Hockey’s Future Profiles Jarret Stoll

By Jim Harnock

Originally drafted 46th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Saskatchewan native Jarret Stoll was unable to reach a contractual agreement with the Flames organisation and re-entered the draft in 2001. With the second round set to begin, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stepped up to the podium and announced that the Edmonton Oilers had acquired the 31st and 36th overall picks from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for left-winger Jochen Hecht. The Oilers selected goaltender Jeff Deslauriers with pick number 31 and centre Jarret Stoll with pick number 36.

Stoll comes to the Hamilton Bulldogs with an impressive resume. In 1999, he won a gold medal with Canada’s under-18 squad and the 4-Nations Tournament. In 2001, he was named to the WHL West First All Star Team and the CHL First All Star Team as well as winning a bronze medal with the Canadian National Junior Team. In 2002, he captained the Kootenay Ice to a Memorial Cup championship and captained the Canadian National Junior team to a silver medal at the World Junior Championships.

Making the leap from junior to a professional league like the AHL is rarely an easy task for a young player, no matter what their credentials and the road to the NHL is littered with stories of the highly-touted prospects who self-destructed along the way, the players who had the skill but not the drive, or the players who had the drive but not the skill. In Jarret Stoll, with his balanced mix of offensive and defensive capabilities and the leadership abilities recognized by both the Ice and the National Program, the Edmonton Oilers are hoping they’ve found their diamond in the rough – a player with both the drive and the skills to be a big part of their future.

As I write this article, Stoll’s numbers are not awe-inspiring, but they are also not horrible. With 20 professional games under his belt, Stoll has notched 7 goals and 5 assists and sits sixth in team scoring, three points behind line-mate Marcel Hossa. This projects to 28 goals and 20 assists over the 80-game AHL season for a total of 48 points – six more than Edmonton’s top prospect Jani Rita managed in his rookie year.

At this point in the season, the best part of Stoll’s game is his back checking and defensive play. He is usually the first forward back after the Bulldogs lose possession and he frequently covers for his defensemen when they take to wandering deep in the offensive zone. He is very good at keeping his defensive assignment – in the last couple of games, he’s reminded me a little of Esa Tikkanen in the way that Tikk used to just shadow an opposing player all over the defensive zone. However, Stoll is in no way the pest that Tikk was. One of the team’s top penalty killers, Stoll does not hesitate to give up his body for the team, whether it be taking a hit to make a play or chip the puck out of the zone, or to block a shot from the point. One downfall of his enthusiastic back checking is that he can get a little too feisty and end up in the penalty box.

Offensively he hasn’t been quite as solid, though he sees the existing and developing plays well and can make very crisp passes. Stoll has a decent shot, with a very quick-release wrist shot. His slap shot isn’t very hard, but he is able to hit the net consistently, which is the important thing. Speed-wise, he takes a few strides to get going, but once he does, he’s surprisingly fast.

Had Todd Marchant been on a long-term contract, I would project Stoll to spend another year in the AHL before getting his shot in the NHL, but with Marchant being a UFA at the end of the season and most likely traded before then, Stoll – who many see as the heir apparent to Marchant’s third-line centre position on the Oilers – may very well get his shot in the 2003-2004 season.

Strengths: checking, defence, intensity, leadership.

Weaknesses: acceleration, offensive production (thus far).

Projection: solid NHL 3rd-line centre, PK specialist, 15 goals per season.

Other Bulldog Notes:

– D Francis Bouillon (knee) and RW Jozef Balej (leg, unspecified), both Montreal property, remain sidelined with injuries.
– Edmonton prospect RW Michael Henrich has returned from Germany, where he helped Team Canada win the Deutschland Cup. He has now played two games for the Bulldogs, registering no points.
– The team once again has three goaltenders, with Montreal returning G Eric Fichaud to the AHL.
– RW Jason Ward (MTL) is tie for the AHL scoring lead with 26 points in 20 games (tied with Mike Peluso of Norfolk).
– Former Bulldog G Marc Lamothe, playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, is third in the league with a GAA of 2.03 and is tied for the league lead in wins with 8.
– Thanks to the two games against the St. John’s Maple Leafs, the Bulldogs average attendance has increased from the league-worst 2,833 to 3,590 which moves them out of last spot, above Cleveland (2,991).