Prospect Ramblings – U20 Players Taking Over the NHL

Cam Robinson


                                                       Victor Mete with the London Knights – 2016-17                                                                                      



Every year, we come out of the Entry Draft assuming maybe the top two or three guys are going to stick with their NHL clubs. Those in the know, leave a window for one surprise guy from the middle/late first round or early second to surprise and crack a line up, but few forecast half a dozen or more to walk off the draft floor and into and NHL dressing room.

But that's exactly what's happened so far this season. 

2017 Draft Eligibles who have stuck (so far) and their draft slot

  • Nico Hischier (1st)
  • Nolan Patrick (2nd)
  • Owen Tippett (10th)
  • Martin Necas (12th)
  • Filip Chytil (21st)
  • Kailer Yamamoto (22nd)
  • Alex Formenton (47th)


Taking a wider view, here are the 19-year-olds (2016 draft crop) to crack their big squads:

  • Pierre-Luc Dubois (3rd)
  • Clayton Keller (7th)
  • Mikhail Sergachev (9th)
  • Charlie McAvoy (14th)
  • Tage Thompson (26th)
  • Alex DeBrincat (39th)
  • Janne Kuokkanen (43rd)
  • Samuel Girard (47th)
  • Victor Mete (100th)
  • Jesper Bratt (162nd)


FYI: This is a ridiculous number of teenagers entering the league, and of course we’re excluding those who made in their original draft-plus one years – Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk.


It’s an exciting time for the hockey world as these bright young stars bring with them speed, skill and enthusiasm. But how many of them can hang around past the nine-game threshold and then perhaps the even more important, 40 game mark?


*For clarification, if a player who is ineligible to play in the American league (ie, drafted out of the CHL and hasn’t completed four seasons of junior hockey or born in 1998) plays 10 or more games, they burn a year off their three-year entry-level contract and reach restricted free agency a season early. Players who stick past the 39-game mark will earn one season towards their unrestricted free agency down the line.*


There are a few players who appear destined to stick for the entirety of the campaign and never look back:

  • Clayton Keller (AHL eligible) – Bank on 45-plus points from the most talented rookie in this year’s rookie class.
  • Nico Hischier (AHL eligible) – If there was even a minuscule chance he would head back to Halifax, that was put to rest with the Travis Zajac injury. Expect around a half-point-per-game
  • Nolan Patrick – The powerful centre should see loads of time in the middle six with second power play unit time. 40-plus should be expected.
  • Charlie McAvoy (AHL-eligible) – The most impactful freshman blue liner will see loads of even-strength minutes and handle second unit power play duties. 30-points and a Calder push are in his immediate future.


The rest of these players are all at risk of leaving after the nine-game mark but if I’m a betting man (which you know I am!) I like Mete, Chytil (AHL eligible but just as likely to head back to Europe than report to North Bay of the OHL), DeBrincat (AHL eligible), Dubois, and Tippett to see action past that first bench mark.


Each of these players have an opportunity to remain with their NHL clubs if they succeed early and often, so watch for deployment, minutes and shots on goal to give further evidence to their state of play and their coaches trust in them.


It usually doesn’t take long for a player to show he isn’t ready as Mathew Barzal and Thomas Chabot found out a season ago after playing just two and one games respectively before being sent back to their junior clubs.




Speaking of first year pros, Victor Mete is my dark horse candidate to end up on the Calder Trophy ballot this season. The 19-year-old former fourth-round selection is a very mobile and heady offensive defender. He stole top unit minutes from Olli Juolevi in London last season and has proven that it’s not just his physical tools that are ready for prime time, but his mental game is as well, as he’s rebounded nicely after some poor plays – a veteran move.


Being paired with Shea Weber at even-strength should go a long way in helping nurture the young blue liner.





Both Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen have cracked the opening night roster in Vancouver. The two right-wingers were often the team’s best players throughout the preseason slate and earned their spots outright.


The issue will be playing time. As it stands heading into game one, Boeser is slated to begin on the team’s third line, while Virtanen is set up at the 13th forward with Derrick Dorsett skating on the right side on the fourth line.


This is not a positive developmental spot for Virtanen so keep a very close eye on his deployment because a top six scoring role with Utica is far more beneficial to his long-term outlook and could become a reality sooner rather than later.




Also regarding Vancouver, Elliott Freidman eluded to the team sniffing around RFA holdout, Andreas Athanasiou, and for good reason. The versatile forward would inject a great deal of speed into the lineup and fill an organizational role for the club. If Henrik Sedin hangs up his skates at the end of this season, the team desperately needs middle-six capable pivots to slot behind Bo Horvat.


If they don’t find some, they risk putting Adam Gaudette or Elias Pettersson into spots they’re likely not ready for yet.




Despite reporting to Gatineau last Friday, Vitaly Abramov has yet to suit up for a regular season contest. The reigning QMJHL MVP led the league in scoring a year ago with 46 goals and 104 points in 64 regular season contests – providing tangible evidence to suggest he’s advanced past that level of competition.


While there were rumours of the 19-year-old Russian catching on with a European league this year after being cut by the Blue Jackets, the transfer could not be smoothed over.


Look for Abramov to get into action this Friday versus Shawinigan and likely be dealt to a QMJHL contender as the season wears on.




2018 first round hopeful, Allan McShane is off to a blistering start to his draft-eligible campaign. The distributing centre has racked up nine assists through the first five contests with Oshawa playing even-strength minutes on a line with 16-year-old, 2020 top draft prospect, Nick Wong (who has seven goals in five games), and with Bruins’ second rounder, Jack Studnicka on the top man-advantage unit.


It’s a great start for McShane who accrued 44 points in 62 games split between the Generals and the Eerie Otters last season.


McShane comes in at number 26 on my August Preliminary Rankings.




Updated CHL Top 10 Rankings

Nice to see the Royals debut on the list at number five. Victoria is my hometown so there will be plenty of Royals' viewings this season courtesy of the DobberHockey creds. 

Get ready to hear a great deal about Matthew Phillips and Griffen Outhouse (aka: The Toilet)



First Game Results

Kailer Yamamoto saw just 6:33 of ice time in his NHL debut, none coming on the man-advantage.

He skated exclusively on the second line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but was often replaced by Zack Kassian or Jujhar Khaira as the game wore on.


Even Strength Line Combinations


Line Combination










This is obviously not a great setup for the recently-turned 19-year-old, and unless the Oilers wish to stunt his growth, they better play him in real situations or return him to Spokane in a hurry.


Nolan Patrick saw 13:30 of ice in his debut with 44 seconds of that coming on the man-advantage. He skated next to Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal.


Even Strength Line Combinations


Line Combination




















Tage Thompson saw 11:26 in his debut with 1:57 coming on the second power play unit. The former University of Connecticut star begins his career in the bottom-six but has the size and talent to become a productive top six producer down the line.


Even Strength Line Combinations


Line Combination




















Filip Chytil saw just 7:40 in his first foray onto NHL ice, while the most frequently used debut belongs to Victor Mete who logged 18:43 with a plus-one rating and one shot on goal. A great start for the 19-year-old.


Olli Juolevi has successfully been loaned to TPS Turku of the Finnish Liiga. The two-way defender was called out by new Canucks' coach Travis Green for not being in "NHL shape" at camp and looked a little sluggish with his quickness. That could have been the result of some added weight over the summer, but he'll have a great opportunity to play meaningful minutes for the top club in the Liiga and under the tutelage of former Canuck, Sami Salo who runs the defense for that squad. 

It'll likely be just the one season overseas before Juolevi crosses back over to push for an NHL or AHL gig. 



Here’s your weekly Eeli Tolvanen update:


The 18-year-old continues his historic path in the KHL, tacking on another goal and assist in his most recent outing to go along with seven shots on goal. He's currently on a five game point-streak totalling six goals, four assists and 28 shots on goal.


That brings his current numbers up to 10 goals, eight assists and 65 shots in 14 contests. His 4.64 shots/game is third most league wide and his 1.29 points-per-game is good for fourth most in the league.

This is incredible.

Tolvanen is now creeping up the list of all-time single season point leaders for U20 players, despite being just a draft-plus one player and having roughly 70 percent fewer games played than most of those in front of him. 

He was recently named Forward and Rookie of the Week. 


That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3



Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Teddy Stiga 7.0 8.0
Noah Powell 6.5 6.0
Ilya Protas 6.0 6.0
Adam Kleber 5.5 8.0
Javon Moore 8.0 3.0
Artyom Levshunov 9.0 8.0
Colby Barlow 8.0 9.5
Connor Levis 5.0 4.5
Rutger McGroarty 9.0 8.0
Timur Mukhanov 8.0 7.0