With the NHL’s top prospects missing league time for the 2015 World Junior Championship, December is often a tough month to compare and contrast performances; with several high-profile picks not playing junior, lesser known prospects are able to shine. Christian Dvorak (ARZ) had 26 points in 10 games in the month of December, an OHL best, while undrafted WHL player Trevor Cox recorded 28 points in the month.
With that said, there has certainly been no lack of top prospects shining throughout all leagues and tournaments.
Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month – December 2014
Prized first round draft pick Andrey Vasilevskiy looked comfortable from day one upon arriving in Syracuse to begin the 2014-15 season. The 20-year-old Russian spent the past two years in his home country after being drafted, posting remarkable numbers and playing well on the international stage.
It should be no surprise he immediately belonged in the AHL, but his strong December, highlighted by a recall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in which he, again, looked comfortable, was a pleasant treat.
Vasilevskiy was recalled to Tampa Bay and made his first start on Dec. 16th against the Philadelphia Flyers; he picked up the win in that game, stopping 23 of 24 shots. In the four NHL games he has played, Vasilevskiy owns a 3-1-0 record to go along with a 1.76 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
In the AHL, the goaltender started five games and posted a record of 4-0-1. He had a shutout in his first two games of the month and gave up just six goals in the other three games. In total, he posted a 1.17 goals against average and a .962 save percentage.
Teemu Pulkkinen (DET)
Currently playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
A strong November has continued into December for Grand Rapids’ Teemu Pulkkinen; the second-year pro scored nine times and added five assists in 13 games in December. Pulkkinen, who finished the month on a six-game goal scoring streak, now has 19 goals and 19 assists this season, giving him the team lead in points, 10 ahead of Andy Miele. He had 51 shots on goal in the month, including a season-high 10 on New Year’s Eve against Rockford. His goal-scoring streak has reached nine games, leading to a recall to the Detroit Red Wings.
Chris Bigras (COL)
Currently playing with the Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
A disappointing surprise cut from Canada’s World Junior team was seemingly handled well by defenseman Chris Bigras. An offensive defender, his being cut from the team was perhaps a by-product of the strong play showcased by Joe Hicketts (DET), but he proved how involved he can be offensively in the month of December. Before heading to Canada’s camp, Bigras had posted six points in three games, a total which he almost equaled in his first game back. On Dec. 17th against Plymouth, Bigras scored twice and added three assists in a 6-3 win for Owen Sound. Bigras played six games in December and recorded 13 points.
Sam Reinhart (BUF)
Currently playing with the Kootenay Ice (WHL)
In four games with Kootenay in December, Reinhart posted just four points; his play on the world stage, with the Canadian World Junior team, however, was impressive enough to warrant mention. In four December games at the WJHC, Reinhart recorded eight points, finding instant chemistry with both Max Domi (ARZ) and Anthony Duclair (NYR). His subtle but effective defensive zone plays and simple passes in the offensive zone were often lauded by the TSN broadcasting crew, and with good reason. Reinhart’s performance at the World Juniors should propel him to a strong second half in the WHL.
Like Reinhart, Larkin’s star shone brightest at the World Juniors. Despite his American team being eliminated in the quarter-finals, Larkin was one of the tournament’s top forwards through the end of December. In four round robin games, Larkin looked dynamic and explosive, scoring five goals and adding two assists. It’s not as though the 2014 first round pick came into the tournament on a cold streak, however; in just two games with the University of Michigan Wolverines before leaving for the American camp, Larkin scored a goal and added three assists.
Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7