014-15. The winger has proven himself as a hard worker throughout his junior career, and he is now seeing it pay off in his first 30-goal season at the Major Junior level. He was particularly impressive in January, logging 11 goals, six assists, and 17 points in 13 games. He is leading Saginaw this year in points, at almost double the nearest players in goals. His worth ethic, improvement and overall production has to have San Jose fans and management excited.
Coming off a 91 point season in 2013-14, Sergey Tolchinsky is asserting himself as an offensive dynamo. While he is listed at 5’8, 169 pounds, the winger is blessed with pure scoring talent—and he has gotten results with Sault Ste. Marie this season. Yet again, he is one of the leading scorers in the OHL with 73 points through 49 games. He amassed 11 points in January, including seven in the final eight days of the month. That pace continued well into February, earning league honors along the way.
As Tolchinsky continues to improve, he could be considered the most skilled prospect in the Hurricanes system. His lack of stature will be a challenge to overcome at the pro level, but his speed and offensive instincts suggest that he could be an effective playmaker in the NHL.
After a slow start this season, Vince Hinostroza flipped the switch in January. The sophomore has had points in 10 of 11 games since January 9th, and has accumulated a staggering 19 points in that stretch—including 14 assists. Almost all of these games have been divisional Hockey East match ups.
Hinostroza has been a highlight reel of vision and playmaking this year, and is widely considered one of the best passers the NCAA. His 25 assists last year gave us a glimpse of his potential, but this season he has upped the ante.
Since transitioning from left wing to center, Pietila has been one of New Jersey’s better prospects. He is a skilled, versatile forward who plays an aggressive two-way style. Although he is often inconsistent, he continues to show that he can put the puck in the back of the net. Last year he surged in the second half of the season, and has done so again this January—amassing 15 points in 10 games and receiving WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors twice.
He currently has 11 goals and 13 assists in his senior season with Michigan Tech. For someone who only just converted to center, he has excelled in the circle—winning 60% of his faceoffs. If he is able to carry his scoring touch to the pros, Pietila could become an impact player for New Jersey.
Norell does a lot of things for Djurgarden this season. He hits, he blocks shots, he chips in offensively, and he eats up minutes. He does this in a gentlemanly fashion—in January he was guilty of just one minor infraction, despite logging over 15 minutes of ice time per game. The steady defenseman will not wow you with his skill, but he gets the job done reliably.
Once again, the Red Wings organization has done a great job of locating talent deep in the draft. Their latest steal is Axel Holmstrom, who fell to the 7th round before Detroit selected him. Although the forward has the pedigree to become a third line center, he does have offensive upside—as evidenced by his great vision and pinpoint passing ability.
Holmstrom has made an impact in his first full year with Skelleftea of the SHL. He has not been deterred by the pace of the next level, scoring 10 goals and 8 assists in 38 games, with a plus-7 rating. He also played a key role with Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships, contributing seven points.
The Kings were hoping that Andreoff could be a steady two-way contributor. However, he has failed to even crack the lineup on a regular basis. He has played just three games since December 30th, and has been relegated to the press box by Darryl Sutter. What is making the situation more difficult is that Andreoff would have to clear waivers to play in the AHL, and the Kings do not want to risk losing the feisty young forward for nothing.
It has been a disappointing rookie season for Sebastian Collberg. The talented winger is having a hard time in Bridgeport, where injuries have caused him to miss time. When he is in the lineup, he has been inconsistent. As a result, he has bounced in and out of the line-up, even serving a demotion to ECHL’s Stockton Thunder for six games. Though he contributed four goals and three assists in Stockton, he only has 9 points in 22 games with the Sound Tigers. Late in January, he suffered a shoulder injury—another inconvenience in a season he would probably like to have back.
Philippe Desrosiers, G, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Drafted by the Dallas Stars
2nd round, 54th overall, 2013
It can be difficult to be too hard on QMJHL goalies, due to the high scoring nature of the league. However, the former second round pick had a below average January even for the ‘Q.’ In five games, Desrosiers logged an .890 save percentage and a 3.11 goals against average. He was not facing an extremely high amount of shots either, facing an average of 24.6 over the five games. Despite the poor statistics, he went 4-0 on the month, (with one pull).
When Tristan Jarry was returned to Edmonton before the season began, it was believed he would benefit from playing with the rebuilding Oil Kings. However, throughout the winter months, Jarry has not played particularly well. Since the start of December, he has gone 9-14, surrendering three or more goals in 10 of those contests. Though he has put together strong games, he has not stolen many contests for Edmonton. In 45 games, he has a 2.66 goals against average with a .910 save percentage and three shutouts. On February 16th, he became the Oil Kings’ all-time winningest goalie with his 89th career win.
Hutton was a surprise contributor last season in his sophomore year with the Black Bears. However, Hockey East has not been as kind to the junior blueliner. The big defenseman has had his fair share of frustrations this season, as he has led the Black Bears in shots on numerous occasion—but has not been able to bury it. He has just two goals and two assists in his last 12 games, and that includes just one goal in his last 9 games against conference opponents.
Ed Wittchow, D, Wisconson Badgers (Big Ten)
Drafted by the Florida Panthers
6th Round, 154th Overall, 2011
In his first two seasons, Wittchow established himself as a good skater with fine positioning. This year, injuries and inconsistent play has limited his effectiveness—and his Wisconsin Badgers have won just 3 of 26 contests. Despite going pointless through 16 games, he still has the potential to play in the NHL someday. This season should be a good learning experience for the young defenseman.
Last season, Prokhorkin was one of the most prolific and dominant forwards in the KHL. His 19 goals competed for the team lead in CSKA Moscow, and the young Russian looked like a 4th round steal for the Los Angeles Kings.
Just a year later, the Chelyabinsk native is struggling. Although he started the year with Moscow, he has fallen into a terrible slump that has lasted for several months. Increased pressure to play a solid defensive game has limited his effectiveness as a scorer—and he has just two goals and four points since November 8th. Last month, Prokhorkin was relegated to obscurity when team executives sent him to Buran Voronezh of the VHL.
Arturri Lehkonen started the season well for the SHL’s Frölunda, scoring so often that it seemed the forward had found a new gear. Yet as the season took shape, his play started to derail until he stopped producing altogether. He has only scored one point since November, and has seen a near five minute drop in ice time since the start of the year. It remains to be seen how this cold stretch will affect his development.
On top of his domestic struggles, Lehkonen’s performance at the World Junior Championships was also sub-par—with just one goal after scoring five last year. He was named captain of Team Finland, but could not lead the squad to glory, finishing 7th overall.
Article was written by Jason Lewis and John Iadevaia