Michael Rasmussen – DET
The hulking centreman wrapped up his 2017-18 season with a fairly similar statistical stat line to that from his draft year. The captain of the Tri-City Americans scored 31 times, one fewer than the year before, and dished out 28 helpers to finish the campaign with 59 points in 47 contests. This translates to a point-per-game average of 1.26 representing a 14% improvement over his 2016-17 pace. But where Rasmussen has really made his hay is where it counts: The playoffs. He’s done the one thing captains are supposed to do, lead by example. In just eight playoffs games Rasmussen has racked up an eye-popping 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points, tying him with teammate Morgan Geekie for second in the league playoff scoring race and giving him a share of the three-way lead in points-per-game with and even three. The Americans are on to the Western Conference Finals on the backs of two series sweeps and a large part of this has to do with the play of Rasmussen.
Gabe Vilardi – LA
Not to be outdone by the player selected two picks ahead of him, the Kings prospect has put together his own impressive playoff run. Vilardi’s 2017-18 got off to a delayed start with a back injury that kept him out until the start of 2018, but once he strapped on the skates he took off and never slower down. Moving from Windsor to Kingston in a New Year’s Day deal Vilardi went on a tear racking up 22 goals and 35 assists, finishing second in the OHL in points-per-game with a mark of 1.81. It’s hard to imagine that Vilardi could elevate his play once the post-season rolled around, but he absolutely did. The big man leads the Frontenacs, and the entire OHL, with 11 goals and 20 points for a nice round 2.00 point-per-game average. Reportedly considered untouchable by the Kings, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him draw into the L.A. line-up next season.
Drake Batherson – OTT
The biggest surprise from the 2017 draft, Batherson proved that his early season scoring tear was no fluke as he was able to sustain an elite level of production all year long. Splitting time between Cape Breton and Blainville-Boisbriand, the Sens prospect posted 77 points over 51 games. Earning an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior camp, he secured a spot and proceeded to pop seven goals to lead Canada and tied for second most at the tournament. Like the other two players mentioned, Batherson has had a monster playoffs for his squad. He sits tied with teammate, Alexandre Alain for the league lead with 16 points and has a QMJHL best 12 helpers. His ppg average of 2.00 is second in the league behind 2018 draft eligible Alex Barré-Boulet. With Ottawa in full rebuild mode, it shouldn’t be too long before we see Batherson in the nation’s capital.
Jordy Bellerive – PIT
Looks like the Penguins might have struck a bit of gold with this undrafted free agent signing. Passed over in his draft year with a rather unspectacular 56 points in 70 games, Bellerive absolutely exploded in his third campaign with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He led the ‘Canes with 92 points and 46 goals, more than doubling the next closest teammate who had 22. These 92 points placed him 12th in the WHL and he managed to sneak in to the top-10 in goals finishing eighth league-wide. Bellerive has continued his breakout play into the playoffs once again leading Lethbridge in scoring, putting together eight snipes and nine helpers as the Hurricanes are currently locked into a second round matchup against the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Penguins don’t have much of a prospect pool, but the North Vancouver native has been a real nice find for them.
As always thanks for checking out this week’s edition of The Journey. Give me a follow on Twitter @BradHPhillips. Enjoy your weekend!
More from The Journey: The Journey: Frozen Four Finalists Standouts.