Chillin' in the CHLWednesday, September 19, 2012
Prospects looking to make NHL teams out of training camps didn’t get much of a chance with rookie tournaments cancelled due to the lockout. Several players, who had legitimate shots of sticking with their NHL teams, were returned to their junior clubs over the past two weeks. They will be called back up for an abbreviated camp if and when the lockout is settled, but for now they will resume playing in the CHL. Depending on how long the lockout lasts, all of them could be eligible to appear in the World Junior Championship in Russia when the tournament begins on December 26th, which would make for some fairly impressive and stacked rosters. Here are some notable players who were sent down to the CHL ranks who you should keep a close eye on:
Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) - Huberdeau is projected to center Florida's second line this campaign and to help with the team's lack of secondary scoring. However, he was assigned to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL where he amassed 30 goals and 72 points in just 37 games last season. The third overall pick in the 2011 draft is considered to be one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy this year, so getting into game shape at the junior level won't hinder his progress. In five pre-season appearances with the Panthers last year he led the team in scoring with three goals and one assist. If he's available for Team Canada, he should occupy a key offensive role on the roster. The 19-year-old forward should be a successful NHL player once a new labor agreement is in place. The Sea Dogs play their first regular-season contest Thursday night versus Acadie-Bathurst.
Mark Scheifele (WPG) - Scheifele cracked Winnipeg's roster out of training camp a year ago, so it is widely expected he will be able to accomplish the same feat again this fall. He potted one goal in seven games with the Jets before returning to his OHL team in Barrie. In 47 matches with the Colts, he tallied 23 goals and 40 helpers. He was flying during the Canada-Russia Challenge in August, where he put his finesse and his puck-handling skills on display. With more confidence he should be better prepared to remain with the Jets for the balance of the season and he should star for Canada again if he gets the opportunity. Barrie will open their regular season on Thursday night in Ottawa.
Dougie Hamilton (BOS) - Hamilton is penciled in to see top-four minutes with the Boston Bruins this campaign, but for the time being he will continue to occupy the blueline for the OHL's Niagara IceDogs. He was named CHL Defenseman of the Year for his efforts last season. He can quarterback a power play and has enjoyed plenty of success offensively during his junior career. Hamilton produced 17 goals and 55 assists in 50 games during the 2011-12 campaign. He also had six points in six contests for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship and as a veteran player his ice time and role should be expected to increase. Hamilton has a great deal of potential and he should make for a strong fantasy player when he gets to play at the NHL level. Niagara will host Erie on Thursday to kick off the OHL season.
Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF) - Buffalo hasn`t made it a secret they wanted to address a need at center ice during this past off-season. They drafted Grigorenko with the 12th overall selection in the 2012 draft to attempt to fill that need and he may get a chance to occupy that slot as early as this season. He enjoyed a productive rookie season with the Quebec Remparts in 2011-12 by garnering 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games. Buffalo believes he has a shot at making the team and his offensive talent suggests he could live up to their expectations. He has played well with the Remparts, racking up five points in two exhibition contests, since going back down to the junior ranks and will probably be a member of Team Russia at the WJC if he gets an opportunity to wear his home country's colors. Quebec will open their 2012-13 regular season against Chicoutimi on Friday.
Ryan Strome (NYI) - The fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Islanders will very likely play in the NHL this campaign. If he does crack their opening day lineup, a top-six spot should be his for the taking because of his offensive potential. For now though, Strome will return to his junior team in Niagara of the OHL where he racked up 30 goals and 38 helpers in 46 appearances last season. He generated nine points in six games for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship and netted the series-winning tally in overtime against the Russians at the Canada-Russia Challenge this past August, so his presence would certainly give his national team a jolt of scoring punch.
Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) - Galchenyuk was selected by Montreal with the third overall choice in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He was projected to challenge for a roster spot to play as soon as this season, but after spending the vast majority of the 2011-12 season on the sidelines he might benefit more from some time in junior hockey with Sarnia. Galchenyuk suited up in only two regular season games because of a torn ACL and dressed in only six playoff contests once he was healthy. A likely scenario may see the Canadiens give him a brief tryout before sending him back to the OHL, but his talent should not be underestimated. He has the skills to stick around and the Canadiens might be eager to give him a shot after finishing with the third worst record in the league last year. Galchenyuk attended USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in August and performed well in exhibition games. He stands an excellent chance of making the World Junior Championship roster if he's not up with the big club. His Sarnia Sting will begin their 2012-13 regular-season schedule on Friday against Belleville.
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