The 2014-15 regular season has come to a close. For our final month of On the Rush, we have a mixture of both season-long leaders and trailers, as well as a few players who either slumped or stood up during a crucial time—the final stretch. With the playoffs wrapping up for most leagues around the world and the NHL playoffs getting ready to kick into gear, take a look at this month’s group.
Shane Prince, LW, Binghamton Senators (AHL)
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators
2nd Round, 61st overall, 2011
While the minor-league Senators will not make the postseason, they can take solace in the development of Shane Prince. It has been a year of maturity for the third year pro, as he appears to have a better attitude around the rink and is playing more responsibly in his own end. This goes hand-in-hand with the expanded role the Binghamton coaching staff has given him. Prince leads the team in scoring with 26 goals and 35 assists and 176 penalty minutes. In March, he scored 12 points in 12 games and looks to finish the season strong.
Agozzino had just 31 points at the end of February, well off his normal pace of about 50 points-per-season. However, he went on a tear over the last 17 games of the season, potting 12 goals and a monster 25 points. Remarkably, he scored in every March game except one—nearly doubling his output from beforehand, and earning the AHL Player of the Month honours. With points in all but three games dating back to February 28, he is a no brainer for this month’s leading selection.
New Jersey may have found a diamond in the rough in Joe Blandisi. Signed as a free agent in January, the center has had a stellar year with the Barrie Colts. In 68 games, he notched 52 goals and 60 assists—along with 11 power play and 10 shorthanded goals—to finish fourth in the OHL in scoring with 112 points. Despite being a 6th round pick, Blandisi has shown he is quite skilled with the puck and protecting it in physical situations. The Ontario native is a great competitor, but his discipline and defensive play need to improve at the next level. Blandisi is not an immediate answer to the Devils’ scoring woes, but with his smarts and skills, he may become a good secondary scorer.
Amadio quietly put together an exceptional year with the Battalion. With just 38 points in 2013-14, there was question about Amadio’s offensive upside when he was drafted by the Kings. However, with an expanded role this season, the 3rd round pick almost doubled his goal and points totals. He also closed out the year particularly well with 10 points in his final nine regular season games. Although he has had multiple linemates has remained one of the best finishers for North Bay. He carried his solid play into the playoffs, posting four goals and seven points in North Bay’s four-game sweep of the Kingston Frontenacs.
Zane McIntyre is coming off an accomplished junior season where he led North Dakota to the Frozen Four for the second straight season. While UND’s run ended once again in the semifinal game, McIntyre finished the season with a 29-10-3 record, a 2.05 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He also became the first UND goaltender in 48 years to play in every game of the season. His efforts were recognized with several honours; he was named NCHC’s Goalie of the Year, First-Team All-Conference, Second-Team All-American, West Regional Most Outstanding Player, and a Hobey Baker finalist. He topped off his outstanding year by winning the Mike Richter Award as the best goaltender in the country.
University of Nebraska-Omaha had an unexpected and exciting run to the Frozen Four this season. They were buoyed by several overachieving and enthusiastic young players—and Luc Snuggerud was among the best of them. The puck-moving freshman defenseman played solid second-pairing minutes for UNO, and showed the poise of an upperclassman. It will be exciting for Blackhawks fans to see him continue to develop as he gets older.
One of the more underrated players within Montreal’s system has been Martin Reway. Despite missing 20 games, he has played well for HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga, finishing third in team scoring with 37 points in 34 games. Reway also had a memorable winter when he captained the Cinderella Slovakian team to a bronze medal at the 2015 World Junior Championships. He led the way offensively with four goals and five assists in seven games. Since then, he had a goal and four assists when he helped his team dispose of Hradec Kralove in the first round of the Czech League playoffs.
In the Czech2 league, Ondrej Kase has been a playoff juggernaut. While his first full season has been respectable, he has made the biggest impact for the Piráti in the postseason, scoring six goals and 11 points for the team en route to a league title. He also has four points and two goals in the relegation qualifying round in which KLH could move up from the second tier to the first. Currently they are leading the relegation round and it looks likely that they will be promoted, thanks in large part to the efforts of Kase.
Mantha has not had an easy transition to the pros, despite scoring 81 goals in 81 games (including playoffs) in his final junior season with the Val d’Or Foreurs last year. The 6’5 Mantha has played mainly on the second and third lines. Though played well at times, he has struggled to find consistency all season. After scoring on March 7th, he went the next ten games without a goal—his longest drought of the season. As of April 14th, he had 15 goals and 18 assists with 139 penalty minutes and a plus-6 rating. Fortunately for Detroit fans, Mantha has shown signs of heating up with the AHL postseason approaching.
Once regarded as one of the finest goaltending prospects of USA Hockey, Jack Campbell has had a frustrating season as the young netminder saw his playing time encroached upon by Jussi Rynnas. He has battled injury, illness, and inconsistency this season—even doing a stint in the ECHL along the way. Though he showed signs of life in early March, he struggled from mid-March to the end of the year. From March 22 to April 7, Campbell posted sub .900 save percentages in 4 of his 8 starts as well as giving up 3 or more goals in five of them. In total, he has posted a 12-14-5 record with a 3.14 GAA and a .905 goals-against this year.
Despite a solid 46 point campaign as a 17-year-old last season, Fleury took a step back this year. The 18-year-old’s performance has not been poor, but it has raised questions about his future. Most concerning was his omission from Canada’s World Junior Championship roster and his inability to shake off the snub afterwards. His production was nearly halved to 28 points, while he also struggled in his defensive zone. Red Deer was eliminated in the second round of the WHL playoffs, with Fleury only contributing two points in the five-game series. He still projects to be a top-four defenseman, but Carolina will be looking for an improvement in 2014-15.
Bennett was hindered by a long injury layoff, but he performed very well in his limited appearance at the tail-end of this season. However, be it from lack of big-game experience this year or simply being overrun by a tough North Bay Battalion team, he and Kingston went out very quietly in the OHL playoffs. The offensively gifted winger was held goalless in the series, with just three assists and a minus-4 rating in four games.
During his first two seasons, Wilcox was one of the most dependable goaltenders in the nation. This year, the former Hobey Baker Finalist was anything but. He surrendered three or more goals in 16 games, which saw his goals-against inflate to 2.42 and his save percentage fall to .912. This happened behind a seasoned Gophers defense that had experience playing together. You can call it an off year, but Wilcox was simply not as sharp or focused as we are accustomed to seeing him. Although Wilcox helped Minnesota to a Big Ten Championship, he was handled easily when the flat Golden Gophers squad was defeated by in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth 4-1 at the NCAA Northeast Regional.
It was a disappointing season for Boston College, and the same could be said for forward Chris Calnan. Although he had 10 goals through the first half, his season came off the rails in the mid-year—the sophomore had just one goal and one point from January 10th onward. Even worse, he was held off the score sheet entirely through the final 14 games of the year. Calnan has to be disappointed in both he and his team’s performance in the latter half of the season, during which Boston College was ejected from the NCAA East Regional in the first round.
Erik Karlsson, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes
4th Round, 99th Overall, 2012
The speedy Swede had a difficult time earning playing time for Frolunda this year. The main issue was his production—he only scored a goal and two assists in 53 games. The poor play continued in the postseason, where he was held pointless in seven games as Lulea eliminated Frolunda. It had to be frustrating for himself, the coaches, and Carolina management. He brought his speed and intensity most nights, but had a small role with limited minutes. With Frolunda’s season over, Karlsson will join Carolina and begin the transition to the pro game with the Charlotte Checkers.
Marcus Pettersson, D, Vita Hästen (Allsvenskan)
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks
2nd round, 38th overall, 2014
The lanky Petterson has all the tools to be a solid NHL defenseman, but he took a rough tumble this season in Sweden. He was beat out for playing time with Skelleftea, and was subsequently moved to the second tier team, Vita Hästen, in the Allsvenskan. He saw an increase in playing time in the lower league, but struggled to find consistency. He has been fairly ineffective in Vita’s qualification promotion rounds, and was struggling with the Skellefteå junior squad prior to that. Chock this one up to a learning year.
Article was written by Jason Lewis and John Iadevaia