Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month, October 2010

By Chris Roberts

With the return of hockey comes the return of Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month feature. Highlighting the top performances from each month of the hockey season, the Prospect of the Month feature gives readers a heads-up on current junior-aged prospects who look poised to make an impact in the NHL sooner rather than later.

Last year’s Prospect of the Year, Jordan Eberle, looks to be a strong contender for the top rookie in the NHL, and though it is early, this month’s high profiled Prospect of the Month could enter the NHL as early as next season with similar expectations.

After an injury plagued 2009-10 season, Tampa Bay prospect Brett Connolly has not only proven himself healthy, but a dominant force in the WHL this season. He registered 20 points in just 14 games in the month of October, while his 14 goals on the season put him in second place in league-wide goal scoring. Given many of the concerns surrounding Connolly during the past Entry Draft, it should be no surprise that his hot start has earned him the Hockey’s Future October Prospect of the Month award.

Connolly was held without a point in the final two games of October, but, until then, he had registered at least a point in every game this season, including five games in which he notched two points or more. He has been a model of consistency to begin the season and is certainly one of the key factors for the turnaround in Prince George. Last season, with Connolly out of the lineup for much of the year, the Cougars finished last in their division, winning just 12 games – they have nine already this season, and sit second in their division.

Out of his 12 goals in October, only three were scored on the power-play; a testament to Connolly’s even-strength play. He’s also shown a tremendous level of discipline this season, recording just three minor penalties. There is no doubt that Connolly, early on, has silenced his critics, and if he continues to do so he’ll make a genius out of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman.

Honorable Mention

Luke Adam

In a familiar place after a breakout 2009-10 campaign in the QMJHL, Luke Adam (BUF) once again gets consideration for Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month; he was an honorable mention three times last season. It is a testament to Adam’s hard work and desire to be an NHLer that he continues to get mentioned, however. As scouts continually knock his skating, Adam continually puts up points. He started off his pro career with a bang, recording 13 points in just nine games for the Portland Pirates of the AHL. Not too mention, he was named the AHL Player of the Week in his first week as a pro, and more recently was named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month. All the while, he has worked on improving his “suspect” skating. With an absence of size in Buffalo’s lineup, and Adam’s impressive play for Portland, it would surprise no one if he ended the season if Buffalo, especially after having already been recalled earlier last month.

Craig Cunningham

While October’s Prospect of the Month, Brett Connolly, has certainly been the most impressive high profile prospect, it would be hard to ignore Vancouver Giants’ Craig Cunningham (BOS) who is picking up where he left off last season. Currently the WHL’s leading scorer, Cunningham averaged over two points per game in October, registering 29 points in 14 games. Though playing on a relatively deep team, it is nonetheless impressive to note that Cunningham only had three games in October in which he didn’t produce a multi-point effort; his multi-point consistency was highlighted by a five assist performance against the Kelowna Rockets on October 20th. A prototypical late-bloomer, Cunningham’s stock continues to rise, despite uncertainties of whether or not he can transfer his offense to the pro-ranks.

Louis Domingue

The Quebec Remparts have been one of the top team’s in the entire CHL, and contributing to that fact has to be the play of goaltender Louis Domingue. A fifth round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, Domingue has gone undefeated thus far in the 2010-11 season, and finished October with a 10-0-0 record, and an impressive 1.96 goals against average and .913 save percentage. He has been a model of consistency between the pipes, giving up more than three goals on just one occasion this season; furthermore, his numbers aren’t skewered by numerous shutouts as he’s only managed to record one this season. It can be easy to overlook the contributions of a goaltender when his team boasts perhaps the best offense in the league, but Domingue has been facing close to an average of 25 shots per game and continues to win games for his team. He has certainly been the most intriguing goaltending story throughout October.

Other Honorable Mentions

Garrett Wilson (FLA), Greg McKegg (TOR), Brendan Smith (DET), Jake Gardiner (ANA), Jakob Silfverberg (OTT)