On the Rush, February 2016

By HF Staff

Photo: New York Rangers prospect Keegan Iverson is on pace for the lowest point total in his junior hockey career (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Photo: New York Rangers prospect Keegan Iverson is on pace for the lowest point total in his junior hockey career. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

Trailing

Pro

Jonathan Diaby, D, Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL)
Drafted by the Nashville Predators
3rd round (64th overall) 2013

Scouts loved the physical toolset they were getting with the mean 6-foot-5 Jonathan Diaby. However, for the second straight year, the 21-year-old has struggled to make a real impact. While last season he had nearly the entirety of his season spent in the AHL, Diaby has mainly been relegated to the ECHL this season. The meanness is still there, but it remains to be seen if there is anything more to him than just a big mean-streaked defenseman. He has four points in 30 ECHL games, and has been playing relatively modest minutes in a third tier league. While defensemen often develop slower, it seems the Preds prospect is going slower than many anticipated.

Sam Morin, D, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers
1st round (11th overall), 2013

With Shayne Gostisbehere now in the NHL, Sam Morin has become the new top prospect in the Flyers system. The 6-foot-7, 203 pound defenseman is an intimidating presence who is expected to become a good stay-at-homer in the NHL in the future. Despite this praise, he is a raw prospect with notable flaws that can only be sanded away with playing time.

This season, Morin’s first with Lehigh Valley, we have seen the good and the bad from a rookie learning to adjust to the pro game. The Quebec native had a good stretch of games between December and January, but last month, his form dipped a bit. Turnovers have been a big issue, as well as his slow foot speed when he’s needed to recover. Games against Wilkes-Barre and Portland reinforce the notion that the 20-year old needs at least another season in the AHL.

Junior

Michael Spacek, C/RW, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets
4th round, (108th overall), 2015

Spacek overall has had a pretty strong year, with 51 points in 58 games. His team is also going to finish in around the top five overall in the WHL standings. With that in mind, the 5-foot-11 forward had an uncharacteristically low scoring month of February. The Jets prospect scored just three times in the month of February, and had just one goal in a stretch of 13 games from February 10th to March 8th. Outside of the first two February games, Spacek had just three points and a +4 rating on the month. Hopefully this is a slump that does not carry over into the playoffs. He already has four points in six March games, and Red Deer would love it for the forward to get hot once again in the post-season.

Keegan Iverson, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Drafted by the New York Rangers
3rd round (85th overall), 2014

This summer, the Rangers rights to Keegan Iverson will expire. In order to show New York he deserves to be rewarded with an entry-level contract, the defensive center had to show more offensively in 2015-16 with Portland. He got off to a good start, contributing in a secondary role in the top-nine early on. Unfortunately for the two-way forward, he suffered a lower-body injury in November, sidelining him for more than a month. When he returned, he appeared to lose his luster. He continues to be a very physical player, but his steady offensive production has gone off the rails. From December 27th to March 13th, Iverson only has three goals and six assists in 30 games. With few opportunities left this season, Iverson’s had to raise his game in the next month to leave an impression with the Rangers.

Amateur

Ales Stezka, G, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild
4th round (111th overall), 2015

The Czech goalie has had a year of very difficult lessons. Playing his first season in North America, Stezka was basically in a toss-up for the Stampede starting job with Stafanos Lekkas. Stezka played early on and was hammered, thus ceding his starting job in late November after 12 starts. Since then, Stezka has had to learn how to be a backup, play infrequently, yet still remain consistent. He has played only five games since December 4th, including three games in January and February where he allowed 11 goals on 80 shots. Coaches tend to play the hot goaltending hand, and the former fourth ranked international goalie by CSS has been cold as ice all year. 

Ryan Segalla, D, University of Connecticut (Hockey East)
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins
4th round (119th overall), 2013

Entering 2015-16, the Huskies strength revolved around their core of stout defensemen. Ryan Segalla was one of their leaders, providing physical play and offensive support. Unfortunately, like last year, the Massachusetts native has seen his production dwindle as he progresses through college. In the 2014-15 season, Segalla had five points total. In 2015-16, Segalla only registered two assists. In terms of his performance defensively, he left much to be desired. Either over-committing or caught out of position, this was not his finest season. UConn’s season ended when Vermont swept them in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament.

Europe

Alex Dergachyov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings
3rd round (74th overall), 2015

The KHL is a scary league for NHL teams to allow their prospects to develop in. It is still a professional league, but it is not a development league. Therefore, young players may not see a lot of minutes or a lot of quality games on a team trying to be competitive. That has been the case for young Alex Dergachyov, who is 19 and struggling to get minutes in the KHL. The former third round pick was playing just about 7-8 minutes a night in February on the St. Petersburg bottom lines, and was eventually sent down to the VHL and MHL minor league teams of St. Petersburg for more minutes. While he was called back up for the playoffs, he has still garnered only fourth line minutes. He has also put up only four shots on goal in nine February games. Oh, and he also has not scored since October 1st.

Filip Ahl, LW, IF Sundsvall (Allsvenskan)
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators
4th round, 109th overall, 2015

In the last 12 months, Filip Ahl’s development has been projecting up. The balanced winger garnered a lot of attention last season when he finished with 20 goals and 22 assists with HV71’s Under-20 team. This season, he picked up where he left off and dominated in his first 18 games, scoring 18 goals and 13 assists.

So why is he listed as a trailer?

Well success deserves awards. For Ahl, it was a promotion to the parent HV71 squad in the SHL. Unfortunately, the Swedish forward seemed to hit a wall, as he struggled to replicate his game in the top-tier league. After 17 games with no points, he would be loaned out three more times between Asplöven, Dalen and finally IF Sundsvall. It was here he has spent the rest of the season, playing in 16 games and adding four goals and two assists. Ahl seems to have rediscovered his form in the postseason with three goals in the first three games of the first round.

Article written by Jason Lewis and John Iadevaia

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