Prospect camps have started in several cities, most only last 3-5 days. They are a good opportunity to see some of the freshest prospects in a team’s system, younger invites that have been passed on their first year of draft eligibility and a few pro tryouts. I don’t hold much value in the results on the ice, but it is a good way for the kids to get to know their teammates and staffs.
Goaltending is for the most part luck of the draw, every goalie gets a chance be it split games or one game each. It can help staffs ‘tier’ goalies by what group they will be utilized in when the big camps begin. For the most part usually each group has one prospect and one legit goaltender, the better prospects tend to get placed in a group with the more veteran goalie, to ease the loads and soak up information. It is something to watch for when or if teams announce groups for camps.
We will continue out look at camp prospect to watch with the final eight teams in the Eastern Conference:
New York I – The Islanders have compiled a great list of prospects, some of which are finely percolating into legitimate NHLers now and are infused with exciting draftees exciting junior or hoping to. The main guy for poolies to watch with the most productive value at the moment is Anders Lee, all we watch for is which offensive unit he joins and does he get powerplay time? Unfortunately over the summer the Islanders signed several lower line forwards which are likely to eat up roster spots, but the contracts are smart enough that they could be consumed in the AHL, this will make things interesting for guys like Mike Halmo, John Persson and Johan Sundstrom as they try and show themselves as legit recalls or worthy regulars. Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang have great talents and upsides, but are likely best to serve another OHL season for maturity and body growth. One of the pair could see an audition in the first block of regular season games, before being sent back.
On paper the blueline features eight guys that are projectable on the lineup that must clear waivers to be sent down, in my opinion only a trio of which have firm locks and Matt Donovan has an inside track on number four. Its extremely difficult to see a situation that Griffin Reinhart fails to lock in a job if healthy, but he will be a gamble for production this season. Beyond him, Ryan Pulock, Ville Pokka, Andrey Pedan and Adam Pelech will be lock in competition season long to possibly eat games. All have offensive upside, good physical attributes and speed. It is my opinion all five of these guys will have NHL success at some point, making the Islanders the most exciting team as far as defensive upside.
Kevin Poulin was bumped from his gig over the summer as he could not be relied upon as being a legit backup to a team that needs to start garnering results now. He will be first recall when needed. He was actually passed on the depth chart by Anders Nilsson, but he went off and signed in Europe. Mikko Koskinen is actually the best prospect in Long Island, but he is going to be continuing his work in the KHL for this season. The organization is a mess in net and no prospects are currently worth looking at for poolies.
New York R – I’m pretty positive that the lineup for the Broadway crew will feature Kevin Hayes somewhere in the top 9, and like Anders Lee, we are watching who he is lined up alongside. Expect modest production from him, with the Rangers depth he may be a swing guy that will be in the press box every so often. A battle that may get interesting is for a utility man or 13th forward. The ‘Blueshirts’ will have a couple career minor leaguers battling the likes of Jasper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Haggarty and Chris McCarthy. Danny Kristo may make some noise, but I don’t feel he is a solid option yet.
The blueline going into camp is rather set, but Connor Allen, Dylan McIlrath and Petr Zamorsky have opportunities to impress and be options in the very near future.
Cam Talbot and Cedrick Desjardins will battle for one of the best jobs in hockey, holding towels for King Hendrick. Talbot should have the spot again after winning it last season, while Desjardins once again hits waivers and sits and waits in the weeds.
Ottawa – One of the best and wide open battles for making the NHL will be in Ottawa, currently there are a pair of openings and a pair of veterans that could be knocked off the roster in the nation’s capital. Curtis Lazar is extremely likely to get his 10 game audition and then stay on if he impresses. Mike Hoffman should lock down a spot also as he would need to clear waivers if assigned. Matt Puempel, Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau all have waiver exceptions and have eyes on seeing Lazar being sent back to junior. On the outside looking in is veteran AHLer Carter Camper who has been solid in Providence for the Bruins and Alex Guptill who has exited NCAA as part of the Spezza deal.
I struggle to understand what the team is doing on defense as they do not seem to have an opening on back end, but they signed waiver eligible Mark Borowiecki to an odd three year contract extension for over a million dollars. Over a trio of seasons he has accumulated a single NHL point in 21 contests and only 44 points at the AHL level. His real value is as a guy that drops the gloves, but signing the extension to a guy that is rather one sided and still has a year left on his old deal is mind boggling. Behind him Freddie Claesson and Alex Grant will battle for organizational ranking.
In net the situation is rather quiet with Andrew Hammond and Chris Driedger battling for the upper hand in the AHL as insurance.
Philadephia – The situation on forward features only one spot on the lowest line or 13th man. Jason Akeson is likely to eat that spot with little room for promotion. Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Petr Straka are best served to work on offence and growth for the Phantoms of the AHL.
Philly features a solid crop of prospect blueliners headlined by Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and pro vets Brandon Manning and Oliver Lauridsen, but none have an opportunity on opening night.
Robb Zepp will be returning to a North American training camp for the first time in 10 years. For those who don’t know of him, take notice. Zepp has won 5 German Championships in the past 7 years where all he has done is stop a ton of pucks. The 33-year-old is not a threat to make the opening roster, but is more an excellent insurance policy on Ray Emery while helping mature hot prospect Anthony Stolarz. Stolarz has turned pro and could be fast tracked in development in order for him to be in the NHL next season so this is a big camp for him and demands notice.
Pittsburgh – A fun camp all poolies take notice of for surprises or possible gems. Unfortunately is seems some fun has been removed as Kaspari Kapanen’s status seems like he has already been loaned to Finland for the upcoming season. He was the main competition to Beau Bennett for an offensive role beside either Crosby or Malkin. Instead Oskar Sundqvist and Jean-Sebastian Dea will try and make a run to be noticed. Sundqvist flies below radar but has good upside as a possible power forward if he adds meat to his frame.
It’s not a secret that Derrick Pouliot is coming to camp with a spot to lose. Should he officially lock it up, he will be the main offensive weapon from the blueline and should not disappoint, but his production is likely to be modest as he learns his craft. Also in the mix, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington and Philip Samuelsson.
Jeff Zakoff has been removed as backup, but because of waivers he may be part of a 3 man squad in the Penguins net. Matt Murray will turn pro and battle Eric Hartzell for the crease in the AHL.
Tampa Bay – There a pair of spots on forward that opened over the offseason and one is occupied by Jonathan Drouin. His job in camp will be to bust onto the Stamkos line and become a Calder Candidate. Brett Connolly is in a make or break year without waiver exemption, meaning he needs to lock on now or likely head elsewhere. Waiting in the wings, Vlad Namestnikov, Cedrick Paquette, Henri Ikonen and Adam Erne will likely rip up the minor leagues in scoring.
Openings on D are very limited as Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio entrenched themselves last year. Slater Koekkoek will just have to wait for a bit and hone his craft in the AHL until space opens.
Kristers Gudlevskis threw himself on the map last season, but the glory is short lived, he will be in the AHL with imposing Russian stud, Andrei Vasilevskiy who is likely going to start most of the games. Vasilevskiy in the AHL is nearly an insult for the 20-year-old who posted a .923 SV% in 28 KHL games last season. Nabokov was signed to start as backup to Ben Bishop, but I could see by Christmas, Nabokov being phased out.
Toronto – The center of the hockey universe is used to ill-advised decisions in training camp and allowing William Nylander to take a roster spot for the season would be one I feel will be avoided. The Leafs have brought several hungry vets to camp to compete with Peter Holland who needs to make a large impression in camp. Alongside Nylander, Connor Brown will look to have a big camp, showing he can add a spark to the offense sooner than later. Josh Leivo will also look to have a second solid showing and remain a quick recall option.
The blueline has an opening for a reserve guy and that battle will be best fought between Petter Granberg and waiver eligible Korbinan Holzer. Granberg earned the spot last season while Holzer rounded out his game fairly decently, but Holzer’s status and contract make him the more attractive oprion. Last season Andrew MacWilliam surprised with an excellent camp to but himself on the map but with limited upside, this year Eric Knodel and Matt Finn will be the pair to watch who have a substantially higher ceiling.
There is a three headed monster of a battle forming in the blue paint amongst the rookies. Politics say Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau are the two to watch, but I liked what I seen in Christopher Gibson last season and ultimately the organization should give time to the hottest guy. For poolies the outlook for ownership of these prospects is below average on all three, so avoid the situation until an injury in the NHL occurs to James Reimer or John Bernier.
Washington – Evgeni Kuznetsov on the Ovechkin line should be pretty much mathematical and is my favorite to provide us with a winner for the Calder trophy. Also with good outlooks attempting to crack the roster, Andre Burakovsky, Michael Latta and Chris Brown. All 3 project well for NHL production in the not too distant future with Latta’s waiver status making him a likely stay this season.
The Capitals lack defensive depth with prospects making Connor Carrick the only notable guy, but he isn’t really in the mix to make the NHL this fall.
Goaltending is dubious at best for the organization. Brayden Holtby is still a very questionable product, Justin Peters is extremely inconsistent an unsecure, so this leads to possible openings for Ed Pasquale who was pushed out of Winnipeg and Phil Grubauer 22-year-old that showed well last season. Personally I wouldn’t be owning any of these as a top 3 on my fantasy squad.
Next up will be ‘Western Conferance: Part One’