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2007-08 end-of-season: Ericsson, Helm usurp Howard

Published Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 12:01 a.m. under RWC Rankings

Jonathan Ericsson and Darren Helm have bounced Jimmy Howard from the top of Red Wings Central’s end-of-season prospect ranking.

Ericsson, who started the season ranked eighth, and Helm, who started the season ranked 10th, sit 1-2 on the final report, knocking off Howard, who has been No. 1 on the list since midway through the 2006-07 campaign.

All three are capable of playing in the NHL in the fall.

Most of the other movement within the ranking is fairly minor, but recently-signed Finnish forward Ville Leino debuts at No. 11 and Belarusian defenseman Sergei Kolosov bounces back onto the list in the final spot at No. 20.

Here’s a rundown.

01. Jonathan Ericsson (+1) — Mike Babcock loves him and with good reason. The mobile 6-foot-5, 218-pound blueliner boasts a 100-mile-per-hour bomb and should be logging top-four minutes in Detroit in a couple of seasons.

02. Darren Helm (+5) — Red Wings GM Ken Holland said after the Cup win Helm gave Detroit a fourth line. With his speed, hitting and tireless work ethic, he’ll give them a lot more than that in a few years. He’s a lock for Detroit in 2008-09.

03. Jimmy Howard (-2) — Howard has been inconsistent his entire career, and still hasn’t shaken it after three years in the pros. But despite a poor finish, he looks like a future star when he’s on. He’s ready for NHL backup duty.

04. Jakub Kindl (-1) — Kindl was ranked 36th among NHL prospects by a panel of scouts in The Hockey News, and there is no denying his raw skills. But parts of his game were exposed as an AHL rookie, and he has plenty of work to do.

05. Justin Abdelkader (-1) — He plays a hard, physical game and does so with a smile, and that makes him the future of the Grind Line in Detroit. He would benefit from a full year of AHL seasoning, with a few call-ups mixed in.

06. Brendan Smith (-) — Before he could gain any momentum, a shoulder injury knocked him out for half the season. But he’s a great skater with sky-high offensive upside, and a big sophomore year could be in the offing in 2008-09.

07. Jan Mursak (+1) — He’s a slippery little bugger with home-run type skills, and was a scoring-line forward on one of Canada’s top junior teams this season. His offensive prowess will be tested in the fall at the AHL level.

08. Cory Emmerton (-3) — Emmerton lost his footing as a blue-chipper in a year he should have challenged for an OHL scoring title, but mononucleosis is partly responsible. He will look to reassert himself in the AHL in 2008-09.

09. Dick Axelsson (-) — When Hakan Andersson raves about a prospect, people listen. And Andersson gives Axelsson glowing reviews. Beyond his all-world natural skills, Axelsson has to bulk up and stay out of off-ice trouble.

10. Kyle Quincey (-) — You know a team has a deep prospects depth chart when an NHL caliber defenseman is ranked No. 10. Quincey can play, albeit in a limited role, and his waiver status should finally give him an NHL job in 2008-09.

11. Ville Leino (NR) — The Red Wings hope Leino will challenge for an NHL spot in 2008-09. The Finnish SM-Liiga MVP is a fierce competitor with terrific puck-possession skills, but some wonder if he has the foot-speed to keep up.

12. Joakim Andersson (-1) — Andersson is a big, strong, two-way forward who has made outstanding strides. He looked comfortable during his brief time in the Swedish Elite League and is a lock to be signed next summer.

13. Daniel Larsson (-) — The Red Wings weren’t sold on Larsson coming into the season, but he forced their hand by winning Swedish Elite League rookie- and goalie-of-the-year awards. He could be third on the NHL depth chart in 2008-09.

14. Logan Pyett (-2) — The small but skilled power-play quarterback looks like another late-round steal. His future depends on how he measures up defensively against bigger, stronger pro forwards. He’ll play in the AHL in the fall.

15. Mattias Ritola (-1) — Ritola made good strides as an AHL rookie, showing solid work ethic and surprising defensive smarts. He occasionally flashes hints of dynamic offense, and he’ll need to produce more in 2008-09.

16. Evan McGrath (+2) — Could there be light at the end of the tunnel for McGrath? He got his act together and had a terrific second half in Grand Rapids, and now, the door is open for him to become a high-scoring AHLer in 2008-09.

17. Ryan Oulahen (-2) — Oulahen is a class-act and a coach’s dream for doing the little things that help a team win. But he needs to start doing more damage offensively or get his nose dirtier if he wants to get a cup of coffee in the NHL.

18. Zack Torquato (+1) — It’s hard to get a good read on Torquato from last season because he was stuck on such a poor team. If Erie improves, as expected, Torquato will have a monster offensive campaign and earn a contract.

19. Johan Ryno (-3) — Ryno is at risk of completely falling off the prospect map. He left the AHL after 12 games to take limited ice time in the Swedish Elite League and has now signed with a second-level Swedish team for 2008-09. Not good.

20. Sergei Kolosov (NR) —Kolosov is still on the radar. The Red Wings are talking about signing him at some point, mostly because they like his hard-hitting style. Problem is, he’s totally unproven, and needs to find a home in a top league.



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