Blue Jackets junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Chris Roberts

David Savard is one of a trio of Blue Jackets prospects with a very good chance of playing in this year’s Memorial Cup; John Moore’s Kitchener Rangers are up 3-0 in the OHL semi-finals, while Matt Calvert’s Brandon Wheat Kings will be hosting the tournament.

QMJHL

David Savard, D – Moncton Wildcats

6’1, 200lbs
Acquired: 4th round, 94th overall, 2009

Savard has not only emerged as a star for the Moncton Wildcats, but has also proven to be one of the Blue Jackets’ most impressive defensive prospects among a deep pool. Savard was a model of consistency this season for the surging Wildcats, registering 77 points in 64 games. His 64 assists not only led all defensemen, but the entire league and led to him being named the league’s best defenseman. He was a big reason why the Wildcats power play was ranked first in the league with a 27 percent efficiency rate. His +32 rating also attests to his outstanding defensive ability. He has a tremendous ability to read and react in his own zone, is hardly caught out of position and is great at clearing the puck when needed, all while exhibiting superb offensive instincts. This will likely be Savard’s last season in junior, as he turns 20 in October, and he’ll strive to make it a memorable one as the Wildcats are currently two wins away from a trip to the QMJHL finals. He has seven points in 12 playoff games.

Tomas Kubalik, RW – Victoriaville Tigres

6’2, 189lbs
Acquired: 5th round, 135th overall, 2008

After a great rookie season with the Tigres in which Kubalik posted 75 points in just 58 games, he has cooled off in the playoffs, registering 11 points in 12 games. The Tigres could use his offense as they currently trail the Saint John Seadogs 2-0 in the semi-finals. Kubalik came over to North America as a relatively unknown, but his play has certainly warranted attention. His 33 goals were good enough for third on the team, despite playing 10 fewer games than the two ranked higher. One issue with him, however, is his skating skill. He will need to work hard in the offseason in that regard if he is to improve upon his first season in North America, whether it is as an overage for the Tigres or a rookie for the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.

Steven Delisle, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
6’6, 220lbs
Acquired: 4th round, 107th overall, 2008

The towering but lanky defenseman has had similar offensive seasons for the past three years — 29 or 30 points. His five goals matched his output from 2008-09, but his 24 assists were just one shy of last year. At 6’6, however, Delisle is more of a project pick, and the Blue Jackets are hoping he can continue to develop his already improving defensive game. His plus/minus shows his improvements in the defensive end as he went from a -14 in the 2008-09 season to a +17 this season. He has also gained 11 pounds since being drafted. If his defensive efforts continue to improve and he continues to grow physically, Delisle could have a chance. Like Savard and Kubalik, he could also potentially lace up for the Springfield Falcons next season.

OHL

John Moore, D – Kitchener Rangers
6’2, 195lbs
Acquired: 1st round, 21st overall, 2009

The transition to the OHL was fairly smooth for Moore as he posted 47 points in 61 games. Even more impressive, however, are Moore’s playoff statistics. The first-round draft pick has averaged a point per game with 16 points in 16 games, including four goals. His defensive play hasn’t been his strong point during the regular season, yet it is far from a real weakness. His -5 is somewhat worrying considering the strength of the team he is on, however, he has also improved in that aspect in the postseason. After being a team-worst -5 in an 8-5 loss against the London Knights, Moore has been a +12 in nine games since. With the Rangers up 3-0 against heavy favorite Windsor Spitfires, Moore may get a shot to play in the OHL finals and possibly in the Memorial Cup. Overall, he has made great strides in a season of ups and downs. He’ll enter Blue Jackets camp next season with an outside shot to make the team, but it is likely that he begins his pro career in Springfield.

Kyle Neuber, RW – Sarnia Sting

6’2, 215lbs
Acquired: 7th round, 197th overall, 2009.

Neuber regressed this season in terms of offensive production, dropping from 12 points a year ago to a total of 10 this season; however, he amassed a new career high in penalty minutes and continued to perfect the role he was drafted for – enforcer. Neuber was second in penalty minutes with 188 in 60 games. He’s got limited offensive potential, but appears to be intelligent enough on the ice to not be a liability. He’ll enter training camp next season with hopes of earning the enforcer role for the Falcons.

Matt Calvert, LW – Brandon Wheat Kings

5’10, 182lbs
Acquired: 5th round, 127th overall, 2008

As an overager on a very talented team, Calvert did exactly what he was supposed to do and then some. He tied for the team lead in points with 99 in 68 games, but was the team leader in goals by 10 with 47. A part of a trio that comprised the CHL’s top line for the past two seasons, which includes first-round picks Scott Glennie (DAL) and Brayden Schenn (LA), Calvert will be participating in this year’s Memorial Cup. Brandon will be hosting the tournament and it should be excellent experience for Calvert, especially in his bid to earn a roster spot on the Blue Jackets next season. Along with John Moore, Calvert will likely spend his first pro season with the Falcons of the AHL, but he could be a dark horse to steal a spot with the Blue Jackets, especially after his impressive training camp last season.