No Corey Perry, Rob Schremp, Sergei Kostitsyn, Patrick Kane or Sam Gagner. No problem. Predicted to be bottom-feeders heading into 2007-08, three written off prospects have taken the reigns of the CHL's most successful squad- and they haven't missed a beat.
In hindsight, no one should have doubted the ability of Mark and Dale Hunter to quickly fill holes. After all, their entire top line from 2006-07 is currently in the NHL, and their sixth round pick in the 2004 Bantam Priority Selection was Team Canada's MVP at the WJC. So who's stepped up to fill the void?
Patrick Maroon, LW
6'4, 225 lbs
Drafted: 2007 (6th round, Philadelphia)
The Edmonton Oilers could have saved themselves a lot of money- and draft picks- had they scouted the North American Hockey League, a tier-III Junior A circuit in the United States. There, they would have undoubtedly Patrick Maroon. Beyond his 6'4 frame, Maroon, 19, was the NAHL's MVP in 2006-07, posting a staggering 95 points and 152 PIM in just 57 games. Derided for his poor skating, bad conditioning and age in a poor league, Maroon sat on the board until pick #161. And while the Philadelphia Flyers should be commended for doing their homework- Maroon lost 35 pounds last off-season- it's the Hunters who thought enough of the winger to draft him in the OHL Priority Selection earlier in the year.
On July 9th, Maroon made the decision to forgo a scholarship to Ferris State in order to join London. So how's he been?
Well, just one season removed from Junior A, Maroon leads the Knights in points with 59 in 39 games. His 23 goals, 36 helpers and +/- rating of 9 leads all Knights forwards. League-wide, Maroon sits 12th- the only rookie to crack the top forty in scoring. A dazzling stickhandler that makes most of his magic happen standing still, defter-than-advertised skating and outstanding vision make the big man a prospect worth snapping up in your keeper league.
Scouting Report: Baby-soft hands and elite-level anticipation; often beats the same player twice on the same drive. A formidable force in front of the net, and has learned to be there to collect garbage from his skilled linemates.
Upside: Top-six LW, 27-38-65, 100 PIM
Akim Aliu, RW
6'3, 219 lbs
Drafted: 2007 (Round 2, Chicago)
It looked to be all over before it began for Akim Aliu. The Nigerian-born forward was a dazzling underager for the Windsor Spitfires in 2005-06 when an off-ice indicent made headlines across the country. After refusing to engage in a hazing ritual on a bus carrying the Spitfires, Aliu grew further and further apart from the players in charge until notorious agitator and teammate Steve Downie cross-checked the rookie in the face during a practice. Only a post-incident investigation from the league brought the hazing incident to light, and the result wasn't pretty: fined $35,000 in addition to the team's GM being suspended, Downie- Windsor's best player- was traded to Peterborough for an overager in his last year of junior hockey. Finally, Aliu himself would be traded, going to the Sudbury Wolves.
While in a new environment, it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone that Aliu's play suffered. Quickly going from the victim to being labeled lazy and selfish himself, Aliu managed a meager 55 points in 82 regular season games with the Wolves. A dire 2006-07 playoffs in which he notched only six points in twenty-one games didn't