Prospect of the Month, March 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. In May, Hockey’s Future will name the prospect of the year, based on the same criteria.

This month’s selection is the sixth-round draft choice in 2004 of the Nashville Predators, Mike Santorelli.

Santorelli has been a key member of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals this season, and was named to the Canadian all-star team for his efforts this season. He put together his most productive month’s work all season, however, in March. Through 15 games, he scored 11 goals and added 11 assists, with a plus six rating. Santorelli began the month with a six-game point streak, recording points in all but three games. He managed eight multi-point games.

The highlight of the month for Santorelli came on Mar. 29. Against the Chicago Wolves, in perhaps his best performance all season, Santorelli recorded three goals and an assist. It was his first hat trick of the year. The following day, Santorelli received an opportunity to showcase his talents in the NHL. He concluded the month of March with a call up to the Predators on Mar 30 but has since returned to Milwaukee.

Santorelli has an exceptional array of offensive skills. He is able to fire off shots with terrific accuracy. Santorelli reads the play well and reacts quickly, utilizing his speed. He has an explosive first stride. A player of modest size, standing 6’0 and weighing 195 pounds, Santorelli could still benefit from additional strength. He’ll also need to continue to hone his skills overall before he sticks in the NHL, but given his draft position, Santorelli has been a pleasant surprise for the Predators.

Honorable Mention

Cody Hodgson

The Vancouver Canucks property was named prospect of the month in November. This is Hodgson’s second time this season earning an honorable mention. With the OHL’s Brampton Battalion, Hodgson all year long has be a stand out performer, and finished up the regular season with nine goals and six assists for 15 points in seven games in March. The Battalion are looking to be serious contenders, entering the 2008-09 playoffs, due in large part to Hodgson, who is one of their leaders. In their first round meeting with the Peterborough Petes, Hodgson scored three goals and assisted on eight others. Brampton achieved the sweep, and advanced to play Mississauga. Brampton currently leads the series, two games to one.

Tyler Ennis

Named February’s prospect of the month, the prospect of the Buffalo Sabres has carried on with his successful play in March. When in the final six games of the WHL regular season for the Medicine Hat Tigers, Ennis scored two goals and six assists. Ennis has become an increasingly dominant player, especially in the late stages of the season, and the playoff atmosphere has not been able to slow him down at all either. Ennis and the Tigers found themselves in a tight match up against the Swift Current Broncos in the first round. The series would require seven games in order to be decided. But they were able to battle back from a 3-2 series deficit to win. Ennis recorded four assists in those final two games, and in all, he managed eight goals and five assists in the series. Medicine Hat currently trails in their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Jamie Benn

A member of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, Benn, all year long, has been among the league’s elite players. He is also one of the most complete players, and a vital piece of the puzzle for Kelowna. At this stage, the fifth-round pick in 2007 already looks as though he could be a gem for the Dallas Stars. Benn would finish his strong 2008-09 season with a solid output of seven goals and four assists in the last seven games of the season through March. The prospective Star has thus far shined in the playoffs. In the opening round series against the Kamloops Blazers, Benn deposited three goals and assisted on an additional seven. His ten-point total was tops on the Rockets, who earned the sweep. Kelowna currently trails in their Western Conference semi-final series against the Tri-City Americans.