Friday, May 2, 2008

Hockey's Future Top 20 Prospects, Spring 2008

Hockey's Future has been continuing to issue Top Prospect articles for each of the NHL teams. And while I have been "temporarily hibernating" since Denver, thankfully DPlaya has not, and therefore all the links were there waiting for me when I stopped by his blog today as one of my first stops since turning my computer back on.

Last month, I posted the HF articles pertaining to Jamie McBain, Brian Elliott, and Kyle Turris. Today, I have the same for Robbie Earl, Brendan Smith, Jack Skille, Jake Dowell, and Matt Ford.

Maple Leafs Top 20 Prospects, Spring 2008

6. (4) Robbie Earl, LW, 22, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Acquired: Sixth round, 187th overall in 2004.

Earl’s second full professional season started off strong, but his play has tapered off as the season progressed. Earl potted 10 of his 14 goals this season before the calendar flipped to 2008. The 6’0 195 lb winger possesses blazing speed off the wing and shifty one-on-one moves that make him difficult to contain. Consistency has been an issue for Earl since he arrived in Toronto. There are games where he looks like a high-end prospect, capable of scoring on any given shift, and then there are games when he is difficult to find. The Illinois native got his first taste of the show this year as well, suiting up in nine games with the Leafs and registering one assist. Is Earl a late bloomer or just another player who can’t translate NCAA stardom into pro success? Next year will be a big one for Earl. He finished the season with 14 goals and 33 assists in 66 games.

Red Wings Top 20 Prospects, Spring 2008

5. Brendan Smith, D

Acquired: 1st round, 27th overall, 2007
Height: 6’1, Weight: 172 lbs

Smith raised a lot of eyebrows at the start of his first year of college hockey. The defenseman tallied two goals and four assists in his first four games with the NCAA Wisconsin Badgers. Smith was only able to muster six assists in his last 18 games, but still it was good production for a a true freshman defenseman.

A re-occurring back injury was to blame for the minimal amount of games that he played in. Smith needs to build up more muscle to withstand the constant pounding. He is expected to take on a more prominent leadership role next year for the Badgers.

Blackhawks Top 20 Prospects, Spring 2008

4. Jack Skille, RW

6', 205 pounds

Drafted Round 1, 2005

Born: May 19, 1987

In 16 games with the Blackhawks in 2007-08, Skille showed both the skill and holes in his game that have always divided observers alike on his potential. In those contests, he had three goals, two assists and was +1. Without question, he is blazing fast and has a nose for the offensive transition game. However, Coach Denis Savard rightly questioned Skille's commitment to work on the boards. His defensive zone play and positioning on the breakout were sloppy and inconsistent. The former Wisconsin Badger has always been touted as a power forward, with a stout 205-pound frame, yet he seems to play the game more as a finesse winger, preferring to prowl for breakaway opportunities and fat rebounds. At Rockford, Skille was marginally more productive, with 18 goals and 16 assists (-3) in 59 games.

Jake Dowell and Matt Ford did not make the Chicago's Top 20, but they were listed as #7 and #8 of the "Other Notables", so I suppose that puts them as #27 and #28 overall.