With many of the Los Angeles Kings top NCAA prospects leaving the college ranks after the 2004-05 season and several added through the 2005 Entry Draft, the prospect pool has turned over with new faces and new talent.
Richard Petiot and Ryan Murphy each finished their college eligibility and joined the organization playing in Manchester. Top scorer Jeff Tambellini left college early to sign with the Kings and center Brady Murray left the University of North Dakota to skate in the Swiss professional league. While some of the remaining college prospects are experiencing tremendous seasons, others are not showing as much development as would be expected at this point in their careers.
The beat goes on for many of their top prospects. Most notable are the performances of junior forwards Scott Parse and Brian Boyle. A dark horse to win the Hobey Baker award, Parse leads the nation in assists (38), points (57) and points-per-game average (1.68) while carrying the high-scoring Nebraska-Omaha team. With not much left to prove at the college level, it might be a matter of weeks before he moves his game to Manchester.
Not taking a back seat to Parse, Brian Boyle has been equally impressive in his steady development with Boston College. Playing more minutes and with new confidence on one of the top scoring lines, Boyle is beginning to show the skills that garnered his selection in the first round of the entry draft. While his goal total has not increased over last season, he is doing a better job of finding teammates as reflected by an enormously increased assist total. Boyle is showing a second-half tendency with 20 of his 38 points (including 10 goals) coming in the last 11 games.
Matt Zaba has assumed the starting responsibilities in net for the Colorado College. But Zaba’s numbers have dipped slightly this season, due largely to the number of minutes in net he has been playing. Stamina for a first-time No. 1 goaltender almost always becomes an issue. Zaba has still posted a respectable 17-10-1 record with 2.54 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. However, Colorado College is a program with high aspirations and Zaba will be judged by the success of the team down the stretch as they prepare for the conference tournament.
Added to this group of veteran talent are three fresh faces from the entry draft. Jonathan Quick, while considered the backup to senior Gabe Winer, has largely split time as the starter in his freshman season. His 3.07 goals-against average does not adequately tell the story of how impressive this young goaltender has been. The .916 save percentage is a more telling category to project the future for Quick as experience will cut down on the number of surrendered rebounds. T.J. Fast has played in all 32 games for Denver but has only scored one goal and six points in that time. Fast has largely been on the third defensive pairing and not received much ice time. With no seniors and only Matt Carle as the only possible loss on the blue line in the offseason, Fast may have to wait for his junior season before he gains better ice time.
Josh Meyers, the last of the three 2005 draftees, missed 13 games while being hampered by a wrist injury. Like Fast, Meyers has largely skated on the third defensive pairing and has only scored one goal and seven points in 19 games. Teammate John Michael Curry continues to struggle with consistency and lack of ice time on the third line for Minnesota-Duluth. Consistently bringing his best game to the ice was one of the biggest knocks on Curry when he was drafted in 2004 and things do not look to have improved much this season. After jumping out to six points in his first six college hockey games in his career, Curry has labored to find the score sheet since. Having only scored four points in 29 games this year, Curry is on a scoring drought that totals only seven points in his last 45 collegiate games. Mike Sullivan continues strong play on the top two lines for Clarkson with 22 points through 30 games, including five goals on the power play. Sullivan will be back for his senior season, but it remains to be seen whether he has developed enough to be signed by the Kings out of college.
The 2005-06 season that Martin Guerin is experiencing might also be characterized as a drought. But it is difficult to discern whether it is a result of playing a more defensive game or simply a lack of scoring. More so this year than in any year past, Miami is playing more as a team where sacrifices by the individual player are being made to keep the team at the top of the standings. Guerin is no exception as he has been spending more time deep in the defensive zone, helping out the defensemen and goalie than at any point in his career, resulting in only 14 points this season after posting back to back 30+ point seasons. While he has shown in the past that he can find the back of the net, and even continues to be relied upon on the power play, Guerin will be better remembered in the long-term for his defensive game.
To say that the Brown Bears have struggled his season would be an understatement. At 3-18-6, Brown has won only a single game in their last 23 contests. There were high hopes for Paul Baier as he would enter the season battling for a top-four defenseman role on the team. But with the team struggles came also Baier’s demotion to the third pairing. His six points in 25 games, including no power play time and few quality minutes, has pushed Baier to the back-burner for the team.
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