Prospect of the Month, February 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 first-round draft choice of the Buffalo Sabres in 2008, forward Tyler Ennis.

Ennis had a solid start to his February in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He quietly, consistently, put up points in the first few weeks, with points in seven of eight, including four multi-point games. Ennis then broke out in the month’s final week, and was at times, utterly dominant. The 5’9 164-pound forward was all over the ice against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Feb 21.  In the fight-filled contest, he managed to score four times and add an assist.

The following game would not be as successful, it would be Ennis’ second time held off the scoresheet, which would only occur once more by month’s end. But first, Ennis would have his best performance of the season, and perhaps his career. Against Prince Albert on Feb 27, Ennis scored all six of Medicine Hat’s goals, some of which in jaw-dropping fashion. 

Ennis pursues the puck masterfully and uses his size and speed to dart between opposing players, into passing lanes, and intercept pucks. He is extremely agile, has great hands, and is creative in the offensive zone. He is as effective creeping into open areas as he is dancing around defenders and creating scoring chances. This season, Ennis has amassed a total of 41 goals and 36 assists, for 77 points, in 55 games.

Honorable Mention

Mikhail Stefanovich

A draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mikhail Stefanovich has consistently put up strong offensive numbers as of late in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts. In his first February contest, Stefanovich posted a hat trick against Val d’Or. After being held two consecutive games without a point, his only two games without a point all month, Stefanovich recovered his form.

Stefanovich was given the title of offensive player of the week of Feb 16, unseating Yannick Riendeau, who had owned it for two weeks before him. It was Stefanovich’s second time receiving the honors this season. He had three assists against Chicoutimi on Feb 17. And on Feb 22 against Halifax, he was at his best, scoring four goals in an 8-4 win. On the month, he totaled 10 goals and four assists. As he did in February, Stefanovich opened March with a hat trick against Chicoutimi.

Lars Eller

Eller has fared well in his first full campaign in the SEL. The Denmark native has excelled in Sweden this year, certainly helping his case for at some point making it with the team that drafted him, the St. Louis Blues. In the meantime, for Frolunda HC, Eller came on strong in February, the final month of the regular season in the SEL. In eight games, Eller had 11 points — three goals and eight assists. On Feb 28, against Djurgarden, the final game of the season, he turned in perhaps his best performance all year. Eller scored a goal and three assists. Frolunda finished in third place in the overall standings.

Nick Bonino

A San Jose prospect, drafted in the sixth-round in 2007, Bonino is in his sophomore season with Boston University. At the beginning of February, Bonino and the Terriers participated in and won the Beanpot tournament. On a Terrier squad that boasts several noteworthy prospects such as Colin Wilson, and Colby Cohen, Bonino received the title of tournament MVP. He had at least a point in all but one of nine games, five with multiple points this month. In all, he scored six goals and eight assists in nine games in February, climbing to second on the Terriers in points, behind only Colin Wilson. On the season, he has amassed 13 goals and 24 assists in 33 games.

Cory Schneider

Schneider has been among the top goaltenders in the AHL all year. The Vancouver prospect and member of the Manitoba Moose has backstopped his team to the top spot in the Western Conference standings, with the league’s highest point total. He has been a model of consistency, and in February, hardly missed a beat. Despite finishing the month with a 5-2-1 record, Schneider posted a1.81 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. On only one occasion did he surrender more than two goals in a game, and had two shutouts to his credit as well. Overall, he leads all AHL goaltenders in goals-against average, and is second in save percentage.