This is the second part of a series where I am ranking NHL organizations based on a new PNHLe model that I have spent the past month updating.
If you are unfamiliar with PNHLe, or would like a more in-depth explanation on why these rankings are different compared to traditional real-world prospect grades or those explicitly for fantasy purposes, I highly recommend you read through the introduction – heck, why not the whole thing – for the first part of the series which you can find here:
Over the past month, I have been re-evaluating, recalculating and re-examining my PNHLe model, which is used to predict a prospect’s NHL point potential in the prime of their career.
With the conclusion of every hockey season comes with it a massive allocation of new data that can be used to make the model more accurate. Many NHL players hit new career highs, while others show consistency in their point production.
Looking back to the leagues they toiled in prior to making the leap to the NHL can give great insight into what a typical point production looks like for many current prospects playing in different developmental leagues.
Simply put, PNHLe tries to gauge a prospects point potential in the NHL. How many points would an 18-year old prospect in the OHL, who posted a point per game, obtain if they make it to the show? PNHLe allows us the ability to compare prospects from different leagues, at different ages and different positions to give a snapshot of just how good they are doing. As a fantasy manager, you can use that knowledge to take advantage and snipe a player well before anyone else in your league.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the rankings.
25th – Buffalo Sabres – PNHLe: 52.8(Avg.)
The Sabres have sat on the outside looking in for a significant amount of time, and most teams probably do not want to be near the bottom of these rankings. Fortunately for them, they have graduated some excellent prospects that are on the verge of becoming big-time contributors in the NHL. I am looking at you, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt. Sabres fans will probably look at this off-season as a positively productive one as new faces should be able to interject some much needed scoring into the line-up.
On top of that, they were able to grab a stud at seventh overall who will be adding value down the middle sooner rather than later. Dylan Cozens is a rare blend of size, speed and a hard-shooting pivot that has legitimate first-line upside. Buffalo was also able to turn a once highly touted prospect that was quickly souring into a very promising defender in Henri Jokiharju, who was one of the only positive pieces on an otherwise dreadful Blackhawks defense last year. Outside of those two, there is not a lot of star power in the depth chart but one gets the sense the Sabres are on the verge of turning the corner, as their defense mature and their forward group is three lines deep for the first time in a long time.
24th – Vegas Golden Knights – PNHLe: 55.2(Avg.)
One would expect that the newest active franchise in the NHL would be at the bottom of a prospect rankings considering they have only had three kicks at the draft can and have yet to amass the same number of prospects compared to 30 other organizations. However, Vegas have walked away from those drafts as one of the consensus’ top drafting teams and have built a very strong prospect pool in the meantime. Despite that, they are still in the bottom half of organizational rankings due to the fact that they have traded away two of their top three prospects in Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki in order to become a perennial NHL contender. One can hardly blame them for that strategy, but it still cost them some very valuable future pieces.
Cody Glass was the one player they were unwilling to move for more immediate gains, and everything about him screams future star. I do not think he will ever land in the top-10 in NHL scoring leaderboards, but he plays such a mature game already, it will not take long until he is a mainstay on one of the top two lines and anchoring a power play unit. In what seemed like a common theme for Vegas, the next top prospect is yet another player that seemed to fall into their lap at the draft table: Peyton Krebs. After suffering an off-season injury prior to the draft, he will not contend for a roster spot this fall, but another year in the WHL on an expectedly stronger team should help him push to the top of league scoring leaderboard.
The Golden Knights have a surprising amount of depth players that they have found in later rounds in the draft who have a realistic chance of rounding out as future NHLers. Sixth round pick Ben Jones and second rounder Jake Leschyshyn may never blow the doors off with their scoring prowess, but have shown enough consistency and progression as prospects to warrant some attention even in fantasy circles. Both players will be joining a deep Chicago Wolves roster in the AHL that made it all the way to the Calder Cup final last season.
23rd – San Jose Sharks – PNHLe: 55.8(Avg.)
The Sharks have been a mainstay in the playoffs for a very long time, and despite less than stellar draft picks, have continually found optimal value in all rounds of the draft. It is not surprising that they have fallen towards the bottom of these rankings, but they have a new crew of prospects that shouldn’t be counted out solely based on their draft position alone.
Enter Sasha Chmelevski and Ivan Chekhovich – sixth and seventh round picks respectively – but have produced consistently the past three years in Major Junior. Ryan Merkley is easily their top offensive weapon, however the knocks that allowed him to slide in the 2017-18 draft still exist today; enough so that the Peterborough Petes do not want him back on the roster this season. If he is back for one more year in the OHL it would not be all that surprising to see him compete for the league scoring race, even as a defenseman. He is arguably the biggest boom or bust prospect in the entire NHL, but having both Burns and Karlsson locked up ahead of him for a very long time certainly limits his value.
John Leonard is probably a name that does not get too much recognition in fantasy circles, but one you should start keeping an eye on. He was UMass’ top forward the past two seasons, and although Cale Makar got all of the attention, he was a big reason why they had such an increase in success. Keep a close eye on his progress now that Makar has moved on to see if he can surpass the point per game pace he posted last season.
22nd – Florida Panthers – PNHLe: 56(Avg.)
Not only have the Panthers graduated a top prospect in Henrik Borgstrom last season, but they also have a few more top-end players on the way. Owen Tippett has a chance of grabbing a roster spot in training camp and could feasibly land on the second line and snag some power play time in the process. Florida’s new coach, Joel Quenneville, is not afraid to give prime ice-time to youngsters, but he demands nothing less than your best in order to earn it.
Alexei Heponiemi saw a bit of a dip in his PNHLe after producing at a ridiculous rate the previous year in the WHL. Nonetheless, he had a fantastic year in Finland’s top league in his rookie professional season and is worth watching to see if he can make some noise in training camp this fall. Serron Noel is another player that is continuing to develop at a great pace as he is finally starting to understand how to utilize his massive frame to shield the puck from defenders to help create space for his teammates or drive to the net himself. Based on his age, he has one year left in the OHL, and is a long shot to grab a roster spot with the Panthers this fall.
The PNHLe rankings do not include goaltenders, so the Panthers’ 2019 first round pick, Spencer Knight, would surely give Florida a boost compared to a real world organizational ranking.
21st – New York Islanders – PNHLe: 56.2(Avg.)
The Islanders made one of the most spectacular changeovers of their defensive structure due to the implementation of new coach, Barry Trotz’s system. The fact they went from worst to first in a single year without changing much personal is a testament to both players and coaches, and will be important for any new rookies that are trying to make the jump to the NHL. That is where a prospect like Bode Wilde will have to work hard on the defensive aspects of his game in order to round out his game, and he will have the opportunity to do that this year in the AHL where Islanders’ management will be keeping a close eye on his development.
It should come as no surprise that Noah Dobson leads the list of Islanders prospects, both in terms of real-world value and offensive potential. Dobson is a proven winner and has been a key component of back-to-back Memorial Cup championship teams because he plays such a complete game. This should enable him to make a quicker transition on New York’s blue-line, which should ideally be as early as this fall.
New York’s 2019 first round selection, Simon Holmstrom, played most of last season in the Swedish SuperElit league which does not have a translation factor for PNHLe, in case you are wondering why he was not on the list of prospects. He should spend this year in Sweden’s top league – the SHL – and it will be a good opportunity for him to show off his dynamic scoring attributes. I do not think he will post huge numbers, so Islanders’ fans need to be a bit more patient with him compared to many other prospects that were selected in the first round.
If you have enjoyed today’s breakdown of using PNHLe to predict a prospect’s future success at the NHL level, please stay tuned as I complete an article once per month here at Dobber Prospects, while also covering the players in Vegas Golden Knight’s system.
I have also created the NHL Rank King app where you can find full organizational point totals for prospects, PNHLe rankings among many other fantasy resources. I consult the app on every fantasy hockey decision I evaluate and every feature added to the app is with the sole purpose of helping with the choices surrounding my fantasy hockey teams. It is completely free, so hopefully you will find it useful as well!
If you are on Twitter, please give me a follow @NHLRankKing.
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