Prospect Ramblings: Nikita Chibrikov, Dylan Cozens, J.J. Peterka, Cole Caufield, and a Look at Nils Hoglander’s NHL Debut

Kevin Wong


With the 2020-2021 National Hockey League season having just begun, all eyes are on the league’s newest prospects to see which will live up to the expectations placed upon them. Sometimes, a prospect can draw the ire of a fanbase when their rate of production in the NHL does not quickly reflect the hype that they generated. It is important to assess prospects on the basis of their habits and overall contributions rather than solely their point totals, especially when one takes into account their ice time and usage. Their points will arrive as long as they are generating opportunities and showing signs that they can control the pace of play.

Tendencies are more crucial than anything else when evaluating prospects, and they can often reveal which players will not make the NHL even if they are prolific point producers in junior hockey.

In recent weeks, we have looked at numerous top draft selections who failed to become impact NHL players, as well as those who currently remain on the outside. The NHL is a difficult league to join, and certain qualities are required in order for players to become reliable contributors. The most desirable skater type should be the line driver — the player who creates offense regardless of who they play with. Forwards in the NHL must either be line drivers, defensive stalwarts, or high-IQ, complementary finishers.

If a player can not be any of those three types, then their likelihood of being effective in the NHL will be quite low, even if a team places that player alongside high-end linemates.

A skater of this ilk, for example, might still fail to be effective in the NHL on a line with Connor McDavid. The Edmonton Oilers’ fourth-overall selection in 2016, Jesse Puljujarvi, has struggled to be effective in spite of opportunities to play with such stars as McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The north-south rushes of this lanky, 6’4” sniper have not proven to be fruitful in the NHL.


Intelligent grinder Alexander Burrows, on the other hand, was able to improve the play of superstars Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Burrows knew where to be positionally in order to support the cycle plays of the Sedin twins. Despite not being a star individual scorer, he experienced more success than anyone else who had ever played with the star duo.

Hockey IQ is the most important trait. As skilled as a player may be, they are only as good as their positional play allows them to be.

Many premium picks are still used to select players who lack the decision-making soundness to fully take advantage of their talent, speed and physical stature. Skill alone will only take a prospect so far.

If a scout can make a precise determination about a player’s ability to anticipate and process the development of plays, then they may be able to better predict that player’s chances of developing into an effective NHL player. One can look at a player such as