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Game Time Prospect Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010

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By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department


2010-12-09: Jake Gannon (D), released from PTO by Peoria (AHL), returned to Utah (ECHL)


None to report this week.


As reported last week, several Blues prospects have been invited to compete for a chance to represent their country at the upcoming U20 World Junior Championship.

Canada ... Jaden Schwartz, C, 5-10, 180, Colorado College (WCHA).

Russia ... Vladimir Tarasenko, LW, 5-11, 210, Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL).

Sweden ... Sebastian Wännström, RW, 6-00, 187, Brynäs Gavle (SEL).

This week, another 2010 draftee was added to the list:

Finland ... Jani Hakanpää, D, 6-04, 211, Blues Espoo (FIN Jr).

And the best part? None of these prospects are any older than 19 years of age (Tarasenko's 19th birthday is tomorrow, Dec. 13, by the way), which means they will all still be eligible to skate for their country in next year's WJC as well.

Selection camps for these four players, and players on the other eight national teams to skate in Buffalo and Niagara Falls this Christmas, begin this week. Check this space for updates as the camps progress, and of course, for the most complete coverage of the World Junior Championship available in the St. Louis market


The Featured Prospect Of The Week this week is rookie blueliner Mark Cundari. Get the scoop on this free-agent find for the Blues' organization, as well as this week's "Fab Five" of players in the organization who are "Trending Up." Players at every developmental level of the organization -- Euros, collegians, juniors and AHLers -- stepped up to the plate this week, and you'll see five of the best right here. Stay tuned...


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The Game Time Featured Prospect of the week for Dec. 12, 2010 is defenseman Mark Cundari. A classic example of an overachiever, and a player who plays "bigger than his size," Cundari is as strong as a bull and is a solid defensive player as well as a potent offensive weapon.

Cundari Prospect File

The "McKeens Hockey" prospect website had this to say about Cundari back in 2007:

(Cundari) is used on the PK in 3-5 situations .. smooth skater, whose lower body is very strong, as he has explosive thrusts .. he does not exhibit this speed all the time; rather, he camouflages it .. despite his relatively small stature, he is balanced and strong on his skates, often attacking forwards and engaging in battles down low .. he can easily launch an attack or make a good first pass out of the zone .. at times, he likes to go in deep and initiate plays but is quick to recover and regain his defensive position .. plays bigger than his size suggests and although he is not mean in the sense that he will stick someone, he does play his man honest and tough.

That description of Cundari’s game from early in his junior career still applies to the way Cundari plays as a first-year pro in the American League. Despite less-than-ideal size at 5’10, 200 pounds, Cundari plays a solid physical game and will readily engage – and hold his own -- with players much larger than he.

In the featured video of the week, we see Cundari score Peoria’s only goal of the night in a 4-1 loss at Rockford on Nov. 9, followed by a Cundari throwdown against much larger Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach, elder brother of Blues prospect Cody Beach. The audio is courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs and broadcaster Mike Peck, with whom your GTPD worked for a year doing color commentary on IceHog home games in the old UHL.

One of a relative handful of players to win back-to-back Memorial Cups (emblematic of the top major junior club in Canada), Cundari accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2010 with the powerhouse Windsor Spitfires. With offense coming from the blueline in Cundari and Ryan Ellis (NAS 2009), as well as up front from such players as first-overall 2010 pick Taylor Hall (EDM) and Adam Henrique (NJ 2008), Windsor raced to a combined 107-22-1-6 record in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, and Cundari was among the OHL leaders in defenseman scoring, as well as in penalty minutes and plus/minus, both years.

Those who assume that Cundari's combined plus-72 in 2008-09 and 2009-10 was merely due to his team's dominance, however, would be well advised to take note of his play in his first pro season this year with Peoria. Cundari's plus-12 mark leads the Rivermen by a wide margin, and is tied for 11th overall in the AHL. In addition, that plus-12 is second among rookie defensemen to only Norfolk's Radko Gudas at plus-16, and Cundari is also well-positioned among all defensemen and all rookies in scoring, ranking 24th in the league in each category with a 4-10-14 scoring line (43 PM) in 25 games.

Trending Up header

Barriball Beach Bishop Hakanpaa Reaves
Minnesota (WCHA) Moose Jaw (WHL) Peoria (AHL) Blues Espoo (FIN Jr) Peoria (AHL)
** 1 game played this week ** 3 games played this week ** 1 game played this week ** 3 games played this week ** 2 games played this week
** 1 G, 0 A, plus-1 ** 0 G, 5 A, even ** 60 mins, 2 GA, 1-0-0 ** 0 G, 2 A, plus-4 ** 2 G, 1 A, plus-3
** 2 PM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW ** 20 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW ** 2.00 GAA, 91.3% sv pct ** 8 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW ** 9 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW

Honorable mention for the week goes to the three "prospect-age" players currently skating for the Blues in the NHL. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo posted a 1-0-1 scoring line with an even plus-minus, no PM, and a power-play goal in three games over the last week. Fellow blueliner Ian Cole (0-0-0, +1, 0 PM, 0-0-0), and agitator Stefan Della Rovere (0-0-0, even, 4 PM, 0-0-0) also skated in three NHL games during the last seven days.