Under normal circumstances, teams adding players to their prospect teams isn’t a big deal. Players are trying to get as much exposure as possible to either earn a contract or get drafted next summer.
What makes this noteworthy is when the players added are players who have already been drafted.
The Blue Jackets added winger Nikita Korostolev and defencemen Jordan Sambrook to their Traverse City roster. Korostolev was selected by the Maple Leafs in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, while Sambrook was picked by the Red Wings in the fifth round in 2016. Both players spent this season playing in Ontario Hockey League, Korostolev with Peterborough while Sambrook split time between Erie and Sault Ste. Marie.
Korostolev is a skilled sniper. He can shoot the puck with the best of them. He scored 30 goals for the Petes and added 45 assists in 64 games. Very strong numbers on a team that was bad, missing the playoffs. When the season ended, Korostolev played in the AHL for the Laval Rocket where he had a goal and an assist in 10 games.
Korostolev is a similar player to Kole Sherwood. Sherwood might not have as good a shot, but is a better two-way player. Korostolev can go invisible when he’s not producing; he’s not a good defensive player by any means and his off-the-puck skills need some work. That being said, his offensive tools are there, it’s just a matter of whether that’s enough to overcome the rest of the flaws in his game.
Korostolev is off to the KHL next season and what he does next season will be a big indicator if he has what it takes to play professionally.
Sambrook, on the other hand, could be ready for pro hockey and is an NHL prospect, though a lower-end one. It was a little surprising to see the Red Wings not extend him a contract offer. The Red Wings, as a rebuilding club, must feel that they have better options and players they want to give ice time to. The Jackets don’t have that problem. Much has been made of the Blue Jackets prospect pool, notably on defense – plain and simple, they are light on the back end.
Sambrook isn’t going to make a big impact on the prospect pool but he would be a step in the right direction. He has the size teams like at 6-foot-2, and he moves well. He can play conservative at times, but this is not another big shutdown defenseman. Sambrook has some offensive ability in his game: he scored 40 points in 61 games in 2016-17 on a strong Otters team that went to the Memorial Cup. He started well with Erie this past season with 24 points in 38 games, playing in all situations. After a trade to the Soo at the deadline he was pushed into a smaller role but still had a respectable 15 points in 29 games.
He has enough skill to warrant a team taking a chance on him. At 20 years old Sambrook is eligible to play in the AHL but it’s quite likely he spends one final season in the OHL before turning pro.
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