Johannes Salmonsson, LW/C , Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
2nd Round, 31st Overall 2004, 6’2, 183 lbs, 19
When Johannes Salmonsson arrived from Sweden to take on the North American game in the rough and tumble Western Hockey League, he was expected to utilize his silky offensive skills to light the lamp on a regular basis.
And while he may still do that, the early going has been tough for him. Salmonsson has no goals and just three assists in his first eight games for the Spokane Chiefs as he tries to adjust to the smaller rink sizes and more physical nature that separates the North American game from European hockey. His record at the most recent World Junior Championships in 2005 was very good, posting five goals and three assists in six games in a similar environment.
Salmonsson is an excellent combination of size, skill, and speed, so expect more from him as the season progresses.
Jordan Morrison, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
7th Round, 222nd Overall 2004, 5’10, 175 lbs, 19
Performing better is 2004 draftee Jordan Morrison who has taken up a senior role with the Peterborough Petes in the OHL. The lightweight center was a seventh round choice and is showing plenty of offensive ability as he enters his all important fourth CHL season which will go a long way to determining his future with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Morrison’s main drawback is his size. He is listed at just 175 lbs and is dwarfed by many of today’s bigger players. His build is similar to that of Colby Armstrong, who has shown with continual work on his strength that he can play above his weight at the top level and excel. Morrison is a gifted stick handler and playmaker, and should post good numbers again this season after setting career marks of 23 goals and 41 assists in 2004-05.
He currently sits second in Petes scoring with 22 points (8 Goals, 14 assists), which is good enough for 16th in league scoring. The Petes are flying high at the moment with the best record in the league.
Tyler Kennedy, C, Sault St. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
4th Round, 99th Overall 2004, 5’10, 183 lbs, 19
Tyler Kennedy is another diminutive forward who has good offensive skills. The departure of Philadelphia Flyers prospect Jeff Carter has made Kennedy the go-to guy and captain of his Sault St. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
Kennedy is another top playmaker in the Penguins system, and projects as that type of player in the pros. Although he is small, he makes up for it with heart and a strong sense of leadership.
Kennedy is leading the Greyhounds in scoring with 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) and should better his total of 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) from 2004-05. So far he has been very consistent, only missing the score sheet on three occasions this season.
Michal Sersen, D, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
5th Round, 130th Overall 2004, 6’1, 200 lbs, 19
An important season lies ahead for Slovakian defenseman Michal Sersen who is playing his first season away from the Sidney Crosby led Rimouski Oceanic where his numbers were inflated by the massive offensive output of last season’s Memorial Cup finalists.
Sersen scored 42 points (9 goals, 33 assists) from 67 games in 2004-05 with Rimouski, but was traded during the offseason to the Quebec Remparts. Sersen should still perform well, as he bases his game on strong defensive work as he uses his big frame to impede the opposition. He had a decent training camp, but was guilty of not using his size enough when playing against the bigger players.
Sersen has a big shot, and is often used on the Remparts power play to blast one from the point. It was never more successful than in his first game against his old team as he tallied a hat trick, including the game winner, in an 8-3 victory on October 9th. He has tallied one other goal and four assists in nine games total for the Remparts.
Moises Gutierrez, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
6th Round, 164th Overall 2004, 6’3, 213 lbs, 19
Moises Guiterrez is a big, tough, winger that may be spending his last season in the WHL. The Alaskan will turn 20 next year, and his physical style of play should help him convert to the professional level.
Guiterrez has seen more ice time this season for the Blazers and looks to improve on his nine-goal, 20-assist season last year. He already has two goals and three assists this season.
Kristopher Letang, D, Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
3rd Round, 62nd Overall 2005, 5’11, 190 lbs, 18
The first among two Penguins 2005 draftees playing defense in the QMJHL is Kristopher Letang of the Val d’Or Foreurs. Letang was the Penguins third choice behind Sidney Crosby and Michael Gergen and has made a quick start offensively this season.
Letang likes to shoot but doesn’t shirk the defensive work and makes life difficult for opposing forwards looking for a way to the net. Letang is joined by other offensively-minded blue liners like Luc Bourdon (VAN) and Sebastien Bisaillion.
He places second in points for team defensemen in goals and points with seven and 11 respectively. Letang was a member of last season’s Canada U-18 team after just one season in the ‘Q’. Look for Letang to continue his offensive output and top his total of 32 points from his rookie year.
Jean-Phillip Paquet, D, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
2nd Round, 31st Overall 2004, 6’2, 183 lbs, 19
Jean-Phillip Paquet is another defensive product that could prove valuable down the line. His poor performances in a couple of key indicator games last season cost him a higher place in the draft, with the Penguins managing to pick him up in the sixth round.
Paquet is a good skater with an all-round game with an abundance of natural ability. He is currently sidelined with an injury that has put him out of another important representative game as he was set to lace up for the QMJHL team to take on Russia in an upcoming series.
Paquet has just the two assists from five games this season with Shawinigan after posting 25 points (5 goals, 20 assists) from 70 games last season.
Alan Saunders contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.