Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Down Low with Bristowe: Laraque speaks

This morning on TPS with Guy Flaming he was able to play a few clips from newly appointed CHLPA Executive Director Georges Laraque courtesy our good friend Allan Bristowe the Sports Director at PGTV in Prince George.

Laraque is helping out at a hockey school in PG and after several attempts Bristowe was able to catch up with him and he was nice enough to share it with us.  Click here listen in.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One To Watch: New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have managed make the most of the draft in recent years and at the same time they have exploited other franchises for their key prospects. The combination has led to a Stanley Cup contender with more top prospects still on the way. 

Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider were all Rangers picked and Ryan McDonagh was practically stolen from Montreal. 

Potential NHL players still to come include J.T. Miller, Steven Fogarty, Boo Nieves, Brady Skjei and Scott Stajcer.

The player I have settled on for the conclusion of this 30-player feature series is someone I get to see on a regular basis and has the production to get fans excited. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

One To Watch: Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks haven't seen a lot of positive results from their drafting over the last seven years. Part of that may be the quality of the NHL roster has kept some worthy prospects on the farm longer than they would be with other franchises.  Another reasons may be that they've been picking late in round 1 for most of that time as well although that doesn't necessarily mean you can't find an impact player. 

The blueline is a bit thin when it comes to prospects; Yann Sauve, Patrick McNally and Kevin Connauton highlight the group. 

Up front the team has made nice value picks in Brendan Gaunce and Nicklas Jensen the last two years. It will be interesting to see how Jensen progresses this season as the Dane has chosen to return to Europe after two years in the OHL. 

It's been four seasons since Jordan Schroeder was taken 22nd overall. The Minnesota native is coming off a career year in the AHL with 44 points but fans have had to be more patient than they probably had expected they would need to be. Is this the year or is Schroeder nearing "more suspect than prospect" territory?

There is depth in goal for sure. Cory Schneider's play has won over the fan base and it seems just a matter of time before Roberto Luongo is dealt. That will clear room for Swede Eddie Lack to join the big club after two years spent in the minors. 

There is also another goalie worth mentioning, less heralded than Schneider and Lack but he's the guy I've chosen for this series. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One To Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins

Jay Heinbuck pulled a fast one on me. The Director of Amateur Scouting for the Pittsburgh Penguins was a guest on TPS in the weeks leading up to the 2012 NHL Draft and I made the mistake of believing his version of the Pens' strategy. 

According to the Heinbuck the Pens were deep with prospects on the blueline so probably shouldn't be expected to take any early in the draft. Then on draft day Pittsburgh acquires Carolina's 8th overall pick and selects Derrick Pouliot from Portland and then uses their own pick later in the same round on Olli Maatta from London - two defencemen. 

Lesson learned.

Problem was that it was an easy story to believe, Pittsburgh really does have a lot of quality on the back end. That list includes Simon Despres, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp and Brian Dumoulin who they also added from the Hurricanes. 

The team is deep up front too starting with Beau Bennett, my initial pick for this series, who is coming off of injury plagued seasons at Denver but is expected to be an excellent pro. 

I like the goalie situation for the Penguins too with Brad Thiessen, Marty Murray and now Jeff Zatkoff as well. 

But the player who stands out to me is someone I recently got to know a bit better as he guested on The Pipeline Show just yesterday. He's arguably Pittsburgh's top prospect and he's headed for an uncertain pro debut this year.

One To Watch: Nashville Predators

The WHL has been solid hunting ground for the Predators over the years with some notable draft picks having played for the team. There has been somewhat of a shift lately to more European targets at the draft but even in the most recent event the Preds took a couple of WHL players. 

Nashville has build from within for the most part and have had a special knack for finding future NHL defencemen. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are two obvious examples but add Ryan Ellis, Jonathan Blum, Roman Josi and Kevin Klein to the mix and you have a pretty solid track record. 

Magnus Hellberg, another gigantic European goalie, arrives in North America this year ready to make a name for himself. Chet Pickard is going the opposite route as he has decided to play in Sweden for the coming season. 

Collegian Chase Balisy begins his junior season at Western Michigan where he has been a leading scorer for the Broncos in both of his years at the program.

Austin Watson is ready for pro hockey after a fine career in the OHL with Windsor, Peterborough and London. 

The player that has my attention coming into the new year is not a guy that the Preds will look to for scoring but when they need a spark. He might be a few years away but if all goes as planned, he'll be a crowd favorite when he arrives in Nashville. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

One To Watch: Washington Capitals

More NHL success has meant a draining of the prospect pool for the Caps as their youth has graduated to the big club. When I was writing for Hockey's Future half a decade ago, it seemed like the Caps were always near the top of the prospect rankings and it was for good reason. 

Guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth and a host of others have all made that transition over the last few years. 

In the system now are newer names like Tom Wilson, Filip Forsberg, Stanislav Galiev and Patrick Wey. Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov looks like a star in the making but fans are having to be super patient waiting for him to come over from Russia.    

My first choice for this series was Norweigian goalie Steffen Soberg who bailed on the Swift Current Broncos during training camp last year and went back to his homeland. I'm pretty sure he played pro in Norway so I get why he went back but judging by his numbers you have to wonder if it was the right choice; He only played 17 games and was pumped in net to the tune of a 3.86 GAA.

I finally decided that although I'd written a lot about him in the past, there was one guy I could ignore from the Capitals stable of prospects because it should be a huge year for him.

Friday, August 17, 2012

One To Watch: Calgary Flames

Most analysts have hammered the Flames for their drafting over the last decade or more and while it has been unconventional at times, That doesn't mean that Calgary has nothing on the way. I wrote early on last season that the Flames had more talent in the system than most gave credit for and the last couple of drafts have only added to that pool. 

Obviously big things are expected from Swiss junior star Sven Bärtschi after his successful 5-game emergency recall late last season. Not only did Bärtschi not look outclassed but he contributed three goals to the cause and has Flames fan excited for his debut this year. 

Therer was a lot of criticism lofted Calgary's way after the selection of Mark Jankowski this past June. The 43 ranked player was taken 21st overall which everyone considers a reach but look at it this way; The team has stated repeatedly that this was their player and had the Flames taken him 14th overall the outcry would have been way worse. Instead, the got their guy and added another pick which turned into Pat Sieloff, a quality defenceman. 

Forwards like Ryan Howse, Michael Ferland, Akim Alui, Max Reinhart, Coda Gordon and Bill Arnold all bring good things to the organization although none are, in my opinion, slam dunks to be NHL regulars. The real gem in the lot is pint sized collegian Johnny Gaudreau who fans will get to see much more of in the 2012 WJC playing for USA.

Patience may yet pay off with goaltender Leland Irving. While the position has been plugged at the NHL level for years by Miikka Kiprusoff, Irivng has been steadily getting better and better on the farm. Sooner or later he'll get his chance and the 24-year-old might finally be getting close.

The guy I took for this series is another masked man who, if not for being a Flames prospect, might be hated by Calgary fan because of where he's from and where he currently plays. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One To Watch: Buffalo Sabres

If it's quality over quantity than Buffalo has to be considered one of the stronger organizations in the NHL when it comes to its prospects. The 28 players currently listed on the team's website aren't all of the club's prospects (for some reason) but it's a solid crop to look at. 

Recently drafted and signed forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons are going to be particularly interesting to follow this year. Both could play in the NHL, both could end up in the CHL but only the Latvian can play in the AHL (as rules stand right now). Is there room for both with the Sabres? If the answer is no, does the AHL option decide who stays?

The Sabres have two netminders in the system that I really like, both of them were 6th round picks and both of them are giants. Connor Knapp checks in at 6'5 and after 4 years with the Miami RedHawks is ready to make his professional debut. Nathan Lieuwen is also 6'5 and will be a rookie pro this year after 4 WHL seasons with the Kootenay Ice. Both goalies have been to the National Championship tournament for their respective league and both have a ton of potential. But who will play where this year?

Brayden McNabb, Matt MacKenzie, Jerome-Gautheir Leduc, Joel Armia and recently traded Colin Jacobs (too Prince George of the WHL) are all guys to keep an eye on as they take on bigger challenges this year.  

The player I have opted to go with for this series is a player I have known since he was 15 and have been able to watch closely for the last half decade. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One To Watch: Chicago Blackhawks

One of the great NHL stories of the last decade, in my opinion, has been the return to prominence of the Chicago Blackhawks. One of the Original Six, a franchise deep in history and legends had become a bottom feeder in the league without a glimmer of hope for fans to cling to. That changed in the early 2000's and resulted in a Stanley Cup win in 2010. 

The Hawks steady climb back to the top was done mostly from within as the club built through the draft. Strong drafting has continued and so the Hawks remain a franchise to be feared and respected.

Goaltending at the NHL level has become a question mark for Chicago and the Hawks have used a number of draft picks in recent years to stockpile at that position. Chicago has drafted five goalies in the last three years, almost all of them very late in the draft. Brandon Whitney and Matt Tomkins are the two most recent and they join Kent Simpson, Mac Carruth and Swede Johan Mattson in the organization. 

Defencemen have been a particular success story in Chicago going back to Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. More recently, Dylan Olsen (who played 28 games last year), Joe Gleason, Nick Mattson, Adam Clendening, Michael Paliotta and Dillon Fournier have deepened the waiting pool even more.

Fans have their fingers crossed that 2012 1st round pick Teuvo Teravainen becomes the steal many of them believe he could be. 2011 1st rounder Mark McNeill is looking to finish his WHL career in playoff fashion with Prince Albert. Some forwards have already played some NHL games like Brandon Pirri, Brandon Saad and Jeremy Morin

The guy I settled on for this series has yet to play a NHL game although he was selected five drafts ago. Injuries and perhaps salaries have combined to delay his arrival but maybe that will change this year. 

One To Watch: Tampa Bay Lightning

It's been fun to watch the evolution of the Lighting over the last few years. The addition of Steve Yzerman brought a certain level of confidence that had been missing. From the outside looking in it seems like there is a new personnel, new uniforms and a new attitude.   

I've liked Al Murray for a long time and think he's an excellent scout. Coincidentally, I live in a small town outside of Edmonton of less than 10,000 people and so does another member of the Tampa scouting staff who I run into from time to time. I've come to have a bit of a soft spot for the club and appreciate the turnaround that's occured. 

As for the prospects in the system, or "The Pipeline" as the team calls it on their website (I approve of the free publicity for my show, btw), there is lots to like. 

One of the first things I see when I look at the list is a large number of Europeans; I may be wrong but I get the sense that the Blots have more than most NHL clubs. If I'm not wrong in saying that then the question is why? There is a general hesitancy in drafting them because it can be tough to bring them over. Perhaps the thought is that the old real estate adage works for European hockey prospects too; location, location, location. That Florida sunshine must be pretty attractive.

Vlad Namestnikov, Nikita Gusev, Radko Gudas and Andrei Vasilevskiy are some of the more recognizable names with Euro passports.

Not that there aren't homegrown talents in the system as well. Dustin Tokarski had a sniff in the NHL last year. Slater Koekkoek and Dylan Blujus are recent additions on the back end. Tyler Johnson had a great year in the AHL as a rookie. 

The player I chose for this series doesn't hail from North America although he may play here this coming season and how that came to be is a story within itself.         

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One To Watch: Colorado Avalanche

One of the more underrated organizations, when it comes to prospect depth, is the Colorado Avalanche. Hockey's Future currently ranks the team 24th in the NHL and I can't say that I agree. I understand why, there's not a lot of big name guys on the list, but I personally see a lot of players who fit the description that I used for the organization; underrated. 

Starting on the back end, a trio of former WHL stars may all one day play together in Colorado. Two of the three are already former teammates in Stefan Elliott and Duncan Siemens who skated together with the Saskatoon Blades. Add diminutive but very skilled Tyson Barrie and you have three different but talented d-men to move forward with. 

Up front, the choice of Joey Hishon in the 1st round of the 2010 draft took many by surprise but he can play. Another small player, Hishon had 80 points in 50 games during his last season of play, the bad news is that was in 2010-11. Hishon sustained a concussion after a tough hit to the end from Brayden McNabb during the 2011 Memorial Cup and missed all of last season because of it. 

Colorado has a full stable of goalies in waiting as well with Calvin Pickard, Kieran Millan, Sami Aittokallio and Kent Patterson

But the guy in the organization that epitomizes underrated to me is someone that wasn't drafted and wasn't even initially signed by the Avalanche. 

One To Watch: New Jersey Devils

Tough days lay ahead for the Devils both on the ice and off it. Losing a franchise player in Zach Parise could have a huge effect on the standings and inside the room as players decide whether they want to stay with the franchise or not. Fortunately Martin Brodeur is still around and there is another bona fide star on the roster in Ilya Kovalchuk. They'll need a sophomore year from Adam Henrique that matches his rookie one and for Adam Larsson to develop quickly. 

For as much praise as the Devils get for their track record at the draft, for me it's a bit of a case of living off your reputation. There's no question that in the 1990's and early 2000's David Conte and his staff mined more than their fair share of diamonds from the rough. But since Travis Zajac in 2004... forgive me for saying it but there really isn't much to brag about... is there?

There are a few guys I like, most of them blueliners; Former Michigan Wolverine Brandon Burlon is among that list as is 2012 draftee Damon Severson

I have nothing against 2011 picks Reid Boucher and Blake Coleman. Goalie Scott Wedgewood could be one to keep tabs on this year for sure. 

I don't think there is any question though which Devils prospect has the greatest number of questions around him for this year. He might also just happen to have the most upside of any other New Jersey non-pro. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

One To Watch: Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are in a weird spot right now. They have superstars on their roster but fired their coach last year and still ended up missing the playoffs. They took a kick in the junk when prize prospect Justin Schultz left school, refused to sign and eventually went the UFA route. 

The team is in some sort of transition but I don't know which direction they'll be headed this year, up or down.

Prospect wise they still have some valuable commodities in place. Certainly Emerson Etem will be expected to challenge for a roster spot after a stellar 61-goal campaign in Medicine Hat last season. 

My "One to Watch" could have been Kevin Roy as he begins a new challenge at Northeastern but I've already done that story a few times lately on Twitter and on the radio

Personally I think that one of the best prospects in the Ducks' system is also one of the newest. The fact that he's got storylines around him heading into the new year is what has him on my watch list. 

One To Watch: Toronto Maple Leafs

Once upon a time, I hated the Leafs. Back before my media days when I saw hockey solely through the eyes of a fan, my dislike of the team from Toronto was unrivaled. 

But that was a long time ago. Now there really aren't teams that I like or dislike, it's the people who play or work for them that are the deciding factors for me. As a media guy covering junior and college hockey, there are quite a few players within the organization that I knew and liked before they became property of the Leafs and it didn't change when that happened. 

Then there is Brian Burke who is a polarizing figure to be sure. Personally, as a media guy, I could listen to him all day long. He's been on TPS and a planned 10-minute interview turned into 16 minutes simply because we couldn't stop - it was pure audio gold. 

So no, I no longer hate the Leafs.  In fact, I actually would love to see them back in the playoffs (gasp!).

As for the prospects Toronto has coming up, there are quite a few I like. Edmontonians Matt Frattin and Ben Scrivens are two of them. The ups and downs of Frattin's college career are well documented but how can you not pull for a guy in his shoes? Scrivens was always of interest me as he compiled stellar numbers year after year at Cornell. Then he joined us in studio for an hour last summer and blew me away. 

Brad Ross is the perfect prospect for the Leafs; he'll be loved by Bud fans and hated by everyone else in the league just like the organization itself. 

The hype machine is already in full gear for Morgan Rielly, a player I really like myself, and now the question is whether he gets a look at the NHL level this year or not. If he eventually lands back in the WHL with Moose Jaw, he instantly becomes a huge trading chip for the Warriors not unlike Brayden Schenn a couple of years ago. 

So who did I settle on? It's not really a surprise to anyone who has read this blog over the last number of years. Every year we ask a handful of draft eligible players to blog with us and the first player who stepped up is the guy I'm going with.   

Sunday, August 12, 2012

One To Watch: St. Louis Blues

Not unlike the L.A. Kings, St. Louis has been a team that spent much of the last decade planning for the future, one that started to arrive over the last couple of years. The Blues are loaded and have begun to reap the benefits of a proper rebuild.

St. Louis is deep beyond the NHL boasting an array of prospects that most franchises would be envious of. Even after trading away Ben Bishop the Blues are secure with Jake Allen on the farm and Jordan Binnington further down the pipe.

There are some potential gems on the blueline like a personal favourite in Joel Edmundson. Brett Ponich, Jordan Schmaltz, Jani Hakanpaa and the AJHL's Colton Parayko are all worth taking note of.

I expect Jaden Schwartz and Vlad Tarasenko to be in the NHL this year so didn't look at them for this series. I am a believer in both that they can grow into NHL stars one day. 

Ty Rattie is destined for a big year in the WHL and Canada's U20 squad and was almost my pick for this series. The Alberta native is driven and definitely motivated after slipping out of the 1st round in 2011 and getting cut from the 2012 WJC team. I wouldn't bet against him this year. 

The player I went with isn't expected to be star in the NHL but my curiosity is high for him this coming year as he joins a team that has yet to play the first game of its existence.

One To Watch: Florida Panthers

If I'm the owner of a NHL franchise in need of a rebuild and a GM to do the job, Dale Tallon is at the top of my list. The man has done a masterful job with the Florida Panthers, in my opinion, since taking over the job a handful of years ago. 

Florida currently boasts a stable of prospects that is ridiculously deep with high-end talent. Assuming there is a NHL season in 2012-13, Jonathan Huberdeau will be playing in it. Jacob Markstrom is considered by many to be the top goalie prospect out there. Quinton Howden is the kind of player who might be a better pro than he was a junior because of the support cast he'll benefit from. Nick Bjugstad is headed back to Minnesota and potential Hobey Baker territory as a guy poised to dominate at the collegiate level.

Michael Matheson, Alex Petrovic, Sam Brittain, Michael Houser... the list goes on and on.

With a plethora of great prospects and storylines to pick from I went with a guy who hasn't played a meaningful game in over 10 months.

One To Watch: Minnesota Wild

The rebuilt Minnesota organization is going to be on the move up the standings over the next few years. A team that has added massive pieces via free agency is also getting young help from within as several key prospects are ready to contribute if called  upon.

It would be understandable if most Minnesota fans have Mikael Granlund on the top of their watch list as the dynamic Finn has been considered one of the top prospects in the world for the past couple years. Granlund finished 6th in SM-Liiga scoring last year with 51 points in 45 games, his 1.13 points per game was actually tops in the league. There is every reason for Wild fans to be excited about his arrival this year. 

Mario Lucia is coming off a championship season in the BCHL and a national title as well with Penticton. He's off to Notre Dame this fall but just wrapped up team USA's U20 camp in Lake Placid and showed well. 

Other key guys in the system include Mathew Dumba, Zack Phillips, Chay Genoway, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper. But the guy I've singled out will be wearing at least his 4th different jersey in the last 9 months. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One To Watch: Boston Bruins

The only downside to being a prospect of the Boston Bruins might be that you're a prospect of the Boston Bruins. The 2011 Stanley Cup champions are still very deep and any hole that the NHL roster might have because of injuries to Marc Savard and Nathan Horton, there's a line up of guys waiting for their shot. 

I was going to go a bit off the map and spotlight goaltender Zane Gothberg because I think he is an interesting story heading into this year. Here's a guy who was drafted back in 2010 and has been patiently playing in Fargo of the USHL since then. I say patiently because he's been waiting for North Dakota goalies Brad Eidsness or Aaron Dell to either turn pro or graduate, the latter finally happening for Eidsness. Gothberg joins UND this year, and I'll be watching to see how much he gets to play. 

But I didn't stick with Gothberg and those who frequent this blog or listen to the show won't be shocked at all by the Bruins prospect I have latched on to. 

Branch Shoots Down Spitfires

Friday was a huge day in the Ontario Hockey League and quite possibly for the entire structure of North American amateur hockey. David Branch, the President of the Canadian Hockey League and Commissioner of the OHL, dropped a bomb on the Windsor Spitfires in the form of massive fines and the stripping of several high end draft picks. 

The official statement released by the OHL can be read here. Media friends of TPS wrote several fantastic features on the subject and a couple of them will be on the show as guests later this Saturday morning. Neate Sager from Yahoo! and Buzzing the Net can add to this piece written by Cam Charron

TPS regular Patrick King's story can be found at

Chris Peters offers the American based perspective and it's a terrific read. You can find that here and he'll touch on it with me on the radio this morning as well.    

After the jump, I'll offer my own initial thoughts which are more about, "What happens next?"

Friday, August 10, 2012

One To Watch: Edmonton Oilers

You can imagine that after being bad enough to select 1st overall in three consecutive years, the Oilers have a ton of top prospects in the organization. But as I have tried to establish in this series, it's not the "best" prospect I'm spotlighting but rather guys with interesting storylines heading into the coming season. 

So no Nail Yakupov, Oscar Klefbom or Justin Schultz although those are three guys that are obviously going to be front and center for a lot of people. 

Tobias Rieder made my short list. I'm not sold yet that the 5'10 German is NHL material and want to see what he does for a follow up after an 84-point campaign with Kitchener last year. 

I think Kellen Jones is a prospect worth following because the more I see him play the more I think he's an odds beater. Add twin brother Connor to that mix because I firmly believe that 7th round pick was a 2-for-1 selection and both are dynamic, yet diminutive, offensive talents. 

You can add Brandon Davidson, Curtis Hamilton, Kyle Bigos, Jujhar Khaira, Taylor Fedun and about half a dozen Edmonton Oil Kings to the list of guys I'm keen on watching. But to single out one player I chose a local product playing a country away. 

One To Watch: Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have one of the best amateur scouting staffs in the NHL but have an aggressive owner and management that means the organization doesn't rely on it as much as other clubs. The cost of making blockbuster trades is often youth and draft picks and Philly has paid that price a lot over the years. That's not a critique, the club has been a contender for the last half a decade because of it, but it is a reality.

Claude Grioux, Lucas Sbisa, Steve Downie and James vanRiemsdyk were all successful 1st round picks but trades have left only one with the organization. In the drafts from 2009-2011 the team used one 1st round pick and zero second rounders. That single pick was Sean Couturier.

What do you do if you don't have draft picks? You sign some CHL or NCAA free agents. Matt Read, Harry Zolnierczyk and Cal Heeter from the college ranks while Zac Rinaldo and Jason Akeson came in from the OHL.    

The status of Philly's prospect depth is currently fairly weak. Earlier in the series I pointed out that San Jose is ranked last by Hockey's Future but a commenter suggested that the Flyers are probably on the bottom right now. I don't know if that's the case but I think it's fair to say they'd be in that conversation but while the NHL team is a contender, thats the price they're happy to pay.

It's way to early to pass judgement on last June's draft but the very early indications are favorable. And yes, my pick as the key guy to watch this coming season does come from the Class of 2012. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

One To Watch: Dallas Stars

It's not as much the Big 'R' in Big 'D' as the Dallas Stars are reloading as opposed to rebuilding. I guess those both star with 'R' but the point is that while the organization is welcoming an influx of youth it's also adding some veterans to the mix too. 

Netminder Jack Campbell will begin his rookie season as a professional although I expect, and I could be wrong, that he's probably destined for the Texas Stars for the year.

Newly acquired Cody Eakin is a personal favourite and a guy i think will become a crowd pleaser because of his tenacious style. He and former Edmonton Oil King Tomas Vincour should be full time NHLers this season. 

It's a big year for power forward and 2009 8th overall pick Scott Glennie and also for defenceman Brendan Dillon. Both were rookies last year in the AHL and will look to see some NHL action. 

My choice for this series came down to three collegians. Austin Smith was a Hobey Baker nominee in his fourth and final season at Colgate. The Texas native has the local-boy-made-good story behind him but with 36 goals and 57 points in 39 games, I'm very curious to see how he fits in as a pro. 

Alex Chiasson at 6'4 and 190 lbs has NHL size. He racked up 80 points in 73 games at Boston University over the past two seasons so the offence is also there. In 9 games on the farm he chipped in 5 points, just wetting the appetite of fans for next year. 

A lot of worthy candidates above and several others that I didn't mention but in the end I went with the other big name rookie from college. 

One To Watch: Ottawa Senators

This one was easy. Not that the Senators pool of prospects is shallow, not at all in fact, but for me there is one guy that is beginning a huge chapter in his career this year that I can't overlook. 

No, it's not any of the OHL picks in recent years although I'm not going to criticize anyone who has taken a shine to Cody Ceci, Shane Prince, Stefan Noesen or Matt Puempel. All are solid prospects in their own right.

Swedes Mika Zibanejad and Robin Lehner? Worthy but also neither are the guy I am thinking of. It's not the Love Expert, Louie Caporusso, or Frenchman Stephane Da Costa either. 

My pick as one to watch for the Senators is a former King. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

One To Watch: Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus fans are probably tired of hearing about prospects, the future and what will be "one day". But it is true that the Blue Jackets have good things on the way and really, better days should lay ahead in the not too distant future.  

Already respectable on the blueline at the NHL level, there are more d-men in the system like David Savard, Nick Holden, Teddy Ruth, Cody Goloubef, Austin Madaisky and Mike Reilly with promise. Add 2nd overall pick Ryan Murray to that mix and recently acquired Tim Erixon and Columbus may even be considered "deep" at the position. 

I still think getting Boone Jenner in the second round of 2011 is great fortune for Columbus and will be a quality player one day. Michal Chaput had an excellent Memorial Cup tournament and T.J. Tynan, although very undersized, is an odds beater. 

But the position that is most highly scrutinized in the organization is between the pipes. I personally like Allen York and really approve of the selection of Joonas Korpisalo as well although I'm disappointed to here he has signed to play in Finland instead of playing in the WHL with Prince George. 

That said, it's another netminder that I have circled on my "must follow" sheet for this coming year. 

One To Watch: Carolina Hurricanes

Unlike with most teams I've done thus far in this series, the Carolina Hurricanes presented a bit of a different sort of challenge. With other teams it was hard to narrow it down to a single guy because there were so many players that I like. That's not really the case with the 'Canes. 

No offence meant to "Cane-iacs" out there but I've kind of given up on guys I once expected big things for - Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe for example. It might be premature on my part but that's where I am, just being honest. 

It didn't help that the team just traded Brian Dumoulin to Pittsburgh, arguably their top prospect. You could make a valid argument for Ryan Murphy and now he probably is the guy on top of the list. 

This time I picked someone based almost entirely on where he'll play this year because I will get to see a lot of him.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

One To Watch: San Jose Sharks

Does San Jose really have the shallowest prospect pool? Well known prospects website Hockey's Future ranks the Sharks dead last in their most recent organizational rankings but I'm not so sure. Obviously only picking in the 1st round twice in the last five NHL drafts will have predictable results but I think the Sharks have done a rather good job in another way. 

San Jose has signed a lot of free agents in the last few years, guys out of college or undrafted juniors. Thomas Heemskerk and J.P. Anderson are goalies acquired in that way and Travis Oleksuk is a recent example of a forward. Oleksuk played for Duluth and helped the Bulldogs win a National championship in 2011 alongside another Sharks free agent signee, Mike Connolly, who has since been traded. 

Picking late makes it harder but not impossible and the Sharks have some solid guys in their system including Freddie Hamilton, Taylor Doherty, Matt Nieto and Nick Petrecki

So who have I set my sights on for 2012-13? A guy I that think is going to make some noise this year both with his club team and while playing for his country.

One To Watch: New York Islanders

With the Islanders, how are you supposed to narrow it down to just one guy? Seriously, with a prospect pool bursting at the seams at every position, how can a person be expected to single out one guy as the most intriguing story to follow in 2012-13?

The sideshow that can come from Kirill Kabanov is certainly deserving of a mention. But so are Ryan Strome, Rhett Rakhshani, Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. And that's just from the forwards!

You probably assumed I'd go with Griffin Reinhart because he plays in my backyard with the Edmonton Oil Kings but this series will have a few of his teammates and I wanted to spread it around. But Reinhart is definitely worthy of being the guy, as are fellow Islander defencemen Andrey Pedan, Adam Pelech, Brenden Kichton and Ville Pokka.

I think you'd agree that it's pretty tough to narrow it down to one guy but since I came up with the rule I can only blame myself. In the end, I settled on a defenceman from Missouri.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Canada Names Ivan Hlinka U18 Roster

After what has been described as one of the most competitive summer U18 camps ever, Canada has named it's 22-man roster that will play in the annual Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. 

The squad will consist of 9 players from the WHL, 7 from the OHL and 6 based in the QMJHL. Headliners on the team include Nathan MacKinnon, Curtis Lazar, Zach Fucale, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Jonathan Drouin

The full roster can be found HERE

The team will leave for the Czech Republic shortly and then begin play on Monday August 13th against Switzerland. The other two teams in Canada's pool are Sweden and Slovakia.   


One To Watch: Los Angeles Kings

The 2012 Stanley Cup champions may very well become a team organizations try to emulate when as they navigate a rebuild. Yes it took a long time and more patience than most fans possess but in the end it delivered a league title and a pool of prospects that it still very deep. 

The Kings stable of youth includes several players that were scoring dynamos at the junior level like Tyler Toffoli, Jordan Weal, Linden Vey, Brandon Kozun and Justin Azevedo

Derek Forbort headlines a crop of blueliners that still includes Thomas Hickey among other notables.

Yet, it's neither a forward nor a defenceman that has my attention this year.

One To Watch: Montreal Canadiens

The Habs prospect that I'm most intrigued by this coming season is a player most people have either probably already written off or don't even know. 

Obviously bigger name players like Alex Galchenyuk, Blake Geoffrion, Michael Bournival, Danny Kristo, Jared Tinordi, Nathan Beauieu and Dalton Thrower all deserve recognition, I can't help but look in another, less certain direction. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

One To Watch: Phoenix Coyotes

My selection for the Phoenix prospect that I am going to keep close tabs on this year will come as no surprise.

Despite there being several guys in the Coyotes system that I like including Brandon Gormley, Brett Hextall, Mike Lee, Louis Domingue and a former guest blogger here in Ethan Werek, I've chosen someone that I'll get to see a lot of this year. 

One To Watch: Detroit Red Wings

I really wanted to go with Brendan Smith here but with 14 games in the NHL last year and the door wide open for him with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and departure of Brad Stuart, it seemed too easy. In my opinion, the former Wisconsin defenceman should be a full time NHLer in 2012-13. 

I could have gone with one of a pair of forwards in Tomas Tatar or Landon Ferraro. I considered Czech netminder Peter Mrazek who made a name for himself in Edmonton during the 2012 WJC. But I didn't.

Instead I went with a player drafted a couple of years ago who was considered a guy who had just begun to scratch the surface of his true potential. He wasn't a first round selection but there were some who believed that had the season been a month longer, this player may very well have heard his name on day one of the NHL draft. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

One To Watch: Winnipeg Jets

Truth be told, there are more than a few Jets prospects that I'll be keying in on this season so it was a bit hard to narrow it down to just one guy for this series. 

I like Paul Postma and am still a believer that he'll contribute at the NHL level, maybe this coming season. I would suggest that Spencer Machacek is in the same boat and a quick glance at the Jets website may indicates the way the organization might feels. 

At the junior level, Adam Lowry should be poised for a significant year in Swift Current after missing a bunch of time last season due to injury. I'll be looking to see if former Atlanta Thrashers 1st round selection Daultan Leveille sinks or swims as a pro now that he's done at Michigan State. 

But I said I would pick one prospect from each franchise and so that's what I've done. It's should come as no real surprise who I settled on for the Jets considering how much his name has been in the news lately, including a lot of time on TPS.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

'One to Watch' Series Coming

This blog has been far too inactive for far too long. In order to remedy that, I'll be posting a new series that I am calling "One to Watch". 

It's not a hard concept; I'm going to look at all 30 NHL franchises and single out one of their prospects that for whatever reason, I'm particularly interested in following closely in 2012-13. 

Fair warning: it's not going to simply be a list of each team's top prospect. That will sometimes be the case but that will not necessarily be the reason I picked that player. Some I picked simply because I will have the opportunity to see them frequently this year in the WHL, others are guys who I have gotten to know over the years at different stages of their careers. Basically, it's the guys with the best story lines around them heading in to the coming season that have drawn my attention. 

No matter why they are on my watch list, I'll do my best to explain why they are players that every fan should take note of. I think all 30 of these guys are capable of being big stories this coming year. 

The 'One to Watch' series begins soon.