Part one of our 2013-14 Manchester Monarchs player evaluations went up last hour, beginning with a look at the forwards. Now, correspondent Andy Tonge – who covered the team all season for MayorsManor – turns his attention to the defensive side of things. Keep in mind; the evaluations below are based upon each player’s season in the AHL, not a measure of their value as NHL prospects.
Andrew Bodnarchuk: A+. A well rounded defenseman we featured on MM earlier this year, Bodnarchuk was one of the more impressive defenseman for the Monarchs. He skates well, is solid positionally in his own zone, possesses a very good shot from the point, and was one of the assistant captains for his team. Possibly the most impressive part of his game was his ability to step up when it mattered, playing as one of the better defenseman for Morris during the playoffs.
Andrew Campbell: A-. In his first year as the captain of the Monarchs, he led his team to a conference title. Campbell plays a simple game. Solid defensively, he showed the ability to make smart reads to jump in the play offensively. Using solid hockey IQ to read the play, Campbell frequently and effectively cut off opponent’s zone entry by standing up at his own blue line. His strong leadership and steady presence on the blue line were a key part of a defensive unit that relied on having all three pairs playing solid minutes. He could stand to be more physical.
Derek Forbort: B. Campbell’s partner for almost the entire season, Forbort was in some ways similar. Both defenseman relied on good positioning and played more of a stay-at-home role. Forbort undoubtedly is a better skater and offensively than Campbell, though like his partner, he failed to utilize his size to his advantage. In his rookie season, Forbort took great strides after a very shaky start to his pro career. Though he will need at least another season in Manchester, this year was a good start to his career.
Vincent LoVerde: B+. After joining the Monarchs last year on a tryout basis (coming from the ECHL’s Ontario Reign) and sticking with the team, LoVerde returned for a second year, this time on an AHL contract for the full season. Paired with Andrew Bodnarchuk for the entire season, the duo were tops in the AHL in plus/minus rating at year’s end. LoVerde is a smart player who, similar to Campbell, plays a simple game and is capable of making offensive contributions when needed. One of his better assets was his point shot, which lacks velocity, but often found its way to the net and left plenty of rebounds for a teammate to tap home.
Brayden McNabb: A-. Coming over at the trade deadline in a deal that saw Nick Deslauriers (and college freshman Hudson Fasching) go the other way, McNabb had a significant impact on the Monarchs in a short amount of time. None were greater than his offense provided on the power play, something that helped improve the team’s work on the man advantage from being near dead last in the league to 19th overall when the season ended. With a shot clocked at over 100 MPH, McNabb is a lethal weapon from the point. McNabb took over for Deslauriers as the team’s big hitter, throwing many bone-jarring hits. While he has made improvements since his junior days, skating is still an issue in his game. He is defensively sound, though the Kings Development Staff will likely look for him to make improvements in his own zone moving forward.
Colin Miller: C. If there was a weak link in an otherwise strong defensive unit, it was Miller, who like others, is in his first season of professional hockey. A very good skater who possesses a heavy shot, Miller has similar tools to reliable NHL defensemen. What he appears to lack is a strong hockey IQ, often making poor reads on when to pinch in the offensive zone or go for a big hit.
Jeff Schultz: A. Like Willie Mitchell during the Kings 2012 Stanley Cup run, Schultz was a player who made his team much better when in the lineup. A steadying presence who helped Miller in his rookie year, the NHL veteran’s presence was sorely missed during Manchester’s playoff loss to Norfolk (after he was called up to LA). Schultz has little to no offensive skill, but he makes up for it by being the best pure defender on the team. Though he is yet another defenseman who underutilized his size, Schultz’s strong positioning and use of angles effectively smothered the opposing team’s offense. The biggest question for Schultz is if he can handle the faster paced NHL teams, as foot speed is an issue with the lanky defender.
JF Berube: B+. Starting the year in a battle to back up Martin Jones, Berube not only won that job, but took over as the starter when Jones moved on to the NHL ranks. A fundamentally sound goalie, Berube is also athletic enough to make spectacular saves. At times, he’s battled issues with pucks either squeezing through his body or failing to track a puck after it hits him. The biggest thing Berube must improve on is his consistency, which will come with time and experience. Of all the players ranked, Berube is the one most likely to earn a higher rank next year, as his rookie year in the AHL was incredibly impressive with all things considered.
As a reminder, not all players to play in Manchester this season are given an evaluation below. For example, Kevin Gravel was a college signing and only played at the very end of the season. That was too small a sample size for evaluation here, yet you can read a full MayorsManor scouting report on Gravel here.
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