2008-09 predictions and projections

I'm not Karnac, but I thought it would be a good idea to lay out some projection targets for the group of prospects this season. (Or perhaps I'm just getting a little cocky after nailing the Adam and Fienhage picks this summer.) Whatever the case, let's put our forecasting cap on and see what the season could look like. Do the Sabres have a potential 50-goal guy this season? The Sabres haven't had a 50-goal prospect since Shawinigan's Jason Pominville back in 2001-02, but this season could see a quartet knocking on the door. Tyler Ennis - 50 goals in 64 games with Medicine Hat. Paul Byron - 47 goals in 62 games with Gatineau. Luke Adam - 46 goals with Montreal. Nathan Gerbe - 44 goals combined - AHL and NHL Dylan Hunter was the last 100 point prospect when he hit it back-to-back in 2004-05 (104) and 2005-06 (117). Can one hit the mark this season? After notching 91 last season with Medicine Hat, Tyler Ennis should land somewhere around the century mark. We'll project 102 points but it's not going to come easy. I'm setting the bar high and hope he goes for it. Jacob Lagacé can do 32-51-83 in Chicoutimi with Nicolas Deschamps and Joel Champagne around him. Fellow Q-men Byron and Adam should fall in a slightly higher 82-88 point window. Who is going to rack up the most PIMs this season amongst the prospects? A healthy, suspension-free season could see Mike Funk sit atop the prospect PIM-meter. After finishing last season with 104, the WHL product still isn't a policeman but will be one of the more experienced blueliners on the Pirates roster. Mike Weber is likely to post big numbers in this category and is the clear favorite, but we don't expect him to be considered a "prospect" much longer. The dark horse here is actually Tyler Myers. The number "144" keeps flashing into my head, so I'm thinking he'll spend at least two hours in the box this season. A safe forecast would suggest that names like Gerbe, Weber, Chris Butler, and Marek Zagrapan could all see time in a Sabres sweater this season. What about a call-up sleeper? Felix Schutz has pro experience and enough shiftiness in his game to sneak up on everyone, including the Sabres - possibly before January. How about a projection for Jhonas Enroth in his first AHL season? The Swede should see plenty of action, going 24-15-4, with a 2.29 GAA, .912 save percentage, and two shutouts. Is Marek Zagrapan going to see his production increase? After seasons of 38 and 40 points, Zagrapan will have more talent around him to help him eclipse the 60 point barrier for the first time as a pro. 24-37-61 -3. Ambitious? He has it in him. Philip Gogulla more than doubled his previous year's output last season in Cologne with 44 points in 51 games. Can he do it again? No. The Sharks are awful this season, and there's a mess waiting for Gogulla when he returns. They have a new coach, and have started the year 0-7 after losing Ivan Ciernik's production to the KHL. Gogulla isn't a dominating figure at this juncture, so he'll be lucky to equal last season's numbers. I'd love to be wrong. Can Corey Tropp achieve the 20-pt sophomore bump that Gerbe and Kennedy did while in school? It's going to be close, but after a 6-11-17 season as a freshman, Tropp projects to 14-26-40 in year two in Spartanville. Which QMJHL defenseman will score more points this season - TJ Brennan or Jordon Southorn? Both will see loads of power play time, and both will be stride-for-stride in terms of offense. Brennan is on the better club and likes to shoot the puck more. I believe that Southorn will have more pressure to produce, landing somewhere between 45-50 points. Brennan, though, should hover in the neighborhood of 48-54 points. How about individual honors? Junior D Alex Biega is set to produce for a solid Harvard squad, projecting to 7-23-30 and +16 to get himself on the ballot for the Hobey Baker. Brad Eidsness has the skills, opportunity, and club in front of him to earn a spot on the WCHA All-Rookie Team. Breakout players: Andrew Orpik will be ready to elevate himself as a senior leader with pre-season #1 Boston College. Much has been made of his checking ability as a forward, but his underrated offensive contributions will surface once 2009 hits. Justin Jokinen will make a bit of a splash, as he's capable of 9-15-24 as a Minnesota State freshman. Other predictions... Underrated as a senior, Matt Generous will post his second consecutive season as a +12 with St. Lawrence. Chris Butler - 6-17-23 +6 with Portland Tim Kennedy - 18-26-44 with Portland. J.S. Allard - 22-52-74 with Quebec. Drew Schiestel 12-33-45 +11 with Niagara. Mike Kostka - 4-12-16 +2 with Portland. Bowling Green goaltender Nick Eno will post big wins against Michigan and Miami this season, finishing the year 14-11-0, 2.56 GAA, and .912 save percentage. Corey Fienhage will engage in a battle for the #6 defenseman in Grand Forks this fall, and should firmly cement himself in the Sioux lineup by Thanksgiving. Marc-Andre Gragnani - 19-44-63 with Portland. Nick Crawford - 5-19-24 +7 for Saginaw. Dennis Persson - 3-9-12, 15:49 TOI average in 46 games with Timra Derek Whitmore - 12 goals in Portland. Mark Mancari will again be named an AHL All-Star. Dylan Hunter - 55 points in Portland. I'd love to see yours, so have at it.
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Anonymous
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Sunday, September 28, 2008 ×

love the predictions.. Looks like a lot of expectations for the prospects this year... Even Hunter.. Cant wait to see the final verdict come April

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Kris Baker
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Sunday, September 28, 2008 ×

Some of these numbers are very ambitious, but I wanted to set the bar high in some cases. Ennis may very well fall short of 50/100, but that's a great target to hit. Enroth will hands his hands full early, but I think he'll put together a nice run once he figures it all out.

Gerbe...I actually dialed down my original goal number if you can believe it. If Brett Sterling can score 57, Gerbe can land in the 40's.

Zagrapan...this is the year. There are no excuses to not make a drastic statistical leap. Bouck, Fretter, Darche and Murphy are in Portland to take the heat off if he's sent down (likely). All Hunter has to do is stay healthy to hit his number.

Should be a fun year.

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Anonymous
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Monday, September 29, 2008 ×

what about Gragnani seeing NHL playing time?

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Anonymous
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008 ×

I wonder if Kennedy's 2-way ability might earn him a call-up this yr.

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Kris Baker
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008 ×

I can see Gragnani being used in a slightly greater manner than last year, but nothing too deep. With the right linemates in Portland, he can easily catch fire and the be the #2 forward on the call-up list (to Gerbe). Even with trades, I don't see him ready to stick yet. Maybe he can play somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 or so games.

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Kris Baker
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008 ×

I would obviously like to see Kennedy do well, but I don't think he's ready just yet. He's a kid who'll get a ton of confidence by getting his mojo going in Portland. It looks like the immediate plan is to get him some more preseason action to better prepare him for this first AHL season. Where Gragnani *could* play his way into the #2 call-up behind Gerbe, Kennedy could be right there with Mathieu Darche. I imagine Darche would get the nod over Kennedy at this point.

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Kris Baker
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008 ×

I don't want to forget Zagrapan here.

As of now, he and Gerbe are the final two forward cuts. Both will go down and likely be the 1-2 that Ruff and Regier go to if they have to make the call. Then that cluster of Gragnani, Darche, Mancari, Kennedy, Schutz starts to fill out.

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gaf
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008 ×

Kris,

I the Buffalo News Ruff talked about moving Kennedy to center. If the kid can adjust and become competent at center does he have a better shot at making the team in the next 2 years? Clearly, this is a lot of assumptions in this question (general development, and learning the new skill set posed from being place in a new position). What's your read on the kid, does he have the hockey smarts to figure out the center position?

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Kris Baker
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008 ×

He has the playmaking smarts to play C, and the general vibe is that he's coachable all the way around. I actually think his game is a better fit to play middle, so I like the Sabres' thought process.

I don't think he had to overemphasize defense in college and the USHL, but that will change moving forward (especially if Ruff is looking to improve in the Sabres end). If Kennedy endures a learning curve with the position change, it's probably a good thing to let him grow into it and not rush his NHL debut. That's my general feeling even if he remains at wing - let him grow. A slower pizza will taste better.

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Kris Baker
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Thursday, November 27, 2008 ×

Two months in, and we're looking good on some of these, and way off on others.

Fienhage is coming up a little short, and slow starts by both Ennis and Byron may hinder the aggressive projections I'd set.

Eidsness, Enroth, and Gerbe numbers could be close, while Myers looks to cruise past 144 PIMs.

This should be fun to watch.

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