Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Capable of More: A Change of Scenery Needed?

A big thanks to everyone who sent in their ideas for this Sunday's Top 10. Some tremendous ideas and ones I'll be pocketing for the coming Sundays. But for today's I'm going with the suggestion by "Jim." He suggested...

Top 10 players that need a change of scenery. Some players are drafted to clubs that are just not the right fit. Like a top goalie going to a team with an NHL drafted goalie, a strong D man that can't crack the line up on one team but would be amazing on another, a checking forward on a team that needs scorers etc. etc. I am always amazed how many players excel after a trade. Josh Bailey was not a star in Owen Sound and then goes to Windsor and we all now that ending. Tyler Beskorowany.... leaves Owen Sound where he saw limited play and now has played in 22 of 24 games for Kingston, Brian Lashoff plays little time with Barrie and is Kingston's captain. Christian Thomas saw 3rd and 4th line ice for London and now is the go to guy in Oshawa. Let's try and predict a current under achiever and see where he ends up.

I thought this was an interesting idea and would likely make for a good read and some really good feedback. Nearly every team has a couple guys you think have more in them, and more often then not, those guys need a change of scenery to bring out the best in them. I've come up with 10 (and 4 honorable mentions) that I've personally been impressed with in times that I've seen them before, and have always thought they could put up better numbers. I also think that any of these guys could be potential trade targets, meaning they could get a chance to show a new team what they're made of.

This week's list is not in order, but rather 10 guys whom could be capable of more.

Corey Bureau - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
This season Bureau has taken a step forward offensively for the Majors. He's currently sixth in goals (7) and eighth in points (14). However, I just can't help but wonder if Bureau has more in him offensively. He's one of those heart and soul type guys who has no problem playing north to south, and who'll do all the little things needed from him. But how soon we forget he was the 32nd overall pick in 2007 and that he was an OPJHL all rookie team member in 2008. I've seen him make some very nice plays to score goals and I think his ability in close to the net is better than his stats would indicate. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of current Barrie Colt Bryan Cameron. He's definitely getting a chance in Mississauga, but I think if he were on a more dynamic offensive team with a better playmaker, he'd have the potential to be a real quality goal scorer in this league. I also have him on this list because something tells me that if the Majors make a move to get a quality top 6 forward (a Cody Hodgson, Eric O'Dell, etc), Bureau might be one of the guys on his way out.

Andrew Crescenzi - Kitchener Rangers
A huge forward, I see Crescenzi as one of those guys who could, after improving his skating, and conditioning, in conjuncture with just good ol' natural maturation, be a quality forward in this league. He's kind of big and awkward right now, but he's one of the Rangers top penalty killers (for the third best unit in the league) at the forward position and he shows good hockey sense on the ice. He played for a terrible team in the OJHL last year (Villanova), but he did manage to finish 5th in team scoring as a 16 year old. There has been a lot of talk about the Rangers making a move for a quality 2nd line center, and if I was the other team, Crescenzi would be one of the guys I'd target.

Keevin Cutting - Owen Sound Attack
After such a promising rookie season last year and a gold medal appearance with Team Ontario at the Under 17's, Cutting seems to have taken a step back this season. He's found himself passed on the depth chart by guys like Geoff Schemitsch and Curtis Crombeen, and doesn't appear to have a lot of confidence in himself. I believe he's even been a healthy scratch a couple of times. But he definitely has potential. At times, he can be a puck rusher, or a powerplay quarterback. At times, he'll play physical and play good positional defense. But he needs to get the confidence in order to do this consistently. Owen Sound likely isn't going to make any moves to push them into the playoffs, but you have to wonder if Cutting's future with the team is slightly at risk. Fortunately for him though, because of a late birth date he's not eligible for the NHL draft until 2011, so he's got some time to figure this out.

Jamie Devane - Plymouth Whalers
After the Leafs went and selected him in the third round of the 2009 draft, a lot of people were left scratching their heads. But Leafs management seemed content that he was a big body just waiting to break out. This season, he's regressed offensively thanks to a stagnate role in Plymouth's offense and an injury. Since the Leafs seemed to have a hand in the Jesse Blacker move to new pasture, you have to wonder if they'd want to see Devane get a chance at a larger offensive role. At this point, he still hasn't scored this year and he's on pace to seriously regress offensively. Best thing for him might be a fresh start with a team that could use his large frame on the powerplay or in offensive situations...or just a team that's rebuilding and is willing to give him a shot.

Nick Esposto - Oshawa Generals
Currently tied for 4th on the team in goals, and already matching his goal total of last year (7), Esposto is definitely making strides this season. However, I can't help but wonder if he's capable of more, if he had a better playmaking forward on his line. He's a big body, he seems to get himself into good scoring positions, and he's got a very hard shot. Things that generally add up to a quality goal scoring forward in this league. He definitely looked that way in the preseason, pacing Oshawa with 5 goals in only a handful of games. As a young team, I'm not they'd look to trade a guy like Esposto (a 1991). However, I do think that if he were given a larger role on the powerplay, or someone to feed him the puck, he'd be quite the sniper.

Stephen Johnston - Belleville Bulls
Here's a guy fighting for an NHL contract and he's not playing like it. A 6th rounder by Detroit in 2008, Johnston was drafted because he showed so much as a rookie during Belleville's 2008 playoff run. Last season he was given a larger role, but was still a very secondary scoring option behind all of Belleville's big guns. This year, a rebuilding year, Belleville had to be looking at Johnston as one of those guys who'd step up and become a ppg player. But he hasn't taken any steps forward and finds himself slowly falling down the depth chart, with the recent acquisition of Alex Aleardi and the emergence of Andy Bathgate (only recently). What's especially perplexing is that Johnston's best asset is definitely his speed, and what better place to take advantage of that than the big ice in Belleville. As a 1990 perhaps spending his final year in the league (although you have to wonder how high Detroit's interest is now), you'd have to think he's a probable trade piece. This is especially true considering fellow 1990 Matt Tipoff was just sent out. I've seen Johnston play well and I know he's capable of more offensively. Perhaps a new team and a new system would bring out better from him?

Cody McNaughton - Guelph Storm
Take a look at the first round of the 2008 Priority Draft. Not to many of those guys struggling right now. While every draft has their "busts," McNaughton does have talent and was drafted 12th for a reason. He's just kind of found himself buried on a team that already has high end offensive talent at the forward position. Not the biggest, but McNaughton fears no one and could be a top end chippy offensive winger. If Guelph decides to make some upgrades (in goal or down the middle), I could see McNaughton as a guy who goes the other way. And if that's the case, I think he'd truly show that he's more than just the energy player he is currently in Guelph.

Bryce O'Hagan - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
O'Hagan started off the year so well. Had an outstanding preseason. Carried that over to the regular season winning his first four starts. But after that it's been downhill. Robin Lehner has been so outstanding that he's relegated O'Hagan to full time back up, and at this point in his career (a late 1991), that can't be good for his NHL draft prospects. However, O'Hagan is a good goaltender and better than some of his performances may indicate. Consistency is obviously an issue, but he has the ability to steal games and I feel he only needs a chance to play all the time in order to really start stringing together consistent positive play. The Hounds are finally playing better lately, and it has me wondering what they'll do with Bryce. The team could badly use another quality offensive player (especially down the middle), and maybe O'Hagan is the piece that gets them that. After all, Lehner is eligible to return again next year (if the Senators don't send him to the AHL). If Bryce O'Hagan is dealt to a team he can get consistent play with, I think he'd show everyone what he's capable of.

Charles Sarault - Kingston Frontenacs
The 35th overall pick in the 2008 Priority Draft, Sarault has found himself passed on the depth chart this season by fellow 2008 draftees Corey Durocher and Derek Froats. With only one goal on the year, I think it's safe to say that the Fronts had to have had higher expectations for Sarault this season. From what I've seen of him, he definitely has the potential to be more of an offensive contributor. Good speed, good energy, creativity with the puck, Sarault is a little rough around the edges though and can fall victim to overplaying the puck and being too one dimensional of a player. The Fronts are definitely in the running for the division (heck every team in that division is), and if they should choose to upgrade their offense or defense, I could see Sarault being a guy going the other way. And if he does, I could see him excelling in a new environment with more playing time.

Jared Staal - Sudbury Wolves
Staal's development in this league has really stalled (no pun intended). His best season to date remains his 2008 draft year and he still has yet to put together the offensive consistency that was expected of him. Many people saw the leaps forward that Eric, Marc and Jordan took in this league and assumed Jared would progress on the same path. In Sudbury, Jared just hasn't been able to get it done and that's led to a lot of trade rumours. While his skating has always been his sore spot, the other intangibles he brings to the ice should allow him to perform better. He has good hands in close to the net, he can work the cycle, he's an excellent defensive forward, and he is a smart hockey player. I just don't think the system or linemates in Sudbury suit him and his skill set. He needs to play on a team where he's going to get more second chance opportunities and with a group of forwards who can outwork a team along the boards. If he does get traded to a better team, I do think we'll start seeing more from Jared.

Honorable Mentions:
Jared Knight was one guy I wanted to include on this list, but considering he currently leads the 15-7 London Knights in goals (11), I had trouble justifying how he could actually perform better. I do think that he's potential trade bait though, as London will likely look to make a move to keep pace in the West. The Hunters are never content with staying put. Knight is a top quality offensive player who has the potential to be a very dangerous all around forward in this league (if he isn't already). In another environment, where he could get more time on the powerplay, I think he could be putting up even better stats. Colt Kennedy in Kingston is definitely a guy who needs a change of scenery. He's played in only 8 games this year and has been a healthy scratch (and has been suiting up for the Tier II Kingston Vees). But the former 12th overall Priority selection does have potential in this league. While he's already on his third team, Kennedy did show signs of becoming a gritty offensive winger in his small time frame with Kingston to end last year. Guelph defenseman Tim Campbell is one guy I've always felt could be putting up better stats. He shows solid puck moving skills, yet just hasn't been able to put it up on the scoreboard. His incredible performance in the preseason seemed to show he was ready to break out this year, but it hasn't happened. Like McNaughton, I could see Campbell as potential trade bait to improve the team, and if that happens and he receives more ice time from his new team, I think we'll see a large increase in his scoring. Lastly, Barrie defenseman Mitch Bennett is another guy I expected to break out. He had a very strong preseason, using his big shot and physical play to force his way on to the team. But he hasn't been able to get in to the line up very much and is not currently playing much at all for Barrie. If Barrie looks to make another deal, I could see Bennett being a casualty and maybe then he's able to show what he can do.

Thanks again to Jim and everyone else who sent in ideas. They will definitely be used at a later time. Anyone else you think deserves a spot on here?


Anonymous said...

Interesting on your thoughts on Crescenzi. Was this written before or after the Aleardi trade? I think this trade opens up the spot for Crescenzi to continue his growth and next season he will be a key part of the Rangers team.

Jim said...

Great read this morning with a nice large Timmys...thanks very much.

Steeve B. said...

Give Esposto a chance and he will explode to the sniper he was in Midget.