By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
ACROSS THE POND:
Welcome once again to "Prospect Sunday," where we'll start our weekly look at the Blues' prospects on the other side of the Atlantic. The Blues have high-profile prospects playing in three of Europe's most prestigious hockey-playing nations -- Sweden, Finland, and Russia. All told, seven of "Tomorrow's Blues" are currently toiling across the pond, with varying degrees of success.
Three prospects are skating in the KHL, Russia's top league and (arguably) the second-best league in the world. Of these three, native Russian Vladimir Tarasenko is the highest-drafted player, chosen 16th overall by the Blues in last year's Entry Draft for his size, skills, and character. 2009 draftee (78th overall) Sergei Andronov is a smooth skater with a nose for the net and slick passing skills, and Finnish import Jori Lehtera (65th overall, 2008) was the leading scorer in the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) last season. Lehtera, a slick center, is picking up in Russia where he left off in Finland, with almost a point per game for his new Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club.
In Sweden, defensemen Kristoffer Berglund (125th overall, 2008) and Jonas Junland (64th overall, 2006) skate for Färjestad BK, with four and five points, respectively, while 2010 draftee (44th overall) Sebastian Wännström has skated primarily with Brynäs IF Gävle of the Elitserien this year, but has also seen action with Brynäs' U20 squad.
Next door in Finland, big (6'4, 211) defenseman Jani Hakanpää (104th overall, 2010) has split time this year between the Blues Espoo club of the top Finnish junior league (Nuorten SM-Liiga), and with the Suomi U20 club that plays an abbreviated schedule in the Finnish second league, the Mestis.
Next week, we'll stay in Europe for a while to extend the "Tomorrow's Blues" theme just a bit, and bring you a preview of some of the top Euros available for the 2011 Entry Draft. Don't miss it...
RIVERMEN WEEK IN REVIEW:
Since dropping their home opener to the Manitoba Moose by a 4-3 score on Oct. 8, the Peoria Rivermen have rolled through the AHL West Division by reeling off seven consecutive wins, including back-to-back road shutouts to cap off the week.
Last Sunday evening, the Rivermen swept into the state-of-the-art Cedar Park Center in Austin to take on the Texas Stars, and swept out of the Texas state capital with a 5-2 win. Nick Drazenovic and veteran Dave Scatchard each struck for a pair of goals in the game, and rookie Philip McRae also tallied in the Peoria win.
LW Chris Porter chipped in a pair of helpers, and Ben Bishop (shown at left in training camp) added an assist on the second Drazenovic goal while also making 40 saves for the win. Veteran RW Graham Mink also assisted on the second Drazenovic tally to extend his team-leading scoring totals, and Ryan Reaves made his return to the Peoria roster with a pair of roughing minors.
Friday night, Bishop started between the pipes again and turned aside all 36 Houston shots to post Peoria's first shutout since a Manny Leagce whitewashing of the Chicago Wolves on April Fool's Day 2009. Houston netminder Anton Khudobin also shut the Rivermen out for over 62 minutes, stopping 31 shots from Peoria sticks before surrendering a breakaway tally to Adam Cracknell at 2:25 of OT. Springfield, IL, native David Spina and defenseman Daryl Boyle, making his first appearance for the Rivs after returning from Alaska earlier in the week, assisted on the Cracknell game-winner.
On Saturday night it was rookie Jake "The Snake" Allen's turn to shine, making the second start of his pro career a memorable one. The Fredericton, NB, native turned aside all 36 shots he faced as the Rivermen returned to Austin and whitewashed the Texas Stars by a 2-0 score. Drazenovic and McRae again lit the lamp for the Rivermen, who as a team allowed a paltry two goals in 182 minutes for the week. Bishop and Allen combined for 112 saves on 114 shots faced for a glittering 0.66 goals-against average and a 98.2% save percentage.
With the season now ten percent complete, Peoria's team goaltending is the AHL's best with a 1.74 GAA and 95.1% save percentage.
AFTER THE JUMP...:
After the jump, the Game Time Featured Prospect Of The Week, as well as this week's "Fab Five" of players in the organization who are "Trending Up." This has been a week for defense and goaltending, and the list of upward trenders is certainly reflective of that. Stay tuned...
FEATURED PROSPECT OF THE WEEK:
The Game Time Featured Prospect of the week for Oct. 24, 2010 plays RW for the Calgary Hitmen, number 19 in your program and number one in your hearts, Cody Beach.
At 6'5 and 180 pounds, the young man from Nanaimo, BC (home of NHL legend Cam Neely) has the size and the frame to develop into a power forward, and his game is trending in that direction in his second full season with the Hitmen.
(LINK here to SB Nation asset file for the above graphic.)
In the featured video of the week, you'll see Beach come into your picture from the right at about 15 seconds in and absolutely steamroll the 5'10, 178-pound Jordan Peddle of the Swift Current Broncos. Peddle's teammate, defenseman Joel Rogers (standing six-foot-one and tipping the scales at 185 pounds) takes exception to the legal hit, and it's on like Donkey Kong...
It took Beach 51 games last season to rack up scoring totals of 3-11-14; through a mere nine games this year, Beach is already at 10 points (4 G, 6 A), and with 45 minutes in the sin bin has almost a third of his 2009-10 penalty minute total accumulated already. He doesn't come by these PIM's lightly, either, as 25 of his 45 minutes are fighting majors against legitimate heavyweights, including Moose Jaw's Dylan McIlrath (6'5, 215), Seattle's Jacob Doty (6'3, 207) and Spokane's Jared Cowan (6'5, 220).
|Jake ALLEN||Kristoffer BERGLUND||Ben BISHOP||Nick DRAZENOVIC||Paul KARPOWICH|
|Peoria (AHL)||Färjestad (SEL)||Peoria (AHL)||Peoria (AHL)||Clarkson (ECAC)|
|** 1 game played this week||** 3 games played this week||** 2 games played this week||** 3 games played this week||** 2 games played this week|
|** 60 mins, 0 GA, 1-0-0||** 1 G, 0 A, plus-1||** 122 mins, 2 GA, 2-0-0||** 3 G, 0 A, plus-3||** 125 mins, 4 GA, 1-0-1|
|** 0.00 GAA, 100% sv pct, SO||** 0 PM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW||** 0.98 GAA, 97.4% sv pct, SO||** 0 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW||** 1.92 GAA, 93.1% sv pct|