Photo: Tyler Johnson has solidified the Lightning lineup by finding success between fellow prospects Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik (courtesy of Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Welcome to the March 2013 edition of On the Rush, a monthly column featuring prospects at various competition levels who are either exceeding expectations or falling a little behind. With junior levels and European professional leagues playing in their respective post-seasons, this edition checks in with prospects who have elevated their games down the stretch and those who have struggled under the increased pressure in the playoffs. We also take a look at a pair of prospects who have stepped seamlessly into prominent roles for their clubs as they head into the final month of the NHL season.
Photo: Defenseman Jonas Brodin has been impressive for the Minnesota Wild. The 19-year-old Swede leads all rookies in average ice time. (courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
Many of the players in the middle section of the Hockey's Future 2013 Spring ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects have experienced excellent growth over the past season and have risen in the ranks as a result. Among the most notable is Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, who has played well for the Wild in a shutdown role alongside Ryan Suter.
Photo: Jonas Brodin is one of several prospects making an impact for first-place Minnesota, having stepped directly into a top-pairing role in his rookie season (courtesy of Kathleen Hinkel/Icon SMI)
The Wild's controlled rebuilding process is entering a new phase this season, introducing its top prospects into the NHL in sheltered roles. Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, and Mikael Granlund have all made their NHL debuts, with various degrees of immersion and success. The Minnesota Wild has been careful to balance experience and youth this year, but there are plenty of players in the organization who may be asked to grow quickly in the next seasons to make the most of the opportunity at hand.
Photo: Florida Panthers' forward Jonathan Huberdeau formed a potent trio in February with Peter Mueller (R) and Drew Shore (courtesy of Juan Salas/Icon SMI)
With the lockout-shortened season, most teams will reach the midway point of their 48 game season sometime over the next week. In terms of the race for the 2013 Calder Trophy, most of the front-runners from the season's opening month continued to shine.
Photo: Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who has missed most of the first half of the season with a broken collarbone, is one of the high-profile prospects making their debut in Houston this season. (courtesy of Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI)
Although many people in and around the world of hockey were negatively affected by the 2012 NHL lockout, the Minnesota Wild was no doubt one team that saw a silver lining. With a cluster of players around the same age needing a developmental year or three in the AHL, the lockout saved the team from hard personnel decisions while also giving these young players a great opportunity to learn to play the pro game together at a high level of competition.