We are in the final weeks of hockey for many leagues around the world, and many NHL and AHL teams are in the middle of the playoff hunt. This is the time for prospects to raise their game to the next level, with so much to play for.
This month’s feature includes four seventh-round draftees who are beating expectations, a resurging college star, and a pair of highly touted pro defenseman with big potential, but who have each hit a rough patch for their respective teams.
The 26-year-old free-agent signing has had a strong year overall for San Jose’s minor league system. While he has a solid .922 save percentage on the season with a 2.39 goals-against average, his February numbers were truly outstanding. In six starts, he posted a .950 save percentage, a 1.68 goals-against, all while facing an average of about 34 shots a game. This includes a 50-of-52 save effort against the Ontario Reign back on February 10th. His 12-12-5 record on the year does not accurately describe how good Dell has been on multiple occasions this season. The diminutive yet aggressive 6-foot goaltender can be downright maddening to beat when he is on his game. February was a prime example.
The Charlotte Checkers have faltered in the second half of the season due to a 10-game losing streak that stretched from January into February. While the Hurricanes affiliate plays their final games, defenseman Trevor Carrick has been recalled to help the big club’s push for the playoffs. This is well-deserved for the Ontario native as he has had a strong sophomore year in 2015-16 following an impressive rookie season in 2014-15.
Overshadowed by Carolina’s other young blueliners, Carrick is a tough defenseman who can fight, but also knows his way around the offensive zone and possesses a lethal shot. Prior to his call-up on March 15th, the second-year pro was tied for sixth among AHL defensemen in scoring with nine goals and 28 assists for 37 points in 58 appearances. He also led Charlotte in assists, was third in team scoring overall, and was second on the team in shots with 132.
The Greyhounds are heading to the OHL playoffs for the 4th straight season, and production from the back-end has been very helpful in achieving that. The player that has been most productive? 7th round selection Gustav Bouramman. The Swede leads the Greyhounds D corp with 38 points in 64 games. He was also on a marvelous point run from mid-January to the end of February where he has scored at least a point in 14 of 20 games (18 points overall). He has been getting second pair minutes alongside Tyler Hore, as well as power play minutes for Greyhound’s first year coach Drew Bannister.
Next on the list we have Jeremiah Addison. Nothing is ever good enough for Addison who has constantly worked to improve all aspects of his game. He is well-known as one of the best defensive-forwards in the OHL, but in the last two seasons with the Ottawa 67’s, Addison has taken a big step in developing his offensive side. Last year, he set a new career high with 19 goals and 47 points. This season, the Ontario native surpassed that with 26 goals and 54 points. He played in top form in February, playing with conviction on and off the puck, and scoring in 10 of 12 games. Once again, Montreal may have unearth another lower-round NHL player in the jack-of-all-trades Addison.
It has been a difficult year for Kevin Roy. He missed 12 games earlier in the season with an upper-body injury, on top of having a slow offensive start. In fact, the normally high scoring forward did not score his first goal on the year until February 12th against Massachusetts. Since then, the monkey has come off his back. He has been the Huskies’ most productive goal scorer with nine goals and six assists in the ensuing nine games since scoring his first of the year. That brings his total to 24 points in 26 games as of the start of play on March 13th. We are back to seeing the vintage Kevin Roy, the same player who has scored 40+ points his last two collegiate seasons. It is also no surprise his rebirth offensively has sparked Northeastern’s rise into the top-10 of the national polls.
Since January 8th, Denver has won 16 of their last 18 contest. The team overall has improved, but the performance of their top line has played a huge factor. Danton Heinen centers Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell on the Pacific Rim line – nicknamed because all three players are from the West Coast. From the time they were put together, the trio has been unstoppable. They combined for 74 points through January and February. Heinen himself has been impressive as the playmaker on the line and has contributed in all three zones. He has scored in every game since January 22nd—a 14 game scoring streak—which equates to 12 goals and 14 assists up until March 12th. With Heinen and the Pacific Rim line rolling, Denver is in a great position to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The Oilers may have a gem playing in the beautiful resort city of Sochi right now. While Sochi was bounced in the first round of the KHL playoffs, 21-year old Ziyat Paigin was a shining star on the year. The towering 6-foot-6 defenseman went from a VHL player up to a main squad player. In the latter stages of the year, he was playing 20-plus minutes a night as a youngster in the second best league in the world. On top of eating up pretty significant minutes on the Sochi blueline, he also chipped in with 27 points in his 37 appearances on the year. He is starting to make some noise among the Edmonton pipeline followers. It will be interesting to see where his future goes from here.
Nikita Gusev is looking more and more like a draft-day steal for Tampa Bay. Drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the small forward has worked his way up the KHL ranks, slowly improving each season. This year, Gusev is having his best season to date. His technical skills and high offensive talent have been a joy to watch. In January, he was traded by Khanty-Mansiysk Yugra to St. Petersburg SKA. The skilled KHL winger assimilated quickly to his new team, recording 35 points in 33 games. Gusev also finished the regular season 11th in league scoring with 49 points and also made an appearance at the KHL All-Star Game. He remains a scoring threat in the postseason with 11 points in nine games.