A preview of the season for the remaining ranked prospects.
Checking in at number six is little firecracker Brandon Reid. Assigned to the Moose on September 25, Reid has proven that he’s ready to take a more important role with the Moose this season. His skill set is pretty much standard fare for a smaller player: excellent wheels, a lot of heart, and strong puck-skills. After a very slow start last season, there is no doubt in my mind that Reid wants to come out of the gates guns-a-blazing this season.
As a smaller player, Reid will need to do a lot more to get noticed in a system built mostly around bigger players (Both the Canucks and the Moose, for that matter). If he works hard, and is played in a suitable role, then sixty points isn’t out of the question for Reid with the Moose this year.
Cut on the same day as Reid, Alex Auld is, like Reid, beginning his second professional season. Acquired for two draft picks in the days leading up to the 2001 Entry Draft, Alex was unable to come to terms with the Panthers.
After a disappointing, injury-filled season in which he began with Columbia of the ECHL, Auld enters this season with something to prove. Himself and Tyler Moss will be platooning in net for the Moose, giving them a good one-two punch, provided everything goes to plan.
People seem to forget that Alex is a mere 21 years of age. The last thing the Canucks want to do is rush him into a starting position before he’s ready; thus the signing of Moss, a veteran who has no delusions of grandeur with the Canucks; (perhaps a cup-of-coffee if Skudra slips) so Auld has nothing to worry about.
For once, goaltending is set in Vancouver for the forseeable future. Dan Cloutier is the undisputed starter, Peter Skudra the back-up, Alex Auld the prospect and potential starter down the road, and Tyler Moss, who provides insurance on the farm.
Staying over in Russia this season is winger Evgeny Gladskikh. Getting quality ice time in Russia’s top league is going to be an important confidence builder for the talented youngster. Had he come to North America, chances are he wouldn’t have survived the first cut, with the newfound depth in the Canuck system.
As far as tools go, Gladskikh has got them to spare. Strong on his skates although not particularly fast, he should have no trouble keeping up in the NHL game. Offensively, his best skill is his stickhandling, which was compared by many journalists, including HF’s Eugene Belashchenko, to Russian great Sergei Gomolyako. High praise indeed. The rest of his offensive game is a little rough-around-the-edges; save for a deadly wrist-shot. Defensively, Gladskikh is a responsible player who takes pride in being able to play both ways; although he’s not a physical player yet. If and when he comes to North America, Gladskikh projects as a second-or-third line forward.
So far this season with Metallurg, he’s collected three assists in nine games.
Also staying in Russia this season is defenseman Denis Grot. A second rounder of the Canucks in the 2002 draft, Grot might be a commodity in high demand for the Canucks in the coming seasons. A strong skater, much like Gladskikh, Denis is a puck-rushing defenseman with good passing skills and an accurate shot. Defensively, Grot isn’t physical, but is still an effective defensive player, due to his solid hockey sense and good positioning.
A two-way defenseman, Grot likely projects to a third-pairing player in the NHL. Having not made the Russian Superleague this season, it might be in his best interest to come over to North America sooner rather than later, so his development can proceed at a higher-level.
The last of the currently-ranked prospects, goaltender Lukas Mensator is adjusting to living (He can’t speak English right now, and is using ’67’s Defenseman Karol Sloboda as a translator.) and playing in North America, for the Ottawa ’67’s. The pint-sized, lightning-quick goaltender has had a bit of an adjustment period since coming over to North America, posting a 2-1 record in 3 games with the ’67’s, with a 3.33 GAA and an .867 SV%. These are pretty poor numbers, but three games are a tiny sample size, and someone with his talent is sure to improve at least a trifle over these numbers.
Currently, Mensator doesn’t rank very high on the Canucks’ organizational depth chart, but just coming over to North America was one giant leap in the right direction. Despite a lack of size, he’s still a decent goaltender prospect, and he will be put under the magnifying glass this season in Ottawa by many Canuck scouts and talent evaluators, including yours truly. Spending the next two seasons in Canadian junior should do wonders for the diminutive netminder’s confidence and positional play, especially now that he’s playing under one of the better motivators in junior hockey, in Coach Brian Kilrea.