With a mere eight or so games left in the 2006-07 regular season, now is the time to turn away from the bigwig contender teams and look small. That's where you stand to find the best young kids as they earn call-ups with their craptacular parent clubs. As vets sit out the rest of the year healing wounds they'd normally suck up for the postseason, these future stars will start seeing big ice. And there may be the odd gem among several stinkers as longshot prospects get a look. Here are some recent such performances- both good and bad.
1. Petr Kalus (Boston)
A question on the Dobber Hockey forum shot up immediately upon Kalus' callup to the show, and for good reason. Buried under a shell of inconsistency, there's actually a pretty good hockey player here. A 36 goal-scorer last year as a WHL rookie, Boston's 2nd round selection from '05 jumped immediately to the AHL for this season, posting a respectable 30 points and 105 PIM in 40 games. A gritty, sloppy forward with a gift for potting goals, the 6'1 winger went pointless in 4:42 of ice-time this afternoon, netting no points, PIM or +/-. Stuck Jeff 'Superstar' Hoggan's side most of the game didn't afford the otherwise creative forward many opportunities- or a good linemate to finish what was generated. He didn't look out of place, and that's all you can hope for. On a better line, Kalus could generate a handful points down the stretch.
2. Tomas Mojzis (St. Louis)
Well golly gee. One of the most troublesome prospects in the game not only made it to the show for at least a few games, but scored a goal! Oddly enough, that one goal matches the 24 yearo ld blueliner's entire goal production for 2006-07 in the AHL. Hinting at some offensive ability with 21 points overall this season for the baby Blues, Mojzis played just under 11 minutes in his third game. With renewed confidence, this could mean a short hot streak. However, don't get suckered in. Hot streaks have literally defined Mojzis' career, and while once terrible work ethic and attitude has finally improved, be weary.
3. Joe Piskula (Los Angeles)
If you ever want to get to the NHL, get into the LA Kings system. With a mix of injuries and poor play seeming to always plague the club, the team consistently calls up the most obscure prospects. They even call up kids they've just signed to entry-level deals, as is the case with 22 year-old Joe Piskula. Literally just out of college- as of, like, last week- the 6'3, 214 lbs blueliner was signed to a three-year deal and promptly inserted into the Kings lineup. Playing his 2nd game at this level right now, the Wisconsin native compiled a yawn-worthy 22 points in three seasons of NCAA action. Obviously not known for his offensive prowess, Piskula is there merely to protect his own end. However, big players of course mature later, and with an enigmatic 11 points in 34 games in 2005-06- enigmatic as that represents half his career output- there's potential. A plodding skater with a big shot and excellent positioning, the defender will likely remain teamless in even the deepest keeper league unless he fulfills his potential as a poor man's Derian Hatcher.
4. Sebastien Bisaillon (Edmonton)
Most hockey fans have said at one point or anoter that they wish they had the requisite skill to play their favorite sport at the highest level. However, I think most of those people would appreciate at least a practice or two with their NHL team of choice beforehand. Offseason free agent signing Sebastien Bisaillon didn't get that, but came in as the replacement for the injured Ladislav Smid right from the Q and played 19 minutes against Vancouver on March 19th. In two games overall, the speedy offensive defenseman played almost thirty minutes and was on the ice for just one goal. A solid player every shift at the NHL level, the Oilers now know the 21 year-old can be counted on to play in an emergency, and more importantly, can more than likely handle the AHL next year.
5. Marc Methot (Columbus)
Already a 12-game vet in the show, 21 year-old Marc Methot has looked very good as the Jackets attempt to see who fits and who doesn't on the 2007-08 roster. Known more for a bruising, stay-at-home type of game, the former London Knight has alredy generate two points- both assists- and a solid 12 PIM. What's most impressive has been the rookie blueliner's +2 rating, stellar by a defenseman on the Jackets. Another one of those big men with some potential late development left, the 6'3 rearguard has seen 14 minutes of ice a night since his call-up, and all signs point to that remaining the case into 2007-08.
6. Karri Ramo (Tampa Bay)
A much-hyped goaltender since being drafted in '04, Fin Karri Ramo is seeing time in the Tampa nets as that playoff-bound team looks to solve a goaltending crisis very, very quickly. So far, the experiment as been so-so. In his first game of NHL action, the 20 year-old allowed only 2 goals on 18 Ottawa shots in relief of fellow import Johan Holmqvist back in December. In a cruel twist of fate tonight, Ramo was again in net after seeing the starter pulled- and again it's been because of a blitzing by the Sens. Tonight, it was Marc Denis getting the yank after allowing five goals. Facing a third of the shots he did in his first contest didn't seem to help Ramo this evening, as he again allowed two markers for a save percentage of 0.600. But don't judge too quickly: Ramo has had little to no help in his two bouts with the Sens as the weak Tampa defense was left scrambling on literally every play. Hopefully for Lightning fans, management does not prove to quick to judge, or Ramo could become the next Kiprusoff- both in talent and trade.
7. Robert Nilsson (Edmonton)
A superb NHL debut, and the much-debated Robert Nilsson was sent back down to the American League. And it sure wasn't at Edmonton's choosing. However, with the return to health of fellow dangler Ales Hemsky, Nilsson, up on emergency call-up status, had to go back down. A force of nature in his first four games with the Oilers, the former 15th overall selection notched a goal, a plethora of chances, a pocketful of sweet passes and a whole new legion of fans. Barring a complete meltdown in training camp in the fall, "Magic Jr." will be an Oiler full-time starting next season.
8. Jason Bacashihua (St. Louis)
It only took twelve games, but Jason Badfdgdg has his first win of 2006-07. Absolute magic this evening against the rival Detroit Red Wings, Bacashihua (whew) stopped 40 of 42 shots and everything in the shootout to guide the Blues to a 3-2 win. It's hard to imagine, but the 24 year-old is, well, only 24. Jason B. has consistently been hyped as a future star, but crowded creases in both Dallas and St. Louis have kept him out of the show. However, with Curtis Sanford heading into free agency and Manny Legace heading into retirement, the time is finally right for Bacashihua to break in. If you've got him, don't give up on him quite yet. He is finally almost sort on his way there!