The Journey: Top Rising Defensemen Prospects in July
Welcome back, folks, and happy Saturday. It's been a long road, but we finally have hockey back. Somewhat. I hope you have all been glued to your TVs and/or social media accounts and getting in your hockey fix, just in case. Whether it's rush drills, breakouts, scrimmages, or even Zoom interviews, it's been a breath of fresh air.
So far, many of the young prospects invited to camps have looked very strong and seem to be holding their own against the highest of competition. The Blue Jackets’ Liam Foudy has been skating with the club's top grouping and looking right at home. While Toronto's Nicholas Robertson has looked strong, beating Jake Muzzin in one-on-one drills.
All in all, it's exciting times to be a hockey fan, and assuming everyone stays healthy, and Edmonton stays above water (see Ian Gooding's Friday Ramblings for a little more information on the Edmonton flood), we will have hockey back in just a week and a half.
Even without hockey being played, prospect rankings continue to circulate and Dobber recently dropped its Top 50 Defenseman Prospects for the month of July. With only 50 on the list, the jumps and declines are usually not as drastic as let's say the forward edition, with the exception of a few. Nonetheless, there were a few significant risers in this month's edition, most of which hailing from the NCAA.
Ranking: April: 91, May: 91, July: 49
Canucks fans were gifted a nice mid-July treat as the club officially inked their 2017 fourth-round pick to his entry-level deal, despite burning a year in the process. Signing players out of the NCAA always comes as a sigh of relief, as teams are not always the player's destination of choice. With Harvard already declaring the cancellation of their fall term, it was important for him to continue developing his game, which he will do as a pro next season. The Massachusetts native had an incredible season with Harvard University, sitting third among the nation's blueliners in point-per-game with 1.11 while leading the way in shots fired.
At 21-years of age, Rathbone looks to have taken his game to the next level and could even challenge for a roster spot with the big club as early as next season. Standing at 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, his stature is not staggering, yet he showcases silky-smooth skating and great awareness on the ice. He is an offensive threat at all times could provide the club with some welcomed secondary scoring behind the young Quinn Hughes.
If you can snag him at the right time, Rathbone could prove to be a steal for your fantasy squad, much like he should be for the Canucks.
Ranking: April: 56. May: 56, July: 43
It's no secret that the Hurricanes have a constant need to stockpile defenders, which they proved yet again this year after acquiring up-and-comer Keane at the deadline. While he has never been one to fill the scoresheet at a high rate, he seems to have transitioned his game quite seamlessly to the pro rankings. His 37 points (9G + 28A) sat tied for seventh among defenders league-wide, all while leading all rookie skaters on the Charlotte Checkers.
Keane is a solid two-way player with a second pairing upside. He makes simple yet effective plays in all three zones and competes for every puck. Fantasy owners can expect a few peripherals, as he shows a slight physical element to his game.
Yes, Carolina already possesses an abundance of solid defenders. However, with five of those rotating names in need of contracts this summer, combined with the cap staying at bay, there is the potential of him sneaking his way into the lineup next season. If not, he remains a solid prospect and will sit on the bubble as a name to move up, should the team fall into injury woes.
Ranking: April: 24, May: 24, July: 9
The Rangers 2018 first-rounder comes as yet another piece to the Rangers already a young and skilled blue line chart. He is unable to join the team during their summer playoff run, however, he should give himself a good run at cracking a spot come next season. His 2019-20 campaign saw a slight drop in overall point-production, however, his overall growth has continued to blossom.
The Wisconsin native is a natural athlete who can handle himself in all situations of the game. Miller's ability to create offense stems from his time as a forward, which he has since reverted to his duties on the blueline. Standing at a whopping 6-foot-4, all signs point to him standing his own among those in the NHL which combined with his work ethic and tenacity equates to a solid presence on the back end.
If you are in the market for a top prospect who can provide more than just offense, K'Andre should be among the top of your list come draft day.
Ranking: April: 51, May: 51, July: 32
Owners will not get the opportunity to see instant results next season, as he has already committed to another year in college. However, Farrance is proving to be a home run in regards to the Nashville Predators depth chart. The 21-year-old exploded on the scene in his third year with Boston University, posting 43 points over a 34-game span. Not only his totals lead all defensemen in the NCAA but sat sixth league-wide among skaters. Although he did not win in the end, his tremendous efforts granted him the honor of being named a finalist for this year's Hobey Baker award.
It's no question that his ability to create and finish plays at a fast pace is one of the more intriguing aspects of his game. However, his dedication to the growth of his defensive play is what has truly propelled him into a top spot among the Predators' blueliners.
Patience is key, however, there is potential for him to become a solid top-4 defenseman with power-play quarterback written all over him.
Thanks again for tuning into another edition of The Journey. Have a great week and stay safe out there. As always, find me on Twitter @hall1289.
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