Prospect Ramblings: Calder Finalists, Sorokin, Rathbone & More

by Brayden Olafson on July 17, 2020

 

Hey Folks! Only another two weeks until meaningful hockey is back on our screens. Keep calm and tune into some old fashioned ramblings right here on Dobber Prospects for your prospect fix as we await the return of NHL hockey!

 

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The New York Islanders have signed Russian goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin to, for all intents and purposes, a two year contract. The 24-year-old was selected by the Islanders in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was only the eighth goaltender chosen in that year’s draft. Since being drafted, Sorokin has been a regular participant in international competition for Russia including the World Junior Championship and the World Championships. In addition, he has been a full-time tyrant in the CSKA Moscow crease since 2016.  

 

The unique contract means that Sorokin will be permitted to practice with the team for the remainder of this season, but will not be eligible to play in any NHL games until the beginning of the 2020-21 season. 

 

Although he’s not quite as tall, I liken the style of the 6-2 Sorokin to Dallas Stars netminder Ben Bishop. Sorokin plays from a low center of gravity that allows him to fully commit to shooters, while using his explosive mobility to cover defensive breakdowns. With such a strong defensive system under Barry Trotz, this strength may not be as highlighted, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of an asset. On the other hand, one minor shortcoming in Sorokin’s play can be seen in his aptitude for elite rebound control. A strong defensive system should be able to minimize this, but it’s still something that he could improve on. 

 

 

Despite his strength, the way that he challenges shooters is relatively conservative compared to NHL goaltenders as a generality, so he relies heavily on acute positioning, and quick decisions. 

 

With Semyon Varlamov being the only other NHL-caliber goaltender under contract with for the 2020-21 season, Sorokin’s path from backup to 1b, to 1a should be much more similar to the Columbus Bluejackets goaltending transition than what is currently occuring accross the East River in Manhattan.  

 

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Throughout the 2019-20 season, I put an emphasis on following the Calder-eligible rookies in the NHL and updating a bi-weekly power rankings. 

 

This week the NHL announced the top-three finalists for the Calder Trophy, and the list, while two-thirds being a given, was identical to my top-three. 

 

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Kubalik was such an underrated rookie, in my opinion, but the fact that he wound up on this podium makes me feel a little better. In addition to being one of the best young finishers in the league, the Czech winger played a reliable two-way game that made him the ideal compliment for Jonathan Toews. As Jokke noted earlier this week, it’s truly a shame that the Kings couldn’t have seen this potential last summer before trading his rights to Chicago. 

 

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On Twitter I found that there were plenty of Adam Fox supporters, which I have no bones about. Fox was, in my opinion, the third-best rookie defenseman. While some would argue that his former Crimson teammate, John Marino‘s production in Pittsburgh should have him in that conversation, Fox simply brought more to the table in terms of controlling the play in both offensive possession and defensive assignments. 

 

I did see and hear a surprising amount of grievances regarding Denis Gurianov as a third Calder Candidate, which to me, seems like a stretch. Gurianov, while sheltered, had a very productive start to the year, but by December had lost pace with the top offensive rookies. 

 

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Due to the pandemic, USA Hockey will not host their annual Summer Showcase in preparation for the 2021 World Junior Championship. The annual event is typically held at the USA Hockey facility in Plymouth, Michigan. 

 

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Top prospect for the 2020 NHL draft Marco Rossi will be leaving the CHL next year. While it’s certain that Rossi will attempt to make the opening-night NHL roster for the team who drafts him, his backup plan lies with Auston Matthew’s former club, The Zurich Lions. Of all prospects expected to be drafted between 2 and 10, it’s been a common sentiment that Rossi could be the most ready of any to step directly into the NHL.

 

The OHL had a pretty clever tweet regarding the elite playmakers’ future…

 

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Jack Rathbone signed an entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks this week. The 22-year-old Harvard sophomore is an ultra-dynamic defenseman who has developed into a player with few gaps in his game. 

 

Harvard is seemingly becoming an elite development school for offensive defensemen.

 

Cam Robinson made this assessment of Rathbone’s projection, which I think is bang on. The hinge, For my money, will be how quickly he can overcome his immediate internal competition poised by Olli Juolevi, and Brogan Rafferty. If he can prove by this time next year that he is the best option that the Canucks have of the three, I think a Torey Krug projection becomes very likely. 

 

 

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This is important information if your fantasy league is planning on continuing with any kind of competition in parallel with the NHL’s return to play: 

 

If you haven’t done so already, check out this piece where Mason Black published a list of all relevant prospects who have been invited to participate in phase III NHL training camps. 

 

Of all the players listed, my top sleepers to end up getting some ice in playoffs are:

 

Klim Kostin

Evan Bouchard

Jason Robertson

Owen Tippett

Jack Studnicka

 

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Find me here on the Twitterverse >>  @olaf1393

 

Take care, folks.