(Photo Credit to Icing.no)
Over the course of a long season, a prospect’s point production can swing greatly based on many variables: linemates, usage, time-on-ice, slumps and streaks, only to name a few of the factors. However, the trend that has been developed over the course of an entire season can give great insight into how that production translates to NHL success if a prospect is able to maintain that current point production trajectory.
PNHLe is a stat that looks at prospect point potential at the NHL level based on historical production set by current NHLers from a variety of different leagues. I thought it would be valuable to look at the current rates set by each team’s prospects – according to NHL divisions – to give a greater sense of systemic depth.
PNHLe is certainly not a sure-fire statistic that can benchmark a prospect’s potential with 100% accuracy, but it should be seen as a piece of the overall puzzle that can help to paint a greater picture of a player’s conceivable value and ability. With the number of fantastic writers and scouts already contributing fantastic content at Dobber Prospects, it’s quickly becoming a one-stop shop for all of your fantasy needs. As a diligent fantasy G.M., it is your responsibility to evaluate the greatest amount of information that you can fit into your busy life in order to construct a juggernaut roster based on league settings. The scouting, anecdotal evidence and statistical analysis provided throughout this website can give you a huge advantage over your competition.
I’ve included the top-10 prospects, based on the PNHLe ranking, for each team in their respective division. In case you are wondering why a player shows up multiple times, if a prospect has played on more than one team, or in different leagues, those PNHLe stats are broken down separately, which may give greater insight into their overall value. Please remember that PNHLe is not a stat that predicts whether a player will make the NHL and should not be used to compare if one player is ‘better’ than another.
The minimum games played requirement to end up on the list is a maximum of 40 games played for a given NHL before they graduate, however, there may be a few irregularities of players that I missed when combing through rosters. It should also be noted that the 2018-19 Dobber Prospects organizational prospect rank included for each team took into consideration under-21 roster players, in case you are wondering why some teams are ranked much higher/lower than prospect-only rankings. So, let’s begin.
Part I focused on Boston, Buffalo, Detroit and Florida.
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In what should have been the start of a rebuild for the Canadiens, surprisingly turned into a stellar year and changed the opinions of many prospect prognosticators. Many of Marc Bergevin’s decisions were highly criticized at the time but in retrospect look like fantastic resolutions whose results could make the supposed rebuild take virtually no time to complete. It’s rare to see a team so positively affected by impact roster players and prospects through trades and the draft, but the early returns for Montreal are very optimistic and for good reason.
The second round has looked like a fertile place to find talent in recent years and Josh Brook, Joni Ikonen, Jesse Ylonen and Alexander Romanov represent a bevy of thoroughbreds to add to the stable. They check off all the boxes and even if only a couple of them are able to reach their potential, it will ultimately deepen the Habs’ overall roster.
There a couple of other prospects that are coming off great years and deserve some recognition. Cole Fonstad was a key contributor on a powerful Prince Albert Raiders squad that dominated the regular season and won the WHL playoffs before a disappointing finish knocked them out of the Memorial Cup. Ryan Poehling’s numbers seem deflated next to the rest of the St. Cloud State University roster, where he finished sixth in team scoring. But there is no question that his ceiling is much higher than other players on the Huskies, and potentially the entire NCAA. He finished his year playing one game with Montreal and capped it off with a hat trick.
It’s not hard to see that Bergevin has identified an area of need in the Canadiens’ organization and has quickly addressed it by making a concerted effort to restock the prospect pool with centres.
Another player that earned his way, with fellow teammates, and eventually found himself in the Memorial Cup is Suzuki who posted more than 100 combined points with two separate teams in the OHL this season. He was arguably the best player in the entire CHL and provides creative plays that open opportunities for himself and his line-mates whenever he’s on the ice. The way he doesn’t always make the right play but instead makes the best play time and time again is reminiscent of future division rival Mitch Marner.
From close up, it’s difficult to watch the Senators establishment go to shambles as quickly as it has. But through the despair is a glimmer of hope in the form of some top end prospects that will look to make an immediate impact in the NHL. The ridiculously fast fall of Ottawa has been front-page news over the past year and a half in hockey circles, but if there is one thing that GM Pierre Dorion has proven during his tenure as the chief decision maker it is that he is deft at drafting and scouting. Look no further than 2017 fourth-round pick, Drake Batherson, who was one of the fastest and highest rising prospects of last season and continued his progression as a prospect this year and would be the prized possession in most organizations.
While the Senators dismantled their roster through need and necessity, the return in both picks and prospects gives legitimate hope to an organization in desperate need. Although the team is a shell of what it once was, names such as Rudolph Balcers, Josh Norris, Jonathan Davidsson, Vitaly Abramov and Erik Brannstrom is a decent stockpile of youth and talent that should easily propel Ottawa into the top tier of team prospect rankings, when less than a year ago they were in the bottom half of those conversations. All players listed above were not a part of the franchise one year ago.
Home-grown prospects round out one of the most impressive groupings in the entire league: Christian Wolanin, Alex Formenton, Logan Brown, and Filip Chlapik all provide high-skilled players that play at a high pace. The future is bright in the nation’s capital, but just how quickly that reaches its potential is the only question. They should add another exceptional piece in the very strong 2020 draft.
The key piece to losing one of the preeminent wingers in the NHL, Mark Stone, saw Brannstrom leave as perhaps the top prospect in Vegas and establish himself at the forefront of Ottawa’s list. In his rookie season in the AHL, he has shown that he can be a leader on the ice and run a professional power play. In the future, he’ll be getting help in that department with Thomas Chabot, but it’s certainly a luxury having that option. Brannstrom was dynamic at the World Junior Championship and picked up four goals in five games for Sweden. He should see significant time with the Senators this season, but it will be a tough adjustment as they’ll be expected to be bottom of the standings once again.
The Tampa Bay Lightning is the model franchise that almost all other NHL teams drool over when trying to mimic their keys to success. However, if they are unable to translate their regular season achievements into post-season success, with the ultimate goal to win another Stanley Cup, then it will all be for naught. The Lightning have been able to achieve their dominance through key picks in the draft and shrewd contracts that have solidified a tremendous core of NHL superstars. Although there doesn’t seem to be much left in the pipeline, I’d never count out some of the prospects that are currently making noise in their system. Free agent signing Alex Barre-Boulet has made an excellent transition to the AHL and is a part of an excellent roster full of talented young prospects that are all very close to making the jump to the show. Taylor Raddysh, Alexander Volkov and Mitchell Stephens have all been impactful forwards for the Crunch, where their back end is led by another great prospect with NHL bloodlines in Cal Foote.
A couple of prospects that have taken a step forward in their development this past season, and if they continue to do so next year, will start to get more recognition for their contributions. Jimmy Huntington was fantastic this season for the Rimouski Oceanic. Although his numbers are somewhat inflated due to winger Alexis Lafreniere, he provided the young phenom with veteran leadership that will pay off in dividends in the near future. Cole Guttman was a mainstay on Denver’s second line and contributes in all facets of the game, which has helped keep Denver as one of the top teams in the NCAA. He won’t ever round out as a top-six forward but could be a serviceable journeyman for years to come once he gets a couple of years of minor pro under his belt.
In an organization that is known for its steady stream of prospects that are capable of being inserted nearly anywhere inside a top-class NHL line-up, you may be surprised to see Fortier’s name come up as the top PNHLe for the Lightning’s prospects. There may be some outside factors that have knocked some other player’s overall value down, but don’t let that disparage Fortier’s acumen as one of the better prospects in an organization that is world-class. Fortier was Tampa Bay’s first selection in the 2018 draft and they had to wait patiently to make their pick at the end of the second round on day two. You can guarantee that Yzerman and Co. did their homework to make sure they selected the best player available. Fortier is the prototypical Lightning player that is loaded with talent, dynamic with the puck and is versatile enough to be slotted up and down the roster.
As prospects begin graduating inside an organization’s system, it doesn’t take long to deplete the overall depth. The Maple Leafs have done a great job of keeping offensive potential in the pipeline, despite being in a ‘win now’ phase. They’ve struck gold in the past utilizing the NCAA free agent pool and they hope to do so again with recently acquired Joseph Duszak who had a fantastic year with Mercyhurst University, albeit in one of the weaker conferences. Time will tell if he’ll be able to translate his offensive game to the professional level. The Toronto fan-base has a right to be concerned with their former first-round pick, Timothy Liljegren, and his production but patience could pay off big-time and eventually save them some much-needed cap space as he continues to develop in the minors.
It was another great year for the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, where a mix of young prospects and wily veterans combined for another impressive playoff run. Jeremy Bracco continues to show his talented offensive attributes and could eventually be a specialist playing alongside one of the games’ best centres. Calle Rosen is ready for the NHL but will take a couple of years before he makes an impact for fantasy owners.
The CHL also has some interesting prospects that are making strides in their development. Mac Hollowell leads the list as he went well over a point per game on the blue-line for Dubas’ former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. You know that he’s got eyes watching his development very closely. Filip Kral of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs and Ryan McGregor of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting also had very good years and will look to make a jump in their progression next season.
He finished first in PNHLe out of all NHL prospects playing outside of the NHL. Let me repeat that… over 8000 players across 11 different leagues, his PNHLe was the highest. However, there are a couple of cautions that warrant attention. First, He had a smaller sample size compared to most players where he completed 44 games with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) and posted 28 points. That’s not really anything to be worried about, however, the percentage of his points that were secondary assists is a red flag. On the bright side, he’s carried his offensive production into the post-season as the Marlies look to repeat and he has drastically increased his points-per-game. It’s a great sign when a young prospect in a difficult league can increase their production over the course of a long season and into the playoffs. He’s looking like a great pick for the Leafs.
You can find my article breaking down the Pacific Division teams here: https://dobberprospects.com/projecting-prospect-point-potential-using-pnhle