Prospect Ramblings: Preseason Overreactions Edition!

by Tony Ferrari on September 20, 2019

Photo courtesy of https://www.defendingbigd.com/

Welcome back to my bi-weekly ramblings about what’s going on in and around the hockey world! With the NHL preseason underway, the Twittersphere is reacting to what they see with complete rationality. No one is propping up their star prospects or their favourite teams third-liner who had a solid game against seven NHL players and a bunch of guys fighting to make the AHL roster. This is why today’s primary order of business will be to sort through some of the hype. 

 

We will start with some quick housekeeping. Some prospects have signed their entry-level deals over the last couple of days. Ryan Suzuki signed his entry-level deal with the Carolina Hurricanes and Nick Robertson signed his deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. While neither player is going to be on the NHL rosters, this is a sign of faith from both organizations. Ryan Suzuki has impressed everyone in training camp and at the rookie showcase events, tallying five points in a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay’s rookie group. As for Robertson, he’s been able to show off his skill and blue-collar work ethic at every chance this summer. Whether it was in Plymouth at the World Junior Summer Showcase, at the Traverse City rookie tournament or in Leafs camp. It’s safe to say both players will be key parts of their team’s pipeline over the next couple of seasons. 

 

Let’s start with some wise words from fellow Dobber Prospects writer, Hayden Soboleski.

“I can’t stress this enough – TRAINING CAMP LINES AND PERFORMANCE DON’T MATTER. How many times have we been sucked into a terrible fantasy pick because they lined up next to McDavid or Crosby for a few days in training camp or pre-season? Too many. Take everything with several grains of salt…”

With that out of the way, we can take a look at some of the performances from the first few days of the NHL preseason and whether the hype actually means anything towards their chances of starting with the big club. 

 

Joe Veleno and Moritz Seider

The two Detroit rookies, along with Filip Zadina to a lesser extent, have been all the rave in Detroit. They both got the hype train started earlier this month in Traverse City at the Prospect Tournament, helping lead the Red Wings contingent to first place at the event. Moritz Seider was a surprise selection at this past draft but he’s done everything in his power to make Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman look like the smartest man in the room. Seider has impressed every time he’s touched the ice and his preseason debut was no different. Strong defensively and flashing offensive puck skills, Seider looks to be a future stud on the blueline in Detroit. Seider is a long-shot to make the Wings roster out of camp but he’s pushing to grab a spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins blue line after initially expecting to play in Europe for another year. 

 

Joe Veleno is the real deal. the 30th overall pick in 2018 is doing everything in his power to stick in Detroit and arguing against it is beginning to get difficult. His skating and offensive game are NHL ready. He thinks the game at a high-level, making the right play the majority of the time. He has shown that he is faster and stronger than a year ago and his defensive game has improved leaps and bounds. Veleno has shown more dynamic ability with the puck and doesn’t shy away from driving the net. Veleno has a real shot at forcing the Red Wings front office’s hand and cracking the opening night lineup. While it’s still unlikely, he moving that needle closer to 50/50. 

 

Mikhail Maltsev

The New Jersey Devils have added a lot to their lineup over the summer with the first overall pick Jack Hughes and Russian import Nikita Gusev headlining the new blood. Before all that, the New Jersey Devils quietly signed Mikhail Maltsev to his entry-level deal in May. The 2016 fourth-round pick had been performing well in Russia, splitting time between the VHL and KHL. Coming over to North America, the young forward was expected to play for the Binghamton Devils but he’s put together an impressive camp and he’s played well in the preseason thus far.

 

Although it’s still likely that the speedy forward will start with Binghampton, the Devils have been known to give young players a spot in their lineup if they seem like the best option. Maltsev could fill a top-nine role for the Devils but the spot may not be there with all of the added depth that New Jersey has added over the last three months. Maltsev has size, speed and maybe the goal of the preseason (below). He could be one of New Jersey’s first call-up options if he continues his strong play.

 

Thomas Harley

The young Dallas Stars defender has shown well this September, specifically in the game against the Colorado Avalanche. The biggest criticism of Thomas Harley was his defensive play. It is evident that he has worked on his defensive game and tried to become more engaged in his own end of the ice. He has been able to use his strengths to make a difference in transition and in the attacking zone. Both his skating and his playmaking ability have been on display at times in both games he has played so far. There has been some talk of Harley joining the Stars for the start of the year,  even if only for a nine-game extended look, but the growth that Harley has shown is still a work in progress. Another season with the Mississauga Steelheads would do a great deal for the shifty defender’s overall development, which is why it should be expected regardless of how late the Stars keep Harley in the NHL camp. 

 

Ryan Merkley

This has been a weird situation. All reports out of San Jose are that Ryan Merkley is having a solid camp and he hasn’t looked out of place in the one game he’s played in the preseason. The issue is that he is clearly not NHL ready and his spot in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes is non-existant. This creates a tough scenario for both the Sharks and Merkley. Some have suggested that because the Sharks employ Brent Burns, who is similar to Merkley in the sense that both are “all-offense” type defensemen, that he should stick with the Sharks for the season and allow him to develop at the NHL level. That almost certainly won’t happen. 

 

Making this situation even more hectic was a report on Twitter, that seems to be false, that claimed Merkley has agreed to drop two levels in junior hockey to Junior B, joining the Caledonia Corvairs. At first, this was looked at as a temporary option until a deal is worked out at the OHL level or even possibly the San Jose Sharks helping Merkley apply pressure on Peterborough to trade their young defender. What seems likely is that a deal will eventually be worked out with Peterborough and another OHL team. Merkley needs to work on his defensive game and reign in whatever off-ice issues seem to be creating problems for the talented young blueliner. 

 

These are just some of the players that people are overreacting about. There are many others such as the two young defenders in Toronto in Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, slick blueliner Adam Boqvist (looks to be re-assigned to the AHL as this was being written), and Winnipeg Jets top prospect Ville Heinola. Although all of these players have had good camps and preseasons, they are destined to start the year outside of the NHL. Preseason is fun and everyone likes to get excited because hockey is back! We have to remember to temper expectations and take each game as just that, a single game. That shouldn’t be enough to make or break a player’s training camp and the results of these games will not play a major role in whether a player makes the NHL team. Their time will come. Just not yet. 

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Thank you for joining me for another edition of Dobber Prospect Ramblings. I will be back with a review of the “Roster Bubble Prospects” during training camp where we will take a look at the players that are making an impression. Be sure to check out my new series “Shift Work” where I take a look at Cole Perfetti’s game against Sweden at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup! Leave comments below and you can always reach out to me personally on Twitter at @TheTonyFerrari!

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Be sure to check out the Dobber’s Fantasy Hockey Prospect Report for 2019! It’s the best guide for fantasy prospects around and makes sure that while you’re there you check out the rest of the fantasy hockey guides.