The prospect world is the epitome of the bubble metaphor that we use so regularly to describe the group of players who are on the brink of finding homes in the NHL. The thin sphere barrier that encapsulates the prospect world is delicate and porous. For that reason, it’s necessary to narrow our parameters and define the scope of a true bubble prospect as it pertains to The Journey’s edition of Bubble Keeper Week.
I find the best way to hone in on these parameters is by process of elimination or addition by subtraction.
First, who are the prospects who, by 2019 standards, are tough to fairly consider “bubble players”? My list includes the following:
- Any would-be prospects who have already partially burst through the metaphorical membrane and into the NHL (>50 NHL games played)
- 2018 and 2019 first round picks – For now, at least, there is far too much optimism surrounding this group of players to be able to see them on the inside of the bubble… this summer, they all get a pass.
- Any players inside Dobber’s current Top 100 Forward prospects, or top 25 Defense Prospects – by Dobber’s and by association, our standards, these players are well on their way to success, there are too few questions, and too many positives surrounding their files to consider them fringey.
Second, who are the prospects who we believe have regressed so close to the nucleus of the bubble, that they really aren't worth attempting to sell for fantasy purposes… here’s my criteria for that list:
- Players signed to ELC’s three or more years ago who haven’t played more than 50 games in the NHL – the ship has sailed my friends, you had your chance and for my money, it’s not coming back.
- Players who are 25+-years old – I have a hard time considering this group of players “prospects”, if they’re bubble players, they’ve missed The Journey’s scope.
Now that we’re on the same page, here are the players I believe are the most interesting “Bubble” prospects
Morgan Geekie, Carolina Hurricanes
One-word Summary: Climbing
The sheer depth of the Carolina Hurricanes pipeline has done a great job of keeping some diamonds hidden in the rough over the years. The 2019 AHL champion Charlotte Checkers have been home to those prospects and over the last year there have been multiple standouts. The Checkers’ playoff run presented a platform for one prospect in particular to rise amongst the cream of the organizations’ crop.
Geekie wasted no time creating his own traction in the AHL after his final year competing in the WHL. The rookie pro is skilled and has already demonstrated that the speed of his mind is adaptable to the next level. As mentioned, his playoff campaign in particular put the former third-round draft-pick squarely on shallower fantasy radars – eight goals and ten assists was good for second in team scoring, trailing only playoff MVP 25-year-old Andrew Poturalski.
Here’s my GIF analogy for Geekie – he still remains below the surface but seems to be rising quite rapidly.
Chad Krys, Chicago Blackhawks
One-word Summary: Heir
If you think Stan Bowman didn’t have a plan for the Blackhawks’ future on the blueline when he traded Henri Jokiharju to the Sabres in exchange for Alex Nylander, you’d be quite mistaken. While Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell remain shining beacons of hope on the right side, the hole that Duncan Keith will eventually leave on the left could be earmarked for the former BU Terrier Krys.
The 5-11 American has exceptional footwork on his heels when defending and uses his stick well for a smaller defender – his snub from the USA World Junior team last Christmas was questionable to say the least. He plays a strong 200-foot game but needs to unequivocally eliminate any doubt that he can be a better pro than his internal competition, despite his slight lack of size and strength.
Krys’ bubble GIF analogy – He’s not significantly rising or falling, but things seem to be getting a bit more crowded in the Windy City.
Tyler Steenbergen, Arizona Coyotes
One-word Summary: Has-been
The Cinderella Story from the 2017-18 WHL campaign was the powerhouse Swift Current Broncos lead by Tyler Steenbergen and his linemates Alexi Heponiemi and Glenn Gawdin. After making his World Junior debut with Team Canada, and a Memorial Cup appearance, the had-been 50-goal scorer Steenbergen graduated to the AHL.
His professional career thus far, however, has been relatively disappointing. After being classified as an up-and-coming sniper, the 21-year-old buried just nine goals in 63 AHL contests, with his second half in particular coming up disappointing. If there’s one reason to hold out hope for Steenbergen to turn things around, it was his strong performance at the Coyotes’ recent development camp.
My bubble analogy GIF for Tyler Steenbergen as he heads into his second year as a pro…
Nicolas Hague, Vegas Golden Knights
One-word Summary: Security
The same sentiment that allowed The Chicago Blackhawks to move on from Henri Jokiharju applies even more directly to the Vegas Golden Knights and their sale of Erik Brannstrom. When the Knights acquired Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators, it was the security that Hague provided that allowed Brannstrom to become narrowly expendable.
Hague, who is a former OHL defenseman of the year, possesses a lethal point shot and a veteran-like composure. The Knights’ pipeline has become depleted since kicking off their inaugural season; however, players and savvy draft selections like Hague are the reason the team will be able to stay afloat despite moving on from some of their more recognized prospects.
Last but not least, Hague’s bubble GIF analogy:
Thanks for tuning into the Bubble Keeper Week edition of the Journey.
Follow me on Twitter @olaf1393
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