Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month, March 2011

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Maple Leafs prospect Matt Frattin (Pictured), as well as Ducks prospect Kyle Palmieri and Blue Jackets prospect Ryan Johansen all had standout months in their respective leagues. It was the accomplishments of J.P. Anderson though, who allowed one goal in four playoff games, that anointed him Hockey’s Future’s prospect of the month in March. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning)

The Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors have been one of the top teams in the CHL all season long. Management had put together a strong core of both forwards and defensemen prior to the beginning of the 2010-11 season, but it has been J.P. Anderson, in his third year with the club, that has been perhaps most important to the Majors’ success. Anderson finished the season with a 38-10-1 record to go along with a 2.36 goals against average and a .911 save percentage, and while finishing the season strong in March helped his bid for Prospect of the Month, it has been his playoff performance that has earned him the honor. After giving up a goal in his first game of a best-of-seven series against Belleville, Anderson went on to record three straight shutouts to help bounce the Bulls from the playoffs in four straight games.

It has been a banner year for Anderson; despite going undrafted, he chose to sign a contract with the San Jose Sharks earlier this season, he has been named CHL goaltender of the week on three separate occasions, and if his play in the first round of the playoffs is any indication, his Majors appear headed to a birth in the OHL finals – not to mention, as the host team, they receive a selection in the Memorial Cup regardless of playoff standing.

He was a final cut for the 2011 Canadian World Juniors; however, still eighteen until the end of April, Anderson is eligible to play for team Canada again next year, and judging from his strong play to end the season and an impressive playoff run to date, he’s certainly the early favorite to stand between the pipes on the national stage next year in Alberta.

Honorable Mention

Matt Frattin

Questions regarding Matt Frattin’s troubles early in his collegiate career seem to have disappeared, and this season, questions regarding his skill level seem to have been answered. The twenty-three-year-old, yet to finish his season as he has led his University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux into the NCAA Frozen Four, has 60 points on the season in 43 games. He has been one of the nation’s premier goal-scorers and seems to be the favorite to win the Hobey Baker award as the top player in the country. Though he was fairly consistent all season long, there is no doubt that it has been his play in March that has Frattin a strong favorite for the Hobey Baker: in eight games, he’s netted nine goals and managed nine assists for a total of 18 points. Providing he signs a contract with the Maple Leafs before mid-August, Frattin may have an outside shot at earning an NHL job next season, but it is more likely that he begins his pro career with the Toronto Marlies.

Kyle Palmieri

Despite getting off to a quick start, scoring seven goals in the first month of his rookie season in the AHL, Kyle Palmieri cooled off considerably; he scored just seven goals over the next 39 games, which includes five games at the beginning of March. However, it appears that a goal scored against the Toronto Marlies on the 18th of the month sparked a goal-scoring revival that had been lost since October. In the eight games to finish March, Palmieri scored 12 goals and added three assists, giving him 15 points in that span. He has become Syracuse’s biggest goal-scoring threats, leading the team with 27 tallies in just 57 games, but what’s even more impressive about Palmieri’s goal scoring in the month of March is his five game-winning goals.

Ryan Johansen

While he didn’t particularly post the outstanding numbers many expected at the beginning of the season, since his coming-out party at the World Junior Championships, Ryan Johansen has been one of the top players in the CHL. His Portland Winterhawks have already advanced to the second round of the WHL, in large part due to his seven points in four games; but of course, those numbers are no surprise considering the way in which Johansen finished the season. He scored a point in each of his final ten games, totaling 20 points altogether, finishing the season seventh in league scoring with 92 points in 63 games. Given the inability of the current crop of centers in the Blue Jackets system to become a true number one, the spot is Johansen’s to lose in the next few seasons, and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if he were to make huge progress toward that role next season.