HF Mailbag – Apr. 17 edition

By HF Staff

With the conclusion of the NCAA hockey season, and all other leagues winding down, it’s a good time to look back at the prospects playing in the various leagues. Hockey’s Future’s CHL prospect reviews are almost concluded. The NHL Rookie reviews are currently in the works. If you have any questions about any of the reviews or need season-ending news about any prospect, please send an e-mail to hfmail at hockeysfuture.com. Additionally, the latest edition of the Organizational Rankings was recently released. Do you have a question about the placement of your favorite team or the process through which the list was compiled? Send in your questions.

The Coyotes have a track record of drafting scorers that turn out to be third or fourth line players in the first round. I was wondering if any of the latest draft picks would break that trend. Picks such as Blake Wheeler, Martin Hanzel, or 2nd rounder Enver Lisin.

Thank you for reading my question and love the web site!
Chris Miller
Lenoxdale, Massachusetts

Both Wheeler and Hanzal are developing in North America, while Lisin is in Europe. Currently, all three players are making positive strides in their development. While they didn’t put up out-of-this-world stats this year, they have still progressed.

Wheeler was drafted out of a high school league and went to the USHL in 2004-05. Nowadays, most kids at his age at the time of their draft year have had at least one year in a league like the USHL under their belts. After spending some time finding his way with the Green Bay Gamblers, he finished the season very strong. The same happened in his first year with University of Minnesota.

Having lost two key junior forwards in Ryan Potulny (PHI) and Danny Irmen (MIN), Wheeler is going to be counted on to provide a good bit of offense for the Gophers during the 2006-07 season. If he is not a dominant player with the Gophers towards the end of his junior season, that would probably be a good indication that he’ll more than likely not translate into a bona fide first or second line scorer as a pro. But right now it’s still early.

Hanzal on the other hand is a tricky situation. Having spent the majority of the 2005-06 season with HC Budejovice back home in the Czech Republic, his development was stalled. He was used sparingly throughout the season and when he did get in, he was used in a defensive role. A player of his style and caliber needs to be in a situation that helps develop and promote his offensive skills.

Hanzal finally landed in North American with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL towards the end of January. He has done a good job adapting in such a short time. He finished the regular season with 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) in 19 games played.

It is unclear what the plan is for Hanzal, but if he stays with Omaha next season, he needs to be one of the league’s top players. If he chooses to go pro, he’ll more than likely start the season in the AHL. If that is the case, the key will be just how fast he adapts to the increased level of play in the AHL. All the tools are there, it’s just a matter of how fast he puts it all together.

Finally, Lisin has a lot of potential and has grown a lot over the past two seasons back in Russia. He has had another good year, but hasn’t really cracked the top two lines with Kazan. Don’t be fooled by his slight offensive numbers as he has played on lines with average or below average players in a defensive/checking role. He simply hasn’t been afforded the minutes and talent to produce at a level many suspect he could, given the right opportunity.

Lisin is a prototypical player who possesses the size, speed, skill and creativeness, which help him thrive in the new NHL. If he chooses to sign with the Coyotes over the summer, which seems imminent, he would probably be starting the season in the AHL. Because his two-way game has continued to develop over in Russia, he would need to explode offensively over here to prove he could be a top 6 forward in the near future. If he stays back in Russia, he probably won’t see top line minutes for another two years or so.

Hello,

As a long-time Bruins fan this season has been particularly discouraging. There is no scoring depth at the forward position and there does not appear to be any can’t-miss forward prospects in the system. Who do you see having the bigger impact in the next two years, Petr Kalus or David Krejci?

Also could you provide any updates on Vladslav Evseev? He seems like he was a top prospect and a potential steal in the second round but you never seem to hear his name mentioned anymore.

Thanks
Jared
Cambridge, Massachusetts

In general, the Bruins scouting and talent evaluation has been strong — they have been able to find many talented, well-rounded players with a good work ethic and lots of promise. One of their strengths has been recognizing talent that other teams may have passed on, late round picks like Andrew Alberts and Milan Jurcina, as well as free agent steals like Brad Boyes, have proven to be strong choices for the Bruins. On the other hand, one of the weaknesses for the Bruins is that their forward talent seems to plateau with a number of potential second liners. And you are right, there are no clear-cut top line players.

With that said, there are still many promising forwards in the system. If we had to choose between Kalus or Krejci, we would probably choose Kalus. He impressed in the 2005 training camp, had an exceptional season in the WHL and seems the most ready to make the jump to the NHL. He’s quick, he has good size, and seems to have that natural ability to find the back of the net. How much of that will actually translate into the NHL? We’ll have to wait and see.

Vladislav Evseev is an example of a handful of players in the system who started out very promising and just can’t seem to put it all together yet. While we think it is too early to call him a bust as a 2002 draftee, we do think that he has been slow to progress. He’s currently playing for the Severstal Cherepovets of the Russian Super League, with a total of three points (all goals) in 30 games. Some of this lack of progress could be attributed to injury, as he missed a number of games in previous seasons, and has also moved around quite a bit. Evseev has been with at least three different RSL teams in the last four years, in addition to several demotions to second tier teams. It’s possible he will be a late bloomer, but we think it’s just as likely that he won’t pan out.

Can you tell me where the following three Canucks draft picks are projected to play for 2006-07 and what the Canucks long-term plans are for them: Luc Bourdon, Alexander Edler and David Schulz?

Thanks.
Trevor De Ryck
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Unfortunately, this is not a question with a cut and dry answer and is purely speculative at this point as there have been no formal decisions announced to date. Luc Bourdon could potentially end up playing for the Canucks next season, although his leg injury and trade to the Moncton Wildcats may keep him in Moncton and the QMJHL next season. Canucks GM Dave Nonis told Hockey’s Future during the World Juniors Championships that the organization only wanted to pull Bourdon out of juniors if he was going to fill a top-four role with the Canucks. With the expectation in Vancouver among fans that Ed Jovanovski will be leaving the Canucks this offseason via free agency, the perfect role could be available for Bourdon to step into. The question is whether or not he’s ready. With former NHL coach Ted Nolan in Moncton, the team may be more inclined to let him learn under Nolan’s guidance for a full season.

Alex Edler will almost certainly be in the AHL next season. It is extremely unlikely that Kelowna will use both an import player and overage spot on one player. With the trades of Tomas Mojzis and Brett Skinner this offseason, the organization seems to be assuming Edler can step in and fill the void they left.

At this point it isn’t clear if the Canucks will offer Schulz a contract. He’s a late round pick who has good size but doesn’t use it well.

What are realistic expectations for Sergei Kostsitsyn as far as scoring potential when/if he gets to the NHL? First or second line centre, etc. Also, do you feel that he was one of the biggest steals of the 2005 Draft, being taken in the 7th round and seeing him doing so well in London this year?

Judy Mitchell

Sergei Kostsitsyn has definitely been a pleasant surprise for the Habs. Earlier this year we spoke with Montreal Director of Player Personnel Trevor Timmins about Kostsitsyn. Timmins stated that the team was not sure what they were going to get out of the kid, but that they were clearly pleased with his progress so far. The organization strongly encouraged him to come to London to acclimate him to the English culture in light of the challenges his older brother (Andrei Kostsitsyn) has had in Hamilton. This year has been good for him where he grown as a player. Next year he’ll be looked at to lead the Knights, if he returns, as there are thoughts that he might be homesick and interested in returning to Belarus or Russia.

It is certainly impressive to see a young player produce at the level Sergei has in the CHL irrespective of the round drafted in. The fact that he was a pick in the last round of the draft makes it even more impressive. But the draft is not even a year old and there is still a lot of developing time ahead of the 2005 draftees, including the top picks. And Kostsitsyn plays on a very high-scoring London team, which can make a lot of players look especially good. At this moment, it is safe to say that Kostsitsyn would be on a short list of late round steals in the 2005 draft.


David Rainer, Jeff Dahlia, Janine Pilkington, Matt MacInnis, and Jason Menard contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.