Friday, May 29, 2009

Sportsology: young talent in the Stanley Cup Finals

By Rick Morris

All hockey fans know the names of the slam-dunk Hall of Fame talent in these upcoming Stanley Cup Finals. Barring career-threatening injuries, there could easily be ten players skating in this series that will be enshrined someday in Toronto. But our good pal Russ Cohen always likes to dig just a big deeper. Courtesy of our syndication agreement with Sportsology, here is a look at the younger players who may well hold the balance of power in this epic clash.

Both Stanley Cup Teams Have Developed Young Talent
By Russ Cohen

Instead of breaking down each team's lines and who gets the pluses and who gets the minuses, I'd rather talk about how each team has developed young talent and infused that into their starting lineups.

Let's start with the Red Wings.

^ Jonathan Ericsson – a ninth round gem and a great offensive talent on the blue line. Joe McDonnell, the Director of Amateur Scouting, told me that they were “fortunate” to get the young talent. But the more you watch the Red Wings, the more you realize how dominant their scouting is. Even on the heels of an emergency appendectomy, I expect him to play.

^ Ville Leino – This talented forward hasn’t produced any playoff points just yet, but for Grand Rapids, he had 13 points in 10 playoff games! When the injury bug hit, he was ready to get in there and suck up the minutes. He was a free agent signing!

^ Justin Abdelkader – Has scored one playoff point so far. He will play defense and block shots but he’s always looking to jet into the offensive zone. He’s good on face-offs and on the power play. Has good puck skills and can deke defenseman out of their skates. Last year I interviewed him after the Red Wings clinched. He never played but he was a part of the team and now he’s contributing.

^ Darren Helm – I wrote about him in early May and now he’s an overnight sensation. He can go end-to-end if necessary, but otherwise he can move the puck around, play solid defense, and contribute with points as well. Even game-winners! He has a great shot. He is a terrific all-around player with emerging skills. A dangerous player if you forget he’s on the ice.

On the Penguins side, most of the talented players that they have produced over the years are now mainstays of the team, like Sidney Crosby (21), Evgeni Malkin (22), Tyler Kennedy (22), Jordan Staal (20), Marc-Andre Fleury (24) -- a pretty impressive list. Now, let's talk about some of their other contributors.

^ Kris Letang – It’s hard to believe that he only scored two points last season in the playoffs, but his role was different. This year he’s been terrific and already has nine points. His puck-moving skills, rocket shot, and great skating ability really help the Penguins lineup.

^ Alex Goligoski – He’s waiting in the wings, and if there is a hint of bad play or an injury, he’s ready to jump in. Listen to what Assistant Coach and still Director of Player Development Tom Fitzgerald said about him on XM Hockey Prospect Radio this week Saturday 12-1, Sunday 4-5. He’s gotten faster and better on the power play, and all he’s looking for is some more ice time. He has great offensive gifts. He takes a lot of shots, and he is elusive, and that gives him scoring opportunities. He has improved defensively, and he would be starting for most teams in the league.

There are a ton of stars to watch in this Stanley Cup but as always, I will be scouting the young talent as well. We will have full Cup coverage throughout and live Cup coverage from Game Three on at Sportsology.

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