18 April 2019

Chiller Instinct Top Prospect Performers

2008-2009 NHL Playoffs


rink burstingDuring playoff runs both fruitful and hampered, a team thrives when its directive is supported by players making entry-level salaries.  The wealth of flexibility a team receives when a club can fill a need with an emerging teenager or a developmentally sound farm player is immense, and yet it carries a risk all on its own.  Below, Chiller Instinct has taken the time to recount the 16 most significant additions* to any NHL playoff roster, in acclivity:




16 (RW, Columbus) Jakub Voracek (6'1" - 205 lbs, 15 August 1989) is a supreme talent and could be a top forward on most any team.  The timing was just not perfected in the Blue Jackets playoff debut; the entire team was wind-swept.  The Kladno, Czech-born forward was used sparingly against Detroit, averaging below 12 minutes of ice-time in the four games, managing an assist, an even rating, and 12 shots (including six in Game #4).  The former Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) star is standing on a humongous goal-scoring drought however, dating back twenty-three games to early March, against Los Angeles.  Voracek has impressive playoff totals in feeder leagues and is a vital key to success is Columbus.  Keep in mind that the young Slovak averaged three shots per game, second only to Bobby Ryan.  Management will implore their young play-maker and defensive forward to shoot more often still.



15 (C/W, Philadelphia) Darroll Powe (5'11" - 211 lbs, 22 June 1985) will most likely provide the Flyers with a stable, young forward to fill-in on the cheap for next season, after bolstering the lower lines for GM Paul Holmgren in 60 games this year.  While he accumulated only 11 points in those games, it was the Saskatchewan-bred Powe's intensity that showed through in the playoffs most impressively.  The undrafted centre out of Princeton University (NCAA) was a nice addition to the club, scoring three points (one goal), 16 hits, 10 shots, and registered an even rating against Pittsburgh. 



mason14 (G, Columbus) Steve Mason (6’4” – 202 lbs, 29 May 1988) locked up the NHL’s Calder Trophy this week and finished second for the Vezina behind only the supreme efforts of Boston goalie Tim Thomas.   The postseason held much less water for the shell-shocked netminder though, as Detroit steam-rolled the fledgling club in four games.  Oakville, Ontario’s Mason would do well to build on the fact that night after night, his efforts kept the Blue Jackets in most games.  The Wings fired an average of 34.75 shots per game his way.  So while his GAA (4.27) was nearly 2 full goals higher, and a .878 save-percentage looks shabby beside his award-winning .918 figure from earlier in the season, their opponent was the powerhouse Red Wings.  Columbus’ 3rd round pick in 2006 and former London Knight certainly has a bright future ahead of him.



13 (D, Calgary) Adam Pardy (6'4" - 220 lbs, 29 May 1984) is a rough and tumble defender that holds the keep.  During the season, the Bonavista, Newfoundland-born defenseman proved to be a capable depth guy and installed third-pairing minutes when called-up from Quad City (AHL).  However, the Flames' postseason would have been lengthier, had the team also displayed their 6th-round (2004) pick's desire to win.  Pardy's contributions stand out on the Calgary roster the way Robyn Regehr's would have or Jarome Iginla’s does; he fought Ben Eager and added two assists in the opening round.  Expect Pardy to be kept around, providing that management deals with his Class VI impending free agency accordingly.   



dorsett12 (RW, Columbus) Derek Dorsett (5'11", 187 lbs, 20 December 1986) was in familiar territory during the Blue Jackets’ first foray into postseason play; the seventh-round pick in 2006 rang out 14 total hits in his three games, averaging less than 10 minutes-per-game.  Dorsett was pitted against his former team-mate Darren Helm, who was the only player to average more hits-per-game (5.13 to 4.67) than Dorsett.  Both were pivotal players in Medicine Hat's 2006 WHL Championship season.  In just over one full campaign since turning pro last season with Syracuse (AHL), Dorsett has scored 11 goals in 71 games, offsetting his 324 PIM.  Columbus Head Coach Ken Hitchcock finds appropriate ice-time for players with such an ilk; the Kindersely, Saskatchewan-born player will likely claim a full-time roster spot next season.



11 (LW/C, Detroit) Justin Abdelkader (6’1” – 215 lbs, 25 February 1987) forwent his final year of NCAA eligibility after securing the ‘Humanitarian of the Year’, ‘Best Defensive Forward’, and the Frozen Four’s ‘Most Outstanding Player’ awards in Michigan State University’s 2007-2008 NCAA Championship season.  In his first pro season, Abdelkader was closer than expected at making the Wings out of training camp, and was second in team scoring (52 points, 24 goals, 102 PIM) during a fine rookie campaign with Grand Rapids (AHL).  The native of Michigan brings a well-rounded game.  Abdelkader made a two game appearance with Detroit in the regular season, before propping up the Red Wing forward corps with speed and energy in ten playoff game appearances.  Abdelkader used the experience to generate three points and a +2 rating to enhance his respectable eight points, six goals, and 23 PIM in the AHL playoffs; his name could very well grace the roster next year when the Wings scrutinize their salary structure, with Tomas Kopecky, Marian Hossa, and Mikael Samuelsson all set for UFA status, and Jiri Hudler and Ville Leino as potential RFAs.  Two of Abdelkader’s goals were in the opening games of the Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh, won in Detroit, and this served to raise his profile further.




10 (RW, Boston) Byron Bitz (6'5" - 215 lbs, 21 July 1984) captained Cornell Big Red (NCAA) in 2006-2007 and then put his 'bull-in-a-china-shop' fore-check to work in Providence (AHL) last season.  Emerging as a valuable depth forward in Beantown this season, Boston claimed the President's Trophy.  'Big Red Bitz' crowds the front of the net, can take a heck of a beating, cycle the puck low, and uses good acceleration in short distances to wreak havoc in the offensive zone.  The former Nanaimo Clipper (BCHL) has proven along his stops to be defensively reliable and that he can handle the puck in traffic, though he scored a modest seven points (four goals) in 35 regular season games for the Bruins.  Bitz was an afterthought by the coaching staff, appearing in only one game in the opening playoff round against Montreal and was scratched for the first three games against Carolina.  The Saskatoon-born right-winger again made the most of his opportunity, scoring a goal and an assist in five games, averaging 11:27 in ice-time.

* Chiller Instinct focused its spotlight on Bitz in late February 2009 because of his valuable addition to Head Coach Julien's lineup and the fact that he paired up so well with veterans Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle. 



9 (RW, Philadelphia) Claude Giroux (5'11" - 172 lbs, 12 January 1988) has the Flyers' fans excited indeed.  The former Gatineau (QMJHL) walk-on took a total of only nine shots in six games, but wrinkled the twine on two of them and added three assists; Giroux raised eyebrows in Philadelphia’s six game playoff against Pittsburgh.  A noted playoff performer, Giroux scored 51 points en route to becoming a QMJHL Champion in the 2007-08 playoffs, and has netted 78 career playoff points in 41 junior games. Augmenting Giroux's colossal regular season junior numbers (321 points in three seasons), a tidy point-per-game pace with the Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL) this season, and 27 points and a +10 rating in 42 NHL games, was the effectiveness in his first campaign as a professional.  Especially noteworthy was his ability to overcome a concussion in early January 2009.  A roster spot is all but assured and counted on for young Giroux next season in Philly.



Ryan8 (RW, Anaheim Ducks) Bobby Ryan (6'2" - 218 lbs, 17 March 1987) finished second in the Calder Trophy voting a few days ago.  As expected, Ryan's efforts which did not begin until mid-November, ended up netting him the runner-up position for NHL 'Rookie of the Year', behind Columbus netminder Steve Mason.  Both were given accolades, earning berths onto the NHL's 'All Rookie Team' as well.  The Cherry Hill, New Jersey-born Ryan netted 57 points, 174 shots, 3 game-winners, and a +13 rating in his 64 games played, while managing to stay in the lineup every night.  Anaheim could have used a more consistent effort nightly in the playoffs, and eventually Ryan lost his top-line status in favour of Ryan Carter and skated with Hall-of-Fame winger Teemu Selanne after that.  The strength and finishing touch (31 goals) Ryan had on display during the season, was counted upon come playoff time.  "He wasn't winning any battles along the wall for the puck," Ducks' coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register on 3 May 2009. "I thought he was what we call swimming at times, losing his check.  Anaheim ousted the top-seeded Sharks in the opening round, and Ryan's premiere offensive skills were a key; the 22 year old's two-goal night on 23 April 2009, saw him elude Jonathan Cheechoo and unleash a fine wrist-shot past Evgeni Nabokov for the game-winner, which opened the scoring.  Ryan will be counted on for more efforts similar to those in which he registered five, six, and even seven shots per contest, and wound up leading all rookies in the playoffs with 49 shots; Orange County has another top line player it has drafted and can build around for years.




7 (LW, Detroit) Ville Leino (6'1" - 188 lbs, 6 October 1983) had difficulty cracking the powerful Wings’ lineup and much playing time was subsequently handed to upstart Justin Abdelkader.  Hardly known around the water cooler, the Savonlinna, Finland-born Leino is a tremendous playmaking winger that can also play centre.  Most impressive about Leino is the split duty he obviously welcomed this season as a call-up; in 57 games with Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) this year he scored 46 points and also added nine points (five goals, including one game-winner) wearing the 'Winged Wheel'.  Come playoff time, Leino's suitcase was nearly indispensable; he led the Griffins in scoring with 13 points in ten games and managing to find his way onto the Detroit roster for seven games, picking up two assists.  Leino will more than likely find his way onto the roster of the Finnish Olympic Team, even if the Salary Cap cards somehow play against him making the Wings next season.



6 (D, Chicago) Niklas Hjalmarsson (6’2” – 200 lbs, 6 June 1987) played nearly as many games in the playoffs (17) than he did in his rookie NHL season (21).  The Eksjo, Sweden-born defender acclimatized himself quite nicely onto a young and robust lineup that is already rife with outstanding blueline depth, playing an increasing role up to and into the Western Conference Final.  While not astounding anyone with his offensive production per se, Hjalmarsson’s talents extend beyond just deft puck movement out of danger.  After coming back from rib injuries that kept him out of action for an extended period and then assigned back to Rockford (AHL), the young defenseman took on ever-increasing responsibility in Chicago, earning a roster spot in late January and anchoring the third pairing.  In the Blackhawks’ lengthy playoff run, the former HV71 (Swedish Eliteserien) rearguard displayed excellent awareness and durability; his 31 blocked shots led all rookies by far, allowing him into the company of Chris Pronger, Niklas Kronvall, and Duncan Keith.  With just one assist and a -2 rating to show for the playoffs, it is easy to overlook the importance of Hjalmarsson to Chicago; his penchant for positional play, the ability to make a timely hit, and make the opposition’s job difficult, are what championship teams rely upon from a depth defenseman.


5 (RW, Pittsburgh) Tyler Kennedy (5'11" - 183 lbs, 15 July 1986) scored ten goals last year to begin his NHL career and jumped up to 15 this season, after finding regular playing time on the third unit with Jordan Staal.  Not relied upon for offense, but providing a spark in particular situations, Head Coach Dan Bylsma utilized Kennedy well down the stretch and through the playoffs.  The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native is looked upon as an energy player but displayed more than that through this Championship run, registering at least one shot in every game of the playoffs, and counted six in three separate contests.  Kennedy scored nine pointsKennedy in during the playoffs, including the game-winning goal and an assist in Game #6 against Detroit, and a total of three game-winners in the playoffs (complimenting his three during the regular season); the former 1999 4th round pick has proven that he knows of the most opportune times to strike.



4 (G, Washington) Simeon Varlamov (6'1" - 183 lbs, 27 April 1988) was an extremely important part of the Capitals' awakening, dispatching the New York Rangers, and forcing the eventual champion Penguins to seven tough games.  Some may see his poorest performances against Pittsburgh as rookie mistakes.  However, experts know that coming off of an injury in latter portion of the season, snatching the reigns away from Jose Theodore, and putting up some incredible efforts to that point in the NHL playoffs, was bound to have a fulcrum.  The truest example came in Game #4 against Pittsburgh, with the Caps up two-games-to-one and in overtime, Varlamov sparkled by making 39 saves on 42 shots, played 71 minutes, yet finally succumbed to the Penguin attack.  Chalk it up to experience and keep in mind that the Samara, Russia-born netminder had played in only six NHL regular season games to that point.  Varlamov was instrumental, maintaining his .918 regular season save-percentage, and tied for the league lead in shut-outs with a pair.



Ericsson hit3 (D, Detroit) Jonathan Ericsson (6'4" - 206 lbs, 2 March 1984) will be an NHL-calibre defenseman for years to come, demonstrating this by establishing himself early on in the playoffs with his first opportunity, on one of the deepest teams in the league at the defense position.  Sure, some of that is seasoning, as Detroit is very meticulous about not rushing its prospects, choosing to let them thrive in less pressure-packed situations in the minors and other developmental leagues first.  The Karlskrona, Sweden native has many of the tools and the size that managements envy league-wide.  More evident in this Western Conference Championship for Detroit was just how proficient Ericsson was at moving the puck out of danger.  At the forefront was Ericsson's sound positional play; eight points (four goals), 39 hits and 19 blocked shots came at premium times, averaging nearly 19 minutes per game in the playoffs. 



2 (RW, Chicago) Kris Versteeg (5’10” – 180 lbs, 13 May 1986) had a near perfect season from a low-profile prospect vantage.  After completing a rookie regular season that would eventually net him consideration as a Calder Trophy finalist (53 points, 22 goals, 3 game winners, 4 short-handed goals, 139 shots, 55 PIM, and a +15 rating), Versteeg proved that he could raise the stakes in the postseason.  Taking only 27 shots in the 17 games the ‘Hawks took en route to the Conference Final, the Lethbridge, Alberta-born winger accumulated 12 points (four goals) and put up two separate four game point streaks.  Calgary Flames fans watched as the former Bruin 5th round pick tallied seven points in the final three games of the opening round.  Versteeg’s offensive production tailed off against Central Division rival Detroit however, picking up just one assist in the five game series.  The former WHL star has never shied away from the physical side of the game, yet he let his attention stray in Game #4 against the Red Wings, in which he was assessed 14 minutes in penalties.  This matched his season worst mark of a -2 rating.  On the positive side, Versteeg fills up the score-sheet, tallying 15 hits, seven blocked shots, and eight take-aways.



Helm1 (C/LW, Detroit) Darren Helm (5'11" - 172 lbs, 21 January 1987) was thrust into Detroit postseason play again, after spending nearly the entire season with Grand Rapids (AHL).  With one Stanley Cup ring already, the former WHL Champion proved that Motown management knows how to groom players for circumstance, and is a shining example of the term ‘Black Ace’.  Helm currently holds the NHL record for most playoff goals scored (totaling six including four this year) without notching a regular season goal.  Highlighted by a hit on Anaheim forward Andrew Ebbett in the second round, Helm's aggressive fore-checking can and often does lead to devastating body-checks.  The Saskatchewan-born Helm led the entire league in postseason hitting, was a valuable faceoff man (51.7%), added five points, and posted a +1 rating.  He seems to be a tireless contributor.





*The requirements are that the player have played in no more than 82 regular season games, with no more than 65 in any two seasons, and have not reached his or her 26th birthday by the time the playoffs commenced on 15 April 2009.  This would discount players such as San Jose winger Devin Setoguchi and Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller on age.  Although eligible, the list overlooks the underwhelming playoff efforts of Montreal forward Matt D'Agostini, St. Louis centre Patrik Berglund, Boston's Blake Wheeler, or Flyers' teenage Swiss defenseman Luca Sbisa for instance. 


Vancouver, New York, New Jersey, Montreal, and San Jose all incredibly do not have one of the 16 players.

27 June 2009 / Robin Keith Thompson

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