Ramblings: News and Notes, The WHL Final, Kakko, Leason, and Quinn Hughes (May 17)
This Rambling will look a little different today. I’ll be posting some of my notes from the past week. You can take this as a glimpse into how I prepare for radio spots, and for Prospect Central – a new show on Sportsnet650 that I’m co-hosting with Ryan Biech and Satiar Shah.
Speaking of Prospect Central, we’re three shows in and have just received our first batch of numbers. They’re better than we could have imagined. Thank you to all the people who have tuned in live (Saturdays at 4:00 pm PST) and those who streamed and downloaded the podcast.
- Often, we can see a big game with high stakes not deliver. But this one was an instant classic
- Fast paced
- Loads of chances
- Great goaltending
- The adrenaline never seemed to wear off for either team
- Bowen Byram – Showcased the mobility, the transitional game, the big shot. He didn’t generate a ton of high-danger chances in the final, but that was partly due to how closely PA was guarding him.
- Finished as the WHL leader in playoffs points with 26 – the first defender to ever achieve the feat.
- 34 goals and 97 points in 86 combined games this year. That’s a hell of a d-eligible campaign.
- It’ll be a travesty if he’s sitting there at the fifth pick.
- Milos Roman – Flames 4th rounder scored both goals for the Giants. Great skating ability on display. Has very real breakaway speed. I question his offensive upside at the next level, but his two-step acceleration and top-end gear should give him a real chance to be an energy player.
- Brett Leason – It’s extremely rare to witness such a developmental leap forward for a 19-year-old, but Leason has done just that. The double-overager blends great size, tenacity and high-end skating ability to drive the opposition crazy. A long reach and strong frame propel his puck-protection and the acceleration allows him to burn wide and cut into the home plate area.
- He showcased his silky mitts a few times and came oh so close on a number of occasions.
- I’m happy he’ll be at the Mem Cup to get a couple more views.
- He’s been a borderline 1st on my board for much of the season, but his recent play could elevate him into the 20s and keep him there.
- Another kid I want to talk about is Alexei Protas.
- The Belarussian was a first rounder in the CHL Import Draft last year. He put on 1.5 inches just this season alone to bring him to 6’5.
- It’s not easy being a normal 17-year-old and adjusting to development. Try adding even more length to your frame and adjusting to the CHL from tier two in Belarus.
- He was noticeable in the regular season, but his play has rocketed in the playoffs. He’s been a ppg player and looked terrific beside Leason – despite being a natural centre.
- Ranked 44th for NA skaters, he’s a kid I have earmarked the third round with some real upside.
Start getting excited about the Fantasy Prospect Report. This puppy is going to be the best one yet. Pre-order it here
Quinn Hughes – Hasn’t received the same level of ink as brother Jack, or even that he commanded last year as a draft-eligible at this tournament, but his play has been at a very high level. The way he can create with his feet and his awareness are exquisite. I was trumpeting him as a one-man breakout machine 18 months ago as a freshman at Michigan. He’s somehow improved on that ability.
There aren’t many players who can skate as he can, but it’s his ability to use that speed to dictate the pace of play. He can quickly accelerate and burn a player, he can use the gap given to create time and space for himself and his mates – That play creation is what makes him so valuable. He makes everyone around him better.
Sure, his style of play lends to a few more turnovers, but that should decrease with more experience. But you take the bad with so much good.
I’d still like to see him improve his shot and use it a lot more. Teams will sag off him know that he prefers to dish it. So if he can put some more zip on his point shot, that will only make him more dangerous. More effective.
How about that Kaapo Kakko? The 18-year-old is doing everything in his power to become the first Finnish player to be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. His play against proven NHL talent at the World Championships has been breathtaking. At just 18-year-old, he’s physically manhandling proven NHL players.
His six goals are good for a share of the tournament goal-scoring lead through four contests. He’s added 20 shots on goal as well. Masterful stuff. The goal he scored on Thursday will likely go down as one of the prettiest of the tourney.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) May 16, 2019
Granted, Finland sent a surprisingly weak squad – void of any full-time NHL talent. That has resulted in Kakko becoming the squad’s top offensive weapon. It’s unfair to compare the situation to that of, Jack Hughes The US boasts a bevy of star talent and Hughes has found himself in a limited role. But Kakko has been coming on strong since December even before scoring the golden goal for Finland to win the World Junior Championship.
When I last released my Rankings in April, I had it on good authority that Kakko sat first on about half a dozen teams’ boards. That may be closer to 15 after his recent play. When I last published Kakko was a hair behind Hughes. He’s now a hair ahead.
Recency Bias: People look at myself and others swapping Kakko ahead after a few WC games and point to recency bias. But that’s acting like I haven’t watched those two literally dozens of times the past two seasons – on film and in person. Kakko at #1 is more than just his recent play, it’s his entire package – which is incredibly strong across the board. I think he has the goods to produce 60+ points as a rookie next season all while being competent in his own end.
New York Rangers GM, Jeff Gorton can hit the Roxy the night before the draft, roll in bleary-eyed and hungover and still be primed to hit a home run. All he has to do is step up to the podium and take whoever remains between Hughes and Kakko.
It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
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