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 f