Prospect Ramblings: New Homes and Terrific Debuts

Dave Hall

2021-04-13

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Ramblings.

We are fresh off of yet another trade deadline, and to be honest, it was much more entertaining than expected. Given the unique circumstances this season, it was tough to gauge how active managers would be. As it turned out, the market flourished.

For a full recap on each transaction’s fantasy implications, make sure to check out Dobber’s Twitter page @DobberHockey.

With the exception of a few, prospects were not overly involved in many of the week’s deals. Of course, that’s not to say that prospects were completely cut out of the action. A few names made the ledger, providing brand new environments for a few in (much) need of a change of scenery. Here are two of those deals, along with some thoughts as to what it may mean for their fantasy value going forward.

To kick things off, let’s look into a deal that came earlier in the week between the Flordia Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks, who are in the midst of a rebrand, locked in a few new faces, one of which was in dire need of a second chance. Here is the deal:

To Chicago – Brett Connolly (F), Henrik Borgstrom (F), Riley Stillman (D), 7th-Round pick.
To Florida – Lucas Wallmark (F), Lucas Carlsson (D).

Right off the bat, it’s clear which name stands out like a nail and that name is Henrik Borgstrom. If you can remember, the now 23-year-old was an incredible performer at the NCAA level, posting back-to-back stellar seasons with the University of Denver with 43 and 52 points, respectively. These two strong seasons awarded him a long list of accolades, which included: NCHC Rookie of the year (2016-17), NCHC player of the year (2017-18), and of course, a shot at the Hobey Baker as a finalist (2017-18) – a title that he would eventually lose, thanks to Adam Gaudette, who now joins him in Chicago after being dealt on Monday (via Vancouver).

Considered a “swiss-army knife” in the offensive zone, his overall ceiling was through the roof, and Panthers fans were more than intrigued to see their prized first-round (23rd overall) selection rise to the pro level. Unfortunately, the translation did not go quite as smoothly as originally planned. At least not at the NHL level. Looking back, it’s tough to understand what exactly went wrong.

Statistically, he was playing well at the AHL level, with 45 points through 73 games. He was even showing bright spots as a threat at both the wings and up the middle – an added bonus to his stock. Yet, the Panthers were not inclined to offer a second chance among their roster, after producing just 18 through 50 in his only “full” year with the club. It was hard to imagine a scenario where the high-end talent would become a classic case of an NHL “tweener”, yet, it looked to be trending that in that direction – and quick.

Ultimately, the lack of trust from the club led to frustration with the asset, which, in turn, led to him finding his way back to his hometown in Helsinki, Finland as an RFA without a renewed deal. While he posted a respectable 19 points over 29 games in Liiga action, there remained a sense of unconfidence in his game. Of course, that, along with his comfort level seemed to increase as the season went along, and even enjoyed 10 points in a nine-game stretch. Things were looking good.

I mean, if this doesn’t scream confidence then nothing will.

Overall, there is no questioning the skill that he holds and with a new beginning and new vote of confidence in Chicago, there is still hope for the once blossoming prospect.

Don’t get it twisted, Blackhawks fans, he’s likely not to fulfill his originally pegged top-six potential. Although, let’s not rule that out. Yet, given his ability to provide offense, there is no reason to believe – although, there many that do not – that he cannot eventually equate to an NHL regular, middle-six option. Not to mention, the powerplay threat is very real.

Additionally, the Hawks received Riley Stillman, a two-way defender who projects to be a bottom-pairing defender. Much like Borgstrom, a new home could squeeze further untapped potential. However, likely not enough to signify heavy fantasy-worthy numbers.

Lucas Carlsson, on the other hand, is an intriguing prospect. The 23-year-old does many things well and brings an extensive toolkit, which even includes some offensive touch – something which he seemed to have learned throughout his transition to the North American game. In deeper formats, he could be an interesting option if you are looking for a variety of categories. Of course, as a left-handed option, he enters the club deep within their depth chart, which certainly hinders his short-term value. Overall, second-pairing is likely his cap, with bottom-pairing more than likely.

The Panthers were not done there. In fact, they were one of the busier teams during the entire week, dealing away prospects in order to make a deep push for a cup this season. This time around, it was a more recent draft pick, Emil Heineman, who the Panthers selected 43rd overall in this year’s entry draft on his way out. Here is the deal:

To Florida: Sam Bennett (F), 6th-round pick (2022).
To Calgary: Emil Heineman (F), 2nd-round pick (2022).

For me, I really like this trade for the Calgary Flames. Heineman, although not an elite level player, brings a game that could/should translate to a middle-six, perhaps even take strides on the second-line. He is the type of player that fans love to watch, as he brings a high-energy motor and does not shy away from playing the body. Furthermore, he has strong release, a tool that should allow him to grow as a threat at the professional level.

Of course, at the young age of 19, his skills are still incredibly raw. As always, many elements will have to pan out perfectly in order for him to realize his true potential. Yet, to give up a disgruntled asset and in return, receive a strong prospect with medium-sized potential, along with a second-round pick to boot. No one says no.

As expected, a good chunk of draft picks were tossed around the league over the past few days. Most of which seemed to be heading to Columbus, who managed to stockpile two additional first-round selections in this year’s draft, as well as a few futures. Granted, with both coming courtesy of Toronto and Tampa Bay, both picks hold a high chance of falling late in the round. Regardless, the Jackets’ will be an intriguing team to watch come draft day and should be adding a few strong assets, including a potential top-10 of their own. Can they turn a corner, and finally become a fantasy haven in the next few years? Let’s see how they manage in July.

All in all, it was an exciting and entertaining week. It was a seller’s dream market this year, with many of the league’s top teams putting themselves well above the rest of the league. Who needs assets when you have a cup in hand.

Oh, Speaking of draft picks, this week also saw a line of extremely touted prospects make their professional debuts, most of them deserving of some recognition. More specifically, a Montreal Canadien draft pick by the name of Cole Caufield. After dominating the nation at the NCAA level with 30 goals and 52 points, the 5-foot-7 winger made his anticipated AHL debut for the Laval Rocket. He wasted no time making his mark on the league, combining for two goals and an assist in his debut, which included this patented one-timer.

He would add another goal in his next matchup, totaling four points through his first two games. None of this should come as much surprise. As I mentioned a few weeks back, the kid eats, sleeps, and dreams about scoring goals. It was not a question of if he’d score, but how many. Yes, it’s early. Yet, there is good reason to be excited about him, regardless if he sees promotion this season or not. Enjoy, Habs fans, you have your best shooter since Max Pacioretty.

Secondly, Matt Boldy, who made his debut with the Iowa Wild, came as advertised. Much like Caufield, Boldy capped off his pro debut with a multi-point effort, posting a goal and an assist, while adding a second goal in his second game. His debut tally came in the form of a rocket, dropping to a knee on the man-advantage and beating the goaltender clean.

Both players come in as bright spots for the respected organizations, and both proving case and point as to why. While they are both likely to remain down in the AHL, do not be surprised in the slightest to see one, if not both, up in the show at some points before the season’s end.

Thanks for joining me this week. Follow me @hall1289 for more prospect updates.

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