Kings junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Josh Deitell

WHL

Brayden Schenn, C – Brandon Wheat Kings
6’0", 198 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (#5 overall), 2009
b. August 22, 1991

Though Schenn almost made the Kings out of training camp, he was sent down in hopes that he would take advantage of the opportunity to be the backbone of this year’s Memorial Cup host, the Brandon Wheat Kings. Schenn responded to the challenge by posting career highs in all major offensive categories, with 34 goals and 65 assists in only 59 games. His 99 points tied him for the team lead with Matt Calvert. Thus far in the WHL playoffs, Schenn has put up 13 points in nine games, good for tops on his team. Brandon is currently up three games to two against Saskatoon in the Eastern Conference semifinals after sweeping Swift Current in the first round.

Schenn also quietly put up solid numbers for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, tallying two goals and six assists in seven games.

A solid training camp would make it difficult for the Kings to return Schenn to juniors next year; he’s proven almost all he can in the WHL.

Colten Teubert, D – Regina Pats
6’4", 201 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (13th overall)
b. March 8, 1990

Though there are still some concerns about his decision-making, Teubert had another solid year as the anchor of the Regina Pats defense, and chipped in his share of offense as well with 10 goals and 30 assists in 60 games on the season. Teubert was unable to shake the claims of his incapability of carry a team to the playoffs with his Pats missing the postseason for the second straight season, but his early departure from juniors allowed him to return to Ontario of the ECHL for his second season-ending stint there, where he may well start the 2010-11 season to continue refining his game at the professional level.

Teubert also served as alternate captain for Team Canada at the WJCs this year, where he provided the team with a steady defensive presence, physicality and leadership on the back end.

Martin Jones, G – Calgary Hitmen

6’4", 187 lbs
Acquired: Signed as free agent, 2008
b. January 10, 1990

While Jones was unable to match the incredible numbers that he posted for Calgary in 2008-09, he still had a great season for the club, finishing the year with a .919 save percentage, 36 wins, eight shutouts, and a league-leading 2.21 goals-against-average in 48 games. He is the Eastern Conference nominee for the Del Wilson Trophy, competing against Calvin Pickard for the accolade of WHL goaltender of the year.

In the playoffs, Jones has backstopped the Hitmen to the Eastern Conference finals, where they will face the winner of the Brandon/Saskatoon series.

Though Jones gave up the gold medal-clinching goal to the USA and Jake Allen was Canada’s true starter at the World Junior Championships, the Kings prospect did not look in over his head when he did play. He will likely be given a chance to battle for the Manchester Monarchs starting goaltender job next year.

Brandon Kozun, RW – Calgary Hitmen
5’9", 164 lbs
Acquired: 6th round (179th overall), 2009
b. March 8, 1990

Though it looked like his 108-point season in 2008-09 would be impossible to match, Kozun led the entire WHL with 107 points this year in 65 games. In addition to his regular-season success, Kozun’s 18 points in 13 playoff games lead his team and are good for second in the league; he is a major reason why his Hitmen have made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

A surprise cut-survivor for Team Canada, Kozun provided the team with secondary scoring at WJCs, posting seven points in six games.

Drafted a year late, Kozun is eligible to start his professional career this fall. He has many critics who still question his ability to perform at higher levels, but he’s already made a habit of proving people wrong.

Linden Vey, RW – Medicine Hat Tigers

5’11", 176 lbs
Acquired: 4th round (96th overall), 2009
b. July 17, 1991

After posting just 17 points in 48 games in his first WHL season in 2007-08, Vey’s breakout 72-point season in 2008-09 was an eye-opener for many scouts, and the Kings nabbed the emerging winger in the 2009 draft with a fourth-round pick. This season, Vey continued his success for Medicine Hat, finishing this year as the team leader in points with 75 in 72 games.

However, Vey struggled to shoulder Medicine Hat in the playoffs, posting only eight points and a -8 rating in 12 games en route to the Tigers elimination at the hands of the Calgary Hitmen in the second round of the playoffs.

Despite his playoff tribulations, his ability to continue to perform at a high level during the regular season is a promising sign that his 2008-09 breakout was not a fluke. He will need to bring the same kind of effort for the Tigers next year to earn himself an NHL contract.

Geordie Wudrick, LW – Swift Current Broncos/Kelowna Rockets
6’4", 214 lbs
Acquired 3rd round (88th overall), 2008
b. April 9, 1990

After finishing the 2008-09 season with a streak of play of an elite junior player, he started off this year with a meager 14 points in 24 games, raising questions of his work ethic and place on the team. Eventually, the Kelowna Rockets stepped in and acquired Wudrick, sending talented import Stepan Novotny the other way.

Since the trade, Wudrick has stepped up his play, putting up 19 goals 34 points in 38 games with his new club. In the playoffs, the big winger impressed in posting eight goals in the Rockets’ first-round series with Everett. However, the team cooled off and dropped their semifinal series to Tri-City in five games.

Wudrick will try to secure a professional roster spot next year, with the Monarchs or Reign, but could also be sent back to Kelowna for his overage season.

OHL


Kyle Clifford, LW – Barrie Colts

6’1", 200 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round (35th overall), 2009
b. January 13, 1991

Drafted as an emerging disturber, Clifford’s continued improvement of his offensive game has made him an intriguing, multi-faceted prospect. The fan-favorite physical forward nearly doubled his previous output of 16 goals with a career-high 28 this year, and also set new high marks in assists (29) and points (57). He’s also put up seven points in the Colts’ eight playoff games so far, sweeps of their first two opponents. Though he’s not a marquee player in the stacked Barrie offense, he showed good all-around ability, as well a willingness to drop the gloves whenever possible.

Though his discipline needs refining and his offensive game may not carry over from juniors, Clifford looks to be an important depth piece for the Kings going forward, though he’s likely still a year of juniors away from making an impact at the professional level.

Jake Muzzin, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

6’2", 216 lbs
Acquired: Signed as free agent, 2009
b. February 21, 1989

One of Dean Lombardi’s many free-agent prospect acquisitions, Muzzin had a breakout year for the Greyhounds, leading the entire team with 52 assists and 67 points in 64 games. In addition to his offensive production, the bruising defenseman maintained his reputation as a fearsome presence on the blueline. Muzzin and the Greyhounds struggled in the playoffs, and he only posted one point in five games as the Soo fell to Plymouth in the first round.

Muzzin’s numbers are somewhat inflated by the fact that he’s an overage player. In order to make an impression on Kings management and get his name into the mix of talented defensemen vying for roster spots with the big club, Muzzin will need to bring his aggressive style and two-way play to the Kings minor league system in his inaugural professional season in 2010-11.

Robert Czarnik, C – University of Michigan/Plymouth Whalers

6’1", 178 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round (63rd overall), 2008   
b. January 25, 1990

With concerns of dwindling ice time and a reduced role plaguing Czarnik, the young forward chose to leave the University of Michigan for Plymouth of the OHL. Czarnik thrived in his new environment, posting 49 points in 43 games. His production was primarily based on the chemistry that he has developed with Tyler Seguin. However, the two were largely shut down in the OHL playoffs, and despite the Whalers’ impressive elimination of the Soo Greyhounds in five games, the stacked Windsor Spitfires handled them easily in a four-game sweep.

Czarnik has plenty of offensive skill and plays a high-energy game. If he continues his current upswing and has another solid OHL season, he could be considered a legitimate NHL prospect by this time next year.

Jordan Nolan, C – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

6’3", 216 lbs
Acquired: 7th round (186th overall), 2009
b. June 23, 1989

The son of ex-NHL head coach Ted Nolan, Jordan brings much of the same grit and intensity that his father is known for, and has started to round his offensive game out as well. He set career highs with 23 goals, 25 assists, and 48 points in 49 games this year, a huge improvement from his 43 points in 64 games a season earlier. In the playoffs, Nolan scored two points in five games as his Greyhounds were downed in the first round by Plymouth. After completing his OHL season, Nolan headed to Ontario of the ECHL for a three-game tryout, in which he posted two points in three games.

As of right now, Nolan is not projected to be more than an aggressive, two-way depth player, but he’s physically ready for the professional ranks and will look to continue to improve his game in the Kings minor-league system next season.

QMJHL


Nicolas Deslauriers, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

6’0", 198 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round (84th overall), 2009
b. February 22, 1991

A raw, smooth-skating defenseman with plenty of offensive upside, Deslauriers flashed some of the playmaking ability that led the Kings to spend a third-round pick on him. In 65 games this year he posted 45 points, and his 36 assists were best among defensemen on the Huskies. However, Deslauriers picked up an excessive 72 penalty minutes, only a slight reduction from 80 the season before. With his fleetness of foot, Deslauriers has the capability to cover even the fastest players, but his defensive instincts and decision-making still need some refining.

Despite whatever deficiencies he might have currently, his upside is through the roof. He’ll return to the QMJHL next year to continue working on his game at both ends of the ice.

Jean-Francois Berube, G – Montreal Juniors

6’1", 155 lbs
Acquired: 4th round (95th overall), 2009
b. July 13, 1991

Picked up by the Montreal Juniors after impressing at an open tryout before the 2008-09 season, Berube took the reins this year as the team’s full-time starter with the incumbent Jake Allen getting traded to Drummondville. Berube has had somewhat of a tough time this year with the new responsibilities. After posting solid numbers in a backup role last season, his goals against average jumped from 2.66 to 3.03 this season, and his save percentage dropped from .907 to .897.

Though he’s still young and filling out his frame, Berube is behind three quality goaltending prospects in Jonathan Bernier, Jeff Zatkoff and Martin Jones. He will need to continue to refine his game and show the ability to dominate at the QMJHL level to put himself on the Kings radar, and should retain the starting job for Montreal for the 2010-11 season.

USHL


Nic Dowd, C – Indiana Ice

6’0", 175 lbs
Acquired: 7th round (198th overall), 2009

After an impressive season in 2008-09, in which he put up 49 points in 43 games for the Wenatchee Wild of the NAHL, Dowd got the attention of both Kings management, who took a seventh-round flier on him, and the St. Cloud State Huskies, to whom he has committed his services starting with the 2010-11 season. This year, Dowd moved to the USHL, where he finished fifth among forwards on the team with a respectable 39 points in 46 games. He missed some games late in the year due to a broken hand, per his coach Jeff Blashill.

The Alabama native will look to continue his improbable success in NCAA hockey next year, but he’s still a long way away from the professional ranks.