Friday, November 28, 2008

Prospect Update - 1st Quarter AHL

With the season a quarter of the way through it's time look at the development of the Habs key prospects throughout their system. I start with a look at the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs:

Matt D'Agostini
6'00, 201 lbs, 22 yrs
RW - Shoots right
GP: 20 G:14 A: 11 PIM: 16

Now in his 3rd AHL season the time is almost now for Matt D'Agostini. Since being drafted 190th overall in 2005 he's added 20 pounds to his frame and has developed into a solid 2 way player. He has deceptive speed, works hard, has good passing skills and an above average shot.

Overall, D'Agostini has exceeded expectations through hard work and a willingness to work at his game. As a result, he's moved up the depth chart and is an injury away from getting called up to play for the Habs. With all the UFAs and RFAs next year D'Agostini is in a prime position to try for a regular spot on the Habs roster next year and will likely get a good look this season.

Kyle Chipchura
6'02, 205 lbs, 22 yrs
C - Shoots left
GP:18 G:6 A:6 PIM:18

There are two concerns that are keeping the 18th overall pick of the 2004 Draft from cracking the Habs roster. Faceoff ability and his skating. Everything else has developed exactly as expected and Chipchura is still being forecast as a 3rd liner playing a shutdown role. Chipper is excellent on the boards, has an excellent work ethic, character and leadership skills. What might need to change however is a shift from Center to Left Wing if he continues to have difficulty winning faceoffs. His skating also needs to get better so one can only hope that he would benefit from power skating lessons like it helped Latendresse this past off-season.

Chipchura was expected to make the Habs roster out of training camp so in that regard he's been a bit of a disappointment so far. Clearly disappointed himself, Chipchura struggled after his demotion but has turned it around the past 10 games and is now tied for 2nd on the team in plus-minus. Chipper should get another callup this season and will clearly push for a full roster spot year year.

Ben Maxwell
6'01, 185 lbs, 20 yrs
C - Shoots left
GP:20 G:8 A:8 PIM:6

Maxwell is adjusting well to his first season in Hamilton where he's already become a key contributor on the powerplay. Drafted 49th overall in the 2006 Draft Maxwell struggled with injuries his last two years of Junior, first with an elbow injury that required surgery to repair and then a thigh injury last season. Fortunately, Maxwell has played every game for Hamilton so far this season.

What stands out is Maxwell's excellent puck control skills, skating ability & soft hands. What needs work is his defensive ability and physical play but that should come as he continues to fill out and develop in Hamilton.

Max Pacioretty
6'01, 210 lbs, 20 yrs
LW - Shoots left
GP:20 G:2 A:10 PIM:22

This is a season of adjustment for MaxPac who signed a pro contract after just one year at Michigan. He has come out and said the AHL is much better than he expected and has had trouble adjusting to the overall speed and tempo of the pro game. With more than twice the number of games than an NCAA season, MaxPac will have to learn how to pace himself as he learns the ropes. Coach Don Lever said he's easy to coach and is willing to learn though he's a bit hard of himself.

What stands out so far is his skating, quick hands and grit. MaxPac already has a heavy and accurate slapshot and is already very good at one-timers. After a fill season in Hamilton you can expect to see Pacioretty push hard for a roster spot with the Habs next year. Until then, he'll work on his playmaking and defensive awareness to round out his game.

Ryan White
6'00, 200 lbs, 20 yrs
C - Shoots right
GP:20 G:6 A:6 PIM:19

White started off slowly in his first season with Hamilton but has already proven himself to be a solid two way player with a physical edge, something the Habs need badly. Projected to be 3rd line player in the NHL, the 66th pick in the 2006 Draft will most likely need two full years in Hamilton before he's ready to compete for a roster spot with the Habs. A project worth watching.

Mathieu Carle
6'00, 210 lbs, 21 yrs
RD - Shoots right
GP:13 G:2 A:5 PIM:6

A head injury during the Habs main training camp in September set Carle back a ways. By the time he was ready to play he had also missed 7 games in Hamilton and is just now starting to round back into form. The 53rd choice in the 2006 Draft is a much coveted puck moving, offensive defenceman with size and grit who's also willing to block shots. What he still needs to focus on however is his defensive responsibilities and focus so until he polishes that part of his game he'll remain in Hamilton.

While Carle may get a brief callup at some point this season all signs point to him needing at least another full season in the AHL before he's ready to challenge for the roster spot. Motivation shouldn't be a problem for Carle though as I'm sure he knows there's a wave of right-handed offensive defencemen (McDonagh, Subban & Fischer) all likely to arrive in Hamilton next year.

Yannick Weber
5'11, 195 lbs, 20 yrs
D - Shoots right
GP:19 G:2 A:7 PIM:6

Weber has had some ups and downs in his first season with Hamilton but overall he's impressed by showing that he's both defensively aware and capable of manning the powerplay. Comparisons to fellow countryman Mark Streit are not unjustified with a heavy and accurate slapshot and a willingness to not shy away from physical play.

If Weber continues to improve as the season moves along it's certainly possible that he'll pass Carle on the depth chart and get called up sooner, especially if there's a need for an offensive right-handed shot on the blueline. Given how much and how quickly he's blossomed since being drafted, Weber is on the fast track to the NHL.