One of the fun things to do during training
camp and the offseason is to talk about the future – what prospects could make
the team next season or down the road? Of course, with that comes the
overrating and in some cases, underrating, of certain players. Today,
we’ll address the 5 most overhyped prospects, as well as 3 of the least hyped
ones, as well as a pair of other young players that aren’t getting a lot of attention.
1) Sergei Kostitsyn
(2005, 200th overall)
His point totals looked great in the
OHL, particularly last season (59-40-91-131, +38), but it’s almost too
convenient to forget the biggest part of why they looked so good. It
really helps when you play with a pair of players who just happened to go 1st
and 6th overall in the most recent entry draft, and first rounders the year
before as well. Let’s see how he fares with linemates like Ajay Baines and
Jonathan Ferland at the AHL level this season before proclaiming him a
guaranteed NHL’er. The numbers won’t be anywhere near as pretty, that much
is a guarantee.
2) Pavel Valentenko (2006, 139th overall)
First off, let me mention that this has nothing to do with his offensive
stats last season (50-0-2-2, -6), although that in itself could be part of an
argument here. Valentenko, with the exception of some time at rookie camp,
has really yet to play on a North American ice surface, and play that style of
game. That in itself means that he should be in Hamilton to start the
season, and not with the Canadiens as so many have proclaimed. He may have
done well in Russia, let’s see how he can adjust before making room for him.
3) Ryan White (2006, 66th overall)
Like Kostitsyn, the numbers are there (72-34-55-89, +23), but we need to
read between the lines here. Many people who forecasted the 06 draft had
him going in the 1st round, but he slipped…a long way. Further than
Guillaume Latendresse (2005, 45th) a year prior, and we’ve all heard the reasons
he dropped into the 2nd round. So how did White slip so far? Some
people have suggested a possible attitude issue, which would go well with the
first hand reports from prospect camp which had him dogging it much too often.
It would also explain why he was not invited to Canada’s camp for the
Canada/Russia Super Series. This season will go a long way towards his
future, much more than most people may realize at first, it is only then that
we’ll see what type of player he is.
4) Alexei Emelin (2004, 84th overall)
The Canadiens organization and fans alike continue to give this defenceman
tons of praise, despite the fact that Emelin almost seems to be doing everything
possible to avoid coming over to join the team (backing out of a deal with the
Habs to sign a multi-year deal in Russia only the most recent example.)
Don’t kid yourself, the Russian looks like he can play, but like Valentenko, I’d
love to see how he can adjust to life over on the other side of the world first.
Heck, I’d like to see him just come over to the other side of the world period,
but that’s far from a guarantee, which makes his future success with the Habs
(or any other team) just as iffy.
5) Carey Price (2005, 5th overall)
There are other players who could easily fit here at #5, but this is the one
that should make you think. His numbers (with the exception of the WHL
playoffs with Tri-City) have been remarkable and have almost everyone thinking
he will be a star, myself included. The problem is, almost everyone seems
to be expecting it to happen this season. Price is but 20 years of
age, how many goalies of this age become stars and lead their team to the
promised land right away (yes, I’m aware of another former Canadiens goalie, you
don’t need to remind me.) Head coach Guy Carbonneau mentioned the other
day that Price has yet to experience any lows as a player (although that WHL
playoff performance may qualify), let’s see how he reacts when some occur.
Personally, I’d like to see that happen at the AHL level, where there’s less
pressure than in the hockey hotbed that is Montreal. Let him develop a
little more, I don’t think he’s fully ready, a full professional season in
Hamilton (or even a partial should the circumstances dictate it) will go a lot
further than you think.
Honourable mention: Ryan O’Byrne (2003,
79th overall) He’s looked good in camp so far, but what Ryan
O’Byrne will we see at the start of the season? The one who had a great
playoff, or the one that often struggled reacting to plays during the season?
Mathieu Carle (2006, 53rd overall)
The offensive minded defender had a very strong season in the ‘Q’ last
season (63-16-54-70, +11), which prompted the Habs to quickly sign him so he
could spend some time with the Bulldogs during their Calder Cup run.
However, with the team option to draft several defenders in the most recent
draft, it’s almost as if he’s been forgotten behind players like McDonagh,
O’Byrne, Emelin, Valentenko, and Subban. With the departure of the
powerplay quarterbacks for both the Habs (Souray) and Bulldogs (Benoit), the
need for a big shooter exists, and Carle is just that. He’s certainly not
NHL-ready by any means, but I’d rank him ahead of some of the other defencemen
in that list.
2) David Fischer (2006, 20th overall)
No, I didn’t forget about him in that most recent list of defenders, he just
needs a space for himself here. Stat-wise, he had an underwhelming season
in Minnesota (WCHA) last season (42-0-5-5, +3), but that is common for most
freshman hockey players who play in the NCAA system, forwards or defencemen.
It also didn’t help that he played behind other strong prospects in Erik Johnson
(STL) and Alex Goligoski (PIT) either. Some people feel that the club’s
drafting of Ryan McDonagh over filling a need on offence was admitting that
Fischer was a mistake, but it’s way too early to give up on him. Trevor
Timmins, the team’s scouting guru (for lack of a better term) recently stated
that he feels that Fischer can still be easily a top-4 defenceman in the NHL.
If you’re as sold on some of his later picks discussed in the overhyped section,
you may want to take him for his word here.
3) Ben Maxwell (2006, 49th overall)
Some may feel that my choice for honourable mention would be more
appropriate here, but here goes anyways. Last training camp, aside from
Carey Price, many felt that Maxwell was the best prospect at camp, and he took
that momentum back to the WHL, posting strong numbers despite being injured
long-term (39-19-34-53, +20). Being behind other quality prospect centres
such as Kyle Chipchura and Mikhail Grabovski (and if you ask some people, even
Ryan White) has limited the amount of attention he has received from most
people. He’s healthy now, I know I’m certainly looking forward to seeing
how he does as the go-to guy this season with Kootenay.
Matt D’Agostini (2005, 190th overall)
When he was hurt last year, the Bulldogs struggled mightily, unbeknownst to
most. He’s starting to get noticed much more in camp already, which is why
I opted to place him here.
Gorges (2007, trade)
Gorges was good enough to play 17 minutes per game as a regular defenceman
in San Jose last season before being dealt for Craig Rivet. Yet, on a team
that is starved for defence help, he’s not even being discussed as a player on
the Habs this season. I don’t get it, he’s young, improving, and makes
just over the league minimum, and plays the position the team needs lots of help
on. And most fans don’t want him (or forget about him) why?
2) Jaroslav Halak (2003, 271st overall)
With all the hype surrounding Carey Price and the fact that Cristobal Huet
is still in town, he’s almost been forgotten in the goalie carousel, despite the
very realistic thought that he could be the opening night starter. He was
good at times last season with the Habs, bad in others, but he’s still just 22.
Even if he finds himself in Hamilton this season, he’s not worth giving up on