Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month, December 2010

By Chris Roberts

If his play in December is any indication, Tyler Toffoli didn’t let his omission from the Canadian World Junior camp affect his confidence. Highlighted by a five goal performance, the talented winger managed 22 points in just ten games in December, making him the Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month.

Toffoli’s five goal game near the end of the month was certainly impressive, but perhaps more so is the fact that he recorded at least one point in every single game this month; in fact, the Los Angeles Kings second round pick is currently riding a twenty game point-scoring-streak. In those twenty games, he’s amassed a total of 44 points and currently leads the OHL in scoring. He’s already close to his point total of 79 last season as his offensive game continues to flourish. Along with the surprising winger Shane Prince, Toffoli has led his Ottawa 67’s to first place in the East Division.

His offensive production has been steadily rising since the first month of the season, which has helped to overshadow concerns of his physical play and skating ability; in fact, both of which seem to be improving. Toffoli, in all certainty, appears to be one of the fastest rising prospects in the game this season.

Honorable Mention

Brayden Schenn

Brayden Schenn has already played on a total of four different teams this season, including the Canadian World Junior team, but it appears he has finally found some stability after being sent back to Brandon of the WHL. In just two games, the former fifth overall pick in 2009 has four points; however, what’s earned him a mention for December has been his strong offensive play and leadership throughout the World Juniors for Canada thus far. He is the runaway leader in points with 14 in just four games (seven goals and seven assists), and has emerged as the star of the tournament. By most accounts, Schenn is near NHL-ready and he has proven that against the best junior players in the world. He’ll likely get to enjoy a strong second half of the season with Brandon before launching his NHL career in the 2011-12 season.

Brendan Smith

The transition to pro hockey has been rocky for the former Hobey Baker finalist Brendan Smith; he got off to a quick start, had a sluggish November, but seems to have found some stability in the month of December, combining a solid offensive game with sound defense. He managed nine points in 14 games and was a +8. By comparison, he averaged a point-per-game in October, but was a -1, and in November, he managed just four points in 13 games while being a -3. Smith rounded into form in December and was one of Grand Rapids most effective defensemen. He is currently the top scoring rookie defenseman in the AHL, and with his improved defensive zone coverage, he is quickly becoming a complete prospect on the back-end.

Jaden Schwartz

As a freshman, Schwartz has been the most impressive forward for Colorado College this season. December, especially, has been an interesting month for a number of reasons. The St. Louis Blues first round pick got off to a great start in NCAA hockey at the beginning of the month, recording eight points in just three games before heading to the Canadian World Junior camp. He looked great in the prelim games for the Canadians and recorded three points in two games before fracturing his ankle. What’s most impressive is the fact that Schwartz returned to the ice in a game against the Czech Republic on that fractured ankle, scoring a goal. The Blues seem to have not only a gifted offensive player in Schwartz, but an individual with undeniable determination and poise.