Prospect Ramblings: 2019 Calder Class, Olli Juolevi Steps Up & Sami Niku Takes Home Hardware

Cam Robinson

2018-04-13

 

 

 

 

Winnipeg Jets’ defensive prospect, Sami Niku was awarded the Eddie Shore Trophy earlier this week given to the AHL’s top defender. The 21-year-old tallied 16 goals and 53 points in 72 games for the Manitoba Moose and earned himself a game in the NHL at the end of the regular season.

 

Niku has been marinating nicely after being selected right near the end of the 2015 Entry Draft (198th overall). He was a role player on two U20 World Junior squads for the Fins and spent two more seasons in the Finnish Liiga before crossing the pond this past summer.

 

The Jets remain absolutely littered with young talent but most of it comes from the forward corps so Niku’s development is a real boon to the back end of the prospect pool. The smooth-skating left-shot defender offers terrific puck movement and a calm presence despite his age and relatively small experience in North America.

 

The seventh round pick looks like a homerun for the Jets and as Toby Enstrom heads towards free agency, he may just have a full-time spot on the Winnipeg blue line as early as next fall.

 

He’s one to keep an eye on in fantasy circles as his reduced pedigree will keep him under the radar a bit longer than some players, but don’t sleep too long because this Fin can play.

 

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After going pointless in his first two SHL playoff contests, Elias Pettersson has been back to his usual dominant self. The 19-year-old offensive dynamo has four goals and nine points in his last seven games – including this tremendous effort in overtime to sweep Malmö and send Växjö to the SHL finals

 

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Elias Pettersson just took his team to the SHL Finals after this overtime beauty vs Malmö. 👀 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canucks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Canucks</a><br><br>(🎥 C More) <a href="https://t.co/alwjg9u1cu">pic.twitter.com/alwjg9u1cu</a></p>&mdash; Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) <a href="https://twitter.com/HockeyWebCast/status/983018758766723073?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 8, 2018</a></blockquote>https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js{/source}

 

Pettersson is now tied for second in points-per-game during the SHL post-season after leading the regular season in points and points-per-game. He’ll likely complete his season with Växjö and head to the World Championships with Sweden in May to culminate a historic draft-plus one campaign.

 

Next stop will be Vancouver in the fall and what appears to be a near-assured right-wing spot in the team’s top nine.

 

He’ll be one of the Calder favourites in what promises to be another tasty freshman crop featuring Eeli Tolvanen, Miro Heiskanen, Andrei Svechnikov, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt and likely a few more elite prospects – Think: Kailer Yamamoto, Cody Glass, Filip Zadina, Gabe Vilardi, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Martin Necas, Henrik Borgstrom… It’s going to be a big time push for the Calder.

 

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Sticking with Canucks’ prospects, Olli Juolevi saved his best for last this season. With his TPS squad down their top defender in Henrik Tallinder, Juolevi stepped up in a big way. Despite being swept, he averaged over 25 minutes per game in the team’s semi-final series against Tappara and chipped in five assists over that span.

 

The left-shot defender has seven points in 10 Liiga playoff games which is good for a share of second amongst all blue liners in scoring.

 

 

His seven playoff points are also tied for the fourth most by a U20 defender in Liiga history trailing only:

 

Teppo Numminen (12 points in 10 games)

Ville Pokka (11 points in 16 games)

Miro Heiskanen (8 points in 10 games)

 

His TPS squad will play in a bronze medal game before their season concludes and then it will be interesting to see if Juolevi heads to the World Championships or crosses the pond to join Utica for their AHL playoff run.

 

Regardless, the 19-year-old will be pushing for an NHL job at camp next fall. 

 

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We at DobberProspects are gearing up for some fun projects in the near future. One of our most popular projects – ranking the organizational depth charts of all 31 teams, will be back again and featuring more detail and descriptions.

 

Also, keep an eye out for our U18 preview next week. Our Euro specialist, Jokke Nevalainen will dig into Sweden and Finland’s squads and I’ll delve into the North American and Russian teams.

 

The U18’s will be the last major showcase for 2000-born prospects eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft and is always a terrific watch.

 

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Speaking of the U18’s, if you were hoping to watch Andrei Svechnikov (if Barrie gets eliminated of course) and Grigori Denisenko rekindle the magic they created at the Five Nations tournament a few months back, I’ve got some bad news for you.

 

It’s been confirmed that Denisenko will miss out on the last big scouting event of the 2018 campaign due to a conflict with Russian team management. We can only speculate what that conflict is, but if I’m a betting man (and we both know I am) it’s because he’s looking to cross the pond this summer instead of verbally committing to a year or two in the KHL.

 

The CHL Import draft happens in June and he’ll be a very interesting prospect to watch as his skill could land him right at the top of the pile if a Canadian Major Junior team gets wind that he wants to play in North America next season.

 

Denisenko will be eligible to play in the CHL, AHL, NHL, KHL, MHL.. basically all the L’s.

 

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Tri-City is laying an absolute beat down in the WHL playoffs right now.  They’ve rattled off eight straight wins to sweep the division winning, Kelowna Rockets and then the Victoria Royals. They’ve outscored their opponents 46-22 over that span.

 

The Americans have been led by Red Wings’ 2017 first rounder, Michael Rasmussen who has recorded 10 goals and 24 points and Carolina third rounder, Morgan Geekie who’s potted an incredible 15 goals and 24 points.

 

Detroit took a lot of heat for selecting Rasmussen ninth overall last June and leaving potentially higher impact players like Vilardi, Nick Suzuki and Martin Necas on the board, but the way Rasmussen is playing these days, they may get the last laugh.

 

A big, strong, goal-scoring centre is a rare commodity.

 

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It is expected that the consensus top goaltending prospect outside the NHL, Ilya Samsonov will sign with Washington at the end of the month.

 

The crease situation for the Capitials is about to get even more complicated as Phillip Grubauer steals the starter’s net to begin the playoffs and needs a new contract this offseason (and a substantial raise on his 1.5 million).  

 

Do the Caps find a way to keep Grubauer and Holtby while allowing Samsonov the opportunity to see some AHL ice? Do they move Grubauer at the draft to give him a shot at starting elsewhere and give Samsonov the back-up role behind Holtby? Or do they move the big piece in Holtby thus clearing cap space to sign John Carlson and let Grubauer and Samsonov run the show?

 

It’ll be a very interesting situation to watch this offseason.

 

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Gabe Vilardi is continuing his wildly impressive draft-plus one campaign. Despite being out with a back injury for much of the early portion of the season, from the moment he stepped back in he’s been absolutely dominant.

 

The power centre is currently leading all OHL players in playoff scoring with nine goals and 18 points in nine games after rattling off 22 goals and 58 points 38 regular season contests.

 

The Kings got themselves a good one last June.

 

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A player that I’ve been watching especially close these last couple of months is Drummondville defender, Nicolas Beaudin.

 

The smooth-skating, left-shot defender has flown mostly under the radar during his draft-eligible campaign despite putting up over a point-per-game in the QMJHL this season (69 points in 68 games).

 

He’s continued his high-level of play in the playoffs by racking up three goals and 11 points in eight contests while displaying the offensive attributes that NHL teams so covet these days – speed, smarts, quick outlets… He’s a player who will likely be around after the first round but has the skills to be an impact fantasy player down the line.

 

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

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