The Journey takes a closer look at Dobber’s Top Forward and Defenseman Prospect lists for September.
Nick Schmaltz – Chicago Blackhawks – Up to 32nd Overall from 51st Overall
There were big expectations at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City for a dynamic first line of Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat and Tyler Motte. However, Schmaltz being hurt in Chicago’s first game put a damper on those expectations as the forward missed the rest of the tournament with a minor injury.
If Schmaltz is held out of any days of training camp it could really hurt his chances of starting the season on the Blackhawks roster, or even better, alongside Jonathan Toews. With Marian Hossa slowing down quickly, Chicago will need to find a dynamic player to play alongside their top center. Schmaltz fits the bill in terms of offensive ability. If the former North Dakota star does miss time, it opens up an opportunity for Tyler Motte to fill the void.
Both could likely use a year worth of seasoning at the American Hockey League level, but with the Blackhawks in need of strong wing play, they may not get that chance.
Frank Vatrano – Boston Bruins – Up to 44th Overall from 57th Overall
Vatrano shared the Red Garrett Memorial Award for the AHL’s Rookie of the Year with Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen in 2015-16, compiling 55 points in just 36 games. His NHL stint of 39 games was not quite as successful on the score sheet with eight goals and 11 points, but he proved that he could produce despite receiving low ice-time. The Massachusetts-born forward had shot rates that were through the roof last season, averaging over two and a half shots per game. If he can raise his shooting percentage, he could be in line for a goal jump.
Complicating things is Boston’s signing of David Backes in the off-season. Backes lining up as the third center bumps Ryan Spooner to a top-six winger position, and pushes Vatrano farther down the lineup. At this point, he’s looking like he will be pigeon-holed on the team’s third line, and could need power-play time to have the fantasy relevant breakout campaign that owners are hoping for.
Nicolas Roy – Carolina Hurricanes – Up to 109th Overall from 126th Overall
Fresh off winning the NHL Prospects Tournament with his fellow Canes prospects, Roy sets his sights on NHL training camp and a Carolina roster spot in the not-so-distant future.
The 2015 fourth-round selection piled up four assists in as many games while playing on the Canes Traverse City team and showcased a wide array of offensive ability both on the rush and in the attacking zone. In the 2015-16 season, Roy finished as a top-ten QMJHL scorer, leading the league with 48 goals. Depending how many games for Chicoutimi he misses due to Canes camp, he could challenge for the scoring title in the Q.
Given his frame (6’4”, 215) and his acumen in the face-off circle, Roy could rise quickly through the Canes minor league ranks once he turns professional.
Deven Sideroff – Anaheim Ducks – Up to 110th Overall from 144th Overall
Anaheim selected Sideroff with their third round pick in the 2015 draft from the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. His 2015-16 season was a success with a career high in goals (19), assists (40) and points (59). He will continue his development with the Blazers this season, and should be one of the team’s offensive leaders.
Sideroff is a playmaker by trade, and tends to control the game through puck possession. Although he has a good release and accurate shot, he tends to defer to teammates, preferring to set them up for scoring opportunities. Sideroff is a prospect that is an intriguing depth option for the Ducks down the road.
Thomas Novak – Nashville Predators – Up to 168th Overall from 218th Overall
Novak will be one of the most relied upon players for the University of Minnesota this fall. In his freshman season, the Nashville third-round pick from 2015 posted 27 points in 37 games, and finished second on the team with 21 assists. With only three points in his first nine games, he was nearly a point-per-game player over his final 28 games.
Minnesota was a fairly young team last season with only five seniors, and will have most of their players returning for 2016-17. Novak will take on added responsibility and should be one of the team’s top scorers. He relies upon his skating and excellent playmaking ability to create opportunities in the offensive zone, and projects as a middle-six forward at the NHL level.
Julius Honka – Dallas Stars – Up to 6th Overall from 8th Overall
Ok, so a two-spot jump in Dobber’s rankings isn’t exactly flying up the list, but it’s significant given the other players he moved past in the top ten. Dallas’s trade of Alex Goligoski was nullified a bit by their signing of Dan Hamhuis, in terms of a landing spot this season for Honka, but the Stars won’t be able to keep him off the NHL roster for long.
The offensive-minded Finn has now played nearly 150 AHL games, despite being just 20 years old. His 44 points in 73 games last season were good for sixth among all AHL blueliners, proving that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL. Likely, Honka will start the season again in the AHL given the Stars logjam on defense, but he could be a player who makes his NHL debut in 2016-17. A potential top-four of John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns and Honka is the future of the Stars blueline.
Dante Fabbro – Nashville Predators – Up to 49th Overall from 56th Overall
Fabbro, fresh off a dynamite year for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, joins an incredible incoming Boston University class with Clayton Keller, Keiffer Bellows, Chad Krys and Jake Oettinger this fall.
The 17th overall selection of the Nashville Predators was drafted by an organization that will allow him to develop at his own pace. Fabbro is in a great situation at BU to grow as a player and projects as a two-way, top four defenseman at the NHL level. Keep an eye on his development during his freshman season.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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