The Journey: Fast-Rising Prospect Forwards – September 2018
This week, I’m taking a closer look at four prospects who were big risers on Dobber’s latest Top 200 Fantasy Prospect Forwards list. Who are they and why are they on the rise? Read further to find out.
Nick Suzuki – Montreal Canadiens – up to 34 from 52
Suzuki was the big piece going back to Montreal in the Pacioretty trade. Depending on how you feel about Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Suzuki is now Montreal’s best or second-best prospect. Both Suzuki and Kotkaniemi have upside to become number one centres in the NHL, so it’s possible one of them ends up playing wing. Suzuki has said he wants to become a Patrice Bergeron type two-way centre but because he’s only 5-11, he may be the one who is eventually shifted to wing.
Suzuki has scored 87 goals and 196 points in 129 games over the past two seasons in the OHL. He was drafted 13th overall by the Golden Knights in 2017, and a lot of people were surprised he didn’t get drafted even earlier than that. He was really young for his draft class as he just recently turned 19.
There’s a good chance Suzuki starts the season in Montreal and gets at least a nine-game trial so that the Canadiens can really see what they have in him. But he might be sent back to junior before his tenth game so that the first year of his entry-level contract doesn’t get burnt. Suzuki should be a full-time player by 2019-2020, though.
Suzuki’s offensive upside is very high – maybe even higher than Kotkaniemi’s. He’s a great playmaker but his shot is really good as well. He’s a creative player with very high hockey IQ which allows him to be a good defensive player as well. He’s not big but he plays bigger than his size, so it’s not a real concern for him. If he can add another gear speed-wise, then watch out. Montreal fans should be excited about having him, and fantasy hockey players should be drooling over him.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan – Los Angeles Kings – up to 55 from 81
Anderson-Dolan was drafted 41st overall in 2017 after he put up 39 goals and 76 points in 72 games in the WHL. He was an alternate captain for the Spokane Chiefs as a 17-year-old and captained Team Canada at the U18 Worlds where a lot was expected of him but he failed to register any points in five games. JAD was one of the youngest players in his draft class. He was known as a responsible two-way centre but many believed his offensive upside isn’t high-end which is why he slipped to the second round despite his strong numbers.
Last season, JAD’s numbers improved even further as he posted 40 goals and 91 points in 70 games. He’s been impressing everyone at the rookie tournament lately, and the Kings believe he’s close to playing in the NHL. He will likely return to the WHL for his fourth and final season but he may jump to the NHL straight from junior without needing any time in the AHL. He didn’t get to play at the World Juniors last season but should get strong consideration this time around.
So we know JAD can put up points and he’s close to playing in the NHL. Why isn’t he ranked even higher, then? Well, the Kings have Kopitar and Carter occupying their top two centre spots, and they also have two high-end centre prospects in Gabriel Vilardi and Rasmus Kupari who were both drafted in the first round. JAD will need to earn his spot on a scoring line but his future in the NHL is almost guaranteed.
Lucas Wallmark – Carolina Hurricanes – up to 87 from 134
Wallmark was drafted in the fourth round in 2014 after playing a full season in the SHL. He stayed in Sweden for another two years and improved his numbers both times. He made the jump to North America two years ago and immediately made some noise with a strong rookie season in the AHL where he scored 24 goals and 46 points in 67 games. He even got to play eight games with the Hurricanes. Last season, Wallmark improved even further, this time posting 17 goals and 55 points in 45 games. He led his AHL team in points and got to play 11 games with the Hurricanes.
Wallmark’s offensive upside is very good but does it ever materialize because of his average skating? He’s proven all he can in the American league, so it’s time to make the jump to the NHL now. He’s a bit different from the first two names here because he’s already 23 years old. I’m not saying he’s old but he’s much older in comparison to the two 19-year-olds.
Wallmark is a good sleeper because he doesn’t have a lot of name value but if things break perfectly for him, he could have a really nice rookie season with the Hurricanes. His chances of cracking the roster improved very recently because Victor Rask is out indefinitely after hand surgery.
Matthew Highmore – Chicago Blackhawks – up to 149 from 225
Highmore played five seasons in the QMJHL and posted good numbers during his final two years there but never heard his name called at the NHL Entry Draft. The Blackhawks signed Highmore during his fifth season in the ‘Q’, and he finished that season with 34 goals and 89 points in 64 games – but it’s good to remember he was an overager at that point.
Not much was expected of Highmore but he had a really strong rookie season in the AHL where he posted 24 goals and 43 points in 64 games. He even got to play 13 games with the Blackhawks last season. Highmore will likely return to the American league but he could see call-ups during the season. He plays a responsible two-way game which is important for earning a role at the highest level.
Highmore is close to playing in the NHL but his offensive upside isn’t very high, so don’t get too excited about his strong rookie season. He doesn’t have glaring weaknesses but doesn’t have any major strengths either. He’ll likely end up being a good third line forward at the NHL level but in today’s game, there’s potential to put up some points from there as well.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Previously on The Journey:
Images used on the main collage courtesy of NHL.com
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