April 8th, 2015

by Zach Hopkins on April 8, 2015

April 7th Ramblings

 

This is Zach Hopkins, your rookie rambler, coming back at you with another edition of Prospect Ramblings. Let’s jump right into it.

 

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I really can’t stand Kevin Hayes. Actually, that is a lie. I LOVE Kevin Hayes. Unfortunately for me, I had him on my bench last night in the heat of my championship battle in one of my most competitive fantasy leagues. Nothing like wasting a one goal, two assist and plus-two effort by one of the past few month’s better rookies!

 

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Speaking of one of the better rookies, how big was Mark Stone’s goal in overtime last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins? He very well may have saved Ottawa’s season with a blistering wrister halfway through the extra period that denied the Penguins a chance to clinch a playoff spot. Ottawa has managed to hang with the Penguins, Bruins and Red Wings large in part to Stone’s breakout season in which he has deposited 24 goals, 37 assists and a plus-18 rating with only 14 penalty minutes. I had mentioned before that my top Calder candidates were Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg and John Klingberg. I now reserve the right to dump the Dallas Stars rookie and add Stone to the mix.

 

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Is anybody else thoroughly excited about the OHL’s Western Conference semi-final matchup between the Erie Otters and the London Knights? If this doesn’t have the feel of a championship match, I don’t know what does. The star power alone are enough to give this an all-star feel. On one side you have Max Domi and Mitch Marner, the latter of whom almost won the OHL scoring title and is projected to be a high pick in this summer’s NHL Draft. On the other side, you have the undisputed top overall prospect in Connor McDavid as well as the OHL scoring champion Dylan Strome. Be sure not to blink as you will not want to miss any of the action in this matchup.

 

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Central Scouting released their final prospect rankings and no surprises on the top six North American skaters. Following McDavid and Boston University freshman and likely Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel are Noah Hanifin of Boston College (imagine him with Oliver Ekman-Larsson!), Strome, Lawson Crouse of Kingston and Marner. The top ranked international skater is Mikko Rantanen of TPS in Liiga which is Finland’s top professional league. In terms of masked men, Mackenzie Blackwood of the Barrie Colts is the top North American goalie while Ilya Samsonov is tops internationally.

 

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One player to keep an eye on in the NHL Draft this summer is Noah Juulsen from the Everett Silvertips. He was formerly a second-round projection who has made the jump to first-round on the final rankings after a 52 point season. His rising stock is eerily similar to that of Travis Sanheim of the Calgary Hitmen (Ha! I fit in a Flyers prospect!) who last season made the jump after his improved play at the WJC as well as in the WHL.

 

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I joke about adding Flyers prospects into my ramblings but I would be remissed if I didn’t give a shoutout to Sanheim and Radel Fazleev of the Calgary Hitmen who played brilliantly in their first round series against Sam Reinhart and the Kootenay Ice. The Ice sent the Hitmen home early last year so it is only fitting that the roles were reversed this season. Both players have a bright future and Sanheim is slowly making a case to become the Flyers top defensive prospect out of an impressive list that includes Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin.

 

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Of the bubble teams who will miss the playoffs, I am disappointed that the Panthers will not be playing later into the spring. Aaron Ekblad has had a phenomenal year and is living up to the hype of a first-overall selection. Through 79 games, he has averaged almost 22 minutes of ice time and has contributed with 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points and a plus-11 rating with 163 shots on goal. Everybody knew what he was capable of but I think it’s safe to say that he has exceeded expectations for his first professional year. Ekblad will be a staple for the Panthers franchise for years to come, and with their youth movement, he should see playoff hockey sooner rather than later.

 

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Axel Holmstrom now has 13 points in nine games as an 18 year old in the SHL playoffs. May be the favourite to win the MVP trophy. About to break the U20 playoff scoring record held by the Sedins. Has already beaten Kopitar, Steen, U19 scoring record. Whether you are a seventh round pick or seventh overall, that just isn’t fair.

 

His most recent goal:

 

 

An assist that shows his playmaking skills and vision:

 

 

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This is by far the most exciting time of the year. The CHL playoffs are in full throttle, the Frozen Four is upon us and the NHL playoff races are taking shape. Grab your popcorn and your favorite team’s snuggie and hunker down for a wild ride!