Saturday, July 23, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Detroit Red Wings

Motown is reviewed next!

1. Vili Saarijarvi - Flint Firebirds (now with the Mississauga Steelheads)
There were some very impressive components to Saarijarvi's game this year, but there were also some very unimpressive ones. Saarijarvi is an absolute offensive wizard. His skating ability gives him fantastic separation ability off the rush and allows him to gain entry into the offensive zone with ease. He also runs the powerplay very well, showcasing a great point shot and vision when moving the puck. Defensively though, he's a major work in progress. Flint struggled as a team defensively, but Saarijarvi was definitely one of the guys at the root of that. He needs to play with more jam in his own end, as he can tend to get pushed around and his defensive awareness (tends to chase the puck) also needs seasoning. Saarijarvi can also take unnecessary liberties with the puck and can be turnover prone. He needs to pick his spots better. But the potential is very, very high. After an offseason trade, Saarijarvi will be playing for Mississauga next year. The Steelheads should have a fantastic team next year and they've got some quality defenders to insulate him. I expect big things. A 60 point season (which would put him near the top of defensive scoring) is possible.

2. Givani Smith - Guelph Storm
Really, really liked this selection by the Wings in the 2nd round this year. Smith is a throwback power forward and pest. He's one of the OHL's most physical players and I can only imagine how physically dominant he could be in the league as he gets stronger the next couple of years. Guelph was absolutely horrible this past year, but Smith consistently stood out with his ability to be a one man wrecking crew on the forecheck and the cycle. As he gets a bit quicker (could improve his first few steps), as he gains confidence in his offensive abilities (like his shot), and as he is given a better supporting cast, Smith could really breakout. Guelph should be better next year, but likely not by much. I would definitely expect a jump in his production, but I'm not sure if he'll be a point per game player just yet.

3. Dylan Sadowy - Barrie Colts
The Wings gave up a 3rd rounder to acquire the rights to Sadowy, a San Jose draft pick. Sadowy is a back to back 40 goal man in the OHL, scoring 45 this year between Saginaw and Barrie. Sadowy is also a solid two-way player who excels on the penalty kill. Outside of having a good shot and release, Sadowy's best attribute is his hockey sense and ability to anticipate the play. My concern with Sadowy is likely the same as San Jose had before dealing his rights (helping to explain why they chose not to sign him). I'm just not sure where he fits in as a player at the pro level. While he has a good offensive skill set, I'm not sure it's good enough for him to be a top 6 player. And I'm also not sure I see him being an ideal 3rd/4th liner as he's not exactly a physical guy, or the most dominant along the wall, or the quickest. Good at everything, but not great can be a kiss of death and can often label guys as tweeners. Next year Sadowy will begin his pro career with Grand Rapids. I would expect him to start slowly (although probably not as slowly as Zach Nastasiuk has).

4. Jordan Sambrook - Erie Otters
Another great pick up by the Wings at this year's draft, Sambrook is a guy who flew under the radar a bit for Erie due to the depth they had on the backend. When he was called upon to play more (injuries, WJC's), he was an incredibly noticeable player. Just what the Wings have on their hands remains to be seen IMO. Sambrook flashes strong two-way potential, as he can play physical (much bigger than his size), as well as move and shoot the puck. Could he be a powerplay QB? Will his defensive game continue to develop? The questions will likely begin to be answered next year when he receives more ice time. Travis Dermott and Erik Cernak will be gone and Sambrook will have an opportunity to play in Erie's top 4. He should also receive powerplay time (likely on the 2nd unit). He had 27 points this year with inconsistent ice time. As such, I think he could definitely crack the 35, maybe even the 40 point mark next year.

*Filip Hronek - Saginaw Spirit
2016 Red Wings pick Hronek was recently signed by the Wings and selected by the Saginaw Spirit in the Import Draft. Seems like a lock at this point that he'll be playing in the OHL next year. Saginaw has a young, up and coming team. The addition of Hronek is a big one for them as it shores up their weakest area (defense) and potentially gives them an elite puck mover (something else they've been lacking). I expect him to have a very good first season (although I'm sure there will be hiccups). A 40+ point year is a very realistic expectation. Excited to see him play.

Friday, July 22, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Dallas Stars

Dallas is next. The Stars gave up the rights to four OHL players from the 2014 draft, but they've still got a few OHL players in the system.

1. Chris Martenet - London Knights
Behemoth defender who was a key component to the Knights run to the Memorial Cup, even if the stats wouldn't suggest it. First the positives. Martenet really took a step forward this year in using his size to be tougher to play against in his own end. He really seems to enjoy giving it to forwards in front of the net now and is a tough guy to get away from near the crease. Now the negatives. His offensive game regressed this year, which I think may have been planned. In his rookie year, Martenet explored his offensive skills, occasionally leading or jumping up into the play. But this year, he played a very refined and conservative game, choosing to let his d-partner Victor Mete do the majority of the heavy lifting. His puck skills will need to continue to improve though as he moves to the pros, as he can still be prone to turnovers from the forecheck. Martenet's skating is also still a work in progress, as he works to improve his lateral and backwards mobility. His adjustment to the pro level will likely have some growing pains and Dallas will have to be patient with the 6'7 defender.

2. Nicholas Caamano - Flint Firebirds
A very solid pick-up by the Stars in the 5th round this year. The Flint organization had a tough year (on the ice and off the ice), but Caamano was one of their most consistent players. He does a great job of creating offense with quick feet and a lot of energy. I also like how he works in close to the crease and has potential as a pesky two-way winger. At different times this year, he saw time with Will Bitten on the 1st line and I thought the two showed great chemistry. I really like what Flint has done this offseason, not only bringing credibility back to the franchise with smart hires, but also improving the team with smart trades and good drafting. Caamano will have a chance to play on Flint's first line and top powerplay unit next year and I expect a nice jump in his production. A 30 goal season is definitely possible.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are next. Strangely enough, only one of Columbus' OHL prospects have been drafted. The rest signed.

1. Blake Siebenaler - Niagara IceDogs
Without question, I think it's fair to say that Siebenaler's offensive game never really developed the way that people thought it might (myself included). Don't get me wrong, he moves the puck well, but with his fantastic skating stride, I thought he would eventually develop the confidence and the ability to be a fantastic puck mover. That's not the case and I don't think it ever will be. But what Siebenaler is, is a terrific two-way defender who makes smart decisions in his own end, is a fantastic positional defender, and can make a great first pass. In that sense, he's built for the way the game is played in the NHL today and I'm sure that's why Columbus signed him despite the perception that his development "might" have stalled. At this point, I think all he needs is to get stronger, but even then, he relies on his mobility to defend mostly. He won't be anything flashy, but I could definitely see Siebenaler as a solid third pairing guy and it will start next year when he turns pro.

2. Dante Salituro - Ottawa 67's
Happy for him that he was able to earn that contract after going undrafted through two NHL drafts, despite posting some pretty terrific offensive numbers. Yes, he's undersized, but given his talent level, he deserved a look at pro hockey. Do I have my doubts as to whether his game will adapt? Yes. And I'm sure that's exactly why he's slipped through two drafts. Salituro, despite being undersized, does the majority of his damage offensively in the middle of the ice and near the net, and I'm not sure he's an explosive enough skater to play that role effectively at the NHL level. BUT, that doesn't mean he can't continue to improve. The Blue Jackets will have a decision to make with Salituro next year. Send him back for his overage year in Ottawa? Or let him start his pro career? Quite frankly, I think that as long as he performs adequately at camp, he'll be in the AHL. He's ready for a new challenge and he needs to start adjusting to the speed and size of the players playing pro. As mentioned, I think it will be a tough adjustment, but it needs to happen some time.

3. Jordan Maletta - Niagara IceDogs
Not many players in the OHL were more deserving of a contract this year than Maletta. Here's a kid who completely revamped his game from when he broke into the league, making the necessary adjustments and working hard to improve every year. He started out as a big, soft, forward who lacked consistency in his effort. But his game slowly transformed into becoming a dominant two-way center who can do everything pretty damn well. He's one of the OHL's better faceoff guys. He's extremely hard to play against because of how well he uses his size on the backcheck and in the corners. And he's got a great wrist shot that makes him a threat to score when he barrels down the ice. He won't be a big time scorer at the next level, but he could definitely become a valuable role player at the NHL level who can be a consistent contributor on the PK and in taking key faceoffs.

4. Justin Scott - Barrie Colts
Scott had a great final two seasons in the OHL, establishing himself as a consistent scoring line player. But there's no doubt that he earned his NHL contract with his 17 goal playoff performance this past year where he was a near unstoppable force. Scott's skill set doesn't really jump out at you. But he has great hockey sense and he possesses a great wrist shot and release and that's allowed him to be a fantastic complimentary offensive weapon for the Colts. Honestly, I don't know what to expect of him at the next level. I do imagine that he'll struggle initially because he'll need to adjust to the speed of things, but he's a hard worker and could eventually develop into a nice piece if the Jackets are patient with him. He's also the type of guy I could see developing into a checking line player at the next level, improving upon his play away from the puck and doing anything he can do help the team win.

5. Kole Sherwood - London Knights
Started out the year very well and I often came away incredibly impressed when I saw London early on. But as the year went on and London accumulated big assets, he slipped down the line up (and even out of it at times) and as such, his game really declined. I think it came down to Sherwood lacking the strength to excel in the role London wanted him to play this year (checking line energy guy). There's still a lot of potential here. The skating is great. Ability to handle the puck and create off the rush shows great flashes. His shot and finishing ability also shows well. And there's some pest like, physical capabilities hidden in there too. He needs to come into London next year and really show them that he's ready for a larger role, because there is one available for him. I actually am insanely intrigued to see how his game develops next year because I think he could really explode. I won't make a prediction here, but I will say that I think he really steps up next year.

6. Jacob Graves - London Knights
A little surprised that Graves earned an NHL deal, but you'd be hard pressed to find a harder worker in the OHL, so ultimately it's not a bad decision by any means. Graves was excellent for London this year after being acquired from Oshawa. He was especially great in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup, where his in your face defensive style and his willingness to give up his body to make a play, obviously endeared him to Columbus' scouts. He's not going to put up offensive numbers at the next level. That's not his game. But he will work hard to stay in the AHL lineup next year, and could definitely develop into a quality third pairing defender who can play the PK (potential d-partner for Blake Siebenaler?).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Colorado Avalanche

Time for some thin air. Colorado is up. And their prospect pool when it comes to OHL players is also thin (after trading Kyle Wood and releasing Nick Magyar).

1. Travis Barron - Ottawa 67's
Only one OHL'er in the system right now and that's the recently drafted Barron. Colorado's 7th rounder, Barron was well worth a selection at that spot (and I expected him to go earlier). Currently, he's a great role player. I can almost guarantee that he gets a letter next year. He battles for loose pucks. He plays both ends. He throws his body around. But the major concern is the fact that his offensive skills just haven't translated from midget (where he was a star and the 3rd overall pick in the OHL draft). As a midget player, Barron showed a fantastic shot and many thought he would be at the very least, an excellent goal scorer at this level. Thus far in the OHL, that hasn't been the case as he's struggled to create and finish scoring chances and just hasn't shown the high end hockey sense to find scoring lanes consistently. BUT, it's still early. Sometimes the light bulb goes off. Sometimes it's a conditioning thing or a confidence thing. At the very least, Colorado has a guy who could be another Cody McLeod for them. And at most, Barron's offensive game could greatly improve. Ottawa should be a middle of the pack team in the OHL next year, perhaps higher depending on individual improvement and returning OA's. I would definitely expect his numbers to improve, likely into the 20/30 (50 point) range at the very least.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Chicago Blackhawks

One of my favourite cities to visit in the U.S., it's time for Chicago.

1. Alex Debrincat - Erie Otters
The Hawks did well to pick up Debrincat in the early 2nd round this year. The diminutive winger is a real offensive talent. The old saying goes, "if he were 3 inches taller, he would have been a lottery pick," and it applies here. Debrincat's best quality is his shot release IMO. He locates loose pucks so well and has such great anticipation in the offensive end. When you couple that with his release, he's a real "quick strike" player. Debrincat is also most definitely not afraid of playing in traffic, as a large majority of his 51 goals were scored close to the net or in the middle of the ice. Moving forward, he's going to continue to need to get stronger and quicker. He's by no means a weak skater, but adding even more explosiveness to his first few strides will make him that much more effective at the next level. Next year will be an interesting one for Debrincat. It seems likely that Dylan Strome will be in Arizona, which means that for the first time in his OHL career, Debrincat is not going to have a premier center getting him the puck. This will be a big test for him. Even if his offensive output goes down a bit, I think as long as he's a 90 point player (45/45), the year has to be considered a success.

2. Graham Knott - Niagara IceDogs
It wasn't a terrific year for Knott. He dropped from 25 goals to 12, and his points per game average also dropped. BUT, it's important to note that it was also a transition year for Knott as he was asked to play center this year. There were definitely growing pains there and I'm not entirely sure I like the move. Centering Niagara's 3rd line (often), Knott does show great two-way awareness and physical capabilities. His physical game really took a step forward this year, as he was more consistent in taking the body and using his size to his advantage. And I do think that he shows potential as a playmaking center. But I also think that his game is best suited to the wing where he can play a more simple north/south kind of game, work the corners/cycle, and patrol the crease for garbage (he's got good hands in close). With a new coaching staff in place for next year, it will be interesting to see if he shifts back to wing next year or stays at center. One thing is for sure and that's the fact that Knott will see more ice time next year (regardless of position). Niagara graduates many of it's core forwards and he'll be counted on to play on the first line (likely) and first powerplay unit. At some point (depending on Niagara's plans to rebuild), he could also be a trade chip for them (would be a very valuable acquisition for a team with Mem Cup aspirations). I think anything less than a 25/35 (60 point) season would be a disappointment for him, statistically speaking.

3. Roy Radke - Barrie Colts
Radke started out the year excellent. I thought he was looking much improved from the year prior and noticeably quicker and stronger. But as the season went on, his play really began to slip. As such, so did his place in Barrie's lineup. By the playoffs (where he went pointless), he was stuck on Barrie's 3rd/4th line and was used rather sparingly. At this point, Radke needs to find a niche. He's got great size, but he doesn't play with a ton of truculence. Would love to see him be more engaged as a physical player who can create offensive scoring chances through energy and grit. He definitely has good hands in close and I do think he has potential as a goal scorer. But things just haven't come together quite yet. As a 2015 draft pick, I think it's a no brainer that Radke will return to Barrie for his overage season. There, he'll be part of a rebuild and should definitely get more ice time and special teams time. He has the ability and size to score 30 in his overage year. Will he? I'm just not sure he'll be surrounded by a supporting cast that will encourage that. Will need to develop a lot next year to earn a contract.

Monday, July 18, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina is up next and they've got a heavy OHL influence thanks to employing former Plymouth boss Mike Vellucci.

1. Alex Nedeljkovic - Niagara IceDogs
Fantastic season for Nedeljkovic. His OHL year had a few ups and downs, but he was terrific when it counted most; in the OHL playoffs. Niagara went on a run and was eventually swept by London in the OHL final. But Niagara doesn't win the Eastern Conference without Nedeljkovic. And the U.S. doesn't win the bronze this year at the WJC's without him manning the crease too. Nedeljkovic is an absolutely phenomenal athlete. He's never out of a play because he's so quick and agile in the crease. His ability to move post to post is among the best I've ever seen in the OHL. 'Ned' is also a great puckhandler, something he was able to showcase in international play. The time has finally come for him to move on to the professional level. I think there might be an adjustment period for him, because he's a bit undersized and he's going to have to learn to be even more aggressive in challenging shooters to work down angles (giving him a better ability to defend the top half of the net). With Daniel Altshuller being the only Charlotte (AHL) goaltender returning, Nedeljkovic probably ends up splitting time with him depending on his performance. I think as long as he ends up North of .900 for his save percentage, that would be a successful first year.

2. Roland McKeown - Kingston Frontenacs
McKeown, like Nedeljkovic will begin his pro journey next year in Charlotte. It was a successful year for McKeown as he was able to improve his offensive output from the previous year and also was terrific in the playoffs for Kingston (even though they got swept by Niagara). But his offensive production doesn't really concern me to be honest. I never have, and continue to doubt that his offensive skill set will translate to the next level. I've said all along that the key to his development will be in the defensive end and if he's able to make himself an elite defensive player. And he did just that this year IMO (supported by the fact that he was named the East's best defensive defender and the 2nd best shot blocker in the coaches poll). For my money, he was the best in the entire OHL in his own end. His mobility is an asset, but he also thinks the game very well in his own end, anticipating passing lanes and closing gaps. He also upped the ante physically this year too. His play in his own end will be his bread and butter at the next level. Next year in the AHL, I think he's able to jump right into a top 4 spot (considering Charlotte's lack of depth there) and find success. Just don't expect huge offensive numbers.

3. Warren Foegele - Kingston Frontenacs
I thought Foegele's play really improved as the season went on following his transfer from UNH. There was definitely an adjustment period, as he started out as more of a complimentary player who seemed content to play second/third fiddle. But as the season went on, we saw him really start to become a guy who could lead the play and create his own scoring chances by driving the net hard. His ability to handle the puck and create coming off the half wall really seemed to gain confidence. He's a pretty complete player and I think he's got a shot to be a real good role player down the line. Has all the attributes that you'd want from your 3rd/4th liner. The question is, what does Carolina do with him next year? He's not signed yet, as Carolina doesn't have to sign him by the same deadline as other 2014 draftees. But he could most definitely still play pro next year. My guess is that if Carolina is impressed with him at camp, they'll sign him and assign him to Charlotte, or at the very least send him to Charlotte's camp and let him try to earn a roster spot (and have Charlotte sign him to an AHL/ECHL deal). And if they feel like he's not ready, he'll be back in the OHL as an overager on an average OHL team.

4. Jeremy Helvig - Kingston Frontenacs
Helvig was a very astute selection by Carolina this year. He was easily one of the most improved players in the league this year and stole the starting job away from the reigning OHL goaltender of the year. He's got great size and he's really starting to learn how to use that size to be a consistent stopper. Every aspect of his game has improved and should continue to improve as he gains more experience. Next year Kingston is losing some key players, but they should still be a playoff team if Helvig is up to the challenge. I expect a good year from him and for him to establish himself as a quality goaltending prospect. Like I said, an astute selection (and one I was lobbying hard for on twitter).

5. Steven Lorentz - Peterborough Petes
Despite being a '96, Lorentz did not need to be signed by Carolina because of the fact that he was drafted as a re-entry in 2015. At first, I found the selection to be a bit of a head scratcher. But Lorentz is slowly coming into his own as a player. He's come a long way, and still has a ways to go, but the improvement in his game was noticeable this year. He saw both time on the wing and at center, but I like him at center. He's a good faceoff man, and has improved in using his long reach and height to keep defenders on his back on his way to the net. His play away from the puck (defensively, physically) is getting better, but will need to improve even more as I don't see him having the natural offensive skill set needed to play a top 6 role at the next level. So where does he go from here? I think he's most definitely back in Peterborough as an overager. And there, he's got a really good shot of replacing Hunter Garlent (who graduated) as the team's 1st line center. He should see significantly more powerplay time and I actually think he's a darkhorse to be a point per game player (35/35).

6. Noah Carroll - Guelph Storm
Carroll was a standout as a rookie on the Storm during the 2014/2015 season. He entered this coming year with a fair amount of hype; hype that considered him a candidate for the first three rounds. But Guelph was absolutely terrible this year (rebuilding) and Carroll was asked to play a role that he just wasn't ready for. He was in over his head and it showed, and as such, his confidence really seemed to disappear. A terrific skating potential puck rusher, Carroll often got hemmed in his own end and just wasn't given the opportunity to find a lot of success. I'm happy that Carolina drafted him because I do still think that there is an NHL prospect in there once he gets that confidence back. Guelph won't be good again this year...but they SHOULD be better. As such, I really do think that Carroll will have a good year; a bounce back year. I'd expect him to hit the 30-35 point mark and re-establish himself as a solid two-way defense prospect.

7. Josh Wesley - Niagara IceDogs
I'll be quite honest in saying that I was rather surprised that Carolina signed Wesley. I know there's a deep rooted connection there with the family, but ELC's are valuable (because of the limit), and I'm just not sure I see an NHL player. Wesley does a lot of things pretty well, but nothing spectacular and that can be the kiss of death for a prospect (especially on the blueline). Wesley's offensive game never developed at the OHL level, but his defensive game did. He got better with the puck in his own end and his positional defensive hockey sense is quite strong. He knows his way around his own end. That said, he's going to have to get a little meaner for the pro game. He needs to be a tougher guy to play against. Certainly not impossible for him to achieve, given his solid size (and the gains he's already made in that area over his OHL career). Given the fact that he's signed, I think it's fair to say that the Hurricanes see Wesley starting in the AHL this year (especially since the depth there isn't terrific, as I already mentioned). He could also need some time in the ECHL, depending on how he adjusts to the speed of the pro game.

*Janne Kuokkanen - London Knights
Carolina's 2nd rounder in 2016 was drafted by the London Knights in this year's import draft. As such, he could be in for a big offensive season should he cross the pond. He'd likely jump right into the team's top 6 (with all their potential graduations) and a 30-30 freshman OHL season seems like a very distinct possibility. Excited to see him play.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are the first Canadian team to be reviewed.

1. Matthew Tkachuk - London Knights
Loved this pick up by the Flames. Tkachuk was the perfect selection when it comes to fitting in with what they have already built on their pro roster. Tkachuk is such a terrific player below the hash marks and he's going to create a ton of time and space for Calgary's quicker skilled forwards. His playmaking ability is just terrific and that will also help to open up ice as he draws defenders in and to give a guy like Johnny Gaudreau room to operate. The big question is, do I think he's ready to contribute next year? I think a lot will depend on the work he puts in this summer. If I was a betting man, I would place it on him needing another year in the OHL. This would allow him to get a bit quicker, continue to explore the dominance of his physical game, and become a consistently more effective player off the rush. Calgary has some great young players already and I don't see the need to rush him. If he's back in the OHL next year, London should still be a very dangerous team and Tkachuk will once again be among the league's leading scorers. If he's in the NHL, it will be for a reason and I think he'll be a 20/20 guy.

2. Andrew Mangiapane - Barrie Colts
Big fan of this young man. Yes, he's only 5'10, but he's worked hard to make himself one of the OHL's premier skaters. Couple that with how well he processes the game and you've got an incredibly dangerous offensive player who's able to beat you in a variety of ways. His OHL career has come to an end and he'll be playing in the AHL next year where I expect him to make an immediate impact. Even with the amount of talent in Calgary's pipeline, I expect him to jump into a top 6 role with Stockton and I think a 50 point year in the AHL is very possible (would have put him in the top 10 of rookie scorers from this past year).

3. Rasmus Andersson - Barrie Colts
Andersson won the scoring race among OHL defenders this year, despite failing to match his draft season output of 64 points. Despite his solid statistical season, Andersson failed to place in the top 3 of the voting for the Max Kaminsky Trophy (OHL Defender of the Year). Harsh, but valid IMO. I think the biggest step forward I saw Andersson make this year was in conditioning and I know from talking to people, he worked really hard to get his weight down and get in better shape. This was noticeable on the ice as he was more consistently involved in the play and was able to eat up greater minutes more effectively. His skating also looked better, adding a bit more explosiveness to his first few strides. This allowed him to do a better job of leading the rush and evading he forecheck. That said, I do have some concerns about how well his game translates to the NHL. I see him as an average defender at the OHL level, but I think some of his skating and defensive awareness flaws will become magnified when having to defend pro players. I also wonder how well his offensive game translates, as I'm just not sure I see him as a dominant puck rusher at the next level. We'll begin to find out next year in the AHL when he starts with Stockton. He should play right away and he could easily be a candidate for a 30 point season.

4. Tyler Parsons - London Knights
Parsons had such a great year, which was capped off with a Memorial Cup victory. He doesn't possess ideal size in the crease, but he's an incredible athlete who never gives up on plays. His mental focus is terrific for a young goaltender. Calgary already has some good young netminders in their system, but adding another is never a bad idea (given the bust rate of goalies). Heading back to London next year, Parsons should be a front runner for the OHL goaltender of the year and I'm hoping he's given an opportunity to be the starter for team USA at the WJC's. Another year with a +.920 save percentage is in the cards.

5. Stepan Falkovsky - Ottawa 67's
Calgary took a chance on this behemoth Belarussian defender who skated with the Ottawa 67's this year. Falkovsky had a very up and down year. He started off very strong, but towards the middle of the year he really struggled (and even became a healthy scratch). But his game picked up again towards the end of the year. He possesses a booming point shot and actually can be a factor in leading the rush, showcasing decent straight away speed. Defensively, he can struggle at times, both with the puck in his own end and in defending off the rush. He needs to use his size more consistently to become harder to play against. Calgary has some options on what to do with him next year. They don't have to sign him right away. He could go back to the OHL as an overager. The Flames could convince Stockton to sign him to an AHL/ECHL deal to see what he's got at the pro level. That decision will probably be made depending on how he looks at training camp. If he's back in the OHL, he'll be part of an Ottawa club that will be trying to move up in the Eastern Conference. He'll be counted on to be a top 4 defender and be an anchor on the powerplay where he should easily eclipse the 10 goal mark.

6. Riley Bruce - North Bay Battalion
Tall, lanky defender who continues to develop in North Bay under the terrific Stan Butler. Bruce remains a major work in progress, but there was some development this year. I thought his skating stride and play with the puck looked less awkward this year and as such he was more effective in his own end. He also has begun to use his size more to be a physical player, especially in front of the net. Again though, he's a work in progress. None of these attributes are NHL ready and he'll look to continue to improve this coming year. Problem is that he's not guaranteed to get more ice time next year, especially if Adam Thilander comes over. If he can get those offensive numbers up (maybe the 20 point mark), and really become a terrific defensive player, he could still earn himself a contract.