Just ten days into the NHL season and as can be expected, the league’s injured reserve has begun to pile up. To the disappointment of many fantasy owners, players like Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Montour and Nolan Patrick have already been put on the shelf for mid-to-long term durations. The reality of losing these players, and in the cases that are likely to come over the next couple of months, means that several young and developing players will have an opportunity to serve time in the NHL.
In some cases, NHL coaches may decide that a direct insertion of the prospect into the injured player’s role is appropriate as to minimize line shuffling. The more likely outcome, however, is that these young players will be placed in sheltered roles where the team can manage their exposure to defensive risk more cautiously. Nonetheless, the opportunity to join an NHL club, even for a limited amount of time can serve as a major stepping stone in a player’s development. Most importantly, it allows us an opportunity to more accurately assess their trajectory with as much of an apples to apples comparison as we could hope for.
With that said, and with the expectation that at some point over the next several months each NHL team will be forced to dip into their farm system for help, today we’ll begin a Journey divisional mini-series detailing my picks for the players who are most likely to be the next in line.
A few technical/asterisk notes before we get into the list – I’ve selected only one player for each team based on who I believe has the best odds of being recalled on an injury or trade net negative player basis. I did not select one player per position for this exercise, however, did take into account how each NHL team has chosen to manage their NHL roster.
In some cases, where it was close between two players, I’ve included an honorable mention in the discussion. Some of these players may seem like obvious picks, but with the shuffle that takes place among NHL rosters at the beginning of each season, opening roster spots often become available to the player who has proven himself most recently, with pedigree going out the window quite quickly.
Week 1: The Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks – Daniel Sprong
Honestly, Josh Mahura was a close second for the Ducks, and I believe that as we sit today, he has the brighter future with the organization. That being said, Sprong is currently the most dynamic option available he’s a player who has paid his dues. The Ducks’ roster is already oozing with several recent graduates of the San Diego Gulls program, and they’ve proven that they’re typically not skeptical to give their internal options an opportunity mid-season. Expect both aforementioned players to get a look this year.
Arizona Coyotes – Kyle Capobianco
Because the ‘Yotes are currently carrying three goalies on their NHL roster, their reserve space for skaters is limited. Today, their roster consists of 13 forwards, 7 defensemen and three goalies, allowing them little wiggle room up front in case of injuries. Capobianco seems to be the player that the team seems most eager to give a proper opportunity to, as he should be. He’s had very limited exposure to the NHL but the 6-1 blueliner had an illustrious AHL debut in 2018-19 – he’s ready for a shot.
LA Kings – Jaret Anderson-Dolan
The Kings have a couple of prospects in Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte who might be valid options for this designation if not for their age and contractual obligations. Fortunately, recent WHL graduate Anderson-Dolan has demonstrated an immediate ability to transition his skillset to LA’s farm in Ontario. The 20-year-old has become more physically mature and is not far off from a regular NHL position. Another option for the Kings will be recently signed Nikolai Prokhorkin who has the luxury of a European assignment clause built into his contract that has not yet taken effect.
Calgary Flames – Dillon Dube
Despite making last year’s opening night roster, Dillon Dube was cut from the Flames roster to start the 2019-20 campaign. Brad Treliving has indicated that it remains highly likely that we see Dube back in Calgary at some point throughout the season, however, for now his interests of seeing the ice as much as possible and building his confidence are best suited in Stockton.
Vancouver Canucks – Sven Baertschi
As surprising as it was to see Baertschi hit waivers at the conclusion of the NHL preseason, it’s unlikely that the Canucks allow his $3.3M cap hit to be buried in the AHL for much more than a few weeks. Unless the demotion was cause for an emotional catastrophe on Baertschi’s part, he’ll surely be overwhelmed with motivation to return to Vancouver, while the opposite could be possible with one of the other fringe forwards that the Canucks decided to retain in favor of him.
Vegas Golden Knights – Lucas Elvenes
With Cody Eakin sitting on the injured reserve, the Knights’ depth has already been pushed to the brink. They’re carrying 12 forwards on their active roster and so while I may have been tempted to designate recent signee Jimmy Schult as the most likely recall, the team’s defense seems more secure. The early success of Cody Glass under coach Gerard Gallant could give the team the confidence they need to put another youngster in Elvenes into the spotlight.
San Jose Sharks – Jeremy Roy
The Sharks’ depth has been tested very early on, and their solution? Rather than delve into their internal depth the organization decided that seeking out a familiar free-agent was a more righteous path to staying afloat. At this point, it seems unlikely that the team has much faith in what sits in the Barracuda’s forward ranks, rather, in case of emergency, Jeremy Roy has the best shot at an opportunity in the big leagues. Roy has progressed well in his first two slates with the Sharks’ farm club and some reward for his service is coming due.
Edmonton Oilers – Evan Bouchard
James “The Real Steal” Neal has stabilized the Oilers’ offense very early into the 2019-20 slate. As such, any Oilers prospects hoping to have their chance at playing alongside Connor has seen their chances significantly diminish. This recent revelation should allow the team, who currently carries 14 forwards on their NHL roster to finally allow their green forward prospects to develop properly before forcing them to adjust to a role that they aren’t yet well suited for. With their struggles up front evidently solved for now, the focus shifts to the team’s blueline where Evan Bouchard appears to be aggressively barking over the fence. His intimate competition with Ethan Bear and Joel Persson for the final slots on the blueline will likely last until such time as the team is allowed, due to injury or trade purposes to house them all under the Rogers Place roof.
This mini-series will continue over the coming weeks and months in rotation with the typical Journey content such as fastest rising prospects. I’d love feedback on the segment – find me on Twitter @olaf1393