Although things look pretty bad at the moment for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the future holds some real promise with their stable of young players. Led by last years overall number one pick, Vincent LeCavalier, the Bolts have a core of solid and talented players who should propel this team back into playoff contention within the next few years. The one factor that puts a little bit of a damper on the fans optimism is that the majority of their younger players are still in Juniors and are not ready to make the leap for at least another two years. Under the supervision of Head Scout Don Murdoch, Tampa Bay has had a top ten rated draft the last 5 years. Bad decisions and lack of patience by previous management has led the team to bail out on some of their promising young guns and they are forced to pretty much start over. Seeing that the Ottawa Senators have taken same track that the Lightnings current staff wants to take, and in light of their recent success, hopes abound for fans in the Sunshine State. Despite the rankings of this website, currently 16th,I personally feel that they have good depth in the organization.
Each week I will recap the top players and top teams in the great hockey state of Minnesota.
Games January 30th
Saturday was a good day of high school hockey in Minnesota as many of the top teams were in action. The top game of the day was Hill-Murray, #1 in Class AA took on the #3 team in Class AA, in Elk River. Elk River started off the scoring but the Hill-Murray Pioneers came right back to tie it up. Elk River’s star defensemen Paul Martin tallied a power play goal early in the 2nd, but Hill-Murray came back to tie it up 3 minutes later. The 3rd period belonged to the Elk River Elks as they scored 3 goals to seal the victory. Paul Martin scored his 2nd goal of the game and played solid defensive hockey to pace the Elks to victory.
Other action in the Twin Cities area included Armstrong upsetting Class AA #9 Edina 5-1. Edina’s only goal came from Jeff Yurecko, who’s ranked 197 by the Central Scouting Bureau. St. Louis Park, ranked #5 in Class A got hammered 4-0 by Wayzata. Holy Angels stayed undefeated as they beat Prior Lake 5-0 and outshot them 44-13. Blake #6 in Class A beat St. Paul Academy 4-1. Warroad, a traditional power in Class A is in a slight slump as they lost to St. Paul Johnson 4-1. Warroad must get it’s game together for the stretch run in the playoffs.
Welcome to the February edition of the Buffalo Sabres Top 20 prospects. This update features the removal of one name from the prospect list (Erik Rassmussen), the addition of another (Brad Moran) and some general upward or downward movement amongst the other prospects.
The removal of Erik Rassmussen was a tough call on my part. There are those that would insist that Erik, because he has spent a good portion of this season with the Sabres, should now be considered a bona fide big league hockey player. While this is a good point in general, anyone who has seen Erik play over the last month realizes that he is nowhere near being ready for prime time. I would argue, in fact, that the best place for him at this time would be Rochester, where he can better develop his offensive game. My point of view is probably not the popular one, though, so, in the interest of bipartisanship, I am removing Erik from the Top 20.
There are a lot of scouts throughout the NHL who will tell you that the San Jose Sharks have the best group of young defensemen in their system than any other team in the NHL. Included in this list are players such as: Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, Andrei Zyuzin, Mike Rathje, and more… What makes San Jose’s defensemen so appealing, is not only that they’re good, not only that they have more than a few of them, but that they have all different types, for a well rounded defense as well. While every team wants to have a specific direction, you also want some variety. They have big guys, smaller guys, and everything in between. What I intend here is to go through some of San Jose’s main defensive young guys, and let you know what to possibly expect in the future from them.
JONATHAN HEDSTRÖM: A LOOK AT A LONGSHOT PROSPECT
After having covered many of the more talked about Swedish prospects in this column, it’s now high time to mention some longshot prospects. Every now and them, a long-shot prospect arrives from nowhere and makes it to the NHL.
When you’re picked 221st overall, no one – perhaps not even the management of the team that drafted you – expects you to make it. But there’s a small chance, and with enough determination you might just make it.
Determination is not in short supply for 21 year old Division 1-team Skellefteå AIK left winger Jonathan Hedström, who was picked by 221st overall by the Leafs in the 1997 Draft. After having a sub-par season by his standards in 1997/1998 (scored only 5 goals and has 5 assists in 32 games), he has emerged as a solid point-producer and leader for his team this season while playing the powerforward role that made him a regular on the team in the first place. In 29 games, he has scored 13 goals, and he has 23 assists, to go with a team-best +24 rating. To go with that he has a solid 50 PIM.
Despite the almost one assist per game average, he is not a playmaker. His assist come mainly from hard work along the boards and digging out pucks before feeding passes to his linemates. His shot is average, and that has to improve.