by Corey Pronman
The Colorado Avalanche claimed Aaron Palushaj off waivers from Montreal. Here was my write up on Palushaj last season:
The Good: Palushaj is a smart playmaker who regularly shows above-average vision. Over the years he has improved his skating from very poor to pro level and times showing even above that. He’s got very desirable intangibles in regards to his on ice work ethic as he’s an energy bug who pressures well on the fore check, and gets involved in physical play.
The Bad: Palushaj’s strength and body are a major question mark as his strength level is not where it should be considering his age and pro experience. He can easily be out-muscled and will struggle to be the kind of physical player in the NHL that he is in the AHL barring improvement in that area. His puck skills are ok, but not top six forward caliber. Palushaj is kind of caught between a tweener area where he may not be good enough for top six, or be able to fit into a prototypical third line role.
Projection: He could be an average NHLer.
Palushaj has had a simply ok season so far but this could be chance on a lesser team with forward depth issues for Palushaj to get a chance. He’s not a 4th line NHL player and he will not be anything of value in that role so he has to sink or swim with at least semi-real minutes. It will be interesting to see how he fares with this new opportunity.
The Caroline Hurricanes waived winger Zach Boychuk who was then picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boychuk was the 14th overall pick in 2008 and as recently as the summer of 2011, I had ranked him as the 58th best drafted prospect in hockey. He was ineligible for my 2012 top 100 list, but he would not have been ranked if he was. Boychuk is a very skilled individual who has a ton of quickness, high-end puck skills and a quality shot. He has all the raw tools you want in a top six forward but he’s had issues in the pro game. Boychuk’s consistency has been a point of criticism from NHL sources, as well as his ability to put on strength, handle pro level physicality and his defensive value.
This year he did seem to be making some progress in the strength and consistency areas. He was very quality in the half season he spent in the AHL, and there’s a plausible argument he was starting to elevate his game to that next level.
In his short pro career Boychuk has been caught between not good enough to play an NHL scoring line and his inability to play a defensive role. If he’s come along enough he may be able to do the former with Pittsburgh at a fringe level. They would clearly only claim him if he’s going to get that opportunity to be given offensive ice time and succeed at what he’s best at. It may be one of those change of scenery things that could help get Boychuk going as well.