Prospects Mailbag: Jack Hughes, Heiskanen, Tolvanen, Dahlén, Byram and More (October 2018)

Cam Robinson



After a long offseason of rest and reflection, the DobberProspects’ Mailbag has returned! I’ve got a ton of great questions so I won’t waste any more time with the build-up. Let’s get right into it!



Question: “Wondering when/if we might see Tolvanen this year and what to expect?”


Answer: After a bit of a cool start, Tolvanen jumped out and dished three assists this past weekend to bring his counting stats to one goal and six points in seven AHL games. As a goal-scorer first and foremost, that first column is a tad disappointing. However, the stat that stands out to me is his averaging less than two shots per game. This after peppering KHL netminders with nearly 3.5 a year ago.


I expect we see Tolvanen at some point this season – especially if a player like Fiala or Forsberg goes down with an injury and opens up a spot at his natural left-wing position. But until we see the shot volume and/or goal-scoring metrics start to heat up, Milwaukee is the right place for him.


There will be plenty of time for Tolvanen to make an impact on fantasy squads, but this year won’t be one of them. Probably not next season either if we’re being realistic.



Question: “If Kakko > Hughes at the World Junior Championships, does he have a legit chance to go #1?”


Answer: Those who follow me on Twitter know that I’m a BIG fan of Kaapo Kakko. I think the world of this Finnish forward. He’s been the clear number two for me going back through 2017-18.


What he’s done so far in the Liiga so far this season has inched him even closer to Hughes for the coveted top spot. So far, Kakko has racked up three goals and 10 points in 13 Liiga contests. Nine of those points have been primary, a clear reflection of his play-driving ability.


Here are a few clips of his magic.

Shootout goal

Give-and-go one-timer goal.



Dancing with the puck forever before setting up a goal


Kakko being a winger and Hughes being a centre adds some separation between the two. However, Kakko was a centre during his U20 days and has suited up down the middle at a recent Champions Hockey tournament game. Its unlikely he gets to play there much with TPS as they’re deep down the middle, but it’s interesting nonetheless.


Kakko won’t play centre at the WJC either. Finland will boast Rasmus Kupari, Anton Lundell, and Henri Nikkanen as natural centres. They’ll also have a shot at Jesperi Kotkaniemi joining the team from the Habs.


I think the major stage will play a role in draft slots – as it does every year. But scouts know that these short bursts are good to value but important not to overvalue.


Hughes remains the clear number one, but Kakko can continue to push that with his play.



Question: “Can we get some thoughts, perhaps likelihood of timeline on turning pro for Bowen Byram?”


Answer: Byram is trending towards a top 10 selection this June with a shot at being taken in the top five. He’s a tremendous puck-moving defender with great wheels and offensive instincts. I like him a lot and had him ranked third on my list in August.


That said, he has holes in his game as virtually every 17-year-old blueliner has. I think it’s a near certainty that he’ll go back to the Giants for 2019-20. Unfortunately, he’ll be unable to go to the AHL for 2020-21 so there’s a chance he makes the NHL that year rather than risk stagnating his development with a fourth WHL campaign.



Question: “Who would Jack Hughes NHL comparable be?”


Answer: Every player is so unique that comparables are a tricky thing. That said, he’s Patrick Kane with better speed. And I don’t say use that comparison lightly. His puck skills, control of pace, east-west ability and ridiculous edge work are so reminiscent of Kane that it’s too easy to draw the line between the two smaller players.


People forget that Kane played centre during his USNTDP days before moving to London in the OHL during his draft year. He transitioned to the right-wing in the OHL before sticking there as an NHLer. The same fate may be waiting for Hughes when he steps into the big league next season. I personally still like him as a pivot though.



Question: Cozens vs Dach.. the who, what, where, when, and how’s. Also, favourite pie with ice cream topper?”


Answer: Coming into the season, I had Cozens as the higher ranked prospect. That was due to his 2017-18 campaign and a more impressive Ivan Hlinka tournament. Cozens sat fourth and Dach at ninth.


I won’t be releasing my next edition for another month but my goodness have I been impressed with Dach. He’s really coming into his own and using all that size and skill effectively. His 22 points in 12 games sit fourth in WHL scoring. He’s doing everything for Saskatoon right now.


That said, Cozens hasn’t been sleeping. He’s been great again in Lethbridge accumulating 17 points in 12 games. If I had to pick one right now, I may be ready to flip to Dach but it’s going to be a battle all season long to be the first WHL pivot off the board. Both of these guys will make a run to be a top-three selection.


And it’s apple pie with a vanilla ice cream. All. Day. Long.



Question: “Bowen Byram vs Cam York. Also, does anyone outside of Kakko and Hughes make the NHL next year?


Answer: I like Byram here. He’s my number one ranked defensive prospect in this crop by a decent margin. That said, York was my number three in August and likely won’t be moving much when I publish again in November.


As for next season, we’re seeing more and more players step off the draft floor and into NHL dressing rooms more and more. The 2019 class won’t be any different. You could see a player like Dylan Cozens, Mikko Kokkonen, Byram himself or even a surprise like Vasili Podkolzin or Trevor Zegras make the squad if the situation fell in their favour.


Players with the earlier birthdate – ie a 2000-born guy, or someone with an already polished two-way game that’s been honed in a top Euro league. These are usually the ones that surprise. Either that or a highly skilled player who has a big camp – like a Zegras or Podkolzin could do.



Question: “Do you think Heiskanen could turn out to be a Ryan Murray in the long term? What’s his fantasy ceiling for points only in the future?”


Answer: To be quick about it, no I do not think Miro Heiskanen turns out to be a Ryan Murray. I actually think Heiskanen has the goods to be a stalwart number one defender who could get Norris consideration down the line.


His top-end ceiling for fantasy is hinged on his deployment though – as it is with virtually everyone. He’s firmly behind Klingberg and will be for some time. Look at Ghost and Provorov in Philly. Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo back in the STL days. It’s prudent for teams to maximize a player’s value. In this case, that means giving Klingberg the primo ice which he’s earned and thrives with. Heiskanen will have to take the scraps.


Without PP1 time, his ceiling is likely in the 45-point range. 



Question: “Why aren’t there ever prospect ‘generational’ talents between the pipes?”


Answer: It’s simple really, it’s damn near impossible to assess a goaltender at 17. It’s such a wildly difficult and technical position to master. A player who may thrive at 16/17/18 may not thrive at 23/24/25.


We have seen some goaltenders go early – MAF and Rick DiPietro went first overall in the last 20 years. Luongo went fourth. Price went fifth. These guys were all highly regarded during their draft years. Not generationally so, but enough to get a team to take a huge risk at the top of the draft.


I think we’d have to see a freak show up and destroy a top Euro league as a d-eligible to ever get a sniff at that lofty a selection now though. Teams are too shy to risk a lotto pick on such a volatile position. Especially when their sixth-rounder from two years earlier may turn out to be better with a little more seasoning.



Question: “Who might be one of your biggest movers (up or down) for the 2019 draft from your previous list?”


Answer: Keep your eyes out for Arthur Kaliyev (↑), Albin Grewe (↑), Trevor Zegras (↑), and Alex Newhook ().



Question: “Realistic timeline before we see Jonathan Dahlen in a Canucks’ uniform contributing?”


Answer: I believe Dahlen will see some NHL time this season. It’ll be limited in deployment and likely duration. But he’ll get a taste to see where he needs to elevate his game too. He’ll have a chance to crack the lineup full time in 2019-20, but I wouldn’t chisel his name in just yet. There are a lot of RFA’s leading into July 1, 2019, for the Canucks. What they do there and with their abundance of cap space will play a substantial role.


The organization won’t want to bury him on the fourth line versus playing top minutes in Utica so he may see another sizable load in the AHL that year too.


Look for 2021-22 when he’s 22/23 years old to be the year he really starts putting some numbers on the board in an exciting way.



Question: “Any thoughts on when Brannstrom and Makar will crack the NHL?”


Answer: Brannstrom should be up for parts of this season and likely a full-timer in Vegas next year. Makar should turn pro at the end of this season and get his feet with either with the Avs or the AHL to conclude 2018-19. I expect he plays at least one AHL season before jumping into the NHL fulltime.




Question: Rank Jack Hughes, Andrei Svechnikov, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Quinton Byfield.”


Answer: These types of questions are cruel. I can’t imagine having any one of them last! But I’ll be the good soldier and try my best – with the caveat that I can change my mind countless times over the next decade.











Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson




Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Timur Mukhanov 8.0 7.0
Alexander Pashin 7.0 2.5
Felix Unger Sörum 7.5 8.5
Charles-Alexis Legault 4 6.5
Alexander Pelevin 3 2
Tyler Tucker 5.0 6.0
Matt Kessel 4.0 7.5
Aatu Räty 8.0 7.0
Jackson Blake 6.0 6.0
Ryan Ufko 7.0 6.0