2012-13 CBJ NCAA Prospect Preview

Hello all! I’m back again with a prospect preview – this time focusing on the Jackets’ seven NCAA prospects, which consists of three seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and one freshman. The seven are Seniors Kevin Lynch, Thomas Larkin and Drew Olson; Juniors TJ Tynan and Martin Ouelette; and the freshman and sophomore who will be teammates at Minnesota: Mike Reilly and Seth Ambroz. Now, like in my junior prospects blog, I’ll include content that comes with help from writers and broadcasters that cover the teams.

Thomas Larkin-Colgate(ECAC)
11-12 Stats 37GP 4-10-14 54PIM 2009 Draft 5/137
For analysis on Thomas, I’ll turn things over to John McGraw who is the Red Raiders play by play man on WKXZ.

Last season, Thomas, as a junior was one of three tri-captains on a team which finished fourth in ECAC Hockey and advanced to the league championship weekend for the second year in a row. Of the three captains, Thomas was the only junior; the other two were seniors – New Jersey Devils draft pick Corbin McPherson and Kevin McNamara. Thomas was one of six regular defensemen that generally played every night. He saw ice time in all situations – even strength, power play and penalty kill. His scoring numbers rebounded somewhat after a low point total in 2010-11 but on a team that featured Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist Austin Smith and current Anaheim Ducks signee Chris Wagner, he didn’t necessarily need to score a lot of goals. His playing time remained steady and increased even in the second half of the season as Colgate at times rotated five defensemen with a sixth playing every other shift.
 
The biggest area for Thomas this season and I think in general is his play on the puck in the defensive zone. He needs to be consistently stronger on the puck and make a good first pass. And generally speaking, he has been solid in this regard however it’s still an area that needs improvement in his game. From my perspective, it seems at times he may simply over think instead of simply getting the puck to a teammate or skating it forward. But, this area has improved as he has gone through his career at Colgate. Offensively, he’s a solid contributer and there’s always the possibility he could see some playing time as a forward on the power play given his size in front of the net. Last season, he was relegated to a point man on the power play which suits him though he did provide an interesting look as a forward with his skating ability and size. He has a good skating flow and can advance the puck well from circle to circle.
 
This season, I would say that he’ll be one of Colgate’s top two defensemen along with Vancouver Canucks draft pick Jeremy Price. He should continue to see ice time in all situations. Leadership-wise, he’ll again be a captain and the first two-year captain in some time. His leadership will be counted upon on a team that will feature eight freshmen, all of which will likely see ice time. He and Price will also anchor the blue line which will have four seniors.

Kevin Lynch-Michigan(CCHA)
11-12 Stats 39GP 8-5-13 30PIM 2009 Draft 2/56
Michael Spath covers the Wolverines for thewolverine.com

Kevin Lynch has, arguably, been Michigan’s top two-way forward each of the past two playoff runs, competing with an all-out intensity on his shifts that have sparked the Maize and Blue. His numbers over those 12 games– three goals and an assist and a plus/minus of -3 – don’t properly reflect how well he’s played, showing grittiness in the defensive zone and greater offensive awareness than he consistently displayed during the regular season.

 That has been the knock on Lynch during his career – an inconsistency on both ends of the rink. The 6-1, 206-pounder has just 25 goals and 20 assists, and is +10 overall, in 128 career games. He just doesn’t bring it every night, putting one good period together but not two and not three, or two good periods but playing uninspired for a few shifts.

 Lynch probably won’t ever be an offensive standout. He does have a good shot and can be someone that attacks the net – something he needs to do more — to scoop up loose pucks, but he won’t be a 20-goal scorer in college. On the next level, he could be an ideal third-liner or fourth-liner depending on whether he ever figures out how to put together an entire season, or at least perform more consistently over greater stretches.

 As for this season, the coaches are truly expecting him to be one of the Wolverines’ top four forwards. He should center U-M’s No. 2 line and they’re expecting him to be a 15-goal, 20-assist guy. He needs to use his body better to create room in front of the net offensively and take forwards out of the play defensively. He’s shown an ability to do that, ratcheting up his play when it matters most, and the hope is, as a senior, he can play with that night-in, night-out commitment for an entire campaign.

Martin Ouelette-Maine(Hockey East
11-12 Stats 9GP 1-3-0 .871Sv% 3.42GAA 2010 7/184
Matt Booth covers the Black Bears for Mainelyhockey.com

Martin Ouellette was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL draft as a developing NHL prospect. Since the Quebec native, arrived on the campus of the University of Maine there has been an undeniable fierce competition, between Ouellette and his roommate and counterpart Dan Sullivan for the starting role. Martin started sharing ice time evenly his freshman season totaling eight starts and a 3-3-1 overall record, including a stellar performance 12/4/10. The freshman shutout the Providence Friars on the road, earning himself Hockey East’s rookie of the week and eventually being named Hockey East’s rookie of the Month.

Ouellette started his sophomore campaign again sharing the ice with Sullivan, but a few weeks into the 2011/2012 season Sullivan emerged as the team’s first genuine NO.1 goaltender since the 2009 season. Ouellette took the no.2 slot and filled in when his number was called.

The Black Bears have added even more depth to the goaltender position with freshman Matt Morris. It is not all bad news the Blue Jacket goaltending prospect. Maine’s head coach Tim Whitehead has real hopes for Ouellette.

 “Martin is in the best shape he been in since getting here and he looks ready to go” said Whitehead. “He [Ouellette] is chopping at the bit to get some ice time.”

There is no official starter as of yet, many speculate Dan Sullivan will get the initial nod, but without a doubt Martin Ouellette will be given his chance to prove if he is the starter in the 12/13 season.

Seth Ambroz-Minnesota(WCHA)
11-12 Stats 41GP 5-3-8 53PIM 2011 Draft 5/128
For the two Gopher prospects I asked Scott Hamilton who’s a contributor to Gopher Puck Live.

Seth Ambroz had a relatively underwhelming season as a freshman given he played 3 three years in the USHL and had put up some solid statistics as a young guy in that league. He played in most of the Gopher games last year but didn’t reach double digits in points. What holds him back is his skating. His first few strides are not particularly good and he sometimes struggles with the pace of the game. He does have excellent size and can play physical hockey when he sets his mind to it so that bodes well for pro potential. He has a pretty heavy shot and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in the corners and around the net which are good traits to have. He does need to cut down on some ill advised penalties as he made some boneheaded choices in that regard at times. He was 3rd on the team in PIM.


I have yet to see him in captain’s practice this month so I cannot say if Seth has made noticeable improvements in the off-season. I would suspect he worked hard so hopefully it will pay dividends in the areas he needs to improve. I plan on seeing the team practice soon though.

Last year, Seth’s role was mainly as a 3rd line RW. Without seeing what off-season improvements he has made, it is difficult to say what role he will play this year. There has been debate among the fans about who will fill the open RW role on the 2nd line (the Gophers only lost one player – Jake Hansen – from their top 6 forwards last year). Some believe Ambroz will be the 2nd line RW because he is natural right hand shot and his size/physical play could compliment the more finesse/speed guys on that line in Erik Haula and Sam Warning (each of whom played on the 2nd line last year). However, the jury is out for me until I see more.

Mike Reilly-Minnesota(WCHA)
11-12 Stats 51GP 24-59-83 42PIM with Penticton(BCHL) 2011 Draft 4/98
Mike was the best defenseman in the BCHL last season, helping the Penticton Vees dominate including a record 42-game winning streak and winning every title you could in junior A hockey. Here’s Scott again with his take on where Mike fits on the Gophers Blueline.

As for Mike Reilly, the Gophers returned pretty much all their defensemen from last year (one bit player did leave the team). It will be the strongest area of competition on the team this year. Since Reilly and Brady Skjei are joining the team, a veteran or two could definitely see their playing time diminish compared to last season. I suspect Reilly will be a 2nd or 3rd defensive pairing type of guy and play quite a bit this season. Especially given how well he did out at the US juniors camp. Given his biggest strength is his offensive ability, I would imagine he will see time on the Gopher PP unit. Nate Schmidt was the 1st PP unit’s main defenseman last year and he thrived in that role. Where Reilly fits into the PP mix depends on whether the Gopher coaching staff wants two defensemen on the top PP unit or 4 forwards/1 defenseman. I do suspect he’ll get his chances to shine in that regard. I am less sure at this point about how much PK time he may receive.

Drew Olson-Minnesota-Duluth(WCHA)
11-12 Stats 41GP 1-7-8 51PIM 2008 Draft 4/118
Drew Olson is the only other Jackets NCAA prospect with a letter on his jersey as he will serve as a assistant captain for his senior year. Some of the reasons Drew was selected as a assistant captain include the fact that Drew is one of the elder statesman on the Bulldogs blueline being one of two seniors and playing the most career games(109). Drew has doubled his point total each season going from two to four to eight, so I’m expecting 16 this year but I’m not holding my breath. Drew collected his first multi-point game last season when he had two assists against Minnesota State. Drew played in every game for Duluth last season playing with four different D partners.

TJ Tynan-Notre Dame(CCHA)
11-12 Stats 39GP 13-28-41 38PIM 2011 3/66
Tynan is one of the Irish’s top offensive weapons leading the team in scoring the last two seasons. He played on a line with Anders Lee but according to to The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, Irish coach Jeff Jackson is splitting the two up because he “didn’t want to be too young down the middle with Maday and Sheahan gone”. Tynan is only five points away from becoming the 46th member of the “Century Club” at Notre Dame. Last season, Tynan became the first Irish player ever to win or share the CCHA scoring title and the first since 1972-73 to win a conference scoring title. Tynan shared the CCHA scoring title with Michigan State defenseman Torey Krug with 29 points in 20 games. Tynan was on Inside College Hockey’s very early list of 10 players to watch for the 2013 Hobey Baker award trophy. Tynan is a little like Cam Atkinson but where as Cam is a finisher, TJ is a set up man with 59 of his 95 points being assists.

There you have it folks, a season preview on all of the Jackets NCAA prospects. Of all the teams with a prospect Michigan and Minnesota are expected to challenge for a national title with Minnesota being the preseason #1.

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