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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 43 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
With the regular seasons winding down (or already ending) in the lower ranks, it's time to dust off the HW Prospect Rankings from the beginning of the year. Several prospects have had strong campaigns that should move them up our next rankings while others have struggled and should find themselves lower next time around. Here is a look at some of the risers and fallers in the system.
Darren Dietz, D, Saskatoon (WHL) - The hard hitting blueliner has seen his ice time increase dramatically as he shot up the Blades' depth chart in a hurry. As a result, he set career highs in all statistical categories. His 4-goal game earlier this season tied a WHL record for most goals in a single game by a defenceman. In some circles, the thought is he may have done enough to get on Canada's radar for their summer World Junior evaluation camp. Previous HW Ranking: 29th
Morgan Ellis, D, Shawinigan (QMJHL) - Before the season, I wrote that he was shaping up to be a well rounded defenceman. Evidently, I underestimated his offensive game which has taken a quantum leap forward, particularly after being dealt to the Memorial Cup hosts in Shawinigan (averaging over a point per game since the deal). On a Hamilton team that shouldn't have a lot of firepower from the blueline next year, it's hard not to get excited about his potential. Previous HW Ranking: 13th
Mark MacMillan, F, North Dakota (NCAA) - It's not particularly common for freshmen to come into college and light things up. MacMillan's numbers aren't quite at that territory but he has taken over a spot in the Lancers' top-six forwards and has done well to hang onto it. With a couple of potential graduates moving on, he may have an outside shot at being a top liner next season which would be huge for his development. Previous HW Ranking: 22nd
Honourable Mention: Ian Schultz, F, Hamilton (AHL) - Not many Bulldogs have seized the opportunity with all of their injuries/callups but Schultz is one of them. After a dismal rookie season, Schultz is now taking a regular shift and getting counted on in the special teams department. As a result, his offensive game is slowly coming around. He needs a lot of work still but he has played his way back into 'prospect relevance.' Previous HW Ranking: 21st
Alexander Avtsin, F, Hamilton (AHL) - I was willing to give the enigmatic Russian a bit of a pass on his poor rookie season given his underage status and it being his first year in North America. I figured he'd be due to take on a bigger role this year. He hasn't; in fact, players on tryouts are earning more ice time than he is. I also thought he'd out produce his rookie scoring numbers. Barring a late hot streak, that's not happening either. Without question, he has been the biggest disappointment this season. Previous HW Ranking: 8th
Alain Berger, F, Hamilton (AHL) - The scouting report for him out of junior was a scoring power forward. The only thing remotely accurate about that is the forward part. His offensive game is bad, his defensive game worse, and his physical game is a myth most nights. In fact, the Bulldogs think so highly of his worth that they left him off the Clear Day roster. The best thing for his development is playing time which he should see more of in the ECHL next year as I can't see him cracking Hamilton's opening lineup...barring injuries/recalls of course. Previous HW Ranking: 24th
Mark Mitera, D, Hamilton (AHL) - There are players who just need a change of scenery to get going. Sadly, he wasn't one of them. The only reason he is logging top-4 minutes in Hamilton is due to all of the injuries they've suffered; he has suffered a setback in pretty much every category. He has spent most of the year trying to stay away from being dead last in the league in +/- (by the end of the year, he won't crack the top 1,100 in that department). I can't envision a scenario where he receives a qualifying offer for next season. Previous HW Ranking: 17th
Not-so-Honourable Mention: Olivier Fortier, F, Hamilton (AHL) - There were two keys for him this year, offensive improvement and to stay healthy. The former has happened a little bit but he has been injured more often than not. As a result, he will likely find himself sliding down the depth chart, too far to be considered more than a fringe prospect. I still think he has NHL potential but he will likely have to move onto another organization to get that shot. Previous HW Ranking: 18th