The Journey – Under the Radar Prospect Forwards for 2017-18

Kevin LeBlanc

2017-04-08

This week's The Journey dives into forward prospects not getting a lot of ink

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Anders Bjork – Boston Bruins

Bjork, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by Boston, did everything he could to will his Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a national title this season. Unfortunately, the dream ended on Thursday night when Notre Dame was beaten by Denver 6-1 in the Frozen Four Semi Finals in Chicago.

It looks as if the Bruins are going to do their best to sign Bjork as early as April 8th, and could get him into the lineup before the end of the season. The Wisconsin native, who was named a Second Team All-American yesterday posted 52 points in 39 games in his junior season with the Fighting Irish and could be a player to slot in the Bruins top nine next season. He has already out performed his draft position, but should continue to do so as his NHL career evolves.

 

Aleksi Saarela – Carolina Hurricanes

Saarela was the gem of the return that the Carolina Hurricanes received for trading Eric Staal to the New York Rangers at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline. He started this season in Finland slowly, with some lingering injury issues, but still ended up finishing as the top goal scorer for his Liiga team, Lukko, with 15 goals in 49 games.

Since his season in Finland ended, Saarela has joined the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, proving to be a valuable addition to the team’s Calder Cup playoffs run. Saarela has played in just six games for the Checkers, but has scored five goals and added two assists, playing as the team’s top center. The 89th overall pick has scored at every level and will be a welcome addition to the Hurricanes lineup as early as next season. Carolina is starving for someone who can put the puck in the net with regularity, and that’s exactly the talent that Saarela brings.

 

Jesse Puljujarvi – Edmonton Oilers

How can the fourth overall pick from last summer be considered under the radar? Easy, when the 2016 draft class had as much of an impact as it did this season and Puljujarvi spent a good part of the season in the AHL. Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were both NHL All-Stars. Matthew Tkachuk and Jakob Chychrun played big minutes for their NHL clubs, spending 65-plus games in their respective lineups. I had a friend tell me yesterday that he offered Puljujarvi straight up for Clayton Keller, and was rebuffed. Doubtful the answer would have been the same right after the draft in June.

The difference is that Puljujarvi has had a great season in the AHL as an 18 year-old. In 35 games, the young Finnish forward has 11 goals and 15 assists. Even more encouraging, Puljujarvi has one of the highest shot rates of any rookie forward in the AHL, averaging nearly three shots on goal per game. Don’t be surprised to see Puljujarvi put up a 50-point season as early as next year.

 

Remi Elie – Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars have dealt with a myriad of injuries to their forward group this season, and thus have relied on some of their young players to be thrust into the NHL lineup earlier than expected. Elie, who was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft spent a season and a half with the AHL’s Texas Stars before making his NHL debut in early March.

The former London Knight, Belleville Bull and Erie