The prospective power forward is perhaps the most interesting type of young hockey player. Though they're often slower to develop offensively than the smaller skill guys, once they are ready, power forwards tend to grow into positions of great importance to their NHL teams, providing that golden package of toughness and skill. Because they take time to develop, however, power forward prospects often put up less-than-special point totals in their youth, leaving us to analyze somewhat less tangible characteristics such as hockey sense, makeup, and the willingness to use one's size to one's advantage. Because they're all projection, my (purely anecdotal) feeling is that you see more power forward type players wash out than any other kind. Of course, sometimes they break out instead.
In a somewhat roundabout way, this leads us to Maple Leafs prospect Joe Colborne. The Calgary native, taken 16th overall by the Bruins in '08, was traded to Toronto last year along with two picks for Tomas Kaberle. Boston went on to win the Stanley Cup, but it may very well be Colborne and the Leafs who have the last laugh. At 6-5, 213, Colborne is a huge guy - if he was in the NHL, he'd be among the top 20 tallest players - but after a good-but-not-great college career, he'd gone on to be underwhelm in 55 games for the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence, notching only 26 points and going minus-16.
But to the credit of their scouting, the Leafs saw something in the big kid who'd just turned 21. They picked up Colborne and watched him improve almost overnight, collecting 16 points in 20 games with the Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. He also picked up an assist in his only NHL game.
But that was just the beginning. Both in college and in the AHL, the young center's ability to sustain his intensity and physicality had been questioned, so when he went home this offseason, he went to work on turning himself into the player he was always supposed to become. This season's Joe Colborne is a different player, both more able and more willing to use his size and strength to outmuscle his way to the twine. The results have been quite tangible, as he's taken the AHL by storm to start the year, ripping off 10 goals and assisting on another nine in only 12 games, good enough to make him the league leader in points as I write this. Never a highly penalized player, this season Colborne hasn't taken a single penalty. Not one. When you show the ability to play that kind of tight, mistake-free hockey, an NHL call-up can't be far off. Looks like the Bruins have another Big Joe to regret trading.
Zac Dalpe, C, CAR - Dalpe was sent to AHL Charlotte to rehab a lower-body injury and now has been called right back up to the 'Canes, with whom he'll presumably continue to skate about seven minutes a game and be totally wasted. But we've covered all that here before. I just wish that some team would give guys like Dalpe and Brett MacLean the playing time they deserve. It's a shame. Anyway, he went scoreless in his two AHL rehab games, but went plus-1 and put four shots on goal in each contest.
Peter Holland, C, ANA - The 21-year-old Holland, taken 15th overall by the Ducks in '09, reinforced his upper-echelon prospect status last season, posting career highs in goals (37), assists (51) and points (88) for Guelph Storm of the OHL before coming over to AHL Syracuse and racking six points in three games. That created hope for huge things this year, and Holland impressed the coaches in camp, but went to the AHL, where the going's been a bit slower this year - just two goals and three assists in nine games. He threw two hits, but recorded no shots or points in his NHL debut Saturday. Holland's been a notoriously slow starter, though, so expect him to come on as the season progresses, particularly if the goal-starved Ducks are willing to give him some ice time.
Cam Atkinson, RW, CLM - Atkinson returned to the lineup Saturday in Philadelphia and picked up where he left off, going minus-2 with a couple of shots to push his season mark to minus-6 in five games. A star as a two-time 50-point scorer in college, Atkinson isn't going to reach anywhere near that level in the NHL 'til he learns how to play with the bigger and stronger pro skaters. His AHL stint was a mixed bag - six points in 10 games, but at least he broke even in plus-minus.
Paul Postma, D, WPG - I advocated for the offensively skilled, but defensively deficient Postma late last year when he received a brief call-up to Atlanta, and he's shown more of the same thus far this season, racking up eight points in 10 games, but going minus-3 for all that. Of course, the Jets don't seem to be any more of a defense-first team than the Thrashers were, so it seems he'll fit right in. Postma has seen precious little ice time in his two games, as he's been overshadowed by fellow call-up Mark Flood.
Matt Frattin, RW, TOR - Frattin saw his ice time decline over the course of his 11-game stint with the Leafs that ended last week, but lo and behold, Tim Connolly is hurt again and back comes the 23-year-old Frattin up the road from AHL Toronto, where he'd potted two goals and an assist in three games. A spectacular scorer in college last year, Frattin was named a Hobey Baker finalist after ripping off 36 goals and 60 points in 44 games with the University of North Dakota - a nice payoff for the Leafs, who invested a fourth-round pick in the Edmonton native back in '07. He'll get another chance to stick on the Leafs' third line.
Colten Teubert, D, EDM - Raise your hand if you knew that Colten Teubert was, once upon a time, selected 13th overall in the NHL draft. Indeed, that time was not so long ago - 2008, when the Kings took Teubert one spot behind Tyler Myers and ahead of Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner, Michael Del Zotto, Jordan Eberle, Tyler Ennis, Justin Schultz, Derek Stepan, Adam Henrique, Joe Colborne, Zac Dalpe, Braden Holtby... the long, sad list goes on. Indeed, Teubert was taken first in the WHL's Bantam Draft back in 2005, the beginning of a long run of disappointment. Now he's on his second NHL organization after being included in the deal that brought Dustin Penner to Los Angeles, and we're still waiting for him to make good on his pedigree. At 6-4, 201, Teubert is a big, strong defenseman who's flashed some offensive skill at times, but likely will need to spend years in the NHL before that skill manifests itself fully. Still, he's picked up an assist and 10 hits in his two games with the Oilers thus far despite playing under 13 minutes in both contests.
Jacob Markstrom, G, FLA - Markstrom was nothing short of impressive in his five NHL contests this season, reminding Floridians of the good ol' days of Tomas Vokoun by posting a spectacular 152 saves on 161 shots - good for a .944 save rate and 2.05 GAA, numbers that should have fantasy owners excited for what's yet to come from the 21-year-old Swedish import. He'll go ply his trade for AHL San Antonio with Scott Clemmensen healthy once more, but it's a good bet that injury, ineffectiveness or a trade will lead to Clemmensen or Jose Theodore (or both) getting a ticket out of town. This little stint just makes the two-year contract for Theodore look like a massive albatross for the Panthers.
Robin Lehner, G, OTT - Lehner only got one game in while Alex Auld was hurting, but he did well, stopping 23 of 25 for a win. The 20-year-old will keep sharpening his considerable skills in AHL Binghamton, where he's got a sick .930 save percentage thus far. Something would really have to happen to Craig Anderson for Lehner to get a real shot this year.
Drayson Bowman, C, CAR - The return of Dalpe displaced Bowman, who'd been called up last week while the former was on his conditioning stint. The 22-year-old Bowman went scoreless in two NHL games this year and has seven points in 10 games with AHL Charlotte and is plus-5. After a mediocre season last year (30 points in 51 games, minus-3), this passes for improvement for the 2007 third-rounder.
Nikita Filatov, LW, OTT - I'm so tired of writing about Filatov. The only thing his fantasy owners can comfort themselves with is that at age 21, he could be a college junior right now and would probably be tearing up the NCAA circuit. Instead, he has a mishmash of AHL and KHL experience that so far hasn't been enough to earn him much playing time in the big leagues. He was skating less than 10 minutes per game before being sent back to Bingo.
Andy Miele, C, PHO - Miele got into five games with Phoenix and saw varied playing time, but did go 13:28 with a couple power-play shifts in his last game before being sent down. The reigning Hobey Baker winner has seven points in five AHL games and figures to keep tearing things up down there. He still needs to refine his game in the faceoff circle as well as adding more strength to compete with the bigger NHL players.
Eric Wellwood, LW, PHI - Kyle's little brother has done some good things this year in both the AHL (eight points in eight games) and the NHL (an assist and plus-3 in his only game), but he was caught up in the number crunch and sent down after Saturday's successful season debut against Columbus. The Flyers like the 21-year-old Wellwood a lot, and he seems to have found his game after a highly uninspiring 2010-11 season with Adirondack of the AHL (just 28 points in 73 games).
Gustav Nyquist, C, DET - Nyquist saw just over 11 minutes in his NHL debut last Tuesday and didn't make much of an impact, then was sent down. Nyquist's been an impact player in the AHL thus far, tallying nine points in 11 games, and I fully expect to see him back and ready to contribute - even if in a third-line role - at some point this season.
Linus Omark, LW, EDM - The supremely talented Swede was sent to the AHL in exchange for some toughness on D in the form of Colton Teubert. Scoreless in five NHL games this year, Omark has made an instant impact in the minors, where he's racked up four assists in his two games for Oklahoma City. At 24, Omark is on the fringes of prospect status, but his past successes in Sweden, Russia and the AHL, as well as last year's promising 27 points in 51 games as a rookie, make him impossible to write off.
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 Nick Bjugstad, a sophomore center for the University of Minnesota and the 19th overall pick by the Panthers in 2010. Fitting with the theme of my preamble, Bjugstad is a really big kid, already 6-4 and 204 at just 19 years old, and was considered a power-forward "project" coming out of high school. Last year, after a slow start (just four points in 13 games) and a midseason bout with mononucleosis, Bjugstad returned to the ice for the second half of the season with a vengeance, ripping off 16 points in 16 games. All he's done this year so far is build on his freshman campaign, improving in all aspects. His faceoff percentage is up from last season's 47.9% mark to 53.6%. His plus-minus, last year just plus-1, is plus-12 so far for a Minnesota team that never seems to lose. And, oh yes, there are the points. Bjugstad is tied with three other players for the third-highest point total in college hockey with 15 points (a well-rounded eight goals and seven assists) in only 10 games. Now that's power moving forward.
Our junior prospect of the week is a young man you may have heard of, as he's been touted as the best prospect in the world and the presumptive first overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft. Yes, it's 18-year-old Russian sensation Nail Yakupov. The right wing, slightly undersized at 5-10, 170, nonetheless ripped off 101 points in his first North American season last year with the OHL's Sarnia Sting - and he's just started improving. Through 18 games so far this year for Sarnia, Yakupov has annihilated the OHL to the tune of 12 goals and 23 assists, good for second in the league scoring race. After somehow going minus-2 last season, he's plus-15 already this year. On Monday, he was named the OHL Player of the Month. I get the feeling that this is just the beginning of the accolades that Yakupov is headed for in his career. He's been compared - favorably - to Pavel Bure. All of which is to say that you should try to figure out who's going to finish in the basement in your dynasty league and throw out a trade offer for his first-round rookie pick.
Something to ask? Something to say? Prospects you're dying to hear about? You can contact me here.