Tyler Eckford: Another late round gem?

By Jared Ramsden

He has yet to play a collegiate game, let alone an NHL game. But New Jersey Devils defensive prospect Tyler Eckford looks like he was a late round steal in the 2004 NHL Draft based on his early season production with one of the BCHL’s best teams, the South Surrey Eagles.

The 217th overall pick in the seventh round of this past summer’s draft, Eckford has almost equalled or surpassed many of his offensive numbers from last season. The scary thing is that Eckford’s numbers last season were quite good as he notched seven goals and 30 assists for 37 points in 58 games. Through 26 games this season, Eckford has already put up some eye popping numbers for a defenseman. He has 12 goals, including eight on the power play, and 23 points for 35 points before the halfway mark of the season.

Though it is too early in Eckford’s development to say that he is a steal, the Devils have to be very pleased with his early season statistics. It is very likely that Eckford, who will jump to the NCAA ranks next season with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, has a bright future ahead in New Jersey. The last Devils prospect to suit up for UAF was Aaron Voros, who also just happened to be a late round gem, and is currently leading the AHL’s River Rats in scoring.

NCAA Notes

2004 first round pick Travis Zajac is off to a great start, showing no signs of struggling with his adjustment to a new league. Through his first 16 games with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Zajac already has nine goals, which leads the team, and four assists for 13 points…Senior forward James Massen, also a member of the Fighting Sioux , was looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2003-04 season but so far has struggled with just one goal through 16 games…Senior winger Barry Tallackson, who has been hampered lately by a sprained ankle that caused him to miss his team’s last four games, has two goals and five points in nine games. Though the Minnesota Golden Gopher has not lit up the scoreboard, he has been a very effective player for Minnesota, using his 6-4, 211-pound frame to his advantage…Another Devils prospect in his final collegiate season has started the 2004-05 with a bang. Michigan Wolverines forward Jason Rynzar, who has battled numerous injuries throughout his college career, has not missed a game so far this season, which has helped his offensive game to come around. After 14 games, Rynzar has two goals and eight points. Now that he appears to have shaken the injury bug, Rynzar has been able to physically dominate along the boards and in the corners, along with putting up decent numbers offensively.

CHL/European Notes

After a shoulder injury ruined much of his 2003-04 season, center prospect Petr Vrana is off to a good start to this season with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. He is averaging almost a point a game through 27 games (24 points), including nine goals…With a quarter of the OHL season done, goaltender Josh Disher is proving that his outstanding rookie numbers of last season were no fluke. The Erie Otters netminder has ten wins in 19 games to go along with a 2.71 goals-against average and a save percentage of .918…Finnish prospect Teemu Laine has cooled off considerably after his fast start. His seven goals through 25 games is still very impressive, though…A trio of Devil defense prospects are playing for the same Russian club team, Moscow Spartak, though it is the least heralded of the three that is making the most noise, albeit minimal noise. 2004 ninth round pick Valeri Klimov has suited up for six games while, 2004 second round selection Alexander Mikhailishin has only suited up for one game. Mikhailishin is currently with the Russian Stars team playing All-Star teams from the CHL. The third of this trio, Anton Kadeykin has just joined the Russian league club after an unsuccessful attempt at cracking the lineup of New Jersey’s AHL affiliate in Albany.