Habs’ Prospects Improving

By Chris Boucher
When trying to determine whether a player will develop NHL calibre skills, we tend to look at how that player is improving year to year. A prospect is just that; a prospect. Only by improving year to year will any player develop the skills necessary to produce at the NHL level. Skating, speed and strength are difficult attributes to measure on a year to year basis. They are far less tangible than raw stats, but in no way less important. The easiest way to measure a player’s improvement is by breaking down their production into a point per game basis, then comparing that number to the previous year’s total.

When comparing The Montreal Canadiens’ prospects’ point per game totals from this season with those of a year ago, Chris Dyment shows the greatest improvement. The 22-year-old defenseman rebounded from a difficult 00-01 season to put up numbers similar to those from his 99-00 campaign. The 6’3″, 202-lbs. defenseman averaged 0.30 PPG last season. Sixteen games into this season he’s averaging a solid 0.75 PPG; an improvement of 0.45. Dyment is one of Boston University’s co-captains, and plays on the Terriers’ number-one defensive unit with highly touted prospect Ryan Whitney. Dyment was chosen in the fourth round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.

An impressive second to Dyment is Michigan’s Mike Komisarek. The Habs’ chose Komisarek with their first pick during the 2001 draft. He has already registered more points this year than he did during the entire 00-01 season. The 6’4′, 228-lbs. defenseman averaged only 0.38 PPG last year. Through 18 games this season He’s averaging 0.78 PPG; a solid improvement of 0.40 PPG. Komisarek will be playing for the US during the upcoming World Junior Championship. He’s already played 2 exhibition games leading up to the tournament. He was shutout during the first of those games, but scored a goal while adding an assist during the US squad’s second tune-up.

Josef Balej has shown the third-best improvement. The 5’11”, 175 Lbs. right winger can skate like the wind, and his scoring touch isn’t too bad either. Chosen in third round of the 2000 draft, Balej has scored 12 powerplay goals this season and is currently the fourth-highest scorer in the WHL. The young Slovak was also among the Habs’ most improved players last season. During 46 injury-filled games last season, Balej averaged 1.15 PPG. Though 33 games this season, he’s averaging 1.45 PPG; an improvement of 0.30 PPG.

Andrew Archer , a stay at home defenseman with Guelph has shown the fourth-best improvement. The 6’4″, 195-lbs. defenseman has improved his overall game by leaps and bounds since last season. Last year Archer averaged 0.04 PPG. Though 35 games this season, he’s averaging 0.31 PPG; an improvement of 0.27 PPG. The Guelph assistant captain is the Habs’ third youngest prospect behind only Alexander Perezhogin and Olivier Michaud. He plays a tough game down low, while continuing to improve his positional game.

Fifth on the list is Chicoutimi’s Christian Larrivée. The Habs’ chose Larrivée in the fourth round of the 2000 draft. He’s playing for an NHL contract this season, and is currently on a 14-game point-scoring streak. The 6’3′, 195 Lbs. center averaged 1.11 PPG last year. Through 37 games this season He’s averaging 1.38 PPG; an improvement of 0.27 PPG. Larrivée must however, improve his defensive game. He had a combined minus-79 rating through his first 2 junior seasons; he’s plus-2 so far this year.

Skills are what separate players. It is only by improving their skating, speed, and strength that prospects can develop into NHL players. Points per game may not be the best way to determine a players’ improvement, but it certainly is the most tangible.

Player differential (this season)-(last season)

Dyment _____ +0.453
Komisarek ______ +0.396
Balej _____ +0.305
Archer _____ +0.274
Larrivée ___ +0.268
Anger ____ +0.215
Chouinard ______ +0.209
Beauchemin ______ +0.172
Kuki ______ +0.169
Ribeiro _______ +0.108
Staal ____ +0.073
Ryder _______ +0.062
Glenn _______ +0.022
Shasby _______ -0.015
Plekanec_______ -0.027
Ujcik _______ -0.033
Strom _______ -0.098
Asham _______ -0.109
Descoteaux_______ -0.141
Razin _______ -0.171
Ward _______ -0.181
Delisle _______ -0.194
Mikkola _______ -0.209
Milroy _______ -0.221
Selig _______ -0.275
Himelfarb_______ -0.287
Eneqvist _______ (not applicable)
Buturlin _______ (not applicable)
Perezhogin _______ (not applicable)
Marois _______ (not applicable)
Jarventie _______ (not applicable)
Vertala _______ (not applicable)
Hainsey _______ (not applicable)
Thinel _______ (not applicable)
Hossa _______ (not applicable)