Title photo credit to NHLPA.com and Getty Images
This is the third installment of a series where I will be ranking NHL organizations based on a new PNHLe model that I have spent the past month updating.
If you are unfamiliar with PNHLe, or would like a more in-depth explanation on why these rankings are different compared to traditional real-world prospect grades or those explicitly for fantasy purposes, I highly recommend you read through the introduction – heck, why not the whole thing – for the previous parts of the series which you can find here:
PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 25 – 21
PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 31 – 26
Over the past month, I have re-evaluated, recalculated and re-examined my PNHLe model, which is used to predict a prospect’s NHL point potential in the prime of their career.
The culmination of every hockey season brings forth a massive allocation of new data that can be used to make the model more accurate. Many NHL players hit new career highs, while others show consistency in their point production, which allows for minor tweaks to the overall PNHLe formula.
Looking back to the leagues NHL players toiled in prior to making the leap to the NHL can give great insight into what a typical point production looks like for many current prospects playing all over the world.
Simply put, PNHLe tries to gauge a prospects point potential in the NHL. How many points would an 18-year old prospect in the OHL, who posted a point per game, obtain if they make it to the show? PNHLe allows us the ability to compare prospects from different leagues, at different ages and different positions to give a snapshot of just how good they are doing. As a fantasy manager, you can use that knowledge to take advantage and snag a player well before anyone else in your league.
Let us take a look at the next set of rankings.
20th – Nashville Predators – PNHLe: 56.2 (Avg.)
The Predators have been one of the NHL’s hallmark teams in terms of building orginational structure due in large part to GM David Poile’s patience with prospects and impressive draft status. However, Nashville’s regular season success as an organization has not led to playoff success, and instead has had them picking in the bottom third of most recent draft rounds. Poile has not been afraid to move some of the most talented players off of his roster and this year was no exception as they traded away P.K. Subban, at least in large part, in order to create some cap flexibility.
The return of Jeremy Davies from that transaction is definitely intriguing as he plays a very pro-ready game already, but may need some time developing in the AHL before he makes the jump to Nashville. Almost undoubtedly, Dante Fabbro will be donning a gold sweater this season and didn’t look out of place in last year’s short-lived playoff run. Fabbro was more than likely another key reason why Nashville was able to move away from Subban as he will start to munch up some of those important defensive minutes. It’s not unthinkable that he could work his way from the second power play unit all the way to riding shotgun next to Josi by the end of the season.
Arguably Nashville’s top prospect, Eeli Tolvanen, fell just off this list as he wasn’t able to replicate his ridiculous rookie year in the KHL setting a pace that was otherworldly. Keep a close eye on his progress early on this season to see if he regains his confidence, and he may be worth communicating with another GM who owns his rights and is weary he’ll replicate last year’s totals. The Predators’ first round pick in the 2019 draft, Philip Tomasino, had a monster year with the Niagara IceDogs and could flirt with the 100 point plateau in the OHL this season.
Overall, the Predators are in good shape in terms of solid pieces throughout its roster, and depth at all positions. However, another early exit from the playoffs could see some more head’s spinning in the spring as Poile tries to tweak a contender.
19th – Edmonton Oilers – PNHLe: 56.2 (Avg.)
One only has to look back a few years to find the exact moment that Edmonton’s brass made a very important decision in order to bolster its blue-line, which has contributed to the detriment of the Oilers’ success. Unfortunately, that moment was marked by the loss of future Hart Trophy winner, Taylor Hall, in return for a very serviceable, albeit second pairing defenseman in Adam Larsson.
Fast forward a few years and the system is plush with defenders that fit the NHL’s current style of play. That begins with the London Knights superstar, Evan Bouchard, who continued to dismantle the OHL, and carried that into a very successful taste of AHL playoff duty in Bakersfield. Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear have shown gradual progression in the AHL and one more year will certainly not hurt their development. The eighth pick in this year’s 2019 draft, Philip Broberg, has some distinct similarities to another Swedish great – Victor Hedman – although the jury is still out whether he is able to think the game at the highest level. Broberg is a very polarizing prospect.
The forward group of Oilers’ prospects offers some captivating players as well, but none that should be considered top end. Yet, if Edmonton ever decides to spread its offense over three lines similar to a team like the Penguins, it means that any winger could presumably wind up on a line next to McDavid or Draisaitl, which would make their stock skyrocket. Tyler Benson is at the top of that list following a phenomenal year where he narrowly missed out on a point-per-game pace in his rookie season in the AHL. Another rookie, Cooper Marody, eclipsed that mark and is flying under the radar in most fantasy circles.
Edmonton cannot continue to waste the best year’s of the top player in the world, but GM Ken Holland has his work cut out for him on how he will shed some over-priced contracts and surround the superstars with complementary players to help optimize their success.
18th – Ottawa Senators – PNHLe: 56.4 (Avg.)
The strength of the Senators’ franchise lies within its prospect pool, depth and the fact they have a few top end prospects, which is why I was a bit shocked to see them fall into the bottom half of these rankings. In an organization that has seen an unprecedented fall from grace, the one bright spot is within the team development system. The Senators have lost so many key players in its franchise, but GM Pierre Dorion has done a somewhat reasonable job of getting a decent return on the assets they’ve had to move away from – under the circumstances.
Erik Brannstrom leads the list of NHL ready, and highly offensive prospects. It’s realistic that he will become a first pairing defender, however, that spot has already been filled by sophomore standout Thomas Chabot. This could be a blessing in disguise, as it will take pressure off of Brannstrom as he gets acclimated to the NHL. Ottawa will look to build its back end around those two very important players.
One of the fastest rising prospects from two years ago, Drake Batherson, continued his meteoric rise and has little left to prove as he decimated opposing goalies in his rookie season in the AHL and even had success during a brief stint in the NHL. Batherson could be a mainstay on one of Ottawa’s top scoring lines this season with added responsibility under new coach, DJ Smith’s tutelage. Christian Wolanin, had an unfortunate injury early on in training camp that could see him miss upwards of over half the season. His real world value is greater than his fantasy worth, however, if your league allows an Injured Reserve, it may be worthwhile to stash him away as he was expected to see second line power play minutes this year.
The system is stocked with names like Formenton, Brown, Abramov, Balcers, Norris and Chlapik who could all reasonably see some time on the main roster. The Sens will have one of the most interesting training camps because there are so many roster spots up for grabs, and it is expected that they will give every opportunity for the young Senators guns to shine.
17th – Arizona Coyotes – PNHLe: 56.4 (Avg.)
The Coyotes have been graduating prospects at a fairly consistent pace over the past several years and it’s now time for those players that have already made the jump to the NHL to take a step forward and make a playoff push. GM John Chayka has made a considerable effort to fill out the roster with high quality players at a substantial cost in order to finally construct a team that can push to the inside of the playoff picture.
Arizona’s current prospect depth is an interesting mix of unsung talent, and these rankings are a direct result of the Coyotes unique brand of player evaluation. This list also does not include Arizona’s first round pick from the 2019 draft, Victor Soderstrom, as he had a relatively sheltered rookie season in the SHL. However, you can expect big gains this year from the young defender as he’ll show why Arizona was so keen on trading up to get the elusive offensive defenseman.
Barrett Hayton not only tops the PNHLe team rankings, but is the clear front-runner at the top of Arizona’s prospect pool. Although he was a bit of a surprise selection in the 2018 draft, he quickly quieted doubters with his breakout season for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and notched 66 points in only 39 games. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him grab one of the few remaining Coyotes’ roster spots after training camp in a sheltered role despite significant depth at the centre position. Hayton is just as likely to be sent back to captain the Greyhounds and try to lead Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship.
Outside of those two, former third round pick, Kyle Capobianco, could find his way on to the roster as he’s quickly decimated the competition at the AHL level. He had a two game taste of the NHL last year, and will want to make sure it’s a permanent role this fall. Nate Schnarr came out of nowhere last season to help propel the Guelph Storm into the Memorial Cup tournament and broke the 100 point plateau in the process. He’ll be a prospect to keep an eye and see if he can translate the totals into the AHL with Tucson this season.
Despite Arizona’s mediocrity in the NHL standings, the Coyotes have not benefited from the draft lottery. They have, however, done a decent job at building a strong pipeline of NHL quality prospects, but it is time for them to put that behind them and begin filling roles in the bottom portion of its roster, instead of the top two lines.
16th – Minnesota Wild – PNHLe: 57 (Avg.)
It’s been an interesting off-season for Minnesota with the loss of its GM and some very valuable front-office pieces in the form of the Wild’s analytics department and some key scouting personal. These setbacks often times take a significant amount of time to turn things around. However, if there is a silver lining it is that next year’s draft class is one of the strongest we’ve ever seen, and they have a couple of can’t miss prospects in the pipeline. The time for a rebuild may be now while an aged roster continues to get older.
Matthew Boldy was the fourth USNTDP player selected in the 2019 draft and could end up being an absolute steal at 12th overall. He’s the complete package that has size, skill, anticipation and exceptional vision. Boldy is the type of player you build championship teams around and it will not be a long wait before he lands in a green and red jersey after a quick development year at Boston College.
Wild fans have been very patient with Kirill Kaprizov, but the time is near now that he has only one year remaining on his current KHL contract. One of the top priorities of the new Minnesota GM, Bill Guerin, will be to convince him that the Twin Cities is a desirable place to play and that he will be a key cog in an eventual championship contender. If he is able to stay healthy this season, expect Kaprizov to make a push for the KHL scoring title.
The rest of the Wild prospects leave something to be desired, but the fact they have a couple of guys with star potential is fine by me. In arguably the toughest division in the NHL, it will be important for the new front office to establish its priorities for future success and to help feed the appetite of one of the most hungry fan-bases in the league.
If you have enjoyed today’s breakdown of using PNHLe to predict a prospect’s future success at the NHL level, please stay tuned as I complete an article once per month here at Dobber