Patrick Wiercioch's development has been something less than a positive linear track. To see him slip down Pronman's Top 100 from 17 in 2010, to 90 in 2011, to unlisted as of this week was not wholly surprising.
It's easy to forget that Wiercioch's freshman year at 18 is among the most impressive by an NCAA defenseman in recent memory – 35pts in 36gp earned a WCHA Second All-Star Team selection. A season in which his shot rate was an impressive 2.94 per game, third best on the team, just for comparison sake this past year Karlsson shot 3.22 per game.
While he followed up that rookie campaign with a solid sophomore season – 27pts in 39gp and WCHA First All-Star team honours. His shot rate fell back by about a 1/3 to 1.92 per game, good for eighth on the team. At this stage Wiercioch left Denver to sign with Binghamton (Bryan Murray was openly talking of him making the leap to the big club midway through the season a la Karlsson in 09/10).
His growing pains upon landing in the AHL were more than figurative. While Wiercioch stands 6'4, he's had a difficult time putting on size – as his 192lbs listed weight will attest. Furthermore unlike CHL prospects that are accustomed to playing the length of a professional schedule, collegiate products play in half as many games.
Through two seasons in the AHL he's yet to best 20 points. His shot rate in 10/11 was .88 per game, in 11/12 he bumped it back to 1.78.
It's hard to speak to Wiercioch's usage without watching the B-Sens regularly, nevertheless the fact his shot numbers rebounded this past season is a positive sign for his offensive game. That this occured in a season in which the B-Sens were generally awful, not to mention having to overcome a traumatic throat injury is notable.
Much has been made of the positive effects Kyle Turris hopes to reap from busting his ass in the gym with Chris Schwarz this summer, Wiercioch has been on the same program as his former Burnaby Express teammate. An article published by the team in late August had him up to 210lbs from 192 last September (this after reportedly dropping 20-25lbs in the hospital). Not sure where the truth lies here.
Wiercioch turned 22 ten days ago and I don't think I'm the only fan who's curious to see if he can take another step this season.
Blame the influx of other new prospects to distract us. Or blame last season's injury that cost him developmental time. Whatever the reason, in many circles (this one included), Wiercioch has become somewhat of an afterthought amongst Senators fans. Truth is, it's far too easy to write off a raw talent who doesn't immediately light the world on fire at every level. Although he may never reach or fulfill his projected ceiling, if he can become a 5/6 player for the Sens one day, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.