Hello and welcome to another edition of Prospect Ramblings. I’ll be your host on this fine Father’s Day, also known as ‘T-minus five days until the NHL Draft Day’. Enough of the small talk; let’s talk puck.
It’s interesting to see just how much attention Anthony Mantha is getting. While he was one of the key discussion points in the rumored Dion Phaneuf sweepstakes at the trade deadline, his name is flying around again as we get set for final draft preparations.
The Red Wings are a storied team that are intent on competing each season (much like the Flyers……there it is!) Ken Holland is one of the most respected executives in the game and if he thinks he can improve his team by dealing Mantha and/or the team’s top pick, he’ll do it in a heartbeat. It’s worth mentioning that it’s much easier to come to terms with making Mantha available when you have a kid like Dylan Larkin in the system. Larkin, the 14th overall pick in the 2014 draft is quickly emerging at the Red Wings top prospect. For more on him, check out this week’s edition of The Journey by Kevin LeBlanc.
Congratulations are in order to the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks! It was an intense final between the champs and Tampa Bay Lightning in which each team had its fair share of young guns on display. My favorite youngster/prospect from each club is Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Vasilevskiy, the 18th and 19th overall selections in 2012. I’m especially impressed with Vasilevskiy considering the 20-year-old was thrust into action cold turkey against arguably the best franchise of the last decade. With the youthful talent, coaching and executives in Tampa, I have no doubt that they will be in contention for years to come and will likely be hoisting the Cup themselves in the near future. For now, the engraver of the Cup can rest easy as VASILEVSKIY will make you look twice (Teravainen isn’t all that much better!)
Our good friend, Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood), conducted a prospect/draft Q&A while in transit a few nights ago. Seeing an opportunity to pounce, I tossed ‘Rossy’ a beach ball as he called it and asked if Ryan Pilon of the Brandon Wheat Kings was the best defenseman in the draft after Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski. The clear and obvious answer is no, and Brendan obviously agreed. Silly question to ask but Pilon was in fact on my mind. After studying some film and perusing different analytical viewpoints, I’m intrigued with the disparity in his pre-draft rankings. For instance, NHL Central Scouting has him ranked as the 24th best North American Skater while he’s ranked 94th by ISS Hockey. TSN and Craig Button have him listed as 55 and 51 respectively. I think he has value, but probably not until the mid-second to third round. He’s a good, young talent, however, we must not forget who his defensive partner was (Provorov). While I love him to death, there is a reason Chris Therien was mildly successful for so many seasons (Eric Desjardins). Good partners make everything better!
Of the 2014 first round picks, six of them saw time in the NHL last season: Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl, Kevin Fiala and David Pastrnak. More will be poised to hit the premier ice surface this upcoming season and one guy I would keep an eye on is Toronto’s eighth pick, William Nylander. The highly skilled forward played extremely well for the AHL’s Marlies last season after starting the year with MODO. In 37 games with Toronto, he scored 14 goals and added 18 assists for 32 points and added an additional three points in five playoff games. With the Maple Leafs roster to surely be shaken up, it could be Nylander’s time to shine and grow with the team. Nobody wants to rush a top prospect, but this kid has some of the best hands and offensive skills around. His two-way play is a work in progress, but Toronto didn’t necessarily draft him to play defense. Make sure he is drafted in all keeper leagues and if you are content to play in a year-by-year format, keep your eye on him if he makes the club out of camp and be ready to pounce!
I’ve been getting asked for my opinion on what the Flyers should do with both of the first round picks (seventh and 29th). My approach is the same that General Manager Ron Hextall and Co. are taking which is to draft the best p