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Young Preds learning the trade

As the competition in the various minor leagues did increase this year due to an influx of higher talent players in Europe and the AHL, it has been tougher but well rewarding to be learning the trade of an NEFHL player.

The ascension to the highest level looks from the outside like a game of snakes and ladders. Some players get a fast go from the start, climb the ladders only to later fall on a snake. Others get snakebit by injuries and take longer earlier just to surge and climb the highest ladders when back on the track. Then there are the Steady Eddies that just keep on progressing slowly in a safe boring kind of way.

The prospects progress during a season can usually fit one of four categories :

-          Prospects developping above expectations

-          Prospects developping below expectations

-          Prospects developping as they should

-          Unlucky prospects that can’t be evaluated due to injury

While it is still early in the season, here is a look at the Predators’ stash of prospects :

Above Expectations :

After an average year in 2011-2012 and a slow start this year, it seems like Brett Ritchie has finally turned the corner. Using his impressive physical package, he is dominating in the OHL posting 43 points including 22 goals in 28 games. It looks like chances are good he could find himself representing Canada at the U20 WJC.

Talking about domination, Bud Holloway took exactly where he left off last year with Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. He already has 38 points in only 28 games, leading the league in points. Keeping his current pace would land him within the top 5 all time seasons in the SEL.

Up until his season ending injury, Marek Tvrdon was having a good year leading a bad Vancouver Giants squad with 22 points in 18 games. While on a point per game, that matched his output of last year, he was doing it without the supporting cast of 2011-2012. His 2nd season ending injury in three years is concerning though, but it appears from the reports that Tvrdon should completely recover.

After having only played 10 games in 2011-2012, Beau Bennett has shown promising skill so far. He is currently the leading scorer of a struggling WBS Penguins team with 13 points in 18 games. This bodes well for his future as he even started the year with his wrist not fully at 100%.

Both Nashville’s Portland Winterhawks prospects are having success on one of CHL’s top 5 teams. Ty Rattie boasts 38 points in 24 games while Derrick Pouliot is close to a point per game pace with 24 points through 25 games. Rattie should be on one of team Canada’s top two lines in the upcoming U20 WJC while Pouliot will contend at the camp for one of the final defensive spots.

A recent offensive player of the week in the OHL, Scott Kosmachuk is on pace to improve all his numbers playing for the Guelph Storm. Being only a point behind the team’s leading scorer (Tanner Richard), Kosmachuk has 32 points in 27 games including 18 goals. He is a pest that can score and could receive a surprise invitation to team Canada’s U20 WJC camp.

Back in the WHL, Tim Bozon has been playing on one of the CHL’s hottest line alongside Colin Smith and JC Lipon. With 38 points in 27 games, Bozon will likely eclipse his numbers from last year.

Coming over from Finland, defenseman Sami Vatanen has so far been able to import his offensive prowess to the North American hockey style. He has put up 12 points in 17 games while demonstrating his skating and passing abilities in his AHL debut.

Under Expectations :

With big expectations on his shoulders, Jaden Schwartz so far has had a bit of trouble adapting to the AHL. With only 8 points in 18 games, he has to find ways to perform at a higher level despite being smaller in size.

Likewise, Nashville’s top pick in the 2012, Zemgus Girgensons has been struggling to translate his scoring to the AHL level. He only has 4 points in 16 although his character and attitude have already shown up as positives with him getting a « A » letter as a replacement for a couple of games. The jump from the USHL to the AHL is huge and tough to make at only 18 so Girgensons still have a lot of time ahead to improve.

Skilled puck handler Robbie Czarnik has been struggling with the increased competition in the AHL this season. With only 1 point through his first ten games, he will have to turn it around to earn another contract.

Likewise, Alex Mallet is finding out that making the jump juniors to the AHL isn’t a piece of cake. With no points to show in his first 10 games, Mallet needs to adapt his game to the tougher, stronger competition.

Other notes :

Just coming back from an injury, Mario Lucia hopes to regain form and play for the US team at the next U20 WJC. Through his first four games since he returned, has has put up two points.

While not an offensive juggernaut, Travis Boyd has already matched his whole 2011-2012 points output (9 points) in only 13 games this year. He has a chance to earn a spot on the 4th line in the upcoming U20 WJC for the US team.

After missing a year and a half to a potential career ending injury (from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012), Brendan Troock was again hit with another injury early in the year, limiting him to 7 games so far, where he posted 5 points. While it has been reported that the injury isn’t the same as before, Troock as yet to return.

Another 2012 Predators pick has gone down to injury early in the year in Dalton Thrower. He was off to a decent start with 6 points through 13 games but one of the only +/- positives player on his team despite playing big minutes.

Despite lackluster offensive statistics, Devin Shore is leading an offensively anemic NCAA team with 6 points in 12 games. Playing on a young University of Maine lineup, the whole team is struggling for offense.

After missing most of the 2011-2012 campaign to an injury, Evan McEneny has made a good comeback for the Kitchener Rangers. His play at the various summer camps has also granted him an ELC contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

With the Colorado Avalanche having a logjam of upcoming goaltenders, Kieran Millan found himself playing in the CHL (the pro league). Coming off a successful career with Boston University, Millan has put up good numbers after a tough start in an offensive league with a GAA of 2.12 and a Sv% of .934.