The Journey: Prospects In The Bubble – Who Did Not Make The Cut and Who Stood Out
Welcome back, prospect enthusiasts. It sure is nice to have hockey back, isn’t it?
I have to say, the NHL has done a marvelous job with the entire process. From the selection of hub cities, the impressive lengths they went to provide entertainment for the players, the arena setups, and most importantly, the dedication they took towards the players’ and personnel’s health. They have confirmed zero cases since entering the bubble and it's looking more and more like we will see a team hoist the cup in just over two months' time. Big kudos to them.
If you are reading this, chances are that the play-in rounds have begun and you are enjoying watching meaningful hockey as we speak. With that in mind, I am curious to know your predictions to go through to the playoff rounds? If you are keen to know who the writers at Dobber chose, myself included, check them out here:
If you can, leave a comment or respond through Twitter @hall1289 to let me in on your predictions.
Each club officially has a single exhibition game under their belts, and final rosters are that much closer to being finalized. Before all of this began, I predicted a prospect (in some cases 2-4) per team who I thought had a chance to etch their way into a starting lineup. While I was fairly successful in the majority of my predictions, I did strike out on a few. Full discretion, there were a few names left out of the bubble that thoroughly shocked me, while some that made absolute sense. Here were my predictions and also the players that fell short:
Poulin being held off the bubble roster came as the most shocking to me. Poulin has good size but also carries the ability to create offense, something they could have used anywhere throughout their lineup. Instead, the club elected to bring a far more experienced group upfront, which you cannot fault them for, especially since he has no experience at the pro level.
Not to worry fantasy owners, he is still a top-notch prospect who should make a nice push for a spot come to the 2020-21 campaign.
I actually went 1/3 with my selections for the Islanders. While I was right with my Otto Koivula pick, the team decided against both their 2016 and 2018 first-round selections.
Despite my thoughts on them adding some much needed offensive touch, Barry Trotz and the Islanders decided to stick with size and experience. Considering the style the club plays, I suppose I should have seen it coming. However, I thought they may want to deliver some experience to a couple of prospects who could use a boost of confidence. I am interested to see how they fare in training camp next year.
Much like the Islanders, I was also 1/3 with respect to the Flames. Jusso Valimaki seemed like an obvious choice to join the bubble, being one of the team's top defending prospects. Yet, they decided to stay away from the inexperienced Pelletier, who was coming on hot straight out of juniors.
Despite looking decent throughout camp, Phillips was also left off the bubble list as well. He shows great skill and has looked solid for the Stockton Heat, but ultimately lacks in size, an area the Flames clearly did not want fall short with. Both continue to show a decent upside going forward, especially Pelletier.
No surprises here. Lind was a late addition to the camp and was brought in to gain experience. Hoglander, on the other hand, did not even make it to camp as I took a shot at predicting he would. Overall, these picks were a large miss by me.
Minnesota was the only club in which I had zero predictions correct. Addison was another prospect left out of the bubble that shocked me. Even as a depth player to fill in with injuries, I thought the newly acquired defender could jump in and look comfortable. Fans will now have to wait until training camp to see him in action.
Khovanov, who is one of my personal favorite prospects, was also left off this list. With everything happening with the pandemic, the Wild granted him permission to head to Russia to play for Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL. With the uncertainty lingering over the AHL, this could potentially guarantee him playing time, without missing a beat. Of course, this assumes that the season actually runs as they have planned to do so.
Finally, my last miss was Barre-Boulet, an underrated scorer who I thought had a strong chance of making the cut. It seems the club already thinks highly of their current goal-scoring capabilities, so his attributes were not needed this summer.
Without a question, Robertson was the most talked-about prospect this week, and for very good reason. The 18-year-old made his anticipated Maple Leafs debut on Tuesday, albeit a pre-season tilt and despite his below-average stature, did not look out of place. Skating on a third-line, he racked up 10:11 minutes of playing time, with an additional 1:34 on the man-advantage. His work ethic was the main focal point of his game in my eyes. In all three zones, he was hard on the puck, earning each of his possessions. He broke up a few plays and also fired off a shot on goal, topping his night off with a secondary assist.
He has continued to skate with the team's third line all week, begging the million-dollar question: does he suit up in Game 1 on Sunday? I think this all depends on what type of game Sheldon Keefe decides to play. If he wants to mimic the Blue Jackets’ hard-nosed style, I assume he goes with fellow forward Pierre Engvall in that spot. However, perhaps Robertson’s size and inexperience are overlooked and they decide to add more "soft" skill upfront to beat their opponents with high octane offense. Regardless, this kid is special and is looking more and more like a second-round robbery by the day. Enjoy the show, folks.
Aside from Robertson, the Calgary Flame prospect was among the top of my list of projects who stood out to me. Despite the Flames looking flat that night, Dube was a standout player for the majority of the game. He never found the scoreboard, but tossed out three hits, and generated a few very solid looks in just over 17 minutes of playing time. The B.C. native is a perfect example of a prospect learning how to adapt to a new role, while still maintaining his offensive prowess.
Considering he has suited up in 45 games thus far during the 2019-20 season, I expect him to be in the lineup when they faceoff against the Winnipeg Jets. He contributes to both special teams units, and can provide solid secondary scoring for the club, should they be successful in their series. Fantasy wise, he is poised to become a standout second-line center and a strong multi-cat performer.
Despite initially being considered a stretch for an invite, Broberg impressed and forced the hands of the club in bringing him along to the bubble. What’s more, he even drew into the lineup as the extra skater in their exhibition matchup. He did not look bad, however, his game felt a bit shaky after tossing a few giveaways early. As the game progressed, he seemed to ease into his nerves and finished the game strong. He played just over 11 minutes and even saw some time on the team’s secondary power-play unit, adding one hit and a blocked shot.
He is a smooth skater, which is a plus, but I do not see Broberg filling a spot this summer. With some young talent already occupying roles on their backend, he should find himself in the press box for the entirety of his stay. However, him suiting up for the club was an invaluable boost to his development, as well as confidence. He has taken some heat during his time in the Oilers system, but this should have shed some positive light for fans going forward.
It was a moment Canucks fans had been waiting for quite some time now, four years to be more specific. After falling behind on the depth charts since being drafted fifth overall in 2016, Juolevi surprised most and earned a bubble invite after a solid camp. Even further, he drew into the team’s roster on Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets. WIth Jordie Benn still at home, with his newborn baby, Juolevi was a clear choice, mainly based on his position as a left defender. Not to mention, the coaching staff saw it as a great opportunity to get a good look at the Finnish blueliner in game action.
He only skated 6:37 throughout the game, which is a good indication of his role heading in Game 1, but did not look out of place. Mind you, I would not say he stood out either, which can either be a negative or positive, you choose. He did, however, fire two shots on net and made a few smart outlets passes out of the zone. I am not sure if his outing was enough to warrant a starting spot in the play-in round, yet, his growth over this season is a positive step forward and perhaps we see a resurgence in his development. Regardless, I am holding steady on my second pairing upside for him.
If it weren't for an already deep defensive corps on the Island, I would say Dobson’s showing during their single exhibition would have granted him a spot on the starting roster. Unfortunately, it is deep, meaning he likely sits as an extra until an injury or a lack of play by another. However, after 12:24 minutes of play, the P.E.I. native impressed me. He managed a secondary assist, but it was his overall play that won me over. He plays a simple, yet very smart game and does not make many mistakes.
Overall, Dobson is one of my top defending prospects within the league and is poised to a top minute man on the Island in no time. What's the best part? It will likely be as early as next season.
I have been pushing Foudy’s name for quite some time now, but if his efforts in his one-game exhibition showed us anything, its that my efforts are more than justified. Skating on the team’s third line, if you can call it that, the former London Knight captain made an immediate impact. In a little over 12 minutes of icetime, he managed three hits, two shots on goal, and a beautiful primary assist for the game’s first goal. He did not receive any time on the man advantage as I initially thought he may, but I have a feeling that could change in the blink of an eye.
Head coach John Tortorella made it clear how pleased he was in regards to his game, announcing his definite role in the club's line-up for Game 1. At 20 years old, he already holds all intangibles you could ask for in a playoff match. He has it all – the shot, the vision, the work ethic, and the ability to become a very solid two-way player at the NHL level. Enjoy watching him run around the ice.
Once again, thank you for tuning in to this week's installment of The Journey. I hope you enjoy the first week of meaningful hockey in over four months.
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