Get out your fist pumps and fake tans, it's Jersey time!
Scott Wedgewood - Plymouth Whalers
I was actually a little disappointed with Wedgewood's play this year. After being Plymouth's rock last year as a starter, this year he was a little inconsistent. String together some good performances, but then follow it up with some bad ones. I felt like his back-up (and a guy who will be Plymouth's starter next year) Matt Mahalak outplayed him. It was great for him to make the WJC's this year though and make himself a little more well known to the casual prospect observer. He did have, yet again, another strong playoff though. Shows he's a big game goaltender and demonstrates his confidence and calm demeanor. The one thing I do like a lot about Wedgewood is that he makes himself big in the crease, bigger than he is at just above 6'0. He's very aggressive in challenging shooters and does well to cut down angles. He's certainly not a scrambler and keeps himself in position. It looks like he'll be starting his pro career in the ECHL this year where he can start a lot of games and get some experience. I'd expect him to perform well and earn himself a few cups of coffee at the AHL level following injuries.
Reid Boucher - Sarnia Sting
I've got mixed feelings towards what I saw from Boucher this year. On one hand, he's clearly a talented goal scorer. I saw him score a few impressive goals this year, and he's a better puck handler than I anticipated. His release and instincts scream natural goal scorer. On the other hand, I'd say that's about all his game has going for it right now. His skating wasn't as bad as people had made it out to be, but it still needs improvement to make him a more effective puck carrier. His overall game is definitely lacking, as he needs to become a more determined three zone player and become more involved away from the puck in the offensive end to earn his scoring opportunities. While he looked good scoring goals in a few of the games I saw, in the others where he was held scoreless, he was invisible. He needs to find a way to make an impact when he isn't scoring. This coming season, he'll be back in Sarnia where he'll assume an offensive leadership role. He'll likely be playing with Alex Galchenyuk (should he not crack the NHL) so he's going to get his share of goals. Don't be surprised if he cracks the 35+ goal barrier this year. But hopefully he's developed a little bit more than that to his game.
Ben Johnson - Windsor Spitfires
This speedy, human cannon ball had a terrific second half to last season. It took him a heck of a time to get going (24 games before his first goal), but once he did, he was generally an impact player. The good thing is that even when he's not scoring, he's making an impact on the forecheck, with a big hit, or along the boards. In Windsor this year, he's going to likely assume a greater role offensively and be counted on to produce at the pace which he did during last season's second half. He's also likely to see way more time on special teams than he did last year. A 25-25, 50 point season is a reasonable expectation IMO.
Ben Thomson - Kitchener Rangers
The Devils must have seen him on a couple really good days. He's got some strengths, but his goal scoring ability has never really developed the way the Rangers hoped it would. His shot, anticipation, and puck carrying ability just hasn't developed to the point where he's going to be a legitimate scoring power forward. He can bang bodies. He will drop the gloves. And he is a solid board player who has developed into a good two way guy. I know he's frustrated a lot of Rangers fans over the last couple of years with his lack of development. This year, he's going to get a shot at playing a top 6 forward role, and he'll definitely see powerplay time. Maybe he breaks out and the Devils look like geniuses. I wouldn't expect more than 20 goals though.
Artur Gavrus - Owen Sound Attack
Gavrus is a damn interesting prospect. IMO, he was one of the most purely talented offensive players available from the OHL this year. But he's undersized and injury prone. He suffered a bunch of concussions last year. He's a fearless guy and very determined, but I'm not sure his body can hold up to the way he plays. He needs to add some serious muscle. But he's quick, great with the puck, and does everything you could ask of him offensively. At this point it's just a matter of staying healthy. He'll be back in Owen Sound, and if he stays healthy, I think he can easily be a 70 point guy who is among Owen Sound's leading scorers. He's certainly going to be counted on to be a go to guy.