Hurricanes CHL prospects season review

By Glen Jackson

Goaltender Justin Peters and defenseman Brett Carson are the two highest profile prospects the Hurricanes have playing in the CHL this season, but there are a few other players who showed promise. What follows is a complete rundown of the how the ‘Canes CHL prospects did in 2005-06.

OHL

Justin Peters, G – Plymouth Whalers
2nd round, 38th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Looking at just the statistics, one might not see much to be excited about with Justin Peters, however, aside from his first full season and the second half of this 2005-06 season the teams he’s been on have been fairly week.

In his first season in the league, 2002-03, he backed up Pittsburgh’s Andy Chiodo for the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, and the following season he took over the starting job for the Majors and never looked back. He holds or is tied for Majors’ modern-era franchise records in minutes played, wins, shutouts, and points in a season. He also had the best Majors career goals against average, wins, points, minutes heading into this season.

In 2004-05 Peters was a large part of the reason the Majors squeaked the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They faced off against the first seeded Mississauga IceDogs and Peters and the Majors won in five games, with Peters posting a goals against average of 2.00 and save percentage of .951 in the series.

Regardless of his achievements, the Majors traded Peters to the Plymouth Whalers on Dec. 9. The motivation for the Whalers was that they needed a solid goalie and also perhaps that the Whalers are owned by the same ownership group as the Hurricanes which would allow them more access to one of their top netminding prospects.

In Toronto this season, Peters had a 10-6-2-1 record, 3.83 goals against average, and just a .893 save percentage, but with Plymouth he did much better statistically, most notably with his goals against average of 2.75 and save percentage of .921, allowing him to finish with respectable overall numbers.

Peters has shown that the bigger the game, the better he plays, but that trend is double-sided in that he occasionally goes through bouts of allowing soft goals in regular season games. When Peters is on his game, however, he’s proven himself to be one of the best goaltenders the OHL has seen this decade.

The native of Blyth, Ontario uses his size well, is agile and technically sound, and he’s excellent at handling the puck.

The Whalers are currently facing off against the Guelph Storm in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Jakub Vojta, D – Ottawa 67’s
4th round, 94th overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

The 67’s selected Vojta first overall in the 2005 CHL Import Draft because of his reputation as a defenseman who has good offensive instincts without sacrificing quality play in his own zone.

Although expectations might have exceeded results for the Czech Republic native, Vojta did have a successful rookie season in Ottawa as a 19-year-old. He was second on the team in plus/minus with a rating of +12, and he finished the regular season with two goals and 22 assists, which gave him the second highest rookie point total on the 67’s. He saw some time on the power play, with both of his goals coming on the man-advantage, as well as three of his assists. Vojta also possesses an edge that was somewhat evident by his 114 minutes in penalties, the second highest total on the team.

Vojta and the 67’s were eliminated from the OHL playoffs by the Peterborough Petes in the first round.

Ondrej Otcenas, C – Plymouth Whalers
4th round, 123rd overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

It’s likely not a coincidence that the Hurricanes drafted Otcenas in the NHL Entry Draft shortly after their OHL team, the Plymouth Whalers, took the Slovakian center 25th overall in the 2005 CHL Import Draft.

Touted as a two-way forward, the ‘Canes selected him in the fourth round, 123rd overall after he spent the bulk of the 2004-05 season playing for Trencin of the Slovakian Junior league where he had 37 points (13 goals and 24 assists) in 49 games. He also played in the 2005 World Junior Championships and had four goals, an assist and was +2 in six games for Slovakia.

However, this season for Plymouth Otcenas had only five goals and six assists and he was a -2 in 50 games where his role became that of a defensive center.

There were occasional strong games such as on Nov. 9 when Otcenas had his only multi-goal game of the season, both power-play markers, but Plymouth ended up losing in the shootout when neither he nor his two Whalers teammates could score. And in December, in a stretch of five games, Otcenas had five assists, but aside from those mini-streaks he did not produce offensively for the Whalers this season, and so far through eight playoff games coach Mike Velluci has dressed Otcenas for only one game.

Ryan Pottruff, D – Guelph Storm
7th round, 202nd overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Pottruff spent the start of his OHL career within a dynasty in London with little room for a tough rookie defenseman. While in London he suffered some injury setbacks and was used sparingly, and occasionally for nothing more than to settle a score for the Knights with his fists.

In January of 2005, the Knights sent Pottruff to the Storm in a three-player deal and he ended up playing 29 games for the Storm in an expanded his role as a physical presence on defense. In a Mar. 28 playoff game against the London Knights, Pottruff gave a two-handed slash to former teammate Corey Perry (ANA) and was suspended for 12 games by the OHL, and Storm coach Dave Barr was suspended for 15 games amidst speculation that he had directed Pottruff’s actions against Perry, although the league stated that there was no evidence of that accusation. Pottruff’s suspension carried into this season and helped keep him to only 57 regular season games in 2005-06.

Pottruff shook off some of that tarnished image from earlier in his career this season as he was given more ice time and made the most of it, scoring four goals and adding 15 assists in those 57 games, and he also had the second best plus/minus on the Storm with a rating of +22, which was tied for 13th best in the OHL.

Pottruff and the Storm are currently embroiled in a Western Conference semi-final match-up with the Plymouth Whalers. In a first round sweep of the Saginaw Spirit, Pottruff had one assist and was a +3.

WHL

Brett Carson, D – Calgary Hitmen
4th round, 109th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

On Jun. 26, 2004, many were surprised when the big two-way defenseman didn’t end up being drafted on the first day, but Carson was happy to see Hitmen teammate Andrew Ladd get taken fourth overall by the Hurricanes. He didn’t have to wait long on the second day of the draft to join Ladd as a prospect for the ‘Canes, and while Ladd moved onto the pro ranks this year, Carson has continued to excel with the Hitmen in what could be his final year of junior, playing on the team’s top defensive pairing.

Carson was nominated as captain for this season by his teammates and he ended up tied for team lead in defensive scoring and fourth overall with 11 goals and 29 assists in the full 72 regular season contests. The 40 points was also 13th in league scoring for defensemen.

Carson was also a big part of the reason that the Hitmen set a franchise record for fewest goals against in the regular season with 155, which was also tops in the CHL. That total shattered the old Hitmen mark of 182 goals against.

So far in this playoff campaign Carson has a goal and two assists in six games as the Hitmen face off against the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Joe Barnes, C – Saskatoon Blades
3rd round, 64th overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

After a serious neck injury led to him not opting in to the 2004 Entry Draft, the ‘Canes picked up the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba in the third round of the 2005 draft after he had 62 points in 72 games for the Blades in 2004-05.

Barnes has the size at 6’3 and 212 lbs along with the ability to be a successful pro, but scouts have knocked the mental aspect of his game. Not because he doesn’t understand the game, but that, if anything, he tends to underachieve due to thinking too much. One big positive to Barnes’ mental makeup is that he has helped found a scrimmage hockey school that seeks to raise money for other players who suffer serious injuries on the ice.

On the ice in 2005-06 Barnes had 52 points in 55 games (25 goals) and was near the top of his team in plus/minus with a +11 rating. Barnes is also a big part of the reason the Blades are currently in the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Medicine Hat Tigers. In seven playoff games the 19-year-old has two goals and four assists.

QMJHL

Nicolas Blanchard, C/LW – Chicoutimi Saugueneens
6th round, 192nd overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

Blanchard is in his second season with the Saugueneens and in 60 games he put up 44 points, which was ninth in team scoring. Mitigating the impression of his somewhat low standing in team scoring is the fact that the Saugueneens have a number of top prospects including Stanislav Lascek (TB), who had 135 points, and Marek Zagrapan (BUF), along with effective overage player Maxime Boisclair.

In his reduced role, Blanchard was a +26 and showed he can be effective as a two-way forward. The native of Granby, Quebec also played a part in special teams, scoring four of his goals on the power play and three shorthanded. Adding a little more muscle to his 6’3 frame next season should provide him with an excellent develop opportunity with increased ice time and responsibility.

Chicoutimi is playing in the conference semi-finals this week against Gatineau, and Blanchard has a goal and two assists in five games.


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