Already it is clear that there will be no shortage of young talent in the NHL next year, which could make for a spectacular Calder race. Although it is somewhat early, it is elementary to note that the race will be wide open, with prospects participating from all over the world, all with the potential of taking the trophy home.
However, the big picture is not the winner of the trophy itself, but rather the impressions left by the competing first-year players. Although winning the Calder is a spectacular way to start off a career, many would agree that oftentimes the winner is not always the best player in the long run. Although Calder winners were predicted by a handful of experts for years, lately the results have been somewhat surprising. Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Evgeni Nabokov in the eyes of many, unexpectedly crept into the mix and ultimately won the Calder. This year could be no exception. That is why I’ve decided to comprise a list of 15 prospects who I think will make the most noise next year.
With the highly touted names such as Brendl, Heatley, Kovalchuk, Klesla and Noronen, it wasn’t at all complicated to compile the names, however, it was the most difficult to leave a few off. Hence, in no particular order:
1. Dany Heatley. LW. Birth: 1981-01-21; 6’1, 206. Atlanta Thrashers. Read more»
After sitting out of the first round in six consecutive drafts (1990-95), the Blues have had a first round pick in four of the last six. This season, however, the Blues’ first-rounder was taken by Jersey, as part of the settlement for the previous Blues’ management having allegedly tampered with Scott Stevens in 1996. What’s more, last year’s first-rounder, Jeff Taffe, was dealt by GM Larry Pleau at the trade deadline as part of a package to bring power forward Keith Tkachuk to the Mound City. Adding to the equation are the off-season trade of 1996 first-round choice Marty Reasoner (for Doug Weight), and the consistent refusal of 1998 first-rounder Christian Backman to try his hand at the North American game.
With the Blues’ record of dealing, or simply not having, first-round picks, Ted Hampson and his staff have had to be aces at finding diamonds in the rough with mid-to-late-round picks. To their credit, they have consistently done so, and this year was no exception.
With the 57th pick overall in the second round, the Blues managed to latch onto Jay McClement. McClement, a 6-01, 193-pound left-shooting center for the OHL’s Brampton Battalion, fired 30 goals in his second season of major junior competition last year. More than his offense, however, McClement is known for his leadership qualities, his attention to defensive responsibilities and his physical, two-way style of play.
McClement was ranked 28th in North America by Central Scouting, who called him “a good skater with speed and strength,” and “a good goal scorer who ca Read more»
MEANWHILE, DOWN ON THE FARM
Two new Baby Buds mean changes up front
As most Leaf fans know, the clubs AHL affiliate will be sporting a couple of new veterans in Bob Wren and Doug Doull come opening night at Mile One Stadium. Wren who has been in the Anaheim Mighty Ducks system for the past four seasons comes with the reputation as a nifty distributor fully intact having averaged 46 helpers a year in his stint with Disney. Doull, on the other hand, is almost his polar opposite. Not the most skilled player on the team puck-wise, the ex-St. John’s Flame is a never-say-die grinder who willingly drops the gloves when the occasion presents itself. By bringing in these two players there is more than one message being sent. With Wren in the line-up the top three pivots look to be the ex-Duck, Donald MacLean and Luca Cereda. This will allow the latter to develop in a stress free environment while still presenting a challenge as far as climbing up the rotation is concerned. It also heralds the conversion to wing of more than one Leaf prospect, the two coming readily to mind being Jeff Farkas and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Farkas, without question, is no surprise here. The Leafs have been grooming him for a spot on the wing for a year or so now. However, last year at times due to necessity, he lined up in the middle. Ponikarovsky, while playing outside in his limited stints with the big club, spent the bulk of his time in the middle when with St. John’s. As Toronto is thick with pivots and lacking in scoring wingers at the lower levels, look for the Ukrania Read more»
This year Detroit was one of the oldest teams in the NHL with players such as Igor Larionov (40), Chris Chelios (38), Larry Murphy (39), Pat Verbeek (36) and so on. Next season some of those and other older players will not be back, and that means that Detroit will give some youngsters a chance to show up in the NHL.
But unfortunately Detroit will still have some players that are to old and not so good as they were some years ago (Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios and Steve Duchesne ), it would have been much better to exchange them for some younger and more hungry players. But at the same time you can`t exchange ten NHL-veterans for some youngsters and still be a Stanely Cup contender, it will take some years to get this team younger and still keep it up front.
Next season Detroit will have three rookies, Jason Williams, Jesse Wallin and Pavel Datsyuk.
Jason Williams a 21 year young right winger who had great season in the AHL where he displayed his skills widely. He was signed to a three year contract after a fantastic training camp where he was among the best players. He could be on the 2nd line with Detroit.
Jesse Walin a 23 year old defensman that once again had a good season in AHL. He was one of the most consistant and important players on the team. Wallin is good stay-at-home defenseman with great leadership. Wallin is a RFA, but he will probably get signed, but with the signing of Fredrik Olausson and the hunt for another defenseman it is hard to see how Wallin will get icetime, maybe as 7th defenseman.
Pavel Read more»
Ever since Martin Brodeur took the Devils to the Conference Finals in 93-94 against the Rangers, goaltending has never been a major problem in New Jersey. Brodeur has proven to be very durable and can easily play 70+ games every year. However, Brodeur’s contract is up at the end of this season, and he will command high dollar and deservedly so. But with so many goaltending prospects in the organization, how long and for how much will Lamoriello want to lock up Martin?
For the first time since Mike Dunham backed up Brodeur, it looks like the Devils are ready to let a youngster learn the ropes as Brodeur’s caddy. From 1993 to 2001, Chris Terreri, Corey Schwab, Mike Dunham and John Vanbiesbrouck all served time as Brodeur’s back-up. The team would like to have kept Dunham, but expansion killed any chances of the Devils being able to hold on to him. Dunham has gone on to become a very solid goaltender for the Nashville Predators and has a very bright future ahead. But lets forget the past and look ahead to next year and beyond.
The main candidate for the back-up spot next year is Jean-Francois Damphousse. Damphousse was the Devils first round pick, 24th overall in 1997 and may be the most NHL ready of any of the Devils netminding prospects. After a sub-par ’98-99 season with Albany, he rebounded in both ’99-00 and ’00-01 with very solid seasons. In ’00-01 he took over the starting job with the Rats and almost lead them to a playoff spot after the team went through a horrible first 2 months of the season. When the Devils drafted him, he was very thin and wiry. He Read more»