Fastest Rising Prospects (October 2016)

Kevin LeBlanc


The Journey takes a closer look at Dobber’s Top Forward and Defenseman Prospect lists for October.




Artturi Lehkonen – Montreal Canadiens – Up to 30th Overall from 85th Overall


Every season there are a handful of players who come into camp and are too good for their NHL clubs not to keep them on the opening night roster. Lehkonen is a perfect example of that this year.


Coming off seasons of 16 points in 47 games as a 19-year-old, and 33 points in 49 games as a 20-year-old, Lehkonen had been developing nicely for Frölunda in the Swedish League. The winger is a high volume shooter that will fit nicely on Montreal’s left side after winning the job over a handful of Canadiens prospects who have yet to rise up and grab the opportunity they have been given.


It looks as if Lehkonen is going to slot in on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Alexander Radulov, which certainly increases his potential for point production and fantasy upside. In his NHL debut on Thursday, the winger played over 16 minutes, a number that was good for fourth among Canadiens forwards. 90% of his shifts were alongside Plekanec and Radulov, and although he didn’t record a point, he did register five shots on goal.


Zach Hyman – Toronto Maple Leafs – Up to 33rd Overall from 77th Overall


Hyman had a front row seat to Auston Matthews dazzling debut against the Senators on Wednesday night. He was on the ice for all four of his linemates goals, and even contributed an assist on Matthews’s first NHL goal.


It appears that Toronto will be keeping together the line of Matthews, Hyman and William Nylander for the time being which is helpful to Hyman’s fantasy potential. Playing alongside those two dynamic playmakers should allow Hyman to get some bonus points at even strength. At this point, the Toronto native has not received a look on the power-play during his time with the Leafs, which caps his point potential.


Keep an eye on Hyman’s deployment, as it is will be an important factor in his overall production. His time on ice, points and peripheral stats will spike as long as he is playing alongside Matthews and getting favorable zone starts.


Danton Heinen – Boston Bruins – Up to 44th Overall from 157th Overall

Although Heinen had a good camp, he had some luck on his side making the Bruins roster for opening night. When Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik went down with injuries in preseason, it was Heinen who benefitted the most.


After a dynamite two-year career for Denver University, the 2014 fourth round pick signed his entry-level contract this spring. Likely he will split time between the AHL’s Providence Bruins and the NHL this season as he continues to develop into a top-nine, point-producing winger for Boston.


In his NHL debut on Thursday, Heinen played alongside David Krejci and Ryan Spooner on what ended up acting as the Bruins second line. The group didn’t produce any points as the trio of Brad Marchand, David Backes and David Pastrnak were on the ice for all six of Boston’s goals. Czarnik was cleared to play on opening night, and his deployment was much more favorable to production, as he played nearly three minutes on the B’s power-play.


Anthony Beauvillier – New York Islanders – Up to 75th Overall from 103rd Overall


When both Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal made the Islanders, there was hope among fantasy owners that one of them would be slotting in the coveted spot beside John Tavares. Instead, Jason Chimera took the job for the team’s opener against the Rangers at even strength.


Nevertheless, Beauvillier had a successful NHL debut, playing alongside Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson. The young forward picked up his first NHL point, assisting on Nelson’s third period goal, and filled the stat sheet with two penalty minutes and four hits.


Beauvillier is still a candidate to be returned to junior, so watch closely over the next eight games.


Zach Sanford – Washington Capitals – Up to 93rd Overall from 147th Overall


Sanford is a player who was not expected to make the Caps opening night roster, but impressed enough in camp and preseason that Washington will give him a look to start the season. The 2013 second round pick will make the jump from Boston College to the NHL this season and could be shuffled in and out of the lineup at times, depending on his play.


His first test? The defending Stanley Cup champions on the road, on the night that they raise their banner. Quite an environment for a young kid making his NHL debut. Sanford is a big-bodied winger at 6’3” and 185 pounds who plays a strong possession game and is willing to win board battles to get his linemates the puck.


Although he was held off the score sheet, he did manage a shot and a hit in nearly 15 minutes of even strength ice time in his first NHL game. Sanford played on the Caps third line with Lars Eller and Justin Williams.



AJ Greer – Colorado Avalanche – Up to 154th Overall from 334th Overall


After spending a season and a half playing for Boston University, Greer made the decision to return home to the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies halfway through last year. He was a breakout performer during the CHL playoffs, posting 22 points in 20 games and helping the Huskies reach the Memorial Cup a season ago.


The power-forward signed his entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche, and will start the season with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. Being that he has a much bigger frame than most 19-year-olds at 6’3” and 210 pounds, Greer can likely handle the rigors of the AHL easier then the majority of young prospects. This also sets him on a faster developmental track then if the Avs would have sent him back to junior for another season.


Its important not to heap too much responsibility onto a developing player that still hasn’t hit 20 years old, so Greer should be eased in at the AHL level. He will go to the front of the net and win plenty of puck battles on the boards and on the forecheck. It remains to be seen how much offensive and fantasy upside he has, but Greer is a player with a high floor who will be a serviceable NHLer in the future.




Mikhail Sergachev – Montreal Canadiens – Up to 6th Overall from 20th Overall


Sergachev started the season as the youngest player in the NHL at just over 18 years old, and although his body is NHL ready, it still remains to be seen whether or not he will stay past his nine game trial. The Canadiens seem to be handling him delicately, and will not play the young defenseman each night. Taking this route allows him extra practice time with the club, and extends his stay in the NHL before they have to make their decision.


In his NHL debut, Sergachev played just under 12 minutes paired alongside Alexei Emelin at even strength, and featured alongside Nathan Beaulieu for nearly a minute and a half on the power play.


Clearly the young defenseman is a player who will be a difference maker at the NHL level, it’s just a matter of when. The Canadiens will have to decide whether or not they want Sergachev to learn on the job in practice and during games, or if they would prefer him to return to Windsor and dominate for another season.



Gustav Forsling – Chicago Blackhawks – Up to 21st Overall from 71st Overall


Going into training camp, the Blackhawks bottom pairing could have gone in many different directions. Although Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson spent time at the NHL level last season, they are being pushed by prospects such as Forsling, Ville Pokka and the newly signed Michal Kempny.


Forsling arrived in Chicago after he was drafted by Vancouver and shipped to the Blackhawks in a trade for Adam Clendening. Looking back on it now, its not the best transaction that Canucks GM Jim Benning has made, as the young Swedish defenseman is playing minutes for the Hawks and Clendening is toiling away on the Rangers roster. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with prospects. Sometimes the unknown you are dealing away ends up being a piece that can help your team, and the more known player falters.


In his NHL debut, Forsling played over 15 minutes with Brian Campbell, but was out of the lineup two nights later. With as many as nine to ten viable NHL blueliners between Chicago and AHL Rockford, the bottom pairing will likely be shuffled throughout the season. Doubtful that Forsling is fantasy relevant at this point, but he looks like a keeper for the future.



Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings. 


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