Prospect Ramblings: Prospects still needing new homes

by Hayden Soboleski on July 14, 2019

 

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After all the excitement of draft day and free agency, a few persisting trade rumours have not yet come to fruition. Maybe this means that the prospects involved will remain with the organizations for another campaign, or maybe the summer still has some excitement left for us. Today I’m looking at a few notable names that are still frequenting the rumour mill, and what we could expect from them on a new squad:

 

Jesse Puljujarvi

The 21-year-old Finn’s bad time in Edmonton has been well-documented by this point. He only got in 46 games in 2018-19, partially due to injury and partially due to the coaching staff not believing he added enough to the lineup. He averaged under 12 minutes TOI per game and under :30 PP TI per game, and his resulting point total of 9 was certainly lackluster for a former 4th-overall pick. He wants a fresh start on a team willing to gamble on him to fulfill his potential.

That being said, it’s hard expect much more immediate fantasy production on a new team. Sure, his shooting percentage might see a slight bump at some point from his career average of 7.4%, but despite still being a young prospect with lots of promise there just aren’t many NHL teams on which he would be a sure-fire top-six regular. At best he will be in-and-out of the top-six as battles on the wing take place (I’m imagining a scoring-desperate scenario such as Arizona or Los Angeles where lines aren’t as set in stone as other rosters), meaning his average TOI probably won’t exceed the 15-minute mark. The equally important factor will be his utilization on the man-advantage, where he has the talent to beef up his totals. There are plenty of teams that could try him out as a PP2 regular, and this is what I would keep an eye out for if you’re planning on taking a gamble yourself in your summer drafts.

Long-term, he is still a worthwhile own to stash in your reserves. But even on a new team I’d call this a buyer beware situation if you’re expecting a sudden emergence as a hockey pool producer, even 30 points seems like a questionable benchmark.

 

Nikita Gusev

A special case as a 27-year-old “prospect”, Gusev’s debut in North America has been long-awaited. One of the best players outside of the NHL (for now), rumours indicate his salary demands are too rich for the cap-tight Golden Knights.

Lucky for him, there are lots of teams with cap space that will get desperate for scoring depth as the season approaches. Like Puljujarvi, he may not be guaranteed a top-six spot based on the depth chart of the team that grabs him. Unlike Puljujarvi however, Gusev has the historical production and impact that makes him much more likely to earn a full-time top-six spot, even if he initially has to battle for it. His 82 points in 62 KHL games last season led the league by a wide margin, and the dazzling playmaker is well suited for the new style of NHL play. 

Naturally, destination will be a big factor when estimating Gusev’s immediate impact on a new team (which is technically any NHL team), but imagining a 40-point debut for your fantasy squad seems more than reasonable, especially in a location like Montreal where potent offense would be extremely valued by teammates and fans looking for new highs.

 

Julius Honka

29 games played in 2018-19 was a major step down from Honka’s 42 the year prior, and the team re-signed perennial 3rd-pairing veteran Roman Polak. There has not been a coaching change or any real opening on the Dallas blueline so its easy to see why at 23-years-old and not yet a solidified NHLer, Honka is rumoured to be available.

A talented d-man, it’s hard to gauge the mobile prospect’s true upside when his paces have differed so much from year to year. In 16 games as a true rookie, he performed at a 30-point pace. The next year he put up only 4 in 42. 2018-19 wasn’t much better. Although his TOI is relatively low (under 14 minutes per game), his zone starts have been extremely favorable to production, starting over 58% of his shifts last season in the offensive zone. Even if he sees an increase in ice time on a new team, he probably won’t see that kind of opportunity since most NHL teams have their own offensive defensemen taking advantage of those shift starts.

My primary focus point for Honka will be his liklihood to play most of the season. If he ends up somewhere like Minnesota, desperate for youth and speed but somewhere there are already 2 players battling for the 3rd-pairing RD role…I don’t foresee a fantasy bump from the new home. But if he ends up somewhere like Detroit, where he would only need to outplay one of Madison Bowey , Trevor Daley, or Filip Hronek for 2 available RD spots, then all of a sudden I can see his stock rising a bit. Predicting 20 points still seems like a stretch regardless of his new home, so if you’re targeting this high-upside player on the block, don’t do so with the intention of immediate impact.

 

Josh Ho-Sang

I feel bad for Ho-Sang, who has had way too many articles like this one written about him over the years. It’s easy to forget that he’s still only 23-years-old given how many times he has tried and failed to crack the Islanders roster, despite decent point totals.

His 37 points in 82 career NHL contests is not bad at all considering that all of those have come from in-and-out situations where he lacked consistent usage. Sure, his 2 points in 10 games last year stank, but he was given a 40% offensive zone start percentage which is a tough go. He also spent a good chunk of his time playing with Leo Komarov and Valteri Filppula, so its easy to imagine another team’s 3rd-line (or 4th line) being better suited for Ho-Sang to show us what he’s got.

The big red flag here though is Ho-Sang’s powerplay time, because he’s actually getting it in New York. Almost 2 minutes a game on average in 2018-19, and even more in his prior appearances. He is extremely unlikely to see that kind of time in a new location, which will limit his upside compared to in Long Island. On the flipside, he didn’t actually produce on that powerplay, and you can’t see a decrease in production when there was no production to start out with.

All in all, Ho-Sang seems like a gamble worth taking. His point production over the years has been acceptable for a prospect, and even though he will lack the powerplay opportunities in a new home, an improvement at even strength will still give him a significant fantasy boost. If he ends up on a stacked squad or a high-octane offense, he could very well see a 30-point 4th-line role like Ennis’ pace in Toronto or Joseph in Tampa Bay. 

 

 

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Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih