This week, I take a look at Toronto’s best player (spolier alert, look above), a sleeper in ‘Big D’, some prospects to target for next season, an unknown AHL star in the making, and more.
1. New Jersey center Adam Henrique has had a very impressive rookie season. He took full advantage of the injury to Travis Zajac, and he has refused to give the Devils any reason to take him out of the top six. Henrique had only one point in his first six games, but since then, he has been remarkably consistent. 14 points in 14 November games, 14 points in 15 December games, and six points in six January games (to date). Having wingers like Parise and Kovalchuk hasn't hurt, either.
2. With Mike Ribeiro out until February (MCL injury), look for Tom Wandell's production to increase dramatically. Ribeiro has already missed the last three games, and during that time Wandell has been centering Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow. Unsurprisngly, his ice time has increased, as well. In the three games before Ribeiro was injured, Wandell played 12, 10, and nine minutes, respectively. In the most recent three games, he has played 18, 14, and 15 minutes, respectively. If you are looking for a short-term offensive fix, Wandell is a great choice right now.
3. Really, really nice to see Peter Mueller back again. The Avalanche took a huge risk when they traded Chris Stewart away last year, and having Mueller on the shelf for most of the season compounded the lack of depth on the wing. Mueller is a really talented player who has been battling serious concussion issues over the past few years. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post wrote a really good piece on Mueller and the struggles he has faced.
"And yet, Mueller has come back again, when everybody doubted it would happen. Still, he could be right back in a dark world of pain and uncertainty with the next hit. It takes guts to keep coming back to live a dream."
4. Nashville's management and coaching staff is really high on prospect Gabriel Bourque, and for good reason. Bourque has supplied energy and offense in spades since being called up last week (two points in three games). He's been skating on a very effective third line, featuring Nick Spaling and Jordin Tootoo. After scoring 18 goals last season in the AHL, he had only two this season through 25 games. He was never a significant offensive producer in junior, but he looks like another solid and reliable forward churned out by the Predators organization. Now if they could get a game breaker or two…. (Did someone say Radulov?)