Prospect Ramblings, March 31st 2015

Zach Hopkins

2015-03-31

Zach Hopkins checks in with the latest on some Flyers prospects, the Frozen Four and more…

 

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Hello again. This is your favorite rookie rambler Zach Hopkins back for another edition of Prospect Ramblings. I’ll be splitting this week with my good pal Austin Wallace (look for his ramblings later this week) so hold on and enjoy the ride! 

Those of you who are familiar with me know that I scout the Philadelphia Flyers organization and typically start my ramblings off with some thoughts on the orange and black. This time around, I think I’ll switch it up. Just kidding; here we go…

 

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I am definitely drinking whatever Kool-Aid the Flyers brass was sipping on when the selected defenseman Travis Sanheim in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft. This kid has the ‘it’ factor and has been steadily improving right in front of our eyes. This year’s success saw him lead the Western Hockey League in scoring for defensemen with 65 points as well as being named the top defender of the Calgary Hitmen. If he maintains this rapid ascend, he very well could challenge Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin for the distinction of top defensive prospect in the Flyers organization.

 

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Speaking of Flyers prospects, Radel Fazleev (sixth round pick in 2014) is also having himself a year. After an injury-shortened 2013-14 campaign, the Russian native responded with a 51 point season and a plus-23 rating, the latter which showed his coming of age as a two-way forward. He performed well against Kootenay in the Hitmen’s first round playoff exit last year and now has a chance to exact revenge on Sam Reinhart and the Ice as the two teams meet yet again in the opening stage of the postseason. The series is currently tied at one game apiece and Fazleev has notched four assists in those two games.

 

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I’ve mentioned him before in the ramblings but I am really digging the David Pastrnak fella up in Beantown. He’s playing important minutes and has the composure of a veteran. I loved how he scored the OT winner against Carolina this past weekend with the Bruins in the thick of the playoff race. His one-timer from the slot was unstoppable and shot with such conviction; he knew the game was over before the puck even left his stick. I’m excited to see how he performs in the postseason, IF the B’s hang on and make it to the dance.

 

See Pastrnak’s game-winning blast here:

 

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The 2015 NHL Draft class is one of the deeper groups in recent memory. The lottery teams that miss out on the Connor McDavid sweepstakes will still get a phenomenal talent and potential cornerstone player. In my opinion, the first three picks should be locks: McDavid, BU’s Jack Eichel and McDavid’s Erie teammate Dylan Strome. Although I value defense and think both Noah Hanifin (Boston College) and Ivan Provorov (Brandon) are worthy of top-five selections, I am more enamored with Kingston’s Lawson Crouse and London’s Mitch Marner. I recently had the opportunity to ask former NHL executive and current TSN analyst Craig Button to compare each player to a current NHL’er. He noted that Crouse was similar in style to Andrew Ladd whereas Marner is a cross between Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux. Think about that for moment. A POTENTIAL cross between Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux. Sign that kid up; it will be a travesty if he is not selected in the top-five.

 

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Although the outcome was certainly not what they preferred, Miami (OH) played a thrilling semifinal against Providence in a game which featured one of the better saves I’ve seen by a player other than a goaltender. With the net empty and about one minute left in regulation in a 6-5 game, defenseman Louie Belpedio made a fantastic diving save to prevent an empty net goal and give the Red Hawks a chance to bury the equalizer. Providence was eventually able to score in the open net and move on but the Minnesota Wild prospect has likely solidified the play of the tournament.

Check out this incredible effort:

 

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While on the topic of the Frozen Four, the pool is set as we await to crown a NCAA champion. This year’s tournament comes down to Nebraska-Omaha, Providence, Boston University and North Dakota. All eyes will be on BU freshman Jack Eichel, the likely number two pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Eichel led the country in scoring with 61 points in 34 games and also posted a nation-best plus-42 rating. He is the first freshman to be one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award in over a decade. Eichel and BU face stiff competition against a North Dakota team looking for a better outcome this season after coming up short in their championship quest last year. They are led by another Hobey Baker finalist (the only other finalist besides Eichel left in the tournament) in goaltender Zane McIntyre. He led the cawlidge hockey (Oh c’mon! You know you follow John Buccigross) in wins with 27 and posted a 1.97 goals against average and 0.932 save percentage. The Boston Bruins prospect gives North Dakota their best chance to win this tournament. The other semifinal pits Nebraska-Omaha against Providence. Providence made sure that Hockey East was well represented in the final rounds as they knocked off Denver and perennial powerhouse Boston College. Nebraska-Omaha is dancing after disposing of Harvard and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

 

My money is on Eichel and Boston University to win the whole thing. I think the probable Hobey Baker winner will ante up and remind everyone why he is the best collegiate player. (I should note that my backup pick to win is Providence. Or North Dakota. Or Nebraska-Omaha). I’ll also guess that Eichel will win MVP, just like Gostisbehere did last year when Union beat Minnesota to bring home the title. He will not, however, score a goal with two assists and post a plus-seven rating…PLUS-SEVEN…in the championship game like Gostisbehere did.

 

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In this week’s edition of The Journey, I wrote about Columbus prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand and his fantasy implications moving forward.

You can read The Journey here

This kid has got to be owned in all keeper formats. He will be an annual 30+ goal scorer and may end up being the Blue Jackets best pick in the 2013 draft, despite the fact they had THREE first round picks!

 

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The top prospects in hockey were asked what NHL players they would most be compared to. The majority of responses were pretty spot on: Jack Eichel picked Jeff Carter, Noah Hanifin picked Drew Doughty and Dylan Strome picked Joe Thrornton. Who did Connor McDavid choose? He chose a Toronto Maple Leaf and it is NOT Phil Kessel, it’s Tyler Bozak. Wait, what?!? The next coming of Crosby and Gretzky compared himself to Tyler Bozak? I like Bozak and I always have, however, there is no comparison to Connor McDavid. As Don Cherry stated, McDavid is a “Once every 10 year” type of player. With Toronto as a potential landing spot, he better hope that he is not most comparable to Bozak because that current relationship doesn’t seem to be working.

 

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Thanks for reading and feel free to continue the conversation on twitter @healedbyhockey 

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