Photo courtesy of TSN.ca
With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching teams are going to have to decide whether they will be buyers or sellers. With prospects set to be available on contending teams, we will look at some potential prospects who could find themselves in new organizations on April 12th, 2021 and possibly have an easier path to playing time in more prominent roles.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The reigning Stanley Cup Champions are still as dominant as they were a season ago and show no signs of a “Cup Hangover” this season. They will surely be buyers at the deadline and look to bolster their roster. Connor Verhaeghe comes to mind as someone who the Lighting were forced to move on from after a dominant season in the AHL last year, and landed in Florida during free agency. I bring up his name 23-year-old Taylor Raddysh has been much of the same. He put up 46 points in his rookie year in the AHL and is currently on the team’s taxi squad but could be dangled in a trade if the right deal comes along.
Boris Katchouk is another name that could draw interest from other teams around the league. The 22-year-old center was a second-round pick back in 2016 but has yet to get his opportunity in the NHL. He put up 32 points in 60 games with the Syracuse Crunch last season and could be a strong two-way forward who is on the cusp of being NHL ready.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It is no secret the Leafs will be buyers after GM Kyle Dubas came out and said he would be willing to deal a top prospect in a deal at the deadline to make his team better. Knowing his willingness to part with a key piece, three prospects come to mind that will be coveted by opposing teams looking for high-end prospects in return. The three prospects are defensemen Rasmus Sandin, and Timothy Liljegren, and forward Nicholas Robertson. Sandin and Liljegren have been knocking on the door for some time now for NHL minutes and while they have gotten some they have not been able to take on a full-time role.
Sandin is a great offensive defenseman who can put up points with ease and doesn’t shy away from the physical aspect of the game. He is defensively sound and his smooth skating can stifle opponents entering the zone. Although he is out indefinitely with a foot injury he is still a coveted asset who is NHL ready.
Liljegren projects to be a solid two-way blueliner and has shown he can be sound in his own zone and play in all situations. He put up 30 points in 40 games last season with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL and is up to seven through his first ten games in the 2020-21 season. As a right-handed blueliner, you can almost argue that even though he doesn’t have the offensive upside Sandin does he could have more value because of the scarcity of right-handed shooting d-men across the league.
Lastly, Nic Robertson is a winger who has shown he can score at will. Despite his small frame he is crafty and can be an underrated playmaker. He looked poised to play with the Leafs this season if it weren’t for an injury suffered in the first game of this season. Once healthy, he returned to the AHL scoring nine points through ten games before being recalled to the Leafs’ taxi squad. He has all-star potential and could be tough to move considering he is a cheap forward with high-upside for a cap-strapped team like the Maple Leafs.
Keep in mind it will likely take a major trade for any of these three players to be moved in a potential deal. The players coming back will likely have to come with term and include retained salary on the player coming to Toronto for the Leafs to hand over one of these top-end prospects.
New York Islanders
The Islanders have a large hole to fill with the loss of winger and captain Anders Lee for the remainder of the season and should be a team in the running to make a big splash come deadline day. The good news for the Islanders is that the majority of their core forward group is locked up for the foreseeable future, which could make some of their younger forwards expendable to bring in assets for a run at the Cup.
Forwards Oliver Wahlstrom and Keiffer Bellows come to mind as potential players that could be moved in the right deal. Bellows is has seen time filling in on the top-line for Lee playing in a similar power-forward style, but has been in and out of the lineup since, despite his two goals in his first two games on that line.
Wahlstrom is similar to Bellows in terms of their goal-scoring ability. Wahlstrom may have a better offensive outlook than Bellows and has seemingly found a role on the team’s third line and the second powerplay unit and penalty kill. Moving Wahlstrom may take a larger return as he is younger than Bellows and is up to 15 points in 26 games this season in the NHL.
Another name that may garner some interest to teams looking to rebuild is forgotten prospect Josh Ho-Sang. While he is 25-years-old now he has not gotten a big chance to produce despite having 24 points in 53 games played at the NHL level. There is some risk involved with Ho-Sang in terms of his attitude and personal issues, but he was a highly regarded player early in his career and could benefit from a change of scenery. He is currently on loan in the SHL and is a pending free agent which would be an even bigger reason for the Islanders to package him in a deal. He is a player that could be worth the risk for a team looking to bring in younger assets with scoring upside.
The Avalanche are undoubtedly one of the top contenders this year and poised for a deep playoff run. They were decimated by injuries last year which should prompt GM Joe Sakic to be keener on depth player acquisitions at the deadline this time around. They have done a great job drafting and developing players and have a plethora of young players that should be of interest to any team looking for prospects.
A forward like Alex Newhook is likely untouchable for the Avalanche at this point given his stellar play for Boston College over the last two years unless the team is looking to make a major acquisition. Even if Newhook is off the table players like Shane Bowers and Alex Beaucage will likely be in play. Beaucage has been solid in the QMJHL over his career and is a point producer, operating at over a point per game basis across the last three seasons in Junior. He is likely more of a sweetener player considering he is unsigned by the Avalanche right now.
Teams looking for more NHL-ready prospects will likely be interested in Shane Bowers and Martin Kaut who have been progressing in the minors. Bowers is a former first-round pick of the Senators who has not been able to crack the deep Avalanche lineup yet, making him a prime target for rebuilding teams. Kaut is also another former first-round pick who has shown production in the AHL but has not been able to translate it when called up to the NHL.
The more prized assets the Avalanche have at their disposal are their defensive prospects. Conor Timmins has had looks at the NHL level but has not been able to stick. He registered no points in his 17 games in the NHL this season and with a strong and young defense corps ahead of him it may be increasingly difficult to find a way into the lineup. The team’s most recent first-rounder Justin Barron is also a right-handed shooting defenseman who can play a solid two-way game and stifle offenses and has 24 points in 24 games as captain of an underwhelming Halifax Mooseheads team.
The Avalanche are in win-now mode and they have already given up both their 2021 and 2022 second-round picks when they acquired Devon Toews. They are also without a 2021 fourth and sixth-round selection and may need to look to move these prospects to avoid moving out anymore precious draft capital.
With more teams looking to add assets to bolster their teams for playoff runs, we will look into some more prospects from contending teams that could garner interest by the rebuilding teams heading into the April first trade deadline in my next prospect ramblings piece. Follow me on Twitter: @JulianMongillo for more prospect and hockey talk.