SUN Hockey Pool

5 Rookies to watch

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

1. DION PHANEUF

Defence, first round (9th overall) in 2003

The most dominant blueliner in junior hockey over the past two seasons, Phaneuf, 20, appears more than ready to make the jump to the big league.

Shortly after dealing Toni Lydman to Buffalo, Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter said he expected Phaneuf to crack the club's deep blueline brigade.

A complete package of skill, size and toughness, the former Red Deer Rebel is expected to be a mainstay in Calgary for the next decade.

2. ERIC NYSTROM

Left wing, first round (10th overall) in 2002

The son of former New York Islanders great, Bob, the younger Nystrom will be attending his first training camp with the Flames.

The 22-year-old capped off a four-year career at the University of Michigan with a 13-goal, 32-point campaign in 2004-05.

The 6-ft. 1-in., 205-lb. winger could endear himself to Sutter with his hard-nosed style and willingness to play in traffic.

3. MATT PELECH

Defence, first round (26th overall) in 2005

It'll be a few years before Pelech is ready to take a legitimate shot at cracking the Flames' roster. But at 6 ft. 4 in., 220 lb., he's an interesting project.

Pelech, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Sunday, was limited to just 31 games with the OHL's Sarnia Sting last season after breaking his jaw twice. But Flames scouts, who had their eye on the Toronto product before the season began, figured they'd seen enough to warrant spending a first-round pick. They'll want to see an injury-free season from the youngster in '05-06.

4. BRANDON PRUST

Left wing, third round (70th overall) in 2004

Prust scored just 10 goals last season with arguably the most potent attack in junior hockey history, the mighty London Knights. But the Flames aren't looking for offence from the 5-ft. 11-in. forward.

A defensive specialist, Prust helped his hometown Knights to a Memorial Cup title by holding scoring phenom Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet in the final.

The 21-year-old will likely hone his craft with AHL Omaha for a couple of seasons.

5. TOMI MAKI

Right wing, fourth round (108th overall) in 2001

This Finnish forward isn't going to fill the net. Maki lit the lamp just eight times over the past three seasons with the Helsinki Jokerit squad.

However, the gritty 6-ft., 183-pounder is solid defensively and can make things happen with his speed.

Maki, 22, could develop into a solid two-way player but will need to get accustomed to the North American game.


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