Monday, September 1, 2008

NHL.com's prospects review

Not sure how I missed this, but during July and August NHL.com reviewed the prospects for each NHL team. Here are the Badgers who were included:

Chicago BlackHawks
: Jack Skille
Skille is one of the headliners among the Hawks' prospects. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2005 Draft played in 16 NHL games this past season and had three goals and two assists. Skille also played in 59 games for the IceHogs and had 34 points on 16 goals and 18 assists.

The Blackhawks love his speed and his willingness to be physical. Expect the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder to make a splash in the NHL this coming season.

"Skille has great wheels and he's learning the pro game," Tallon said. "He had a real solid rookie year. He's going to be a good power forward, who is hard to stop with his speed and strength."

Anaheim Ducks
: Jake Gardiner
The Ducks won't see Gardiner, their No. 1 pick (No. 17) for at least a year or two, as he'll play at Wisconsin. But they're content to wait for the 18-year-old to develop.

Gardiner led Minnetonka (Minn.) High School to a state championship game appearance with 20 goals and 48 points. With just 178 pounds on a six-foot frame, he needs to fill out and get stronger, but the Ducks think they've got a player who can anchor their back line for years to come.

"On the back end, you'd better be able to skate now," Murray said. "You've got to get the puck and get it out of your own zone, and this kid can skate. He's the type that when he glides, he still picks up speed. There's only a few that have done that over time. He's still going fast when he's gliding. He can skate."


Carolina Hurricanes: Jamie McBain
A 6-foot-1, 200-pound offensive defenseman with good puck-handling skills, McBain recently completed his second season at the University of Wisconsin where he had five goals, 19 assists and was plus-11 in 35 games. McBain spent 2005-06 with the U.S. Under-18 National Team and in 55 games had nine goals and 21 assists along with 41 penalty minutes. Six of his nine goals came on the power play. He was drafted by the Hurricanes in the second round (No. 63) in 2006.

"He's progressing well," Francis said. "He's in a good program with good coaches and he's shown a real good skill set, in addition to becoming more of a vocal leader. That's something we like to see, and we expect him to continue his progression."


Detroit Red Wings
: Brendan Smith
Smith is another in a full lot of defensive prospects. He was the Wings' first-round pick (No. 27) in 2007 and will be entering his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin after an injury-plagued freshman season.

Smith had six points in his first four games, but just six more in his next 18. He had some back problems that forced him to miss the last six weeks of the season, but Holland said he saw Smith in November and "he was starting to make good strides.”

"Growing up he was a winger and he converted to defense, so you know he can skate and handle the puck," Holland said. "He's still learning what to do in his own zone, but we like his natural skills like skating ability, ability to join the rush, hockey sense and his hands. He's got to get physically stronger. His dad is a big man and we're hoping he can grow into his body."

Kind of like how Kyle Quincey has. Quincey another Wings' defensive prospect, but he can't officially make NHL.com's list of Wings prospects because he is not officially still a rookie.

Quincey played in six games in each of the past two seasons. By definition a player loses eligibility for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year if he plays in at least 25 games in the preceding season, or six or more in each of the two preceding seasons.

Quincey, who also played in 13 playoff games for the Wings in 2006-07, is a true, stay-at-home defender.

"We like Kyle because he's gritty," Holland said. "He's a little different, a defensive-defenseman. He can make the first pass, but he's more of a stay-at-home and he's got a lot of grit to his game."

Montreal Canadiens
: Ryan McDonagh
Ryan McDonagh -- McDonagh has more than a little bit of pressure awaiting him in Montreal, where the fans wanted the team to draft center Angelo Esposito with the No. 12 pick in 2007, but the Canadiens took the Minnesota defenseman instead. McDonagh, voted Minnesota's “Mr. Hockey" after leading Cretin-Derham High School to a state championship, had a fine freshman season at Wisconsin, scoring 5 goals and adding 7 assists in 40 games while going plus-7.

McDonagh was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team. He's a 6-foot-1, 204-pound, left-handed shooter with great skating skills. He has a quick first step and a fast top speed and is well-balanced on his skates. He makes good passes and is tough along the boards. Rushing the puck is one of his strengths.

"Ryan played this past year as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and had a good development season," Timmins said. "He got good coaching from head coach Mike Eaves and his assistant, Mark Osiecki. He played on the power play as a freshman. He'll return to Wisconsin for this coming season and, hopefully, he'll continue where he left off. We're hoping for him to be a top-two guy on their defense and a go-to guy on the team. He's also going to the United States World Junior Team development camp at Lake Placid. We have hopes he'll play on the U.S. World Junior Team in December.

"Development-wise, Ryan is right on schedule. He is physically close to being ready to play in the NHL. He just needs more seasoning and he needs to get more defensive coaching over the next season before having that chance to turn pro."

Phoenix Coyotes
: Kyle Turris
Phoenix's first pick (No. 3) in 2007 spent one season at Wisconsin, putting up 11 goals and 35 points in 36 games, before signing with the Coyotes this spring and getting one assist in three NHL games. He could make the roster in the fall, though having Jokinen and 2006 first-rounder Peter Mueller may take some of the pressure off.

"Kyle can be a special player," said Keith Gretzky, the Coyotes' director of amateur scouting. "He has speed and skill and a great work ethic. He really wants to win. He can be very special. When you've got a player with all that, it's hard not to like him."

Turris has added size and strength in the year since he was picked and appears ready to make the jump to the NHL.

"When we drafted Kyle, he was about 170 pounds," GM Don Maloney said. "Now he's about 190 and more ready to play. We're really excited about him."

Nashville Predators
: Blake Geoffrion
One of the organization's top power forward prospects, Geoffrion will be entering his junior season at the University of Wisconsin after putting up 30 points in 36 games as a sophomore for the Badgers.

Geoffrion, who had only six points in the same amount of games as a freshman, could be a year away from turning pro. The Predators hope their first pick (second round, No. 56) in 2006 steps up his offensive production even more this coming season.

He is, by the way, a Brentwood, Tenn. native and the member of the Nashville Youth Hockey League to be in the NHL.

"He had a really good year, and jumped up in his production," Kealty said. "He's a good two-way guy. That's the core of his game. He kills penalties, blocks shots and has a physical aspect to his game. He blossomed on the offensive side this year, and should take on more of a leadership role at Wisconsin. It's a year-by-year analysis with him."

Ottawa Senators: Brian Elliott

With Martin Gerber and Alex Auld the goaltending tandem in Ottawa, Elliott and Jeff Glass will split time in the AHL.

Elliott, named the 2006 Frozen Four All-Tournament goaltender after leading Wisconsin to the NCAA title, went 18-19-1 in Binghamton last season with a 2.81 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He's a 6-foot-2, 206-pound butterfly goaltender who is technically solid and challenges shooters. He has exceptional kick-save ability and plays very well under pressure. He has great work ethic and continues to work on his rebound control.

"What can you say, other than to give the scouts here credit," Murray said. "He was the second-to-last pick (No. 291) in 2003 and he's a real talent.

"Brian is doing all that he needs to do. He is a hard-working, conscientious kid. He missed the AHL playoffs last year because someone fell on him and he sprained a ligament (but) his knee is perfect now. We brought him here for our short playoff run and he was around our training staff and doctors. We kept him here 10 more days to make sure he was ready to do his work. He's working out every day at the University of Wisconsin. Brian has a bright future here."