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THN.com Blog: Keeping a close eye on a few bubble prospects

Jonathan Ericsson played eight games with the Red Wings last season collecting one goal. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Jonathan Ericsson played eight games with the Red Wings last season collecting one goal. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

OK, so I'm an FHL simulation poolie. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

The CEHL is a league a good friend of mine has run for the past five years or so. For those unfamiliar with that type of pool, it simulates running a hockey franchise. You do everything from setting your lines to drafting a prospect pool who will, hopefully, one day lead you to glory (Glory being a banner enshrined on the league's website forever and bragging rights for a whole six months).

After running a team near the top of the standings for a few seasons (the Toronto Maple Leafs, if you can believe it) I decided to have a little fun by trying to take a team with little hope and gradually building them into a contender. The waiting is painful and the patience required might ultimately cause me to pull all my hair out, but deep down something tells me the virtual champagne will taste that much sweeter if I can ever pull it off.

Not to mention my gloating will ring down through the annals of online hockey history.

My team is still in its infancy. In fact, it flat-out reeks of putrid decay from an abandoned era. But I do have a good bunch of youth coming along I'm confident in. This re-build challenge adds to my excitement over NHL training camps as I wait on pins and needles to see if any of my blue-chippers or dark horses can crack their pro team's lineups.

So, with training camp rosters starting to be announced and some players already hitting the ice, here are a few players I own who I hope can find a way into the big leagues this year.

Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit
Another Swedish gem uncovered by the legendary Detroit scouting staff, he has been hyped as the next big thing to join their back end. The problem is, the Red Wings have quite a few defensemen who can hold their own in the NHL, so the hulking 24-year-old might end up in Grand Rapids again - especially since he’s waiver exempt - though my money is on him being a full-timer by season’s end.

Petri Kontiola, Chicago
He may have to wait until Robert Lang’s contract runs out after this season before a spot opens up, but after an impressive first season in North America in which he notched 68 points in 66 games with Rockford and five points in 12 games with the parent club, this crafty playmaker will get a look. If the Hawks get hit with the injury bug down the middle, Kontiola will certainly fill the void without looking out of place.

Michael Blunden, Chicago

He’s buried in a strong Hawks system and Dustin Byfuglien’s permanent move to the wing won’t help, either, but Blunden is a power forward who isn’t afraid to use his body to punish opponents in the corners and in front of the net. He will never be known for his point production in the NHL, but he has all the makings of a solid third-liner. He impressed me a few years ago as a member of Canada’s World Junior Championship entry and if he can’t find a spot in Chicago, perhaps another franchise will pursue his services.

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Mike Iggulden, Islanders
This one is a long shot, but Iggulden is coming along. Once used as a defensive specialist in his college days at Cornell, Iggulden has improved his offensive production in each of the past three seasons in the American League and even led Worcester in scoring last year. Stuck in a strong San Jose system, Iggulden had nowhere to go. However, a move to an Islanders team looking to give its youth a chance could be a good fit, especially since big pivots are so important in the NHL. Forwards like this take time to fully develop. He’s now in a favorable position, but is definitely still a dark horse.

Michael Frolik, Florida
There are three constants in life: death, taxes and the Florida Panthers having a rookie on their opening night roster. Shawn Matthias will likely make it, but Frolik – who has sometimes, unfairly, been compared to Jaromir Jagr – could also make the big club. The Panthers’ rookie camp kicks off Friday and the No. 10 overall pick in the 2006 draft will have holes being burned in the back of his helmet. This guy excites me, but the potential for him to be rushed into an NHL job before he is truly ready is high.

Rory Boylen is THN.com's web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.

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