Prospect Ramblings: Ready or Not?

Dave Hall

2021-03-30

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Prospect Ramblings.

As we wrap up the month of March, we also say goodbye to a very potent list of Collegiate hockey teams from this year’s Frozen Four tournament. Surprisingly, this list includes teams such as Wisconsin (upset in round one), Boston College (eliminated in round two), North Dakota (eliminated in round two), and finally, Boston University (eliminated in round one). All very strong teams carrying some of the nation’s most heavy-powered prospects.

In extreme 2021 fashion:

You know what this means, don’t you? Tis the season for the end-of-year ELC deal, which leaves a group of highly touted prospects with the 750-925k question – to stay or to go? For a select few, it’s time to decide whether they have something left to prove at the NCAA level, or if they are ready to make the jump up to the next level and turn pro.

Of course, as fantasy owners, even with an ELC signing, there still begs an even bigger question – will they produce? With most transitional prospects, the answer is most commonly no. Yet, every so often, there comes a player who instantly falls under the “ready” category and makes the instant impact.

For me, there is a list of four to keep close tabs on at the moment. Those being Cole Caufield, Dylan Holloway, David Farrance, and Matthew Boldy.

Caufield, a Montreal draftee, was the first to sign his ELC deal. In shocking fashion, the Wisconsin Badgers – where Cole has thrived for two seasons – were sent home in an upsetting opening-round loss to Bemidji State. The Badgers suffered a 6-3 loss, and to the surprise of nobody, Caufield produced two goals and a helper, contributing to all three of the club’s tallies.

This is just vintage:

The Canadiens barely let him breathe following the devastating loss, swiftly pouncing on the opportunity to sign him to his first contract. As I mentioned, the next question to be asked is if he will make his debut with the club, or season his game in the AHL with the Laval Rocket.

For starters, let us look at the incredible year he has had. Right from the get-go, we notice his jaw-dropping statistics, where he posted a stellar and league-leading 31 goals and 52 points. It’s quite the significant jump from his already impressive rookie campaign, where he put up 36 in 36 in 2019-20. His dominant season has earned him a shot at this year’s Hobey Baker Award, handed to the nation’s top player. He’s likely to win.

Since he was knocked out early, it’s safe to say that his largest accomplishment of the year came in the form of Gold. With five points throughout the tournament, he played an integral role for Team USA during this year’s WJC (Gold Medal finish).

Can the Canadiens use him? Well, despite standing at 5-foot-7 (in this day and age, who cares?), Caufield is an extreme talent, capable of filling the net at a glorious rate. The level of play is moot. His shot is ferocious and can beat netminders from far out, a staple that is sure to land him a top spot on the club’s man-advantage down the road.

At the moment, Montreal lacks a pure goal scorer. Sure, they have players that can score goals but none that hold the sort of prolific trigger threat that Cole possesses. The kid just breathes, eats, and dreams about goals. Yes, they need to find a spot for him – perhaps Arturi Lehkonen? – but with a player of his caliber, you don’t ask questions, you just find a spot in the line-up.

My thoughts: Get him in the show

Next, we have Dylan Holloway, who in the “NHL ready” department, likely sits at the top of this list. The 19-year-old brings a mixed bag of transferable skills that could transition nicely into a third-line role for the Oilers immediately.

His game is most notable for his work ethic, pressuring puck carries in all three zones, and playing an extremely solid two-way game. At 6-foot-1, 203-pounds, he carries a “pro-ready” build and does not shy away from utilizing that trait. As a bonus, he showed off his offensive ability this season, finishing the year with 35 points (11G + 24A) through 23 games, a total that finished fifth nation-wide. Again, just a nice bonus to his already strong two-way features.

You would think he was a pure goal-scorer:

What makes his immediate future scream NHL deployment, is the Oilers’ instant ability to plug him into the line-up. Given his versatility to play on both the wing and up the middle, there is a mix of spots that he can fill in on the bottom-six. If so, the chances of him enjoying a minute with a few superstars – Connor and Leon – are very strong. At least as an experimental piece. This potentially gives him instant fantasy value.

He has yet to sign his ELC, but I feel confident in his ability to make the jump this year.

My thoughts: Get him in the show

David Farrance is the second player to sign an ELC, so far. This comes as a breath of relief for Predator fans as the option to test free agency was very much possible, and certainly, an issue lingering in the back of fan’s minds. Fear not, he’s locked up.

The Preds’ 2017 third-round selection has come along way in his four years, growing from a solid prospect to a full-fledged offensive powerhouse. He has increased his point totals each season, and although his 2020-21 campaign was cut quite short – due to Covid and injury issues – he enjoyed his best statistical year to date. Over just 11 games, he managed 16 points as a defender, earning his second consecutive Hobey Baker consideration. One that he likely will not win due to his lack of games.

His offensive upside – especially on the man-advantage – is thru the roof for fantasy owners. He has the ability to dictate the game and can transition the play with ease. He’s been known as a “fourth forward” on the ice and thinks the game at a level most do not. Of course, he can quarterback a powerplay like nobody’s business.

All of this, and there are still areas that leave me wondering if he will see NHL deployment out the gate. While he does show extreme offensive promise, there are specific areas to his defensive game that could use some seasoning at the AHL level. At least in my opinion. Although he is a tremendous skater (once he gets going), his back peddle can be somewhat weak and he often looks lost in his own zone. I would not consider it an area for future concern, rather, one that could use some polishing before he handles skaters such as Nathan Mackinnon and Connor McDavid on a regular basis.

This is what I meant by “Once he gets going”:

All-in-all, there are serious fantasy implications at play. But likely next year.

My thoughts: Get him in the AHL

Finally, we have Matthew Boldy.

The 19-year-old bested his rookie totals by a significant amount, jumping from 26 points (34 games) to 31 (24 games). Although his numbers fell just outside of the top-10 nation-wide, it is a true testament to where his game is currently, and headed.

The Minnesota Wild find themselves in a great spot, standings-wise. Yet, if it were not for a select few forwards, they would still be starving for offense. Boldy could slot in and instantly provide a nice bonus of offensive production to the club’s line-up and more importantly, help out their league-worst powerplay. They are in desperate need. He’s an all-around offensive package, with both tremendous vision for setting up teammates and a quick release to beat netminders from a variety of areas.

Not only can he produce offense, but he can also move as well:

The issue, for me, is their left side (LW) and if there were any areas on the forward group in need of a boost, it’s not that. At 19-years young, his game is not quite as “ready” as Holloway, and could use some time to get himself adjusted. In fact, it’s very possible that he elects to head back to Boston College to finish off some business.

While I do think he brings a ton of value to the club, especially in the long-term, I see his development benefiting from staying off the NHL roster this season.

My thoughts: Get him in the AHL

Thanks for joining me again, and please let me know your thoughts on how you are feeling with this group of prospects. Find me @hall1289.

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