The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen

by Kevin LeBlanc on February 18, 2017
  • The Journey
  • The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen

The Journey examines Dobber’s Top 50 Prospect Defensemen list, and assesses the fast risers in the February rankings. Since there are not many changes among the Top 50 this month, we will throw in some bonus prospect defensemen storylines heading towards the trade deadline.

Esa Lindell – Dallas Stars – Up to 11th Overall from 21st Overall

Although the Dallas season has not been what they would have hoped for, the Stars have seen some development from their 22-year-old rearguard taken in the third round of the 2012 draft.

Lindell played in four games a season ago, but did not record his first NHL point until November 3 of this season. Currently he has nine points (5G, 4A) in 50 games, playing just over 21 minutes per night. He has played most of his shifts alongside John Klingberg where 66% of his production has come from. He also has been a help to multi-category owners in leagues that track shots on goal, blocked shots and hits, averaging over one each per game. Lindell’s time on ice is second among Stars defensemen behind only Klingberg, and he looks to have a leg up on some of the other young Dallas blueliners like Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth. Julius Honka is waiting in the wings, but it appears Lindell is in the Dallas top-four to stay.

Brandon Carlo – Boston Bruins – Up to 26th Overall from 32nd Overall

Carlo makes his way onto this list for the second time this season as he has risen from a prospect with size and tools, to a bonafide NHL player as a 20 year-old.

He is one of only two Bruins defensemen who have played in all of Boston’s 58 games this season; the other being his most frequent blueline partner, Zdeno Chara. Carlo currently ranks third among Bruins’ defensemen in scoring with 13 points (4G, 9A), all of which have come at even strength. The second rounder from 2015 also ranks third among Boston defensemen in shots on goal (69) and blocked shots (80), and is fourth in hits (61). There have been a few rookie lapses of play and inconsistencies along the way, but Carlo should remain with the B’s for the future as he grows as a rearguard. There have been some talks of team’s sniffing around for Carlo as a price for Boston to upgrade their forward depth, but as of now, the Bruins don’t appear willing to pay that bounty.

Vince Dunn – St. Louis Blues – Up to 42nd from 89th Overall

Dunn, a volume point producer from the back-end in junior for the Niagara IceDogs, has proven that his dynamic offensive play can carry over to the professional ranks in his first season in the American Hockey League for the Chicago Wolves.  

In 48 games for the Blues AHL affiliate in Chicago, Dunn is tied for 14th among all defensemen, and fourth among rookie defensemen in AHL scoring with 27 points (7G, 20A). In addition to his scoring, Dunn leads the Wolves in shots on goal (107) and ranks second in penalty minutes (49) and plus-minus (plus-12). One benefit that Dunn has going for him in the future in St. Louis is that he is a left shot. All three of the top Blues’ defensemen (Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko) are all right shots. Jay Bouwmeester is the top Blues’ defenseman who is a left shot, and at age 34, his career is winding down. St. Louis has a good crop of blueliners coming down the pipeline in Dunn, Jordan Schmaltz and Jake Walman, who will go a long way to filling out a defense corps that can use an infusion of young talent.

Prospect Defensemen Storylines

Anaheim have dressed 11 defensemen this season, including prospects Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour. Theodore has played well in spurts for the Ducks, but has been shuttled back and forth between the AHL and the NHL 16 times since 2014. Montour, who has been nearly a point-per-game player over his last 100 AHL games, is currently in his second tour of duty in Anaheim this season. The Ducks could use scoring depth as they look towards making a run in the playoffs. Could there be a chance one of their blue-chippers on the back end gets moved in a potential package for a forward?

Will Ryan Murphy or Derrick Pouliot wind up in a new organization? Murphy and Pouliot are similar cases. Drafted a year apart (Murphy in 2011, Pouliot in 2012) in the top half of the first round, both defensemen have yet to blossom at the NHL level. Murphy has played in 135 games in Carolina to Pouliot’s 63 in Pittsburgh, and both have similar point-per-game rates (Murphy .27, Pouliot .22). With the growth of Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin on the Canes’ blueline and with Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown and Jake Bean coming down the pipeline, this year was a big year for Murphy to show he belonged. However, he has spent most the year in the press box, in a musical chairs game with Klas Dahlbeck and Matt Tennyson for Carolina’s sixth defenseman role. Pouliot may get a longer look in Pittsburgh with Olli Maatta out over a month and Justin Schultz on the shelf with a concussion, but I would assume the Pens would prefer to fill those roles with vets if possible. With the deadline looming, does either player find a new NHL home come March?

Where will Timothy Liljegren land in June? Before the season, it was Nolan Patrick and Liljegren as the two players named at the top of the 2017 draft board. Talk about a bad luck year. Being left off the U20’s roster for Sweden, an uncertain club season that has seen him play in three different levels, and injury issues have caused the defenseman to slide. He still has many coveted tools, and will likely be the first defenseman selected in 2017, but it is a storyline worth watching in June.

Give Kevin a follow at @kleblanchockey for prospect talk and happenings.