Wild CHL prospects update

By Glen Jackson





Title

The
Minnesota Wild have recently shown a preference for drafting from the WHL, with
seven of their ten current CHL prospects residing in the West including the
team’s 2004 first round pick, A.J.
Thelen
, who is in his first year of junior after almost two seasons with
Michigan State. However, the team’s highest profile junior prospect is the
OHL’s Benoit Pouliot, who continues to show great promise.



Both of
the Wild’s CHL goaltenders are from the WHL, but both have stats that put them
near the bottom of the league.

WHL



Kyle
Bailey
, C –
Portland Winter Hawks – Drafted 2005, Round 4, 110th overall

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YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Portland

25

9

20

26

68

Although
capable as a feisty, checking line center, Bailey’s 2005-06 season is shaping
up to be a breakthrough year in his junior career. Scoring at a pace of just
over a point per game, Bailey is fifth in Winter Hawks scoring and is on the
verge of eclipsing his WHL-high point total of 33 in 2004-05, when he had 33
points in 67 games. Last season he saw time on the power play and that has
continued in 2005-06, where four of his nine goals came with the man advantage.
Bailey’s physical play and tendency to drop the gloves has him second in
penalty minutes following team enforcer Garth Collins.



Aaron
Boogaard
, RW –
Tri-City Americans – Drafted 2004, Round 6, 175th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Tri-City

26

5

0

5

98

The Wild
have shown that they aren’t adverse to drafting a one-dimensional junior
player and, if they show enough promise, develop them in their system into a
pro. That is what they did with Aaron Boogaard’s older brother Derek, who
broke into the NHL this season with the Wild. Aaron has already surpassed his
older brother’s most productive season in the WHL when he had 15 points for
the Amerks last season compared to Derek’s nine points, which he reached
twice. Aaron is also leading the Americans in penalty minutes in his enforcer
role and has banged home a career-high five goals in 2005-06.



Riley
Emmerson
, D –
Tri-City Americans – Drafted 2005, Round 7, 199th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Tri-City

28

1

0

1

47

Emmerson
has had quite a year. At the Wild training camp this summer Emmerson, the
largest player to be drafted in 2005, skated with pros and nearly pros and cut
Patrick O’Sullivan’s camp short when he fell on and injured the Wild’s top
prospect in practice. The 6’8, 230 lbs blueliner returned to the Amerks and,
in his second year in the WHL, scored his first career goal (and point) on
November 15th. Picked by the Wild in the final round of the shortened
2005 Entry Draft, Emmerson has the type of size that is coveted in the NHL, but
in only his first full season of junior, it remains to be seen if this Burnaby,
BC native has a complete enough package to make it. 

Matt
Kassian
, LW –
Kamloops Blazers – Drafted 2005, Round 2, 57th overall

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Kamloops

32

4

2

6

71

Offensively,
Kassian began the season much better than expected, scoring a goal and adding
two assists in the first three games for the Blazers. In the 28 games since
he’s added three more goals giving him six points on the year, which tied him
with his point total from all of 2004-05. Regardless, the Wild didn’t draft
6’4, 236 lbs Kassian in the second round for his scoring, but rather for his
ability to intimidate opponents and create room for his team.



Anton
Khudobin
, G –
Saskatoon Blades – Drafted 2004, Round 7, 206th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

Sv%

2005-06

Saskatoon

21

10

8

0

3.24

.909

One of the
better goalies out of Russia in recent history, Khudobin elected to join
Saskatoon after the team drafted him 51st overall in the 2005 CHL
Import Draft so that he could enhance his development for the North American
style of play. Khudobin’s first game of the year for the Blades was a shutout,
and overall his play has been fairly good, however, he has been pulled a few
times so far this season. His numbers are slightly off of those of the team’s
other rookie goalie, Kevin Armstrong, but Khudobin has the edge in games played
and overall he’s adjusting well to the WHL.

A.J.
Thelen
, D – Prince
Albert Raiders – Drafted 2004, Round 1, 12th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Prince Albert

32

5

10

15

30

After his
dismissal from the Michigan State hockey team last year, many wondered about the
future of this former first round pick. Thelen elected to join the Raiders, the
team who held his WHL rights, for the 2005-06 season where he’s tied for fifth
on the team in scoring, seventh in the league for rookies, and third for rookie
defensemen. All but one of his goals has come on the power play. It’s
unfortunate that his development was hampered in 2004-05, but Thelen appears to
be back on track at this early point of the season.



Kristofer
Westblom
, G –
Kelowna Rockets – Drafted 2005, Round 3, 65th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

Sv%

2005-06

Kelowna

12

7

4

1

3.54

.864

In
2004-05, Westblom played in 25 percent of the Rockets’ games as a rookie
backup to Derek Yeomans before an injury to Yeomans thrust Westblom into the
spotlight in the WHL Playoffs and then the Memorial Cup. This season he again
backs up, but in more of a platoon situation. Yeomans has put up great numbers
while Westblom has been merely adequate and has the second worst goals against
average in the league for goalies who have appeared in the equivalent of ten
games.



OHL

 

Benoit
Pouliot
, LW –
Sudbury Wolves – Drafted 2005, Round 1, 4th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Sudbury

23

17

17

34

70

Pouliot
was named the CHL and OHL 2004-05 Rookie of the Year after an excellent campaign
in 2004-05 where Pouliot scored at exactly a point per game pace in Sudbury’s
defensively oriented system. The Entry Draft lockout lottery allowed the Wild to
draft fourth overall and snap up the talented winger who had a good first camp
with the team, but was eventually sent back to Sudbury for one more year of
junior development. Pouliot leads the team in scoring and is second in
plus/minus with a rating of +13.



Jean-Michel
Rizk
, RW –
Kitchener Rangers – Drafted 2004, Round 7, 195th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Kitchener

18

3

5

8

49

Rizk
attended the 2004 NHL Entry Draft on the strength of just one team’s
interviews with him. The Wild had made it clear to the young forward that there
was a good chance that they would select him in the late rounds of the draft,
and they did. The organization liked his work ethic, heart, and feisty defensive
play but it was clear that he would have a lot of work to do to turn pro with
the Wild. Rizk continues to drop the gloves on occasion and lead by example, but
he’s one of the rare cases in junior hockey where his point total has dropped
in each of his seasons, never scoring more than the 33 points he collected in
his 2002-03 rookie year. Still, he’s represented Canada in international play
and helped the Rangers in their ultimately unsuccessful 2004-05 playoff run, but
it seems doubtful the Wild will sign him after his final year of junior. Rizk
missed a month this season due to injury, but only eight points in 18 games is
still low for a veteran, albeit a defensive forward.

 

QMJHL



Patrick
Bordeleau
, LW –
Val-d’Or Foreurs – Drafted 2004, Round 4, 114th overall



YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Val-d’Or

30

9

19

28

30

In his
third season with Val-d’Or, Bordeleau has seen his role with the team increase
each season and has responded well. Thus far this season he is fourth in team
scoring and third for power play goals with six. Bordeleau is a 6’5 power
forward with a good two-way game and the results of his development success are
evident in 2005-06.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s
Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the
editorial staff.