Prospect of the Month — January 2009

By Ian Bross

Hockey’s Future highlights 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 is the second-round draft choice in 2006 of the New York Rangers, center Artem Anisimov. He is currently with the AHL Hartford Wolfpack.

What has made Anisimov successful is his ability to see the ice well and make plays easily. A smooth passer with a quick and powerful shot, Anisimov is able to play in almost any situation, at all times appearing quite composed. A frequent penalty killer, he is good in the faceoff circle, and positionally sound in the defensive zone.

After a relatively modest start to the season, Anisimov’s pace has progressively improved as the season has gone along, his scoring totals increasing in each successive month.  His January total of 17 points — seven goals and 10 assists — surpassed all previous months. Anisimov was only held scoreless in two of 14 games played over that span. As a result of his efforts, he was able to climb to fourth in AHL scoring by the end of January, directly behind linemate Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau.

Anisimov also skated in the AHL All-Star Classic on Jan 26. He had a goal and two assists, along with a +3 rating. Anisimov supplied Hartford three game-winning goals in January, when the Wolfpack had a 9-4-1 record, entering February tied for first in the Atlantic division. Hartford will be without their second-leading scorer for the time being, however, as Anisimov was called up to the Rangers on Feb 1.

Honorable Mention

Paul Byron

Byron put up big numbers on the QMJHL scoresheets in January. The Gatineau Olympiques assistant captain and draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres put up almost two points per game over the course of the month. He finished with 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points in 15 games. Byron’s considerable monthly total was due in large part to two particularly successful games. On Jan 4, he scored four goals, three of which came on the power play, and three assists for seven points in a 10-2 victory over Drummondville. After getting it done earlier on by way of the man advantage, Byron scored his second hat trick of the month on Jan 23, all three goals coming at even strength. He added another two assists, for five points against Rouyn-Noranda. The performance sealed for Byron the title of CHL player of the week of Jan 19.

Thomas McCollum

McCollum began the year with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, before being traded to the Brampton Battalion early in January. He lost his first game, but from then on, never looked back. The 2008 first-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings would post eight straight wins, including three shutouts. His most recent two came in back-to-back games, helping to earn CHL goaltender of the week honors. This most recent stretch wouldn’t be his best statistically, but his most successful all year — and in fact, his junior career as well.  The 19-year-old had a 1.86 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in January.

Sergei Shirokov

Shirokov, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, went without a point for a few games in the middle of January for his KHL club, CSKA Moscow, but has been a consistent producer all year. This past month he scored eight points, equally divided among goals and assists in his 12 games played. CSKA entered February in a tie for fourth place in the league standings. Shirokov is tops on his team in goals, assists, and points, setting new career highs in the latter two categories. He had 15 goals and 21 assists in 49 games at the end of January. 

Johan Harju

The Lightning’s Johan Harju began the new year in relatively quiet and unassuming fashion. After lingering among the top 10 in scoring in the SEL heading into 2009, playing for Lulea HF, Harju didn’t put many points up on the board in January. After scoring only one goal heading into the month’s final day, Harju blew up in a contest against Brynas, scoring four goals, two on the power play, and adding an assist, for five points. He finished January with five goals and four assists in 11 games played.