NHL Trade Deadline 2011: Five prospects the Florida Panthers should target

 

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For many fans, prospects are an after thought to a big deal on Trade Deadline Day. These young players can seem years away from contributing to the big club, and often the vision of the future is lost on what was given up in the present - and let's face it, many a trade involving prospects goes down with the average fan saying, "Who?!". Going forward, Panthers management has said they would not ravage this future for a chance at the playoffs; meaning the upcoming Trade Deadline on February 28th could see Florida acquiring not only draft picks to rebuild the prospect pool but young players from other clubs as well. While it's fun to dream of plucking top-tiered prospects away from the competition, the reality of the matter is these young players are deeply entrenched within their current organizations' own unique blueprints, and snatching them up could be considered impractical, expensive, or just plain futile. So while a name like Brayden Schenn is being thrown about the internet quite frequently, you won't find him listed here. Here are five prospects the Cats should target at the trade deadline.

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Currently on the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL roster, Matt Calvert is showing an ability to translate his success from the WHL to the NHL. Last year with the Brandon Wheat Kings, the undersized winger managed to net 99 points in 68 games. While the internet is abuzz with talks of L.A.'s Schenn (who also had 99 points), Matt Calvert, Schenn's linemate last year in Brandon registered 13 more goals (47-34) in just 7 more games then the highly touted Kings prospect. What's more is he's showing a propensity to play above his size, and has found a way to score in the hard areas of the NHL amassing 8 points (5g 3a) in 18 games. Coach Scott Arniel is very high on the high character 21-year old, but with Columbus hovering around a playoff spot in the west, Calvert might be the odd man out anyway; if the Jackets added top 6 scoring, especially if injured Derick Brassard returns. Size could be an issue, but remember that scoring talent in the CHL is very underrated, potential ROY candidate Jeff Skinner potted in more goals in the OHL last year than top picks Hall and Seguin and it looks like that is translating well in the NHL despite being small. Calvert would provide top 6 scoring, and has the aggressive edge that would keep him off the bench in a Pete DeBoer system.

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Avtsin (Avtsyn in the KHL) is real dark horse to become an elite NHL talent, though he was selected by the Canadiens in the 4th round of 2009 despite possessing all-world scoring talent and has yet to play in a single NHL game. The 20 year-old showed an ability to score (he had 9 points with just over 7:00 ATOI ) playing for Dynamo M in the KHL but has shown great defensive and aggressive tendencies. He employs a similar style to that of Vladimir Tarasenko and some Russian fans would argue he's better, thanks to what Hockey's Future describes as "his good touch around the crease and finishing skills" - something that can't be said for the Blues young prospect. With Alexander Avtsin's ability to crash the net, and a tendency for physical play, he's certainly a Dale Tallon type player, but one has to wonder if his birth certificate would deter any interest. The KHL should not be an issue as Avtsin currently plays for the Hamilton Bulldogs, and while he is adjusting slowly and has only 17 points in 38 games, he's making definite progress and a Dadonov-esque turnaround midseason looks apparent. Avtsin has top line elite scorer written all over him, but he's a big risk; with a prospect pool of fairly bankable prospects, it might be a good time to finally take a gamble on a flyer.

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If ever there was a "Tallon-type" player, Colton Gillies is it. He's always been touted as a fast, aggressive, hard hitting power forward but his scoring touch has inevitably come into question. While this season with the Houston Aeros is a continuation of that line of thought, there have been glimpses that Gillies has perhaps turned a corner and finally found a way to use his size to his advantage at a professional level. He currently has 19 points in 48 games - but the White Rock, BC native is playing great hockey and is a big reason why the Aeros currently sit 2nd in the West Division. Colton might never be that big scoring forward he was hoped to be when drafted in the first round by the the Minnesota Wild but he can most certainly fill a need equal to that of recently obtained Jack Skille, and a line combining those two on the ice would be reminiscent of the "Bash Brothers" from Disney's Mighty Duck movies.

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This is one player who, fairly or unfairly, has fallen out of favour with the new management group in Tampa Bay. Last season James Wright was making a name for himself as one of the best shutdown forwards in the entire NHL as he played half of the season with the big club - and while he did have a -9 rating, his play was certainly not a fault. Wright is considered by HF to be "a gritty two-way player with the prototypical size to play that type of style", and while it's his defensive game that should warrant the kicking of the tires, he does have a lot of offensive upside. Wright isn't going to be a player that will light up a score sheet, but he is going to be the type of center who stops other players with a propensity to do so. As Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner get older, this team is going to need to find other elite PK'ers to take their place; Wright has all the makings of being one of the league's best shutdown forwards in the game and could fit nicely next year on Florida's third or fourth line.

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Before you shout out the obvious in Brandon Kozun's 5'8'' stature not meshing with Tallon's "blueprint", tell me who you think of when you read HF's Talent Analysis of the former Calgary Hitmen and Team Canada representative: "Small and elusive with great skating skills [his] competitiveness and offensive skills keep him on the ice despite large and more physical competition". Patrick Kane, anyone? Kozun has been likened to the Blackhawks winger for a number of reasons, and it isn't just because of the size similarities. Kozun's scoring touch at the WHL level blossomed out of nowhere after his draft year, and he became a perrenial leader in the western hockey league and took the Hitmen to the Memorial Cup in his final season with the club while leading the league in scoring and winning the Bobby Clarke Trophy. The big selling point on Kozun, who's had a more than adequate rookie season with the AHL Manchester Monarchs (posting 31 points in 52 games) is his big game mentality -he finds a way to win. He led the WHL in game winning goals, and even as a Monarch seems to be the player you want to see on the ice if your teams needs to score that big goal - sort of like this. Kozun's probably another 1-2 years away, but he's got enough skill to eventually warrant top 6 minutes in the NHL and would be a great complement to a big center like Nick Bjugstad.

 

It will be interesting to see if Tallon will trade for any prospects, and while it might be a natural first inclination to wave off that no-name player at the bottom of the deal, don't...as this could be the player of note we look back on in the future, musing an inability to believe Tallon found him in the cliched "scrap heap" of another organization.

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