It’s only early August, but the 2005-2006 hockey season is closer then you think, with training camps in the CHL getting ready to start next week, team Canada’s U-20 camp a few days away and some of the Euro leagues already playing preseason hockey. I thought I would get an early jump on what fans can expect to see from the Canadiens prospects this coming year, where they will be playing, in what league and what sort of progression/development management would likely be hoping for.
Kyle Chipchura– C. Chipchura started off last season with a bang, was on fire offensively as he made his way into the leagues top scorers but the freak injury set him back almost a full season. This year expect Chipchura to take the P A Raiders on his shoulders and show why he was a first round pick as he should have a career year putting up a ton of points. Expect Chipchura to end the year in Hamilton assuming PA can’t make a long run in the playoffs, as he can play in the AHL once the raiders season is over. Chipchura is all but a lock to play for Team Canada at the wjc’s this year. One would think management would be happy just to see a healthy season, but some work on his skating, mobility and shot power wouldn’t hurt.
Carey Price– G. Price will look to carry the bulk load of starts in Tri Cities again this year after starting most of the games last season and recording an impressive eight shutouts. Price should face a lot of rubber this year after the loss of Shawn Belle the likely loss of Clayton Stoner as well as overager Andy Thompson. The defense for the Americans could be in trouble, which will put a lot more pressure on Price to be on his game consistently, and in addition the team lacks real scoring power, which only makes things that much harder for Price and Tri City a team that won only 26 games all last season. Price has been invited to Team Canada’s U-20 selection camp this summer, and has a very strong chance of making the team this year if he continues to play as well as he did last season.
Greg Stewart– RW/LW. Stewart will be back with the Petes for likely his final year in the CHL, as he will look to continue the impressive progression he’s made in his offensive production last year. Expect Stewart to continue to play his physical brand of hockey, as well as hopefully playing a large role on the teams success, as the Petes enjoyed a very successful season last year and should be an early favorite to be one of the top teams in the OHL again this season. The loss of Flood plus the unknown future of Aaron Dawson and Trevor Hendrikx could put some big holes on defense but at the forward position the team is very deep. The arrival of Sweden’s Fredrick Naslund who is a big right winger, could put Stewart over on the left side. Management would likely hope to see him continue to develop his offensive game.
Matt D’Agostini– RW. With the likely loss of top scorer Ryan Callahan, D’Agostini will be looked upon to carry much of the offensive load for the young and inexperienced Guelph Storm this year. It should be another tough year for the Storm, but expect D’Agostini to see a ton of ice time as the team sorely lacks offensive power. It would be helpful for D’Agostini if he could bulk up a bit and add some muscle to his small frame.
Siarhei Kostitsyn– LW. Tough to say at this point just how much ice time Kostitsyn will see with the Memorial Cup winners, assuming he reports to London, which seems very likely at this point but we’ll find out with the next week or so as camp will be opening up very soon. The Knights won’t be the powerhouse they were this year but with Schremp and Bolland among others the team still should be an offensive force. Hopefully Kostitsyn can make solid contribution to the team as he has the skating, speed, work ethic and offensive skills as well as being a feisty competitor.
Loic Lacasse– G. It was a season to forget for Lacasse, after struggling in net as the teams starter, Lacasse saw his ice time reduced as rookie netminder Michael Dupont stepped in and had slightly more success. It’s hard to really gauge how good or bad of a season a goalie is having when they play on such a bad team but there’s no doubt that Lacasse can not be happy with the way he played last season and hopefully he comes into camp ready to take back his role as the #1 goalie. That will not be an easy task as Drakkar is a young team that may chose to go with the younger Dupont to get him more experience since this could be the last year for Lacasse in the QMJHL as he will be eligible to play in the AHL or ECHL next year. Drakkar will take on the Sags in nine days for some preseason action.
Alexandre Dulac-Lemelin– RD. While it was a very tough season for Drakkar, it wasn’t all that bad for Dulac-Lemelin as he enjoyed some offensive success, doubling his point totals from his rookie year and leading his team in scoring for defensemen. Expect things to be tough for Drakkar again after losing the teams leading scorer in J-F Jacques, although if Benjamin Breault and Alex Picard Hooper can pick up the offense a great deal, and the goaltending stands on it’s head, the team might find some success this upcoming season.
Guillaume Latendresse– RW. Hab fans and Drummondville fans alike will both be hoping for a huge season from Latendresse, who could end up one of the top scorers in the league this year if he can stay healthy and avoid anymore shoulder problems. The power forward led his team in scoring last year with an impressive 78 points as well as putting up six goals in six playoff games which also led the team. The Voltigeurs should be a solid team this year with Latendresse and Derick Brassard leading the way offensively and solid goaltending from Pier-Olivier Pelletier. It’s unclear at this time if L-P Matin will be back or not, as he would add even more offensive skills to the team since he was not signed by the Sabers this summer. Latendresse should see a very large amount of ice time in all situations and he also has been invited to Team Canada’s U-20 selection camp this summer. It won’t be easy for him to make the team, but if he can impress at camp and has a strong start to the season he could earn himself a trip to B.C. Management would likely hope to see him improve on his skating, foot speed and inconsistent play.
Mathieu Aubin– C. This year will be Aubin’s chance to show just what he can do, as his past success this year was chalked up to the wingers he played with in Alex Picard and Alex Bourret. It may or may not be fair to dismiss the solid season he had this year offensively, but with the loss of both Alex’s this season, it will be up to Aubin and others to step up and carry the bulk of the offense for Lewiston. Hard to say how Lewiston will fare this year after losing Bourret, the very likely loss of Picard as well as goalie Jaroslav Halak and perhaps Jonathan Paiement who could be signed if the rangers chose so. Either way Aubin should see a lot of ice time in all situations, and he should see his offensive numbers increase by a good margin. Aubin could stand to get stronger both upper and lower body as well as getting more involved physically.
Ryan O’Byrne– RD. O’Byrne enjoyed a very successful season for Cornell last year, as the team was flat out dominate for a very large part of the season as they play an outstanding forechecking game and a very tight defensive game as well as easily one of the top special teams in the country. This year should be no different for Cornell, who should be the early favorite to win the ECAC again, which it has already done in three of the last four years. One would expect O’Byrne to be back with Cornell as he would enter his junior year, but perhaps the lack of depth on defense in Hamilton could encourage him to make the jump if both sides feel he is ready. Cornell doesn’t start their preseason for another ten weeks, but O’Byrne would likely play an even bigger role with the team this year after the loss of senior defensemen Charlie Cook and Jeremy Downs who Ryan was often paired with in his two years with the Big Red. Management would likely hope to see O’Byrne continue to improve his reading and reaction time, as he has shown very solid improvement in his defensive game as he is not running around trying to crush every player that comes near him, and in addition he also showed a good deal of improvement in his offensive game.
J T Wyman– RW. The 19 year old Wyman was the second youngest player on the team this past year, but with the loss of Hugh Jessiman, Wyman will need to step up the offensive production this year if Dartmouth is to battle Cornell for the ECAC title. Things started off slowly for Wyman as the true freshman had a tough time offensively but as the season went on he started to find his way around the net and learn to use his size to his advantage more. This year Wyman will hopefully battle for a spot on one of the top lines but he’ll need to show he can produce at a higher clip. Management likely would also hope to see him put a few more pucks in the net, as he already plays a solid physical game, not overly physical but he does have good body strength and plays smart positional hockey.
Jon Gleed– RD. The senior will play his final season with Cornell this year, as he will be looked upon to play a bigger role with defense, although the team would benefit from more offensive production from him since he has only four goals in his entire three years with CU. Gleed is a solid defensive defensemen who plays a smart game in his own end and will take the body but hopefully this year he can surpass his career high of six points in a season which he’s done twice.
Philippe Paquet– RD. Paquet will be the fourth Canadiens prospect in the NCAA and to no surprise all four play in the ECAC conference, a conference known for it’s high level of academics and one that the Canadiens scouting staff seems to be comfortable selecting players from, with the additional drafting of Chris Higgins and signing of Yann Danis. That’s six of the last players either drafted or signed out of the NCAA to all come from the ECAC conference. Paquet will join the defense at Clarkson, a team that has struggled in the in the past, so ice time should not be a major concern for Paquet who is considered a very good skating two way defensemen, which Clarkson surely will need this year.
Konstantin Korneev– RD. Korneev was hurt by the NHL lockout as he saw his ice time drop off when AK Bars signed a slew of NHLers, but this year Korneev should have no problem seeing regular ice time due to the loss of several players. AK Bars should be a solid team again this year, despite losing many skilled players.
Alexi Yemelin– LD. While Yemelin only dressed for 12 games this past season, he should see an increase role with the team this year due to the loss of a few players to the NHL. The 19 year old should have a very solid chance of making Russia’s U-20 team after being selected to the team last year. Lada should also be a solid team again this year from the looks of it. Yemelin needs to get in as much playing time as he can get, after not playing much at all this past season, which is not what you want from an 18 year old defensemen.
Johan Eneqvist– C/LW. Eneqvist makes his return to the SEL as he will join Djurgarden after playing for Leksand over two years ago. Djurgarden should have a solid team from the early looks of it, so it’s hard to say just how much ice time Eneqvist will see this year and what kind of impact he will have.
Christopher Heino-Lindberg– G. Heino will make his debut in the SEL this season after signing on with Farjestad to be the backup to Daniel Henriksson, although it will be interesting to see how well he can perform, after enjoying a great season in the tier-2 league, as one of the top goalies in the league, despite being only 19 years old.
Oskari Korpikari– LD. It appears at this time that Korpikari will be staying in Finland for another season, but the Canadiens do have another week to sign him if they want to bring him over to Hamilton this year. If not expect Korpikari to once again get a regular spot with Karpat’s defense. Management likely would hope for Korpikari to develop his offensive game a bit as he had not had any success producing offense.
Juraj Mikus– C. Mikus will be back with Skalica HK 36, after a very solid rookie year in the Slovak elite league that saw him produce six goals and twelve points this past season. Mikus should have a solid chance of making team Slovakia’s U-20 wjc squad, after being one of the top forwards for team Slovakia at the U-18’s.
Tomas Linhart– LD. Linhart should be back again with Pardubice in the Czech elite league, after playing almost the entire season with the leagues top team. Linhart has not had much success offensively but the defensive defensemen would benefit just by playing as much as possible since he does not have a lot of experience at the pro level so far.