Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month, November 2010

By Chris Roberts

November is typically the month in which many prospects begin to settle in and show what they are capable of for the remainder of the current season; some struggle and fail to meet expectations, while others flourish and show signs of their true potential. The latter is the case for this month’s Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month, goaltender Jussi Rynnas of the Toronto Marlies.

Many will remember Rynnas from a nationally televised pre-season game in which the Detroit Red Wings shelled him and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some may also remember Rynnas’ first three starts of the AHL season, all in October, in which he allowed a combined 11 goals to go with a save percentage well below .900. As the calendar turned, however, so did Rynnas’ play.

All totaled, in ten games in the month of November, the Maple Leafs off-season signing posted a record of 5-2-2, helping to lift the offensively challenged Marlies out of the bottom of their division. In those ten games, he was only beaten for 13 goals, giving him a goals against average of 1.33 and a save percentage of .957. Rynnas’ increased playing time was ultimately a trickle-down effect of the Jean-Sébastien Giguère injury; one which may have been a blessing in disguise for the Maple Leafs, as Jussi Rynnas is certainly beginning to play like a high-end goaltending prospect, recently having out-dueled one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey in Jacob Markstrom.

What’s perhaps most impressive about Rynnas’ month of November is the fact that, despite only shutting out the opponent once, he gave up no more than two goals in any appearance. He also had two straight games in which he recorded over 40 saves. Certainly, for an organization once starved for goaltending, the Maple Leafs seem full of options between the pipes going forward.

Honorable Mention

Drew Shore

With 19 points in 41 games as a freshman for Denver last season, Drew Shore certainly had a fairly respectable season; however, this season, he has exploded onto the prospect scene and is already garnering talk as one of the best young players in college hockey. He had a decent October, but has really come into his own in November, scoring 14 points in just 8 games, almost equaling his point total of last season in just one month. More than that, the former second round draft pick has 12 goals already this season, easily surpassing the five he scored last year. He finished the month off and, subsequently, cemented himself on this month’s list with six points in his final two games, including his first career hat-trick in a 6-3 win over Lake Superior.

Linden Vey

Recently named WHL player of the week, Linden Vey gets a mention as one of the top prospects in hockey during the month of November. The Los Angeles Kings draft pick was just over a point per game last season, but much like Shore, he’s exploded this season, and has been dominating the WHL since the first puck drop. Yet, even despite an impressive October, he continued to improve into November, registering 29 points in just 13 games. Because of his success in November, he now sits atop league scoring with 48 points. Moreover, Vey’s November shows a vast improvement in two categories in contrast to his October: goal scoring and plus/minus. His 13 goals in November triumph over his five in October, while, his plus/minus, though partly due to the strength of the team in general, soared in November. Vey was just a plus-two after October, but after the month of November, which included three straight games in which he was a plus-four, he’s currently a plus-19. With the success of Vey this season, it should come as no surprise that he has recently been invited to Team Canada’s junior selection camp later this month.

Max Pacioretty

It appears stability is all Max Pacioretty needed to get his game to where many felt it should be. The twenty-two-year-old has bounced back and forth between Montreal and Hamilton the past two seasons, but beginning the season as a solidified first liner in the AHL seems to have helped boost his production. In the month of November, Pacioretty registered 17 points in 13 games and currently sits tied for third in AHL scoring. There is no denying a sense of increased confidence in Pacioretty’s game early this season: he has been shooting the puck much more than his previous stints in the AHL, and his ten goals for the month of November alone surpass his combined AHL totals in the previous two seasons. Barring any injury, it would be hard to imagine Pacioretty spending the entire season without garnering a call to the NHL.

Just Missed The Cut:

David Rundblad (OTT), Linus Omark (EDM), Tyson Barrie (COL), Tyler Toffoli (LAK), Brendan Ranford (PHI).