Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month, January 2011

By Chris Roberts

In the midst of a breakout season, defenseman Justin Schultz has been a key cog on the blue line of one of the top teams in the NCAA; not to mention, he’s combined with fellow Anaheim Ducks prospect Jake Gardiner to form the top defensive pairing in the nation. His steady defense and improving offensive ability has been on full display this season, but have been no more emphasized than in the month of January, in which he’s scored four goals and added nine assists in just eight games. For his contributions in leading Wisconsin to a 7-1-0 record in the month of January, Justin Schultz is the Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month for January.

A promising offensive defenseman, Schultz has shown significant improvement in that capacity so far this, his sophomore season. His 22 points in 43 games last season was fairly impressive for a freshman defenseman, but now on Wisconsin’s top pairing, he’s flourished, registering 39 points in 30 games, including a whopping 15 goals. He is leading defensemen in scoring by a wide margin and currently sits fourth in the nation in points.

Of course, Schultz has been great all season long, but his play in January has elevated him into Hobey Baker discussion. His 14 points in eight games is a significant feat alone, but when broken down game by game, the stats become even more glaringly impressive: Schultz recorded three straight multi-assist games, one three point game early in the month, and was shutout on the scoresheet just once. With continued offensive production, it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Schultz as a potential Hobey Baker finalist.

Honorable Mention

Linden Vey

Vey is the first player to receive mention multiple times on Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month series, and deservedly so. His 29 points in the month of November elevated him to the upper echelon of WHL scorers, and he’s earned notice once again in January after notching 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 13 games, vaulting him into a tie for first in points with Tyler Johnson, who has the privilege of playing in three more games than Vey. Like he has all season long, Vey proved to be effective in all situations in the month of January: out of his ten goals, two were scored on the power-play and two were scored short-handed. Adding to that, two of his goals were also game winners. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Vey’s month is the fact that he registered multi-point games in seven of his 13 outings, highlighted by a five point performance against the Swift Current Broncos. Chances are he’ll receive strong consideration for the Prospect of the Year.

J.P Anderson

J.P Anderson not only plays for the top team in the OHL, but is questionably the top goalie in the league. He leads the league in wins and goals against average, and sits second in save percentage. While he’s been great all season long, January has easily been his best month to date, as he finished the month 6-0-1 with a 1.30 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. There is one outlier in the eight games he started – a game against the Sudbury Wolves in which he was pulled after giving up three first period goals – but in his other seven appearances he has surrendered just six goals combined, including a 22 save shutout. Anderson, due to injury concerns in San Jose earlier in the month, was fortuitously recalled to the Sharks on an emergency basis and had the privilege of backing up Antti Niemi for a game, not to mention, gaining valuable experience in his stay. It will likely be a few years until he sees himself in an NHL uniform again, but Anderson will get the chance to gain national exposure as his Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors will host the 2011 Memorial Cup.

Stefan Elliot

Scoring at over a point-per-game, Stefan Elliot is currently leading the WHL in scoring by a defenseman, thanks in large part to his impressive month of January. In his fourth season with the Saskatoon Blades, Elliot is already closing in on the 65 point total he set last season with 55 points in just 49 games this season, including 20 in the month of January. In fact, in 13 games in January, Elliot was held off the scoresheet on just three occasions, managing to combine for six goals and 14 assists in those 13 games. He’s been a vital part of one of the top teams in the league all season long on both the offensive and defensive end, and after a plus-13 in January, he currently sits second in the league in the plus/minus category.