Prospect Storylines (December 2016)

Kevin LeBlanc


The Journey takes a closer look some prospects turning the corner, some under the radar youngsters, and a couple who could be on the horizon for a call-up.  


Former First Rounders Finding Their Stride


Over the last few weeks, a handful of former first round picks have been starting to find their footing in the NHL, where they had previously been struggling to consistently contribute. Whether it was multiple call-ups, a change in linemates or the increased confidence needed to play in the NHL, these prospects have been starting to click.


Mikko Rantanen (COL) – After a difficult nine-game stint in the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2015-16, the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft was sent down to the San Antonio Rampage.  He had a fantastic rooking campaign in the American Hockey League, putting up 60 points in 52 games. Although he again started slow for the Avalanche this season with just two points in his first nine games, Rantanen stayed in the NHL. Since that point, the young winger has really come into his own. In his last 11 games, Rantanen has recorded two goals and seven assists, including three multi-point games.


Anthony Mantha (DET) –  The Red Wings first round selection from 2013 had a 10 game stint in 2015-16 to end the season, before returning to Grand Rapids where he excelled in the Calder Cup playoffs averaging more than a point-per-game in the teams nine games. The 6’5” winger continued his pace to start this season in Grand Rapids, and earned a call-up to the NHL on November 11th. Since that point, Mantha has found a home recently alongside Tomas Tatar and Henrik Zetterberg, linemates that will raise his point potential for the remainder of the season if he can stay with them. In 12 games this season, he has seven points and is averaging over two shots per contest while playing nearly 17 minutes per night.


Kevin Fiala (NAS) – Fiala has to know the trip from Milwaukee (AHL) to Nashville by heart at this point, being recalled five times since the start of the 2015-16 season. The veteran of 106 AHL games had yet to put things together in the NHL until his most recent call-up. In his last five games, the 20 year-old has four points, and has been quite aggressive shooting the puck, registering 18 shots over the same span. Consistent ice time and a scoring role are musts for Fiala to produce, so the more time he spends on a line with players such as Mike Ribiero, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen the better.


Under the Radar Performers


Derek Ryan (CAR) – Are 29-year-old prospects still considered prospects? Either way, Ryan has been serviceable since being called up on November 11th. He has seven points in 14 games, but isn’t going to wow you in a multi-category sense outside of chipping in with some face-off wins. However, since Jordan Staal has been injured, Ryan’s role has evolved and he has put up five points in six games. On Thursday night, he played with the majority of his minutes with Jeff Skinner and potted two goals. Keep an eye on his deployment as once Staal returns, Ryan’s value will drop at even strength.


Derek Forbort (LA) – I mentioned Forbort a bit in last week’s edition of the Journey, but wanted to take a closer look at his peripheral numbers. The 24-year-old is in a group of just eight defensemen who are averaging more than two blocked shots and two hits per game. That’s great value for a player who in capped leagues will only cost you $650,000. Per Frozen Pool, Forbort has spent nearly 70% of his even strength shifts with Drew Doughty, which can only help his offensive production.


Drake Caggiula (EDM) – Playing with Connor McDavid can only help your point output, but a closer look shows that only one of Caggiula’s six points this season has come with McDavid on the ice. The North Dakota product had already shown that he was a more than capable option with the man advantage judging by his four power-play points. Playing on the team’s first line at even strength could boost his point production to another level.


Due for a breakout?


Jakub Vrana (WAS) – Before last night Vrana had yet to have an NHL scoring point since his call-up from Hershey (AHL) to start the month of December. However, he had peppered the net with nine shots in just four games, including two, four-shot efforts. Vrana has always been a high-volume shooter, with 146 shots in 57 AHL games before being elevated to the NHL with a career shooting percentage of 17%. The 13th overall pick of the 2014 draft has seen time in the Capitals top nine and on their second power play unit since his recall. Low and behold, in his fifth game, Vrana netted his first NHL goal, one of many to come.  


Christian Dvorak (ARI) – If I were choosing one Coyotes rookie to make an impact for the remainder of the season, it would be Dvorak. His eight points in 22 games are modest, but if he continues to be allotted the ice time at even strength and on the power play he is currently receiving, he should produce. Brad Richardson being out for what could be the remainder of the season and the uncertainty around Martin Hanzal being on the roster to finish the year means two less capable centers in Arizona. Dvorak has been playing between Max Domi and Shane Doan recently, which is the lineup spot where he can have the biggest impact.


Ivan Provorov (PHI) – Provorov has been solid all-around in his rookie season, but it appears that he is starting blossom offensively as of late. The blueliner has four points in his last four games, after going through a stretch where he registered just four points in his previous 17. He has remained solid in other categories during the stretch as well, with seven hits and 12 blocked shots.



Due for a call-up?


Danny O’Regan (SJS) – The former Boston Terrier who completed a solid collegiate career in 2015-16 has picked up right where he left off, leading all AHL rookie scorers with 18 points in 17 games. He was called up for one game in mid-November, and played 12 minutes without registering a point on the team’s fourth line. San Jose’s bottom four forwards have been a bit of a revolving door this season, so there’s no reason to think that O’Regan won’t get a longer look at some point this year.


Jake Guentzel (PIT) – We remember Guentzel for his two-goal performance in his NHL debut earlier this season, but for now, he is back in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. During his five game stint in the NHL, the Omaha native showed he belonged with four points, eight shots on goal and 12 hits. The biggest thing standing in the way of Guentzel’s next call-up is the Pens depth, but as the season goes on, he will likely be the team’s first recall due to injury.


Anthony DeAngelo (ARI) – What does seven points in your first 11 NHL games get you? Returned to the AHL, apparently. DeAngelo was a fantasy owners dream in a small sample size with seven points (four of which came on the power play), 17 shots on goal and 13 blocked shots. Look for him to split time in Tuscon before the trade deadline, but he could be a valuable asset down the stretch once the Coyotes ship out some of their veterans.




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


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