Trailing the Play
Andrey Makarov, G, Rochester Americans (AHL)
Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres
Signed as free agent, 2012
With his entry-level contract expiring this offseason, so will end Andrey Makarov’s tenure with the Buffalo Sabres. Nothing official has been proclaimed by player or team, but it is all but assumed at this point. A few months ago, we mentioned Makarov had requested a trade to seek out more playing time. That did not happen and Makarov was essentially relegated to being Rochester’s practice goalie from late February until the end of the season. It is unfortunate for Makarov considering he at one point was the Sabres best goaltending prospect two seasons ago. An underwhelming 2014-15 season, coupled with the arrival of the impressive Linus Ullmark and continued presence of Nathan Lieuwen, dropped Makarov down the depth chart. He was a good soldier, however, suiting up in 22 games and posting a 9-9-2 record with a 2.82 goals-against average with a .916 save percentage. His next destination is likely home to Russia to play in the KHL.
It raised quite a few eyebrows when the New York Islanders parted ways with former top-5 pick, Griffin Reinhart. But, with the emergence of players like Ryan Pulock, the Islanders clearly felt that he was an expendable asset. Strange to think of such a formerly high pick as expendable. As Reinhart moved West with a new team and a new system in Edmonton, his lack of true pop has followed him. While Reinhart is by no means a bad player, he is just simply not a strong player in any one particular area of the ice. Furthermore, his development has been painfully slow and there are a number of other prospects who have passed him by both in the past and presently. While players like Jordan Oesterle and Brandon Davidson have seized opportunities to leap ahead of him on the depth chart, Reinhart has continued to struggle in proving he has some valuable punch at the NHL level. He is still young, but the development arch has been sluggish, and it has already seen him move from one organization to another.
Keegan Iverson’s season came to an end as the Portland Winterhawks fell to the Everett Silvertips in the first round of the WHL playoffs. Now begins a murky offseason for the center as his NHL rights with the Rangers are set to expire. Iverson is a sound defensive forward who plays a physical style, but whose offensive production is mediocre. Entering the 2015-16 campaign, he had to display some growth offensively to show the Rangers that they needed to sign him. After a steady start, he suffered a lower-body injury that disrupted his consistency. When he returned, he scored only 14 points in the 33 games that he dressed for. His postseason performance was nothing to write home about, either, as he added a lone assist in the Silvertips’ sweep of the Winterhawks. Iverson may return to Portland as an overage player next season, but whether he will still be considered Rangers’ property is uncertain.
Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes
First round, 12th overall, 2014
This should have been a year in which Brendan Perlini dominated. As an older player in his third season, there was no reason why Perlini shouldn’t have improved point totals and overall play. The forward had a strong camp with Arizona, and proved that his hulking 6’2″, 212-pound frame can give even AHL players problems. But the rest of his season did not go as planned. The winger has had his injury issues over the years, but this year in full health he posted a surprisingly down season. He had the lowest points pace of any of his three full-time junior seasons, and also had the lowest goal pace of his OHL career. On top of his OHL struggles, Perlini had a forgettable U20 World Junior Championship in Helsinki, much like most of Team Canada. While it is unlikely that Perlini would return to Niagara as an overage player, the Coyotes do have some decisions to make with their talented former first round pick.
Taylor Cammarata, C, University of Minnesota (Big Ten)
Drafted by the New York Islanders
Third round, 76th overall, 2013
The New York Islanders might be a bit concerned over the development of Taylor Cammarata. Since his promising freshman season at Minnesota, the center has seemingly plateaued. After matching his previous totals in his sophomore season, he somewhat regressed in his junior year. He is one of the Golden Gophers most talented players, but he only amassed five points in the first 15 games of the season. While Cammarata did add 14 points in the final 22 games to help drive Minnesota to the Big Ten conference championship, he simply did not do enough the entire season. Despite his smaller size, Cammarata has shown the vision and ability to make plays when he gets the opportunity. He will be a senior in 2016-17 and will need to have a bounce-back season to earn a contract with the Islanders.
A.J. Greer, LW, Boston University (Hockey East)/Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche
Second round, 39th overall, 2015
Sometimes you struggle, and an adjustment in your game is made that helps reverse those struggles. Or, in the case of A.J. Greer, the adjustment came in leagues. In a strange turn of developmental events, one that is rarely seen among NHL prospects, the powerful winger went from Boston University to the QMJHL. Greer struggled mightily with BU in both his freshman and sophomore year, scoring just five points and one goal in his 18 games with the Terriers in 2015-16, and 12 points overall in his 55 collegiate level games. For whatever reason, be it usage, environment, or something else, Greer was struggling with BU, and a change was needed in his mind. That change, which was supported by the Avalanche management, was to go to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL. This trailing story does have a happy ending, though, as Greer went on a tear with a strong Huskies team, scoring 27 points in 33 games while also posting 15 points in 12 playoff games. Nevertheless, his NCAA time was one of significant struggle, so much so that he actually decided to bail out, which is a rare sight these days. It may have been for the best, though.
Jesper Lindgren, D, IF Björklöven (Allsvenskan)
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs
Fourth round, 95th overall, 2015
Overseas, Jesper Lindgren completed his third season with MODO Hockey in the SupeElit league. The Maple Leafs’ prospect has been one of the more promising players in the MODO Hockey program over the years and it seemed this season he would earn an opportunity in the SHL with the parent club. After scoring 12 points in his first 14 games with the J20 team, he received a promotion to the top tier. Unfortunately, Lindgren’s performance dropped off into mediocrity. He became too inconsistent and was seemingly uncomfortable handling the top tier. After 26 games in the SHL, MODO loaned him to IF Björklöven, where he posted two assists in four games, then returned to the MODO Junior 20 team for the rest of the season. He finished with 14 points in 20 games, but only appeared twice in the postseason and made little difference. The right-handed shooter is still a talented defenseman and will be looking to bounce back next season.
Denis Guryanov, RW/LW, Lada Togliatti (KHL)
Drafted by the Dallas Stars
First round, 12th overall, 2015
As we have noted so many times throughout the season, the KHL can be rough on young players. It is not a development league, so young players are often buried on lineups and barely see ice time, let alone production. Other more productive, developed, and acclimated players are ready to go every night and will get the nod over players trying to learn the game. Such was the case with 18-year-old Dallas prospect Denis Guryanov. Despite having a man-sized body (6’3″, 200 lbs.), Guryanov did not put up man-sized numbers. In 47 games with his KHL club, he scored just five points, including four goals, while playing a shade over 10 minutes a night. Lada was by no means a competitive, firepower-filled team, either, finishing with just 17 wins on the 60-game season. He was sent down at one point to Lada’s MHL team as well. In what is probably a move that is best geared for his future, Guryanov applied to have his contract terminated in order to head to North America. The unforgiving environment of the KHL was not helping the young and talented forward, but the Stars wide-open system will likely allow Guryanov to flourish.
Jason Lewis and John Iadevaia contributed to this article.