The race is on to be the first major junior player to 100 points this year, and we should see our first triple-digit scorer this week. I don't think there's a trophy for being the first to 100, but we can always make one up. In fact, here's some extra "motivation" for some kids who most likely will never read this: The imaginary trophy will be named after whoever gets there first this year.
They'll thank me one day.
Linden Vey leads the WHL and all major junior players with 99 points, but he doesn't play again until Wednesday; someone else could conceivably pass him in the next two days. Tyler Johnson is two points behind Vey on the WHL leaderboard and plays tonight - a big game would push him over the top. Jason Akeson has 97, too, representing for the OHL. He has the first shot at it, as he plays this afternoon, looking for a three-point game to cement his place in fantasy hockey prospect history.
The dark horses: Philip-Michael Devos, who leads the QMJHL with 94 points, and Tyler Toffoli, once the OHL's points leader, but now lagging behind the pace a bit with "just" 92 points. Those two would need a miracle.
On that note, Mario Lemieux sees your 100 points and raises you another 100… and then some. Lemieux scored 282 points in the QMJHL in the '83-'84 season, including 133 goals, in 70 games. Let me spell that out for effect: two hundred and eighty-two points. That's nearly two goals a game and just over four points per game. If you think Lemieux was hyped back then, just imagine the kind of hype a player like him would get today. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos - all world-class players at the top of today's game, but none of them are even close to the kind of numbers that Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky were able to put up.
Don't you worry; I'll be keeping an eye out in case the next Great One comes along. After all, that would definitely be the coming thing.
Bobby Butler, RW, OTT - All of a sudden, our old friend Butler is back up and finally getting those top-six minutes I thought he should have had from the beginning of the year. The result: a three-game goal-scoring streak as Butler started to click with the ever-beleaguered Jason Spezza. There's still a large degree of wait-and-see here, as any Ottawa player is a huge plus-minus risk right now, but Butler is making the sort of strides that you love to see from any prospect.
Erik Condra, RW, OTT - A 24-year-old former seventh-round pick, Condra won't appear on any top prospect lists, but that's no reason to ignore him. The Detroit native is only in his second pro season, as he played out all four years in college, averaging just about a point per game in four years at Notre Dame. This year, he's put together a very respectable 46 points in 54 games (and a team-leading plus-19) for AHL Binghamton as well as a primary assist in his NHL debut - see the ice vision and the ability to make the pass through traffic here. Condra is a skilled playmaker and he has the ability and willingness to finish in front of the goal. He's the kind of guy who just makes good things happen on the ice.
Jacob Josefson, C, NJD - Josefson has had trouble staying healthy this year, playing in only 18 AHL games and seven in the big leagues. He missed a lot of time with a hand injury, but he's back now and back with the Devils, with whom the 19-year-old Swede is currently scoreless. You have to hope that his development hasn't been stunted by the injuries and too-early exposure to NHL action with a New Jersey team that's playing a lot of rookies due to cap problems this year, but Josefson's still a terrific prospect. He plays a defensively responsible game with playmaking skills, reminiscent of his divisional rival and Rangers rookie Derek Stepan. With a couple healthy years to develop, Josefson should deliver a solid fantasy line down the road as well.
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF - Enroth has held his own in six games this year when called upon to spell Ryan Miller, posting a 2.70 GAA and .906 save percentage. Over in the AHL, his .910 is okay, not particularly impressive, and you expect better from him after a .914 and .919 in the two preceding seasons. He remains Miller's heir apparent, but the 30-year-old Vezina winner doesn't seem to be in any hurry to relinquish his full-time job in Buffalo.
Mark Dekanich, G, NAS - At least Enroth only has one excellent goalie ahead of him; it looks like Dekanich is going to have to fight past two of ‘em in Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback. An absolute crusher this year at AHL Milwaukee - how do a 2.04 GAA and .929 save percentage sound? - the 24-year-old Dekanich came up and went down last week without seeing any action. He stopped 22 of 25 in his lone NHL appearance back in December. Look for Nashville to deal from its surplus and move one of its goalies this offseason, or perhaps at the deadline.
Kyle Turris, C, PHO - Turris was snatched third overall by the Coyotes in 2007, but the young centerman hasn't been able to win himself consistent icetime at the NHL level. Still just 21, he has little left to prove in the AHL after a 63-point campaign last year and still has the look of a kid who's going to develop into a top-flight NHL player. If Wayne Gretzky takes you third overall, I believe. Still, it's not like the Coyotes have such spectacular talent at center that Turris couldn't win a top job if he played better; he's shown flashes of spectacular offense, but needs to work on his consistency from game to game and shift to shift.
John Moore, D, CLM - A 2009 first-round pick, Moore is a puck-moving defenseman who likes to shoot. This was just a short visit for him in the NHL, as he was called up after the Derick Brassard injury, then sent down a couple days later after two scoreless games. Moore is just 20 years old and his skills haven't yet translated to the pro game, so he's well served back in the AHL, where he has a disappointing 19 points in 49 games. Best to let him stay there and develop at least into the middle of next year.
Paul Postma, D, ATL - Postma, who turns 22 tomorrow, has done one thing very well throughout his career in juniors and the AHL, and that's put the puck in the net. It's hard to find a defenseman who can score like Postma, who put up a 23-goal, 84-point season in juniors just two years ago. Last season in the AHL, he posted a very odd line for his position - 15 goals, 14 assists. It's not every day you see a d-man play nearly a full season and have more goals than assists. This year, he's picked up nine goals and 38 points in 57 games for AHL Chicago. Postma needs to add a bit of bulk - at 6-3, 175, he's not strong enough for an NHL defenseman - but assuming he can do that, the former seventh-round pick certainly has it in him to blossom into a major scoring threat from the blue line.
Jan Mursak, RW, DET - The Red Wings saw enough from Mursak - who has just a single point in 17 games this year - to sign him to a two-year contract extension last week, and also to send him back to the AHL for more playing time. Mursak was averaging just over eight minutes per game with Detroit, but will probably play on the first line back in Grand Rapids, where he has 28 points in 39 games. The 23-year-old Slovenian, just the second Slovenian to play in the NHL (Anze Kopitar was/is the first) has some punch on offense, but hasn't shown top-six-caliber skills - and it's hard to break into that Red Wings top six, too.
The Future to Come
Every week in this space, I'll feature one college player and one junior player who are making their mark.
This week's college prospect is Sam Brittain, an 18-year-old goalie prospect for the Panthers currently in his freshman year with the University of Denver. Taken in the fourth round of this past draft, Brittain is a big butterfly goalie at 6-3, 210, and he has taken off in college after two underwhelming seasons with Canmore of the AJHL. In 24 games this season, Brittain has a 2.27 GAA and .921 save percentage despite being one of the youngest starting goalies (if not the youngest) in all college hockey. He has a long road to the NHL ahead of him with Jacob Markstrom the odds-on favorite to be Florida's goalie of the future, but Brittain is certainly off to a good start.
Our junior prospect of the week is another goalie, Jon Gillies of the USHL's Indiana Ice. The Maine native just turned 17 a month ago, and yet he's already listed at 6-4 and 204 pounds, and he knows how to use that size in goal. It's not often that I'll feature prospects that are years and years away like Gillies is - he still has another year to go in juniors before college, and he's verbally committed to Northeastern already - but assuming he continues to develop, Gillies will be one of the most-hyped goalies in his draft class. So hey, why not start looking now? He's 11-5-1 with an .899 save percentage for the Ice this year - sparkling numbers for a kid who was 16 when the season started - and he's been getting better and better. Just remember the name.
If you have any players you'd like me to discuss in next week's column, please direct all inquiries here, or feel free to discuss them in the comments.