With the world akimbo after the Erik Karlsson news dropped on Thursday afternoon, most were focused on the implication to the NHL rosters. However, there were a handful of prospects that exchanged organizations and we’ll take a look at those players here now.
The Senators somehow decided it was a good idea to deal with a team who had one of the least impressive prospect pools and didn’t own a 2019 first round selection (something they have in common with San Jose). No problem, it’s not as if they were trading arguably the greatest offensive defenseman of the last 20 years.
What they did receive were a pocket-full of magic beans. A fist-full of lottery tickets. No sure things, but some quantity. The best of which comes in the way of 2017 first rounder, Josh Norris.
The Sharks selected the American pivot with the 19th overall selection a year ago. At the time, it was viewed as something of a safe pick. Norris hasn’t really ever displayed high-end offensive instincts or ability. He’s a defensively sound centre who can play in an offensive role but isn’t a driver. The Sharks let Robert Thomas, Filip Chytil and Kailer Yamamoto go in the next three selections. I think it’s fair to say that 14 months hasn’t changed the viewpoint on the safe side of the selection.
Apparently, Norris’ relationship with Brady Tkachuk played a role, as Sens’ GM, Pierre Dorion was quick to point out that the two were best friends.
The 19-year-old did have a quality freshman season with the University of Michigan. His eight goals and 23 points in 37 games was a strong total while playing a third line role. His deployment will increase this season with the team graduating top centre, Cooper Marody. The Wolverines will be a strong team and he’ll play a big part in that for 2018-19.
Norris should also see a substantial role on the US team at the World Junior Championships. He’ll be vying for the number two pivot spot behind uber-prospect, Jack Hughes. The Yanks should bring another championship calibre team to Vancouver and Victoria.
The upside for Norris remains in the middle-six. He’s a strong skater who has good size and adequate skill. He owns a heavy shot but doesn’t release it particularly quickly. He’s unlikely to provide serious fantasy implications, even with an easier depth chart to climb in Ottawa. He likely steps in as the Sens sixth or seventh best prospect. He should be an everyday NHL player and bring intangibles and strong overall play from the middle of the lineup.
If the team truly feels that Norris and Brady Tkachuk’s friendship could result in on-ice chemistry, the likelihood of Norris seeing top-six time increases.
Fun fan-fiction idea: Norris could conceivably play out his four years with Michigan and go the UFA route. I very much doubt it, but I don’t think players are going to be lining up to join the Sens’ organization these days.
The other prospect heading to the Nation’s Capital is Rudolph Balcers. After being selected in the fifth-round back in 2015, the Latvian talent has been marinating nicely. He had an understated draft-plus one campaign in Norway’s top tier. After that, he crossed the pond and produced 40 goals and 77 points in 66 games for the Kamloops Blazers. That was good enough to propel the then 20-year-old into his first American League season. In 2017-18, Balcers was head and shoulders the best player on a poor Barracuda squad. His 23 goals and 48 points in 67 games were good for the seventh most by any first-year AHL player. His five game-winners and effectiveness on the power play did not go unnoticed by poolies.
Balcers has the high-end IQ that you look for in an offensive prospect. He’s shifty and creative. He owns exciting east-west edge work and appears to have the talent to play in an NHL top six one day. He’s likely the most fantasy-relevant prospect that moved homes.
Finally, the Sens shipped out Francis Perron along with Karlsson to make it a six-player swap. Perron was a 2014 seventh-round selection by the Sharks. He witnessed steady statistical growth in each of his four QMJHL campaigns. He culminated his junior career with a league scoring title, regular and post-season MVP after a 41-goal, 108-point 2015-16 season. He led his Rouyn-Noranda squad to the Memorial Cup where he recorded eight points in five games as the Huskies just came up short in an OT defeat to the London Knights.
Perron has struggled to find anywhere near that dominance as a pro. In his two AHL seasons, the 22-year-old has recorded just 10 goals and 41 points in 112 contests. He actually saw his point-per-game output dip as a second year AHL player. He lacks the physicality to thrive outside a scoring role and doesn’t own the high-end skating ability to play the type of game that brought him so much success as a junior star.
Perron will earn an opportunity on a weak Barracuda’s team next season. The offensive minutes will need to be filled and he should pose a good bet to take them. However, if he can’t find success next season, it’ll be safe to assume that he’s not an NHL player long term. His fantasy upside remains limited.
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