As the season winds down, it’s time to get the “player evaluation” part of the year started.
As a Flames fan, most of my life I’ve been looking forward to “next year”-the year where things get back on track after a disappointing season. Well, this next year may be the most positive next year I’ve ever seen, and a big reason for that is the prospect pool the Flames currently have.
So, we here at FlamesNation have asked some of the best hockey minds around (and since I’m included, I guess we didn’t look too far) to rank those prospects I talked about-from number 15 all the way down to number 1. The evaluators include myself, Kent Wilson, Vintage Flame (from this here site), Scott Lepp (from Matchsticks and Gasoline), walkinvisible (from hitthepost) and the venerable Corey Pronman (from Hockey Prospectus).
The evaluators were asked to rank players, and we sorted the rankings via a simple point scale-number 15 on each list got one point, while number 1 on each list got 15. The criteria for who was included was pretty simple: players the Flames control who are 23 and under (excluding Mikael Backlund, since he’s already a bona fide NHLer).
Now that all that boring stuff is out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and start with number 15:
As we speak, Wotherspoon’s finishing up an excellent season (both for him and his team) in Portland. Wotherspoon was drafted with the #57 pick (2nd round) last year, the second of the two 2nd rounders that was returned (along with Roman Horak) in the Tim Erixon deal. Wotherspoon increased his point totals substantially this year, going from 12P (2G, 10A) in 64GP in his draft year to 27P (7G, 21A) in 67GP this year.
Personally, I think there were a bit too many (read: > 0) comparisons to Robyn Regehr when Wotherspoon was drafted. While that’s understandable for a couple of reasons – Regehr was in the news due to his trade and Wotherspoon’s projection is probably one of a shutdown defenseman – I doubt he’ll play anywhere near the role Regehr did. That said, I do think it’s probable that Wotherspoon becomes a serviceable NHLer in due time. But, as everyone knows, the developmental cycles of shutdown defensemen are arduous and varied. Some guys take that step, some don’t.
One thing I like more about Wotherspoon then I do, say, Chris Breen (other then the obvious age/potential development time thing) is that the kid has a bit more mobility then is usual with players his age/skill type. I’ll admit what I’ve seen of him is limited, but to me he looks like he could develop enough speed and agility to be a bottom-pairing guy. That, along with his plus-size (already 6’2, 203) will allow him to adjust to the AHL level quicker then many other defensive prospects the Flames have had over the years.