IHL Prospect Report

By Parker Neale

IHL Prospect Watch

The International Hockey League has proved to be a fertile training ground for many youngsters this year while others have struggled. Also, it is apparent that some organizations have bought into the youth movement more than others. Here is a look at the progress of many players that may earn permanent spots on NHL clubs in the near future.

Chicago is stocked with wily veterans. However, they did start off the season with the much ballyhooed Rick DiPietro. After struggling with the Wolves, earning 4 wins, a 3.39 GAA and a 0.880 save percentage in 14 starts, DiPietro has been equally ineffective with the Islanders, obtaining 2 wins, a 3.52 GAA and an 0.878 save percentage in only 13 games.

The Carolina Hurricanes have reason for optimism. In his professional rookie season, Jeff Heerema has contributed 15 goals and 25 points in 58 games. Jean-Marc Pelletier has a respectable 3.09 GAA and 0.906 save percentage in 24 starts. Nikos Tselios, the mammoth defenceman, has been solid on the blueline with 17 points and 64 pims in 64 games. And, although Jaroslav Svoboda has struggled, amassing only 14 points in 52 games, the big Czech winger is only twenty.

Like Chicago, Cleveland also ranks quite low for budding superstars. Peter Bartos has showed signs of promise this year with 4 goals and 6 points in 13 games with the Wild and 13 goals and 32 points in 42 games with the Lumberjacks.

Detroit continues to try to win with youth. They have numerous gems on the squad that should be mainstays with the Lightning very soon. Dmitri Afanasenkov has shown signs of flash while obtaining 15 goals and 33 points in 59 games with the Vipers. Sheldon Keefe struggled offensively with the Lightning, but has been steady with Detroit, tallying 7 goals and 12 points in 13 games. And the monstrous Kristian Kudroc is finally getting a steady shot with the big club. After amassing 7 points and 80 penalty minutes in 44 games with Detroit, Kudroc now has 3 points and 26 pims in 15 games with the Lightning.

The Grand Rapids Griffins have youngsters in all positions. Mathieu Chouinard has been very solid between the pipes, earning 16 wins, a 2.63 GAA and a 0.903 save percentage in 27 games. Chris Neil adds grit up front as he has obtained 11 goals, 27 points and 302 penalty minutes in 61 games. And, Petr Schastlivy adds a little flash to the wing. After starting the season with the Senators and struggling with 5 points in 17 games, the Russian has tallied 24 points in 42 games with the Griffins.

The Kansas City Blades are also loaded with youngsters eager for a chance with the Canucks. Bryan Allen is now rounding into the form that made him a fourth overall pick as he has accumulated 21 points and 78 penalty minutes in 60 games with the Blades. Harold Druken started off strongly with KC, amassing 14 points in 15 games and has continued his hot play with the Canucks, tallying 25 points in 42 games. Josh Holden continues to round out his game on the farm, obtaining 41 points in 50 games. And, Jarkko Ruutu is a solid two-player that has contributed 27 points in 40 games thus far.

The Nashville Predators have efficiently called on their youngsters from Milwaukee all season long. Denis Arkhipov has chipped in 13 points with the Admirals and 11 with the Preds. Bubba Berenzweig struggled with the big club but has solidly racked up 31 points in 59 games with Nashville. And, Marian Cisar has notched 26 points in the last 48 games with the Preds. Also, Jan Lasak continues his ascent up the professional ranks and has obtained 15 wins, a 2.87 GAA and a 0.904 save percentage with the Admirals.

In Orlando, the main player to watch for is Brian Pothier. The big defenceman has 37 points in 60 games with the Solar Bears.

And, finally, in Utah the blueline corps should provide stability for Dallas within the next few years. John Erskine shows no fear as his 219 penalty minutes in only 61 games can attest. And, although he struggled with the big club, Richard Jackman has been steady with the Grizzlies, notching 19 points in 41 games.