The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen December 2018

by Brayden Olafson on December 22, 2018
  • The Journey
  • The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen December 2018

We’re back with yet another edition of The Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen!

This week, we’re looking at three guys who are each at different stages of their career and present a unique opportunity for keeper league or dynasty fantasy owners. My personal belief is that of the three of these players, there is likely a fit for your squad, regardless of your team’s direction, and I’ll allude to those details with each player. While each player could certainly have a positive impact on any prospect group, there are certain teams that each player might be a better fit for.

Lawrence Pilut, Buffalo Sabres | OCT 2018 – 93 | NOV 2018 – 62 (+31) | NOW – 37 (+25)

Fantrax: 14% Owned | +0.2%

If you’re already following most or some of the DobberProspects crew on Twitter, then there’s probably not many good reasons for you not to have heard the name Lawrence Pilut over the past month or so. The free-agent signing has become a home run for Jason Botterill on the prospect front in creating depth by adding to the cream of the crop. The 22-year-old defenseman was claimed by the Sabres after a monstrous 38-point campaign in the Swedish Hockey League with HV71. He immediately began to make an impact in North America with the Buffalo AHL affiliate in Rochester by registering points at a rate exceeding one per game (22 points in 16 games). After a two-month stint of showing that he was more than capable of driving offense from the back end in Rochester, Pilut was finally recalled to Buffalo which has proven to be a springboard in Dobber’s rankings.

Although Pilut has now been designated to Buffalo’s injured reserve, where he’ll remain until December 22, the Swede stands an excellent chance of remaining with the Sabres into 2019. Although now only six games into his NHL career, Pilut now sits fourth in Buffalo defenders in terms of points per 60, at a rate of 1.10. Since his recall on November 21, he’s been paired primarily with like-minded fellow-Scandinavian Rasmus Ristolainen at five-on-five, and received a small slice of the man-advantage pie.

Even as a late-bloomer, Pilut is showing excellent potential as a productive defenseman in the NHL. If Pilut is available in your dynasty or keeper league, he’s absolutely worth considering adding to your roster. His current status is such that he may not fit into an active roster immediately, however, would be a worthy claim that will allow you to sit back and enjoy watching his stock continue to rise.

Pilut’s status as a prospect would make him an appropriate add for a team who is either contending now or expecting to in the near future. While you could activate him as a depth contributor in the short term, his ceiling might not be as far out as some of the other players. He could also become an excellent trade chip once his NHL production gets rolling.

Nicolas Hague, Vegas Golden Knights | OCT 2018 – 59 | NOV 2018 – 58 (+1) | NOW – 43 (+15)

Fantrax: 19% Owned | +/-0%

50% of the Chicago Wolves dynamic rookie duo is on the up-trend after a five-game point streak that has the Vegas affiliate gaining ground in the AHL’s Central Division.

After a brief introduction to the pro level at the end of last season, Nic Hague has been riding the momentum into a productive rookie campaign. The point-per-game OHL defenseman hasn’t missed a step in his transition to the AHL, where both he and Erik Brannstrom lead the young productive blueline. While Brannstrom leads the Wolves back-end in terms of overall points, Hague’s cannon has catapulted him to the league lead for rookie goals from the back-end. In fact, he only trails Zach Redmond and Matt Donovan for the overall league lead among defensemen.

While the Knights seem to have their top-four locked up until the 2022 slate, Hague is making an early statement that he’ll be prepared to steal one of those spots well in advance. Erik Brannstrom also certainly sits ahead of Hague on the Vegas depth chart, however, the two both appear to be destined for great NHL careers. The emergence of such a strong, young back end in Chicago will certainly provide the Golden Knights with some extra chips when it comes to the Seattle expansion draft. While Vegas will not be susceptible to the selections, they could conceivably leverage their depth to gain assets. While the team’s contract situation may indicate a four year ETA for Hague, in all likelihood, he appears to be on track to force himself into an NHL lineup much sooner.

Hague’s status as a prospect would make him an appropriate add for a team who is hoping to contend in 2-3 years. While his NHL production will not come this season or next, Hague could possibly have the highest ceiling of the three players listed. He’s certainly a higher risk for what could be a higher reward in the future.

Oliver Kylington, Calgary Flames | OCT 2018 – 36 | NOV 2018 – 37 (-1) | NOW – 25 (+12)

Fantrax: 12% Owned | +/-0%

The Flames’ former fifth-round draft-pick is finally back to riding a positive flow after a couple of slow offensive years in the AHL. The Swedish blueliner had been on the rise shortly after his draft thanks to a productive World Junior tournament in 2017 where he helped team Sweden to a first-place finish in Group A. While Kylington continued to quietly improve his game in Stockton following the tournament, he as well as other Flames defensive prospects were overshadowed by Calgary’s activity in the trade market and free-agency. Now in his fourth North American campaign, Kylington got off to a roaring start with the Heat before being recalled to play in his second-ever NHL contest.

As a Flame, Kylington has been paired with a familiar face from Stockton in Rasmus Andersson. The two have both proven to be a reliable rookie duo despite their consistently low deployment. On a blueline that features several elite names including Norris dark-horse Mark Giordano, what else would you expect though? Both rookies will continue to make their case as NHL defenseman while the opportunity remains. Unfortunately for them though, at some point, both Juuso Valimaki and Michael Stone will come off of the IR and be vying for their spots back in the Flames top-six. In any case, this audition is a critical opportunity for Kylington whose positive impression thus far could motivate the Flames to make room for him in the near future. Because he remains waiver-exempt until what could become the fall of 2020, the Flames won’t be forced to make any brash decisions regarding his future.  With the impending Seattle expansion draft though, both Kylington and Andersson could provide the Flames with superior flexibility when it comes to managing their protections.

Kylington’s status as a prospect would make him an appropriate add for a team hoping to add immediate depth to their roster and contend in the next 2-3 years. While Kylington could contribute modestly in the short term, his ceiling is likely 2-3 years out. There is a fair amount of risk surrounding his ceiling, but his floor is quite certain.

As always, thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Journey. If you have personal thoughts on the players that I discussed today or want to school me on some of your thoughts, I welcome the discussion on Twitter @olaf1393.

Have a safe Merry Christmas, everyone!