NHL Prospect Camp Ramblings

Dean Youngblood

2014-09-15

Monday, September 15th

 

Buckle up folks and get your bookmarks ready, today’s prospect camp and tournament updates/thoughts are coming in the form of a massive hockey avalanche.

 

NHL prospect tournaments are in full swing and it’s that time of the year where we start taking down names on players whose hard work in the summer is translating into great things on the ice. In fantasy hockey, any bit of progression (good or bad) news is a chip in your hand.

 

After attending several junior training camps and even more exhibition games, here are a few names of draftees who may be ready to step into stardom in their respective leagues.

 

 

 

 

The Anaheim Ducks’ prospect cupboards are one of the best when considering NHL-ready players. With John Gibson, Rickard Rakell, William Karlsson, Stefan Noesen, Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore and Nic Kerdiles, the ducklings are looking very good. Honestly, one of my favourite prospect lineups resides in Anaheim. Look for Nic Kerdiles to be a player who won’t take long to adjust to the NHL game. I expect him to be a breakout player this year with Norfolk (turned pro after last season) and force the hands of the Ducks. Many of these players will use the prospect camps/tournaments to prepare for the NHL main camp before heading back to their junior, collegiate or AHL teams (except for Gibson and Rakell).

 

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Under the new name “Arizona Coyotes”, forward Henrik Samuelsson is turning heads early in camp and appears to be carrying the momentum after a strong showing at the 2014 CHL Memorial Cup Championship, where he helped his Edmonton Oil Kings capture the title. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Hank push for a bottom six role this season. More likely, Samuelsson will attempt to acclimate himself in the AHL.

 

Max Domi is the Arizona Coyotes top prospect and even after a roller-coaster OHL season, he’s expected to make the main roster. He was wildly inconsistent and showed a lack of effort last year but even as frustrating as he was to watch last year, Domi needs to be challenged at the pro level to see if his special offensive talent can emerge against the best players….and, yes, I do think it will. In a system not known for offensive surges, Domi’s talents could change the dessert’s landscape.

 

I was able to catch Brendan Perlini in OHL training camp action and I remain extremely impressed with his skating ability. Honestly, Perlini is one of the best skaters in recent memory. His lengthy stride features every element you want from an elite skater – acceleration, power, quickness and lateral agility. As good as he was flying down the wing, Perlini will certainly be returned to the Niagara IceDogs where he will attempt to improve upon his 2013-14 breakout season. He still has work to do on his consistency and physical play but he should remain one of the OHL’s top scorers.

 

One under the radar prospect to watch is Coyotes Tyler Gaudet. He has been a rising prospect who the Coyotes signed as a free agent but his blue-collar work ethic and intelligent two-way play could see him crack the roster as a 4th line player.

 

Last Coyotes prospect to watch …. Defenseman Connor Murphy. Many people peg Murphy as a defender who will draw mainly defensive minutes and that may be true to a degree but I witnessed him confidently run an offense in Sarnia and know that he has some underlying offensive upside. He has already earned significant minutes with Arizona/Phoenix so we know that the organization values him. More offensive minutes will come his way and he’ll exceed people’s offensive expectations (as long as he remains healthy).

 

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The Boston Bruins have several prospects ready to push the coaching staff and that begins with Ryan Spooner who I feel could replicate a similar game to David Krejci and create a more dynamic offense in Boston. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the crafty pivot reach double digits in goals and push for 35-40 points with the B’s.

 

Alexander Khokhlachev enjoyed a great campaign with Providence last year and he will see spot duty with the B’s but he’s destined for more AHL action.

 

Top 2014 pick, David Pastrnak has been a glowing prospect early in tournament play showing that his non-stop motor was an equally as threatening defensively as it was offensively. Coaching brass was really excited about his creativity even though it comes with some risk defensively. Pastrnak showed a commitment to backchecking which will only give him more opportunity to perfect his offensive attacks. The Bruins nabbed Pastrnak with the 25th pick last June and in a couple of seasons I wouldn’t be surprised to see us wondering how that was even possible.

 

Keep an eye on former OHL scoring star Seth Griffith as he looks to improve upon his 50-point AHL rookie season. Big year for Griffith as he looks to solidify himself as a legitimate NHL call-up.

 

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Buffalo Sabres’ 2013 2nd round selection (52nd), Justin Bailey, was a standout in camp as he was finding the twine with ease. He had four goals in scrimmage action in the opening six minutes. Possessing natural scoring instincts and a frame that is developing nicely, Bailey is primed for a breakout with the Kitchener Rangers. He has been sidelined with injuries in both of his OHL campaigns but he’s a healthy season away from launching himself into the league’s elite scoring group and clearing point-per-game numbers for the first time. Look for Justin Bailey to be among the made-available players come OHL trade deadline for team’s looking to bulk up their offensive output for a long playoff run.

 

Sabres are also looking for one (or more) of Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and/or Jake McCabe to play their way onto the main club’s blueline permanently. Ristolainen is the front runner but Buffalo wants Zadorov to show that he’s capable of moving up the depth chart sooner than later.

 

All eyes are on the Sabres shiny new prize in Sam Reinhart but don’t be surprised if the Sabres take their time with this young prospect. Reinhart is among the smartest players of his age group but handling the 82-game season isn’t an easy one and Buffalo won’t rush him.

“Sam is a talented player, but we’re in a position now that we’re not going to rush anybody,” Kevin Devine (director of player personnel) said. “Our team has improved, but as far as us being Stanley Cup contenders, it might take a little while. Sam has all the tools, but the question will be is he physically strong enough to play against NHL players. That’s the question mark for me, and I hope he makes it easy for us and plays so well that he leaves no doubt.” “A lot will have to do with his training camp when he’s playing with and against NHL players in the [preseason] games,” Devine said. “We’d love for him to step in and be a real force, but we’re not going to rush him.” (NHL.com)

 

 

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Calgary Flames have introduced their top 2014 pick, Sam Bennett, but it’s potential Calder Trophy candidate Johnny Gaudreau who is receiving a ton of focus. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Johnny in the past months,Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “No. 1, he’s a great human being. I believe that great people make great teams. It’s his hockey smarts with the puck, his knowledge of the game, his vision with the puck, his ability to create space for himself while giving unbelievable passes. It seems that he has that knack to make simple plays that other players just can’t do.

 

Sam Bennett actually had the luxury of playing with Connor McDavid (2015 NHL Draft phenom) with the Toronto Marlboros and compared playing with McDavid to playing with Gaudreau. That speaks volumes to both players’ skillsets.

 

Johnny Gaudreau flashing his stuff: {youtube}UUiliG5VxHNHJR4ooEW0R0dQ{/youtube}

 

This Bennett kid isn’t too shabby either and has been a standout with the Flames at the Penticton prospect tournament as well.

 

Flames assistant Todd Gill saying that the performance of Sam Bennett – the best player on the ice by a fairly large margin – was nothing. And Gill would know. He coached Bennett the past two seasons with the OHL Kingston Frontenacs

 

Personally, I can’t see the Flames rushing Bennett and if he’s returned to the Kingston Frontenacs, he should go head-to-head with former teammate Connor McDavid for the OHL scoring title.

 

Sam Bennett wrap-a-around goal at Young Stars Tournament: {youtube}UUiliG5VxHNHJR4ooEW0R0dQ{/youtube}

 

While Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau draw the spotlight, I’ve got a gut feeling that Markus Granlund is the prospect who could surprise most as a Flames member this year. Paired with Michael Ferland and Josh Jooris, Granlund’s line has been the most productive in Penticton. I could see Granlund move up the Flames depth charts fairly quickly and it starts as main camp kicks off in a week.

 

Whatever happened to that 2012 1st round homerun pick the Flames made when they selected Mark Jankowski 21st overall? Haven’t came across much press on his progress. I said “why?” at the time of the selection and my question still remains relevant.

 

Brock McGinn and Haydn Fleury are the two Canes’ prospects I am closely watching. I was very, VERY impressed with Fleury’s performance at the Under-18 World Championships last spring. He thinks the game extremely well and few defensemen combine their size and mobility as well as Carolina’s 7th overall selection. Aaron Ekblad was the unanimous top ranked defender but Fleury has the skill set to push him throughout their NHL careers.

 

Brock McGinn is the type of player every coach wants in his lineup simply because he can mold his game and fill out a number of roles. Skilled enough to complement a scoring line but where he really excels is playing his gritty agitating style and that will help him translate to the NHL quicker than other more one-dimensional prospects.

 

Not big by NHL goaltender standards, Alex Nedeljkovic showed well in his first tournament game. I remain confident that Nedeljkovic will emerge as one of the best goaltenders from the 2014 draft. He’s extremely athletic and can steal games with the best of them.

 

Of course, free agent signee Sergey Tolchinsky is looking to replicate his outstanding training camp from last year – ya know, the one that earned him an NHL contract. He’s a thrilling talent to watch!

 

UPDATE: Veteran prospect Victor Rask is having a nice little showing in Traverse City as he played the hero scoring the OT winner vs. the Rangers Monday evening. His shot is lethal and it shows in his tournament stats (4G 2A in three games).

 

 

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The Blackhawks have held out potential future fantasy stud Teuvo Teravainen from tournament games in London but that shouldn’t diminish the excitement. Fantasy owners are eager to see their prized asset in action but Chicago might have different plans. Although I realize his immediate success at the NHL may be limited due to Chicago’s ridiculous forward depth, I still believe this kid has to be one of the better forwards. Patience is the key with Teravainen (video profile) and the Hawks are in no position to rush a player they really don’t need and risk his development. Now that Brad Richards is in the windy city, it certainly won’t help this Finn’s immediate opportunities. Time is on their side with Teravainen.

 

UPDATE: Teravainen played Monday night and he registered three assists including this beauty…

 

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Defenseman Stephen Johns (2010, 60th overall) had some impressive moments in Chicago’s tournament games. Not afraid to jump into the rush and with his size, he’ll shouldn’t have any issues transitioning to the AHL from a physical standpoint. Johns had five points in an eight game call up with Rockford last year.

 

Phillip Danault doesn’t possess the high-end offensive skills that us fantasy owners seek but he’ll definitely become a valuable pro in deeper keeper leagues. There’s something about NHL certainty that you shouldn’t overlook in the dying rounds of deep drafts.

 

Look for 2014 1st rounder Nick Schmaltz to be one of the nation’s top rookies as he takes his skilled game to the University of North Dakota, where he will team up with brother Jordan Schmaltz (St. Louis Blues).

 

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The Avalanche are just breaking ice on the first day of prospect camp so there isn’t a lot to report here. Clearly, Conner Bleackley (2014 1st round selection) will draw a lot of attention. It seems that we have been waiting on 2009 draftees Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott to breakout as defensive superstars forever but after Barrie exploded for 13 goals and 38 points last season, the former is here to stay.

 

Look for Elliott to finally remain with the big club. Concussion nightmares have setback former 1st rounder (2010) Joey Hishon but after suiting up in 50 games with Lake Erie, he could be in for a uplifting season, likely splitting time between the AHL and NHL.

 

Keep watch for Chris Bigras in training camp after he impressed the Avs brass with a strong showing last fall.

 

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Ready to jump into professional action, London Knights forward Josh Anderson has been a notable standout scoring two shorthanded goals in Monday’s prospect game versus St. Louis. He’s a big power forward who plays a low-maintenance and smart two-way game. He’s a competitor who could step into a bottom-six role simply because he plays such a simple game.

 

Alexander Wennberg was impressive during Columbus’ development camps during the summer and he will head to main camp looking to make decisions tough for John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen and company. It’s expected that Wennberg will start in the AHL with Springfield but if he can flash his playmaking brilliance and show management how strong of a two-way player he can be, he may pass some on the depth charts.

 

Kerby Rychel (the second 2013 1st round pick) will certainly start with the AHL Falcons and look to ride the momentum he gained after being traded and winning the OHL Championship with Guelph. Rychel isn’t the type of player to create a lot of scoring chances but few players have his type of finishing abilities.

 

From Columbus’ organization, Mike Reilly is my favourite sleeper pick for fantasy leagues. He doesn’t come with the same draft pedigree as many of the others but this offensive defenseman was named the Big Ten’s Defenseman of the Year after racking up nine goals and 33 points in 41 games with the University of Minnesota.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets 2014 1st rounder, Sonny Milano, was slated to excite CBJ fans at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament but that excitement was short lived after the slick winger suffered some facial injuries that will sideline him from the tournament. Milano could be out for up to two weeks before returning to Plymouth. If you check the DobberProspects’ Columbus page, you’ll notice that Milano is listed as Columbus’ 6th best prospect to own. Personally, he’d be #1 on my list.

 

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The Detroit Red Wings haven’t had a prospect jump from junior hockey to the NHL main roster since Jiri Fischler did it in 1999 but Anthony Mantha could be the first to do so. That’s unheard of in a patient organization like Detroit and speaks volumes to Mantha’s development over the past year. Mantha has scored 160 goals in 226 games with Val d’Or becoming the CHL’s most lethal scorer.

 

“Ken (Holland) will be the first to say that goes against his managing philosophy,” Assistant GM Kris Draper told NHL.com. “Because of what he’s done in major junior he’s kind of accelerated (his path) and given himself an opportunity to legitimately be a Detroit Red Wing and an opportunity to crack our top six.”

 

“He’ll get an opportunity, whether it’s playing on the wing with (Pavel Datsyuk) or (Henrik Zetterberg). But he’s going to get an opportunity to play with one of those guys. Then it’s really up to him. We all feel Anthony is a special player and somebody who has earned an opportunity to make the big club.

 

“We feel that we have something special in Anthony Mantha. We want him to make the team. We want him to come out and light it up in training camp and preseason games. We open up against Boston and can put a guy out there who is 6-foot-4 on our first line. We would love that. The opportunity is going to be there and it’s up to him to embrace it.”

 

Look for former Barrie Colts’ sniper Andreas Athanasiou to take steps in his development this year. He was a bit of a streaky scorer at the OHL level but he’s lining up next to the above-mentioned Mantha at the prospects tournament so opportunity knocks to improve his confidence. Athanasiou is a very skilled player and he will take a few seasons to get his feet wet but the scoring potential is there.

 

Athanasiou and Mantha will be joined by the gritty Tyler Bertuzzi (one of my favourite OHLers to watch from last season). Keep an eye on this trio.

 

Mantha scored three goals in the opening two games (vs. STL and CBJ) playing on a strong line with Tomas Nosek and Martin Frk.

 

So where are each of these players slated to play this season?

 

“While Mantha and Athanasiou will likely end up as teammates in Grand Rapids – providing Mantha doesn’t surprise everyone by making the Red Wings’ roster – Bertuzzi is headed back to junior hockey in Guelph for one more season

 

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As always, the enthusiastic @BoltsProspects has provided a comprehensive breakdown of Tampa Bay Lightning prospects from their action in Nashville.

 

Of note, here are a few snippets:

 

Jonathan Drouin… clearly the top prospect in the world who hasn’t played in the NHL. I absolutely love him but keep my expectations in check. I don’t expect him to come right into the NHL and light it up…that is unless he gets Stamkos linemate treatment right away. Isn’t that potential duo a tad-bit exciting? Ya, that’s what I thought.

 

“27 Jonathan Drouin: Had a quiet first period before coming alive on the power play in the second period on Saturday. He likes to start on the left wall before flipping to the right. Head is constantly up, as is his effort – which is huge. A lot of skill players come out of juniors without the effort Drouin has showed – or showed last year in Lightning camp. He passes out of scoring opportunities a lot, which he can’t do in Tampa this year as he tries to fit in. That, and playing with high confidence early, will be the biggest adjustments for him as an NHLer if he is to reach his peak quickly (remember how Stamkos tried to fit in before he had the confidence to do what he wanted to). Drouin is in much better shape than last year (athlete vs teenage player) and is exhibiting a lot more confidence than he did last fall in Tampa, both on the ice and in interviews.”

 

Slater Koekkoek… shoulder injuries have caused me to worry about his durability after recurring surgeries. Great mobile defender who plays a smart two-way game but he DEFINITELY needs to show us that he can play a full season.

 

“29 Slater Koekkoek: He skates so well Barbara Underhill has posters of him on her wall. He was easily the Lightning’s best defenseman in Saturday’s game and also finished with (unofficially) about five shots. His game has matured so much since his draft year when he was basically an extra forward for Peterborough with a bright green light that never changed to yellow. He’s shown good leadership abilities while wearing an A here this week, both in the game and in practice on Monday. He’s going to be like Kucherov this year in Syracuse. Sooner or later they won’t be able to keep him down. He was held out of Sunday’s game as a precaution. Saturday was his first game back after his latest shoulder surgery. Koekkoek said his shoulders feel fine.”

 

 

Brayden Point… undersized forward with good offensive creativity but his progression will be longer as he looks to add strength. Fortunately, Tampa doesn’t need to rush a player like Point with their depth.

 

36 Brayden Point: Point and Drouin have been the most creative forwards thus far. Point is very good in space and with time, so the key for him will be to create time and space while 5 on 5, where he’s gotten lost from time to time. He’s better along the wall than I thought he’d be and he’s backchecked well, also. Based on what I’ve seen, the reasons he fell in the draft are his skating (a little rigid, but correctable) and light frame. Underhill and training can help with his skating, but how much weight he’s able to put on will be something to watch. He has a future in the pros. His shot and smarts are excellent.

 

 

Tanner Richard … is a safe projectable prospect who’s getting very close to regular NHL action.

 

“38 Tanner Richard: I can’t say enough good things. A lot of what there is to like doesn’t come in tangibles, however. His 2-way play has been excellent and his leadership has been elite. He’s taken his role seriously and demonstrated he’s a future leader with the Crunch. I had a nice conversation with Al Murray and Zettler about Richard and both were complimentary of the player he’s becoming – especially Zettler, who said Richard had a rough year last year, but had a phenomenal summer. He’s put in the work. The results may not end up on the scoresheet, but that’s why you watch games. Murray confirmed that Richard was drafted to fit into more of a 2-way role than a 1C, playmaking role. Richard is doing his part. He’s been very vocal, both in helping his teammates, and doing some chirping. It was good to hear Zettler confirm my thoughts on his Richard’s progression.

 

 

Henri Ikonen … has always been an underrated Lightning prospect and I’ve always been impressed with him in Kingston. He is a sneaky offensive player who excels in a playmaking role. Get him on your sleeper list in deep keeper leagues.

 

“57 Henri Ikonen: On Saturday, Ikonen was as good as ever, hustling along the wing and gaining pucks on the wall. He wracked up a lot of assists with strong linemates last season, but he hasn’t shown much playmaking ability so far this weekend (again, limited showing). He’s a North-South, throw-it-at-the-net kind of player. He was relatively quiet on Sunday as the puck didn’t find him too much. He was solid on the penalty kill, as usual.

 

 

Dominik Masin…2014 2nd round selection who will come overseas and help a much-need Peterborough blue line this season.

 

74 Dominik Masin: Smooth. So very smooth. He plays like a professional, which others have said. It’s easy to see. I thought he was a little better Saturday than Sunday vs Nashville’s speed game as opposed to Boston’s physical game. His turns are quick and decisive and positionally he’s been excellent so far. He and Koekkoek just ooze poise on the back-end. Some players just look like future pros and both of those guys fall into that category. I’m anxious to see how he does with the Petes this year

 

 

Andrei Vasilevskiy Andrei Vasilevskiy …he’s right there with Robin Lehner and John Gibson as the world’s best goaltending prospects (in my opinion).

 

“88 Andrei Vasilevskiy: Vasy is much bigger than you’d expect in person. He’s listed at 6-3, but in net he seems more like 6-5. He kept the game close on Saturday with a few big saves, including a glove snare on a mini-breakaway attempt. He’s as athletic as Gudlevskis, but is more compact in his approach. He shows the maturity of a 25-year-old player. The goal he let in on Saturday he probably wants back (unexpected shot through a bit of traffic beat him 5-hole). He’ll play the whole game on Tuesday, Zettler said.”

 

 

Tony DeAngelo… I’ve watched him play a ton but it’s good to get another person’s perspective on this uber-skilled defenseman

 

“97 Anthony DeAngelo: Murray said he may have been the most skilled defenseman in the draft and he hasn’t done anything this weekend to prove that wrong. It’s his defense that has been impressive this weekend, though. He got a bad rap for his defensive play, but as Murray told me, they didn’t buy it. There are some technical things to clean up, but he’s been good positionally this weekend and has an active stick. He hasn’t tried to do a lot on offense, which is somewhat of a surprise. He’s gotten some pucks through from the point, but hasn’t jumped into the play as much as I thought he would. It’s like they told him to concentrate on his defense here – which very well may have happened. He’s a work in progress, but the Lightning will have a fine finished product eventually.”

 

 

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Nic Petan has been lighting it up with the Winnipeg Jets. I was a big fan of this player when Winnipeg snatched him up and it appears he could be a vital piece to improving Winnipeg’s offensive output. Speedy pivot who is showing more confidence (as if that was even possible) in his attacks and he is really rounding out his game showing few deficiencies.

 

Nic Petan scores a nice overtime goal: {youtube}UUiliG5VxHNHJR4ooEW0R0dQ{/youtube}

 

The other “Nik” – Nikolaj Ehlers – has had his moments at the Young Stars tournament as well but missed a game due to a lower-body injury. He is slated to be back in the lineup for the Jets’ prospect team when they take on Edmonton Monday afternoon.

 

Ehlers is hungry to make the NHL Jets’ lineup and he’s had an opportunity to shine skating on a line with prospect veterans Adam Lowry and Scott Kosmachuk.

 

{youtube}UUiliG5VxHNHJR4ooEW0R0dQ{/youtube}

 

 

Here’s another beauty assist by Ehlers.

 

 

Hell, how about one more highlight package from Ehlers who scored twice (both ridiculous shots) and recorded three points in Winnipeg’s prospect game Monday. Lesson to be learned….don’t give him any room to operate.

 

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The last but most appealing Jets’ prospect (for me) to keep tabs on is defenseman and 2013 1st round pick, Josh Morrissey. He’s an absolute beautiful skater who possesses elite vision and his offensive instincts are exactly what you want in a modern-day offensive defenseman. He has added some mass (10 lbs) to a rather small frame and it’ll be a big year in the AHL as he looks to prove that he can transition into the professional game and move up the organizational ladder. If I were in deep keeper leagues, Morrissey is one defenseman I would covet.

 

 

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For those crazy Leafs fans (joking of course) out there, I’m finishing with some information on the Buds’ young talents… Much of the excitement coming from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect tournament in London is coming from the promising play of defenders Viktor Loov and Tom Nilsson. Loov and Nilsson were extremely impressive when I attended the Leafs development camp back in July and it looks like Loov has been a beast – laying out players with out-of-your-seat body checks.

 

Love the way Loov hits (ouch):

 

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More love from Loov (hit on Curtis Lazar):

 

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Connor Brown is starting to prove to those relentless critics that last year’s OHL scoring title was no fluke. Leafs management isn’t just impressed with his offensive game but Leafs’ Assistant GM Kyle Dubas pointed out how he’s developed a keen eye defensively.

 

Carter Verhaeghe was buzzing in the game versus the Ottawa Senators and continues to create. He was also very active in setting up scoring chances at Niagara’s training camp. He could be in for a massive OHL campaign.

 

With Guelph Storm captain slated to make the jump to the AHL Marlies, Matt Finn has been under the heated microscope and Leafs’ critics are eating up that he was beat several times wide. Finn’s weakness has always been his mobility and it’s something he’ll always need to work on. I still think he will develop into a very good #4/5 defenseman for the Leafs.

 

Tyler Biggs (remember that name?) looks to have improved his feet. He was wearing the ‘C’ versus Ottawa Sunday night but still looks to have trouble handling the puck. At this point, it’s safe to say Biggs is destined for a bottom six role (for those holding hope that he’d eventually find his way into the scoring lines). Bottom line, PIMs and hits may be the only categories he provides fantasy poolies with.The 2014-15 season needs to be a more productive campaign for the burly winger.

 

 

AHL FA signees Patrick Watling and Brett Findlay have both been impressive. With connections to Dubas’ former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, many questioned how these two players would help the franchise but they have proved to be shrewd signings. Watling and Findlay have been two of the hardest working forwards throughout tournament play and both are making impacts inside the bluelines.

 

 

Frederik Gauthier left Sunday’s game with an injury but it doesn’t appear to be too significant.

 

Kyle Dubas says that 8th overall selection William Nylander will likely not dress in any more prospect tournament games as the Leafs know he’s ready to compete at main camp.

 

 

After a fantastic Memorial Cup showing from Val d’Or’s Antoine Bibeau, it was free agent signee Christopher Gibson who was impressing early on in the London tournament. The Leafs have done well identifying goaltending talent in recent years and have a good pipeline of crease tenants coming. Fortunately, Toronto has accumulated most of this goaltending depth with mid-to-late round draft selections or through smart free agent signings.

 

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When the Washington Capitals take the ice Tuesday versus the Philadelphia Flyers, eyes will be peeled on Andre Burakovsky, who believes he’s ready to take the next step towards the NHL.

 

“I think I’m ready, at least to get a shot to try it,” Burakovsky said. “I don’t know how it is in the NHL. It’s probably going to take a couple games before I feel really comfortable. But, yeah, I’m ready to take the next step to the NHL.”

 

Burakovsky has many of the tools that lend themselves to the NHL game – a hard, accurate shot, a quick release, excellent vision, and better than average speed. The question Trotz needs to answer is where he could fit Burakovsky into the Caps’ lineup.

 

 

If Burakovsky impresses in preseason, the Caps’ biggest problem will be finding a spot for him to play and that could be an issue…

 

“It depends on how they fit into the hockey club,” Trotz said. “If you don’t have the appropriate minutes for a player then that player doesn’t actually grow. He regresses and loses confidence. That’s the balancing act organizations have to make when they decide on a young player – getting him in position so he can have success and he’s there for the long haul.”

 

 

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With enough material to get you through the evening and morning coffees, I will return with updates on prospects as camps and prospect tournaments wrap up. Feel free to leave questions and comments below.

 

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Brendan Ross

@RossyYoungblood

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