As the Habs regular season is coming to an end, as they gear up for a trip to the playoffs, several of the organizations prospects will look to embark into playoff hockey, which should provide a valuable learning experience for the young players. Some prospects have already started their playoff run, while others sadly will have to watch from home as they start their off season training.
PEI Rocket– The PEI Rocket will take on Patrick Roy’s team the Quebec Remparts, in the first round of the playoffs which get started tonight the 19th. The Rocket are coming off one of their better seasons in the Q, after moving from Montreal to PEI, lead by Michael Lambert, Cory Urquhart and Maxim Lapierre offensively and tough guy Jimmy Bonneau as a solid role player. In last years playoffs, Urquhart lead the team with an impressive 15 points, while this year saw Lambert score over 40 goals, and Lapierre was a all round force on a nightly basis. This should be a great experience for the Hab prospects, especially Lambert who’s trying to convince management to take a chance on him and sign him to a professional contract this summer, or let him reenter the NHL entry draft. Lambert and Urquhart have formed an impressive duo all season long, with Lapierre joining the line at times, which has built chemistry between them that should benefit them down the road when they reach the AHL and beyond.
Rimouski Oceanic– Danny Stewart‘s team has gotten themselves a first round bye in the playoffs, so it’s unknown who they will play just yet, but it’s an impressive feat that one of the worst teams in the Q last year could finish 3rd and Stewart certainly had a big part of that with his improved play this year. As the 3rd leading scorer on the team, he often gets overlooked with all the hoopla that surrounds Sidney Crosby, but Stewart has had a strong season as he has helped his team win by creating a lot of offense and cutting down on his unnecessary penalties. This will be Stewart’s 2nd trip to the post season, as he played in four games in his first season with Rimouski.
Ottawa 67’s– Corey Locke won the scoring title in the OHL for the second season in a row, and hopefully he will have the same success he had in last years playoffs as he was practically unstoppable with 38 points in 23 games. This year Locke and the 67’s will face the Brampton Battalion tonight in the first round as Ottawa has home ice advantage for winning their division. Locke has proven that he can score almost at will in the OHL, as he has recorded 268 points during the last two regular seasons, but a strong playoff drive should all but force management to sign him over the summer, instead of letting him return to the OHL for a final season.
Owen Sound– Andre Deveaux had started off the season strong, but tailed off towards the end. This is not a good way to get management to offer him a contract, as he will need a strong playoff run to show that he should be signed before June 1st, instead of letting him reenter the draft. Owen Sound will face the Guelph Storm tonight in the first game, as they face an uphill battle against one of the better teams in the OHL.
Cornell– Ryan O’Byrne may have seen his first season in the NCAA come to an early end, as his team lost to Clarkson even though they were the heavy favorites to win not only the round but the entire conference as they did last year. But they still have a chance to play in the froze four, as their regular season record could get them a bid possibly. Even though O’Byrne recorded only two assists all season, he still gained a lot of valuable experience playing in one of the better defensive system in the NCAA.
St. Lawrence– Ryan Glenn sadly has seen his career in the NCAA come to an end, as his team lost in the second round to the top seeded team Colgate University. But it was a very exciting year for Glenn and St. Lawrence as they were able to knock off the Yale Bulldogs in a surprise sweep during 1st round action. Glenn really stepped up his play towards the end of the season, and during the playoffs, and for his hard work he was named to the ALL ECAC 1st Team for the first time in the four years he played at St. Lawrence.
Lada– Alex Buturlin is reaching the point where he won’t be considered a prospect much longer, as he was drafted back in ‘99 and was the Habs first pick that year. After playing in the OHL, Buturlin returned home to play in the Russian Super League where he had some trouble adjusting to the league in his first year, but after switching teams he has found a lot of success with Lada playing an important role with them as a top six forward. Last year he was able to help his team go deep in the playoffs, and this year he looks to do the same, as they take on Lokomotiv and have won the first two games.
AK Bars– Konstantin Korneev is playing in the playoffs for the first time, as his team Dynamo was the worst team in the RSL last year and have since been regulated for their poor showing. In the off season Korneev signed with AK Bars, a team loaded with an impressive defensive group, which cut down his ice time by a large amount but gave him some experienced players to learn from, as half of AK Bars defense has suited up for the Russian National Team this year, Korneev included. Korneev and AK Bars take on Metallurg Novokuznetsk who have Habs restricted free agent Vadim Tarasov in net. So far AK Bars has won the first game, but lost the second game in which looks to be a tough fought playoff round.
Hammerby– Johan Eneqvist and his team Hammerby look to build on their impressive season in the tier -2 league, as they were the top team in the league all season long and stand a chance to move into the SEL next season. Eneqvist was unable to score in the first game, but he did reach the score sheet with two penalty minutes as Hammerby took on AIK in the first round but lost game one. Eneqvist had trouble getting ice time with Leksand of the SEL, so hopefully with his new team he will gain valuable experience being in a winning environment and helping his team win on a consistent basis.
Karpat– Oskari Korpikari is headed to the playoffs for a second season in a row, as he played well in last years playoffs as his team went all the way to the championship but lost. Korpikari was able to play in every game, an impressive feat for the young player playing in the top mens league in the country. Currently Karpat is playing the lower seeded Jokerit, in a seven game series. This should be a good learning experience for Korpikari after coming back from a shoulder injury that he suffered playing for Team Finland’s U-20 team. Karpat needs only 1 more win to advance as they have a 3-1 series lead.
HPK– Joni Puurula has had an up and down season, but after coming back from injury he has put up some impressive numbers as looks to help his team go far in this years playoffs, as he lead them to the bronze in last years playoffs. This year HPK takes on Lukko, and as of today have swept the series 4-0 and are the first team to advance to the next round which is a good start to the playoffs for Puurula and HPK.
HC Moeller Pardubice– Tomas Linhart has been the journeymen of the Hab prospects, as he has played in all different leagues and for different teams as well. This year he has suited up in the playoffs for HC Moeller Pardubice, which is the highest senior level in the Czech league, where he’s played in five games and is a +5. He’s also played for HC Hradec Kralove, which is the 2nd highest senior league, where he’s played in three games and is a -1.