The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen
It’s been quite some time since the last exclusive installment of the fastest rising prospect defensemen. With the unique variations of this segment that were rolled out over the last 12 months, the classic format seems to be just as popular as any of the others.
Having missed a couple of months since the previous edition, January’s look at the fastest rising prospect defenseman will take into account not only the movement each player has seen in the last 30 days, but will also account for an additional month prior to that.
The best part about the rankings that Dobber posts at this time of year is that rather than seeing obtuse changes in his rankings due to players inflating or deflating their value at training camp or early in the season, we get a much bigger picture. Now that most players have had upwards of three months to get accustomed to their respective roles, we’re seeing much more value driven revisions to the rankings. When a player is able to climb the ladder of these lists amongst the mid-season stability, it’s usually a sign that they have a stable and positive long-term trajectory from their current role.
So, without any further ado, here they are…
Calen Addison, Pittsburgh Penguins
November – 63th | December – 63th (-) | January – 24th (+39)
The Penguins second-round draft-pick made his presence known on the international stage for prospects at the U20 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic this holiday season. From quarterbacking Canada’s umbrella, to dominating physically in the defensive zone, Addison emerged as a player with a much larger toolkit than previously given credit for.
The 19-year-old became known for his heavy and lethal slap shot from the middle of Canada’s blueline. Addison’s timing on the powerplay was sufficient to overcome the strongest peer-to-peer defense that the world has to offer, providing optimism that the 5-10 blueliner could have a future as a power play force in the NHL.
On a decent squad in Lethbridge of the WHL, Addison’s production has been somewhat stagnant since being drafted. The conflicting signals of his blatant success at the WJC and his lack of progress in the WHL leave his trajectory unsettled.
More recently, Addison was snubbed from the Hurricanes lineup versus the Prince Albert Raiders. Since he wasn’t included in the team’s list of injured players, it might be assumed that Addison was left off the nightly roster as punishment for some previous antics versus the Brandon Wheat Kings.
His young career has had its ebbs and flows, but seeing Addison’s performance at the U20 tournament can certainly justify a boost in his value.
You should pick him up if… you can afford to gamble on a defenseman who has 60-point upside, but won’t get you anything for at least another year.
Ethan Bear, Edmonton Oilers
November – 41st | December – 23rd (+18) | January – 16th (+7)
When evaluating a young player, there are very few aspects that I value more than consistency. 50 games into his NHL career, Ethan Bear has defined that trait, at least as far as the Edmonton Oilers are concerned. These days, Bear finds himself cast most nights as a top-four defenseman, and an effective one at that.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Bear’s success is that despite the trust that the Oilers have bestowed upon him, he’s yet to lock down a consistent role on the power play. Of his 16 assists, only one has come on the man advantage. His lack of power-play time is almost comical considering that he’s been on the ice for more than a third of the game, on average. Among his 20-plus minutes of average deployment, the 22-year-old has been faced with Edmonton’s most difficult competition and he’s thrived.
He seems to have found a long-term home alongside Darnell Nurse, that is at least, as long as the team is able to lock him up at the end of the year. Expect him to cash in with a contract similar to that of recently inked Marcus Pettersson.
You should pick him up if… You have a sweet spot for players who are awesome people, but also want to count on a steady income of 25-35 points with an upside of 50 if he ever gets that sought-after power-play role.
Victor Soderstrom, Arizona Coyotes
November – 48th | December – 25 (+23) | January – 26th (-1)
The Yotes’ first rounder from 2019 sneakily had one of the best World Junior showings of any defenseman at the tournament. Quite honestly, Soderstrom has always possessed the tools that were put on display in Ostrava, but being able to have them recognized on an international stage certainly didn’t hurt.
While his success at the tournament has helped to continue pushing him in the right direction, some other factors were at play through the month of December that shot Soderstrom up 23 places in the rankings. The way that the 18-year-old has elevated his play in the span of just eight months has allowed him to become one of the most relied upon defenders for Brynas of the SHL. While on loan in Sweden, he’s been able to focus on growing the offensive side of his game, and bring to light the full package potential that he brings to the Coyotes depth chart. While the team already has a group of top-six defensemen under contract for next season, there’s a chance that Soderstrom could push Jordan Oesterle concisely out of the team’s regular rotation by next Christmas.
You should pick him up if… you want a defenseman who should continue to rise in NHL and fantasy value, and could produce modestly as soon as next season.
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