Prospect Ramblings: Top 20 Prospects by PNHLe

Ben Gehrels

2022-11-02

If you don’t have it yet, check out Mason Black’s awesome RankKing app here. It generates a list of all NHL prospects ranked by PNHLe, “a value that projects a prospect’s point potential at the NHL level, taking into consideration point production (i.e., points-per-game), the league a prospect plays in, their age and the position they play.”

Although it’s not perfect, RankKing’s PNHLe metric is a quick and useful way to keep tabs on which prospects are excelling across a number of leagues. Today we will dig into some players currently listed in the top 20.

I won’t dwell too long on the 2023 phenoms because the hype is steady for Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and company. Conspicuously absent from that group is consensus top-three pick Matvei Michkov—but that is only because I believe RankKing does not yet include skaters from the MHL or VHL due to small sample size.

Don’t worry about Michkov, 17, who potted six goals in his first six VHL games (that is of course a pro men’s league) and added two assists for good measure before getting called up to the KHL. Even if he slips to fourth behind Carlsson come draft day, there is no denying Michkov’s insane skill set. He would be a franchise-changing first overall pick in a different class, so it is surreal to see a player of his calibre possibly going third or fourth in 2023.

As you make moves in the lead-up to this draft, keep in mind that there will be a significant boost in how poolies value the prospect systems of the 4+ teams that draft the cream of this crop. Imagine what exposure to Bedard or Fantilli would do to the value of Blackhawks prospects like Lukas Reichel, Frank Nazar, and Kevin Korchinski, for instance. Ninth on the list, Korchinski has built on his point-per-game draft year output with 13 points in eight WHL games. He could very well finish in the PNHLe Top 10 at the end of the year. High-octane offence from the back end.

Reichel, the oldest of the four AHL players in the PNHLe Top 10, has ten points in his first six (!) games. 

The Blackhawks, in the midst of a transparent “Tank hard for Bedard” tear-down, continue to play Reichel on the farm but he is certainly making his case for more time in the majors. From the outside, this seems like a good chance to give him time with Patrick Kane but perhaps it will take an injury for him to get another look. 

I feel Reichel’s value is headed up even though there are dark days ahead in Chicago. They had a quick start and have lost some tight games lately, but they sit at 4-4-2 (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses) and have been overachieving. They sit bottom four in the league in terms of shot differential and the trio of Alex Stalock, Petr Mrazek, and Arvid Soderblom does not exactly inspire confidence in terms of weathering the storm in net.

While we’re on the Blackhawks, have a quick look at the new and improved Caleb Jones. 

With his brother Seth down 3-4 weeks with an injury, Caleb played almost six minutes with the man advantage last game—nearly 60% of the available PP time. Jones and partner Filip Roos were easily Chicago’s most effective unit in terms of driving play, and Jones could make for a solid streamer with some upside.

The other three teams in the bottom four for shot differential besides Chicago (-8.4) right now are Philadelphia (-9.1), Anaheim (-9.4), and Arizona (-14.9). It would not surprise anyone if these teams ended up with Bedard, Fantilli, Michkov, and Carlsson. So consider buying in now on prospects from these teams before the draft takes center stage. 

Tied with Fantilli at the top spot on the list is Artyom Duda (ARI), who must be an outlier here due to small sample size. Two points in six KHL games as an 18 year old is fine but nothing like Fantilli’s historic start. After posting a point-per-game playoff run in the MHL last year, Duda is one to keep an eye on but will fall down the list as games accumulate. Seeing Simon Edvinsson (DET) and David Jiricek (CBJ) here is not surprising, on the other hand, as both are high-pedigree, impactful defencemen who will likely earn more NHL time before much longer.

Alexander Nikishin (CAR) is an intriguing, lesser-known defender who is quickly garnering interest in keeper and dynasty formats. He offers serious multi-cat appeal and has now scored at an incredible pace (20 points in 25 games) over a sizeable chunk of the KHL season.

This level of production has basically come out of nowhere, however, and I would take it with a grain of salt. Nikishin clearly has a higher offensive ceiling than he appeared to have two years ago at the 2020 draft. But these 20 points are already the second-highest output of his entire career, including his days in junior—his top mark was 25 points in 62 MHL games in his D-1.

It’s exciting to see Fabian Lysell (BOS) ripping things up with Providence (AHL). Ahead of the 2021 draft, he was talked about as one of the more dynamic talents in the class. But there were questions about his shot and physicality, and it was difficult to gauge how his production in limited action over in Sweden would translate to the longer, heavier grind of a North American pro campaign. Lysell proved last year in the WHL that he could produce over an extended 60+ game stretch, following up a strong season on a weak team with an incredible 21 points in 12 playoff games. His trajectory is looking pretty damn good these days. Kudos to you if you bought in early on this guy.

Here’s a recent look at his high-end skating as he generates speed across the middle in a 3-on-3 overtime. Although it would have been nice to see him lean into the defenceman and cut to the middle instead of circling harmlessly around the back of the net, he has the kind of adept patience and creativity with the puck that jumps off the ice.

Before wrapping up this week, let’s take a quick look at a few names in the 11-20 range.

Love seeing Hutson (MON) and Casey (NJD) transitioning so smoothly to college hockey out of the USDP. Both are skilled offensive defenders who fell in the rankings due to size concerns. Hutson in particular is a dynamic talent who will continue to turn heads with plays like this one.

I’m not sure what to make of Bolduc’s hot start. The 2019 second rounder didn’t put up solid scoring totals until the final thirty games of his Draft+1 QMJHL season. He carried that success into his AHL rookie year (14 points in 24 games) but struggled badly last year (seven in 57) after an injury kept him out of training camp. Now he has nine points over his first seven games in Bridgeport (AHL).

His bonkers trajectory says it all. I imagine he will level things out and finish somewhere between those peaks and valleys—perhaps a 50-point pace—re-establishing his position as one of the Islanders’ top prospects on defence.

Jordan Dumais (CBJ) is a polarizing prospect: his shot, skating, and physicality are below average but his vision, intelligence, and production are high-end. After scoring an incredible 109 points in 68 games as a draft eligible, he has now pushed past the two-points-per-game mark in the early goings of the QMJHL (27 in 12).

It will be interesting to see what statistical heights he reaches this year, and whether his strengths can overcome both his weaknesses and his small frame (5-9, 165lbs). As a speculative trade chip in fantasy, Dumais makes a lot of sense right now. The production means more poolies are learning his name. Although it exasperates the analysts who have actually watched Dumais’ tape and seen the translatability concerns, many will only see the numbers and wonder why this guy was ranked so low last year.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @beegare for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis.

 

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