Prospect thoughts as the regular season draws closer including who’s the top Islanders prospect, Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel debate, Pavel Zacha watch and a half-dozen favourite prospects to watch list.
Matt Barzal is turning heads at Islanders camp
, outperforming 2014 1st rounder Michael Dal Colle (who was sent back to Oshawa of the OHL). Dal Colle was a toss up to make the squad but returning him to junior for one final season makes sense – especially given that he’ll have the chance to represent Canada at the World Juniors in Finland this winter. He’ll also contend for the OHL’s top scorer.
Matt Barzal was applauded for his speed and overall creativity. He was the Islanders 15th overall pick after they dealt Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton. I was definitely surprised he lasted as long as he did (a Top 10 talent, in my opinion) and certainly very surprised he lasted as long as he did with Boston holding three back-to-back-to-back selections.
“Barzal has been in the organization for only three months, but he's already the team's top prospect in many eyes — a player who could be pushing hard for a roster spot at 19 next year if he continues the way he's been.”
I am also sure that Josh Ho-Sang’s early exit from camp allowed Barzal some extra ice and opportunities to showcase his stuff too. On the topic of Ho-Sang, how disappointing must it be for other players vying to make the NHL to see a high-end talent like Josh continue to make these poor decisions. Sure, he’s young and there’s opportunity to correct this “minor” stuff as he matures but it’s not the first time he hasn’t learned from mistakes. I am pulling for him to turn things around and clearly, this season on a stacked IceDogs squad is a great chance to take some steps forward off the ice.
Anthony Beauvillier, Islanders’ second 2015 1st rounder (28th overall), was also returned to junior and he’ll be one of the top contenders to win the QMJHL scoring title after racking up 94 points last year. Beauvillier will join the best team in the Q – Shawinigan Cataractes – and should be a key player for Canada’s WJC squad.
Everyone seems to be watching New Jersey’s camp very closely and I can see why after the organization is close to adding some young skill and potential to their team in the first time in a while. Headlining that group is their 2015 1st round selection Pavel Zacha. From reports I have read, Zacha seems to be improving each time he takes the ice, albeit in small steps. The team has sent 2014 1st rounder John Quenneville back to the Western Hockey League, so it’s all eyes on Zacha. Just a gut feeling but I think we’ll know whether Zacha is in the NHL to stay for the season very soon and I’m leaning towards a return to Sarnia (OHL). But that also could be the delicious mexican food I consumed last night. Zacha hasn’t necessarily lit up the game sheet and his offensive skills have been more “flashes” than pure dominance so heading back to Sarnia to work on his confidence and production would certainly benefit him long term.
Keep an eye on big-time junior scorer Reid Boucher. He scored an OHL-high 62 goals in 2012-13 and even though he took a step back offensively last year in Albany, he’s got the potential to break twine and make the NHL full time this season.
The Buffalo Sabres sent a whack load of players
to Albany (AHL) including sniper Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste, a player who’s taking big development strides over the past few seasons. Both of these players have long-term fantasy upside and are entering their first year of professional hockey and while the wait might be longer, they’re worth keeping tabs on in keeper leagues.
“Accompanying the trio of forwards [Phil Varone, Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste] were forwards Dan Catenacci, Matt Garbowsky, Jean Dupuy, William Carrier, Justin Kea and Jack Nevins, goalie Andrey Makarov and defenseman Matt Prapavessis.”
Other talented recent draftees beginning their AHL careers who could make noise as rookies include forwards Nikita Scherbak (Montreal), Cole Cassels (Vancouver), Sergey Tolchinsky (Carolina), Jakub Vrana (Washington), Riley Barber (Washington), Michael McCarron (Montreal), Hunter Shinkaruk (Vancouver), Joseph Blandisi (New Jersey) and defensemen Anthony DeAngelo (Tampa Bay), Scott Mayfield (Islanders), Madison Bowey (Washington), Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg), and Brandon Montour (Anaheim). Those are just a few names to watch as first-year AHLers with Tolchinsky, Vrana, McCarron, Shinkaruk, DeAngelo and Morrissey as players who could make a huge splash right away.
‘Players I like’ Section
Timo Meier looked good in camp with the Sharks and it appears he’s improved his skating a little too. He’ll eventually line up alongside a skilled playmaker (cue Nikolay Goldobin) in the future and be the trigger man for him, as well as provide some grit. Meier was returned to Halifax of the QMJHL and it’ll be interesting to see how he does without Ehlers there.
Nikolay Goldobin remains in camp with the Sharks, after nearly making it in 2014-15. He played last season overseas and is hungry to make the big squad and while I think he has a legitimate chance, I see a short stint to begin the year then the majority of the year playing in the AHL. At this point, Joonas Donskoi may have the inside edge.
Nikolaj Ehlers – How could you not love this player? He hasn’t been overly dynamic or as dominant as I might have anticipated in his second go-round at NHL camp but his upside is as high as anyone (not named McEichel) in the prospect world and his anticipated arrival is cause for giddiness. He was skating with Perreault and Lowry in last night’s game and picked up a nice assist (the first of preseason).
I was absolutely shocked with Nashville’s decision to send Kevin Fiala to the AHL…especially so early. Everything in my gut says that this kid will be a damn good player in the NHL. I am not sure if he’ll finished Top 20 in scoring ever (although, I wouldn’t write him off) but he’s got the drive, smarts and skill to do some damage. What a competitor! We will see him in Music City this season again.
Nick Cousins has always been a favourite of mine and the Flyers recently assigned him to their affiliate but rest assured, he’ll be up with Philadelphia at some point this season. And, I wouldn’t sleep on him in keeper leagues that reward hits and penalty minutes. Cousins reminds me a lot of Andrew Shaw but with more skill. He’ll step into the Flyers lineup and shouldn’t take much time to leave an impact.
Robby Fabbri has been a favourite since I first watched him in minor midget. The Berglund injury has opened up a huge opportunity for Fabbri, one that he probably would’ve earned anyways. He should get a look in some regular season games and with my expectation that he’ll produce, I think he’s a player we see stick.
There’s so much debate, discussion and arguing over who’ll be the better player – McDavid or Eichel. My thoughts – don’t waste time engaging in these battles because both are going to be tremendous NHLers who’ll leave their own stamp on the game. Boy, it’s going to be fun following these two over their careers.
As much as I hated when the moment Oilers won the draft lottery (again), I quickly forgot about it. Why? Well, in our 20-team keeper league we assign the bottom five teams to the actual bottom five teams in the draft lottery. If say, Edmonton wins the draft lottery then the bottom five player assigned to “Edmonton” wins our lottery with the rights to draft McDavid. As we all know, that exact scenario occurred. Earlier in the season, I traded Henrik Sedin for a guy’s first round pick in 2015 (a guy I thought could end up in the lottery). Voila! Connor McDavid is now on my keeper league team joining Stamkos, P.Kane, C.Perry, Ja.Benn, J.Gaudreau, T.Teravainen, PK Subban, K.Yandle and V.Hedman as keepers.
I will be touching on 2016 NHL Draft eligible skaters all season long so I won’t dive too deep into it now but NHL Central Scouting Service released it’s Watch List
yesterday so have a read. While I credit the NHL CSS for the amount of work this list takes, there are some headscratchers. Some of the more puzzling ones…
– Samuel Girard listed as a C prospect (4th-6th rounder)
– Brett Howden, Jake Bean and Sean Day were all listed as ‘B’ prospects (2nd round) but most would argue they are heavy candidates for the 1st round.
Some noteworthy tweets…
@mikemorrealeNHL: Al Jensen of @NHLCentralScout on Chychrun: "I haven't seen a young def. with this type of skill set in his draft year since Scott Stevens."
Having met and chatted with Chychrun and also watched a ton of his game, I couldn’t agree more. He’s a special talent.
More about NHL CSS’ Watch List…book your tickets to the London Knights and Mississauga Steelheads games. London has 10 players on the watch list while Mississauga has a half dozen, including highend talents Alex Nylander, Sean Day and Michael McLeod!
Did the Red Wings land another gem in Evgeni Svechnikov? This video and his torrent 2015-16 QMJHL start might suggest so…
Thanks for reading,