Columbus Midseason Prospects Review - Forward Motion

Discussion in 'HFNHL Talk' started by Ohio Jones, Feb 2, 2006.

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  1. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

    Feb 28, 2002
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    Great White North
    CD - Columbus

    If Columbus' futures were as bright throughout the roster as they are up front, they'd be in the top ten in the league in prospect depth and quality, but after trading Corey Crawford earlier this year, thier goaltending is a little in question, and their defence is VERY thin.

    1. RW Steve Bernier
    The Jackets' first round selection in 2004, Bernier has played very well in his first pro season, spending most of his time leading the Cleveland Barons at a point-per-game pace. He's seen limited ice-time in two brief callups (one currently underway) in San Jose, and has not embarassed himself, but like most big men he clearly has a ways to go to get comfortable. He won't be a fixture in the HFNHL next year, but could make an impact for Columbus as soon as the 2007/08 season. Bernier projects as a top-two line power forward.

    2. C/LW Dustin Penner
    A free agent signing from the summer of 2004, Penner has blossomed wonderfully in his second pro season, leading the Hershey Bears (and among the AHL scoring leaders) with 53 points in only 34 games (1.56 points per game). He has also looked storng in a pair of call-ups to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, where he has 5 points in 10 games. Like Bernier, Penner is a power forward, but where Bernier will make the skating, give-and-go play, Penner will score most of his goals within 6 feet of the net. Picture Tomas Holmstrom abilities, but with an extra 4 inches and 40 pounds of muscle. Penner will challenge for a spot in the opening night roster next season.

    3. L/RW Jaroslav Balastik
    A Columbus draft pick in 2002 (?), "ballistic" Balastik is a sniper, pure and simple. He led the Czech Extraligue in goals and scoring both of the past two seasons, and after a short audition with AHL Syracuse, he is now adjusting to the North American game with Columbus in the NHL. He is still getting acclimatized to the flow and confines of the smaller ice, although he has managed 8 goals (several highlight-reel quality) and 11 points in 37 games. but his skills have really stood out in the shootout, where he is fifth in the NHL in goals scored (4 goals in 5 chances). Like Penner, Balastik will challenge for a spot in the HFNHL Jackets' opening night roster next season.

    4. C/RW Jeremy Colliton
    Another Columbus Draft Pick, Colliton excelled in the WHL, building a reputation as a solid two-way player with exceptional leadership abilities and a knack for faceoffs. He has carried those characteristics to the AHL for his first pro season, accumulating 30 points and a team-leading +10 in 49 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His defensively responsible play earned him a 4-game call-up to the NHL parent Islanders, where he displayed steady nerves and good instincts. If his offensive game continues to develop, he might see time in the NHL as a second-line pivot, but at worst he seems a lock to be a shut-down third line pivot and future Captain.

    5. C Ryan Potulny
    A Jackets fifth-round selection two years ago, Potulny is tearing up the NCAA, centering American phenom Phil Kessel at Minnesota, scoring 20 goals and 39 points in 28 games so far in his Junior season. There will be pressure from some people for the slick centerman to go pro next season, but the Jackets are happy to see him continue to develop - and dominate - in the college ranks. Potulny projects out as a top-two pivot. His older brother Grant is a Columbus Free agent signee (see #13).

    6. LW James Neal
    Another Jackets forward prospect with power, Neal plays a physical but responsible game on the wing for Plymouth in the OHL where he has 41 points in 46 games. It may not be his scoring the earns him an HFNHL role, but what he does for the other players on his line, winnig battles in the corner, taking out opposing players with crushing checks, and sticking up for his teammates. He creates a lot of space on the ice and has been described as Gary Roberts-esque in his focus and determination. He projects as a second- or third-line crashing winger.

    7. G Martin Houle
    A late-round pick of the HFNHL NY Islanders, Houle was picked up for a mid-round pick shortly afterwards wen the Jackets realized what they'd missed. A top-3 goaltender in teh QMJHL, Houle has solidified a place for himself with the AHL Philly Phantoms in his rookie pro season, and shown a remakrable amount of poise in the process. With a gaa under 2.50 and a .911 save%, Houle is in the top 10 in the A in both categories, and is the highest-ranked rookie in both. He plays a classic Q butterfly, but has demonstrated the ability to move up-and-down, left-and-right as well as any reflex goaltender. He's got sound positioning and a steady nerve that lets him challenge shooters in close. He has the makings of a potential HFNHL starter, but the Jackets will have to be patient as he gains more pro experience, before they know just how good he can be.

    8. G Mike Smith
    Houle and Smith are neck-and-neck in the Jackets' goalie stable. Smith is also top-10 in the AHL in goals against (.1 goals behind Houle), and is sporting a nifty .918 save percentage. Those similarities aside, however, the two are very different. Smith is a big 6-3, so he covers a lot of the net when down, but he tends to play a stand-up style. He is also a superb puckhandler which helps his team on the transition. Smith holds a record as the only goalie ever to score a goal AND post a shutout in his first pro game (with Lexington of the ECHL). Smith went to the ECHL from the OHL, and has since earned the starting duties in Iowa, outdueling college standout Dan Ellis. He has received a couple of call-ups this season to be backup for the NHL Dallas Stars, but has yet to make it into an NHL game. A career as a solid bakcup is virtually assured; it remains to be seen whether Smith can crack the elite cadre of HFNHL starting goaltenders. But he's shown the patience and determination necessary to get this far, so don't count him out.

    9. C Jonas Nordquist
    Nordquist has very quietly developed into a superb two-way centerman in the Swedish Elitserien, scoring at a point-per-game pace (18 goals, 20 assists in 39 games) to lead Lulea in goals and scoring - this on a roster that includes NHLers Mikael Renberg, Vladimir Orszagh and Lubos Bartecko. It remains to be seen when and if Nordquist will come to North America, but in the meantime he's gaining invaluable experience in an excellent league and increasing his confidence and abilities. He projects as a 2nd-line offensive center in the HFNHL.

    10. D Filip Novak
    The Jackets' first defenceman to make the rankings. With 34 points in 40 games, Novak is having a renaissance season with Binghampton in the AHL after having lost the entire 2003-04 season to injury and then struggling to regain his game last season. His new surroundings and teammates, and the confidence placed in him by the Baby Sens' coach, has him back playing the kind of thrilling firebrand hockey that was expected of him in New York and Florida. He seems custom-made for the "new" NHL, with sensational skating and puck-moving abilities, and he is absolutely fearless with the puck in the offensive zone. His defensive coverage continues to need work, but he is showing that he can learn and improve in that regard, so it is hoped he will get a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level soon. He projects as a second-pairing defenceman and power-play quarterback.

    11. L/RW Konstantin Pushkarev
    Push has fallen somewhat in the Jackets' eyes after struggling in this, his second pro season in North America. He continues to have a tremendous upside as an incredibly creative offensive player, but he is taking longer to develop than was expected. He still projects out as a top-two line sscoring winger, but the risk of his busting out appears higher than at this time last season.

    12. C Nate Davis
    The Jackets' third and final draft pick last summer is having a very solid Sophomore season with the NCAA Miami Redhawks, with 13 goals and 23 points in 25 games to go with a gaudy +13 rating. Davis has demonstrated considerable versatility on offence this season: his goals include 6 pp markers, 2 short-handed and 3 game winners. He was consideed a two-way third-liner when drafted, but if his development continues along this curve his potential will have to be revised upwards.

    13. C/LW Grant Potulny
    The older brother of Jackets prospect Ryan (#5) appeared in three consecutive Frozen Four championships (twice as Captain) with Minnesota. He is considered the consummate team player, with an incredible work ethic and leadership ability. The elder Potulny was never a dominant offensive player, but could always be counted on at crunch time to score the key goal. He's a complete player defensively, with great mobility and anticipation, discipline and grit. In this, his second pro season,
    his offensive game has started to come around, and he is rapidly climbing the Sens' scoring sheet. To date he has 28 points and a +13 in 45 games, with 85 penalty minutes attesting to his feisty streak. Weighing in at 6-3/205 and strong on his skates, he may never be play on a team's top 6, but he should be giving opposing forwards fits in a year or two on a checking line, and another C for Captain at some point in the future would not surprise.

    14. D Andy Wozniewski
    "Woz", as his teammates call him, has earned this ranking based on his solid, reliable play that has impressed NHL coaches like Pat Quinn and Paul Maurice. Wozniewski was signed out of the NCAA, where he developed a reputation as a big, steady defence-first blueliner, a reputation he has lived up to so far this season in the A. He earns his spot in the ranking because he's basically a finished project - his upside may not be greater than that of a 5-6 stay-at-homer, but that effectively describes him now, which makes him a safe bet for the Jackets going forward.

    15. D Nathan Saunders
    Saunders is a one-man wrecking crew on the blueline. He plays an intensely physical style of hockey, and will happily drop the gloves to defend his turf and his teammates: before suffering a shoulder injury a quarter way through the season, Saunders had amassed 75 minutes in penalties in just 20 games. He has no offensive game to speak of, but is very effective in his own end. He projects as a #5-6 stay-at-home defenceman who doubles as an enforcer.

    HM: D Aaron Rome, G Tuomas Tarkki, RW Alexander Drozdetsky, RW Tim Konsorada, C Chris Vande Velde, D Matt DeMarchi, RW Teemu Laine, RW Darren Haydar, D Tomas Malec, D Steven Later, RW Darren Reid
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