I’d like to extend an extra thank you to Dobber this week for doing a major revision of his rankings. The changes have led to a few major shuffles in the list and some new and exciting profiles for us to devour today! If you haven't caught the entire list yet, you can find it here.
Prior to getting into the profiles though, I have to point out a minor discrepancy in my own personal angle, and Dobber’s most current list. Now this might just be a factor of the recent changes to the list, or it could be a simple difference of opinion, but last week I included a short bit on Jake Leschyshyn of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. I discussed how Jake has struggled to make improvements to his offensive touch since being traded from Regina in this, his last stint in the WHL. Ironically, the Golden Knights’ prospect comes in at third on the list of fastest rising prospects in terms of actual places jumped.
Since taking over The Journey in November, I’ve tried to focus on the profiles of the players who’ve jumped the most places, regardless of where they jumped to, and from. In some cases, I’ve ended up bouncing around in the list a bit, in order to cover profiles that have been steadily on the rise, or avoid players who’ve been detailed quite recently by The Journey. I also like to keep the most relevant players in our cycle, so more often than not, a player who has jumped 30 spots to 70th will win out over a player who has jumped 45 spots to 190th. As such, this week we’re going to skip over Leschyshyn and focus on a few of the other interesting names on Dobber’s list.
Emil Bemstrom, Columbus Blue Jackets | DEC 2018 – 368 | JAN 2019 – 266 (+102) | NOW – 91 (+175)
Bemstrom’s success as a rookie in the SHL took a little time to reach legitimate status on Dobber’s list, but now that he’s proven to be more than a flash in the pan, we’re done sleeping on him. The Blue Jackets’ fourth-round-pick from 2017 is finding the net consistently and blowing his previous projections out of the water.
Considering the teams’ current status as a fringe contender with the two most high-profile pending UFA’s on their roster, it’s difficult to assume what kind of opportunity might be available for Columbus prospects in the near future. While Bemstrom should receive every opportunity to crack an opening night roster in the fall of 2019, it’s very possible that he’s not perfectly suited for the NHL quite yet. As with most prospects, the right opportunity is as much a key to their success as their own skill-set, and that’s just all too difficult to predict at this point. At the time of his draft Bemstrom’s certainty as an NHL player was much lower, hence the fourth-round selection, however he’s always possessed the skill-set of a dynamic offensive winger. After proving that he is more than capable of executing the same range of offense against grown men, his chances of becoming a successful NHL player have skyrocketed.
Ultimately Bemstrom’s NHL production and timeline will be impacted greatly by the Blue Jackets’ brass. Something that will play into his favour, however, would be the departure of a certain top-line winger, forcing the Jackets to make a shuffle and seek a replacement in the lineup. In the case that the team aims to replace Artemi Panarin via trade, it would be favorable for Bemstrom to be included in a pitch for someone like Jeff Carter… but not Jeff Carter himself, because I don't believe he’s going down that road again anytime soon.
Mason Appleton, Winnipeg Jets | DEC 2018 – 130 | JAN 2019 – 130 (+0) | NOW – 77 (+53)
The Jets’ prospect has been on the rise since joining the team’s farm squad last fall as a rookie coming out of the NCAA. As a 22-year-old rookie in the AHL, some may have overlooked Appleton’s success, but his production over the course of a full 70+ game slate was nothing short of impressive. Now with more than a quarter of the Jets’ season under his belt, Appleton has taken another step toward proving that he can be a productive player up and down an NHL lineup.
While Jack Roslovic has been a name tossed around in the mainstream sports media as a potential trade chip for the Jets, I would argue that it is just as likely that Appleton gets the opportunity to audition for a primary roll on a youthful rebuilding squad. Should he stick in Winnipeg for the next several years, his opportunity could be limited by the big-money contracts that are ahead of him in the lineup right now.
Interestingly enough, Appleton currently sits sixth among Jets for points per 60 minutes (2.30) – ahead of high profile names like Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. If the teams’ valuation of Appleton is in line with his NHL production thus far, they’d be wise to find him a more favorable spot in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Jeremy Bracco, Toronto Maple Leafs | DEC 2018 – 131 | JAN 2019 – 131 (+0) | NOW – 82 (+49)
With the Leafs’ pipeline consistently depleted by trades and graduations over the last two years, Jeremy Bracco has been given the perfect opportunity to flourish with the AHL’s Marlies. The former 61st overall pick sits in the top-5 for AHL scoring as a sophomore, giving the team some relief when it comes to their depth.
At his current rate of production, it won’t be long before Bracco joins the list of graduated Leafs’ prospects that have led to the depleted pipeline he’s currently a part of. Unfortunately for the former OHLer, the Leafs’ NHL squad has remained extremely healthy as a whole this year, preventing him from getting a well-deserved audition at the next level. It’s likely that the team will prefer for him to get a small taste of the NHL this year rather than plunging him into the league all at once when the time is right.
The Leafs can also take comfort in the fact that if they are unable to come to terms with ALL of their talented RFAs this offseason, they will have a skilled prospect who is eager for the opportunity to replace them. In any case, Bracco is a prospect who should be considered a must-own in most prospect featured fantasy leagues – the Leafs’ depth is no longer a factor in restricting what is left of their talented pipeline.
Thanks for tuning in to yet another edition of the Fastest Rising Prospects in The Journey. If you’re interested in discussing these players with me to any further extent, find me on Twitter dot com @olaf1393.