Chicago Wolves Year in Review: Forward Prospects

Jordan Schroeder took a proverbial big step forward this season, but is he ready?
(Photo: Chris Jerina/AHL in Photos)

Clearing the decks: it’s been a busy month for me and I’ve perhaps neglected my CA duties a bit. Over the next week or so, I’m going to be review the Wolves’ minor league season. As we transition into next season, let’s ask the question; who should we be watching next year and what obstacles might they face?

The agreement with the Wolves was, for the most part well received in Chicago. The Wolves were said to be pleased with way the Canucks management were involved in the development of their prospects. On the other hand, one has to wonder how pleased the Canucks might have been with the Wolves’ proclivity to sign AHL veterans. It will be interesting to see what veterans are brought back next season; in the past, the Canucks have always worked hard to make their AHL team competitive, but with several young scoring prospects coming through, how much time can be afforded for the older, more skilled players?

Let’s start our review with a look at the forward prospects who spent time with the Wolves this season:

Jordan Schroeder

Schroeder took a big step forward this season. After a lukewarm professional debut in 2010-11, Schroeder’s solid two-way game emerged in 2011-12. The first two months of his season were a struggle, but as he gained coach Craig MacTavish’s trust, Schroeder began to blossom. While not a sniper, Schroeder plays a strong puck-possession game and distributes the puck well. Given linemates who are more adept at finishing, don’t be surprised if Schroeder’s assist totals grow. Think of a smaller Chris Higgins – a forward who does everything very well. He’s also a blindingly fast skater.

76 games 21 G 23 A +8 18 PIM 5 PPG 1 SHG 183 shots 11.5 sh pct

Billy Sweatt

A decent year for the Chicagoan. Sweatt made his NHL debut with the Canucks in December, getting a smattering of ice time in Ottawa and Montreal. He spent most of the year in a high-flying duo with Jordan Schroeder, using his speed forecheck and exploit turnovers. He was also a key penalty killer for the Wolves. OUTLOOK: Decent. His wheels are his strength. Unfortunately his hands don’t seem to be following along, but he should be able to contribute as a checking winger in spot duty next season.

71 games 16 G 18 A +9 24 PIM 3 PPG 0 SHG 165 shots 9.7 sh pct

Nicklas Jensen

A late-season cup of coffee went as well as could possibly be expected. After a first two games on the 4th line, Jensen was quickly bumped up to a line with veterans Steve Reinprecht and Mark Mancari. Jensen showed everyone his sweet finish, scoring a hat trick in the final game of the regular season. One wonders if the first round playoff series against San Antonio might have gone better if he’d not suffered a concussion in game 2. Jensen scored a pair of power play goals in game 1. There is some thought that the left winger, who was a late cut in the 2011 training camp, might push for a spot next fall. This seems unlikely, given the Canucks’ known preference to slide entry level contracts as long as possible – wouldn’t you rather have a cheap 22-year-old Jensen, rather than the 19-year-old version?

6games 4 G 0 A even 24 PIM 1 PPG 0 SHG 12 shots 33.3 sh pct

Anton Rodin

Rodin may have been the most skilled forward the Wolves dressed this season. With passing vision to rival his veteran teammates’, no one was a slicker distributor than Rodin. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always in evidence. The young Swede needs to add plenty of muscle; battles along the boards were a struggle all season. He didn’t dress for a single playoff game, even when Jensen went out injured as MacTavish preferred to go with bigger, more veteran hands in the lineup. Rodin can skate and pass, but he needs to do everything better and more often. He’ll be back in Chicago next season.

62 games 10 G 17 A -5 18 PIM 2 PPG 0 SHG 101 shots 9.9 sh pct

Stefan Schneider

A junior hockey defenceman who has been converted into a checking-line centre, Schneider struggled to stay in the lineup despite showing himself to be useful on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. His huge frame may keep him on the long-shot list for another season, but this is the last year of his contract and he’s going to have to do a lot of work to get his chance.

46 games 4 G 5 A -11 6 PIM 0 PPG 0 SHG 28 shots 14.3 sh pct

Darren Archibald

A dark-horse prospect heading into the season, Archibald’s season started well but then went immediately south. He scored the Wolves’ first goal of the season in the very first game, but never found the net again. He quite quickly found himself skating on the 4th line in Chicago and not much longer was watching from the press box. Except for a late, short-lived recall, he spent most of the season in ECHL Kalamazoo, where he bagged 45 points in 49 games. Without improvement, his skating will hold back his NHL ambitions.

20 games 1 G 0 A -2 10 PIM 1 PPG 0 SHG 23 shots 4.3 sh pct

Taylor Matson

The former Minnesota Gophers captain was brought in to the lineup to provide a diligent and responsible presence to the 4th line and he did just that. He also dressed for 5 playoff games, picking up an assist. The 23-year-old could be a bit of a sleeper prospect. He’s not a hulk nor is he a goal scorer but he works hard and his strong skating could earn him a call up as early as next season.

5 games 1 G 1 A -2 4 PIM 0 PPG 0 SHG 5 shots 20.0 sh pct