Five NHL Prospects That Must Make Their Teams
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With the NHL looking more and more like a young man's game, the importance of building through the draft has become a huge priority for NHL clubs.
As such, prospects are being asked to step into the NHL at a fast rate, with the hopes that they can make an immediate impact on the performance of their teams.
While there are many examples of young players that have made a huge contribution right out of junior (John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, etc.), many top-flight prospects have yet to make their mark on the NHL and are stuck in a state of flux.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five prospects who will need to impress their NHL clubs this season or risk being forgotten.
Kyle Turris: Forward, Phoenix Coyotes
Will Kyle Turris Crack The Coyote's Lineup in 2010-11???
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Originally drafted third overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Turris was rushed into the NHL only to find that his size was not where it needed to be.
As a member of the 2007-08 Phoenix Coyotes, Turris managed eight goals and 20 points. While Wayne Gretzky and company saw a lot of good things in Turris’s game (speed, hockey IQ, etc.) it was felt that he needed to work on his competition level and develop his size.
Turris spent an injury-riddled 2008-09 season with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, scoring four goals and seven points in eight games.
Turris followed that season up with a 76 game campaign with the Rampage, scoring 24 goals and adding 39 assists, good enough for 63 points, which ranked him second on the team in scoring behind Brett Maclean and ahead of the highly-touted Mikkel Boedker, who finished fifth overall in scoring with 38 points in 64 games.
The Coyotes are looking to slot Turris in as their third line centre, with Petr Prucha and Boedker playing on his wings.
Currently listed at 6'1", 180 pounds, Turris still looks to be a tad undersized. That said, Turris does posses a good hockey IQ, lots of speed, a tremendous shot, and decent skating ability.
With so much talent, Turris will be given every opportunity to stick it out with the Coyotes for the entire 82-game 2010-11 season. Turris must demonstrate that he can avoid the big hits that will come his way and that he can fight through bigger/tougher NHL defenses.
If Turris disappoints, look for the Coyotes to deal the centre or send him back to the AHL for more seasoning.
Jiri Tlusty: Forward, Carolina Hurricanes
Jiri Tlusty: Another Bad Toronto Draft Pick or Savior In Carolina?
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With a total of 92 career NHL games under his belt, Jiri Tlusty must prove to the Carolina Hurricanes that he is NHL ready, or he must risk being banished to the AHL for good.
Originally drafted in the first round (13th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tlusty has never been able to bring his AHL success (118 points in 125 career AHL games) to the NHL.
Projected as a sniper, Tlusty has struggled to score at the NHL level. The main issue seems to be Tlusty’s lack of intensity, poor positioning and, at the other end of the ice, some defensive shortcomings have also hampered his development.
Tlusty is slated to start the season as the Hurricanes third line left winger with Pat Dwyer at centre and veteran Erik Cole on the right side.
Hopefully Cole can succeed in tutoring the young winger where other NHL veterans have failed. At this point, if Tlusty fails, he will be looking for work in the AHL or heading back to Europe to play out his hockey career.
Jack Skille: Forward, Chicago Blackhawks
Does Jack have the "Skill" To Stick With The Blackhawks???
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Originally drafted seventh overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Jack Skille has long been considered a tremendous prospect for the Blackhawks.
While Skille has shown glimpses of his ability in the AHL, he has never been able to stick with the Hawks, a team which admittedly has had tremendous depth over the past few seasons.
With Chicago making a number of changes this offseason in order to get under the salary cap, Skille, who scored 23 goals and added 26 assists for a total of 49 points in the AHL last season, will get the chance to be a regular on the Hawks’ third line.
Known for his competitive nature, quickness and tough play, Skille, who stands 6’1" and weighs in at just under 200 pounds, will likely be given a checking role at first, but could play himself onto the second line and/or the second power play unit if he impresses.
With Jermey Morin, Kyle Beach, Viktor Stalberg and others all chomping at the bit to take Skille’s minutes away from him, you can expect Skille to show up in tip-top shape.
If Skille fails, he may find himself traded and or sent back to the AHL, which, in turn, may spell the end of his opportunities in the NHL.
Nikita Filatov: Forward, Columbus Blue Jackets
Will Nikita Filatov "Fill" The Net For Columbus This Season???
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When Nikita Filatov chose to finish his 2009-10 season in Russia many felt he was taking a step backwards in his development.
Marred in a feud with Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, Filatov left the Columbus Blue Jackets on bad terms, and his name began to come up in numerous trade rumors at last years trade deadline.
With Hithcock gone and the KHL behind him, Filatov will get another chance to impress the Blue Jackets brass in 2010-11.
Originally drafted sixth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Filitov has the potential to evolve into a premier NHL sniper. His speed, agility and ability to read the play combine to make Filatov one of the most exciting prospects in recent memory.
Working against him has been his inability to play defense and his penchant for taking nights off (which is why Hitchcock was all over him the past two seasons). Listed at 6’0", 172 pounds, size has also been a concern for Filatov and likely will be again if he fails to bulk up.
The Blue Jackets have Filatov penciled in as their third line left winger. That said, if he arrives in training camp with a good work ethic and gets off to a fast start, Filatov could easily make his way up to the Blue Jackets second line and see plenty of power play time where his offensive creativity would be welcomed.
While making the Blue Jackets lineup in 2010-11 seems to be a certainty, failure to stick with the team could spell doom for the talented Russian, doom that could lead to a change of address.
Angelo Esposito: Forward, Atlanta Thrashers
Angelo Espoito Has A Lot To Prove; Can He Stay Healthy???
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Originally drafted in the first round (20th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Esposito has already all but fallen off the NHL map.
Originally slated to be a top ten pick, Esposito fell all the way down to 20th due to concerns about his competitive fire, attitude and inability to stay in shape.
Since the 2007 draft, Esposito has spent time with the Chicago Wolves, Montreal Juniors and back to the Wolves in 2009-10 where he played just 12 games, posting a total of four points, all assists.
Injuries have plagued Esposito, making a true evaluation very difficult.
With Esposito failing to impress, many NHL experts have all but washed their hands of the talented set-up man.
Needless to say, Esposito will have to have a dominating training camp if he is going to even get a sniff from the Thrashers. More than likely, Esposito will be sent down to the AHL, where, if he fails to impress, he could spend the rest of his hockey career.
This is a make or break season for Esposito. He has already been traded by one NHL club (Pittsburgh) and with all his injury woes; NHL teams will not be willing to give him another shot if he falters this season.
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