These ramblings will be a big ol’ list of surprises you may or may not know in the world of rookies and prospects!
After I discuss a topic of importance to me, and that is Pavel Zacha.
I have seen lots of people talking of how Zacha really has not become an offensive force yet and appears to be a much too high of a reach for the Devils at #6 in the 2015 entry draft. Let me just tell you, as an avid Devils fan (a bit of a homer but I also try to stay rather unbiased), he has not been as bad as the stat sheet has indicated.
Zacha has started 61.8% of his shifts in the defensive zone and has been a top penalty killer for the Devils. His two-way play has not been an issue, as people seem to forget that Zacha shut down McDavid (as much as humanly possible) when Sarnia played Erie in the OHL playoffs in either 2014-2015 or 2015-2016 (I did not think I needed to record this information).
Zacha’s defensive play is not the problem; it is his inability to score to start the year as he sits with ZERO points. He also has just 10 shots in 11 games, but posts and missing the net is not recorded and if they were he would have at least triple the shots. The Devils did send him to the AHL to gain some confidence where he put up five assists in four games, AND shot the puck to the tune of 13 shots in those games. He needs to bring the shooting mentality to the NHL to really help him.
One thing that would also help Zacha that has not been discussed is the lack of offense talent on his wings as Hischer gets to play with Palmieri and Hall, and somehow Travis Zajac gets the slightly better line mates and opportunities to score reducing Zacha’s opportunities. Zacha’s most common line mates to start the season was a “coming back from two concussions and not looking the same” Marcus Johansson and Stefan “somehow I get #2PP time over Zacha” Noesen or Sebastian Dea. The most recent game the Devils put Jesper Bratt (who is coming back from a broken jaw) on Zacha’s wing, so if MoJo and Bratt can regain any of their previous years’ form Zacha should start putting some points up.
Can Zacha drive a line by himself from what I have seen? I do not know for sure. He may be better set up with two wingers who focus on offense while he cleans up on the defensive end and pick off points then. Zacha is also a tremendous playmaker but no one of his wingers this season has been able to put any puck sent to their stick in to the net. Give Zacha a finisher like Palmieri and you would see more points. Anyway, all this to say that Zacha will turn it around eventually it just may take a season or two more before he can get in to the 50 point range. I full believe he can be the perfect #2C behind Hischer.
So now after my Ode to Zacha style essay, here are some surprises:
Andrei Svechnikov is leading all rookies in shots on goal with 48 despite seeing 13:35 a game. You would have to figure that a low 4.7% on-ice shooting percentage, and a PDO of 95.4, is keeping his minutes down but head coach Brind’Amour also said he would get lots of ice time and currently sits at 13:35 per game.
Tomas Hyka has played 13 games so far this season, registering three assists. I had no idea he was playing in the NHL other than about three games. Vegas has injuries and it does not seem like anyone is stepping up in the forward department.
— He just scored against Anahiem, anyone with him in a pool, you are welcome
Devon Toews is sitting at a point per game for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It is sure a good thing for fantasy GMs that the Islanders have seven defensemen under one-way contract because they needed to sign Luca Sbisa.
Listen, I am a Jakob Chychrun fan but to give him a six-year contract extension after he has had two major knee surgeries is betting a whole lot of money on a whole lot of hope (Whole lotta love by Led Zeppelin shout out). I would have gone for a short two-year bridge deal to make sure he can get back to NHL speed.
Josh Ho-Sang has 10 points in his last seven games to sit at 15 points in 16 games, but has a whole 15 shots in that span with seven games of zero shots. He really needs to shot more to evolve his game.
Janne Kuokkanen has really improved on his prior season as he is leading the Charlotte Checkers in points (with 16 in 15 games). It will be interesting to see if the Hurricanes can give him ice time when he comes up to the NHL or if they will just leave him to languish on the fourth line like they so far have with Zykov and Necas.
A quick shout out to prospects that were really trending into “bust” territory and are turning it around this season. Denis Gurianov has 14 points in 13 games (and scored his first NHL goal in his second NHL game) and Michael Dal Colle has 14 in 14.
Leading AHL rookie defensemen in points with 13 points in 16 games Olli Juolevi is offensively breaking out for Utica, making Canucks fans finally happy.
Troy Terry has had at least a point in every AHL game he has played in so far for San Diego.
Oliver Kylington is quietly having a fantastic start to his fourth AHL season with 12 points in 15 games. He has improved his play and point totals every year he has been in Stockton and should force the Flames’ hand in the 2019-2020 season at the latest.
That is all. Join my twitter gang @FHPQuinn