Prospect Ramblings: Deadline Dealings — Justin Barron, Aidan Hreschuk, Jack McBain

Hadi Kalakeche

2022-03-22

Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, or let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.

The trade deadline is now over, which usually brings along with it a plethora of prospects changing teams as most competitors won’t want to substract from their main roster to make a move. Add-ons such as Artturi Lehkonen, Max Domi, and many more have allowed teams on the upswing to deal names in their pipelines that they deem expendable in favor of increasing the arsenal of players they can rely upon come playoff time.

We’ll look at the full trade first, analyzing the return and which team is most likely to have come away with the long end of the stick, and then diving into the traded prospect’s game and how the move affects their NHL hopes.

 

Justin Barron, RD — Colorado Avalanche → Montréal Canadiens

Full trade:

Colorado Receives: Artturi Lehkonen (50% retained)

Montréal receives: Justin Barron, 2023 2nd-round pick

Winner: Colorado

 

The Avalanche win this trade for the simple reason that they acquired a Yes for a Probably and a big Maybe. Lehkonen will also be a restricted free agent at the end of this season and can be tendered a qualifying offer. This ensures that he’ll remain in the Avalanche’s system for the next year at the very least if they see him as a piece they want to keep around. Why wouldn’t they? On a sinking ship in Montréal, Lehkonen never stopped manning the masts, consistently showing up for the Habs even when Dominique Ducharme was leading the Habs towards historically bad numbers. He genuinely was the Habs’ best defensive forward this season and their most consistent player overall, although that bar remains pretty low if we exclude first-line center Nick Suzuki.

Moving on to Barron, Byron Bader’s Hockey Prospecting model has him at a 79% chance of playing 200+ games in the NHL, but only a 19% chance of scoring over 0.45 points per game (based on historical point production for his age). The 20-year-old has earned 20 points in 43 games so far for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, and is currently playing out the first year of his entry-level contract. He hasn’t looked bad at all in his own zone based on the very few games I watched, using his reach and first step to close short gaps efficiently. He still has to learn to manage speed differentials in a way that translates well to the NHL, but doesn’t struggle with the more conventional plays that he’ll face regularly on a bottom pair.

Offensively, Barron likes to misdirect opponents to open up lanes and has a knack for spotting his moments to pinch, but his stickhandling and general finesse with the puck lacks the punch you like to see from a bona-fide top-four defenseman. at 6-foot-2 and almost 200 pounds, Barron’s game without the puck stands out a lot more than with it. Solid hits, great angling with both his stick and body, and an above-average skating stride make him the kind of prospect that is difficult not to envision making it at the NHL level.

His play-reading isn’t always perfect, especially off the rush, but he’s an intense defender who doesn’t give up an inch. I see him as a future complementary defensive defenseman on a second pair, or a solid third-pair option for the Habs as soon as next season if the shoe fits. Expect him to get a cup of coffee as the Habs get a close look at the prospect they got in this trade, before moving him down to Laval to further his development. He’s definitely got a better shot at becoming an NHL mainstay with the Habs, who lack right-handed defensemen in both their main roster and their pipeline (especially if Jeff Petry ends up being traded like he asked).

 

Aidan Hreschuk, LD — Carolina Hurricanes → Columbus Blue Jackets

Full trade:

Columbus receives: Aidan Hreschuk

Florida receives: 6th-round pick (retained 25% of Domi’s contract)

Carolina receives: Max Domi (75% retained)

Winner: Florida

 

That’s a bit of a jab at how weird of a trade this is for both Columbus and Carolina. The Jackets didn’t really need to add Hreschuk and also didn’t get much of a return for an NHLer who has 32 points in 53 games this year, especially having managed to shave off 75% of his contract value by brokering a deal with the Panthers for a sixth-rounder. At the same time, I’m just not sure how Domi will do under the dump-and-chase system the Hurricanes favor. He’s always been more of a transitional player, and his board game doesn’t stand out as something that would benefit him under Brind’Amour’s system. He might get the same treatment he suffered in Columbus, where he fell out of favor with the coach and was healthy scratched on occasions.

Hreschuk is a funny case. On a good day, the 94th-overall pick in 2021 is so fun to watch. Although he stands at 5-foot-11 and under 190 pounds, his physicality is impressive and he has the mobility to keep up with the fastest of skaters. He blends great hands with a tendency to think outside the box, and can distribute the puck very efficiently.

On a bad day, though? Bad reads, bad reads, bad reads. And those have been pretty common from what I’ve seen in his NCAA freshman year for Boston College. He has one goal and seven assists in 37 games, and most have come within tightly-knit clusters of games separated by worrying dry spells. The lack of consistency in his case comes as a concern, but as an eternal optimist, I like to see a player’s best and evaluate them based on that. Especially freshmen playing against grown adults for the first time in their lives.

What’s certain is that Columbus has a better shot than Carolina at playing Hreschuk in the NHL one day. The Canes’ pipeline on D is honestly unfair, especially with Scott Morrow and Aleksi Heimosalmi gaining traction this season.

 

Jack McBain, C — Minnesota Wild → Arizona Coyotes

Full trade:

Arizona receives: rights to Jack McBain

Minnesota receives: 2022 2nd-round pick (Vancouver’s)

Winner: Arizona

 

People tend to severely overestimate the value of a second-rounder, especially past the 40th selection. The players available in that range very seldom make the NHL — about 34% of the time — and very rarely do second-rounders have a solid, lasting impact on their teams. When I watch him play, McBain seems to me like a prospect who’s got all the tools required to make it at the NHL level, but at the same time, Bader’s Hockey Prospecting models don’t seem to agree (14% NHLer probability, 0% star probability — likely a result of most NHL-ready prospects leaving college early to play pro).

The towering 6-foot-4, 215-pound center leads his team in points with 33, 19 of which have been goals. This comes despite having played eight fewer games than runner-up Marc McLaughlin, and on a program in the Boston College Eagles that figures 11 drafted prospects. He’s been driving the bus offensively, using his solid shot, high-end puck-protection habits, and decent vision to put up points at an impressive rate. His game can lack finesse and dynamism around the edges, but more often than not he’s making plays that are efficient, and effective.

He also figured on Team Canada’s Olympic team, scoring two points in five games. At 22 years old, McBain’s draft rights expire this offseason, so the Coyotes likely already have a plan in place to sign him and give him a prime opportunity to make himself known on their thinning roster. McBain is yet another prospect who will benefit greatly from a move into a system that is less loaded with current and future talent in his position.


Thanks for reading — follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for all of your prospect-related needs!

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