2004 prospects: Four from the AJHL

By Dustin Nielson

AJHL 2004 NHL Draft Prospects

The Alberta Junior Hockey League is known
for developing teenagers so they can take the next step to the WHL or receive a
scholarship to a post-secondary institution north or south of the border. In
some cases though, on their way to the next level, a player from the AJHL may
hear his name called at the NHL Entry Draft.

The Vancouver Canucks selected Saint Albert Saints
forward Ty Morris 128th overall in fourth round of the 2003 Entry Draft. The
Millet, Alberta native moved on following his draft year to the Swift Current
Broncos of the WHL, he has since been traded to the Vancouver Giants where he
has scored 15 goals.

This year four more players from the AJHL have a
chance to hear their name called at the 2004 Entry Draft.

Nick Johnson, RW –
Saint Albert Saints –
6’2” 170 – 45 GP, 30 goals, 25

CSB Ranking – 67th in North America

It is not a surprise that the scouts are looking at
Nick Johnson, as he plays a lot like Ty Morris who carried the Saints last
season before being selected by the Canucks. Johnson has the frame to play in
the NHL, he just needs to add a little beef to it. The Calgary-born winger is
the entire package, he runs the point on the powerplay, penalty kills, crashes
the goal, bangs in the corner and even has the hands to put together the pretty
goals. Johnson has had to fight through adversity this season playing with a
cast on his hand for part of the season yet still contributing
offensively. Johnson is also very
disciplined having picked up only 25 minutes in penalties so far this season,
he hasn’t had to do much battling after the whistle as the Saints Tim Yaworski looks
after the team’s top right winger. For more on Nick Johnson, check out Eric
Welsh’s in-depth look at the St. Albert star who is on his way to Dartmouth of
the NCAA next season.

Scott McCulloch,
LW – Grand Prairie Storm –
6’1” 200 – 35 GP, 17 goals, 24

CSB Ranking – 71st in North America

Scott McCulloch really came out of nowhere in the
CSB mid-season rankings. He went from not being on the preliminary list to
holding down the 71st spot among North American skaters. McCulloch already has
great size at 6’1” 200 and he knows how to use it. He was the Storm’s top rookie and most
dedicated student in 2002-2003 and just continues to develop at a steady pace.
His roll with the Storm has grown throughout the season as he is relied apon to
bring a physical presence and secondary scoring. The one area of the game where McCulloch may
need to put in a little work is his skating. He is by no means slow, but could
use an extra step or two in order to succeed at the next level. McCulloch
missed a month of action before recently returning to the lineup and picking up
right where he left off. The Edmonton-born, Lacombe-raised power forward is the
only one of the four players being considered for the draft to not yet commit
to a post-secondary school in the United States. McCulloch will receive a lot
of exposure this spring as the Grand Prairie Storm are hosting the Royal Bank
cup this year and scouts will be making the trip from all over North America.

Kyle Radke, D –
Grand Prairie Storm –
5’11” 200 – 46 GP, 9 goals, 34 assists

CSB Ranking – 140th in North America

Radke has improved steadily during his time in Grand
Prairie. In 2002 he was named the team’s most oustanding rookie and in 2003 he
took the honor of being the top defenseman on the Storm blueline. This season
he may be the best defenseman in the entire AJHL. He has put up outstanding
numbers with the high-octane offense GM Fran Gow is running up in Grand
Prairie. Radke is an outstanding skater who loves to rush the puck and has the
stride and quickness to get back and look after things in his own end. He
quarterbacks a powerplay that despite having some of the top players in the
league may not click if it wasn’t for Radke’s composure, playmaking ability and
hard shot from the point. Like McCulloch, Radke’s stock will only rise during
the Royal Bank Cup this spring. Next year as he is headed to the University of
North Dakota.

Jordan Alford, G –
Canmore Eagles –
6’2” 175 – 36
GP, 3.44 GAA, .909 Save percentage, 2 shutouts

CSB Ranking – 24th among goaltenders in North America

Alford is no Dan Blackburn, who suited up for the
Canmore Eagles as a 14-15 year old, but he is still putting together a very
good season with a team that doesn’t focus much on keeping the puck out of
there own goal. Alford has been the sacrifice by the Eagles this season as the
team concentrates on scoring goals and has the top two scorers in the AJHL. Unfortunately
when you are a goalie on an offensive team, your numbers may not always tell
the truth. His 3.44 goals against average may scare some people away but a .909
save percentage will bring those same critics right back. Alford is a big
goaltender who uses his size well to cover the top half of the goal. CSB
currently has him ranked 24th among goaltenders in North America and that means
he will have to step it up if he hopes to get drafted. Alford will continue his
hockey career next season at RPI in the NCAA.