Travis Zajac, C (Freshman, University of North Dakota) – Scoring, and lack thereof, has been a big concern for North Dakota, so Zajac’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. The Winnipeg native hasn’t disappointed either. He has played in all 36 games thus far. Zajac, a potential selection to the WCHA All-Rookie team who will likely garner serious consideration for WCHA Rookie of the Year as well, leads UND in goal scoring with 14, nine of which have come on special teams. His seven power play goals and two short-handed goals lead the team in each category. His 29 points lead all UND rookies and ranks second on the team.
While much has been publicized about Zajac’s offensive prowess, he has become far more than just a goal scorer for the Fighting Sioux. He has excelled defensively and has contributed in virtually every area of the game. His exceptional skills at both ends of the ice combined with his speed and great hockey sense has earned Zajac many accolades as well as the attention of every opposing team.
Dan Glover, D (Sophomore, Cornell University) – Glover saw limited playing time with the Big Red this season, playing in only 13 games and registering just one point (an assist). He has played some of his best hockey of the season in recent weeks, filling in for injured freshman Sasha Pokulok. Glover has been paired with a variety of partners, including senior Jeremy Downs. When called upon, Glover has been dependable and solid in his stay-at-home role on the Cornell blueline.
Zach Tarkir, D (Sophomore, Northern Michigan University) – Tarkir continues to improve in several areas of his game, particularly on the physical side. His willingness to play the body more often has resulted in better one-on-one coverage in his zone. After missing the first five games of the season, Tarkir has been a mainstay on the Wildcats blueline. He has been paired with junior Jamie Milam and more recently with fellow sophomore Matt Maunu. Tarkir has posted ten points (two goals, eight assists), which doubles his total from last season. While his offensive output hasn’t risen significantly from last season, it isn’t due to a lack of effort. Tarkir has been shooting the puck with more regularity.
James Massen, RW (Senior, University of North Dakota) – After only playing in 20 games for UND last season, Massen has seen time in 32 games through the end of regular season play. He has been a mainstay on UND’s checking line playing alongside fellow senior Quinn Fylling and junior Mike Prpich. In 32 games, Massen has scored four points (one goal, three assists). His continued low offensive has been due, in part, to the role that he has been relegated to on the team. While Massen does play the body often and effectively, he doesn’t rack up many penalty minutes, with only four on the year.
Jason Ryznar, LW (Senior, University of Michigan) – Ryznar is enjoying perhaps the best season of his collegiate career, a primary reason bring his reasonably good health. Utilizing his large frame well around the net and getting more involved in plays have been two areas that has made Ryznar a thriving force for the Wolverines this season. He suffered a broken finger back on February 2nd, which was surgically repaired. He returned to the Wolverines lineup in time for the regular season finale versus Bowling Green the first weekend of March. Ryznar finishes his final regular season at Michigan with a career-best 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists).
Barry Tallackson, RW (Senior, University of Minnesota) – Tallackson is a player who possesses some tremendous skills, excellent size and scoring ability, but has struggled to put it all together consistently this season. Some have pointed to his work ethic as a contributor to his inconsistency. He missed eight games earlier in the season due to an ankle injury. In 29 games played thus far, Tallackson has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists). The final regular season versus Michigan Tech was perhaps Tallackson’s best of the season. In the two games he notched two points (one goal, on assist) and was a +2.
Jason Smith, G (Sophomore, Sacred Heart University) – Smith continued to be the backup to senior Kevin Lapointe this season, but could potentially become the Pioneers’ starter next season. Smith played in eight games, posting a 3-5-0 record with a .886 save percentage and 3.77 goals against average. Two of his wins this season came against conference rival American International on Oct. 23rd and Feb. 12th.
The Devils two Russian defense prospects Alexander Mikhailishin and Valeri Klimov have both seen very limited action with Spartak’s senior club this season, often being shuffled in and out of the line-up. Both were selected in the 2004 draft, and although Klimov was selected in a later round, he seems to be the more highly regarded of the two Russian blueliners. With the lack of action with the senior Spartak team, the two have spent a fair amount of time with Spartak 2, the junior club. Mikhailishin has played in 10 games, registering one assist and four PIM’s, while Klimov has played in eight games and been held off the scoresheet.
Winger Andrei Posnov has had a somewhat disappointing season with Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik, failing to build off last season’s strong showing. After scoring 16 goals and 31 points with Spartak Moskava last season, Posnov has been relegated to a secondary role with Neftekhimik. Through 33 games, he only has four goals and seven points.
After a red hot start offensively, Finnish speedster Teemu Laine has cooled off, having been stuck at seven goals since the end of November. He has set a career high in points with 17 and PIM’s with 60, but after such a strong start, his season to this date has to be considered yet again, somewhat of a disappointment. He has at times lately even been a healthy scratch. Laine’s speed and tenacity are still his calling cards, and that will likely get him an NHL audition at some point in the future, but if he continues to struggle this much offensively, it’s unlikely he will last in the pros for very long.
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise among prospects this year was defenseman Tyler Eckford. He finished the regular season as the leading scorer among BCHL defensemen with 65 points (22 goals, including 13 on the PP and 43 assists) in 60 games. His team, the South Surrey Eagles, won the BCHL’s Mainland Division and are currently facing the Victoria Salsa in the first round of the playoffs. The first game in the best of seven series was played on March 8th and Eckford had a goal and two assists as Surrey won 6-2. The Eagles lost the second game 2-1, but Eckford had an assist on their only goal.
Jaren Ramsden, DJ Powers and Grethe Kvernes contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.