Prospect Ramblings: Keep an eye on Coyotes’ Fischer (Jan. 28)

by Mark Allan on January 28, 2017

Although he's been assigned to the Tucson Roadrunners so he can play in the AHL all-star game, Christian Fischer scored in his first two NHL games and will likely be recalled by the Arizona Coyotes.

 

 

After mentioning a week ago that RW Christian Fischer had been promoted by the Coyotes, the 2015 second-rounder had a fast start to his NHL career.

The 19-year-old became the first player in franchise history to score in each of his first two NHL games. Playing with Alexander Burmistrov and Jamie McGinn, the 6-2, 214-pounder scored on his first two NHL shots on goal, including the winner in his debut, a 5-3 win over the Lightning.

Maybe it was just coincidence but Arizona, which has the second-worst record in the league, won all three games in which Fischer played.

That’s why his demotion Friday to the Tucson Roadrunners during the NHL all-star break seems so surprising until you realize it’s actually a reward for 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 earlier AHL games. It allows Fischer to play Monday in the league’s all-star game.

Although he didn’t get any PP icetime during his first three games and his TOI was generally limited, watch Fischer carefully the rest of the season for another promotion to the big club. If his hot start is a good indication, he has a bright NHL future, especially once he’s used on the power play and has more-skilled linemates.

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We also noted last weekend that interim coach Doug Weight didn’t shake up the Islanders’ struggling lineup in his first game after replacing the fired Jack Capuano but he must be doing something right.

The team has a 4-0-1 record under Weight and is five points out of the eighth and final post-season berth in the conference. Although the NYIs have played the same number of games (47) as the Maple Leafs, who are four points ahead, the Islanders have three games in hand on fellow Metropolitan Division member Philadelphia and five games in hand on Boston, which is tied with the Flyers for seventh in the east.

This means GM Garth Snow has a tough decision coming about whether to be a buyer or a seller at the trade deadline March 1. Weight’s mandate is more simple – just win, baby. That’s bad news in the short term for two young Islanders we profiled last weekend.

Since previous starter Jaro Halak was sent to the AHL, J-F Berube has gone from the press box to the end of the bench as veteran backup Thomas Greiss has seized the No. 1 job, including being in the net for every game of the 4-0-1 run. After playing in only 12 games last season between the NHL and AHL, the still-promising Berube barely dressed until Halak was demoted because the Isles couldn’t risk him being claimed on waivers if they tried to send him down.

Berube, a looming RFA, badly needs to play but won’t as long as Greiss keeps carrying the NYIs higher in the standings. The overpaid Halak still lurks in the AHL with one more season on his contract. Keep an eye on Berube, 25, but don’t expect much in the short term.

Ditto for pint-sized winger Anthony Beauvillier, who definitely has a future in the NHL but likely not much of a present. After a hot start to the season, the 19-year-old rookie has tailed off to just 11 points in 33 games.

With the Islanders trying to claw their way into the playoffs and considering their glut of NHL-caliber forwards, Beauvillier won’t get much prime icetime the rest of the season unless there are injuries, slumps or the team falls out of contention again.

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In NHL transactions this week affecting prospects:

San Jose Sharks assign LWs Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier and D Tim Heed to San Diego Barracuda (AHL). Meier has just two goals and two assists in 18 NHL games in his NHL baptism. The Sharks have plans for the 2015 first-rounder, although letting him marinate in the AHL is at least as likely as bringing him back up this season.

 

Timo Meier will score many goals in the NHL to follow his first one, although it's debatable how many he'll get after the all-star break.

 

Fellow rookie Labanc has seven goals and seven assists in 37 NHL games this season as well as being plus-5. The smallish sixth-rounder had 127 junior points last season and is proving he belongs in the NHL, which makes him a likely callup sometime after the NHL all-star break.

Heed, who has only one point-less game on his NHL resume, was a one-game healthy scratch in his latest callup. Producing surprising well for an undrafted free-agent signing, the offensively minded Swede has 10 goals and 34 points in 31 AHL games. Watch him closely as a sleeper next season, although the Sharks don’t seem to have NHL plans for him before then.

St. Louis Blues assign C Ivan Barbashev and G Pheonix Copley to Chicago Wolves (AHL). Head coach Ken Hitchcock said the two-way forward did fine in slightly more than 10 minutes of point-less icetime in his NHL debut. He has 28 points in 65 AHL games but is minus-14 in his pro debut, meaning he likely won’t get many more NHL minutes this season, although that could change as long as C Kyle Brodziak is on IR with a foot injury. The Russian should grow into a reliable point-producer in time.

Copley’s first NHL start was a 5-3 loss to the Jets. Jake Allen is expected back after the NHL all-star break from his mental health time off, so the Blues will go with him and backup Carter Hutton until further notice.

New Jersey Devils assign D Steve Santini to Albany Devils (AHL). It’s not like the 6-2, 207-pounder played poorly during his opportunity with Andy Greene and John Moore injured. Mostly on a third pairing with Karl Stollery (who was demoted at the same time), Santini has registered two goals, three assists and plus-3 in 13 NHL games. That’s five points more than he has in 15 AHL games this season. A rough customer, Santini has a big shot and a strong shot at regular top-four minutes at some point. However, Greene and Moore are expected back soon, which could delay Santini’s return to the NHL.

Anaheim Ducks assign D Shea Theodore to San Diego Gulls (AHL). The young blueliner must be weary of being shuffled between the NHL and AHL, although the Ducks aren’t showing any signs of stopping the elevator. As long as Anaheim has a surplus of defensemen and Theodore continues to be minus-9 in the NHL, the shuttle will continue, although he has the size, mobility and puck skills to be a star at the highest level.

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After being a healthy scratch against the Wild, Julius Honka replaced Patrik Nemeth on the Dallas blueline against the Sabres heading into the all-star break. Honka, a sure-fire future source of offense from the Stars’ back end, had 21 shifts for just 13:45 on a pairing with vet Dan Hamhuis. The right-shooting Finn, who had no special-teams icetime in the game, generated one SOG and one hit and was plus-1, which was better than minus-7 in eight previous games with Dallas.

With blueliners Johnny Oduya and Jamie Oleksiak injured for several more weeks, the Stars have an interesting choice to make with Honka, 21. One more NHL game will chew up the first season of his three-year entry deal. Although he has an impressive 21 points in 30 AHL games as a rookie pro, Honka likely won’t get much icetime with Dallas this season once Oduya and Oleksiak return.

However, the 35-year-old Oduya is a UFA after this season, so if Dallas lets him go, there might be some increased NHL playing time for Honka beginning as early as next season assuming he tightens his defensive play.

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If you want an edge for your fantasy NHL team(s) down the stretch, you need Dobber’s Mid-Season Guide.

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Enjoy the all-star game and the skills competition. Until next Saturday…

Mark Allan