Prospect Ramblings: Prospect Purgatory

Brayden Olafson

2020-06-19

 

 

Last night Larry Brooks of the New York Times reported that 2017seventh-overall draft pick, Lias Andersson intends on remaining in Sweden this summer, as opposed to joining the Rangers for whatever is left of their 2019-20 campaign. Earlier in the COVID-19 pause, John Davidson and the Rangers brass had continued dialogue with Andersson and his agent with the hopes of bringing the Swede back into the fold for phase 3 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. Whether the teams intentions were to showcase Andersson for a trade, or to simply rekindle their relationship isn’t clear. In either case though, the fact that he has been unwilling to return despite the apparent opportunity to move forward is just another confusing storyline in the current world of hockey prospects. 

 

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I’ve selfishly been itching for Andersson to make a return to North America so that I can reassess the depth of my DPFHL squad. 

 

In addition, I’ve recently advised others that I feel he still has the tools to be a competitive middle-six center in the league. After returning to the HV71, Andersson rapidly found his stride and rebuilt his confidence with a hot streak of offense. The aspects of his game which made him a first-round draft pick were clearly revived as he leveraged his excellent vision and strong skating to create nearly a point per game in the SHL. The speed that he processes plays in the offensive zone is sufficient for the Swedish league, but I often found it was a major aspect in what held back his production in a less forgiving American League.

 

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Last night’s development is only the latest in a drama that seems to be dragging on forever, only three years after his top-10 selection. While Andersson reaffirming his stance happens to be the most recent reminder of the power that prospects have to frustrate fantasy owners, he’s not the only one who’s sticking like a thorn in many of our sides these days. Here are a few of the others…

 

Jesse Puljujarvi and Lias Andersson have been linked to one another since the day Andersson’s trade demand was reported. Since then, reports of the two teams being near and far on a potential transaction have come and gone like the wind. 

 

The 22-year-old Oilers deserter began the 2019-20 season with his former Liiga club, Oulun Kärpät. Though nearly a full season, Puljujarvi led the pro club in all of goals, assists and points. 

 

As recently as last week it was reported that Puljujarvi made a statement including the phrase, “never say never”, in reference to a return to Edmonton. His extremely productive season in the Liiga, paired with a fresh look and so-far successful management group in Edmonton could be catalysts in launching Pulj into the Oilers top-six. Edmonton’s top six group is arguably one of the top forward cores in the league – that is, with the exception of a second star right-winger. 

 

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If given the opportunity to flank McDavid on a full-time basis, Puljujuarvi’s return to the NHL could be more successful than many would’ve expected at this time last year. 

 

Obviously, this kind of a revival would all but skid the idea of a swap with the Rangers… but in that case, there’s another prospect who could be in the mix for an Andersson swap. 

 

After purging nearly 30 staff members from their hockey operations, including director of scouting Ryan Jankowski, General Manager, Jason Botterill and several other Amateur Scouts, the Buffalo Sabres mean business. 

 

Newly hired general manager, Kevyn Adams will be tasked with changing the course of the organization, undoubtedly pivoting on the heels of star forward, Jack Eichel. The unrelenting purge of their hockey operations could very well be a sign of what is to come down the pipe at the hands of the new chief, meaning that few players are safe.

 

One player who seems to be toing the perimeter of expendability is 2017 eighth-overall selection, Casey Mittelstadt. After being demoted from the Sabres part way through the year, the Edina, MN native proved that he is capable of asserting himself at the pro level. His satisfactory production paired with the means by which it was earned indicates to me that not only is he a capable AHL player, but he WILL be a capable NHL player one day too. 

 

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Honestly, the shift-to-shift drive that Mittelstadt exudes is a refreshing thing to watch in a world where so many skilled forwards are prone to a shift off every now and then. I think the sentiment of him being a finesse-focused player has dissipated over the last six to eight months. In the several games that I watched Mittelstadt play in Rochester, I can count on one hand the instances where I would consider he should’ve done more to make a play. His offense is the fruit of hard work, raw skill and good last-second decision making. Unfortunately, his footspeed, forethought and anticipation haven’t reached an equivalent aptitude, which, in my opinion, is the reason he may be limited to a third-line role in the short term. The optimal offensive grouping for Mittelstadt could in fact, end up being on a third-line somewhere. Playing with linemates who can support his drive, and supplement his skills with a stronger ability to create space – not unlike the pair of Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden could now be a suitable home for him to develop.

 

One way or another, it’s my sincere hope that we see each of these guys back in the NHL in the very near future. In each case I still believe that these players have something to offer in this league, which has proven time and time again to be challenging for even the best of players to break into. 

I’d love to hear your opinions and predictions for these guys! Find me on Twitter @olaf1393 to let me know where you think they’re headed and why. Thanks for reading.

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