The Journey: Next In Line – The Central Division
As promised, I’ve returned with the second edition of the “Next in Line” mini-series that was proposed earlier in October, beginning in the Western Conference with the Pacific Division. Admittedly, I had initially (and foolishly), planned on completing this content in a single edition of the Journey, before realizing that it would have evolved into an enormous piece.
With each passing day and week, the dynamics of both the NHL and the AHL seem to shift – more drastically so this early in the season. It makes for an acute investigation, which is a point that I wanted to drive home as a disclaimer in the first edition of this series.
As we did last month, prior to beginning the discussion of teams in the Central Division, I thought it would be valuable to review my outstanding choices from the Pacific and the Atlantic and how they’ve fared… after all, what value do predictions have without context?
*Anaheim was featured in the first edition of this mini-series (October 8), however, at the time that the last article (October 26) was written, Anaheim had not yet made any recalls.
** Nicolas Petan has been recalled to the Leafs since the last edition of this series was published, however, at the time of publishing he was already on the Leafs’ roster and has simply bounced down and back.
Again, as a caveat, I’ve done my best to merge the perspectives of “Fantasy Relevance” and the nuanced reality of an organization's internal transactions. For this reason, there’s a fair amount of red shown above, indicating that my predictions weren’t spot-on in terms of the FIRST player who was actually recalled to their respective NHL squad. As mentioned in past edition, however, the goal of this series is to present the names and details of the next players to be recalled who retain some level of relevance as fantasy futures. In the cases of Dominik Tominato and Dylan McIlrath, I maintain that my predictions could still essentially be fulfilled, however, in the cases of Lawrence Pilut and Jonathan Davidsson, I concede defeat.
Week 3: The Central Division
St. Louis Blues – Jordan Kyrou
With the Blues moving Robby Fabbri out of town, there’s likely room for Kyrou to make his way back to St. Louis where he’ll be capable of filling a role that hasn’t previously existed. The primary reason for his departure was that the Blues were unable to create a position that would allow the dynamic forward to prosper. In his first game last week with the San Antonio Rampage, Kyrou chipped in with two assists in an 8-2 winning cause, and added his first goal of the year last night in a 3-1 loss to Miluwakee. The Blues are currently carrying a skeleton roster comprised of only 12 forwards and 7 defensemen, meaning that their exposure to injury is extreme, and Kyrou should find himself an opening before long.
Nashville Predators – Eeli Tolvanen
The 22-year-old Russian forward Yakov Trenin seems like the obvious choice for the Predators to slide in as the next likely recall. Trenin’s hot start to the AHL season has him atop the Milwaukee Admirals’ points-scoring list, however, his 41% shooting percentage is astronomical and hardly even as a result of his linemates. To put it quite simply, Trenin has been getting downright lucky. By contrast, the roller coaster ride that Tolvanen has brought fantasy owners on continues to ensue. Twelve games into his second full season in North America, Tolvanen is shooting at a tremendous rate of 3.17 per game, up an additional shot every two games from his pace last year. Unfortunately, his conversion rate has been pitiful, scoring only once for a 2.6% scoring pace. With confidence evidently affecting the 20-year-old’s offense at times, the Predators would be wise to give him an opportunity to succeed soon so that they don’t develop him into a diminishing asset.
Colorado Avalanche – Jacob MacDonald
This selection is a bit of a toss-up between two defensemen – The Avalanche are in the process of developing one of the most menacing bluelines in hockey with the likes of Samuel Girard and Cale Makar leading the way. Not far behind the two current young stars is Connor Timmins, a 2017 second-round draft-pick who only recently graduated from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. While Timmins certainly possesses the higher overall AND fantasy ceiling, he’s only just begun his professional development, and the Avs have absolutely no reason to rush him along. In contrast, The Colorado Eagles have also become the new home for the relatively young journeyman MacDonald. The 26-year-old blueliner is green in terms of his NHL experience, but has had success aplenty since graduating from Cornell in the spring of 2015. While he may be a long shot to become a household name, MacDonald’s flame has yet to completely burn out, and the rolling Avs could very well be the catalyst he needs to get his late NHL career started.
Winnipeg Jets – Jansen Harkins
For this official selection, I chose the more interesting of two completely worthy candidates. Both Sami Niku and Jansen Harkins have been rolling for the Manitoba Moose, with the latter having already spent some time with the Jets this year. In the case of Harkins, the 22-year-old centerman has yet to earn even a single game at the NHL level, with this year appearing to be the apex of his opportunity. The now evenly developed forward came into the AHL full-time as a 20-year-old after completing his circuit in the WHL and being selected by Winnipeg in the second round. His offensive ceiling pales in comparison to the Jets’ current weapons, but Harkins should be capable of providing supplementary contributions from the middle and bottom of the lineup.
Dallas Stars – Emil Djuse
With two defensemen currently shelved on the IR, it seems as though Dallas would be much more likely to demote one or two of their waiver exempt blueliners in the immediate future than they are to recall one from their AHL affiliate. With John Klingberg being sidelined, however, it seems the Stars have been struck with a plague of injuries across their blueline. Just this morning the team recalled Gavin Bayreuther to fill the void. With the trend of injuries that have already hampered the teams’ back end, it’s just as likely that another defenseman is recalled to continue packing the wound. Djuse is the worthiest of players currently on the Texas Stars roster who could see himself in Dallas before long. The now 26-year-old lefty has been a consistent contributor for the Stars’ farm club and could rotate as a replacement value NHL defenseman this year. If it’s a forward that the Stars so desire, the recent North Dakota graduate Rhett Gardner could find himself back in the NHL after making a push to regain some confidence in the AHL over the last two weeks.
Chicago Blackhawks – Dylan Sikura
The transition from collegiate hockey to the National League has not been an easy one for the elder Sikura brother. Despite being given several opportunities to succeed as a rookie in the Windy City, Dylan was unable to capitalize on favorable deployment when it mattered most. His time spent in the American league, however, has allowed him to demonstrate why his potential has been so highly anticipated, and only ten games into this year’s slate, he’s at it again. With the Hawks carrying a balanced positional roster. Mackenzie Entwistle, Matthew Highmore and Chad Krys are likely the only other fantasy relevant players on the Ice Hogs roster who might jockey for NHL time this year.
Minnesota Wild – Brennan Mennell
Fortunately for the Hockey State based organization, help for their club seems to be more eager from the AHL than what already exists in St. Paul. Their farm club in Iowa is currently leading the American Hockey League’s Central Division, thanks in large part to their top-notch goaltending duo of Mat Robson and Kaapo Kahkonen. Aside from their proudly consistent goaltending, the Wild have been collecting offense from a broad group of players. The most consistent of those players has been defenseman Mennell, a 22-year-old defenseman who’s had an outstanding start to his third season in the AHL. The former Lethbridge Hurricane should be a relatively easy choice to recall, should one of Minnesota’s defensemen fall to injury.
This mini-series will conclude in the coming weeks, in rotation with the typical Journey content such as fastest rising prospects. Two weeks from now we’ll wrap up with the exciting Metropolitan Division. Make sure to check back then, or follow me on Twitter to stay up to date on The Journey weekly releases! I’d also be happy to hear your feedback on this or other segments – find me on Twitter @olaf1393
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