Jonathan Drouin makes his NHL debut, Brendan Ross breaks down the early Calder standouts and looks at the progression of 2014 1st round selections…
Tuesday, October 21st
Hockey is in the full swing of things with prospects stepping up their games, others disappointed and the unlucky experiencing some unfortunate injuries. Here are the latest rumblings around the hockey prospect world.
Before I dive into these ramblings, let’s just talk about Jonathan Drouin’s NHL debut after sneaking into his first game after Alex Killorn couldn’t go after the pre-game skate. While Drouin didn’t post any points and went minus-1 in 16:10 minutes of ice time, we certainly witnessed his special talent. Once Drouin gets some time to practice with the powerplay unit and then earns time with the man advantage, we are going to see the points trickle in…and trickle in very quickly. One of the best tweets of the night went to THN’s Adam Proteau…
Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin on the same line is going to be illegal one day. The NHL may have no other choice.— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) October 21, 2014
Over the next few days, each rambling will be kickstarted by quickly firing through some updates on the play of 2014 NHL Draft 1st rounders starting with those prospects selected 21st (Robby Fabbri) through 30th (John Quenneville) this past June.
30th – John Quenneville (New Jersey Devils) – Named to the WHL’s Subway® Super Series WHL Roster, Johnny Q used a strong Devils camp showing to turn that into six points in his first four games back with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Playing alongside Panthers prospect Jayce Hawryluk, Quenneville should finish among the top league scorers.
29th – Adrian Kempe (Los Angeles Kings) – Playing on the same Modo squad as Leafs’ 2014 1st rounder William Nylander, Adrian Kempe has posted one goal and four points in his first dozen games which is well on his way to eclipsing his 11 points from last season. The recently turned 18-year-old continues to show a strong power game while focusing on improving his defensive focus.
28th – Josh Ho-Sang (New York Islanders) – With a six-game suspension carrying over from the 2013-14 season, Josh Ho-Sang has just recently took the ice with the Windsor Spitfires. Fortunately, Ho-Sang opened his season with a three-point effort followed by back-to-back two assist games for seven points in his first three games. Despite his delayed start, Ho-Sang should finish among the OHL’s top scorers and be a legitimate option for Canada’s World Junior team after finally getting an invite to a “try-out” type of an event as a member of the OHL’s Subway Super Series team.
27th – Nikolay Goldobin (San Jose Sharks) – He almost forced his way onto the Sharks opening day roster but eventually the slick puck handler, Goldobin, was loaned to HIFK of Finland’s Liiga. In a league known for strict defensive play, Goldobin may benefit from rounding out his game inside his own zone. Playing on the larger ice surface, Goldobin has put up a pair of goals and assists in his first three contests.
26th – Nikita Scherbak (Montreal Canadiens) – Russian born playmaker could’ve arguably started with the Canadiens as the entire organization was thrilled about his camp performances. With Scherbak returned to Everett (a team who traded for his services in the summer), he has four goals and eight points in four games. Here’s a player who should be among the CHL’s most productive players.
25th – David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) – The Bruins were absolutely thrilled when Pastrnak fell to them at 25 last June and they should’ve been. Because Pastrnak was drafted out of Europe the Bruins were permitted to assign him to Providence of the AHL. The Czech forward sits first in rookie AHL scoring and tied for second in AHL scoring with two goals and six points (five games). He’s been staying true to his aggressive offensive attacks and despite running out of gas as he attempts to acclimate himself to the grueling AHL schedule, Pastrnak remains a constant threat. Look for the young forward to continue learning how to balance his high-risk style with better decision making.
24th – Jared McCann (Vancouver Canucks) – After overcoming mononucleosis that sidelined him to start the season, McCann is back with the dangerous Greyhounds. Offensively, McCann is off to a good start with four goals and nine points through six games. I’ve caught him in action and there are still some consistency issues from shift to shift (common among teenagers). I’d like to see him continue to work on his puck skills and overall confidence to reach that next level.
23rd – Conner Bleackley (Colorado Avalanche) – Not an overly offensive prospect (9GP-2G-4A-6P), Bleackley was named to the WHL Roster for the Super Series late last week. The Avalanche drafted Bleackley knowing that his offensive ceiling isn’t too high but are content with the intangibles he offers as a potential 2/3 two-way centre.
22nd – Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins) – When the Penguins selected Kapanen at the 2014 draft, I thought to myself, “Finally, Pittsburgh drafted a forward with some real upside outside of the lottery pick”. The selection was a solid one and he came overseas and proved that he would be a legitimate contender in the near future for a top-six role. In actuality, Kapanen was close to making the Penguins main roster out of camp. On loan to KalPa in Finland’s Liiga, Kapanen has started the season well with four points, three of which are assists, in three games.
21st – Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues) – It has been no secret that Robby Fabbri has been, probably, my favourite prospect from the 2014 draft class dating back before mainstream “draft enthusiasts” jumped on the Fabbri train. As a result, I was not surprised to see that Fabbri almost cracked the Blues roster out of camp. In fact, had Fabbri not suffered an injury, it is quite likely that he’d be still skating in St. Louis. If you think about the tremendous depth that the Blues have up front (arguably the best in the entire league), Fabbri’s push is all that more remarkable. He’s since returned from injury and laced them up with the OHL’s defending champions in Guelph. In two games, Fabbri has broken twice three times.
Check back soon to catch updates on prospects Kevin Fiala (11th) through Nick Schmaltz (20th)…
2015 NHL Draft Notes:
WHL Import rookie Ivan Provonov leads all rookies (forwards and defensemen) in scoring with 12 points in 11 games. Not too bad of a start.
Another draft eligible Wheat Kings’ defender Ryan Pilon has rocketed out of the gates with 13 points. He is almost halfway to his WHL career high 29 points.
He doesn’t possess the technical ‘import’ tag that Nail Yakupov and Nikolay Goldobin occupied, the Russian born Nikita Korostelev of the Sarnia Sting is ripping up his draft season, much like his foreign predecessors. A natural scorer, Korostelev is showing no troubles burying the biscuit with seven goals in 10 games. Korostelev is an opportunistic sniper but he will need to work on his speed, lateral mobility and overall strength to move into first round consideration. With six goals and 11 points in his past five games, he’s garnering the attention of scouts.
All eyes were on draft eligible dynamo Travis Konecny to start the season but teammate Dante Salituro is garnering some worthy attention as well. Dating back to his minor midget days with the Don Mills Flyers, Salituro has always been an intelligent and offensive player. With an astonishing 10 goals and 11 points in Ottawa’s first nine goals, it’s time to start paying attention to the 67’s leading scorer!
In the Quebec league, Sherbrook, Cape Breton and Quebec are getting full value on their import selections of Kay Schweri, Evgeny Svechnikov and Dmytro Timashov, respectively.
Kay Schweri, Swiss forward eligible for the 2015 draft, leads all rookies with four goals and 25 points in 14 games, of which he has only been held pointless in two. He sits second in QMJHL scoring.
The Screaming Eagles have had the luxury of icing Russia’s top projected draft eligible skater in 6-foot-3 left winger Evgeny Svechnikov who has lit the lamp six times and posted 19 games through 14 games of action.
Lastly, Dmytro Timashov is a 5-foot-9 offensive winger who has lived up to the billing providing the Memorial Cup hosts (Quebec Remparts) with eight goals and 23 points in 13 games. Check out his end-to-end goal from October 12th…
I attended the Erie Otters and London Knights game last Wednesday, joining about 50 other NHL scouts from all 30 teams, to catch glimpses of Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner. In the contest, all three were relatively quiet throughout the game (by their normal standards) with them showing flashes of their coveted talents throughout. With McDavid and Strome logging serious minutes for an undermanned Otters team, McDavid started to ramp up his game as the third period began and helped his team come back from a 3-1 deficit to get a point in a shootout loss. After watching McDavid live countless times, I have a good grip on his strengths and (very few) weaknesses but after looking back into my notes, I had a good chuckle at what I wrote,
“Connor McDavid, #97 (Erie Otters) – Yup, he is still good at everything. Period”
McDavid’s top rival for 1st overall, Jack Eichel made his freshman debut with the Boston University Terriers notching five assists in a 12-1 preseason win. He followed that up with a two goal, four point effort as the Terriers dropped UMASS in an 8-1 win. Yup, he’s good too.
Other prospect notes:
Joe Hicketts was passed over at the 2014 NHL Draft mainly because of his 5-foot-8 size, or lack thereof, but impressed the Detroit Red Wings brass enough during their prospect tournament to earn a contract. Well, the young offensive rearguard was just named the WHL’s Player of the Week (4GP-1G-6A-7P) and sits with four goals and 15 points through his first 11 games which is good enough for T-1st in WHL defensive scoring. Hicketts is just another example of why NHL teams need to soften up on the ‘size’ issue…if they can play, pick them.
Flyers prospect Scott Laughton is doing his best Cy Young impression with four goals and zero assists through his first four contests. Laughton is an interesting prospect as he doesn’t project as a high-scoring player at the next level (think 60-65 with the odd outlier) but he owns EXCELLENT NHL certainty and that’s an attractive attribute.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Predators’ prospect Brendan Leipsic has posted all assists (6) in his opening four AHL games. Leipsic is a former WHL scoring star (120 points in 2012-13) and could become the next Tyler Johnson-like (small) breakout player down the road.
Pontus Aberg, a RossyYoungblood favourite dating back to his draft season, has notched three goals and four points in his first four AHL games of the season. Keep an eye on this offensive dynamo that the Nashville Predators will need for some offensive support, likely sooner than later.
How impressive has New York Rangers Anthony Duclair been with the blue shirts? He’s a fun player to watch as his blazing speed opens up so much ice for his linemates (which were Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash) for most of the opening few games. Since the Rangers have opted to move St. Louis back to the wing, Anthony Duclair’s ice time has dwindled and he recently served as a healthy scratch….likely indicating an eventual return. As Stepan returns down the road and Duclair’s junior team (Quebec Remparts) hosting the illustrious CHL Memorial Cup this season, it’s all but a given that he will be returned ….eventually….probably.
No one is surprised by Tanner Pearson’s strong start, right? You are foolish if you were. Pearson should’ve been among the favourites to win the Calder Trophy after his strong post-season showing and the fact that he’s pretty much the veteran among all eligible candidates.
I attempted to trade for his partner in crime, Tyler Toffoli, before the drop of the puck because I’m quite aware of his scoring prowess dating back to his junior days. Add in his remarkable ability to execute at every level of action and Toffoli should’ve been a prime target for most poolies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to weasel him away from his owner and he was later moved to another team for an injured Derek Stepan.
Pearson won’t maintain his 55.6% shooting percentage or 95-point pace but he could certainly reach 25 goals and clear 55 points if That 70’s Line remains healthy and rolling.
Ken Kennedy from The Hockey News looks at whether it’s even fair that Pearson is eligible for the Calder Trophy (47 combined regular season and playoff game experience)
Caught Ducks’ William Karlsson in action against a “PeeWee”-like Buffalo Sabres squad last Monday and he was very impressive. The young Swede notched his first two goals in the Ducks win and didn’t look out of place playing on their second powerplay unit. He hasn’t recorded a point since but he’s been an impact player in limited rolls. He’s a player I would target in deeper leagues. Don’t sleep on him.
How about Damon Severson and his three goals, four points and near 20-minutes-per-game of action (including 3:10 PP TOI/GP on the powerplay)? Hard to believe he was left off of Team Canada’s 2014 U20 World Junior roster eh? With only Eric Gelinas challenging Severson for PP time in the future, you have to love his chances to post pretty outstanding rookie defensive numbers. Torey Krug posted 40 points as a rookie defender which is a rare feat for first year defensemen. Torey Krug (40), Justin Schultz (27), and Jake Gardiner (30) were the previous three high-scoring rookie defensemen. Kevin Shattenkirk racked up 43 points to lead all rookie blueliners in 2010-11.
Darnell Nurse was returned to the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds by the Edmonton Oilers. Smart move. Too many rushed prospects in the Oilers’ organization and Nurse still has lots to prove at the junior level. Playing on one of the best major junior squads certainly won’t hurt his development.
Carolina’s shrewd free agent signing last fall was Sergey Tolchinsky and he continues to be an electrifying prospect in the OHL. Caught him in action against Michael Dal Colle’s Oshawa Generals and his ability to push the pace and create offensive chances at will is worth the price of admission. I look forward to seeing him placed with some top end NHL talent and see the magic that he can create at the NHL level.
Oh ya, that Michael Dal Colle kid was pretty good also. I am sure it’s not a coincidence that Dal Colle wears number 71 as his game definitely resembles Evgeny Malkin’s. Of course, I am not suggesting that Dal Colle has the upside of Malkin but his side-to-side shivers, fakes and ability to use his lengthy reach to maintain possession has stylistic similarities. Oshawa’s #71 is one of the OHL’s most underrated passes and deadly shooters and when he walks onto the Islanders’ roster alongside one of Tavares or Strome, watch out! Dal Colle had two helpers in Sunday’s game I attended.
Bo Horvat is nearing a return as he was sent to Utica for a conditioning assignment and should draw into the Canucks lineup soon.
CanucksTV with a new Bo Horvat feature:
Notable first-year prospects nearing that ever-important nine game mark, where NHL teams decide whether to burn a year off of their entry-level contract by extending their stay, include:
Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton; 6-0-1-1)
Anthony Duclair (New York R.; 5-0-3-3)
Andre Burakovsky (Washington; 5-2-3-5)
Chris Tierney (San Jose; 6-0-2-2)
Aaron Ekblad (Florida; 5-0-1-1)
Thanks for reading,
@RossyYoungblood (Brendan Ross)
As always, feel free to converse, comment or rambling in the comment section below.
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