As with any hockey season, there are highs and lows that tend to happen throughout the year. November was no different out west in the Western Hockey League.
The big story of the month for draft-watchers came when Morgan Rielly, potential top-10 pick and Moose Jaw Warriors star, injured his knee in a game against the Calgary Hitmen. Rielly has since gone under the knife to repair a torn ACL and he is expected to miss anywhere from four-to-nine months recovering from the injury.
It’s a tough break for the smooth skating blueliner. Up until that point, Rielly had posted 18 points in 17 games and was looking to shatter his previous career high of 28 points, which he set as a 16-year-old rookie last year.
But, it’s a situation that has plagued other potential stars of the 2012 NHL draft. Alex Galchenyuk (knee), Slater Koekkoek (shoulder), Ryan Murray (ankle) and Martin Frk (head) have all missed or are expected to miss big chunks of time this season.
As for the performances from healthy players, the highs and lows continue.
Saskatoon Blades forward Lukas Sutter turned heads in the month of November. The gritty, two-way centre posted five goals, 13 points, a +5 rating and 36 penalty minutes in the month. He has climbed himself up the rankings, showing he can put the puck in the net, as well as play with that edge to his game.
Speaking of offense, Chandler Stephenson of the Regina Pats has picked up his pace in recent times. The left-winger from Saskatoon posted seven goals in the month to put him at 12 for the season. With that kind of pace, a 35-goal season is not out of the question. Size is still a concern with Stephenson, but the five-foot-11 forward has shown he can be a versatile forward that can score goals and execute on the power play. Teams are definitely still watching him closely.
On the blueline, the Vancouver Giants have a smooth skating two-way player that’s making noise and climbing the rankings.
Brett Kulak of Stony Plain, AB. isn’t putting up offensive numbers that will blow you away, but you can see he has the potential to. At just a touch over six-foot-one and 175 pounds, Kulak has got room to grow and fill out. He’s a smooth skater, plays physical and is very efficient in his own zone. Look for him to continue to climb up the draft boards as his strong play continues for Vancouver.
With some players on the rise, that obviously means some have to be going the other way.
One of those players is Branden Troock, but it’s not for a lack of trying. The big power forward from the Seattle Thunderbirds posted five points in November, but he continues to battle the injury bug. He missed all of his 16-year-old season with a variety of ailments and that bug is back as he recently broke a rib in a game against the Kamloops Blazers.
For a player as physical as he is, that’s a tough injury to take. Troock is expected to miss four weeks. If he continues to get hurt, he’s going to continue to fall. His upside is still prevalent, but it’s always tough to hold your ground when you aren’t playing.
Speaking of size, Calgary’s Jaynen Rissling is another guy that seems to be losing ground compared to where he stood last season in draft rankings. At six-foot-four and over 220 pounds, Rissling is an imposing figure. But, with his growth spurt over the summer, it seems that he has lost a step or two in his game. He has taken time to adjust, and with time and hard work he may, but at this point he slides a bit from where we had him coming into the year.
A teammate of Jaynen Rissling with the Hitmen also seems to be having trouble getting off on the right foot this year.
Over the summer, winger Rob Trzonkowski was an invite to the Ivan Hlinka camp for Canada. The big right-handed shot was coming off a seven-point season and he looked like a guy that could fill an energy role.
It looks like the other skills haven’t quite developed for Trzonkowski as some might have hoped. He’s actually averaging fewer points this year and has but two through the first two months of the season. It’s safe to say he is falling down draft boards as the games go by.
The highs and lows will continue to happen throughout the 2011-2012 season for many of these young players. That in itself is something to watch as maturing and learning to be a pro hockey player is a skill that many NHL teams will pay close attention to.
Cody Nickolet is an area scout for Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!