This month, as players begin to stabilize their progression and have established a role on their respective team, I wanted to take a look at the top NHL prospects from each of the development leagues that PNHLe is evaluated for. To qualify, a prospect must currently have their rights owned by an NHL team but is not currently playing in the NHL (sorry, Drake Batherson) and have played a minimum of 10 games.
Most players typically see drastic changes to their PNHLe early on in the season as they score multi-point games or are held off the score sheet, which can create huge swings with respect to their points-per-game. The 20-game mark is generally where you see a prospect’s PNHLe steady. My personal preference is to identify prospects whose value increases over the course of a season, which hints to a prospect that is progressing and improving compared to his peers. Unfortunately, without a crystal ball this is all I can offer at this point in time.
Vitali Kravtsov – (Traktor Chelyabinsk) New York Rangers (51)
At the time of the 2018 NHL entry draft, some were scratching their heads when the Rangers chose to select Kravtsov with the ninth overall pick. He had just finished a somewhat underwhelming year that saw surprisingly taken as the KHL Rookie of the Year – a somewhat debatable selection after the year Tolvanen posted. He then exploded in the playoffs and more than doubled his point totals from the regular season in half as many games. Kravtsov has carried that momentum forward and although 12 points in 26 games doesn’t scream top-10 selection, it puts him on pace for 50-plus points at the NHL level.
- Kirill Kaprizov – Minnesota Wild (49)
- Nikita Gusev – Vegas Golden Knights (46)
- Anatoli Golyshev – New York Islanders (40)
- Artyom Manukyan – Vancouver Canucks (34)
Emil Bemstrom – (Djurgardens IF) Columbus Blue Jackets (68)
Bemstrom’s entry into his rookie season in the SHL has been nothing short of a revelation for the former fourth round pick n 2017. He’s not putting up Pettersson-esque numbers but his historical output is extremely good in his draft-plus-two year. The only question is whether he’ll be able to maintain this pace over the long haul. He’s still a couple years away from earning a roster spot in Columbus, but the fact that he’s produced at every level is promising and shows solid progression for a prospect of his ilk.
- Jesper Boqvist – New Jersey Devils (60)
- Jonathan Davidsson – Columbus Blue Jackets (51)
- Marcus Davidsson – Buffalo (47)
- Filip Hallander – Pittsburgh Penguins (46)
Aleksi Heponiemi – (Karpat) Florida Panthers (59)
Heponiemi is following up a sensational season where he posted more than two points per game in the WHL playing for the Swift Current Broncos. He led them all the way to the Memorial Cup and was a part of one of the top lines in the entire CHL. Heponiemi recently made the jump back to the top professional league in Finland and is carrying forth that same confidence he displayed last season. Florida will be hard pressed to keep him off of their roster to start the 2019 season and it’s possible that he may end up in a Panthers’ jersey before the end of this year.
- Rasmus Kupari – Los Angeles Kings (58)
- Oskari Laaksonen – Buffalo Sabres (56)
- Niklas Nordgren – Chicago Blackhawks (48)
- Eetu Tuulola – Calgary Flames (40)
Erik Brannstrom – (Chicago Wolves) Vegas Golden Knights (91)
Brannstrom has made quick work of the AHL during his acclimation to North American pro hockey. He has been showing why many consider him to be the future power play quarterback in Vegas and is putting together a monster year. The AHL is a long, hard season and is a great test for prospects to understand the grit that is required at the top level. So far, he has adjusted accordingly and should get a taste of the NHL pace if, and when, he earns a cup of coffee later this season.
- Kristian Vesalainen – Winnipeg Jets (74)
- Troy Terry – Anaheim Ducks (73)
- Lawrence Pilut – Buffalo Sabres (72)
- Janne Kuokkanen – Carolina Hurricanes (66)
Filip Sveningsson – (IK Oskarshamn) Calgary Flames (60)
Oskarshamn isn’t afraid to give younger players an opportunity as seen last year with Lukas Elvenes’ breakout and it looks like they may have produced another. The seventh rounder from the 2017 draft has posted a point-per-game through the first 17 games and is the only fantasy-worthy prospect in an otherwise shallow league in terms of the number of NHL prospects.
- Oscar Beck – Dallas Stars (34)
- Linus Lindstrand-Cronhom – Buffalo Sabres (33)
- Jacob Peterson – Dallas Stars (30)
- Jakob Stenqvist – Dallas Stars (26)
Ty Smith – (Spokane Chiefs) New Jersey Devils (85)
The 17th overall pick from the 2018 draft has continued his amazing offensive production into the start of the 2018-19 regular season. There was speculation that he may get a handful of NHL games before being sent back to Spokane, but the Devils thought it would be best for his progression if he dominated the WHL. And that’s exactly what he’s done! He went over a point-per-game from the blue line last season and is currently on pace to go over 1.5 this year. In most drafts you wouldn’t have seen a defenseman with his offensive upside slide to the bottom half of a draft, but New Jersey was lucky to grab a potential gem in the defense-laden entry draft in 2018.
- Joshua Brook – Montreal Canadiens (69)
- Cody Glass – Vegas Golden Knights (68)
- Try Fix-Wolansky – Columbus Blue Jackets (67)
- Alexander Alexeyev – Washington Capitals (62)
Ryan Merkley – (Guelph Storm) San Jose Sharks (81)
I profiled Merkley and the progression of his PNHLe a couple of months ago, and he’s shown the same elite offensive progression that you want in a top-end prospect in points-only fantasy leagues. He got a long look at the Sharks’ training camp and you can only imagine what hanging around veterans like Joe Thornton can do for a young player’s psyche. There haven’t been any rumblings about the same problems that Merkley was saddled with last season and he’ll be guided to round out his game while adding more defensive tools to his already stacked offensive toolbox.
- Barrett Hayton – Arizona Coyotes (67)
- Akil Thomas – Los Angeles Kings (63)
- Nicholas Suzuki – Montreal Canadiens (62)
- Jason Robertson – Dallas Stars (57)
Dmitri Zavgorodny – (Rimouski Oceanic) Calgary Flames (57)
You would think that playing on the same team as the expected number one overall pick in 2020, Alexis Lafreniere, would boost a player’s point pace. That may be the case but probably not for the reason you are initially thinking. Zavgorodny and Lafreniere have been playing away from each other at even strength for most of the season. However, that has opened up a bit more space for Zavgorodny as he tends to face weaker defensive lines when the focus turns to Lafreniere. That’s not to take anything away from him, and the fact he’s able to lead a line is a good sign for any prospect at the junior level.
- Jared McIsaac – Detroit Red Wings (55)
- Mathias Laferriere – St. Louis Blues (55)
- Joe Veleno – Detroit Red Wings (54)
- Benoit-Olivier Groulx – Anaheim Ducks (53)
Adam Fox – (Harvard) Carolina Hurricanes (126)
I debated whether to include Fox based on the fact that he has the smallest sample size of any of the players listed in this article. The NCAA is notable for always beginning their season later than all other leagues, and Harvard typically starts a few weeks later than most other teams. Nonetheless, Fox is putting up a season for the ages in the early going. In fact, he ranks first out of all NHL prospects, which is reason enough to include him. That being said, I don’t expect him to keep the 2.1 points-per-game pace that he has established, but it’s clear when you watch him that he oozes fantasy potential. He was a part of the Hamilton-Lindholm/Hanifin deal that saw him cover from Calgary’s pipeline and is a great addition to team clearly devoted to building offensive depth on the blue line.
- Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche (91)
- Quinn Hughes – Vancouver Canucks (86)
- Evan Barratt – Chicago Blackhawks (84)
- Scott Perunovich – St. Louis Blues (75)
Martin Pospisil – (Sioux City Musketeers) Calgary Flames (52)
The USHL is typically not seen as a development league for players already drafted, but there have been a few notable names that spent the extra year honing their skills in the U.S.A.’s top junior league. Pospisil, who led the USHL with 253 PIM in only 49 games, has toned down his trips to the penalty box and has translated that to points on the score sheet.
- Jack Perbix – Anaheim Ducks (21)
- Mikael Hakkarainen – Chicago Blackhawks (21)
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.
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.
If you have Twitter, please give me a follow @NHLRankKing.
You can read up more on the PNHLe stat, where it comes from, and the methodology behind how the algorithm was created here.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed.
Adam Fox’s image: Credit to Jamie Kellner