As the March 4th trade deadline rapidly approaches, which NHL prospects and youngsters are good bets to be dangled in deals, and which will be deemed untouchable?
Available: D Matt Lashoff
Goaltender Tim Thomas' story exactly matches that of the Bruins: seemingly an overnight sensation, the overwhelming success Boston is enjoying both at the NHL and minor league level is thanks to hard, quiet work for several years. Perhaps Boston's deepest area prospect-wise is on defense. From top pairing stud Dennis Wideman to stay-at-home stalwart Mark Stuart to surprisingly surging Matt Hunwick, the Bs are set for several years on the back end.
Caught in the middle is 22 year-old Matt Lashoff. Selected 22nd overall in the 2005 Entry Draft, the strapping 6'2, 205 lbs defender has gotten several opportunities to supplant himself in Beantown. While almost NHL-quality in managing a powerplay, Lashoff's biggest weakness is still playing a regular shift five-on-five. Look for the burgeoning OD to find a new home on deadline day, perhaps in a deal for another big but skilled defender (hint hint).
If The Offer's Right: C Joe Colborne
Especially if the offer involves Chris Pronger. While no team likes to give up on a 6'5 center averaging close to a PPG in his first collegiate season, the Bruins are absolutely rife with forward talent. Colborne, the 16th pick in the 2008 Draft, would give the Ducks an incredible power center one-two. His 27 points in 33 games are fourth on the deep University of Denver squad. If Colborne proves to be a deal-breaker in a trade for Pronger- say, Lashoff, a 1st and he plus salary- it would be awfully tough for the Bs to turn down.
Not So Much: LW Vladimir Sobotka
The volatility of the NHL Draft is never more apparent when a fourth round pick from a draft has more value than the team's first pick, but that's the case when it comes to Vladimir Sobotka. Selected 106th overall in 2005- the same year as Lashoff- the Czech Republic native has gone from a flyer pick to a potential home run. Relatively unknown across the league, Sobotka's most famous traits are sound two-way play and the ability to land wicked checks despite a small frame. However, as 28 points in 26 AHL games alludes to, there's also plenty of skill in the small package.
What makes Sobotka probably untradeable, though, is his sudden chemistry with fellow wunderCzech David Krejci. While he has just four points in 23 games, Sobotka's gritty game is a perfect match for Krejci's skill. It doesn't hurt that they have a secret code in the form of their native language to further fool opponents. The two have become fast friends, and that will play a big part in Boston's plans to re-sign Krejci, who is RFA at the end of this season.
Available: RW Eric Fehr
The clock never truly runs out on 6'4, 210 lbs wingers who can net 50 and 60-goal seasons in junior, and Eric Fehr is the ultimate example. Underwhelming in AHL play, it seems all the big forward needed was a bigger challenge. A bona fide NHL player 89 games into his career, Fehr's ten goals in 2008-09 are more than he had points in previous tastes of action. Solidly in the top ten in scoring on the Caps, Fehr's age and potential make nevertheless make him a first-ask option for teams looking to trade quality defenders, something Washington needs.
If the Offer's Right: D John Carlson
This is a bit of a reach, but to acquire talent, it needs to be given up. While swift-footed 6'2 defender John Carlson has become one of the undisputed best players in the entire CHL, the Capitals have a bit of a logjam on defense, starting Karl Alzner. The Caps will need to choose wisely; any player they acquire for Carlson would probably have to have at least another year remaining on his contract. In 54 games, the London Knight star and 2008 1st round pick has 14 goals and an incredible 53 assists.
Not So Much: D Karl Alzner
It goes without saying, but a rookie defenseman playing close to 20 minutes a night many nights is as close to untouchable as it gets. While his five points and -1 rating are useless to poolies, 2007 5th overall pick Karl Alzner has simply helped the Caps win games. Now playing fewer minutes as Washington looks to secure a top seed, Alzner is set to receive the best education a young player can: a potentially lengthy playoff run.
Available: RW Nicklas Bergfors
The rough road to AHL stardom looks to be just about over for 21 year-old forward Nicklas Bergfors. Now he just needs to apply those same lessons to get to the show. A once-highly touted prospect who slipped to 23 in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Bergfors almost gave up and went back home after successive frustrating seasons in the minors. However, the hard work has paid off. In 44 games, Bergfors' 14 goals and 24 assists are second among Lowell players.
If The Offer's Right: D Matt Corrente
While the Devils are periliously thin on defense and in prospects in general, any deal for a quality rental will have to include two prospects. Looking more towards free agency than their pipeline, the Devils can probably afford to trade gritty defender Matt Corrente thanks to the emergence of Finnish free agent signing Anssi Salmela. As it is, Corrente is a lot like what the Devils have a lot of- stay-at-homers with little flair to their game. A single minor penalty off the Lowell Devils lead in that category, the 20 year-old former first rounder is also second in a much more important category: +/-. On a team where just ten regulars are a plus, the 5'11, 189 lbs Nik Kronwall clone has quietly steadied the ship.
Not So Much: LW Mattias Tedenby
And it's not because of a world-beater season. While 5'10 forwards are always a gamble, and the Elitserien is a tough, tough league, 2008 24th overall selection Mattias Tedenby has struggled mightily in his second full year of Swedish pro. In eight more games than last season, Tedenby has two fewer points, giving him a whopping four on the year. Tedenby's value is at an all-time low; much like Bergsfors during his struggles, teams won't be offering top dollar.
Available: RW Andreas Nodl
Like Lashoff and defense in Boston, the Flyers are rife with forwards, and simply do not have room to devote minutes to young, unripe talent. Such is the case with Andreas Nodl. While the 6'1 winger is enjoying a respectable AHL debut with 17 points in 28 games, four points in 29 games has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he won't be much of a help this year. Still, either alone or as part of a package, Nodl's goal-scoring prowess will be coveted by teams possessing pending UFAs.
If the Offer's Right: LW James van Riemsdyk
2nd overall picks are typically untouchable, but then so are #1 defenseman, rental or no. The Flyers will have to make space one way or the other, but their most potent trade chip is American productJames van Riemsdyk. Since being selected 2nd overall in 2007, 'JvR' has improved his offensive output at the University of New Hampshire each year. First in goals, assists and points for the Wildcats as a sophomore, there isn't a whole lot development left for the 6'3, 200 lbs winger.
Not So Much: RW Claude Giroux
It should be obvious, both on a team lacking cheap forwards, Claude Giroux is a non-starter. Over a PPG in the American League as a rookie pro, the 2006 1st round selection is wasting no time in jumping to the NHL. In 21 games, the 5'11 right wing has eleven points, four of them goals. A dynamic, exciting winger who can contribute now, Philadelphia probably has Giroux somewhere in the Jeff Carter/Mike Richards realm of availability.
Available: D John Negrin
Messing with a clicking team is never a good idea, so don't expect the Calgary Flames to come out ready to make over the roster- or add any big names, even. Instead, Mike Keenan and Darryl Sutter will continue to pursue players that satisfy both positional and identity needs. One area that requires improvement if the Flames are to finally banish their first-round ghosts is on defense. While Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and even Adrian Aucoin can provide top-end play, the depth chart drops rapidly off after that. Players like Adam Pardy have gotten regular top-four minutes, and with injuries already creeping in, defense will be a priority. In that regard, a team with an older defender may covet a younger one. John Negrin is a slick-skating defenseman who has done nothing but improve his draft stock since being taken in the 3rd round in 2007. With 46 points in just 56 games, the 19 year-old has set career highs in both goals and points.
If The Offer's Right: G Leland Irving
Once considered Calgary's next saviour in net, 20 year-old Leland Irving has had a rough first year as platoon starter for the Quad City Flames. While the numbers look good 2.37 GAA and 0.904 Sv%- Irving has seen his starting job challenged and out-right taken away at times by the play of Kevin Lalande and Matt Keetley. Still, Irving's GAA, save percentage and even 12-12 record is the best on the sad-sack Baby Flames. A seller looking for a bluechip goalie prospect could find one in Calgary.
Not So Much: C Mikael Backlund
Rescued from the bottom six of a his second-tier pro team in Sweden right after the World Juniors, center Mikael Backlund has found new life with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets. In 22 games, the 2007 first round draft choice has made an immediate impact, netting 23 points in 22 games. 20 and playing on the top line of one of the best teams in junior hockey will do that to you, but Backlund's NHL hopes are brighter than ever.
Available: RW Jack Skille
A once-decimated hockey market is proudly making a comeback, and it's all thanks to a core under 26. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and a similarly-aged supporting cast have carried the mail, largely without veteran help. With their success, the Hawks will largely be quiet on Wednesday. Enigmatic prospects for depth vets will be the big story, and the first swap that takes place may involve Jack Skille. It's hard to imagine that Skille was a 7th overall pick just three short years ago. While players picked both right and far behind have made big impacts, the 21 year-old power winger has taken a slower path to the show. Fourth in scoring for the Rockford IceHogs with 38 points in 47 games, Skille has been showcased as of late on the big club. He has one goal in seven games during that time.
If The Offer's Right: LW Akim Aliu
While Akim Aliu has encountered issues similar to those that ended his time in Sudbury during his first go-around with the Wolves, there's no questioning the 19 year-old's boundless talent and gifts, both physically and otherwise. A speedy, crafty forward in a power forward's body, Aliu is treading dangerous water, but teams either possessing a good track record with troubled prospects (Anaheim) or one desperate for physicality (Ottawa) may find higher value in him.
Not So Much: C Kyle Beach
Rounding out the trio of young Chicago power winger properties most-often bandied about in trade rumors, center Kyle Beach has taken the opposite path as Aliu. While still prone to the occasional brain cramp, the 19 year-old has exploded offensively. A PPG player and 100-PIM player with Everett, Beach has accelerated his production on both fronts. On pace for 60 points and 160 PIM in just 53 games, Beach still has tough row to hoe, especially in avoiding concussions. Still, he's a blue-chipper.
Available: LW Mason Raymond
While being a seller is often difficult, it becomes a much easier task when young players play themselves out of favor. 23 year-old sophomore Mason Raymond is one of the NHL's best skaters, but his other qualities have yet to fully surface full-time. With less points in more games than his rookie year, Raymond is making himself a trade asset, rather than untradeable. Still, plenty of teams will line up for a speedy LW capable of playing anywhere in a bottom nine.
If The Offer's Right: G Cory Schneider
When star goalie and team MVP Roberto Luongo went down, it was expected that whle the Nucks would feel the loss, blue-chip goalie prospect Cory Schneider would finally get a chance to show off his wares. However, despite sparking AHL numbers, the 22 year-old was nothing short of overwhelmed. In eight games, the 2004 first round pick amassed a hefty 3.38 GAA and dismal 0.877 Sv%. While Schneider has since returned to Manitoba in top form, the gleam has been somewhat taken off. Schneider will still draw interest from teams, and could be a deal-maker in the hunt for more talent up front.
Not So Much: C Cody Hodgson
While the first name on most seller's lists will be Cody Hodgson, don't expect the Nucks to budge. Not since Trevor Linden has a draft pick been as loved as Hodgson, and he's proving to be worthy of the comparison. In just 45 games, the surprise camp cut and WJC star has amassed a truly special 75 points, including 33 goals. A deal would have to include not just one, but two big-time roster pieces to even warrant considering trading him.