Zack Phillips was projected to be a top-six centerman—possibly more suited for the second line—when Minnesota drafted him in 2011. Over the years, the New Brunswick native has been a leading scorer for some poor AHL teams but has not lived up to expectations. A trade from the Wild to the Boston Bruins last season saw him finish strong in the final 16 games, but it appears the scouts may have overestimated him. In 2015-16, Philips, is off to a poor start with only five points and a minus-14 rating. He failed to register a point in November and looks average at best. It does not appear he is playing with the strength and speed needed to become an impact player. Phillips has shown perseverance throughout his career and has the potential to bounce back, but it may not be in the position he was scouted to be.
Jack Campbell, G, Texas Stars (AHL)
Drafted by the Dallas Stars
1st round (11th overall), 2010
Goalies are weird, and the former 1st round pick and W0rld Junior Championships gold medal winner Jack Campbell is no exception. It is another year in the AHL for the highly rated netminder, and it is another year where his numbers are weak and his starting job is tenuous at best. His November numbers were poor at best. He put together a 3-3-0 record in six games, facing an average of 27 shots a night, and registering a 3.80 goals-against average and .873 save percentage. Furthermore, in five of the six games, he allowed three or more goals, twice allowing five. Not all blame should lie on Campbell, but both John Muse and Maxime Legace have posted stronger numbers in as many games with as many shots faced. He may have all the skills to be an NHL netminder, but he has yet to really put it all together and post respectable numbers in the AHL. He now stands at an abysmal .862 save percentage on the year.
Brandon Halverson, G, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Drafted by the New York Rangers
2rd round (59th overall), 2014
The deepest position pool for the Rangers is goaltending. Brandon Halverson is one of them, a talented, athletic puck stopper who might be the future heir for New York’s crease when Henrik Lundqvist retires. Last season he looked solid as the full-time starter for Sault Ste. Marie. However, Halverson has had a tough start in 2015-16 with the Greyhounds. The Michigan native has lost 11 of his 20 starts, six of eight coming in November alone. He finished the month with a 3.49 goals against average and .879 save percentage. Sault Ste. Marie has not had a great start overall, but Halverson’s struggles has taken away a consistent building block to try to build a run. Fortunately, the Greyhounds seem to be turning the corner in December as the team and Halverson won four of their first five games. He still does not look like his normal self, but there is some improvement in his performance.
The Etobicoke, Ontario native was coming off a solid 25-goal season with Niagara in 2014-15, but has yet to come close to replicating that in 2015-16. He has just three goals on the year thus far in 28 games, and has scored just once dating back to October 24th. He is currently on pace for around six goals on the season. There has yet to be a lot of cohesion in the IceDogs forward group, and Knott has skated with many different forwards, including centering Brendan Perlini. It may just be a matter of time before the big power forward can find the net with more regularity. Niagara’s talented forward group have underachieved for the most part in a weak Eastern Conference of the OHL.
Posting back-to-back 27-point seasons as an underclassman for one of the biggest college hockey programs sets the bar high for you as an upperclassman. That was the scenario Taylor Cammarata faced entering 2015-16 as he was promoted to Minnesota’s top line. Coming off a disappointing season, the Golden Gophers were looking for some more offensive punch. Unfortunately, the forward and his team has underachieved massively entering December. Minnesota has only scored 39 goals this season, which puts them in the bottom tier in the nation for scoring. Cammarata is not alone to fault, but he is one of the team’s most talented players and has not done enough to produce. The Plymouth native did score four points in November, but those are his only points this season which is well off the pace he has produced in the past. He has also failed to build off that quick spurt he had in the early December games. Luck that has been a factor, but his struggles have seen his ice time fluctuate regardless.
With Mike Reilly and Ben Marshall leaving the team, head coach Don Lucia may have been hoping for a step forward from one of his young defensemen like Jack Glover, Steven Johnson, or Ryan Collins. Unfortunately that has yet to be the case, and both the Golden Gophers and the Winnipeg Jets are waiting to see when Jack Glover takes the reins and starts contributing more regularly. He has all the tools to be a three zone player, but has only been showing strength in two of them. Until the big-bodied D-man starts taking more risks with his reads of the game, he will continue to see less potential minutes on a young Minnesota blueline core.
Emil Johansson, D, HV71 (SHL)
Drafted by the Boston Bruins
7th round (206th overall) 2014
Emil Johansson is an intriguing late-round draftee. He is a good skater with decent puck skills and a body frame that can become well rounded by building up his strength. That was apparent at times during the 2014-15 campaign as Johansson played in the SHL at age 18. A year later, the Swedish native is hoping to bounce back in his second season with HV71. Through 25 games, he has shown flashes of improvement but has had a hard time stringing together consistent performances throughout the first half of the season. As a result, his ice time has gone up and down. The Swedish native needs a lot of work, but the blueprints are there for him to become a prototypical NHL defender who plays on the lower pairs.
Denis Guryanov, W, Ladia Togliatti (KHL)
Drafted by the Dallas Stars
1st round (12th overall), 2015
Dallas players seem to be peppering the list this month and for very different reasons. While Campbell can’t seem to grasp the opportunity presented to him, the most recent first-round pick of Dallas has yet to really be given an exceptional opportunity to leap at. The young forward failed to register a point in the month of November with Ladia Togliatti of the KHL. However, he has been buried in their lineup, often playing just six to eight minutes a night. The KHL is a professional league and not a development league. Guryanov is finding that out the hard way, as his minutes and production are not necessarily representing the quality and potential of his overall play.