The Journey examines Dobber’s Top 200 Forward Prospects list, and assesses the fast risers in the February rankings. Check back next week when we take a closer look at the fastest rising prospect defensemen for this month.
Pavel Buchnevich – New York Rangers – Up to 10th from 26th Overall
Buchnevich has had a hot and cold rookie season in the NHL, but has shown a glimpse of being a top-end talent and a key part of the Rangers offensive future. A back injury caused him to miss nearly two months in mid-November, but he returned with a bang, posting six points in his first four games back in the lineup this January.
Since that point, Buchnevich has been riding the first extended cold stretch of his young NHL career, with just one point in his last eight games. His ice time has dropped dramatically over those eight games both at even strength and on the power play as he found himself on New York’s fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast. Buchnevich may spend some time as a healthy scratch as the Rangers potentially add a roster player or two on the hope of an extended playoff run, so watch his usage carefully. That type of demotion is by no means an indication of his future, which appears to be quite bright in the Big Apple.
Christian Fischer – Arizona Coyotes – Up to 61st from 131st Overall
It seems like each week in this space, we are touting another Coyotes rookie as a top prospect or a fast riser. This week is no exception with Fischer.
The 2015 second round selection by Arizona has performed admirably in his first full professional season in the American Hockey League. He is averaging just below a point-per-game pace in the AHL, with 34 points in 35 games, which is good for second on the Tucson Roadrunners in scoring. His hot start in the AHL was rewarded by a three-game call-up to the Coyotes in late January where he scored twice. Look for Fischer to move back and forth between Tucson and the NHL for the remainder of the season, especially with the Coyotes uncertain roster situation following the trade deadline.
Kenny Agostino – St. Louis Blues – Up to 83rd from 287th Overall
The former Yale Bulldog and Calgary Flame has found new lease on life in the St. Louis organization this season. He currently leads all AHL scorers with 60 points in 48 games, 13 points clear of Philadelphia prospect Jordan Weal who has 47 points in 43 games.
Agostino has fared well in his 180 AHL games, scoring at a pace of .88 points-per-game, but he has yet to find success in the NHL in limited opportunity. When he was called up and inserted in the lineup following the dismissal of coach Ken Hitchcock, he responded with points in his first two games. It was widely thought that at the age of 24 Agostino could have the AHL All-Star branding for his career, but it appears he is out to prove that he can be productive at the NHL level as well. Agostino’s offensive ability combined with the jolt the Blues have seemed to get from the coaching shake-up could mean points in the short-term from the former fifth round selection of the 2010 draft.
Nikita Gusev – Tampa Bay Lightning – Up to 99th from 137th Overall
Tampa has some interesting personnel decisions coming down the pipe this summer with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson hitting restricted free agency, the unrestricted free agency of Ben Bishop and the salary bump that comes with Victor Hedman starting his new contract. However, the Lightning could have a wildcard waiting in the wings in the 24-year-old Gusev, who they drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.
Gusev plays for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, and has posted back-to-back point-per-game seasons. This year, Gusev ranks fourth in the KHL with 68 points in 54 games while playing just over 15 minutes per game. His KHL contract runs through the end of next season, but Gusev could decide to buy out the last year to come to North America to play with best friend Nikita Kucherov. If Tampa loses any of their forwards this offseason, you’d have to think that they’d look to find out Gusev’s level of interest first as a possible replacement. Like Artemi Panarin, he’s a name to keep on the backburner until things shake out this summer or beyond due to his high-level of offensive proficiency.
Adam Mascherin – Florida Panthers – Up to 130th from 191st Overall
Mascherin was one of my favorite second rounder’s in June’s draft due to his ability to shoot the puck. It is an elite-level skill that he had already developed, and that’s something that is important when projecting a prospect with an NHL future. There were a few negatives in his game before draft time, but by all accounts, Mascherin possessed the work ethic to improve.
Fast forward to 2017 and he has done just that. The Panthers prospect has surpassed his point total of 81 from a year ago in 16 less games. He currently stands with 32 goals and 50 assists, second in the Ontario Hockey League in points to Alex DeBrincat, and second in assists to Taylor Raddysh. He will never be the fastest player on the ice, but he is a good enough skater and a smart enough player that he can find pockets on the ice to create for his teammates or unleash his shot. His jump from 1.25 points-per-game a year ago to 1.67 per-game this year is encouraging not only for the Panthers but also for fantasy owners in dynasty formats.
Dylan Sikura – Chicago Blackhawks – Up to 186th from 295th Overall
As a junior at Northeastern University, Sikura has taken a big step forward offensively this season. In his previous freshman and sophomore seasons, his career high in points was 28, but he is on pace to potentially double that output this season.
The forward has 17 goals and 28 assists in 28 games this season, and is one of three Huskies in the top five in NCAA scoring with teammates Zach Aston-Reese and Adam Gaudette. Sikura, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Blackhawks in 2014, leads NCAA hockey in both power play points (26) and assists (18) and is tied for the NCAA lead with two hat tricks this season. Sikura will likely open discussions with the Blackhawks following his breakout season this year, and together they will make the decision whether it is best for the late-bloomer to continue his development in the AHL, or to play out his senior season at Northeastern, where he would be one of college hockey’s best players.
Give Kevin a follow at @kleblanchockey for prospect talk and happenings.