Red Wings junior prospects 2008-09 review

By Brandon Peleshok

Almost every Red Wings junior prospect has seen an increase statistically and in the role they play on their respective teams.

Randy Cameron, C – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Acquired: 5th round, 148th overall, 2007
5’11, 175 lbs.

After spending last season as a role player on the third line, Cameron has grown into a more prominent position with the Moncton Wildcats. He finished the season fourth in scoring and led the team in face-off percentage. During his surge, Moncton was able to make a complete turn-around this season. After missing the playoffs last year, the team finished the season third overall in the standings.

Statistically, the 2008-09 season can be described as a success for Cameron. After back-to-back 39-point seasons, he was able to improve to 51 points in 56 games. Additionally, Cameron remained consistent with his high face-off percentage, finishing the season with a team-leading 54 percent.

An ankle injury in mid-February cut Cameron’s season short. With his team faing off against the P.E.I. Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, and his contract status with the Red Wings still up in the air, the injury comes at a bad time.

Zach Torquato, C – Erie Otters (OHL)

Acquired: 6th round, 178th overall, 2007
6’0, 195 lbs.

When Torquato was moved to the Erie Otters two seasons ago, it was a move from a contending team to a perennial basement dweller. Under his captaincy though, the Otters have made the playoffs for the first time in the three seasons he’s been there.

Torquato actually saw his offensive numbers go down a bit in the 2008-09 season. Putting up 67 points in 66 games last season, Torquato dropped down to 63 points in the same number of games. 

This year, the Otters managed to sneak into the seventh seed. Facing off against the always-impressive London Knights, the Otters are heavy underdogs in the match-up. Torquato will have his last chance to impress the Red Wings enough to offer him a contract, as he must be signed by June 1.  It’s not a sure thing.  Torquato may very well be a player whose skills do not translate to the pro game.

Stephen Johnston, LW – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Acquired: 6th round, 181st overall, 2008
6’1, 175 lbs.

Drafted as a project player, Johnston has shown flashes of brilliance that indicate he could be another late-round gem uncovered by the Red Wings. He’s been able to flourish on a very deep Belleville team, insulated by promising prospects such as Eric Tangradi (PIT) and P.K. Subban (MTL). After finishing his rookie season in the single digits for point production, Johnston exploded offensively, quadrupling his point total to 36 in 58 games. While his point total certainly cooled off from his mid-season pace, it is still an increase that solidifies Johnston as an up-and-coming prospect.

The Bulls finished their season in first place in the Eastern Conference and third-place overall. With the Bulls poised to go deep into the playoffs, Johnston will be able to get some needed experience under his belt.

Brent Raedeke, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Acquired: Undrafted, Signed as a free agent in 2008
6’0, 197 lbs.

For a player who went undrafted, Raedeke has made a solid push toward a future NHL career. After looking like a role player in the WHL last season, Raedeke’s increase in offensive numbers indicate that he may be able to work himself on the bottom half of an NHL roster one day. He was able to finish the 2008-09 season as the third-leading scorer for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Raedeke finished the 2007-08 season with 31 points in 72 games. This season with the Oil Kings, he has been able to nearly double that total, scoring 55 points in two fewer games. His –13 rating was par for the course on the team.

The Oil Kings will miss the playoffs once again, finishing ninth out of 12 in the Eastern Conference. For the time being, Raedeke will have to wait to show what he can do in the post-season.

Brian Lashoff, D – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Acquired: Undrafted, Signed as a free agent in 2008
6’3, 190 lbs.

Much like Raedeke, Lashoff was signed to a contract after attending the Red Wings training camp in September. He started his third season in the OHL with the Barrie Colts but was eventually moved to the lowly Kingston Frontenacs. The move allowed for Lashoff to pick up more playing time.

Between the two teams, Lashoff was able to put up 32 points in 60 games. He improved on his previous season high of 20 points. After his move, Lashoff became the top-scoring defenseman on Kingston.

After two straight seasons in the OHL playoffs, Lashoff will miss a chance to improve on his post-season totals.

Max Nicastro, D – Chicago Steel (USHL)

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2008
6’2, 189 lbs.

Nicastro has shown again that he is an important player for the Chicago Steel. In his second year with the team, he remains second in defensive scoring. He’s also shown an increased willingness to jump into the rush this year, utilizing his shot while sneaking in behind the play.

Improving on his rookie season mark of 20 points, Nicastro has tallied 30 points in 50 games with Chicago. He has another five games in the regular season. Nicastro has also managed to maintain a +5 rating playing on a team that is even or minus.

As far as the playoffs go, the Steel are on the outside looking in.

Thomas McCollum, G – Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2008
6’1, 205 lbs.

McCollum split his 2008-09 season between the Guelph Storm and Brampton Battalion. He also played for USA team during the world junior tournament.  Although his shaky play in that tournament raised questions about his ability to deal with adversity, he bounced back and finished his season as a top goaltender in the league.

The 2008-09 was McCollum’s best season in the OHL statistically. He finished the year with an overall 2.11 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Even more impressive, McCollum put up a 1.94 GAA after his trade to Brampton.

Brampton finished their season in fourth place overall thanks in large part to McCollum’s stellar play down the stretch. In the playoffs, he will get another chance to show that he can deal with the mental aspect of the game and play under pressure. So far he won the first game against Peterborough.