Connor McDavid scores his first NHL goal, Jack Eichel earning big minutes, Panarin looks like a gem, CHL standouts and an early look around the AHL.
Everything seems to be falling into place with the highend prospects around the world. Just days after Jack Eichel scored in his very first game with Buffalo when he logged nearly 22 minutes in his NHL debut, Connor McDavid found the back of the net for the first time Tuesday night on a deflection from Andrej Sekera’s point shot.
The hockey world was getting kind of antsy waiting for McDavid to record his first NHL goal and point. Take a big deep breath and relax because McDavid will certainly score his share of points. Just like NHL greats Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby before him, Connor McDavid scored in his third NHL game so the timing of the Oil Town saviour is a bit ironic.
Connor certainly let a big sigh go after scoring his first goal and from that point on, he was noticeably impactful for Edmonton in their 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, including earning some vauable ice time in the dying minutes as the Oilers attempted to tie the contest. He lined up between Nail Yakupov and Beniot Pouliot and the trio appeared to have some chemistry. Those linemates might not be as intriguing as Taylor Hall but Yakupov and Pouliot owners should certainly be smiling.
Give this piece a read as Gare Joyce compares Connor McDavid’s importance to the game to the way Gretzky saved the NHL in the early 80s and Crosby revived the NHL after the lockout.
Back to Buffalo’s saviour, Jack Eichel. In the same class as Connor McDavid, Eichel will definitely be a valuable rookie to own and could potentially lead the Sabres in scoring (I’d bet on it actually). His adaptation to the NHL isn’t as daunting as McDavid’s after competing against men last year with Boston University. Eichel has been very impressive early on and should rise quickly to one of the NHL’s top players. His strength, power and skill combination reminds me so much of Mario Lemieux. His attention to detail and dedication to the defensive game elevates his fantasy and real-world value even more. Dobber has Eichel ranked 28th on his list of the Top 300 Keeper League players but I know he’d fall in my own personal top five including Crosby, Tavares, McDavid and Ovechkin. Trust me, he’ll be vaulted up that ranking very quick.
Eichel with an outstanding defensive effort that leads to a nasty top-cheese wrister and his second NHL goal.
Tied to the Eichel arrival, here’s a good read about the Sabres rebuild by Katie Baker – The Sun is Rising in Buffalo
Other prospects making noise in the NHL include Chicago’s Artemy Panarin, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, Mattias Janmark of Dallas, Nikolaj Ehlers out of Winnipeg and Ben Hutton on Vancouver’s west coast.
I flipped on the tube to catch my first NHL regular season game of the year and immediately was drawn to Artemy Panarin. Unlike the majority European import signings, Panarin possesses that “it” factor, making an impact every time he hit the ice. He’s competitive and fearless (which might prove to be bad in the long haul) – two factors crucial to surviving as an undersized skilled player in the NHL. Sure, he’s more of a risk to get injured but the reward is pretty damn attractive. In a Calder class featuring McDavid and Eichel, Panarin is the one “rookie” that could give these two a run for their money. Skating with one of the league’s all-time best playmakers in Patrick Kane certainly won’t hurt.
Wings fans love hanging their hats on the fact that the team has found some superstars deep in previous drafts and rightfully so. Anthony Mantha, drafted in the first round, was the team’s top prospect less than two years ago but he’s now taken a backseat to their newest toy – Dylan Larkin. Shaking the traditional slow development progress of Red Wings prospects, Larkin has forced his way onto the full time Detroit roster less than 18 months since the team drafted him (also in the first round). That pick looks like the best of the entire draft – arguably. Early on, Larkin is playing like a seasoned veteran with the confidence and maturity you don’t expect from a 19-year-old. Skating on a line with Zetterberg (who has seven points in his opening three games) and Justin Abdelkader (chipping in four goals and five points of his own), Larkin is one-third of the league’s hottest line. Don’t expect Larkin to get bumped out of the top six anytime soon. He’s here to stay and his four points in three games likely exceeds owner’s expectations.
Back when the Stars dealt Erik Cole to Detroit at the 2015 trade deadline, no one knew that the most immediate productive piece of that deal would have been Mattias Janmark. A heart-and-soul competitor, Janmark brings a ton of energy to the Stars front lines playing alongside Ales Hemsky, who looks revitalized, and Antoine Roussel. He’s started his NHL debut with three points in as many games and is a player whose intensity should keep him up all season long.
Nikolaj Ehlers may not have had the most appealing development camp this past summer but he sure ramped up his play when main camp opened up. Outside of McDavid and Eichel, Ehlers intrigues me the most in terms of pure offensive upside. Not only do I like the line combination of Perreault, Ehlers and Scheifele for Nikolaj’s sake but I think this will benefit Scheifele playing alongside two linemates who distribute the puck well. One goal and three points for Ehlers in four games and an impressive 15 shots on goal that leads all rookies.
Nikolaj Ehlers’ first NHL goal was a dandy as well:
The Vancouver Canucks are putting together a nice nucleus of young skaters in Bo Horvat (future captain), Jake Virtanen (who suited up in his first NHL game last night), Jared McCann (another who’ll wear a letter) and defenseman Ben Hutton, who was one of their best picks in recent years. The latter two are the players I want to talk about today. Jared McCann has been a player I’ve liked dating back to his minor midget days in London and while I knew he’d be a solid OHLer, I had my doubts about his longterm pro potential. He’s proved me wrong as this young sniper just keeps becoming more and more complete as a player. There are few weaknesses in his game and that’s exactly why he’s getting a longer look now – something I didn’t expect this soon either. He will be back with the Soo Greyhounds I am sure but how about this snipe for his first career NHL goal?
Ben Hutton should expect to unpack his bags permanently. He looks very good early on and his supporting offense will certainly help replace any lost by Kevin Bieksa. His shot isn’t a booming one but it’s above average and very efficient at getting pucks through. With more powerplay time, Hutton’s totals should continue to climb. He’s very smart with the puck and makes safe reads in all three zones. Currently, Hutton’s been getting secondary powerplay time with Tanev but an injury to Alexander Edler, an executive member of the Band Aid Boy committee, would benefit him even more.
The Boston Bruins had a season forget last season – missing the playoffs, giving away Dougie Hamilton, trading away Milan Lucic – who seemed to define the Bruins tough demeanour. Of course, it’s easy to see that GM Don Sweeney wanted sweeping changes with an emphasis on more skill – which makes sense given that’s how the Stanley Cup Champs were built. They had three consecutive first round picks which witnessed Jakub Zboril (13th), Jake DeBrusk (14th) and Zach Senyshyn (15th) get taken in order. Time will tell if those picks were the correct one but many were baffled that Mathew Barzal (16th), who had a remarkable camp with the Islanders, and Kyle Connor (17th), a promising Jets prospect, were still available. The Islanders brass were ecstatic that Barzal was still there. With all that said, Boston has two prospects that need to be given long leashes – one who is already wearing the B logo in Ryan Spooner and the other, Alexander Khokhlachev, who’s getting antsy bidding his time in Providence. Spooner hasn’t found the gamesheet through three games with Boston this year but if he’s given the opportunity to play second fiddle to David Krejci as the team’s playmaker then he WILL thrive. Let’s hope Boston has patience. Khokhlachev is a more interesting case. He’s proven to excel as an AHLer and needs to try his game at the NHL level. Khokhlachev has five assists in two AHL games this season. Get him on your watch list because he’s keeper worthy.
Back to the back-to-back-to-back draft picks. Jakub Zboril is pointless and minus-1 through four games with Saint John (QMJHL) after a season he posted 33 points in 44 games as a rookie. Jake DeBrusk’s three goals and three assists (six games) has him sitting second in team scoring. Zach Senyshyn is off to a hot start with the Soo Greyhounds as he embraces his larger role scoring six goals (T-3rd in OHL) and eight points in his first eight games.
Other notable AHL performances…
Ty Rattie (STL) has three points in his first AHL 2015-16 contest.
Nick Ritchie (ANA) scored a pair of goals in his AHL debut.
Oliver Kylington (CGY) was a debated intensely in 2015 draft circles but he’s picked up his first goal and assist in his first AHL game.
Sergey Tolchinsky (CAR), who almost made the Hurricanes two camps ago, has points in both of his games.
Jakub Vrana (WSH) with a pair of helpers in his first game with Hershey.
Esa Lindell (DAL) is coming on strongly in the Stars system picking up two assists and three shots in his first AHL game.
Leafs fans are happy about William Nylander’s start and here’s his first goal of the season (also has an assist):
Bonus for Leafs fans – here’s a Marlies Week in Review
One player that I have always liked has been Vincent Trocheck, a former OHL scoring champ (109 points) and league MVP. He’s been bouncing up and down with the Panthers the past couple of seasons but he’s here to stay and he’ll be a bigger part of this team’s success than most people think. How about his four point game to start the season?
Entering the start of the regular season those around the Pittsburgh Penguins organization were raving about Daniel Sprong’s camp. Pittsburgh’s first pick in the 2015 draft, Sprong was plucked off the board quickly at the 46th spot when many had his talents ranked as a 1st rounder. He’s a sharp shooter who handles the puck confidently and while he remains on the Penguins roster three games into the season, I doubt he sticks past the nine game mark. He’s averaging less than nine minutes per game playing on the fourth line. He is a player to stash away in deep keeper leagues.
The Canadian Hockey League named Dennis Yan the Player of the Week after the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect rattled off back-to-back 5-point games with the Shawinigan Cataractes. Yan sits with nine goals and 16 points in just seven games. He plays with some jam too so he’s even more valuable in leagues rewarding PIMs and hits.
Now, time for a few quick hits on 2016 NHL Draft prospects.
The Sudbury Wolves drafted Dmitry Sokolov third overall in the 2015 CHL Import draft thinking the big shooter would spark some offense into their lineup. While his shot and hands were impressive at last year’s U17s, Sokolov looked overweight last weekend. He had trouble keeping up to the play and didn’t get many touches as a result. Many scouts have him as a potential Top 10 pick but if his play from last weekend is any indication, he’s hardly a Top 60 pick. Lots of time to get back in my good books but he needs to get conditioned…badly.
On the other side of the spectrum, Alex Nylander (younger brother of Maple Leafs William) was also a standout for me at the U17s and he’s stepped right into the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads and planted himself as one of the best players in the league. He brings a very similar skill as his older brother but I like his ability to get his nose dirty more. He scored the OT winner at the game on Sunday to cap off a Steelheads 2-0 comeback (Highlights). For me, he’s a Top 10 talent and he will be even more effective once he learns how to play in the North American structure better. Nylander sits tied for second in OHL scoring with a dozen points (eight games).
Matthew Tkachuk, tied with the aforementioned Nylander in scoring, is a lock for Top 5, in my opinion. I had a scout tell me that he’s destined to not only be an NHL star but rather an NHL superstar. I nodded in agreement. He’s a special hockey player who has the elite skills to reach that level.
The Halifax Mooseheads have one hell of an European scout. Otto Sommpi is the newest stud import and has a dozen points in as many games (11 points). Sommpi was ranked by me as a Top 40 performer at the 2014 U17 World Hockey Championships.
Another rising draft prospect, Vitali Abramov (ranked 29th at U17s) has had no trouble adjusting to the North American game racking up seven goals and 19 points in 11 games. My scouting report from the U17s…
Russia’s Mr. Steady-Eddy, Vitali Abramov came to play in all six games posting points in all but one game (vs. FIN) totaling three goals and nine points. Sharing the team scoring lead with Dmitri Sokolov, Abramov was among Russia’s most lethal offensive options. He showed good patience in possession, outwaiting checkers for open lanes, and used his agility and top-end speed to keep defenders guessing.
How about Erie Otters’ Alex DeBrincat? An undrafted OHL player who rode shutgun with Connor McDavid last season scoring 51 goals, leading many to conclude he was benefitting from playing with #97. Welp, five games into his sophomore season and DeBrincat has broken twine 10 times (TEN TIMES!) and leads the OHL with 13 points. Nine of DeBrincat’s goals came against the Niagara IceDogs.
Thanks for reading folks,