Carolina AHL prospects update

By Janine Pilkington

December was not kind to the Lowell Lock Monsters, who won just four games since the beginning of the month, and slowly sank them towards the bottom of the Atlantic Division. While coach Tom Rowe’s team has struggled as of late, there have been some bright spots with the Carolina Hurricanes prospects, most notably, right wing Chad LaRose, who earned a recall to Carolina in mid-December.

Twenty-three-year-old LaRose entered his third season with Lowell in October and made a solid case for his promotion to the big club in Carolina. Though he’s only 5’10 170lbs, it is had little impact on his play. In 23 games with Lowell, he had 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists), 10 penalty minutes and a + 11 rating. LaRose is not afraid to give or take a hit, but it’s safe to say that his strengths lay in his ability to create offense. He scored two or more points in a total of six games with the Lock Monsters, including an incredible five-point performance (3 goals, 2 assists) versus the Portland Pirates in late November. LaRose also had four power play goals, three game-winning goals and currently leads the AHL with three shorthanded goals for the season. He was recalled to Carolina on December 4th and has played a total of 13 games in the NHL this season.

After completing his junior season with Western Michigan (CCHA) and a brief professional debut at the tail end of the 2004-05 season with the San Antonio Rampage (AHL), Vince Bellissimo signed a two-year contract with Carolina in August of 2005. Bellissimo was assigned to Lowell out of training camp, and despite having a strong rookie camp with the Monsters, didn’t get the opportunity to play until the sixth game of the season. He made his first appearance on the score sheet during his second game with a pair of goals, and has three power play goals on the season. Bellissimo is a smooth skater who adapted quickly to the pace of the pro game, but unfortunately he hasn’t been able to find the back of the net with any consistency. He’s got just six points (5 goals, 1 assist) in 29 games, with a -4 rating and total of eight penalty minutes. Bellissimo was briefly assigned to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL where played just one game and scored a goal and an assist, but is currently back playing with the Lock Monsters.

Kevin Nastiuk entered his rookie season with the Lock Monsters in the fall of 2005 and shared netminding duties with 27-year-old Vitaly Kolesnik. Nastiuk has started a total of 11 games with a 3.35 average, .887 percentage and a 1-7-3 record. Although he’s struggled at times, the 20-year-old netminder has managed to keep the Monsters in the game through four overtimes. One of his finest performances came in November against the Manchester Monarchs when he made 36 of 38 stops and held off a total of 10 shooters in a 12-man shootout, resulting in a 3-2 win for the Lock Monsters. He was recalled to Carolina briefly in December, but didn’t play in any NHL games. In the beginning of January 2006, Nastiuk was reassigned to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades.

Twenty-one-year-old defenseman Danny Richmond is currently playing his second season with the Lock Monsters. He’s appeared in a total of 28 games and accumulated 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists), a -11 rating and 42 penalty minutes. He has a total of two power play goals on the season. Richmond scored the majority of his points in October, and was rewarded with a call up to Carolina on November 11. He played in seven games, but averaged just below ten minutes of ice time, and was unable to make much of an impact before he was sent back down to Lowell on November 25th.

Kevin Estrada is in his rookie season with the Monsters. The 23-year-old left wing was reassigned to the Florida Everblades on November 22nd, after eight scoreless games with the Lock Monsters. While in Florida he played seven games with a total of 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists), six penalty minutes and a -7. Estrada was reassigned to Lowell on December 6th and finally produced his first AHL goal on December 10th against the Pirates. Estrada has played in 11 games since he was returned to Lowell, and has a total of three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and a -2 rating for the month of December.

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