Pavel Buchnevich, seen here celebrating a goal, could have a strong finish to the NHL season after being called up by the New York Rangers from the AHL.
Deadline-week transactions, even minor ones, have been analyzed thoroughly.
The NHL season has entered the stretch drive when changes in the standings are scrutinized daily by serious hockey fans. Even casual fans are starting to sense that games are becoming increasingly significant.
Serious player injuries at this stage are often season-ending ones that necessitate callups now that the trade deadline has passed. That means players who have been toiling in the minors might get a chance to impress the management of their NHL teams and even increase their chances of being added to Stanley Cup playoff rosters.
We haven’t quite reached the point when collegiate seasons end and NHL teams sign NCAA players to their first pro contracts, but NHL squads have begun to ink undrafted free agents to increase their organizational depth and/or address inconvenient injuries.
With all that in mind, here’s a look at player transactions during the past several days and their impact on various prospects.
New York Rangers
LW Pavel Buchnevich recalled from Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL).
With wingers Jesper Fast (IR, separated shoulder) and Michael Grabner (day to day, hip) out of the lineup, the Rangers again promoted their top prospect. The dynamic 21-year-old totaled a promising 16 points in 27 games with the Rangers earlier in his NHL debut straight out of the KHL and earned his latest callup with three goals and two assists in four AHL games. Also in his favor, he’s been on the plus side in both leagues so far. Depending on his deployment (he scored a goal in 15:13 and got 3:32 of PP time in a 2-1 win Thursday over the Bruins while lining up with Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash), he might be up to stay for the rest of the season, particularly since Grabner’s production has cooled recently. Buchnevich might have a strong finish to the NHL season.
LW Michael Raffl placed on IR (LBI)
C German Rubtsov signed to three-year, entry-level contract.
The quietly efficient if low-scoring Raffl is expected to miss the rest of the season. LW Travis Konecny is ready to return after missing nine games with an ankle sprain, which will help. Rubtsov, a two-way player drafted 22nd overall last year, will report to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms after his junior season with Chicoutimi ends. He’s posted 21 points in only 15 QMJHL games with the Sagueneens after coming from Russia earlier this season. Rubtsov looks like a sure-fire NHLer, although his defensive responsibility could mitigate his offensive upside.
D Lucas Johansen signed to three-year, entry-level contract.
D Colby Williams signed to two-year, entry-level contract.
LW Mason Mitchell signed as undrafted free agent to two-year, entry-level contract.
The brother of Columbus center Ryan Johansen was Washington’s 28th overall pick in 2016. The 19-year-old blueliner has 37 points in 61 games as an assistant captain with Kelowna of the WHL and is second among the Rockets’ defensemen in goals, points, and assists.
D Ryan Mantha signed as free agent to three-year, entry-level contract.
Unable to reach agreement on a contract with the Rangers, who drafted the nephew of former NHLer Moe Mantha in 2014’s fourth round, the Hulk-like Mantha is now in Edmonton’s system. Previously criticized for not making the most of a physique that currently measures 6-5 and 225 pounds, the late-blooming 20-year-old has been more aggressive in his third junior season, recording 51 points and 63 PIMs in 60 games for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.
LW Remi Elie recalled from Texas Stars (AHL).
Remi Elie is not afraid to get his knuckles bruised:
The loss, possibly for the rest of the season, of versatile and underrated LW Antoine Roussel due to a hand injury is a significant blow to Dallas. The French native, who plays an uncompromisingly aggravating physical game, has played with centers Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Cody Eakin and Radek Faksa en route to his most-disciplined and highest-scoring season to date. Veteran Jiri Hudler will likely pick up the bulk of his icetime, although Elie might get a limited opportunity to impress management as an emergency callup. With 25 points in 50 games during his second AHL season, the 2013 40th-overall pick has begun to find his pro game, which includes a willingness to drop his gloves. With UFA wingers Hudler, Ales Hemsky (who just returned after missing 58 games due to hip surgery) and possibly even Patrick Sharp moving on in the off-season, there’s a slim chance this could be a springboard to Elie making the 2017-18 Dallas lineup at some point.
C Matthew Highmore signed as undrafted free agent to three-year, entry-level contract.
Matthew Highmore pots a game-winning QMJHL shootout goal:
The hard-working, two-way middleman earned his contract by racking up 33 goals and 53 assists in just 59 games while going plus-34 in his fourth and final season with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs. He’s not big at 5-11 and 181 and will need time in the AHL, but he might be a third-line center for the ‘Hawks one day.
C/RW Zack MacEwen signed as undrafted free agent to three-year, entry-level contract.
The 20-year-old late-blooming junior got noticed with 27 goals, 38 assists and 83 PIMs in 60 games with the Gatineau Olympiques in his second full QMJHL campaign. The Canucks, who need size and grit to balance a roster that’s skilled yet undersized, might find a bottom-six role someday for the 6-3, 205-pound MacEwen.
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In prospect injury news, besides Konecny returning to the Flyers, winger Conor Sheary is back with the Penguins after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury. Sheary, playing regularly with Sidney Crosby and enjoying a breakout offensive season as an NHL sophomore, was pointless in only 13:38 of a 5-2 win Friday over the Lightning with no special-teams play. Expect his role to expand once he proves he’s healthy enough for the added responsibility and expect Dobber to graduate him from being a prospect once the season is done.
That’s it for a busy, NHL trade deadline-dominated week so far. Check in tomorrow for the latest Ramblings from fellow Dobber prospect columnist Hayden Soboleski.