Prospect Ramblings: Michigan drama; Quapp, Svozil, Bichsel, and more

Ben Gehrels

2022-12-28

Photo credit: NHL.com

I’ll start today’s Ramblings with a few observations about the World Juniors, then shift over to highlighting a few players elsewhere.

I have a soft spot for Team Germany after previewing their roster ahead of the tournament, and they put on an entertaining show as the clear underdog in their 1-0 loss to Sweden yesterday. Given that Germany lost 4-3 in OT to Austria in pre-tournament play and the Swedes blew out Austria 11-0 the day before, Germany must be pleased with this result even though it was a loss.

Both goalies were excellent: Nikita Quapp (CAR, 2021 #187) made 43 saves for Germany and Carl Lindbom (VGK, 2021 #222) nabbed the shutout for Sweden with 28 saves. Quapp looked big, solid, and composed playing the kind of game the Germans will need from him to challenge the other top nations. He got a bit lucky with a few fortunate bounces in the early going but settled in as the game carried on and the shots kept coming. \

If there was a bit of rust to Quapp’s game, chalk it up to the fact that he has played only three games this year in Germany’s second-tier men’s league (DEL2). Carolina fans must be pleased to have a goalie like him in the pipeline but he will need to play a more prominent role somewhere to take his development to the next level.

Although Lindbom was not peppered with rubber to the same extent, the Germans tested the Golden Knights prospect repeatedly with a variety of snipes and cross-crease one-timers. He has posted excellent numbers (1.78 G.A.A., 0.936) in 21 games for Djurgårdens IF of the Allsvenskan where he plays with WJC teammates Liam Ohgren, Noah Ostlund, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, and Calle Odelius.

The Latvia-USA game a couple days ago felt a lot like this Germany-Sweden match in that Latvia kept it close with the Americans for most of the game even though the final score of 5-2 looks fairly lopsided. With Switzerland taking down Finland 3-2 in OT on Day One, it is clear that the teams that look weaker on paper (LAT, GER, AUS, SWI) than the traditional hockey behemoths should not be underestimated.

Czechia made the biggest opening statement, of course, by taking down Canada 5-2. Czechia and Slovakia tend to be middle-of-the-pack teams at this tournament but both are talented and scrappy and can clearly go toe-to-toe with anyone. As everyone is well aware of by now, both Adam Fantilli and Connor Bedard attempted and failed Michigan-style lacrosse goals in that game. That kind of creativity continues to inspire big feelings among hockey people, with Canada now being accused of being flashy and individualistic.

Here is my knee-jerk reaction to that narrative along with a couple thought-provoking questions and proposals about lacrosse goals.

One of the (many) standouts on defence for Czechia in Game One was Stanislav Svozil (CBJ), who scored an assist and a goal. Offence is a relatively new weapon in his arsenal, and my guess is that many fantasy managers still think of him as the defensive stud he was billed as in his draft year. Make no mistake, of course, he still has the defensive side of things locked down. Here he is the game against Canada absolutely wiping out Adam Fantilli:

Svozil played in the top Czech men’s league for his draft year and gathered only three points in 30 games. Despite many scouts in the public sector being quite high on him, including Dobber Prospects at 29th and Elite Prospects at 18th overall, Svozil fell to Columbus in the third round (69th). His defensive prowess was clear at that time but the question was whether he would be able to bring any offence to the next level. He then came to North America for his Draft+1 year and posted a respectable 41 points in 59 WHL games.

This year, Svozil has taken his game to new heights with 37 points in 28 games. Take those numbers with a couple grains of salt—namely that he is on Connor Bedard’s team and a double overager—but they are still encouraging nevertheless. The WJC is of course a small sample size, and we have only seen a couple games out of him, with three more assists (at the time of writing) against Austria last night, Svozil currently leads the tournament in scoring with five points in two games.

Another condor-like defensive defenceman who has been on another level this year is Switzerland’s Lian Bischel (DAL). If you are following the WJCs at all, then you have definitely seen this clip a bunch of times already but hey, watch it again. It’s brilliant.

He drives the attacker to the corner to break up the one-on-one, sticks with him and strips the puck. Then he skates it all the way up the ice himself for a solid breakaway attempt, strongarming the defender off him in the process. Finally, he shields the puck effectively until he can identify a productive passing option. Boom, game over.

Here he is again in yesterday’s tight game against Latvia giving a clinic on how to strip the puck from someone ahead of you without drawing a penalty: he doesn’t worry about his stick at first, just skates hard to slowly close the gap; then at the last second he gets his stick on the opposing player’s stick from below and behind, disrupting the chance.

With two points in 25 SHL games this year, we are not seeing the same offensive jump yet that we are seeing from Svozil, but Bichsel is a year younger. It is impressive that he is already playing in his second full SHL campaign in his Draft+1 year. His composure and physicality at such a young age give me Mo Seider vibes. But even if he does not end up showing much offensively at the highest level, his two assists in two WJC games and impressive all-around play are very encouraging for Dallas fans.

We are perhaps witnessing the emergence of Miro Heiskanen’s eventual long-term partner.

Looking into Marco Rossi’s AHL progress recently, I noticed that he was repeatedly bagging primary assists on powerplay goals by Adam Beckman (MIN). Beckman worked his way onto fantasy radars back in 2019-20 when he led the WHL in scoring with 107 points (48 goals) in 63 goals in his Draft+1 year. His trajectory according to historical comparables (via the Hockey Prospecting model) has been on a steady decline since that high point, and I feel like many poolies have moved on from Beckman.

Two of Beckman’s closest full comparables right now are Eeli Tolvanen and Barrett Hayton, which is a bit concerning. Both players had sparkling junior careers but have struggled to establish themselves in the NHL. Comparables aside, however, the intriguing thing about Beckman is that he is a pure triggerman. He currently has almost 100 shots in 25 AHL games (3.9 per game). He will need to improve his accuracy—he only has eight goals with a reasonable-but-low shooting percentage of 8.6%—but it is an excellent sign that he has managed to translate the volume shooting we saw from him in junior to the pro ranks.

The Wild currently have four players averaging around three or more shots a night: Kirill Kaprizov (4.0), Joel Eriksson-Ek (3.2), Matt Zuccarello (2.9), and Matt Boldy (2.9). No surprise, those four have also provided the bulk of Minnesota’s goals thus far in 2022-23. Rossi can score of course but his main strength has always been playmaking, which is obviously meshing well with Beckman’s inclination to shoot—especially from the bumper slot on the powerplay, where a quick trigger and ability to shoot from the feet is essential.

If Beckman and Rossi can translate their recent AHL chemistry to the big club, the pair could provide Minnesota with some much-need skilled depth as early as 2023-24—though do not be surprised to see both players called up again for a look in the second half of this year. Even if his ceiling ends up being in the middle six, Beckman’s fantasy stocks are looking pretty good again these days as a mid-tier asset.

Another Minnesota prospect who has been on an absolute tear since a mid-season trade is Hunter Haight. After posting only nine points in the first 20 OHL games of his Draft+1 year, he was traded from Barrie to Saginaw where he exploded for 13 points in his first seven games.

He fell to the Wild in the second round after finishing with lacklustre totals in his Draft year, but it was clear to scouts back then that he had dynamic puck skills and a solid skating foundation.

Haight is a bit of a sneaky pick up in fantasy right now because even if he keeps up this level of production, many poolies might not pick up on that because his season-long totals will remain modest-looking because of the slow start with Barrie. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.


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

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