The Journey: Prospect Storylines (February)

by Kevin LeBlanc on February 4, 2017
  • The Journey
  • The Journey: Prospect Storylines (February)

Pierre-Luc Dubois has been on fire since being traded in the QMJHL in December.

With 30 games left in the season, The Journey looks at who is heating up, some under-the-radar prospects, and implications from the trade deadline a month away.

Top Prospects Hitting Their Stride

Clayton Keller – Arizona Coyotes

Since returning from his injury, Keller has been on fire for Boston University. The super-talented forward is currently riding a 13-game point streak dating all the way back to November 4 before he was sidelined for seven of the Terriers’ games.

Since the World Juniors, Keller has played in eight games, racking up 11 points and taking over BU’s points lead with 26 in 18 games played on the season. He leads all freshmen in points-per-game at 1.44, and is averaging over four shots on goal per game. The 2016 first-round selection could be a one and done at BU, but if he does decide to stay for his sophomore season (and stays healthy), he will certainly be among the favorites for the Hobey Baker Award for the top player in college hockey.

Jack Roslovic – Winnipeg Jets

Roslovic is one of 12 first-round selections from 2015 who have yet to make their NHL debut. However, along with 21st overall pick Colin White and 23rd overall pick Brock Boeser, he is likely one of the next to make the jump. The 20-year-old played one season for Miami University before turning professional and has been a vital addition to the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose this year.

In 34 games for the Moose, Roslovic has posted nine goals and 16 assists, leading his team in scoring and good for 15th in the AHL among rookies. He has outpaced fellow 2015 first rounder Kyle Connor at this point in their professional careers and appears to be a little bit ahead of schedule in his development.  Winnipeg has a glutton of young forwards with more on the way, so it will be interesting how the pieces fall over the next 18 months.

Pierre-Luc Dubois – Columbus Blue Jackets

Both Dubois and Vancouver prospect Olli Juolevi have been a bit picked apart for their play this year. Neither had a great World Juniors and both have lacked the breakout season in junior that many expected.

However, since mid-December and a trade from Cape Breton to Blainville-Boisbriand, Dubois appears to be regaining his 2015-16 form. Prior to the trade, the third overall pick from June was under a point-per-game with Cape Breton putting up just 18 points in 20 games, a far cry from the 99 points in 62 games he had for the Screaming Eagles a year ago. Since being moved, he has 16 points in ten games, much closer to his point-per-game trend of a year ago. A big thing to remember with Dubois is how young and raw he actually is. He turned 18 on the day of the draft a year ago and is one of just seven first-round picks in the 2016 draft that had June 1998 birthdays or later. There’s still plenty of time for him to reach his full potential.

Jake Bean – Carolina Hurricanes

By no fault of his own, Bean had a rough start to his post-draft season. In his third game of the year, Carolina’s first-round selection from a season ago was the victim of a slash that broke his finger and caused him to miss seven weeks of play, which nearly put his status for Canada’s World Junior team in jeopardy.

In his 18 games since returning from injury, Bean has 25 points and has failed to make the scoresheet in just four times. This weekend, the offensive-minded blueliner had back-to-back four-point games including a hat trick against Regina, the Western Hockey League’s top team. Last season, Bean scored at a rate of .94 points-per-game, a mark that raised his draft stock to mid-first round levels. This season, he is pacing at 1.29 points-per-game. Obviously he has a limited sample size playing just 21 games, but the numbers are encouraging for the Hurricanes and fantasy owners alike.

Under-the-Radar Performers

Devin Shore – Dallas Stars

In a season of brutal injury luck for the Stars, Shore has been a steadying force within the team’s forward group. He is one of just two Dallas forwards, the other being Tyler Seguin, who have played in all 52 of the Stars’ games this season. In those 52 games, Shore has been a consistent secondary scorer with 22 points, good for ninth among rookie scorers and eighth on the Stars in points per game.

Shore has played up and down the lineup at both wing and center, and is averaging nearly two minutes per game with the man advantage. With Jason Spezza out for what appears to be weeks rather than days after reports on Friday, Shore could take on a bigger role yet again. Currently, he has been going through his hottest stretch of the season since the end of October with six points in his last ten.

Brayden Point – Tampa Bay Lightning

Point hasn’t been talked about too much with the crop of rookies that are in the NHL this season, but he has very quietly put up a solid rookie campaign. The former Moose Jaw Warrior has 17 points in 38 games for the Lightning, including five points in his last six games.

The former third-round pick missed nearly the entire month of January, but has played recently in Tampa’s middle six playing nearly 15 minutes per night overall and two minutes per game with the man advantage. Point is scoring at nearly a .50 point-per-game rate, and seven of his 17 points have come on the power play, a number that is good for a tie for eighth among rookies.

Miscellaneous Storylines

Keep an eye out for what happens with Charlie McAvoy at the end of his college hockey season. BU has a month left of regular season play before the NCAA Tournament begins, but barring a long run in the tournament, McAvoy could be a factor on the Bruins for the last few weeks of the season. There are many out there who believe that he could be good enough to slot right in to Boston’s lineup once the Terriers’ season has ended.

Now that St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock has been fired, it could be easier for some of the Blues’ youngsters to find their way into the lineup and into better roles. With any coaching change there is turnover, and Mike Yeo could be willing to take a chance on some young players in new roles. Hopefully it will jumpstart Robby Fabbri, who has just three points in his last 12 games.

How will Arizona look following the deadline? There is a good chance that Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Michael Stone all get moved, which could leave spots for some of the Coyotes’ prospects in the desert to take on larger roles for the rest of the season as the team continues to build for the future. Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Anthony DeAngelo and Brendan Perlini should continue to get trial runs as NHL players.

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