18 April 2019
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2009 NHL Playoff Prospects Report
Conference Finals Outlook
 
With four teams advancing to their respective Conference Championships, Chiller Instinct displays a look at players that have not only filled in spots on team playoff rosters, but in some instances have insisted on being key members.  While players such as Montreal defenseman Yannick Weber drew attention, Canuck depth player Rick Rypien shouldered a load, and Flyer rookie threat Claude Giroux proved his big-game scoring capability, Chiller Instinct narrows its focus in this article to those prospects that remain on the Stanley Cup stage.  This augments the previous 'Shadow Aces Report' of all NHL Playoff teams heading into the post-season.
 
 
 
Carolina Hurricanes (Albany)
 
Drayson Bowman (6'1"-185) was a Memorial Cup Champion last season with the Spokane Chiefs (WHL) and was named the CHL's Player of the Week twice during this campaign.  With 83 points in 62 regular season games and three goals in the World Junior tournament at the turn of the year, Bowman's scoring evidence presents itself.  With 13 points in 12 playoff games this season, the Colorado-born left wing has again proven he is a dependable playoff threat, totalling 40 points in his 39 career WHL playoff games. 
 
Team Canada and Lethbridge Hurricane forward Zack Boychuk (5'10"-180) put on the Carolina jersey twice in early NHL action this season before being sent back to junior.  His clutch scoring at the World Junior tournament over the past two seasons, throughout every one of his WHL seasons in Lethbridge, and continuing on into the playoffs in every season, show that Boychuk has a nose and desire for the net.  Injuries plagued this entire season, with first a wrist and then ankle problems.  With 28 goals and 57 points in 43 games during the regular season, Carolina cannot help but salivate over the prospect of Boychuk in the future.  The Alberta native was invited to join the team for the playoffs, but does not appear to be slated for action.
 
Centre Brandon Sutter (6'3"-183) will likely be part of the leadership group going forward.  After a serious concussion took him forcibly out of the lineup early in the year, Carolina has been careful to not harm his development.  Sutter is along for the ride to watch key veterans like Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney, and Scott Walker.
 
Brett Carson (6'5"-220) has value as a depth defenseman in the organization.  Formerly of the Calgary Hitmen (WHL), Carson is set to become a RFA and though has yet to see playoff action with the 'Canes, his size and abilities warrant another contract.  The Saskatchewan-born defenseman's AHL point totals have increased every year since becoming a pro in 2006-07.  Carson saw action in five games for Carolina this year, but has his best threads dry-cleaned after every playoff home game.
 
Bryan Rodney (6'0"-204) can be counted on for moving the puck and offense.  The London, Ontario-born Rodney has worked his way up from being a star in the OHL, through the ECHL, and into employment with Albany.  His 36 points was fifth in team scoring and the best from the blueline on the River Rats.  Rodney joined the team for the playoff push, but has yet to see action, especially on a defense that has a wealth of puck movers on it.
 
The presence of goalie Justin Peters (6'1"-213) will only be felt from the press box with the way Cam Ward minds net.  2004's 2nd round pick had a 19 win season with Albany to lead the team.
 
 
Chicago Blackhawks (Rockford)
 
Bryan Bickell (6'4"-223) gives the 'Hawks another large option on wing, though inclusion into the lineup at this point seems unlikely.  Chicago called the Bowmanville, Ontario-born Bickell up at the end of April.  He had five points in 12 AHL playoff games last season and two assists in the four losses for Rockford this playoffs, though the former 41st pick overall by Chicago in 2004 regressed with just six goals and 14 points in 42 regular season contests after 39 points in 2007-08.
 
Arguably the unsung hero thus far, Dave Bolland (6'0"-176) has been incredible for Chicago in the 2009 playoffs so far, shelling the opposition for nine points (four goals) in 12 games, including six points in six games against Vancouver (he sealed the series with the game-winner in Game Six).  Another Ontario native, Bolland has desire and versatility in spades.  Look for his big-game attitude to shine for years and years behind Jonathan Toews at centre, as Bolland is also shining periodically in the faceoff circle (Game 4, 11 of 13 draws won).  Progression is nothing new for Bolland, as his London Knights were a juggernaut in the OHL as the best-ever junior team, and he seems to be taking his game to another level after advancing through Chicago's system.  He stands to receive a healthy raise after this campaign, as Bolland is set to become a RFA.
 
Evan Brophey (6'1"-205) did not receive any playing time in Chicago this year.  He was called up to provide depth for the playoffs at the same time as Bryan Bickell.  The former OHL Champion with Plymouth stepped up his production as a sophomore in Rockford, tallying 39 points and 65 PIM, with a goal in four playoff games, to accent his 19 points as a first year professional last season.
 
Troy Brouwer (6'3"-215) has got a fine touch with the puck and can win the odd faceoff too (5 of 7 in the playoffs).  The North Vancouver, British Columbia-born Brouwer can create offense out of a drop of water in a rusty thimble.  Forward depth witnesses Brouwer drop to the lower lines at times, but heis considered a prime winger to pair with Toews.  Eligible to become a RFA, scouts have Brouwer high on their lists of possible available talent, but GM Dale Tallon is more than aware of this.  Do not let his mere two points int he playoffs fool you, Brouwer is continually dangerous, and has the size to impose his will.  With 26 regular season points, a +7 rating, points skating shorthanded as well as with the advantage, the 23 year-old is at the threshold of an outstanding career.
 
A wealth of forwards has pushed Colin Fraser (6'1"-190) all but out of the playoff picture.  After playing in 81 games with the 'Hawks in the regular season and set to become a RFA, Fraser may prove to be the odd man out come contract time.  The season was a success for the British Columbia-born centre, so there will be GMs that are interested.  Fraser finished with six goals, 17 points, 55 PIM, and a +3 rating.  He has suited up in one playoff game this year, skating just under eight minutes and tested Mikka Kiprusoff once.
 
Jacob Dowell (6'0"-202) may prove to be a significant player in the future, posting a career pro high of 20 points this season in Rockford, but it will be down the road.  Faceoffs are a strong suit, so checking duties may be extended as the club's young stars start to earn hefty paycheques and tough decisions are made.  Dowell, a 5th round pick in 2004 and native of University of Wisconsin alumni, put up 128 PIM in 75 games with Rockford as well.
 
Finishing third in scoring with Rockford, Jack Skille (6'1"-205) appeared in eight regular season games and is thought of as one of the brighter forward prospects because of his touch at the AHL level.  Skille's speed is already above average at the NHL level and had initially made the Blackhawks out of camp.  Another Wisconsin born/taught player, Skille has the tools to be an outstanding contributor for a long time in the Windy City.
 
Kris Versteeg (5'10"-179) stunned the hockey world and many goalies with his supreme finishing and perseverance this year, earning NHL Rookie of the Year consideration (Calder Trophy).  A brilliant release and ability to achieve rewards in tough areas and assignments, Versteeg led the 'Hawks in shorthanded goals (four) and was the fifth Chicago player to notch 20 goals or higher (22) this year.  The Alberta-born Versteeg also has ten points (three goals) thus far in the playoffs and put up 53 in the regular season.
 
Jordan Hendry (6'0"-195) played a bit part on defense for Chicago in nine games this season, and has translated his full-time AHL gig into a spot role on Chicago's defense.  The Saskatchewan-born Hendry may perhaps have one more chance at the Blackhawk roster, as Matt Walker and Aaron Johnson (UFAs) are older.
 
The brass in Chicago know a good defenseman when they see one.  Niklas Hjalmarsson (6'3"-194) may well be the best value in the NHL on the blueline next year, building upon his previous season of 13 games, the Eksjo, Sweden-born defender did not register one penalty in his 21 appearances, tallying one goal and three points on 15 minutes of ice a night.  This playoff race has seen Hjalmarsson in an increased shut down role, and his puck movement out of danger has turned heads.
 
Corey Crawford (6'2"-188) has sat, biding his time in Rockford and Norfolk of the AHL while his opportunity presents itself in the bigs.  Playing decently after a fabulous career in the QMJHL with Moncton, the Montreal-born netminder has competition in Antti Niemi and Joe Fallon also proved he can play at the AHL level.  Crawford also joined the Blackhawks for the playoffs on 29 April 2009.
 
Antti Niemi (6'2"-204) was brought on to provide a tandem system in Rockford, after plying his trade in the Finnish Elite League.  A free-agent signing in the past year, GM Dale Tallon hopes Niemi provides the 'Hawks with another option besides Crawford in case the buy-out of a more expensive goaltender becomes unavoidable, or desirable.  His three games in the regular season were experimental and proved to bear no immediate fruit.  Now 25, Niemi was brought in to Chicago after Rockford bowed out of the playoffs immediately.
 
 
Detroit Red Wings (Grand Rapids)
 
Justin Abdelkader (6'2"-203) got into three games thus far in the playoffs, in a support role on the fourth line.  After an impressive first professional season with Grand Rapids in which he scored 24 goals and added 107 PIM, the Wings brought young Abdelkader in after the AHL playoffs ended in defeat to Manitoba.  In Detroit, the Muskegon, Michigan-born Abdelkader put up one assist, a +1 rating, and managed four shots in less than 10 minutes of ice time.  The Michigan State University alumni also proved he can 'reign it in' for Head Coach Mike Babcock, as he did not open the penalty box door once in three games.
 
Physical play, a strong forecheck, and smart plays with the puck all add up to an immense and larger role for Darren Helm (5'11"-172) this season.  His hustle, determination, and prowess with the puck make him a Wing not to be trifled with, just ask Anaheim forward Andrew Ebbett.  Helm creamed Ebbett just after the 12th minute of the 2nd period of Game 6 recently.  The former Medicine Hat Tiger star and WHL Champion has proved two years in a row to be an extremely valuable depth player and faceoff man for Detroit; his two goals should not be underestimated.  Helm's name is already on the Stanley Cup once and his role has quietly and efficiently increased in Motown.
 
Ville Leino (6'0"-182) would be a regular contributor on any other team.  Brought over for his first North American season, the Finnish forward has superb timing and brings versatility to the table.  Leino scored an absolutely beautiful goal against the Capitals to open the scoring in his first game.  Supreme playmaking skills make Leino a solid bet to be a Wing in future editions, there just is not room right now.
 
Jonathan Ericsson (6'4"-206) would be the crown jewel of any organization's farm system.  A poised and reliable defender, Ericsson has forced the Wings to play him in an ever-expanding role to this point.  A 9th round steal, Ericsson could eclipse Henrik Zetterberg as the best draft choice taken late by Detroit's superior scouting staff, led by the legendary Hakan Andersson.  Decent offensive ability only makes the 25 year-old Swedish blueliner a lock in NHL stables for years to come.  Ericsson's lone goal in the playoffs was the game-winner in the first playoff game versus Columbus, he has accumulated an even or better rating in every game but one, tallied two assists in the series against Anaheim, and overall is averaging a hair under 20 minutes a game in the playoffs.  Solid.
 
One of the best prospects in the whole system, Jakub Kindl (6'3"-200) has shored up his defensive play and appears ready for NHL duty.  Offense and puck distribution of the young Czech Republic defender's ilk cannot be taught, but using his speed to break up offensive plays by the other club can.
 
Siarhei Kolasau (Sergei Kolosov, 6'4"-187) is a defensive defenseman hailing from Belarus.  Adding another big rearguard on an inexpensive contract never hurts, though he almost missed out on negotiations.  Kolasau will likely not see action on this playoff run, but has been brought up for the experience.

Call it the 'Kyle Quincey Effect'Derek Meech (5'11"-197) may be moved by the time Entry Draft Day rolls around.  Whether by waivers afterward, trade to a team seeking a capable defenseman, or similar route, Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda may be forced out by Ericsson's strong play, even though Chris Chelios is likely to retire.  A Winnipeg, Manitoba native, Meech has appeared in one playoff game after seeing action in half of the regular season campaign.
 
 
Pittsburgh Penguins (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton)

Tyler Kennedy (5'11"-183) has brought his candour and offensive approach along for another playoff ride in 'Steeltown'.  His 40 shots ranks third on the team behind only the 'big two', yet Kennedy has only two goals (both game winners) and two assists.  A fiery forecheck and some slick playmaking moves provide a legitimate threat beside linemates Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke.  Kennedy could breakout at any point, though the Pens may be content with just his key support scoring.


Utilized as a depth defender thus far, Alex Goligoski (5'11"-180) has the tools to become a serviceable offensive player from the back end.  When the savvy play of Sergei Gonchar was in doubt, Goligoski was recalled and has appeared in 2 games in the NHL postseason, putting up one assist to accent his six goals and 14 assists in 45 regular season games in Pittsburgh this season.
 
 

15 May 2009
Robin Keith Thompson

 
 
Prospects on this list, are players that have appeared in fewer than 60 NHL games at the beginning of the regular season, and have yet to reach their 25th birthday.  Players listed are all listed on the official NHL team playoff rosters and eligible to play going forward and/or have registered at least one game thus far in the 2009 playoffs

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