HF Mailbag – October edition

By HF Staff

Keep the questions coming! Send your questions to: hfmailbag@hockeysfuture.com.

What kind of job do you think USA Hockey is doing? They seem to have the numbers to compete with Hockey Canada, and are competitive up until 16 years of age. Do you think USA Hockey realizes that playing more games where players have to compete is key for the development of players 16-20? Is there any notion that USA Hockey/NCAA may increase the number of games played?

Alex Albrich

USA Hockey’s National Development Team program has been a big success in recent years. At the end of the 2005-06 season there were 27 USNTDP alumni in the NHL, not including the 13 players taken in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft from the NTDP. Eight of those 13 players were selected in the first three rounds, including first overall pick Erik Johnson. Further, a larger percentage of college hockey players are being selected in the NHL Entry Draft than ever before. Not 10 years ago, these numbers would have been unthinkable.

The U-17 and U-18 teams combined will play an enormous number of games against international, NCAA, and USA junior level teams. The U-17 team will play 58 games this season, including a combined 11 games in three international tournaments. These 11 games are supplementary to the team’s 47-game NAHL schedule. The U-18 team is scheduled to play against teams from Division I and Division III college hockey, teams from both the NAHL and the USHL, and three international tournaments. The U-17 and U-18 teams both play very competitive schedules against the top level of competition available to them. Also keep in mind that the players on the U-18 team are in fact under the age of 18, and they are playing against older, bigger, and stronger players for over 20 games as it is. College hockey programs routinely play between 35 and 45 games per year.

There are definitely a sufficient number of games being played; whether more is needed is up to the front offices of USA Hockey. Judging by the recent successes of USA Hockey during the draft, the numbers seem to indicate that USA Hockey is already on the right track.

I’m a Habs fan and I would like to know what’s happening with some guys we’ve drafted a couple years ago. I don’t know if you can tell me what is happening with Alexei Emelin, Oskari Korpikari, Christopher Heino-Lindberg, James T. Wyman, and Tomas Linhart. I know Linhart was drafted in 2002, but since that draft, I’ve never heard anything else about him.

Vincent Prince

To answer this question, we turn to our Montreal Canadiens correspondent, Jason Menard.

The club would love to see Alexei Emelin come over, but he’s staying in Russia for now. Lada, his club in Russia, recently extended his contract by tripling his salary. Last year he was involved in a nasty stick-swinging incident which resulted in a suspension for the last few games of the season, but he has bounced back. He played in 44 games for Lada, recording 12 points (six goals, six assists) and 131 PIM. He attended Montreal’s rookie camp this season before heading back to Russia.

Oskari Korpikari is still playing for Karpat in Finland. The club has enjoyed a lot of success and he’s a big part of it, playing as a stay-at-home blue line stalwart. He does not put up the big stats (one goal, one assist in 56 games last season), but he is a very reliable defenseman who you can feel comfortable with when he is on the blue line. The club also would like to see him come over to North America in the next couple of years to continue his development. He also attended rookie camp this year.

Heino-Lindberg is in Sweden and will be the starting goalie for Färjestads BK, a team in the Swedish Elite League. Last season he filled in as a back-up, playing in seven games with Färjestads with a goals-against average of 2.66 and a save percentage of .898, but this is basically a make or break year. The problem is that there are too many promising goaltending prospects in the Canadiens system and not enough roster spots in the system. If he can continue to play in the SEL, he is probably better off in Sweden, as he will be fighting Danis, Halak, Desjardins, and Price next year for time in Hamilton or Cincinnati.

Wyman’s been playing at the collegiate level with Dartmouth in the NCAA. By playing in the NCAA, the club retains his rights without having to sign him to a contract. He’s entering his junior season with the club. Look for him to either join the Hamilton Bulldogs next season or the season after. There’s no rush on him.

Finally, Linhart is still playing in the Czech Republic. He played a full season in the OHL with the Mississauga Ice Dogs and London Knights in 2002-03 before heading overseas. He’s been playing for Pardubice HC since 2003-04 and seems to be pretty content with his situation with the club. He’s a big, steady defenseman, but chances are slim that he’ll come back to North America. Again, he seems comfortable in Europe and you may want to look at him as the second coming of Martti Jarventie.

I understand that Maxime Boisclair, the only player in the Q with more goals than Alex Radulov last year, has signed with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Springfield. How did this kid remain an undrafted free agent for so long? Does HF believe he has a future in the NHL?

Mike Yedinak Boston, MA

Let us start with what Maxime Boisclair does well. He has great hands, nice on-ice vision on offense, and is a gritty forward. He is a strong power-play player and will fight hard in the corners and along the boards.

However, his one drawback appears to be the epitome of what players in the new NHL need: speed. His first step is weak, and once he does get moving, his foot-speed is mediocre at best. While 70 goals in 70 games is impressive in any league, when projecting the long-term impact of a player at higher levels of hockey, an organization must look at a player’s technique and skill and identify whether that player has the ability to take the next step. This is likely why Boisclair went undrafted. He would need to improve on his skating abilities tremendously if he ever expects to be a regular contributor to an NHL club. If he can improve his first step, he has the potential to become a decent power forward for a club.

He was a great asset on the power play in the Q, so it is not inconceivable that a club would place him on a second line power play unit and have him play in front of the net while he plays on the team’s fourth line for the rest of the game. But unless he can improve his speed drastically, he’s looking at a career in the AHL.

When will T.J. Hensick break into the Avalanche line-up? How about Ian Keserich?

Greg Revak

Hensick is currently in his senior year at Michigan, so the earliest you could see him in an Avalanche uniform would be next year. But the most realistic estimated time of arrival for Hensick would be in two years. The timeline may either be accelerated or put on hold depending on how he performs this year with Michigan and at Avs training camp next season.

Ian Keserich left Ohio State after only playing in four games last season. After the Buckeyes brought in USNTDP goalie Joseph Palmer, Keserich decided to go to the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. He is looking for another college program that will allow him to start in net, or a pro contract for next season. He has three years remaining of collegiate eligibility, but unless he starts putting together some very successful seasons, or if the Avs get very desperate for a goalie in their farm system, he will exhaust his collegiate eligibility before getting a chance to play for the Avs.

Please send your questions to hfmailbag@hockeysfuture.com.

Contributors this month were Sean Ruck, David A. Rainer, DJ Powers, Phil Laugher, Leslie Treff, and Jason Menard. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.