This is an exciting time for hockey prospectors with international and college and junior seasons all drawing to a close, exciting young players are being imported to the NHL and AHL to finish out the campaign.
While once-drafted players and prospects keep trickling in, signing their entry-level deals (which means most of them head to the AHL), less-heralded undrafted players continue to sign up and join NHL rosters.
On Thursday, the Lightning signed undrafted 5-foot-11 forward Cody Kunyk, whose huge senior campaign for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks 22 goals and 43 points in 37 games, both tops on the team made him a highly sought-after commodity once his college season was done. The WHCA Player of the Year, he's expected to report straight to Tampa and should be with the Lightning the rest of the year. Take note.
On a similar note, Rochester Polytechnic's Ryan Haggerty signed with the Rangers earlier in March, and he's expected to join the big team soon. Another 43-point college scorer this year, the 21-year-old Haggerty has NHL size at 6-foot, 190, and he grew up a big-time Rangers fan, which is always nice to see. A terrific shooter with an edge to his game, it's worth watching to see whether he can give the Blueshirts some much-needed grit and scoring down the stretch.
Jeremy Morin, LW, CHI The maturation of Morin's game in the AHL has been interesting to watch. He's gone from a scrappy compiler of PIM 121 of 'em with Rockford in 2011-12 who could chip in some offense to a bona-fide offensive stud who's reined in his pugilistic impulses. A 30-goal, 58-point scorer in the AHL last year, Morin's increased his scoring rate while decreasing his PIM for the third straight year this season. Still short of his 23rd birthday, Morin's on a point-per-game pace through 47 AHL contests. Though he's posted a modest five points (and 30 PIM) in 15 games this year with the 'Hawks, those are actually pretty impressive totals, considering his average of 8:06 on the ice. And Chicago's going to be looking for answers up front with news that Patrick Kane's out 'til the playoffs.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, CHI The 'Hawks took Teravainen with the 18th overall pick in 2012, and he's been playing pro hockey in Finland, where this year he dished out 35 assists to go with nine goals for Jokerit Helsinki good for the sixth-most points in the league. He was also a beast at the WJC this year, ripping off an amazing 15 points in seven games to help the Finns bring home gold. The Finnish season finished, he now comes to Chicago, where he'll need to work his way up the depth chart, but like Morin, could certainly find some playing time for a Blackhawks team suffering from some top-six uncertainty. He's not going to play Friday, but could get into action as soon as Sunday.
Calle Jarnkrok, C, NAS A highly talented playmaker, but somewhat enigmatic, Jarnkrok came over to Nashville as one of three pieces in the David Legwand deal, suggesting just how lightly regarded the 22-year-old had come to be in the Detroit organization. He was muddling along with 36 points in 57 games for AHL Grand Rapids, but has been like a new man in his first five games for AHL Milwaukee, scoring five goals with two assists. Now he comes up to a Nashville team that's awfully thin down the middle, with no one out of the Mike Fisher/Colin Wilson/Matt Cullen group showing much to write home about on the offensive end.
Nathan Lieuwen, G, BUF The Sabres have quietly hoarded quite a load of fine prospects, and Lieuwen is one such. He's been excellent for AHL Rochester this year, with a .922 save mark and 2.34 GAA, showing impressive development following an unimpressive junior career. Lieuwen made his first NHL start Tuesday, giving up three goals on 26 shots in a loss to Calgary; he could potentially see some more action if Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth remain sidelined.
Emerson Etem, RW, ANA Etem's yet to truly break in at the NHL level, but don't be too quick to give up on him at just 21 years old, the 2010 29th overall pick still has his whole future ahead of him. After a struggle last season, he's dominated in the AHL this year, with an outstanding 42 points in 39 games for Norfolk. Though he's managed just 11 points in 29 NHL contests largely in limited time Etem's still got a world of upside. He just has no reasonable line on top-six minutes for a Ducks team that's had no problem winning this year Etem skated just 10:11 against the Sharks on Thursday.
Rickard Rakell, RW, ANA If there's no line on playing time for Etem, it goes double for Rakell, who slotted in alongside Etem on the Ducks' fourth line Thursday. But he's been surprisingly productive at AHL Norfolk this year despite a scoring record in juniors that didn't have me optimistic about 2011's 30th overall pick. Rakell's produced 14 goals and 37 points in 46 games for Norfolk, and he's got one point in 10 quiet games with the Ducks. The Swedish forward's still got some development to do, but at the tender age of 21, he's showing good promise.
Michael Hutchinson, G, WPG A third-round pick by the Bruins way back in 2008, Hutchinson's still just 24 years old and has had a terrific campaign in the minors this year. He posted dominating stats in the ECHL before being promoted to AHL St. John's, where he's compiled a a 15-5-1 record with a .923 save mark. Ondrej Pavelec is banged up, so Hutchinson has a shot to get into some action as the backup to Al Montoya.
Prospect of the Week
Anthony Mantha, RW, DET Mantha's 50 goals and 89 points last year in the QMJHL looked good good enough for him to go 20th overall in the draft to the Wings. But if the NHL's other teams saw this campaign coming from the 6-foot-4 winger, I suspect he might have been drafted just a bit higher. Still 19 years old, Mantha's had a season for the ages. Despite playing 10 fewer games than he did last year 57 in all he scored seven more goals, giving him an average of a goal per game. But hey, a goal per game anyone can do that! What about assists? Oh, he only had 63 of those, giving him an eye-popping 120 points in 57 games this year. A strong skater and, of course, a pure scorer, Mantha's going to make the NHL tremble one day. With the way the Wings develop their prospects, it could be two or three years before he arrives in the big leagues, but when he does, this kid is going to be a star.