2011 Exit Interviews: Junior Prospects

In our next installment of the Exit Interview series, we’ll take a look at the Canadian junior prospects in the organization. A pair of prospects are still participating in their league’s respective playoffs, looking to help their team advance to the Memorial Cup-the holy grail of junior hockey in Canada.

The Jackets have a good blend of offensively-gifted forwards, gritty players, and two-way defensemen in the pipeline. Traditionally the team has struggled to develop their prospects into everyday, impactful NHLers, but recently with the strong contributions from guys like Grant Clitsome, Matt Calvert, and Tomas Kubalik the Jackets are finally seeing the prospect pipeline bear fruit.

Ryan Johansen- Center
Portland Winterhawks, WHL
64 PIMs

What We Expected:
Given the relative lack of success the Jackets have had with their first round draft choices since they joined the league, expectations were high that the team’s 2010 first round pick would have a monster season and break the trend of underachieving top picks. Johansen was to be a go-to player offensively and in the room for a very good Portland squad.

What We Got:
Johansen started the season off slowly in Portland. Shortly before Christmas he was named to Team Canada for the 2011 World Junior tournament, and was arguably the best player for Canada for the entire tourney. After returning to Portland he caught fire, finishing with 92 points and leading the Winterhawks to the WHL playoffs, where they are currently battling it out with Spokane for a chance to face Kootenay in the WHL finals. Johansen has put up 9G, 8A, 17Pts in 13 games played in the playoffs this far.

What We Need to See:
Johansen is in a tough position that is familiar to many top prospects- he is too young to play in the AHL next season, so he will either be on the Jackets, or be sent back to junior. He had a monster year, and if he can cap it off with a Memorial Cup win- that would make his season even more special. The concern with sending him back to junior is that he could have a competitive regression if Portland isn’t as good next year. On the same token, he may not be ready for full-time NHL duty. This leaves him in a state of limbo. The perfect scenario would be for him to bulk up over the summer, and arrive at camp next year primed for a starting spot on a scoring line.

Michael Chaput- Center
Lewiston MAINEiacs, QMJHL
25G, 34A, 59PTS in 62 GP
71 PIMs

What We Expected:
Chaput was traded to the organization at the NHL trade deadline by the Flyers in exchange for Tom Sestito. Sestito wasn’t in the team’s long-term plans. Chaput is younger, and is an offensive forward, as opposed to the gritty, semi-enforcer role that Sestito played.

What We Got:
There were many Columbus fans who were disappointed to see Sestito gone, but Chaput added a much-needed dose of offensive flair to the organization. Chaput’s MAINEiacs squad was eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs just this week, after making a surprising run to the semi-finals. Chaput shared the team playoff scoring lead with 7G,13A for 20Pts in 13 games. This was good for fourth in the "Q" at the time of writing.

What We Need to See:
Chaput just turned 19, so like Johansen he isn`t eligible for the AHL next season. More than likely he will return to Lewiston, and continue to be a leader for the MAINEiacs. I would look for Chaput to be among the highest scoring forwards in the league next season.

Petr Straka- Right Wing
Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL
10G, 15A, 25PTS in 41 GP
33 PIMs

What We Expected:
There were somewhat high expectations for Straka, given his status as a second round pick. He is an offensive forward playing in the wide-open QMJHL, so it was expected that he would put up good numbers and lead Rimouski to the playoffs.

What We Got:
Injuries absolutely derailed Straka`s season, and he finished with very disappointing scoring numbers. The Oceanic as a whole were a disappointment, and they lost in five games in the first round of the playoffs. An encouraging note was that Straka had 2G-2A for 4 points in those five games.

What We Need to See:
It`s important that Straka returns to the Oceanic next season and stays healthy. He needs to tap into that offensive potential and put up big numbers. A seventy point season is a must.

Dalton Smith- Left Wing
Ottawa 67’s, OHL
12G, 17A, 29PTS in 64 GP
124 PIMs

What We Expected:
Like Straka, Smith was a 2010 second round pick. He wasn’t drafted to be a scorer, but an improvement on his 21 goals and 44 points from the previous season was expected.

What We Got:
Given his role as an agitator, huge totals were never in the cards. That said, he had a major regression. In basically a full season, his totals dropped by 15 points. I don’t know what it is about Columbus and second rounders, but what a major disappointment this pick is looking like already. In that range, the Jackets could have drafted forwards such as Devante Smith-Pelly of the Memorial Cup host Mississauga or even Smith’s teammate Tyler Toffoli , who is coming off a huge year for the 67`s.

What We Need to See:
Smith will be back in the OHL, and it`s crucial that he find a starring role for the 67`s, or perhaps a trade to a team where he can shine. At the junior level an agitator with Smith`s talent should be putting up more than 29 points in a full season, so a 50-60 point campaign is expected next season.

Oliver Gabriel- Left Wing
Portland Winterhawks, WHL
11G, 21A, 32PTS in 41GP
36 PIMs

What We Expected:
Last summer, Gabriel was an undrafted free agent playing with Johansen in Portland of the WHL. He received an invite to Columbus’ rookie camp, and impressed management enough to earn an invite to the main training camp. He came out of left field and impressed enough to earn an entry-level contract with the team.

What We Got:
Gabriel brought his rugged style back to Portland, and was well on his way to setting career highs offensively before he suffered a season-ending injury.

What We Need to See:
Gabriel will be 20 next season, so he has some options. He could return to Portland as an overage player, or he could make the jump to the pros. He qualifies for the AHL, so it’s likely he’ll spend the bulk of next year as a Falcon.

Brandon Archibald- Defense
Saginaw Spirit, OHL
2G, 20A, 22PTS in 66GP
74 PIMs

What We Expected:
Archibald was a fourth round pick of the Jackets in 2010, and he was expected to rack up points from the blueline for the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.

What We Got:
The Greyhounds were the worst team in the OHL’s Western Conference, and Archibald was traded at the deadline to the Saginaw Spirit, who were loading up for a playoff run. It was difficult for Archibald to score on a regular basis due to the poor play of the Greyhounds, and after he joined the Spirit he was buried on a deep blueline. There is some cause for concern, as 22 points in junior for a supposed offensive blueliner doesn’t cut it.

What We Need to See:
He’ll be back in the OHL next season, and it’s crucial that he carve himself a niche on the Spirit. He needs to be the go-to offensive blueliner on his team. Look no further than fellow CBJ fourth rounder David Savard to see what kind of an impact a player taken in that range can have.

Dalton Prout- Defense
Saginaw Spirit, OHL
9G, 22A, 31PTS in 52GP
99 PIMs

What We Expected:
Prout was taken in the 6th round of the 2010 draft, after being passed over in 2009. He was expected to play a rugged, hard-nosed style for the Barrie Colts, along with supplying leadership.

What We Got:
Prout started the season with Barrie (who went on the be the worst team in the OHL), but joined fellow Jackets’ prospect Archibald in Saginaw after a trade from the Colts. Prout surprised by putting up respectable offensive numbers.

What We Need to See:
Prout is going pro next year, so look for him to suit up in Springfield or Fort Wayne. His offense will likely not translate to the pros, as he projects as a shutdown defenseman. He’ll give current Falcon Theo Ruth some competition for playing time on a shutdown pairing.

Austin Madaisky- Defense
Kamloops Blazers, WHL
7G, 20A, 27PTS in 55GP
104 PIMs

What We Expected:
Madaisky was tasked with helping his junior team, the Kamloops Blazers, move from WHL bottom-feeder to playoff squad.

What We Got:
While the Blazers continued to disappoint, Madaisky impressed. He put up strong offensive totals and played a physical game. If it wasn’t for a scary injury which ended his season early, he would have been the highest scoring blueliner for the Blazers.

What We Need to See:
Madaisky will return to junior next season, and will be a go-to offensive blueliner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded to a contender at some point.

Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault- Goaltender
Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL
20-16-1-1 Record in 40GP
3.10 GAA
0.882 SV%
0 SO

What We Expected:
Corbeil was expected to return to junior and hopefully lead the woeful Halifax Mooseheads back to the playoffs.

What We Got:
The Mooseheads remained a terrible team and Corbeil’s stats suffered as a result. He showed flashes of strong play, but at times he looked lost behind such a porous defense. Midway through the season he was traded to the Saint John Sea Dogs- the best team in the country for a bulk of the season. He was used in a backup role for Saint John, and finished the season an impressive 13-1-1. The Sea Dogs are in the QMJHL finals, awaiting the winner of the Quebec-Gatineau series.

What We Need to See:
Due to his late birthday, Corbeil is eligible to play in the AHL next season. That said, I think he’s in tough to get a job with the Falcons right away, and he’ll more than likely play most of the season for Fort Wayne.  

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