Welcome back to my mid-week Prospect Ramblings. Today, in honour of Halloween tomorrow, we are going to look at some spooky stats and scary starts from the first month of the season. Some will be scary good, some will be downright terrifyingly bad, but there’s certain to be ghoulish feel to this week’s Ramblings!
Scary Good Start: Alexis Lafreniere
I think it’s safe to say that Alexis Lafreniere, the nearly unanimously projected first-overall pick, is good. How good? He could put together one of the highest-scoring seasons from a draft-eligible prospect ever. Sidney Crosby’s 2004-05 season with Rimouski (168 pts in 62 games, 2.7 points per game) sets the standard but it’s not inconceivable that Lafreniere could keep up his current pace and come close to Crosby’s numbers. Currently sitting at 39 pts in 16 games, Lafreniere is currently putting up 2.5 points per game. If Lafreniere can keep up his insane pace, he will have no challenge for the top overall pick, regardless of what kind of seasons Quinton Byfield, Lucas Raymond et al have.
The assist above is just one example of how good Lafreniere is playing at the moment. Dominating in the offensive zone to the point of crippling opponents chances of defending because if he isn’t able to score himself, he has set up his linemates who have been money in the bank when it comes to converting on their chances thus far in the 2019-20 season.
Scary Bad Start: Kaapo Kakko
Let me start with this. Kaapo Kakko is really good. Kaapo Kakko is still a beast and will turn this start around.
Kaapo Kakko has had a terrifying start. His underlying numbers have been quite poor overall. He is currently second last on his team, fourth-worst in the NHL, in even-strength xGF% (Expected Goals For %) with just a 30.37 xGF%. Kakko and the Rangers as a whole are getting caved-in in nearly any possession metrics. With a Corsi under 40% and a Fenwick sitting at 35%, Kakko has been in tough while the Rangers struggle to start the year. His counting stats haven’t been great either. One goal, three points in ten games. It’s fair to say that Kakko hasn’t adjusted to the NHL as seamlessly as many expected.
Why is he struggling to start the year? Deployment has been an issue. If you ask most Rangers fans, head coach David Quinn has made some questionable decisions with his line combinations in the early going of the season. Kakko has spent the majority of the season with Brett Howden (49:19 TOI with Kakko) or Ryan Strome (42:00 TOI with Kakko) as his primary center at five-on-five. Putting Kakko in position to carry his line, from the wing no less, in his freshman season is a mistake. The one concerning things thus far is that every center in the Rangers regular lineup seems to lose effectiveness across most analytics with Kakko vs. without Kakko. While that could be due to his 92.1% PDO the fact that he also sports a 1.92% on-ice shooting percentage. If you ask me, things will turn around for the young Finn.
Minnesota Wild defender Carson Soucy leads all rookies in GF% (Goals for %) with 77.78%. While he likely won’t continue to play at this pace, he does currently hold a 54.69% xGF% on a pretty brutal Minnesota Wild team which means he should at least continue to drive play positively in that sense.
Draft-eligible forward Zion Nybeck is currently second in SuperElit (Swedish U20) scoring behind 19-year-old undrafted forward Nils Åman. Nybeck should receive some playing time at the SHL or Allsvenskan levels at some point this season. If, and hopefully when, he does it will be a big test for the 5’8″ Swede.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ilya Mikheyev, of gas station selfie fame, currently leads all rookies in five-on-five scoring with nine points in 11 games. After Mikheyev, there’s a group of three players, Alex Nylander, Sam Lafferty, and Martin Necas, who are all tied with five points at even-strength. Mikheyev is also tied with Buffalo Sabres powerplay dynamo, Victor Olofsson, for the NHL rookie lead for total scoring with 10 points.
As we stand today, October 30th, all three leagues in the CHL are led in scoring by a draft-eligible player. Alexis Lafreniere in the QMJHL (31pts in 16GP), Quinton Byfield in the OHL (31pts in 16GP) and Connor Zary (21pts in 14GP). While Lafreniere was expected to run away with the scoring title in the QMJHL and Byfield was expected to at least compete for the honour in the OHL, Zary’s performance thus far has been a bit of a surprise and it’s certainly helped his draft stock.
Noted goal-scorer Cole Perfetti currently leads the OHL in assists with 22 in just 16 games played.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2019 second-round pick Nick Robertson is scoring over a goal-per-game with 16 goals in 14 games to lead the OHL.
Vegas Golden Knights 20-year-old prospect Lukas Elvenes leads the AHL in scoring at the moment with 14 points in just nine games. I’d say the Swedish winger is adjusting well after putting up 20 points in 42 games in the SHL as a 19-year-old.
Tricks and Treats
Trick: Vitali Kravtsov has exercised his AHL out-clause and returned to the KHL
Treat: Vitali Kravtsov received top-line deployment with Traktor in his return to the KHL
Trick: Nils Hoglander started his month with this:
Treat: Nils Hoglander ended his month with this:
Trick: NCAA teams think that they can stop Cole Caufield. They can’t. He currently leads the entire NCAA in goals with seven in just six games.
Treat: Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect and Windsor Spitfires forward Tyler Angle scored this beauty last week.
Thanks for joining me as I ramble on every week, mid-week. Who are your scary good players? Which player has surprised you the most? Comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out my newest project, Shift Work: Alexander Nikishin where I do a shift-by-shift analysis of Nikishin’s game and figure out what makes him a high-end prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. Until next time, enjoy all the hockey!