Predators CHL prospects update

By Glen Erickson

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Alexander Radulov, F – Quebec Remparts (1st round, 2004 Entry Draft: 15th overall)
Height: 6’1 Weight: 190 lbs. Age: 19

Anything less than a point per game scoring pace would be a disappointment for Radulov this season. As of October 29, the Russian sniper has delivered 17 goals and 18 assists in 13 games. The offensive rampage should serve to confirm the boost in confidence Radulov experienced during the Predators training camp.

Last season, the 6’1, 188-pound forward tallied 32 goals and 43 assists in 65 games, third among the QMJHL rookies. He played in the Canada/Russia Challenge in November 2004 and played for Russia at the 2005 WJC in North Dakota, collecting a silver medal.

This season, Radulov finds himself playing along side another highly-touted youngster, Angelo Esposito.

In an interview with Hockey’s Future correspondent Simon Richard on October 12 following the Remparts 5-4 shootout win in Drummondville, Remparts head coach Patrick Roy confirmed he is impressed with Radulov’s renewed commitment to the team concept.

“At times, Alexander may dominate the game,” suggested Roy after the Remparts game. “I do especially appreciate the fact that he is making great efforts to improve his collective game. His shifts on the ice are shorter now, hence he has more energy at the end of the games.”

As the new set of NHL rules creates more open ice for offensively gifted players, it will be difficult for the Predators to ignore Radulov’s scoring prowess.

Nick Fugere, F – Gatineau Olympiques (4th round, 2004 Entry Draft)
Height; 6’2 Weight: 230 lbs. Age: 20

The Olympiques have won two straight QMJHL championships, which has enabled Fugere to learn through the rigors of the lengthy junior hockey playoff season. He’s saved his best offensive performances for the Memorial Cup tournament, scoring four goals in five games, suggesting he thrives in pressure situations.

Becoming more consistent over the long haul will be vital for Fugere if he wants the Predators to give him a serious shot at an NHL job. His size will always ensure he will be noticed, but the discerning eyes at the professional level always examine work ethic and commitment.

As one of the Olympiques three 20-year-old players, Fugere has an opportunity to deliver as a leader this season. The potential exists for the Shawinigan, Quebec native to dominate with his size and offensive skill. He has 16 points in 16 games thus far, with 33 penalty minutes and is +5.

Western Hockey League

Cody Franson, D – Vancouver Giants (3rd round, 2005 Entry Draft)
Height: 6’5 Weight: 205 lbs. Age: 18

Franson continues to stand out, due in part to his physical presence, but also based on ice time. In an October 22 game in Kelowna, the second of a home and home series, Franson logged just over 25 minutes in the Giants 3-2 victory.

“With Don (Giants head coach, Hay), it’s all a matter of how hard you work,” Franson said when asked by HF about his ice time in every situations. “Work hard and he’ll put you on the penalty kill. Work harder and he’ll put you on the power play. It’s a privilege to play on those special teams and I just want to work hard to stay on them.”

His combined size and agility make it difficult for opponents to beat him, particularly to the outside. He’s a competent puck carrier who demonstrates an ability to carry the puck out of his end with confidence.

“The Predators have asked me to get stronger and faster,” Franson said. “I suppose that’s normal for any young guy, but they told me they were happy with my camp. I think I had a good camp, made some good plays in the scrimmages and didn’t get beaten too badly.”

Franson has a very good 10 points in 11 games with the Giants, totaling 12 PIMs and is –4.

Lauris Darzins, F – Kelowna Rockets (9th round, 2003 Entry Draft)
Height: 6’2 Weight: 185 lbs. Age: 20

Darzins attended the Preds conditioning camp, but has yet to see any game action this season. A shoulder injury has slowed his progress, but the effects have yet to faze this engaging young man.

In a game last season against Vancouver, Darzins was hit while coming out of a slap shot. He played with the injury through the World Junior Championships. After re-injuring the shoulder in January and three weeks of rehab, he played the rest of the season through some minor pain. During the summer, the doctors recommended surgery, which was done on August 1.

“I was looking at about four months of rehab,” Darzins explained recently. “I’m working hard on conditioning and have started shooting the puck again.

“The Predators are pleased I am here to continue learning more and more about how to play the North American game. They are telling me they feel I am adapting pretty well. If I hadn’t had the injury, I would have attended the training camp with the goal of at least making the American Hockey League team. I’ll just stay here for now and continue to develop for next year.”

It is also apparent the Rockets are committed to Darzins this season as the club has dealt 20-year-old Thomas Raffl to the Swift Current Broncos. The move leaves the Rockets with the full compliment of three 20-year-old players on the roster, including Darzins.

Kyle Moir, G – Swift Current Broncos (5th round, 2004 Entry Draft)
Height: 6’3 Weight: 185 lbs. Age: 19

One of the biggest goaltenders in the WHL, Moir is likely to face a ton of rubber this season as the Broncos continue to search for a return to the glory years of the late 1980’s.

Since joining the Broncos in 2002-03, Moir has seen his activity level increase each season. Last season, he played 60 games, which is a realistic target for the current campaign. He has become a leader, providing the Broncos an opportunity to win every night.

Over the course of the past two entry drafts, the Predators have built a stable of young goaltending prospects including highly-touted Teemu Lassila and Pekka Rinne from Finland. Subsequently, Moir may have his work cut out to secure an AHL roster spot come training camp in 2006.

Off the ice, Moir has demonstrated a mature and caring side. This season, the Calgary native has teamed up with National Oilwell to create the ‘Saving Goals – Saving Lives’ program. For every save Moir makes, the company will donate $1 to the Cystic Fibrosis foundation.

“One of my best friends’ family member lost her life to Cystic Fibrosis,” commented Moir. “I wanted to do something to help.”

Moir is 6-9-2 on the season, with a .916 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average.

Stanislav Balan, F – Portland Winter Hawks (7th round, 2004 Entry Draft)
Height: 6’1 Weight: 160lbs. Age: 19

The jury is still out as Balan looks to establish himself in the WHL. Chosen by Portland 64th in the 2005 CHL Import Draft, Balan should benefit from a full season on North American ice.

In his personal bio on the Winter Hawks website, Balan admits the training camp experience was well worthwhile.

“I enjoyed my time at Nashville’s camp,” Balan said. “I scored a goal in the intrasquad game and I got used to the players who play at the NHL level and learned from that.”

According to Winter Hawks general manager Ken Hodge, “he is a solid player with good puck handling skills, but does need some development. We are hoping he is a good fit.”

Balan has two goals and eight assists in 13 games with Portland, to go along with a +5 rating and 30 penalty minutes.

Ontario Hockey League

Ryan Parent, D – Guelph Storm (1st round, 2005 Entry Draft: 18th overall)
Height: 6’2 Weight: 200lbs. Age: 18

It just doesn’t occur with any regularity in today’s NHL – an 18-year-old defenseman earning a spot in an NHL starting line-up. Parent did his best to impress head coach Barry Trotz at training camp.

“If you want to watch how to skate as a defenseman and handle a one-on-one situation or a rush, just put a camera on Ryan Parent,” Trotz told the Nashville Tennessean. “He’s a textbook type of skater.”

Parent was reassigned to the Guelph Storm of the OHL in mid-September, where he is expected to continue developing his already renowned leadership skills. At 6’2, 190 pounds, the native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan will log plenty of ice time this season, his third with the Storm.

Last season, Parent was chosen to compete on the OHL squad in the 2004 ADT Canada/Russia Challenge. He’ll get another taste of this international competition with the OHL team when the Russians arrive for games in Kitchener (November 24) and Peterborough (November 28).

Parent has seven points and 38 penalty minutes in 13 games with Guelph.

Vaclav Meidl, F – Plymouth Whalers (3rd round, 2004 Entry Draft)
Height: 6’5 Weight: 215 lbs. Age: 19

Upon his return from Predators training camp, Meidl arrived in Plymouth to some lofty expectations. One of the biggest players in the OHL, he is playing in his third season with the Whalers. Drafted ninth overall in the 2003 CHL import draft, the native of Prostejov in the Czech Republic found himself ranked 28th among North American skaters by Central Scouting prior to the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Whalers head coach Mike Velluci says the professional experience has, in some ways, produced a new and improved Vaclav Meidl.

“After returning from an NHL camp, history tends to show that guys realize very quickly that the little things are really important,” Velluci said.

“We’ve seen a definite change in him, in all areas of his attitude and his performance. He realizes how hard guys work on and off ice at the pro level. He seems to better understand now that everything we ask the players to do here is for a good reason.”

Statistically so far, one would have to suggest Meidl has underachieved, with three goals and five assists in 14 games. However, Velluci feels Meidl skates very well for his size and has decent hands.

“He has had a good start to the season, but he’s been snake bitten around the net,” Velluci offers. “He’s been very solid in a penalty killing role. But as a third year guy, we expect Vaclav should be a dominant force in the league this season.”

Scott Todd, D – Windsor Spitfires (7th round, 2005 Entry Draft)
Height: 6’5 Weight: 223 lbs. Age: 19

Cal O’Reilly, F – Windsor Spitfires (5th round, 2005 Entry Draft)
Height: 5’11 Weight: 180 lbs. Age: 19

The 2005-06 season has delivered its fair share of controversy for the Windsor Spitfires, what with the disciplinary action meted out by OHL commissioner David Branch on October 18. Upon completion of the investigation into hazing allegations, Branch levied a stout fine and lengthy suspensions. (See the OHL press release).

Upon their return from the Predators main training camp on September 16, both Scott Todd and Cal O’Reilly were looked upon to lead by example this season. In the opinion of assistant coach Bill Bowler, both players have handled themselves in an exemplary fashion throughout the controversial start to the current campaign.

One of the OHL’s biggest rearguards, Todd has persevered through a shoulder injury.

“Scotty hurt shoulder early in the season and it did slow him down a bit,” Bowler said. “He a big kid who covers a lot of ice and he doesn’t shy away from altercations. He’s a good teammate and he’s a player who can get the job done against the other team’s top lines.”

“We struggled a bit defensively without Scott in the lineup. His return has certainly stabilized our penalty killing too.”

“Cal is what you might call a quiet leader,” explained Bowler. “He always works hard, just loves the game and loves to compete. He’s the first guy here and the last guy to leave.”

“He’s got terrific vision and really plays smart in all situations. His best attribute is his ability to make plays.”

Bowler is confident the experience at the Predators training camp has had the desired effect on both Todd and O’Reilly.

“Anytime kids come back to junior from a pro camp, their eyes have usually been opened,” Bowler says. “Both Cal and Scotty have really worked hard and they’ve made a point to share their experiences. It’s always beneficial to see what goes on at the next level.”

“I think they anticipated things being different this season after the pro experiences, but any time an organization has some unexpected trouble, the players have to handle the controversy. The guys have done a real good job in moving forward.”

Todd has two points and 43 penalty minutes in 11 games, while O’Reilly has 18 points, 17 of them assists, and four penalty minutes in 16 games.

Simon Richard contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.