With the opening of NHL training camps, comes high hopes for many young players. When you hear a list of New York Islanders prospects, names like Tambellini, Bergenheim and Okposo come to mind. One name that should be added to that list is college hockey stand out Sean Bentivoglio. He was bypassed by every NHL team in his draft year and signed with the Isles as a free agent in May 2007.
After finishing his college hockey career with College Hockey America Player of the Year honours, he signed with the AHL Providence Bruins last March. The 5’11” 200 pound left winger recorded three goals and 11 assists in 15 regular season contests and added nine points in 13 playoff games. That Providence team included Boston prospect David Krejci and interestingly enough, brand new Islander Ben Walter, who was captain of the P-Bruins.
By all accounts Bentivoglio is a very determined and hard working player. The 21 year old has NHL speed and playmaking ability and his college coach likened him to Chris Drury for his never take a shift off style of play. He sounds like a Ted Nolan type of player, doesn’t he?
I’m by no means advocating that you take Bentivoglio in your fantasy draft. However, if you are in a deep keeper league that allows you to keep many prospects and you want the name of a guy who no one else has likely heard of, get Bent. Even though Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen had better rookie camps this year, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if Bentivoglio is the rookie who impresses at training camp.
He will probably need a year or two of seasoning in Bridgeport in to be ready for full-time NHL duty. Anyone who can go from college hockey to almost a point a game in the AHL is certainly worthy of at least some attention.
Over in Philadelphia, it will be interesting to see how quickly the new look Flyers can gel into a cohesive unit. Many poolies have high hopes for Steve Downie. However, with the acquisitions of Hartnell and Lupul, Downie may start his professional career with another Philadelphia team – the AHL Phantoms. Coach Paul Holmgren has already conceded that if Downie makes the club, it will likely be as a third or fourth line winger, kill some penalties and get the occasional power play time. If he makes the big club this season, don’t expect more than 25 points.
I am hoping he makes the Flyers for purely selfish reasons. For those of you who remember the last two World Junior Hockey Championships, circle January 29th on your calendar. Jack Johnson and the Kings will be in Philadelphia. It‘s sure to be a great game, especially if Johnson and Downie are able to continue their on-ice feud. For those of you who don’t remember, Johnson threw a nasty looking elbow at Downie during the 2006 World Junior’s. It was widely speculated that Downie embellished the cheap shot to some degree. That elbow earned Johnson a large amount of notoriety among many Canadian hockey fans. Jack was booed and taunted mercilessly by many Canadian fans during last year’s World Junior tournament in Sweden. Not by me though, I love how hard both these guys compete. They are the heart and soul type players that make hockey fun to watch. Expect the two of them to renew their rivalry, NHL style come January.