Prospect of the Month: November

By Ian Bross

Beginning with the start of the 2008-09 hockey season, Hockey’s Future will highlight the top performances, once monthly, of some of the NHL’s up and coming prospects.

The selection will go to those prospects not yet established as full-time NHL players. Eligible players span the North American minor pro leagues, major junior leagues, NCAA, as well as professional leagues in Europe. This month’s selection, the first-round draft pick in 2008 of the Vancouver Canucks, center Cody Hodgson.

Hodgson has scored 13 goals and assisted on 14 others in his 13 games in November with the OHL’s Brampton Battalion. Only once all month was he held scoreless, and only once all month did he register a minus rating. Hodgson recorded seven multi-point games. In five of those games, he had three or more points. Hodgson registered two hat tricks, one of which was a four-goal, five-point performance, his best of month. Four of his goals were game winners.

Hodgson was also a participant in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge. He wore an ‘A’ on his jersey as an assistant captain of team OHL, and skated on the top line. In the opening game, he led by example, scoring three goals, including a shorthanded goal and the eventual game winner. He also had an assist for four points on the night. Team OHL swept the two-game set against the Russian selects. Hodgson played in both games, but did not register a point in the second game.

Over his 20 games played this season, Hodgson has 35 points and a +15 rating. Only Taylor Hall (2010-eligible), the league’s leading scorer, has a better rate of points per game than Hodgson’s 1.75. Likewise, only Hall’s Windsor Spitfires have a better winning percentage than Hodgson’s Battalion, who have not lost in regulation in their last 19 games. During that span, their record is 18-0-1.

Honorable Mention

Evgeny Grachev

Grachev also plays in the OHL, and the New York Rangers draft pick is a teammate of Hodgson’s in Brampton. Grachev has seemingly already adjusted to North American hockey after coming over from Russia. Nine points in 11 games in October pale in comparison to his November accomplishments. Grachev more than doubled his output in the year’s penultimate month, posting 11 goals and nine assists in 13 games.

Now, Grachev leads all rookies in points during at this stage of the regular season. Grachev’s best night of the month came on Nov. 16 against the Ottawa 67’s. A week after posting his first three-point game, Grachev turned out a four-point game. His first hat trick at the major junior level was a four-goal performance. Scoring once shorthanded, once on the power play, and twice at even strength, including the game winner, Grachev was a +3 in the game.

Grachev also played in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge, going up against teammate Hodgson. He had a goal and an assist in those two games.

Marc-Andre Bourdon

Bourdon, a defenseman, was one of the top point getters in the QMJHL in November. The Philadelphia Flyers draft pick had six goals and 12 assists in his 12 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. In only two games was Bourdon held off the scoresheet all month. The team captain is also their power-play quarterback. A wizard from the point position, Bourdon had two games in which he scored twice.  In each of those games, the goals came by way of the man advantage. Bourdon scored three points or more on three separate occasions. Most recently, he had three assists against Cape Breton on Nov 28. And then, the following night against Montreal, Bourdon recorded four assists.

Oskar Osala

Osala is big and strong at 6’4 and 220 pounds, and thus far has proved to be a very durable player. The Finnish forward, drafted by Washington, has registered at least an even plus/minus rating in all but one game in November, but more noteworthy is his offensive game. Osala, a rookie with the AHL Hershey Bears, scored 10 goals and assisted on four others. Osala posted three multi-goal games, including a hat trick on Nov 11. No one in the league scored as many goals as Osala in November. He closed the month tied for the league lead in goals along with Chris Minard and teammate, and AHL veteran, Alexandre Giroux. He is second in rookie scoring behind Nathan Gerbe (BUF) by only one point.