Only a few teams left. It's Vancouver's turn.
Nicklas Jensen - Oshawa Generals
Quite frankly, I was disappointed in Jensen's progression and play this year. Based on the fact that he's now heading back to Sweden should he not make the Canucks, I'm guessing that things weren't great in Oshawa for him. If you're not happy playing somewhere, it will certainly translate to the ice. He's got great size, but I still find him too tentative away from the puck. He will occasionally battle along the boards or be active on the forecheck, but not enough. I want to see him getting his nose dirty every play. When he gets the puck on his stick, he is aggressive in taking it to the net, but I'd also like to see him go hard to the net without the puck. I also felt like his three zone play was worse this year, as he made more of an effort defensively during his draft year. I'd also like to see him shoot the puck more, as sometimes he can get too drive happy, giving up an open look to try and gain a few inches of ice. Quite frankly, I was pretty surprised when he was scoring at will in the AHL, because that wasn't happening in the OHL. Canucks fans seem to think he's got a great shot of making the team next year. Based on what I saw of him in the OHL last year, I'd say he's miles away from making a healthy contribution. But maybe the pro ranks motivate him more. One thing is for certain, his OHL career is over.
Alex Friesen - Niagara IceDogs
I absolutely love Friesen as a prospect. He's the type of player who leaves it all on the ice. His playoff stats speak for themselves, consistently one of the Dogs top performers in the post season. Friesen is a jack of all trades kind of guy. Anything you ask of him, he does it. He wins faceoffs (one of the best in the OHL). He kills penalties. He can play the point on the powerplay. He forechecks. He hits. He's aggressive with the puck. Best of all, he does everything at a high speed, with great wheels. The biggest difference in Alex this year was strength. He was a lot harder to take the puck off of, and he was more effective in winning battles along the boards. This added strength also gave him the confidence to take his physical game to the next level, as he became one of the more effective body checkers in the league. Friesen doesn't profile as a top 6 player at the next level, but I'd be very surprised if he doesn't find some sort of role in the NHL in the future. I look forward to following his progression in the AHL this year, where he should be able to crack the Chicago line up full time. There's no doubt he'll be a fan favourite. The Canucks may even want to look into having Friesen and Darren Archibald play together, as the two had good chemistry with the Dogs. I look for him to have close to a 15-15 year in his freshman campaign.
Frankie Corrado - Sudbury Wolves
I thought that Corrado had a good year. He really took his defensive game to the next level as he was the Wolves' go to guy in their own end. As a result, he was named as one of the league's top defensive defenseman in the coaches poll. In his own end, he uses his great mobility to aid him in disrupting plays. But he's also highly aggressive and despite being only average sized, he wins a lot of battles in the corners and in front of the net. Offensively, I expected a bit more to be honest. I've always seen him having a lot of potential as a puck rushing defenseman, given his skating ability. But he was a little tentative in that area this year. It looked like he was afraid to take a lot of chances, focusing more on his own end. On the powerplay, he did look fairly comfortable moving the puck though. This year, the Wolves' top offensive defenseman Josh McFadden will be moving on. I look for Frankie to slide into that role and really improve his offensive numbers. All the while, of course, continuing to play solid in his own end. I think a 40 point season isn't unrealistic.
Brendan Gaunce - Belleville Bulls
I really like the Canucks selection of Gaunce in the first round. I think he's got more offensive potential than people give him credit for. He's already one of the league's best playmakers IMO, and I expect him to really breakout this year. Hopefully he's worked very hard with skating coaches this offseason to improve his acceleration. Adding that burst on the big ice in Belleville would be highly beneficial. He'll likely be even harder to move off the puck this year, and even more effective at working the boards and creating scoring chances off the forecheck. Belleville has a chance to be the East's top dog, and Gaunce will be one of the deciding factors. An 80 point season is definitely within reach. Of course, he could always surprise and make the Canucks out of camp, but I think that would be a mistake. He needs to go back to the OHL to continue to improve his offensive skills and confidence. He's definitely already close to being pro ready though. Just don't rush him.