Prospects Rambling: Alexander Kerfoot/Eeli Tolvanen/Igor Ozhiganov

Kevin Wickersham

2017-08-24

The Kerfoot watch is over. It seemed a lock for many months that their 2012 fifth-round pick was not New Jersey-bound, trekking the unsigned draftee-UFA path that led ex-Crimson linemate and Predator selection Jimmy Vesey last year to Madison Square Garden, but now that it’s official it’s less a punch in the gut for the Devils than it would have been around February. Watching Kerfoot continue to rack up big assist and increased goal numbers (16 G, 29 A, 36 games) as a senior in the ECAC last winter while NJD skidded to the NHL’s third-worst scoring total, the possibility of him helping create some NHL offense as a 24-year-old during 2017-18 provided some hope.

But while they still could use him particularly with Travis Zajac’s long-term loss, landing Hischier, Johansson and Boyle this offseason lessens the sting. With a slew of almost, maybe-ready forward prospects featuring McLeod, Speers and Quenneville, and the likes of Bastian, Anderson and adroit 2017 Entry Draft selections Jesper Boqvist and Fabian Zetterlund (not to mention the enigmatic Nikita Popugaev) behind them there’s increased hope, and better offense before too long in Newark. Now about that blue line…

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It appears Boston College’s loss is Jokerit Helsinki’s gain. While admissions wouldn’t let USHL graduate Eeli Tolvanen join the BC Eagles in Hockey East this fall, yesterday’s debut in the KHL was a smashing success as the Finnish forward stole the show with a hat trick against Dynamo Minsk peppering familiar face Jhonas Enroth in net. Nashville’s 18-year-old, 30th overall selection this June becomes the youngest player in league history to land three goals in a game. That’s a solid beginning for the former Sioux City Musketeer sniper, especially as he’s playing for Finland’s lone KHL squad, and hopefully a precursor to a productive NHL career start down the line in Nashville.

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There’s been much said about the Maple Leafs defense corps this offseason and I’m sure that will continue through camp and as the season unfolds. Now there’s more with news with Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello visiting with undrafted CSKA Moscow defenseman Igor Ozhiganov. While 2018-19 is the soonest Nikita Zaitsev’s former teammate could possibly play in North America, he would present an interesting blue line option.

Ozhiganov’s game has plenty of snarl as he uses his 6-02, 214-pound frame to deliver crushing hits. While he collected tons of penalty time in Russian juniors with seasons of 167 and 129 minutes that’s toned down a bit recently, dropping to 61 PIM in 50 KHL contests last year. But he still has that gear. Offensively, Ozhiganov has a heavy, wicked right-handed shot that helped net 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) last year and won him the hardest shot competition at the most recent KHL All Star Game at 99 MPH. Interesting.

 

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