The Journey: Holiday All-Prospects Team

Brayden Olafson

2019-12-21


The first few months of the 2019-20 hockey season have allowed us to begin yet another chapter in the book of prospect evaluation. As is our duty to the reader, we at Dobber have the opportunity to look back and re-evaluate the drafts of years gone by and interpret the results that have come since to provide you with a more up-to-date and holistic vision of the prospect world as it continues to develop. 

In an effort to present a cross section of current pinnacle of the prospect world, devising an All-Prospect team of the first half of the year seemed like the most appropriate medium.

My criteria for selecting the All-Prospect team was as follows: 

  • The player must have zero regular season NHL games played since September 2019
  • 3YP is the most heavily weighted factor, which takes into account a player’s NHL readiness, AND short-term ceiling. 
  • A very minor factor that I have a difficult time removing from my bias is a player’s trajectory – in essence, there is a recency bias, but I try to limit it to the point where a realistic trajectory is what is acceptable. 

Center

The battle for autumn’s top prospect center was fought tooth and nail by a quartet of OHL pivots. All things considered though; it shouldn’t be argued that Ontario has become the sole producer of elite NHL centermen. The simple fact of the matter is that the league is the home to two highly skilled centermen who’ve been put in a position to exceed most previous expectations in their D+1 slate. The third and fourth are both well renowned draft-eligible centers who are planning on making the top five picks, and the especially first overall selection at this June’s draft one of the most difficult and interesting ones in recent history – ultimately, it’s one of them who is most worthy of this All-Prospect team.

The Newmarket, Ontario born Quinton Byfield has continuously elevated his game throughout the first three months of his draft-eligible campaign. There is little to no concern surrounding the Sudbury forward’s ability to play in the NHL next fall, and it will prove extremely difficult for any team to pass on his refined skill, shot, and mature team-first mentality making him my selection for the Holiday All-Prospects Team. 

While Cole Perfetti has come onto the 2020 draft scene on an evident mission to leapfrog as many peers as possible, his tantalizing level of skill remains raw. Byfield’s projected impact has the potential to be immediate at the NHL level while the Saginaw center may be forced to play another year of junior before he’s sharp enough to compete for a valuable role in the NHL.

Although Jameison Rees and Connor McMichael are making outstanding impacts in their first junior season after being drafted by the Hurricanes and Capitals respectively, their leashes will not be quite as long to start their NHL careers, making their 3YP less exciting than Byfield’s.

Selection: Quinton Byfield

Left Wing

The contest for the title of All-Prospect left-winger has been somewhat less of a competitive race than the other lineup positions, at least to this point in the year. Among succeeding drafted players such as Brayden Tracey and Jakob Pelletier, the current consensus for the projected first-overall selection at the 2020 NHL entry draft, Alexis Lafreniere, has stood out on a more exceptional level than his prospect peers. 

Lafreniere’s draft stock has wavered ever so slightly by the account of some experts, however, his elite skill among the pool of his peers remains indisputable. 

Lafreniere’s closest competition has been Moncton’s Jakob Pelletier, who has been excellent in his own right. However, has also been backed up by one of the best supporting casts in the entire CHL. Pelletier, who stands a fair chance of earning a handful of NHL games or more by this time next year, would own the title in many other years, but it just so happens that one of the best draft eligible prospects in a decade also mans the left wing. 

The Rimouski forward utilizes his meticulous puck handling skills to embarrass other junior level players. His special awareness, speed and physical presence make his style of playmaking highly likely to translate to the NHL level for whichever NHL team is fortunate enough to acquire his services at the draft. 

Selection: Alexis Lafreniere

Right Wing

With two-thirds of the All-Prospect forward lineup already comprised of 2020 NHL Draft-eligible players, the right-wing slot’s best opportunity to continue the trend lies in the hands of 17-year-old SHL sniper, Lucas Raymond. The evasive and naturally talented Swede has a bright future in the world of hockey. However, unfortunately for him, as well as the glory of the 2020 draft class, the right-wing position is one of this year’s most exciting groups of prospects to watch this year. 

Additional challengers for the All-Prospect right-wing slot include QMJHL heavyweight and Pittsburgh prospect Samuel Poulin, emerging Providence Friar and New Jersey Devil prospect Tyce Thompson, as well as the AHL’s leading rookie scorer: Vegas’ Lucas Elvenes. Sadly, for all that each of them had done to raise their fantasy and real-world valuation over the past three months, none have impressed on a level equivalent to Montreal’s Cole Caufield. 

The University of Wisconsin freshman has an uncanny ability to find dangerous shooting lanes on a regular basis, and never seems to have a problem getting the puck on and off his stick. Lucas Elvenes’ success with the Chicago Wolves puts him slightly closer to a productive role at the NHL level, however with the right opportunity next fall, Caufield could conceivably become a Calder front runner for the 2020-21 season.

Selection: Cole Caufield

Defenseman 

The All-Prospect blueline at the midway point of the year is the cream of a group of players aged 20 and younger who each possess a sound 200-foot game and appear very close to making their way into an NHL lineup. 

The first round of the 2020 is projected to include several budding defenders, however, none on the same level as Erie blueliner Jamie Drysdale. The OHLer is a dominating presence as offensive coordination goes. His speed and decisiveness make him a difficult player to dispute on either side of the puck which makes him equal to any other defensive prospect outside of the NHL. 

Outside of the 2020 draft class, several defenders make a strong case for the second slot on the All-Prospect blueline. Bowen Byram, Victor Soderstrom and Moritz Seider are some of the most recent names to walk the draft floor, but the Rangers’ prospect pool offers two other names who seem as close to making an NHL impact as any. 

Between Joey Keane of the Hartford Wolfpack, and Nils Lundkvist of Lulea in the SHL, the latter has a slightly more well-rounded toolbox and seems to be coming into full form while playing in the top Swedish league. Both are likely to be impactful NHL defensemen, but Lundkvist’s 3YP is more likely to win out. 

Selections: Jamie Drysdale & Nils Lundkvist 

Goaltender

Despite both the 2019 and 2020 NHL draft classes offering apparent elite first-round goaltending prospects in Spencer Knight and Yaroslav Askarov respectively, uncertainties in their respective opportunities make it challenging to envision an elite 3YP. 

By contrast, the New York Rangers prized prospect Igor Shesterkin has done everything that could reasonably be asked of him by the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. In his first year playing full-time in North America, Shesterkin has risen to every challenge. He plays a conservative style of goaltending but has proven to never give up on a play. Considering his early success with the Wolfpack, the Rangers will have a hard time resisting the urge to provide the Russian with an opportunity to earn the starting job with the Rangers within the next 12-18 months.

Selection: Igor Shesterkin

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 6 3 5 8
JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 6 1 6 7
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 7 1 6 7
MATTIAS JANMARK DAL 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency NYR Players
30.7% PAVEL BUCHNEVICH ARTEMI PANARIN MIKA ZIBANEJAD
25.3% KAAPO KAKKO CHRIS KREIDER RYAN STROME
19.1% FILIP CHYTIL BRETT HOWDEN BRENDAN LEMIEUX

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