Who wants some thin air? Off to the Mile High state of Colorado.
Chris Bigras - Owen Sound Attack
I've heard a lot of people mention that they felt Bigras had regressed this year. In all honesty, I don't think that's the case. Did he progress? I don't think so. But regress implies that he got worse and that's not the case. It was simply a status quo year. His offensive numbers decreased this year, but that was due to the fact he played a more conservative defensive game and took less chances offensively. He remains a steady, calming presence on the back end, who rarely makes a mistake in coverage or by turning the puck over in his own end. He's not a physical player, but he did do a better job of winning battles in the corners this year and is learning to play aggressive when he needs to. Offensively, he has the skills to produce more than he does. But he's content making a first pass out of the zone and is not yet the type of player who will extend rushes into the offensive zone. Will he ever become that type of player? I think next year will tell us a lot. He'll likely return to Owen Sound where hopefully he gains some confidence in his ability to produce offensively without sacrificing his defensive game. Of course, he could always surprise and make the Avs too.
Spencer Martin - Mississauga Steelheads
I saw a lot of Martin this year and quite frankly, it wasn't a good year for him. Let me preface this by saying that the Steelheads were not a strong team this year, especially defensively. Martin saw not only a lot of rubber, but a lot of premium scoring chances (breakaways, 2 on 1's, powerplays, etc). That said, when he was needed to elevate his game, he wasn't able to do that. He still seems to lose focus at times and gives up some soft goals. At times, I wonder if he has difficulty tracking the play as he gets caught out of position or playing the wrong angle on some of these weaker goals. He remains a goaltender with a lot of potential though because of his size and athleticism. The Steelheads could be a smidgen better next year, especially as some of their talented defenders get another year of experience under their belt. But they're going to need Martin at the top of his game and that means taking a big step forward in his development.
Kyle Wood - North Bay Battalion
Loved the Wood pick-up by Colorado. He's very raw as he's only played 76 OHL games the past two years (including playoffs). He got a late start to this year too because of an injury. But he got better and better as the season went on, capping it off with a sensational performance in the OHL playoffs. At 6'5, 230lbs, you can't teach his size. And with his skill set (good mobility, physically aggressive, good puck skill, work ethic), he has the potential to impact the game at both ends of the ice (which is what he did in the playoffs this year). In North Bay next season, he'll get an increased role and should see even more powerplay time than he did this year. I think he's going to have a breakout year and should break the 35 point mark.
Nick Magyar - Kitchener Rangers
It was a trying year for the Rangers as they battled to stay out of the basement in the Western Conference. But Magyar was the team's most consistent player IMO. I was surprised that he fall as far as the 4th round, so needless to say I feel like the Avs got a steal. Magyar is a hard working forward who has potential to excel as a strong presence along the boards because he protects the puck well and has good vision to make plays coming off the wall. He'll need to work on his ability to drive the net and I'd love to see him add more of a physical element to his game. As he gains confidence, I expect his goal scoring numbers, in particular, to increase. The Rangers will be a bit better next year (potentially) and Magyar should be right in the thick of that. I think he's got a chance to be a point per game player next year.