Since it's hard to cover every prospect in this space, and particularly the recently drafted ones, I thought it might be nice to catch up with last year's first-round draft class now that the season's winding down. I'll do 1-10 this week, 11-20 next week, and 21-30 the week after that. So, without further ado, here's what's doing with the 2010 NHL Entry Draft first-round picks.
1. Taylor Hall, LW, EDM - 22 goals and 42 points are a solid, though not spectacular, NHL debut for a first overall pick; suffered a high-ankle sprain in an ill-advised fight and out for the year.
2. Tyler Seguin, C, BOS - 10 goals and 21 points in what's been a development season spent entirely in the NHL - some of it in the press box; possible buy-low candidate in keeper/dynasty leagues.
3. Erik Gudbranson, D, FLA - 11 goals and 30 points in 39 games with Kingston of the OHL; he's missed time for the WJC as well as a lengthy suspension. Scrappy kid; offense is coming along.
4. Ryan Johansen, C, CLM - 35 goals and 81 points through 57 games; nine points in seven games in the WJC; seems to be developing as expected.
5. Nino Niederreiter, LW, NYI - Had a nine-game NHL stint (two points), then sent back to juniors, where he's got 36 goals and 61 points in 49 games. Developing into quite a finisher.
6. Brett Connolly, RW, TAM - 40 goals and 63 points in 53 WHL games; missed time for the WJC (no goals, three assists in seven games) and has also had a minor knee sprain.
7. Jeff Skinner, C, CAR - 23 goals and 49 points in 66 games for the ‘Canes; first All-Star of this draft class and first 18-year-old All-Star since Steve Yzerman; has fallen off the pace over the last month-plus, but that's to be expected in a kid's first pro season.
8. Alex Burmistrov, C, ATL - Five goals and 17 points in 58 games with the Thrashers; has missed time with a foot injury and has had trouble establishing consistency with limited minutes. Should have spent this season in the AHL.
9. Mikael Granlund, C, MIN - Eight goals, 34 points in 37 games in the Finnish league this year; seven points in six WJC games; has been more noticeable in big games (WJC, Finnish Winter Classic); would have liked to see more development, as he's a notch below last year's pace.
10. Dylan McIlrath, D, NYR - Five goals, 18 points, 125 PIM in 55 WHL games; has missed some time with knee injuries. Size and tools say future NHL defensive enforcer; offensive development will determine whether he's more Zdeno Chara or Hal Gill.
Justin DiBenedetto, C, NYI - A sixth-round pick by the Islanders in '08, DiBenedetto has a pair of 93-point junior seasons to his name (of course, it helped that he played with Steven Stamkos for one of them), but he hadn't carried that offensive promise over to the professional level until just recently, as he finally broke out in the AHL in late January. Over his last 17 AHL games before being called up, DiBenedetto accumulated 11 goals and seven assists. He's scoreless in the limited minutes he's seen in four games with the Isles, but at the very least he's shown that the potential is there.
Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G, ANA - Levasseur has had a credible season for an absolutely awful Syracuse Crunch team this year, posting a .912 save percentage despite facing a ton of shots - he sees more than 30 shots per game on average - and will back up Dan Ellis for as long as Jonas Hiller stays out. If he sees a start or two, I'd be willing to pick him up and roll him out.
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF - Enroth got into his seventh NHL game of the year on Sunday, stopping 24 of 26 to improve to 4-2-1 with the Sabres. He's been solid with Portland of the AHL (.912 save percentage) despite having bounced between the two levels multiple times this year. At just 22 years old, he's one of the better goalie prospects in the game, but, well, there's that whole Ryan Miller issue.
Alex Plante, D, EDM - A big, tough defenseman and a former first-round pick (15th overall in '07), Plante has just 11 points and 112 PIM for Oklahoma City of the AHL this year, and he collected nine PIM in his first game with Edmonton. For now, that's where his value lies; he's shown some offensive ability, including a big shot, in the past, and had some minor scoring success in juniors, but he really hasn't developed that much at the pro level yet. Still, he knows how to play defense and he's quite young at 21; on a good team, he could be Adam McQuaid with more upside. Of course, he's not on a good team. You can get some penalty-minute value out of him for now, if you have a need.
Brett MacLean, LW, PHO - MacLean, back in the big leagues, celebrated by picking up an assist in just 10 minutes of ice time against Detroit. He's got two points in three games for Phoenix and hasn't stopped consistently scoring in the AHL, in between call-ups; he's got 50 in 51 for San Antonio.
Casey Wellman, C, MIN - A former college standout, Wellman signed with the Wild out of UMass-Amherst and played 12 NHL games last season, recording four points. He's played most of this season in the AHL, though he's missed time with a shoulder injury, recording 23 points in 30 games. In the NHL, he's got two points in 14 games, although one of those was the game-winning goal against the Rangers last week.
Braden Holtby, G, WAS - Holtby's been recalled to back up Michael Neuvirth, but hasn't gotten any action yet. He's got a .908 save percentage with Washington and a sick .930 and 1.98 GAA for AHL Hershey, but Neuvirth has been hot, so it's questionable how much PT he'll get while Semyon Varlamov remains out with yet another injury.
Chad Johnson, G, NYR - Johnson has one of the easiest jobs in the world: backing up Henrik Lundqvist, who plays almost every game. The Rangers clearly don't have a lot of faith in Johnson, as they seem to be planning on giving Lundqvist nearly every start down the stretch. He's got just a .901 save percentage and 2.72 GAA for a very good and defensively responsible Connecticut Whale (nee Hartford Wolf Pack) team. For what it's worth, Johnson played credibly in five NHL games last year, putting up a 2.35 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Derek Smith, D, OTT - It's not often that I talk about 26-year-olds here, but the rules are a little different for defensemen and goalies, many of whom don't make a real impact at the NHL level until they're in their mid- 20s. Smith may be a sleeper; he racked up 51 points from the blue line in the AHL last year, including 14 goals, and has another 10 goals and 43 points so far this season - good enough to earn him an NHL promotion for the second time. This time around, the undrafted native of Belleville, Ont., has picked up his first NHL point, an assist in March 3's win over Atlanta.
Cody Hodgson, C, VAN - Hodgson saw fourth-line minutes with the Canucks, so back down to the AHL he went after Vancouver acquired some depth forwards at the trade deadline. The 21-year-old still has a load of potential, but we're still waiting to see a little more from him at the pro level. He does have three points in three games since his return to Manitoba.
Ben Maxwell, C, ATL - Maxwell got into a couple games with Atlanta after they traded for him, then was sent down to Chicago of the AHL. As I noted last week, he's been a solid AHL player. Still, he hasn't been able to distinguish himself from the crowd.
Colin Greening, C, OTT - Greening's nine-game NHL stint culminated in his first NHL goal. A smart guy (3.99 GPA at Cornell - nice!), he's got NHL size and NHL skill, so don't be surprised to see him stick with Ottawa next year. A smart player with a hard shot and good speed - what more can you ask for? He was a reliable performer with Cornell, posting 30-plus points three straight seasons, and has had a solid pro debut with Binghamton of the AHL, collecting 37 points in 55 games thus far. Keep an eye on Greening; he's one of those out-of-nowhere guys who can become surprisingly useful in deep leagues.
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 freshman center Anders Lee of Notre Dame. A sixth-round selection by the Islanders in '09 after being passed over in ‘08, Lee had a successful season in the USHL, then went on to Notre Dame, where he's an older freshman at 20. He's had a terrific season, though, scoring 21 goals and adding 19 assists in 36 games. Lee was named the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Rookie of the Month for February (his third Rookie of the Month win this season) after collecting seven points in six games for the month, including a pair of game-winners. Lee is a big, strong kid at 6-2, 209, with good skating ability, a hard shot, and all the requisite center skills. He has the look of a budding top-six power forward at the NHL level, if all goes well. For now, the native of Edina, Minn., will have time to rest up for the CCHA playoffs, as he helped the Irish to a first-round bye.
Our junior prospect of the week is winger Jason Akeson of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, and soon to be a Philadelphia Flyer, as he was just signed to a free-agent contract by the Flyers, which takes effect next year. Akeson, a native of Orleans, Ont., leads all major junior scorers in assists, with 80, and it's not particularly close behind him. Indeed, assists are the biggest part of his 100-point season, as he has a fairly unremarkable 24 goals - not that he can't score. Akeson is an older junior player who's been passed over in the NHL draft, but has been productive over the past three seasons, improving his point totals from 64 to 80 to this year's 104 and counting. This has the look of yet another shrewd move by Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
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.