(Title photo credit to NHLPA.com and Getty Images)
This is the fifth part of a series where I will be ranking NHL organizations based on a new PNHLe model that I have spent the better part of the summer 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 to the first article, which gives a better description. While you are at it, why not grab a cup of coffee and work your way through all teams that have been ranked so far, which you can find here:
PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 15 – 11
PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 20 – 16
PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 25 – 21
PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 31 – 26
PNHLe is a model that is used to predict a prospect’s NHL point potential in the prime of their career, and something I have re-evaluated, recalculated and re-examined with the sole purpose of making the formula more precise.
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 prospect’s point potential in the NHL. How many points will an 18-year old prospect in the OHL obtain, who posted a point per game, 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. As you can imagine, the model should not be used as a sure-fire way of assessing a player’s ability or probability of making it to the top level, but it is yet another piece of a comprehensive list of resources you can use.
Let us take a look at the next set of rankings:
10th – Montreal Canadiens – PNHLe: 60.4(Avg.)
If you happen to run into a Canadiens’ fan, you will probably find they seem giddier than usual, and for good reason. Montreal has a stockpile of quality prospects that are playing at various levels and will start to make a big impact very soon. The rebuild will be a short one in Montreal because of a lucky lottery ball that landed them Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the 2018 draft, some shrewd trading by GM Marc Bergevin and a handful of other fantastic draft selections.
What makes the Canadiens’ leap into the top-10 even more impressive are the names not on its ranking for various reasons. Alexander Romanov looks the part of a career NHLer that will be patrolling the Bell Centre blue line for years to come. Although Ryan Poehling did not post huge numbers with St. Cloud State (NCAA), he did however make headlines posting a hat-trick in his first and only NHL game at the culmination of last season. If you want to win a bar bet, he currently leads the all-time NHL list in points, and goals-per-game, although that probably will not last too long.
Jesse Ylonen is also missing from this ranking primarily because he did not get prime deployment with the Pelicans (Liiga), but should see a big increase in responsibility this season, so you can expect his point totals to increase dramatically. Another product of Finland, Joni Ikonen, missed the majority of the season due to knee surgery, but was extremely productive for KalPa (Liiga) finding the score sheet 10 times in the 13 games he suited up.
It would be negligent not to mention Montreal’s 2019 first round selection Cole Caufield, who was undoubtedly the top natural goal scorer to have been selected. Despite Caufield playing most of the season alongside the top pick in the draft, Jack Hughes, he looks to have enough talent in his own right to eventually carry a line at the NHL level, while terrorizing goalies with his quick, accurate release.
A trade that sent Nick Suzuki to the Guelph Storm halfway through last season was the pivotal piece that helped them capture the OHL championship. All signs point to the fact that the all-star junior will be able to carry his dynamic talent to the NHL and will have a highly productive NHL career.
Montreal boasts an incredible amount of talent at all positions and many of those players will be knocking on the Bell Centre door very soon. The race is on to see which Canadian team will be able to hoist the Stanley Cup, and although it will still be a few years before the Canadiens are a legitimate contender, they have all of the pieces to add to a distinguished trophy case.
9th – Toronto Maple Leafs – PNHLe: 60.6(Avg.)
The Maple Leafs have quickly raced up the regular season standings, but unfortunately for them it has not translated into playoff success. Despite the high number of top quality prospects that have graduated over the last handful of seasons, they still have definitive depth in the pipeline. Toronto’s general manager, Kyle Dubas, is surrounded by one of the most talented hockey operations staff in the entire NHL and the results are showing up in professional and amateur scouting, analytics, farm team structure and overall player development. The time has come to put the collective brainpower on overdrive and render a championship team before salary implications make it unmanageable to do so – if that has not already happened.
Rasmus Sandin is starting to get serious consideration as Toronto’s top prospect and leads the way in PNHLe after a very impressive rookie season in the AHL. Despite only playing 44 games, the 18 year old racked up 28 points from the blue line, which is a nearly unheard of pace for a player of his age especially as a defenseman. One red flag may be that he did have a disproportionate number of secondary assists, but he put any doubts aside when he excelled at the World Junior Championship and has shown two consecutive years of first-line potential. He will have a chance to crack a roster spot this fall, but will have to duel out another highly touted defensive prospect in Timothy Liljegren who narrowly missed out on the Leafs’ top-5 PNHLe rankings.
Toronto nabbed Nick Robertson near the end of the second round after the diminutive winger led the Peterborough Petes in scoring, narrowly surpassing a point per game. The Petes should be much improved this coming season and should not lose many veterans where Robertson will be a key component if they have any hopes of making a long OHL playoff run next spring. Sticking in the OHL, you know the Leafs’ scouting presence inside that league is extremely strong, which is where GM Dubas went back to his roots to draft Mac Hollowell from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. 77 points in 64 games is nothing to sneeze at from a defenseman, but he will have to prove his worth at the professional level as he graduates to the AHL this year.
It is going to be extremely important that the Maple Leafs graduate highly skilled role players on entry level contracts to help fill out the roster based on the high percentage of Toronto’s cap that is eaten up by only a handful of players. Fortunately, the Leafs management have been proactive in its search for prospects that could potentially translate up and down the line-up, which in turn makes them very intriguing from a fantasy perspective because the possibility exists that they could line up next to a few top-10 players in the entire NHL.
8th – Anaheim Ducks – PNHLe: 60.6(Avg.)
Last year was more than disappointing for an Anaheim team that had high expectations heading into the season, but resulted in the third time the Ducks had missed the playoffs since the 2005 lockout. Despite the organization’s success over the past decade-plus, the Ducks have been one of the strongest drafting teams in the NHL and these results should make for a relatively quick turnaround as Anaheim tries to get the ship back on calmer waters. An unprecedented number of man-games-lost due to injury helped to test out younger players that would otherwise not have had the chance. The infusion of youth onto the Ducks’ roster this upcoming season will more than likely result in another playoff miss, but the experience gained will only help to solidify Anaheim’s playoff dominance in the near future.
At first glance it may be a bit surprising to see the 29th overall (2019) selection Brayden Tracey at the head of the PNHLe table, but he blew away all other WHL rookies by nearly 20 points and picked up Rookie of the Year honours in the process. The Ducks do not often miss on these picks. The top selection at ninth overall (2019), Trevor Zegras, has arguably the highest upside of all the Ducks prospects and all eyes will be on him to see what type of production he can stake out during his freshmen year at Boston University, while also being separated from the rest of the USNTDP U18 squad that was the greatest that had ever been assembled.
Simply put, Maxime Comtois was too good for the QMJHL, but the Ducks were smart to keep him away from the tire fire that was their organization for the remainder of the year. Comtois was exceptional for Canada during the World Junior Championship, and finished up a remarkable year notching nine points, including five goals, in 12 playoff games for the San Diego Gulls (AHL). He is ready for prime time and will not disappoint when he gets there. Another player who is destined to make the jump full-time is American shootout sniper Troy Terry. He spent almost half the season in Anaheim last year and could work his way into a top-six role if all works out for him during training camp.
Interestingly, not a single defenseman was able to crack the top-five, but the Ducks’ future success will rely on the depth that they have at that position. When you consider all of the positions and the names that were held off this list – Steel, Lundestrom, Guhle, Mahura, Jones – it is not hard to see why many consider Anaheim as having one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL.
7th – Dallas Stars – PNHLe: 62(Avg.)
Admittedly, I had to do a double take when I saw Dallas topping out at seventh overall in these rankings. After moderate playoff success last season that saw the eventual Stanley Cup champion narrowly knock out the Stars, Dallas bolstered its roster this off-season and are going to make a push for top dog in the Central Division. Dallas’ prospect pipeline is certainly not a who’s who of top named talent, but what they lack in birthright, they more than make up in on-ice production. In recent years, the prospect landscape has been somewhat barren, but they have enough key pieces to help a promising core of veterans that could help the franchise stay inside the playoff picture for the near future.
The Stars have seemingly focused its scouting on the OHL, and all five players at the top of Dallas’ PNHLe depth chart completed full seasons there. Jason Robertson has set aside some glaring issues with his skating and is looking like a lock to be a career NHLer. Robertson needs some time to marinate in the AHL to help get accustomed to the pace of professional hockey, but because his hockey IQ allows him to see the game at such a high level and slow things down, he may get a long look soon if the Stars fall into injury problems.
The Stars’ first round selection in 2019, Thomas Harley, was given the ‘Boom or Bust’ title as he nearly quadrupled his point totals during his draft year. After seeing some rare advanced statistics that showed how reliable Harley was at both ends of the ice, I am more confident that he has more tools in the toolkit to become a dependable second-pairing defender at the NHL level while contributing on the power play. Harley made a lasting impression during training camp and almost cracked the line-up before being sent back to Mississauga (OHL).
Ty Dellandrea, the Stars first choice in the 2018 draft at 13th overall, has spent the past three years on the tire-fire that was the Flint Firebirds organization, without much support. He has been the lone bright spot in an otherwise difficult situation, but proved that his production at the OHL was not a fluke when he finished his year with the Texas Stars (AHL). Dellandrea is a long shot to make the Stars out of camp, but there should be a forward roster spot available and his draft pedigree may give him a bigger opportunity compared to some other prospects, otherwise it will be back in Flint for another year (edit: Dellandrea was cut from camp and sent back to Flint).
Riley Damiani is reminiscent of many of the other prospects in the pool – a bunch of misfits that everybody has overlooked or under-valued. It is amazing how some players explode onto the scene when they finally get a taste of prime deployment on their respective roster and Damiani is no exception. Most of the prospects in Dallas’ depth chart will not jump off the page at you, but they are not in need of superstar players at any position. That could help let them develop the Stars’ prospects slowly and fill holes that are created due to injuries and cap casualties in the coming years.
6th – Chicago Blackhawks – PNHLe: 62.4(Avg.)
As far as Chicago is concerned, the Blackhawks have been on the outside and looking in on the playoff picture for far too long, and do not want to waste any more of the prime years of the team’s superstar talent. Despite only missing the playoffs for the last two consecutive years, they have been able to acquire some upper echelon talent near the top of the draft, and adept drafting in subsequent rounds.
Not surprisingly, Adam Boqvist leads the way in terms of point production and long-term potential. Despite an adjustment period to the North American style of play and rink size, Boqvist was a key contributor to London’s success in the OHL and showed his immense offensive upside. When the Blackhawks drafted him, they knew Boqvist was more of a longstanding project compared to many other picks around him, but the full potential was likely higher if they were willing to be patient. The defensive deficiencies are still there, but Chicago feels confident that they will be able to coach those elements out of Boqvist’s game.
Chicago foresaw a time that its aging core was going to create significant holes, especially on the blue line, and made a concerted effort to fill those future holes at the draft table. Along with Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Ian Mitchell should give depth to that position in the next couple of years and have both displayed top-four ability. Beaudin’s birthday allows him to be eligible to make the jump to the AHL, while Mitchell will head back to Denver so that he can work on his consistency in order to dominate shift after shift. I dare say that this threesome helped convince GM Stan Bowman to move on from quality defender, Henri Jokiharju, after his terrific rookie season.
Perhaps a bit of a surprise third overall pick in the 2019 draft, Kirby Dach has drawn comparisons to future teammate Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar. However, detractors will note his lack of consistency, which is glaring in terms of his overall PNHLe value of 61, but statistics alone are not enough to fully understand the important traits of Dach’s games that will eventually make him an extremely important top-six player. Chicago does not tend to miss on draft picks near the top of the draft, and they are forecasting that Dach will continue to increase his overall potential, whether he goes back to the Saskatoon Blades (WHL) or learns under the wing of players that have unlimited experience on the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks pipeline should be enough to thrust them back into the post-season, whether this year or in the near future, and have several key players that are on the verge of NHL star potential. Chicago may not have a guaranteed superstar among those players, but they have addressed depth concerns at nearly every position and should become an imminent force once again.
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 Prospects, while also covering the players in Vegas Golden Knight’s system.
I have also created the NHL Rank King app where you can find full organizational point totals for prospects, PNHLe rankings among many other fantasy resources. I consult the app on every fantasy hockey decision I evaluate and every feature added to the app is with the sole purpose of helping with the choices surrounding my fantasy hockey teams. It is completely free, so hopefully you will find it useful as well!
You can download the iPhone version here, and I have recently created an Android version as well.
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