While the Maple Leafs struggled through a horrific 3-10-2 record to start the new year at the NHL level, many of the organization’s top young prospects enjoyed a very productive month of January on the scoresheet. Jerry D’Amigo (left) continued to build off a strong World Junior tournament, Mikhail Stefanovich seemed to finally turn the corner, while Nazem Kadri took his game up to that dominant level we all know he’s capable of.
Absolutely ON FIRE. Since coming back from a mediocre World Junior performance, Kadri has been simply unbelievable for London, grabbing the reins of the Knights’ offense and leading them on an 8-1-1 tear during the frst 10 games of his return. He’s been doing it all: dishing out big hits, playing with a ton of aggressiveness and confidence and displaying serious game breaking end-to-end rushing ability.Â He has scored 6 goals and 19 assists for 25 points in 11 January games, earning Hockey Future’s “Prospect of the Month” honours. Kadri now stands at 26 goals (a new career high) and 37 assists for 63 points in 39 games played this season. Interesting to note that if Kadri had played a full 68 game OHL season, he would be on pace for 110 points, passing Wilson’s bold preseason prediction by a significant margin.
Jerry was having a quietly stellar NCAA freshman year heading into December when he was named to Team USA’s WJC roster, but really used that tournament as his coming out party. He was absolutely fantastic for the Americans, burning Canada on a number of occasions and finishing the tournament with 12 points in 7 games. Back in my 2009 Draft Review in June, I was thrilled with this selection in the 6th round, deeming it Toronto’s best value pick of the draft and now you guys can see why. D’Amigo is gradually approaching the point-a-game mark, now with 22 points in 24 games played on the year.
The Leafs‘ 58th overall selection from last season is another prospect enjoying his best offensive month of the year. The two-way defenseman is slowly easing into his role as one of the go-to guys on Owen Sound’s blueline and is getting more comfortable with the increased workload and responsibility. Blacker has recorded 9 points in 12 January games, already giving him a career high 26 points. Jesse was chosen to represent the Attack at the OHL’s All-star Classic this evening, and showed surprising speed at the skills competition the other day when he took home the title of “Fastest Skater”.
Stefanovich is another of those names who really caught everybody’s attention last year when he turned in a near goal-a-game campaign for the Quebec Ramparts, and big things were expected from the young sniper this season. Things didn’t start off as smoothly as he would’ve liked, struggling to make much of an impression during the Leafs‘ Rookie Tournament and then carried those difficulties over to his QMJHL season. While Mikhail’s offensive production remains spotty and sporadic, he has managed to chip in 24 points over his last 13 games played, including a pair of 5 point outings as well as a 4 point performance tonight.
The big bodied forward is another Leaf prospect currently honing his skills in the QMJHL. A by-product of the Leafs‘ recent change in draft philosophy, Champagne offers plenty of size, character along with a bit of a physical edge in his game. He has enjoyed 13 points in his last 11 games played, taking some time to adjust to the trade that sent him from PEI to Victoriaville in late December. While his offensive game is gradually coming along, it’s his 58% faceoff percentage and huge front-of-the-net presence that will be his ticket to an NHL career.
Paradis is strangely one of those names we don’t hear talked about very often around these parts, despite the fact that he was brought in by way of a fairly significant trade. While the youngster’s overall offensive numbers are actually down from last year, he has managed to already match his career high total of 19 goals. Phillipe was not brought into the organization to score goals or rack up points, but rather to play an up-tempo physical game at both ends of the ice and he continues to do that quite well. To his credit, there may be a little bit more skill in those hands, as he has scored 6 points over his last 3 games played.