Friday, August 25, 2006

Recent Signings of CHLers to Professional Contracts

Yesterday, it was announced that the Carolina Hurricanes signed Saskatoon Blades' center Joe Barnes (3rd round, 64 overall, 2005) to a 3-year contract. According to the announcement, the contract will pay Barnes $1.4 million over the next 3 years, if he makes the NHL team and $165,000 if he plays in the AHL, plus a signing bonus of $150,000. The 20-year old Barnes (6'4", 220) was selected by the Hurricanes in the 3rd round of the 2005 NHL entry draft, after going undraftd in his first year of eligibility. A former first round bantam selection, Barnes played his entire WHL career with the Blades; in 2005-06, Barnes registered 52 points (25 G, 27 A) in 55 regular-season games, spending 55 minutes in the sin bin and achieving a plus/minus of +11. There is no question that Barnes deserved this contract, given the exciting 2-way player he has become. The Blades 2005-06 alternate captain was somewhat of a late bloomer, in that his first 2 seasons with Saskatoon were disappointing (38 points in 112 games, while maintaining a -35 plus/minus), but he really picked up his game in 2004-05 and despite fighting some injuries last season, he was the Blades' 5th leading scorer last season. It is very likely that Barnes will begin his professional career in the AHL, but he may be ready for NHL play by the fall of 2007.

Several ECHL signings of CHLers have occurred over the past week. Yesterday, the Tri-City Americans' former winger Jason Beeman signed an ECHL contract with the Texas Wildcatters. The 21-year old Beeman (5'11", 210) played forward for 5 seasons with the Americans. In his overage 2005-06 season, Beeman tallied 60 points (28 G, 30 A) and a plus/minus of -7 in 60 regular season games. The gritty former Tri-City alternate captain plays a passionate games and is not one to shy away from fights. This should make him an exciting player in the ECHL this coming season, but Beeman, who has developed rather slowly over his WHL career, may have enough talent to go further in his professional career (he already scored 5 points in 7 games with the ECHL Long Beach Ice Dogs in last spring's ECHL playoffs). If so, he will have to reign in some of his emotions and become more disciplined. His 115 PIM for the 2005-06 regular season (with just a half dozen fights) needs to be cut by one third to make it in the AHL and beyond. Every team needs tough guys, but taking needless penalties is not helpful to the team. Beeman has some talent along with his toughness, and he will be exciting to watch as he begins his professional career. Whether he can advance further will be totally up to him.

Also announced yesterday was the signing of 2 other CHLers to ECHL contracts. The Phoenix RoadRunners have inked defenseman David Pszenyczny and right winger Tommy Maxwell. The 20-year old Maxwell (6'2", 199) has been a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers for the past 4 years. Always a physical player, Maxwell had impressed the New York Rangers' management in his invitee appearance at training camp in the fall of 2005. However, he was ineligible to be sent to the AHL in 2005-06, and he returned to his junior team for the 2005-06 season. Maxwell put up decent numbers this past season, but did not show the development that was expected. The Tigers alternate captain recorded 23 points (15 G, 8 A), with 145 PIM and a +7 plus/minus in 60 regular season games. He did some more offensive production in the playoffs (scoring 6 points in 13 games), which was enough to earn the interest of the Anaheim Ducks. Maxwell has been invited to skate with Anaheim's prospects at the NHL Pacific Division Shootout rookie tournament in El Segundo, CA next month. Maxwell is another player who has the potential to play a high level professional game. Whether he gets that chance after rookie camp will depend upon his being able to focus on his role, i.e., a tough physical style of play while looking for scoring opportunities.

Twenty one year-old defenseman David Pszenyczny completed his 2005-06 overage season in the OHL as a member of both the Mississauga Ice Dogs and Barrie Colts. Pszenyczny (6'0", 190) had an outstanding season; in 58 regular season games for both of his OHL teams, the blueliner registered 53 points (15 G, 38 A) with 150 PIM and a +3 plus/minus. With the Colts in post-season, Pszenyczny tallied 14 points (2 G, 12 A) in 14 games, with a plus/minus of +7 and 22 PIM. The defenseman had a big spurt in offensive production this season, however, his success in the professional arena is uncertain. It remains to be seen whether he can take his game to the next level. Pszenycsny will get a look/see very shortly; he will be skating with the Phoenix Coyotes rookies at the same rookie tournament as Maxwell next month.

Earlier this week, the Texas Wildcatters announced the signing of 2 QMJHLers, right wing Kevin Asselin and defenseman Jonathan Paiement. Paiement, who just completed his overage season with the Lewiston MAINEiacs, was selected in the 8th round (247 overall) by the New York Rangers in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. After attending the Rangers' training camp last fall, the 21-year-old was returned to his junior team. Paiement, an offensive defenseman, did not progress this past season (49 points, 136 PIM, +9 plus/minus in 63 regular season games), so the Rangers did not sign him to an NHL contract by the June 1 deadline. Paiement did not help himself by getting involved in a scrum and getting suspended in the middle of the 2006 playoffs. A talented defenseman, it is not clear yet that Paiement has the head for the professional game. If he can make the necessary adjustments and stay focused on what is important, he can succeed.

Asselin just completed his overage season as a winger for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He had an excellent season (88 points, 92 PIM, +12 in 67 games), in which he showed good development. The undrafted 21-year old's future is unclear. Continued development along the lines of this past season may bring Asselin a solid professional career.