Prospect Ramblings: Season pivotal for young trio (July) 18

David McDonald

2016-07-18

Traded from a powerhouse in Chicago, Teuvo Teravainen will assume a more important role in Carolina.

 

 

Welcome back to an impromptu Prospect Ramblings!

Today, I look at three prospects who should have an opportunity to take the next step in their NHL careers this season. These prospects can entrench themselves as bona fide members of their organization and continue to evolve as players in the league.

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While having Bryan Bickell off the books may be nice, paying Teuvo Teravainen as the moving fee had to have been a tough pill to swallow for Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman — even to keep Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Call it the cost of doing business.

With this move, however, Teravainen is going to get the opportunity to do something he was never going to in Chicago – be a potential top-line, offensive contributor. With Toews and Kane firmly entrenched as the go-to for offensive production in the Blackhawks’ lineup, the young Finn was going to see more opportunity on a second line, and second-unit special teams.

Enter the Carolina Hurricanes, a franchise looking to rebuild, and a team that presents an excellent chance to show off his excellent offensive talents.

After parting ways with Eric Staal, the club’s de facto first-line center for the past decade, Carolina adds Teravainen to Elias Lindholm and Jordan Staal as the team’s top three pivots. While he has not established himself in his two seasons in the NHL, Teravainen will be counted on to provide offense on a club without the lofty goals of a recent Stanley Cup champion.

Though he’s only 21, there will be an expectation that higher point totals are coming down the pipe. One thing is absolutely certain, though, playing time will increase, and Teravainen is going to be seen as a piece of an increasingly impressive pool of young players that includes Lindholm, Haydn Fleury, Alex Nedeljkovic, Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier.

If he wants to lay claim to a spot, the clock is ticking.

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While I don't think there is a huge population of Leafs fans who agree with Don Cherry's disappointment with the Toronto Maple Leafs decision to draft William Nylander over Nick Ritchie in 2014, Anaheim Ducks fans certainly were fine with it.

 

Nick Ritchie trades knuckles with Jarred Tinordi, demonstrating the physical aspect he will bring to the Anaheim Ducks:

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At 20, it is unfair to expect Ritchie to walk onto a Ducks’ roster and become an impact player. This young man is still quite raw, and has a great deal of potential that must be nurtured and developed into the powerful point producer many envision him becoming. However, Ritchie saw 33 games of action with the main roster last season and has shown he is physically capable of playing in the NHL. Whether his skill set has come further along, that may be a different discussion.

Ultimately, Ritchie is likely to have every chance to earn a regular spot with the club in 2016-17. Though a third-line role would likely be the best situation, it is well within the realm of possibility that the aging of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler will see the hulking winger thrust into a more offensive role. This could be a boom-bust proposition.

His net-front presence and ability to win battles in the corners may light a spark under the existing core, but the lack of refinement in his skill game may expose him. The potential exposure could overwhelm him as a player, and could be detrimental to long-term development and confidence.

Ritchie on Anaheim’s roster would add a combination of size and physicality, to go along with offensive ability, that the likes of Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell cannot match. Though it's likely Ritchie starts the season as a key member of the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, it should surprise no one to see a large No. 37 jersey in the black and gold on opening night.

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I imagine that as Gary Bettman announced the trade of Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues to the Calgary Flames, the collar on Jake Allen's shirt got more than a little tighter.

Some may debate if the 25-year-old can be truly considered a prospect at this point in his career. While each side of the argument can bear some merit, what cannot be debated is that this season will be a turning point in establishing his future as a legitimate No. 1 NHL goaltender.

Allen came into the 2015-16 season expected to lead the team as the starter, and did not disappoint by posting a 2.35 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. However, injuries derailed what was an excellent season and gave room for Elliott to take the net and run with it.

That will not be the case this season, as not only the vast majority of starts will be handed over to Allen, but also the playoff hopes of a club that has not translated their in-season success to games in May and June.

Simply put, this entire season may hinge on the New Brunswick native and his ability to stay healthy, and perform at a high level. Moreover, he could establish himself as the needle-mover that took the Blues from a post-season pretender to a legitimate Cup contender. That would do more than just put the league on notice that he is a quality starting goaltender: It would potentially alter the course of an entire franchise.

Given the Blues did not hesitate to extend the 6-2 netminder with a four-year, $17.4-million contract on July 1. It seems the house is betting on the young man.

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Thanks for reading. And feel free to give me a follow on Twitter!

@HOCCA_Scouting

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