Prospect of the Month — December 2008

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 various North American minor pro leagues, and major junior leagues, as well as professional leagues in Europe.

This month’s selection, the first-round draft choice in 2006 of the Philadelphia Flyers, is right wing Claude Giroux.

In AHL play, Giroux recorded 14 points through eight games with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Giroux scored eight goals over that span, surpassing his total in the month of November in nearly half as many games. He had two or more points in six games, and was held without a point only once all month. Had he continued along on such a pace, he in all likelihood would have easily eclipsed prior point totals.

Giroux is quickly getting better and better adjusted, in the early half of his first season of professional hockey. As of late, Giroux’s plus minus ratings have taken a dramatic but favorable turn. After finishing November with a minus eight rating, Giroux did not once register a negative rating throughout December. He amassed a plus 12 rating, in fact, season total to a respectable plus four.

Giroux was named AHL rookie of the month of December. He leads all rookies in scoring as well. The Flyers had been biding their time with Giroux, rather than hastily rush him into their lineup. Certainly, though he possesses talent and intuitive hockey sense, his size was a primary concern.  Recently, as injury issues arose and it became apparent he was ready, Giroux was indeed called up to the Flyers on Dec 26. That his time spent with the Phantoms in December was abbreviated, fails to demerit Giroux’s progress heading into the new year, for now, as an NHL player.

Honorable Mention

Casey Pierro-Zabotel

Pittsburgh’s Pierro-Zabotel has been racking up assists all season with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. He scored more goals in December however, than he had in any month previously in his WHL career. To go along with 10 assists, Pierro-Zabotel added eight goals, for 18 points in 10 games. His December efforts, placed him in a tie for the league lead in points heading into 2009. Naturally then, Pierro-Zabotel found himself the leading point getter on the Giants, who have scored more goals than any other team in the league. They finished the month as the top team in the western conference with a 31-2-0-3 record.

Jonathon Blum

This is Blum’s second prospect of the month consideration. Like Pierro-Zabotel, Blum is a member of Vancouver Giants, the owners of the best winning percentage in the WHL. The Giants, while scoring the most goals, have allowed the fewest as well, due in part to Blum’s leadership on the backline. Property of the Nashville Predators, Blum wears the ‘C’ on his jersey for Vancouver. In the month of December, Blum recorded four multi-point games, and a plus 11 rating. Having not registered a minus rating since November 12, on the season, Blum’s plus minus rating is now a remarkable plus 41. The California native missed the last four games of December for his WHL club while representing the USA in the World Junior Championship.

Konstantin Glazachev

Another Nashville prospect, Glazachev is currently playing in the KHL for Barys Astana. Skating on the team’s top line, Glazachev has become a reliable offensive contributor. In the month of December, Glazachev had eight points, five goals and three assists, over the course of nine games. He has been thriving particularly well on the power play. His most notable single-game performance came on Dec 24 against Moscow Dynamo. Glazachev scored three times and added an assist in a tightly fought contest that ended in a 7-6 defeat. He will be an important component in Barys’ pursuit of a playoff berth, now with little over a dozen games remaining in the KHL season.

Cody Hodgson

After earning the prospect of the month title last month, the Canucks’ Cody Hodgson is back on the list again in December. Hodgson skated in three contests with his OHL club, the Brampton Battalion, before joining the Canadian World Junior team. He recorded at least a point in each of those games, concluding with four points, a hat trick and an extra assist, on Dec 7 against Mississauga. In the World Junior Championship, hosted in Ottawa, Hodgson made up one half of a formidable one-two punch for team Canada alongside 2009 draft-eligible John Tavares. With three goals and nine assists, Hodgson shared the tournament lead in points with Tavares as the December action came to an end.