It’s been a whirlwind week or so for me personally. Firstly, I was thrilled to be named Managing Editor of the site. Peter has done a great job traversing a path for me to follow and I look forward to it. Peter staying on as our new Content Manager is a big win. He’ll be orchestrating some fun projects this year.
Not 24 hours had gone by before I tweeted out what appeared to ane an innocuous gif of Elias Pettersson getting power slammed by Mike Matheson. Next thing you know that gif became the key video of the incident for the next 24 hours. Nearly 300K views. My Twitter mentions were a nightmare. Good times.
Speaking of that Pettersson injury, the star rookie has been progressing through the concussion protocol nicely. He was spotted in workout gear after the Canucks’ gameday skate on Thursday morning. It’s been reported as improvements each day. Barring a setback (which is always a serious risk with these type of things), he’s likely to be eyeing a return sometime early next week.
Spencer Knight is looking to get the masked men back into round one. The 2019 eligible goaltender has long been considered a tweener pick. A guy who falls into that 25-45 range. And with goaltenders, the safe bet is that you see a player like that go in round two. I’m no different, I had Knight ranked as the 32nd best prospect in my Preliminary Rankings from August.
What he’s done early on this season with The Program has certainly been pushing him in the right direction. A 5-0-0 record, 0.940 save percentage and a 1.74 goals-against-average is nothing to sneeze at. Three of those victories were against NCAA Division I teams in Notre Dame, Michigan and Minnesota.
Those squads are nationally ranked 2nd, 11th and 6th respectively.
While the old adage that goaltenders are voodoo remains relevant today, the 6’3, 17-year-old is looking like a good bet for a team coming off a nice playoff run to swing on in the top-31 next June.
Buffalo may finally be taking a step forward after years of futility. Their minor league affiliate is following suit with some exciting new talent.
After a strgon season with HV71 last year, Lawrence Pilut signed a free agent deal with Sabres and began his journey towards the NHL. The 22-year-old didn’t break camp with the big club but he’s certainly knocking on the door.
Through six AHL contests, the puck-moving defender has two goals and 10 points. He sits second in the AHL for power-play assists with five, and his total points lead all blueliners.
The only player Pilut trails is teammate and fellow-Swede, Victor Olofsson. Olofsson has always had a nice release, but 2017-18 he took things to a new level. The 23-year-old torched the SHL last season – leading the league in total goals (27) and power-play markers (14). He was pretty much the only guy who got his hands on some hardware over Elias Pettersson who scored three fewer goals in six fewer games.
Olofsson has kept the party rolling in Rochester this year. He leads the AHL in points with 12 in six games and his five goals sits second behind AAAA poster boy, Reid Boucher. Olofsson is terrorizing netminders in the minors and it won’t be long before he gets a taste of NHL action.
We’ll have to wait and see if he’s more Mike Hoffman than Frank Vatrano but early returns are promising.
Sticking with goal-scorers, over in the OHL, 2019 draft-eligible winger, Arthur Kaliyev is making some serious noise. The 17-year-old sniper has been tuning up the competition in his second CHL campaign. After scoring 31 times in 68 games last season – tops for d-1 players, he’s posted 12 goals and 19 points in 11 games to start this season.
Kaliev is a nightmare from the high-slot in and despite teams knowing his penchant for shooting over distributing, he can change his angle and catch goaltenders with a heavy and deadly release. He’s peppered netminders with an average of 4.18 shots-per-game.
Not the prettiest skater, the 6’2 right-winger is deceptively quick and moves around the ice well. I didn’t love some of his habits as a first-year player in 2017-18 but the more red lights he turns on the less I’m worried about them. He’s a kid that will get a lot of attention in the top half of the first round next June.
Dallas Stars’ prospect, Jason Robertson is the Kingston Frontenacs. The 19-year-old winger has had a hand 66 percent of the team’s goals. The 2017 second round pick leads the CHL with 13 goals in 10 games. The rest of his team has 11 goals combined.
He’s also averaging 6.4 shots-per-game. That’s insane.
Another 2019-eligible kid is pushing his way up rankings with his early season play. 6’4 pivot, Kirby Dach has jumped out of the gate with five goals and 19 points in 11 WHL contests. His 14 assists and 15 primary points are both good for second-most in the league. Asked to play the wing for the gold medal-winning Canadian squad in September, Dach is putting to bed any question of his future position. He’s a terrific two-way centre that blends size, smarts and a penchant for making the spectacular feed.
Dach sat ninth on my board in August and I’m confident in saying he’ll be lower when I release the next edition in November.
Obligatory Kaapo Kakko gush-fest. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love this kid. He plays a cerebral, skilful and powerful game that should transfer exceptionally.
Kakko was playing in a Champions Hockey Tournament game earlier this week and got his first spin at the middle of the ice. He’s been a left-shot right-winger since I started watching him two seasons ago, but whispers of a move to centre had been sneaking our of Finland of late. While I didn’t get to see the match, the reports were positive as the 17-year-old tallied an assist in the game.
Kakko’s nine points in 12 Liiga games this year is pacing to be the third best draft-eligible season in that league behind only Alexander Barkov’s 48 in 53 and Mikael Granlund’s 40 in 43.
If he starts to convince people he can be a centre in the NHL then Jack Hughes may have a legitimate competitor for first overall.
That’s all for now. Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson