What a pleasant surprise. Hayes went from the 10th/11th forward to being the team’s second-leading scorer.
The first year pro has a real nose for the net, and earned his first career hat trick a week ago. A healthy scratch in the second game of the season despite scoring a goal in the first, Hayes has done a lot to cement his status on the roster. He could use some work defensively, and he still is a little predictable offensively. He also needs to shoot more…his 22.4% shooting percentage shows he both has a nice shot and a penchant for being in the right place at the right time.
But all in all, he’s provided a lot more than anyone thought he would.
#21 Kory Nagy
14 GP: 3G-4A-7P, -3, 8 PIM
Nagy recently turned 22 years old, and had his second stint with Trenton cut short by a call-up to Albany earlier this season. He’s since registered one assist in nine games.
I think it’s fair to say that the offensive side of Nagy’s game isn’t developing quite the way anyone had hoped. He’s solid on the defensive side of the puck, but he has just 27 points (9 goals) in his first 87 pro games. Maybe his 2006-07 junior season (0 goals in 64 games) is more indicative of what he is than his 2008-09 campaign (17 goals in 63 games). And that’s fine to an extent. But with the ice time that forwards get in Trenton, seven goals in 47 games with the team doesn’t cut it for me. And a minus three definitely doesn’t cut it for a guy whose niche is defensive play.
#22 Kyle Kucharski
7 GP: 0G-0A-0P, -8, 6 PIM
About the nicest way I can put it is that Kucharski simply isn’t producing. There are plenty of places to lay the blame, however.
Kucharski himself needs to be better. He had a whole season to prove himself last year and he didn’t. But the organization knew that and brought him back anyway. And why the coaching staff is starting him, of all things, is perhaps the biggest head scratcher.
I have nothing against Kyle personally. I’ve chatted with him once or twice and he seems like a nice kid. But if the numbers speak for themselves, then Kucharski just doesn’t have a lot to say.
#23 Taylor Vichorek
23 GP: 2G-5A-7P, +1, 40 PIM
Vichorek is a big guy who skates like a big guy. But there are some positives to his game. He’s actually a fairly solid playmaker, and he’s shown some passing skill so far this season. And he isn’t afraid to play a physical game, which is important for someone his size.
But that’s where part of the problem lies, in my opinion. Vichorek plays too physical. There have been a lot of times this season where a play on the puck would be the smart hockey play…but he instead tries to lay the body, which is usually unsuccessful. Thing is, for a big guy, he’s going to use a big stick…I’d like to see him use that a little more to break up plays than to try to use his body to separate the man from the puck.
There’s nothing wrong with playing physical, and again…it’s good to see him play to his size. But I’d like to see his hockey sense and instincts improve a little more before that grade goes up.
Berube’s been above average this season. I expected him to be better, but he’s been good. From a prospect standpoint, Berube’s the biggest name on this team. He’s not quite the “complete player, power forward” I was expecting, but there’s time for his game to develop.
Berube’s game has improved as of late, but he still has a little ways to go. His numbers should be better with the ice time he receives. His discipline has improved as well, but he’s still prone to the occasional silly penalty.
#25 Jeremy Akeson
23 GP: 5G-4A-9P, -9, 38 PIM
Akeson’s improved, but he needs to be better. His last few games have been particularly strong, which is a good sign considering he got off to such a rough start after such a strong camp. Now in his third season with the team, Akeson is a key part of its success, and as a two-way forward, needs to better both his offensive output and defensive play.
Once Akeson can get rolling on the offensive side of things, it’ll all come together for him. He’s been noticably more frustrated this season than in year’s past. A good game or two will surely turn that around.
#29 Chase Watson
9 GP: 0G-9A-9P, -2, 4 PIM
Watson’s been better than expected after being brought in about 15 games into the season. You’ll never confuse him as being the best player in the ice at any given time, but he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do with the ice time he’s being given: Produce.
Watson is averaging a point a game — albeit all assists — and is reliable on both sides of the puck. He’s also a gamer, as that shiner can attest to. When he first signed, I thought it was just a temporary move and he’d be gone once other players came back. Now? I’m not so sure.
D+ C- grade might shock some people, but I expect more out of Jeff Prough, and I’d bet Jeff Prough expects more out of himself.
Prough has a team-worst minus-14 and hasn’t been the same player offensively that he had been the past two seasons. The guy I saw for the past two seasons wouldn’t have tried a slapshot in the shootout, for example. Prough is a supremely skilled offensive player with one of the better wrist shots you’ll see in this league. He shouldn’t be getting out-pointed by Ryan Hayes. For as hard as he works both on and off the ice, he shouldn’t be a minus-14.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com