This article did really well last season, so we’ve decided to bring it back once again! The Canes have a deep pipeline once again, and most of their prospects are doing really well for each of their teams. Unfortunately, local media seems to think that every prospect that the Canes have sucks. I’d love to see some legitimate analysis from them about each prospect, but I know that we’ll never see that. It’s pretty clear that some media members love to spew out bad hockey takes until March Madness. After all, that’s when they actually do their jobs. This time around, we’ll be splitting this up into three parts. One article for NCAA players, one for European players, and one for CHL players. This time around, we’ll be talking about our NCAA prospects!
Zimmer has had a bit of a rough season. He struggled to adjust to the pace of play in the NCAA last season, and he seems to have had the same struggles this season. He had been scratched for a good part of the season, but has been in the lineup on a much more regular basis as of late. His minutes have gone up, too. He moved up to the third line, and his play has improved. He hasn’t scored, but he’s played well enough to move up in the lineup. He’ll have to continue playing well if he wants to stay on the roster. The Canes drafted him as a speedy left winger that can really dictate play, so he’ll likely develop into that role if he can stay in the lineup. Expect the points to start coming for him this season, he’s had quite a few chances. He even had a really solid game against the number one ranked team, where Wisconsin shut out Notre Dame 5-0. The best thing that Zimmer can do is to slow his game down. This doesn’t mean that he should put forth Eric Staal line change levels of effort, it just means he has to take time to read the play. Remember how Janne Kuokkanen was always a step ahead of a pass or shot? He couldn’t quite adapt to his teammates’ pace just yet. The same thing has to happen to Zimmer.
He’s been a little better this season, playing on a better Yale squad. Stevens has taken a bit of a slow route in terms of development, but he’s definitely shown improvement this season. He’s filled out a bit, and is using his size a lot more. He’s got nine points in 18 games, which is 4 more points in one more game. He’s still a little slow, and he needs to develop some leg strength if he wants to keep up with professional skaters. Still, any sign of improvement is encouraging. Stevens was always going to be sort of a long term project, so it’s fine if he takes all four years of college to improve his game.
Filipe had a fantastic start to the season, but has been invisible for a very long time now. Four goals and seven assists in the first few weeks of the season was astonishing, and it looked like Filipe might be ready for the NHL sooner rather than later. Then, for whatever reason, he hit a slump. He’s been held scoreless for quite some time now, which is a bit of a concern. Northeastern has some of the highest scoring players in the NCAA, and Filipe just can’t find the score sheet. He’s even been demoted to the second line, after spending most of the season on the first line. It’s not terribly surprising to see a college player struggle. It could be that other teams have adapted to his style of play. Filipe was one of the better prospects in the camp they had over the summer, and he was able to out skate most of the other prospects. In my limited viewings of him, I noticed that Filipe was the second fastest prospect that we had out there, just a touch behind Max Zimmer. Filipe has tons of tools that he can use in all three zones, he just has to figure out how to use them at a higher level. If he can do that, then he’ll take the NCAA by storm. Expect him to get more comfortable in his new role, and watch him go on a hot streak really soon.
It’s been a rough sophomore season for Lafontaine. He’s had quite a few bad starts, and his numbers have been pretty awful this season. Michigan has an improved team this year, and Lafontaine hasn’t really benefitted. Lavigne, Michigan’s other goalie, has done very well as of late, limiting Lafontaine’s chances at a start in goal. Still, Jack looked really good in camp. He has enough tools to be an NHL goalie, he just hasn’t quite figured out how to handle NCAA shooters just yet. I don’t know a whole lot about him, especially since he hasn’t gotten more than ten starts this year. If he puts in the work, he’ll be able to improve on his disappointing numbers. He’ll just take more time to get there than we initially thought.
Martin has had a pretty solid year for Michigan. He’s been playing on their second pairing, and he’s done quite well. Martin’s numbers aren’t great, but he wasn’t drafted to be an offensive defenseman. He was drafted to essentially be Pesce 2.0. A defensively sound defenseman with the ability to play the body and be a pest in his own end. He has had quite a few games as of late where his defense has stood out. He was breaking up passes, getting in shooting lanes, and blocking shots. It’s all you can ask for with a player like this. Martin will never be an offensive threat, however. His shot is fairly weak, and his release is average at best. Again, it’s very similar to Pesce. Pesce almost always shoots for a tip because without a deflection, his shot might not be much of a threat to goalies. Martin might want to learn from that and use that to his advantage in the future. I don’t expect his point totals to go up a whole lot more as of right now, but I do expect him to get some more playing time in the future.
He’s the prospect that’s doing the best in the NCAA right now, which is fantastic to see. Cotton had a rough start to the year on a Boston College team that lacked depth and talent. The whole team was struggling to find any sort of offense, but as of late, they’ve been doing really well. Cotton has 18 points in 23 games this season, and is on pace for an even better season than he had last year. His speed and creativity are some of his best assets, but he’s really developed into the offensive threat that the Canes want to have. He might have to spend at least one more year at Boston College with all of the depth that the Canes have at center right now. If he continues to have a good season, however, the Canes might consider adding him to the AHL roster next season. He has enough talent for the pro level, but will need to show the team that he can consistently produce on an inexperienced Boston College team. Expect him to have another great season, surpassing last season’s point totals by at least 5. I’d be shocked if he didn’t.
Our NCAA prospects weren’t drafted to be immediate successes. They were drafted to be ready for the pro game in a few years when our prospect depth was a little weaker. With players potentially leaving in free agency, being traded, or falling down the depth chart, most of our NCAA prospects will have a legitimate shot at the AHL someday. It might take them a little longer, but they’ll get there eventually. David Cotton and Luke Martin are the closest to the pro level, but Matt Filipe might not be far behind. If Filipe finds consistency, then he’ll be able to be an impact player almost immediately. We’ll just have to wait and see!