Western Conference Prospect Camp Battles (Part 1) & Notes

Jason Banks

2014-09-23

 

Before we go team by team, let’s talk Ryan Johansen situation for a second…

 

Johansen and his agent feel that he is worth 5-7 million after only three years in the NHL in which he has scored half a point per game on average (.31, .30 & .77) at only 22 years old. To be fair, he had a huge spike in production, became a top line player while leading the team in goals, points and shots, so he has an argument. The major problem is that even with his argument he has no arbitration rights so no one will hear the argument!

 

Johansen should be accepting the Columbus offer that is rumored around 3 million for a year or 2 until he has arbitration rights or hits UFA status. Then his 5-6 million claim will be heard and likely largely agreed with after another year of 70+ points strengthening his case.

 

If Johansen played this intelligently, he could sign a bridge deal to get to UFA status, then demand 8-11 million for 8 years and with the new TV revenue, growth, Columbus playoff runs and cap increases, he would likely have no issues getting it from management.

 

Without Johansen the forwards look something like:

 

Hartnall-Dubinsky-Atkinson

Jenner-Anisimov-Horton

Foligno-Letestu-Hjalmarsson

Calvert-XXX-Tropp/Boll/D’Amigo/Gibbons < XXX – could be filled by a rookie and moved up to 3rd line or wing with the likes of Wennberg, Rychel, Dano, Anderson or Bjorkstrand

 

The lineup is still rather solid without Johansen, less explosive, but difficult to play against, and personally I’d allow Rychel the first stint for 9 games to see if he can take the ball and run with it, if he still needs growing you’ve given yourself 3 weeks to see who deserves a spot. Mid-season you can discuss dealing a pick or 2 to acquire a top 6 player off an under preforming team to help strengthen the roster.

 

Looking at the bigger picture, Columbus is a playoff caliber team that is still growing into itself (Johansen’s growth is a major piece), but they could still make the playoffs without him. He would look rather foolish if he threw away a season as a hold out and the team made the playoffs or even when a couple rounds.

For poolies, watching Blue Jacket’s training camp to see who can step up in his absence could pay off for your season and because I’m mentioning here, my money is that a prospect will be getting an opportunity.

 

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I’ve only watched a pair games of prospect camp, Leafs vs Blackhawks & Leafs vs Sens, everyone is talking Viktor Loov and Tom Nilsson on the defense, but I really enjoyed Eric Knodel’s game vs Chicago, simple and quiet and Matt Finn in both.

 

Knodel I’ve marked on his profile has decent upside as a bigger body man that could slide into a 4-5 role in the NHL within 2 years and has some upside.

 

Finn is more high reward for keeper leagues, showed some flair in the games, but also made a couple of mistakes trying too much. Will need to round out his game in the AHL, but he is the best Leaf prospect to own on defense at the moment.

 

Bob McGill mentioned Garret Sparks’ play looked ‘much more economical’ in the crease, Im yet to figure out what game he was watching. Sparks won, and was ok, but several times he looked lost in the crease, checking for pucks going through him, and over playing pucks. Justin Goldman feels Sparks has little upside as a prospect, he feels Sparks lacks core strength and is not as mentally strong as needed for the NHL. I feel similar, but my issues are more on his play that I’ve seen as unreasonably erratic.

 

Carter Verhaeghe was rather decent in his play, after 86 points in 71 games in the OHL last season, he could use more rounding and show extra authority and drive with the puck rather than quickly dishing under pressure. He will be returning to junior, His point total may rise a little, but I would like to see him pop 35+ goals as a vet for Niagara.

 

For Chicago un-drafted Ryan Van Stralen was most impressive I seen, potting a pair of goals and was very involved in the game. Van Stralen had 58 points in 61 games for the Ottawa 67’s last season and has committed to Carleton University should he not be signed to a pro contract. It’s a very rare route to go undrafted to CIS to the NHL, but Joel Ward did it several years ago, so there is potential we see his name again. (Extremely unlikely)

 

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Now let’s continue with Western Conference prospect’s that are trying to make noise and create openings for themselves.

 

Anaheim – The one-trick-pony really needs to buck that trend, a few teammates outside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf need to push forward to make the once mighty Ducks a contender, they have talent coming through to do it. Everyone is talking about the LW slot opening on the big line, but I’d much rather view the mid-lines for the guys that will be the next big producers long term. Here we ill have Devante Smith-Pelly armed with a new contract, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and Emerson Etem likely lining up as full timers after several auditions and split seasons. Knocking on the door will be hot shots Nicolas Kerdiles, William Karlsson and Nick Ritchie. Ritchie in all likelihood will head back to junior with Nick Sorenson but with strong camps they become major conversation pieces next season. First year pro Stefan Noesen will try and make noise in the AHL after scoring at over a point per game pace in the OHL, it was rather concerning that his production regressed as an overage but he did pot four assists in as many games in the playoffs for Norfolk last spring. Also competing for recalls will be Max Friberg and the rekindled Louis Leblanc. Leblanc will have to pass through waivers, but he is looking to get back to legit status while, Friberg needs to continue to grow in potency amongst the organizations strong prospect pool.

 

On the backend Shea Theodore has an opportunity to make the team for at least 9 games, but it will be at the expense of a vet like Francois Beauchemin, Ben Lovejoy or Bryan Allen. If a trade is made late in camp or one hits waivers, that will be a tell-tale sign that Theodore is in the plans this season. Jesse Blacker thrust himself forward last year in the AHL, the former Leaf prospect pounded out 25 points in 55 games last season, but led the team as a negative rated player. Blacker is waiver bound, but is the best of limited options to be recalled if needed. His only competition worth noting fantasy wise will be making his pro debut, Kenton Helgesen. Helgensen has a strong year for Calgary of the WHL, but he will need to show it wasn’t just because he was an elder statesman.

 

The crease will likely be fought amongst John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, the later of which is mostly discussed as the front runner. I look at a different direction, Gibson has the best pedigree and most upside, whereas I feel Andersen is more middle of the road. I look for a splitting situation, but give Gibson the upper hand as they will want to mold him into a work horse as his durability is largely questionable. Because of that question mark, Jason Labarbera was brought in for insurance and will work with Russian Igor Bobkov who enters the final year of his contract and needs to take a large step forward if he wishes to continue in North America. Ryan Faragher has been signed to a single season Entry level deal to keep Bobkov on his toes.

 

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Arizona – A team in extreme need for a changing of the guard will likely give only one spot towards that direction, Max Domi is your leading candidate. He has a junior option left, but all signs point to him getting an opportunity in the top 9 on a team starving for production. A bottom line role will likely be where you find Brandon McMillan who has to clear waivers and has had decent showings as a recall last season and had a strong showing in the NHL as a 20 year old as an un-matured draftee in Anaheim. Brendan Perlini has the feet to make noise in camp, but will likely be a late cut to return for another OHL season, his time will likely be next year. Similar can be said for Laurent Dauphin who needs to use this camp as a stepping stone for growth. Guys to watch for later in the year include Henrik Samuelsson, Tobias Reider, Greg Carey and sparkplug, Lucas Lessio. Lessio has already seen a small NHL audition and is much more suited to pop on a bottom 6 role with offensive flair and a large drive. Rieder is one of my favorite prospects, the kid has a lethal shot from anywhere on the ice inside the blueline, but must round out his overall game to be useful NHLer. If offense is what is needed in the desert, Rieder could be called up to play with a pair or distributers whose only missions will be to get the puck on his stick and give him a lane, Martin Erat and Sam Gagner both know how that game is played.

 

The Yotes’ will continue to work in Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy in the backend, but need not make a commitment yet to either of them. Gormley needs to have a strong camp to prove his high drafted position and he needs to take hold sooner rather than later. Murphy actually jumped up the depth chart rather quickly last year as surprised enough that he holds the upper hand currently. Murphy projects more of a middle tier, rounded defender, but if he is going to fulfil that role, he has less development to take as in his first pro season, he showed capability of being there now.

 

Mark Visentin is the only name to know in the blue paint at this point for the organization, he will battle Devan Dubnyk for the backup role to Mike Smith. Visentin needs more time to become stable at the AHL level, but the ‘Desert Dogs’ need a capable backup and Dubnyk was thrown away by three teams last season in a horrific campaign. Dubnyk’s career is very much on a knife’s edge mostly due to confidence or lack thereof, a state which is sad for a guy that has kept a terrible Edmonton team in games for several years.

 

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Calgary – The Flames seem to have one of the most highly contested roster positions open. Most are expecting that hotshot, Johnny Gaudreau is a walk on the left side in a top-6 role. His small size makes myself hesitant in locking him in, but also the idea of Sam Bennett getting a few game tryout while giving management a chance to get a longer look at guys seems like an attractive thought to me. The others involved in this battle include Sven Baertschi (whose drive was questioned last season), Kenny Agostino and Ben Hanowski. On the outside is more a battle for recalls amongst Michael Ferland, Max Reinhart, Markus Granlund, Emile Poirier and the rather unknown, feisty, German, David Wolf who would be a solid roto-player. Like last year, we should see most names stated here, recalled at some point during the season. Should the Flames start slowly, the roster turn over movement could come quicker.

 

The blueline is rather secure as the only real battle seems like it will be for the 7th man. That battle should be fought between Corey Potter and Mark Cundari, the latter has been spoken highly of by management a couple times, thus sounds like he has an upper hand. Sena Acolatse is also a waiver eligible option that has some upside. Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak are more attractive to fantasy owners, but both need more time in the AHL after they show growth in camp.

 

Joni Ortio remains the main man on the prospect list, optimally he will have a completely healthy season and see 50+ games in the AHL and open himself a role on next year’s team when he will need to be placed on waivers if he does not make the squad, and will be on a one-way contract. Ortio has upside should he get a recall, but the team in front of him is questionable, so he should not be relied upon yet.

 

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Chicago – Watch out Peter Regin, your roster claim only seems temporary. It is almost a lock Teuvo Teravainen and Jeremy Morin are NHLers this season, but last year Joakim Nordstrom was a surprise starter coming out of camp. Nordstrom will try again this season for a lower profile role, and be joined in battle with a good looking Swede in Dennis Rasmussen and NCAA jumper Matt Carey. Needing grooming for the future will be Mark McNeill and Ryan Hartman.

 

The blueline battle is between David Rundblad and Adam Clendening. Unless Rundblad shows that he is going to fulfil his much talks about potential, it is about time the Hawks finally give Clendening his NHL shot. I personally feel Clendening was the best defender in the AHL last season and has a rather large upside, but in the Chicago system, making the team is just one step in the process of becoming a promising producer. No one else in the system is notable at this point for poolies.

 

Antti Raanta will have to be really flat not to secure his backup role. A surprise in camp could be Scott Darling who could bust onto the scene and become a more lucrative option that Michael Leighton for insurance.

 

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Colorado – Roy’s opening roster will be a tough nut to crack, as every piece seems already in place on paper with only a single prospect finally hitting the roster. The forwards are fighting for recalls, Tomas Vincour is back from Europe, but I don’t see him getting his wishes, Joey Hishon, Andrew Agozzino and Michael Sgarbossa are your other players on a poor depth chart.

 

Stefan Elliott’s contract status means he is on the roster or he will be lost by the organization. Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond are the likely losers to Elliott in camp.

 

The battle remains between Sami Aittokallio and Calvin Pickard for recalls with Sami having been the most impressive thus far. A new outside competitor will be Roman Will coming over from Europe and is impressing goalie guru, Justin Goldman. This trio has the potential to stay locked in to duel beyond this season before the Avs will need to make a final decision.

 

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Dallas – The Stars are coming off a solid season, but dealt surprise standout from last season, Alex Chiasson for Jason Spezza. With Cody Eakin currently in holdout, the team is open to new options and there is lots of candidates. My two favorites are Radek Faksa and Brett Ritchie, both are very solid prospects that should eventually be featured on scoring lines in the near future, but are ultimately destine for more AHL time awaiting phone calls. Curtis McKenzie was a huge standout last season in the AHL and is primed to take advantage of any opportunity given. He is a very under the radar gem that only those that know the AHL or the Stars system well will have picked up on. Pick # 19 from last season, Jason Dickenson will try to get an audition, but is unlikely to make the most of it, this year. For Remi Elie, you can see above, both will be back in junior working on developing crisp offensive games. Matej Stransky has big boom or bust potential, but is not yet to make the NHL. Stransky will be fighting hard to become a power forward option in the AHL. Brendan Ranford will continue to build on a solid pro debut, and look to have a very solid camp. Gemel Smith is a little undersized, but his speed and potential should not be under looked. Smith will excite in camp but be in the AHL. Scott Glennie seems to have gotten himself back on track, waiver status may see him get an opportunity above others, but it will not save him from the knife should he have a poor camp.

 

As it stands there are a pair of openings on the blueline while Brenden Dillon continues to wait for a contract. Your replacements are very likely Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak, unless Cameron Gaunce steps up large. First round pick, Julius Honka could see a quick audition before the 18-year-young stud returns to the Western Hockey League. Swedish option John Klingberg will look to make a strong enough impression that the team decides to keep him in North America the entire season.

 

Like in the desert state, Dallas will be pulling options off the scrap heap to battle for backup, while organizational gem is left standing on the outside awaiting his chance. Jussi Rynnas has been brought in to battle Anders Lindback. Rynnas has seen some NHL action in Toronto, and then went back and stunned Finland with a .939 SV% over 40 games. Rynnas has to pass waivers to head to the AHL. Jack Campbell will try and be healthy and eat a ton of games while defending a Calder Cup that now free agent, Cris Nilstorp won last season. He will be joined by Henri Kiviaho and Maxime Legace who be battling each other for an AHL backup gig to start their minor pro careers.

 

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Edmonton – One of the leagues youngest rosters, will once again have strong battles for opportunities. Leon Draisaitl has the pedigree to step into a top-9 role instantly and will be give every opportunity to do it. Finnish signee, Iiro Pakarinen seems like a player that could translate to North America strongly, but may need a little AHL time before he jumps into an NHL role. Mitchell Moroz, Jujhar Kaira and Bogdan Yakimov are other notables looking to make noise.

 

Martin Marincin looks like he make the most of last year’s addition and should have a spot to lose this year. Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom will look to bump some fringe names to be options on the backend. Meanwhile Martin Gernat and David Musil suck up ice and show they are close.

 

I absolutely despise the goaltending currently expected to hold down the fort. Both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have been rather decent in limited action, but are not quality starters. When their bubbles pop, Richard Bachman will likely be given a recall should he pass waivers, but as much as I like him, he is another not so stellar option. The best camp battle in Edmonton will be for the second goalie gig on Oklahoma as Laurent Brossoit, Frans Tuohimaa and Tyler Bunz each try and make their marks as legit prospects. As a fantasy manager, I wouldn’t touch anything in this system at this point.

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