The second installment of using PNHLe as a statistic to predict future prospect potential at the NHL level, takes a look at some of the names that are providing early returns and having immediate success in their respective leagues. You can click here if you’d like to take a look at last month’s article which outlined some tiered player’s to keep an eye on after they finished last season displaying decent NHL point potential. Elias Pettersson, Ryan Merkley, Jordy Bellerive and Stelio Mattheos have all been off to fast starts.
Caution: PNHLe is a stat that fluctuates drastically early on in a season, and a single game can increase/decrease the value by a substantial amount. Generally, after the 20-game mark the stat tends to level out for the remainder of the season.
Let’s take a look at some NHL prospects that have been very hot early on in the season:
Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche
Fantrax Owned: 36%
The former fourth overall pick had many skeptics arguing that Colorado reached too far to grab him in the 2017 entry draft after he posted only 21 points in 34 games in his freshman year with UMass (Amherst). A closer look indicated that UMass was one of the younger teams in the NCAA that lacked top-end talent outside of their two defensive studs – the other being San Jose Sharks second round pick Mario Ferraro.
Makar is proving critics wrong and has found the score sheet eight times in his first four games. Granted it’s still very early in the season and there is virtually no way that he will be able to continue a two points per game pace, but he’s looked much more comfortable and is leading the Minutemen on the ice and off as he’s been named captain in his sophomore season.
Scott Perunovich – St. Louis Blues
Fantrax Owned: 6%
The Blues may have found a gem in the second round when they selected Perunovich with their second pick of the 2018 draft. A quick look at his trophy case in the past year shows just how much hardware this young man picked up after being passed over in his initial NHL entry draft: NCAA Championship, All-Tournament Team, NCHC All-Rookie Team, NCHC Best Offensive Defenseman, First All-Star Team, NCHC Rookie of the Year, (West) First All-American Team, Top NCAA Rookie (Tim Taylor Award) and a World Junior Championship Bronze Medal. Did I mention that he led the top team in the nation in scoring… as a defenseman!
Perunovich has carried that confidence into the 2018 season where he’s put up 10 points in his first six games on a Minnesota-Duluth team that has a reasonable shot at repeating as NCAA champs. Similar to Makar, his high PNHLe will more than likely regress based on the small sample size, but it is a positive sign that he’s carried an excellent freshman year into the start of this season.
Drake Batherson – Ottawa Senators
Fantrax Owned: 17%
Batherson has torched the AHL to start the season scoring nine points in his first six games as a professional. Although he was a relatively early cut from Ottawa’s training camp, it was believed that he had an outside shot and could possibly begin the season on the Senators’ roster. However after the demotion to the AHL in Belleville with the ‘Baby Sens’ he’s acclimated quickly to the professional speed, carrying his junior success with him alongside recent trade acquisition, Rudolfs Balcers.
Batherson stormed on the scene out of obscurity last year, and ‘The Drake’ ended up making Canada’s World Junior Team and scored seven goals in seven games on his way to collecting a gold medal. He seems like another in a long line of middle round picks by the Ottawa Senators that has the capacity of contributing in a top-six role at the NHL level. He finished last year with a PNHLe of 55 after combining stats from Cape Breton and Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL.
Emil Bemstrom – Columbus Blue Jackets
Fantrax Owned: 2%
The start to Bemstrom’s draft plus-two year couldn’t have begun any better with Djurgardens IF of the SHL. He isn’t quite on the same pace as reigning league leader Elias Pettersson, but 10 points in the first 10 games in Sweden’s top league is nothing to shake a stick at. At 5-foot-10, the former fourth round pick for the Blue Jackets is a shifty player that is able to find open spaces and unleash his above average shot and at every level he’s been able to post more goals than assists.
His early season success, however, should be viewed with cautious eyes because seven of his ten points have come on the man advantage, and overall he’s posted a shooting percentage of 35% which will regress as the season progresses. Nonetheless, the Swedish teenager should immediately be placed on your ‘Watch List’ especially as he’s still eligible for the World Juniors and Sweden is expected to look at Bemstrom to bring pro-level experience to a decent squad.
Alex Nylander – Buffalo Sabres
Fantrax Owned: 36%
With the ongoing contract/media interest circling around the ‘other’ Nylander, and with the recent addition of Swedish phenom Rasmus Dahlin to the Sabres’ back-end, not much attention is being given to Alex Nylander’s progress as a legitimate top-six prospect in the system. Although he missed noteworthy time over the past two seasons based around injury woes, Buffalo has had the luxury of being patient with Alex as he adjusts to the professional pace and style of game.
However, this year he has made the leap that they expected when selecting him with the eighth overall pick in 2016. Nylander has shown that he can take over games at times and has posted eight points in as many games to start out the season with the AHL’s Rochester Americans. He should be the first forward called up if the Sabres need help on the wing and he is versatile enough to play on either the left or right side. It wouldn’t be surprising if he sticks out the remainder of the season in the NHL once he makes the jump.
Victor Olofsson – Buffalo Sabres
Fantrax Owned: 7%
Another Buffalo Sabres prospect that has made some early noise in his AHL rookie season is Victor Olofsson. He’s coming off a breakout year where he led the SHL in goals (three more than Elias Pettersson) for Frolunda and posted a PNHLe of 51 in 2017-18. Olofsson has been unstoppable as he’s scored five goals, and nine assists in only eight games for the Rochester Americans.
The versatile winger has a deceptively hard shot and a nose for the net. The knock on Olofsson is that he tends to shy away from physical contact but the seventh rounder from 2014 has shown that he can quickly adapt to different environments.
Lawrence Pilut – Buffalo Sabres
Fantrax Owned: 5%
While we’re keying in on the Sabres’ prospect system why not include one more rookie AHLer that has acclimatized nicely to the North American style. Pilut has been incredible early on and has found the score sheet an amazing 10 times in only six games, and yet this should not be considered his breakout campaign.
After four seasons in the SHL projecting as nothing more than a third pairing NHL defenseman, Pilut became a must watch offensive defenseman and led the SHL in scoring from the blue line garnering a ton of attention from NHL scouts. He eventually signed as a free agent with the Sabres after posting a PNHLe of 63 in 2017-18.
Cooper Marody – Edmonton Oilers
Fantrax Owned: 4%
The last prospect I want to touch base on is the Oilers late season trade acquisition Cooper Marody. After finishing sixth in NCAA scoring for the Michigan Wolverines, Marody was traded by the Flyers for a third round pick and eventually signed with the Oilers and would forego his senior year to become a pro.
Although he’s had an excellent start to his first professional season scoring six points in five games, he was recently recalled by Edmonton and the center/right wing could fill a significant hole in their NHL depth. It’s a bit much to suggest, but not out of the realm of possibilities, that he gets a taste with the world’s top offensive star, and if he’s able to click with McDavid, the sky is the limit. I expect he’ll get a cup of coffee and then spend more time in Bakersfield (AHL) before the end of the season. The fact that he’s been called up to the NHL this early points to the confidence Edmonton has in his ability.
You can read up more on the PNHLe stat, where it comes from, and the methodology behind how the algorithm was created here.
If you are interested in seeing other player profiles, a prospect’s progression and how their PNHLe stacks up against other prospects, every profile is available in a completely free iOS app that I’ve created specifically based around fantasy hockey. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can download it here. All player profile images above are taken directly from the app, which is a small sample of the overall content. You can also follow me on Twitter @NHLRankKing and I do my best to update content as much as life allows.
This article will be a monthly feature here at DobberProspects, so please let me know if there are specific players you’d like to see profiled.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed.
Cale Makar’s image: Credit to Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images