Wild CHL prospects season review

By Scott Dillon





WHL

The Minnesota Wild have a plethora of talent in the CHL this year,
including speedy wingers who are maestros with the puck like Benoit Pouliot,
to a mix of the entire spectrum personified in burgeoning offensively talented
players who tend to mix it up like Kyle Bailey.

WHL

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Portland

66

18

35

53

145

In the past, one would generally describe Kyle Bailey as a
steady, defensive center with a tendency to offer sporadic offensive
efficiency. Bailey did his best to change that perception during the 2005-06
season by putting forth a lot of effort to shape and develop his offensive
game, producing above and beyond his WHL career-best numbers of 33 points with
53 in 66 games. In addition to Bailey’s improved point total this season, the
feisty center continued to bring his infectious energy to the rink that has
made him a clubhouse favorite in Portland. He was third on the team in PIMs
with 145. An encouraging aspect of Bailey’s game has been his ability to
produce in the postseason as well. After finishing the regular season with a
five-game point streak, Bailey translated that consistency into the first game
of the playoffs, scoring his first career playoff goal and producing a playoff
career-best three-point performance. Bailey has continued to display his
increasing proclivity for scoring as he currently leads the Winter Hawks in the
playoffs with five points in three games.

 

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Tri-City

66

1

1

2

109

Another Wild
prospect for the Americans who lacks offensive talent but makes up for this
fallibility in size and muscle, Riley Emmerson made some strides to rounding
out his game this season but still remains rough around the edges. At 6’8, 230
lbs, it is tough to argue with Emmerson’s potential to make some sort of
impact, but he will need to improve on his fluidity of skating next season to
improve on his development. The regular defenseman has the physical skills to
play both defense and forward, but make no mistake, the young skater played to
punish the other team with his physical presence, not his ability to score
goals.

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Kamloops

67

5

6

11

147

A similar
player to Emmerson in that he was selected in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft to add a
defensively forceful presence, Matt Kassian’s 11 points this year were, believe
it or not, almost twice as many as last season. Second on his team in PIMs,
Kassian rarely hesitates to drop the gloves whenever the opposition pesters his
more offensively gifted teammates, but the winger, like Emmerson, needs to
continue working on his mobility and foot speed to contend with players on the
next level. Before assuming Kassian is merely another enforcer who lacks the
intelligence to coincide with his brute strength, the winger was announced as a
Western Conference finalist for the Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K.
(Doc) Seaman Trophy, an
award
that honors those players who excel while combining major junior hockey with
education.

 

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

Sv%

2005-06

Saskatoon

44

23

13

1

2.90

.917

Anton
Khudobin, who some hailed as one of the better goaltending prospects to come
out of Russia in some time, has showed some promise this year with the
Saskatoon Blades but needs to iron out the inconsistencies that have plagued
him throughout his fledgling career. The netminder tended to showcase his
talent brilliantly this year by posting a shut-out performance against an
opponent one night and playing so atrociously the next that it was only a
matter of time before he was sitting on the bench. Despite these flaws,
Khudobin did an admirable job adjusting to the WHL this year by winning almost
two-thirds of his games and posting a save percentage of .917 with four
shutouts. Khudobin exemplified this improvement in his game when he was named
the CHL Player of the Week recently after his stellar performance against the
Regina Pats last week, where he
posted a goals against average of 1.41 and a save percentage
of .957, an encouraging sign since recent analysis of the young goaltender
indicated his propensity to fold in high-pressure games.

 

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Prince Albert

72

13

23

36

79

Being drafted by
the hometown team is nothing more than a dream for most blossoming NHL
prospects, but this Savage, Minn., native experienced the thrill of that rare
reality when the Wild selected A.J. Thelen in the first round of the 2004 NHL
Entry Draft. Having a steady, if unspectacular, season with the Raiders, Thelen
still made strides forward and managed to place second among AHL rookie
defensemen in terms of points scored. More importantly, the young blueliner was
one of the few Raiders to finish out the season having played in all 72 games,
a trademark of a conditioned player who consistently plays through pain for the
betterment of the team. The fact that Prince Albert was quite miserable the
entire season, and Thelen continued to show up day-in and day-out despite the
fact his team was out of the playoff hunt long ago, makes this feat even more
impressive. Thelen may not be that far away from appearing in a Wild uniform as
the Houston Aeros recently signed the young defenseman to an amateur tryout.

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

Sv%

2005-06

Kelowna

26

16

6

1

2.87

.892

In his second year
in the WHL, Kristofer Westblom continues to serve as the backup to Derek
Yeomans for the Rockets and has done moderately well with 16 wins and only six
losses. Since Yeomans has played so well throughout the season, Westblom has
found it difficult to log any ice time and, concurrently, string together any
sort of consistent play. On nights when the opposition fails to seriously test
him through the opening periods, Westblom lacks the ability to remain focused
and allows soft goals. On the plus side, he did show the ability to stickhandle
fairly well for a goaltender and found ways to move the puck to his defensemen.
Hopefully, Westblom will obtain the starting job sometime in the near future
when his potential can be analyzed more thoroughly.

OHL  

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

 

YEAR

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

2005-06

Sudbury

51

35

30

65

141

Easily the most
hyped player in the CHL this year for the Wild, Benoit Pouliot leveled off a
bit in his scoring production this year, matching his point output of last
season. Encouragingly, Pouliot managed to accumulate those totals in 16 fewer
games, but he had a dramatic increase in PIMs. Pouliot added some muscle this
past season to maintain possession of the puck, but with his added size came a
tendency to play more aggressively and take undisciplined penalties. It’s an
emerging aspect of his game that definitively clashes with Wild coach Jacques
Lemaire’s highly-structured system. There is no denying the fact Pouliot’s a
talented winger with tremendous upside, as he is tied for the overall point
lead in the playoffs for the Wolves with nine points in only four games, three
of his seven goals coming on the power play.

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

67

23

33

56

87

Patrick
Bordeleau had a coming-out year offensively in his third outing with Val-d’Or
by accumulating as many points as his first two seasons combined. Bordeleau
also developed a knack for scoring on the power play, collecting 13 of his 23
tallies on the man advantage, and gained enough confidence from his coach to
become a mainstay on the penalty-killing unit as well, where he notched a
shorthanded goal. By showcasing steady improvement in his offensive game,
notably his special teams play, Bordeleau was a key contributor in the Foreurs
reaching the playoffs, but has only accumulated one assist in four games in the
postseason.

 

Glen
Erickson contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate
without permission of the editorial staff.