Prospect Ramblings: Rossi, Kaprizov, Hoglander, Puljujarvi, Vanacek and the Waiver Wire Madness

Dave Hall

2021-01-11

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have canceled our upcoming session due to potential exposure of COVID-19”.

Get used to this statement. We are likely to it hear often.

We are roughly two weeks removed from NHL training camps opening their doors, and we have had four teams cancel practice, with one postponing their first three games of the 2020-21 season (Dallas Stars) due to Covid.

Yikes.

The season will certainly go on, but strap in for a wild ride – things could get messy. Of course, this is how it has to be, and if we want to enjoy the game we love, we will take this over anything. But I foresee some interesting lineup implications going forward. Just look to the  NBA and NFL for reference. 

As a fantasy owner, this is going to be challenging. I am curious to know how your league(s) have gone about preparing for this one-of-a-kind year. In my “main” league, we have had daily discussions on how to deal with this – extra IR spots, adding an extra day of waiver bids, even adding Taxi Squads to the format for this season only.

Our result? After taking it to a vote, we settled on one extra IR spot (we usually sit with two) and an extra day for the waiver wire, bringing us to three a week. It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal, but it’s what needs to be done. It’s a small change, but we hope that it will smooth out the process, and alleviate some of the growing pains. 

If patrolling the waiver wire wasn’t previously considered an art form, it sure is now. If your league limits the number of pickups per week or uses fantasy bidding money, make sure to stay diligent. The chances are high that you will cycle through the league quickly, so save your funds. You do not want to be stuck with zero chips, come playoff time.

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Speaking of the waiver wire, it looks like a replacement player is already needed and we will have to wait to see Minnesota’s’ newest crowned jewel in an NHL uniform. The Wild confirmed that their most recent top-10 selection, Marco Rossi, will be out indefinitely with an “upper-body” injury. For obvious reasons, the team did not disclose any further information but you have to assume it’s somewhat serious.

This news is unfortunate on so many levels. Personally, as was the case for many, Rossi was one of the players that I was most excited to follow this year. He’s undersized, yet, his highly skilled demeanor is tantalizing to watch and he certainly holds a bright NHL future. Not only that, but given the makeup of the team, the 19-year-old had a strong shot of not only making the club out of camp but seeing significant minutes out of the gate.

With Marcus Johansson, Nick Bjugstad, and Nick Bonino occupying their top-nine center slots, the club is thirsty for a slippery offensive driver – Marco Rossi is just that. Of course, you cannot leave out the possibility of him sliding in alongside fellow rookie, Kirill Kaprizov, which was something that left fantasy owners salivating. What a shame.

Whether it’s with Minnesota or not, Rossi has confirmed that he will be playing pro hockey this year. Once healthy, he will be either be back with the Wild or will head to the Swiss league, potentially Zurich.

With the status of his injury unknown, of course, there is still a real chance that we see him in green this year.

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Keeping with the Minnesota Wild theme, the team has held a couple of intrasquad games. I bring this up, as it is the first time we have gotten to witness Russian sensation, Kirill Kaprizov, on the North American sheet. And well, he did this.

I don’t know about you, but I have not been this excited for a player in quite some time. It may not be the best move revealing my draft misplays, but I reached for him, and I mean reached, in three of my four drafts. And you know what? I couldn’t care less. There is something about his game that has me gitty, and I want – more like need – to be apart of that experience.

He embodies what the game has morphed into over the years. He’s fast – both with the puck and without – he has a terrific motor, he has some of the best hands you will see and he even plays with a little bit of an edge. One of the knocks on him, that I have noticed, is his tendency to leave the zone a little bit early. Given his thirst for offense, his game is certainly tilted to the opposing side of the ice, but boy is he fun.

His numbers at the KHL level have been nothing short of godly. With regards to U22 skaters, he basically sits as the league’s all-time player with 168 points, firing at an all-time rate of .712.

Here is a list of the top U22 point-per-game KHL players of all-time (over 100 games played). It’s pretty good company.

1. Kirill Kaprizov – GP: 236 G: 80 A: 88 PTS: 168 PPG: 0.712 Yrs: 5
2. Yevgeni KuznetsovGP: 210 G: 65 A: 81 PTS: 146 PPG: 0.695 Yrs: 5
3. Vladimir TarasenkoGP: 207 G: 66 A: 66 PTS: 132 PPG: 0.638 Yrs: 5
4. Pavel BuchnevichGP: 158 G: 37 A: 50 PTS: 87 PPG: 0.551 Yrs: 4
5. Artemi PanarinGP: 158 G: 30 A: 51 PTS: 81 PPG: 0.513 Yrs: 5

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For those who don’t know, I am Canucks fan. A full-fledged, homegrown, Canucks fan. However, I like to consider myself a realist and tend not to be a “homer”, as they call them. While I obviously build up excitement for the club’s prospects and players, I am not afraid or blinded to admit when I am not fully sold on them.

I am here to say it. I was wrong about Nils Hoglander.

Yes, I knew he was a good player and certainly offensively gifted. Yet, when asked at the beginning of the year what I thought of him, and where I would peg him in the next few seasons? My answer was simple – A somewhat undersized, skilled player, who plays with a bit of an edge. He has no problems fighting for what he wants and can razzle-dazzle you with his shifty maneuvers. However, when translated, he likely caps out as a middle-six contributor, and likely a year or two away from that upside.

Well, wouldn’t you know, he’s currently skating in Canucks’ training camp and the Swedish winger has looked strong. Really strong, actually. Right from the gate, you could tell he was in mid-season form, creating opportunity and buzzing around the ice. He has been skating alongside captain, Bo Horvat, as well as Tanner Pearson on the club’s second-line, and has looked right at home.

He’s certainly shifty and definitely plays with a chip on his shoulder, so I was right about that one. He may just be a mainstay Canuck this season.

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You know what, folks? I firmly believe that Jesse Puljujarvi is capable of a redemption season.

There is no masking his struggles fresh out of his draft year. He brought lackluster point production, inconsistent play, and little-to-no compete level. He was clearly not ready for NHL hockey, which, for the record, is common. Far too often players, especially those taken in the top-five, are rushed to the NHL, and that is exactly what he was.

At 18-years-old, Puljujarvi moved away from his native country (Finland) to pursue his NHL career. The problem is, he moved to an extremely competitive Canadian market, which, much like the rest of the countries markets, understands just how to make a player feel unwanted when play isn’t quite up to snuff. Once the struggles came, the confidence levels soon followed, ultimately resulting in a “bust” worthy performance.

Fast forward to today, just over a year-and-a-half removed from the NHL, and Pul-party looks rejuvenated, confident, and much improved. He looks strong on the puck, much faster, and is playing with a ton of confidence.

He is back in Edmonton, currently taking part in training camp, and looks more than ready for his redemption shot. Of course, they wouldn’t throw a teammate under the bus, but his linemates had nothing but positive reviews on his game.

Playing a prominent role as one of Karpats’ (Liiga) go-to players, he amassed 65 points through his 72 game stint. He also contributed for 96 penalty minutes during that time, something that he was never known for prior to his time there. He gained much-needed confidence and took huge strides as both a hockey player and as a human. If he can catch some fire early, there is no reason to believe that he couldn’t bump a player like Zack Kassian off of that top-six unit, and earn minutes next to one of their two monsters up the middle.

I wouldn’t bet my life savings on it, and certainly would never expect elite numbers,  but I do expect better going forward.

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Monday, January 11th, 2021 will forever be known as Mega Waiver Day. The list was excessive. With all 31 teams looking to get cap compliant, as well as fill up their respected taxi squads, moves had to be made. In case you missed any of those, here is a good thread:

Two of the more shocking names on the list, for me, included: Oliver Kylington (CAL) and Nick Merkley (NJD). Both are talented, young players who will be getting some good looks overnight. I would not be surprised in the slightest to see one of the two, if not both, picked up.

There was also a list of players who had been placed on the wire on Sunday morning, most of which cleared on Monday. This list included: wait for it…Josh Ho-Sang.

It is hard to imagine that he was drafted in 2014, and is still considered a stagnant prospect trying to squeeze his way into the league. What I want to know is, why? Why is he still in Long Island? Sure, I understand why he hasn’t made it, he has demonstrated obvious “off-ice issues” (I will leave it at that), but why did New York re-sign him to a deal in October, only to leave him off the training camp roster?

Islanders fans, please feel free to chime in. Am I missing something? He’s got 123 points in 178 points at the AHL level – which has been one of the more consistent in terms of production – and has enough talent on the skill side to handle a bottom-six load, I would think. Yet, no shot. It comes to a point where you just to see him shoot his shot and find out once and for all if he has the gusto or not.

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That same waiver list included one player who was claimed, that player was Montreal Canadians defenceman, Noah Juulsen. The 23-year-old, right-handed shot was claimed by the Florida Panthers and will be used as a nice depth piece for their backend.

He has had issues staying healthy, but when in the lineup, brings consistent play and holds the potential to develop into a sturdy second-pairing rearguard. He’s got decent size and is quite mobile on the line. He is not afraid to use his body to block shots in front and can throw his weight around when necessary. In the two years that he saw 20-plus NHL games (through the 2017-2019 seasons), he sat second and third on the Canadiens in Hits/60, with 6.5 and 7.8, respectively.

At a 700k price tag, this was a solid move for the organization.

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Finally, the Washington Capitals announced that they will not be using their recently PTO signing, Craig Anderson as their backup option. Instead, they will be handing duties over to 25-year-old Vitek Vanecek, their second-round draft pick from 2014.

He has yet to suit up in an NHL match but has been stellar in the American League, posting a 71-43-22 record for the Hershey Bears. It’s a young tandem and a gamble, at that. But, the team saw more value in investing in their farm, than to take on an aging option. I am fully on board with this decision.

Keep in mind, Anderson is likely to sign a contract once he fulfills his “AHL assignment” – which, by the way, has a brand new meaning -, but it looks like will be option C and stashed on the club’s taxi squad.

Let’s see what a combined age of 48 can do between the pipes.

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Thanks for reading. I would love to hear a few of your thoughts on how your league is adapting, as well as hear from some Islanders fans to shed some light on Josh Ho-Sang. Follow me on Twitter @hall1289.

Enjoy the first week of NHL hockey.

 

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