This is the final edition of the 'Great Expectations' series. So far I've looked at Aaron Enns as he heads into his final season of Junior-A hockey, Nathan Boyer as he looks to become a large part of the Ice Wolves offence, and Graham Smerek as he takes on larger responsibilities both offensively and in his own end.
I finish up with a player who enjoyed a break out playoffs, especially against the Melfort Mustangs in the Bauer Conference Finals and finished with seven goals in 17 playoff games. He's also one of the largest players on the ice for the Wolves and could grow into one of the top power forwards in the league.
Read on as I break down the forecast on Skyler Hladun.
2009-10: 15 GP - 7 G - 12 A - 19 P
2009-10: 30 GP - 1 G - 4 A - 5 P
2010-11: 45 GP - 12 G - 6 A - 18 P
2011 Playoffs: 17 GP - 7 G - 3 A - 10 P
2011 Anavet Cup: 7 GP - 0 G - 1 A - 1 P
Break it Down:
-Spent extended time with Ice Wolves as a 17 year old, put him a step ahead when he went back to Midget AAA in January.
-Played mostly fourth line minutes during the regular season
-Powerplay time in playoffs resulted in goals increase. Effective in front of the net.
Skyler Hladun was the muscle of the Billet Line last season. While Smerek and Boyer rely on speed to get things done, Hladun is big enough to push around most of the players in this league. That sometimes got him into trouble last season, as playing overly aggressive resulted in penalties like roughing and checking from behind. When Hladun gets his feet moving, he causes a lot of problems for teams. For a bigger guy (6'3, 195), he moves pretty well. However he can fall into the 'big guy' trap and become stationary. That does come in handy on the powerplay in front of the net, but can hinder his even strength game at times.
On the subject of the powerplay, Hladun became a very effective weapon in the playoffs for Bob Beatty. Planted in front of the net, Hladun is not exactly easy for goalies to see around. Add in the fact that he's tough to move, and has decent hands and you get half of his seven playoff goals. Hladun definitely showed the potential to be one of the premier power forwards in the league last season, but can he put it all together on a consistent basis?
Along with Nathan Boyer, Hladun can be one of the Ice Wolves break-out players this season. I was sitting next to him during the Wolves first pre-season game and actually asked him how many goals he thought he could pot this season. He replied with 25, which I don't think is out of the realm of possibility. If he spends the season on the first powerplay unit, which is probable, he'll create a lot of production that way. If he can consistently use his speed and strength, not just the size, he'll be too much for many of the defenders in the SJHL to handle. The tools are all there for him to succeed. I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing with Nathan Boyer most of the season and they already feature solid chemistry together. If they do play on the same line, expect big things between the two of them.
The important thing this season will be for Hladun to stay out of the penalty box. He was in the box for 87 minutes last season, which was tied for second on the Ice Wolves. The problem with that number is there were a few 2 and 10's for a check from behind. Those checks aren't just a detriment to his team, they're also dangerous. From talking to him, it's something he's going to be focused on avoiding this season.
Finding a median between aggressive play and a goal scoring game will be key for Hladun in his third SJHL season. With more powerplay time and ice time in general, there's no reason to think he can't double his regular season numbers from last year. That looks especially possible when you consider his points per game increase during the SJHL playoffs when he was on the powerplay and skating fourth line minutes the rest of the time. (Increase was from 0.4 points per game to about 0.58).
Projected 2011-12 Stat Line: 23 G - 18 A - 41 P