Brendan Ross dissects prospects from all 30 NHL teams to keep an eye on this season.
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Get out your packed-away hockey equipment and welcome the aroma of hockey into your home as it’s finally HOCKEY SEASON!!!
After watching our beer league teams being selected in our online draft for my men’s league earlier this week (if interested, check out our website here), I started getting anxious for the season to begin. I had a chuckle at this post on MENS LEAGUE: WHAT YOU’RE DOING WRONG. Warning: For adult eyes only ;)
With NHL training camps underway, I want to take a quick look at prospects around the league that I am most interested in following. Highlighted below, I touch on (at least) one prospect from each NHL franchise with some babbling or bold prediction attached.
Emerson Etem (LW, Anaheim Ducks) – The speedy goal scoring winger will have more opportunity with Bobby Ryan no longer in town. The Ducks will be relying on the next generation of talent to provide production that includes Kyle Palmieri, Jakob Silfverberg and Peter Holland.
Rickard Rakell (C/RW) and Hampus Lindholm (D) (Anaheim Ducks) – Dobber didn’t pencil in either of these Swedes to play games in the Fantasy Guide but they come into camp looking to earn a roster spot. Rakell played four games last year and was kept around last season for quite some time before finally being returned to Plymouth but he showed that he can contribute as a bottom-six forward. Lindholm posted 11 points in 44 AHL games last season and with the Souray injury, the 2012 6th overall pick is on the verge of cracking this roster.
Torey Krug (D, Boston Bruins) – Was Krug’s playoff performance (4G, 6P in 15GP) legit? I’m treading lightly with Krug hype right now. I certainly see the offensive potential but want to see how he handles camp before jumping on the Krugwagon.
Mikhail Grigorenko (C, Buffalo Sabres) – Entering my own fantasy drafts, names like Drouin, MacKinnon, Barkov, Jones, Strome, Nurse and even Elias Lindholm have been snatched up but I was shocked to see that Mikhail Grigorenko remains available. Consistency will be his challenge but he comes into camp more prepared (suffered from Mono last summer) and I’m not sure Tyler Ennis or Cody Hodgson (never been a big fan of CH) are long term threats.
Sabres side note: I was able to take in some Kitchener Rangers’ training camp action last week and was very impressed with Justin Bailey (2nd round, 2013). He owns great size and some of the slickest mitts in the OHL. Look for him to contend for the OHL scoring title.
Sean Monahan (C, Calgary Flames) – Joining fellow Flames’ prospect Sven Bartschi as one of my personal favourites, Sean Monahan will get a loooooong look at Flames camp. Monahan was one of the oldest draftees of the 2013 draft class and already has three OHL seasons under his belt which only increases his chances of making the Flames roster. Ottawa 67s fans are certainly calling for him to return but Monahan will have to have a flop of a camp to not get at least nine games of NHL action.
Elias Lindholm (C) and Ryan Murphy (D) (Carolina Hurricanes) – Despite coming off a recent shoulder injury that could see him miss some time, Elias Lindholm (5th overall, 2013) is a player that the Canes want on their roster but he may need to spend some time in Charlotte nursing himself back to health before getting his big break. Working in Lindholm’s favour is his ability to play every forward position as it appears that he will have strict competition at his natural position of centre (E. Staal, Skinner, Jo. Staal, Dalpe, Nash).
Ryan Murphy just received the biggest opportunity of his career with news that the Canes top puck moving defensemen, Joni Pitkanen, will miss part of the season due to injury. Murphy has improved defensively and has really focused on his conditioning so he’s more ready to play this season.
Brandon Pirri (C) and Jeremy Morin (RW) (Chicago Blackhawks) – Here are two young Hawks who have put in their time and are ready to play some NHL puck. Morin is the player I am more intrigued with just because of his long history of injury so I am pulling for him to succeed. At least one of these two players will have a big season.
Nathan MacKinnon (C, Colorado Avalanche) – The intrigue with MacKinnon this year comes from the unknown on how the Avalanche plan on using him. With tremendous center depth, will Colorado play MacKinnon at centre? Will MacKinnon shift to the wing? Will Colorado trade one of their pivots (ahem, Stastny) to make room for this emerging talent? The likely scenario is experimenting with all of the above.
Ryan Murray (D, Columbus Blue Jackets) – Entering my draft needing to fill two defensive spots, I totally forgot about Ryan Murray after he missed last season with a shoulder injury. Of course I was a bit angry at my ignorance but after reflection, I am fine with my omission from my draft list. Murray will certainly step into the Jackets’ lineup as a bottom pairing defenseman but I question whether he will receive powerplay minutes with Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin ahead of him. Murray will get those minutes eventually but in my league, I cannot afford to wait.
Valeri Nichushkin (LW, Dallas Stars) – The big Russian wanted to play immediately in the NHL and he will receive that opportunity now that he’s a member of the Dallas Stars. I remain on the fence when it comes to Valeri Nichushkin as a potential “star” player. I love his size. His skating is obviously strong. He’s north-south style of attack suits the NHL well. However, I have never watched him play a game and walked away enamoured with his overall game. At the NHL level, I suspect he will fall into a complementary winger who posts between 55-65 points per year but that’s just my initial thought and with more viewings, I will be able to establish clearer vision. From a dozen viewings to date, I find Nichushkin to be a great talent when he is in possession of the puck but see him as a player who may be difficult to play with. Time will tell.
Brendan Smith (D, Detroit Red Wings) – Is Brendan Smith still a prospect? For me, he is. The 2013-14 NHL season should clear up how Brendan Smith will develop as a fantasy prospect. With Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo leaving Motor City, Smith knows where he stands and his new role should include secondary powerplay time alongside Jakub Kindl.
Anton Belov (D, Edmonton Oilers) – I would’ve loved to touch on Darnell Nurse as a potential building block on the Oilers’ blueline but he should return to the OHL so I’m more intrigued with Anton Belov, the KHL defect. Belov, 27, finished 8th in KHL Defensive scoring with 26 points in 46 games playing for Avangard Omsk.
Aleksander Barkov (C, Florida Panthers) – While MacKinnon and Drouin get all the hype in fantasy circles, Barkov eases his way into Panthers camp looking to claw his way to top-line duties quickly. With little competition down the middle, Barkov should find his way to the top line centre position fairly quickly. Once he arrives there, he has the opportunity to form one of the more dangerous young duos in the NHL with sophomore Jonathan Huberdeau. Scary stuff. In my opinion, now is the time to acquire Barkov in your fantasy leagues as I have a feeling he’ll be a heavy contender for the Calder Trophy. UPDATE: Barkov will be held out of the Panther’s prospect tournament as a precautionary measure (coming off a shoulder injury).
Tyler Toffoli (RW, Los Angeles Kings) – Toffoli is my sleeper favourite for the Calder Trophy. Mark it. What I love most about Tyler Toffoli is his history for translating to new leagues almost flawlessly, putting up points in every new league he enters. Toffoli just knows how to score and the Kings desperately need some scoring help. Enter Toffoli. Acquire him now in your leagues while you still can.
Mikael Granlund (C), Nino Niederreiter (RW), Charlie Coyle (RW) and Jonas Brodin (D) (Minnesota Wild) – Who finishes the season as the highest scorer among these three gems? My guess is that Charlie Coyle edges out Granlund. Oh, and don’t count out Jonas Brodin as a contender in this contest. He will be one of the NHL’s best defensemen very soon.
Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu (D, Montreal Canadiens) – After three years of waiting, Jarred Tinordi should finally crack the regular roster and his fantasy value will rely heavily on his penalty minutes (for the first few years). After a summer of legal trouble, Nathan Beaulieu needs to regain his focus and show that he’s mature enough to deserve a spot on the Canadiens backend.
Seth Jones (D) and Filip Forsberg (C) (Nashville Predators) – Over the past few seasons, Nashville Predators fans have gone through some up and down moments. After losing Ryan Suter to free agency and almost watching their captain Shea Weber leave via an offer sheet, good fortune entered Smashville. Flipping the oft-injured Martin Erat for potential first line pivot Filip Forsberg was glorious news. When Seth Jones fell to the Predators at the 2013 NHL Draft, David Poille was seen sitting in the rafters of the Prudential Center after leaping for joy. Expect Jones and Forsberg to re-brand the Predators franchise.
Stefan Matteau (LW, New Jersey Devils) – There’s a lot of pressure on Stefan Matteau, warranted or not, after the Devils selected him 29th overall (2012) instead of opting to choose to forfeit the pick, a punishment placed on them after the messy signing of Kovalchuk. As a result, the Devils will be forced to forfeit their 2014 1st round selection and it stings even more with Kovalchuk departing for the KHL this summer. Matteau was scrutinized for his poor attitude last season so it’s vital that he enters Devils camp with a clear mind and new attitude.
Ryan Strome (C, New York Islanders) – The Islanders are an up-and-coming team and they’re ready to take the next step and Ryan Strome is an integral part of their future success. He is a highly touted prospect after being drafted 5th overall (2011) and the Islanders will certainly welcome his arrival on Long Island, but his spot will still have to be earned. Strome enters camp with heavy competition at his natural centre position (Tavares, Nielsen, Cizikas, Regin) and while some people suggest he could switch to the wing, it’s important to note that those positions aren’t a gimme for Strome either.
JT Miller (C, New York Rangers) – With no true rookies slated to crack the Rangers’ roster, keep an eye on JT Miller as a potential camp standout. Miller has the ability to play several different roles and positions so that helps his chances but in the end, he’s still a year or two away from a regular spot in the Big Apple.
Robin Lehner (G, Ottawa Senators) – Easily my favourite goaltender prospect, Robin Lehner is ready for NHL action and we’re only another Craig Anderson injury away from him grabbing the starting position and never letting go. My confidence in Lehner becoming an elite NHL goaltender is VERY high.
Scott Laughton (C, Philadelphia Flyers) – The Flyers have had great success in recent years drafting prospects with great two-way abilities. Maxime Talbot’s arrival in Philly complicates matters but I expect the Flyers to find a way to keep Laughton up with the big club. He may have to spend some time in Adirondack waiting for an injury to strike.
Max Domi (C), Henrik Samuelsson (RW), Brandon Gormley (D), and Connor Murphy (D) (Phoenix Coyotes) – Expectations that only one (or none) of these prospects will play as a regular in the Coyotes lineup but I am interested to see their performances in camp. Max Domi will likely get his nine game trial to start the season with a good showing at camp and I hope that he gets placed into an offensive role with PP opportunity if they do keep him around. Henrik Samuelsson has the best chance to make this team as a depth right winger but he’s probably best served with AHL seasoning. Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy are two potential future studs on the blue line but Gormley patiently waits for his opportunity in a long line of offensive defensemen. Murphy needs to show that he can remain healthy after missing significant portions of his last two OHL seasons and he will likely attempt that in the AHL.
Beau Bennett (LW, Pittsburgh Penguins) – Easy analysis here – Can Beau Bennett become the complimentary winger the Pens have been searching years for? I think he steps up and delivers.
Side Note: Dustin Jeffrey has been pushed aside for years now but he’s one of the main victims of Pittsburgh’s trial and error process of trying to find Crosby’s winger by bringing in aging vets. He is playing for a future contract on another team and he’s more than capable of cracking 90% of the league’s roster.
Matt Tennyson (D, San Jose Sharks) – Two points in four games with San Jose after posting 27 points in 66 games with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks is enough to turn my head, especially considering Dan Boyle isn’t getting any younger. I wouldn’t expect huge production this season but take note of how the Sharks use him in game action.
Vladimir Tarasenko (RW) and Magnus Paajarvi (LW) (St. Louis Blues) – After 10 points in his first eight games of NHL duty, Tarasenko was the hottest commodity in fantasy leagues. The young dynamic Russian slowed down as midseason approached and after a concussion and a few healthy scratches, Tarasenko was rarely finding the scoresheet. In the off-season, St.Louis informed Tarasenko to arrive in better shape for camp so it will be interesting to see if he can find consistency in his sophomore season.
I’ve always liked Magnus Paajarvi and I’m glad to see him get a new opportunity. However, St.Louis is hardly the place you want Paajarvi to land if you’re a fantasy owner. I expect Paajarvi to become another middling Blues forward who posts average offensive numbers.
Jonathan Drouin (LW, Tampa Bay Lightning) – It’s no secret that I have been a Drouin fan for quite some time now but I am most interested in seeing how Tampa Bay uses him (alongside Stamkos and St. Louis?) and how long it takes for him to earn that top line duty (because it WILL happen). Drouin’s fantasy relevance for the 2013-14 NHL season depends largely on how the Lightning decide to integrate this star in the making. After winning the CHL Memorial Cup and CHL Player of the Year award, I would be shocked if Drouin is returned to junior.
Morgan Rielly (D, Toronto Maple Leafs) – With two potential landing spots for Morgan Rielly (back to Moose Jaw or with the Toronto Maple Leafs), he has some tough competition (mainly tough contracts) to remain on the parent club. In a perfect world, Rielly would be sent to the AHL to wait out his opportunity but he’s too young to be eligible for the Toronto Marlies. At the moment, Rielly is on the outside looking in unless he can ‘wow’ during camp.
Bo Horvat (C, Vancouver Canucks) – At this time last year, I had Bo Horvat ranked as a top 15 prospect heading into his draft year, while others snickered at my placement of him. Truth be told, I have been following Horvat’s career since his Bantam days as he grew up near my small town but I was ecstatic to see him drafted inside the Top 10 last June. Horvat will enter Canucks camp with a real shot of making the squad and it’s based solely on his ability to adapt to a specific role. An good defensive forward, an excellent shooter and an even better faceoff man, Bo Horvat owns so many facets to his game and one of the reasons he has become such a great leader and accomplished winner.
Tom Wilson (RW) and Andre Burakovsky (C/LW) (Washington Capitals) – Wilson’s tough and gritty game could potentially find himself a spot on Washington’s opening day roster and while he may spend some time in the press box, I expect Wilson to make the squad. Burakovsky was convinced to report to the Erie Otters’ of the OHL (after rumours surfaced that he wouldn’t) for the upcoming season and will team up with phenom Connor McDavid. Burakovsky was one of my favourite fantasy players entering the 2013 NHL Draft as he owns some impressive offensive skills and will look to show that this season in Erie.
Mark Scheifele (C) and Jacob Trouba (D) (Winnipeg Jets) – The 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets season will be all about starting anew with them joining the Central Division and Western Conference. Furthermore, barring a complete disastrous training camp, Winnipeg will officially welcome top prospects Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba to their roster and both players should contend for the Calder Trophy. After winning the 2013 WJC Best Defenseman and 2013 NCAA Best Offensive Defenseman last season, I cannot wait to see how Jacob Trouba plays in the NHL as his development over the past two seasons has been downright outstanding.
Jacob Trouba U of M Highlights (2012-13):
Flashback to Tyler Toffoli’s 2010 Draft Profile (with an appearance from the late E.J. McGuire):
Oilers Anton Belov bomb (0:50)
Hope you enjoyed the read and stayed with me throughout this lengthy piece.
Thanks for reading,