The Journey: Prospects Who Could Join Their Clubs This Summer – Central Division
Folks, happy Saturday. If you missed the official launch yesterday, Dobber's 14th annual Prospect report is finally available for purchase (available here). Whether you are in a Dynasty league and need to take a deep dive into those late-round sleepers, or a yearly league and looking for a few diamonds in the rough, this report has it all.
Now, for the task at hand. Last week I covered some of the Pacific Division prospects who have the potential to join their respective clubs over the summer, perhaps even squeeze into a line-up. To keep that momentum going, I will highlight a few from the Central Division.
As I mentioned last week, I want to stress that not all of these players will get a taste over the playoffs. However, with the additional space on each team's roster, these select prospects check off all appropriate boxes in order to get the nod should the team be in a pinch.
Without further ado, the Central Division.
If you are the owner of a Colorado Avalanche star right now, congratulations to you. It's an exciting time for all the fans in Denver, and it's only getting better. For a second straight year, you may just be blessed with an elite rookie defenceman. Yes, it will be tough to top Cale Makar's impression that he left from last postseason. However, if there is any blueliner to do so right now, it's Bowen Byram. Arguably the best defender coming through the pipeline, the Cranbrook, BC, native could easily slot into a roster spot and make an impact immediately.
Thanks to a trip to this year’s WJC, his game totals were down this season (17 games), but still managed 52 points over 50 games with the Vancouver Giants, which sat fourth in points per game by a WHL d-man with 1.04. His talent level is undeniable and could very well be en route to becoming one of the league’s elite. Once again, the presence of Makar casts a bit of a shadow over his overall upside. Yet, on most teams around the league, he's the future go-to option.
His eligibility could tamper with things. Given his age, he will not be eligible for the American League next year, which means they could be taking a gamble on their options. Nonetheless, should he draw into the lineup, he could slot in nicely on their bottom pairing, giving a nice taste of what the NHL has to offer.
Honorable mention – Connor Timmins
Could this summer finally be it? Could we finally be graced with the presence of Eeli Tolvanen? This would be music to the ears of many fantasy owners, who have been chomping at the bit to get a solid glimpse of the highly-touted Finn. The 2017 first-rounder has been highly sought after since his draft day but has yet to make his transition to the NHL (on a full-time basis). Instead, he has spent the previous two years developing his overall game in the AHL. With his 0.59 points-per-game hovering around mediocrity, fantasy owners must remain patient and keep the faith alive as the potential is still very evident.
Given his growth over the past two seasons and his ability to play on either wing, the 21 year old could easily slip into a roster spot this summer. His offensive skills are top-notch, with a wicked release and a very strong will to shoot the puck. Polishing his two-way game should only give him that extra boost that propels him towards the jump. At this point, a top-six role should not be ruled out, meaning fantasy owners may finally get their prize.
Honorable mention – Yakov Trenin
Jason Robertson, who had an extraordinary rookie season with the Texas Stars (AHL) is likely number one on the call list, but Dellandrea is a very intriguing young player. He will turn 20 in July, meaning he will be quite young and inexperienced come play-in time. However, the Flint Firebird captain shows a high level of maturity and poise in his game and could easily ease into the lineup and look comfortable. Of course, he can put points on the scoreboard, but it's his 200-foot game which really separates him from his junior counterparts. He is a great skater and outworks his foes on both sides of the ice, which is topped off by a slick offensive touch. His versatility should make him a solid option for the Stars line-up not only this summer but for many years.
Aside from perhaps a fourth-line role, there’s little room down the middle with the Stars at the moment. However, should they run into injury trouble, I believe he could see his way into the lineup with ease and hold his own. He's got what it takes to play the game in a role position as well as chip-in at the highest level.
Honorable mention – Robertson, Thomas Harley
If they were to get him signed just a few weeks prior, I would likely be mentioning Ian Mitchell here. Unfortunately, with his contract signed in April, he does not meet the requirements set out by the league to play over the summer. With that in mind, Beaudin is likely the next in line.
With a battered blue line, the Quebec native found his way into the Blackhawks lineup to make his NHL debut during the team’s (eventual) final regular-season game of 2019-20. While he was held off the scoresheet, he contributed two shots on net, a plus-1 rating, and looked very comfortable in front of the home fans.
He is coming off a 15-point rookie season with the Rockford Icehogs (AHL) and has built a nice foundation of trust with the organization early on. He has an obvious offensive touch, which his 167 points over four years in the QMJHL speak for itself. He has excellent vision and great skating to match even those at the highest level. Should the d-corps stay healthy, he likely views all games from the press-box. However, he should sit somewhere in the seventh-eighth slot within the team's depth chart.
Honorable mention – Lucas Carlsson
Sorry Wild fans, Kirill Kaprizov will have to wait until next year to make his debut. This makes Khovanov the most logical forward to make the jump. The 20-year-old QMJHL standout was just one point shy of the century mark during the 2019-20 season, finishing with a cool 1.94 points-per-game. Khovanov brings a high level of talent, highlighted by his superb playmaking abilities. He has thrived at the junior rankings, compiling 135 helpers and 201 points in just 144 games over the span of three seasons with the Moncton Wildcats.
The Wild are not lacking down the middle, making his debut over the summer a stretch. Nonetheless, he brings an exciting and skilled game that the organization could surely use. It finally seems like the tides are about to change in Minnesota, and the Russian-born pivot is a key piece to that swing.
Honorable mention – Calen Addison
It's not easy finding a 6-4 winger with an offensive touch. Yet, that's exactly what the Jets have found in Vesalainen. Granted, his offensive growth has become somewhat stagnant since turning pro, however, his two-way game continues to develop nicely in the AHL. Over two seasons with the Manitoba Moose, he's recorded 43 points and sat second on the team this year with 121 shots.
He brings a ton of energy and plays a very edgy game, perfect for playoff hockey. His large frame allows him to park in front of the net, becoming a nightmare for both players and goalies alike. His skating remains a work in progress, but with all of his extra intangibles, including a heavy shot, there is no reason why he couldn't add to the team’s bottom-six during pivotal times.
Honorable mention – Sami Niku
St. Louis Blues
Winning a Stanley Cup comes at a cost. The Blues lack a long list of readily available prospects to join the team this summer. The exception is Kyrou, a player who already suited up in 28 games with the team this year. The Toronto native is a proven point producer and has managed to translate that into pro success. Through 64 AHL games, Kyrou has paced himself at a 0.91 clip, producing 58 points (25G + 33A).
Playing as a right wing, his role on the team has a lot to do with the recovery of superstar Vladimir Tarasenko. However, if called upon, he's a skilled player who brings a solid offensive flair to an already high-scoring squad.
Thanks again for tuning in to this week's edition of The Journey. Look out for the Eastern Conference in the coming weeks!
Take care and as always, please find me on Twitter @hall1289.
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