The Journey takes a closer look at some prospect storylines moving forward as we enter the second month of the 2016-17 season.
Updating Toronto’s three- (four?) headed rookie monster
Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner have led the Maple Leafs offensively since game one. Last season, Toronto’s top scorer Nazem Kadri recorded just 45 points, and finishing tied for second on the team were Leo Komorov and Morgan Rielly with 36. All three of the Leafs star rookies are on pace to blow those numbers out of the water. Combined, the three forwards have fired a total of 107 shots on goal in 11 games, good for an average of 9.72 shots per game. The trio has scored 13 of Toronto’s 31 goals on the season, good for 42% of the teams scoring.
A less talked about rookie who has put together a good early season is Nikita Zaitsev. Playing nearly 22 minutes a night, Zaitsev has five points (all assists) and has added 20 blocked shots and 20 hits.
As the season goes on, the Leafs will likely move some of their veteran forwards and get even younger. Both Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen are averaging over a point per game at the AHL level, and look to be ready to jump a level into NHL roles.
2015 Draft Defensemen Breakout
Three defensemen were taken with the first eight picks at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, and all three are now playing regular minutes for their NHL clubs. Noah Hanifin (5th Overall), Ivan Provorov (7th Overall) and Zach Werenski (8th Overall) are the futures of their respective organizations on the blueline. To take it one step further, Brandon Carlo was taken 37th overall, and is already playing big minutes for the Boston Bruins.
Both Hanifin and Werenski rank first on their teams inpoints by a defenseman, and Provorov is in the Flyers blueline corps top three in assists, hits and blocked shots. Each is playing over 16 minutes a night and nearly two minutes per game with the man-advantage. Carlo has been a minutes munching force in 10 games for the B’s this year, playing nearly 23 minutes a night, and leading Boston with 27 blocked shots.
The next wave of defensemen from the 2015 draft to make an impact includes Thomas Chabot (OTT), Noah Juulsen (MTL), Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington (CGY), Travis Dermott (TOR) and Vince Dunn (STL), among others.
Despite being tabbed for a breakout rookie campaign, it’s been a tough start for Oliver Bjorkstrand. After starting the season with the Blue Jackets, the young Danish forward was sent down to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters after three games and zero points. His year hasn’t gone much better at the AHL level, as the offensively dynamic winger has posted just a goal and an assist in seven contests.
Milano started the season in the AHL after playing 54 games for the Monsters a year ago in his first professional season. He was recalled to Columbus on Friday but was not in the lineup for the teams 10-0 thumping of the Montreal Canadiens.
Both Milano and Bjorkstrand have NHL futures and will likely see their fair share of time in the lineup for Columbus this year. Coach John Tortorella currently only has one line clicking for the Blue Jackets, and the team could use a young star to rise up and take a bigger role.
It is rare that rookie goaltenders rise to the NHL level this early in the season other than in emergency call-up situations due to injury. However, after the success of rookies Matt Murray, Joonas Korpisalo, Louis Domingue, Mike Condon and Connor Hellebuyck a year ago, some NHL teams may be looking for goaltending help from within more often as the season goes along.
A decent guess for who could potentially benefit from this type of situation is Juuse Saros in Nashville. Pekka Rinne continues to show signs of age in between the pipes for the Predators, who have gotten off to a slow start so far in the 2016-17 season. Saros, who played 38 games for the Milwaukee Admirals a year ago, is off to a fantasic start in the AHL this season. He has allowed just nine goals in five games, to pair with a .943% save percentage.
Both Anthony Stolarz and Jean-Francois Berube could find themselves in more favorable situations if their clubs move veterans Steve Mason and Jaroslav Halak. Each has played nearly 100 games at the AHL level and could be ready to move up into an NHL backup job.
– 2016 second round picks Taylor Raddysh (TBL), Adam Mascherin (FLA) and Alex DeBrincat (CHI) are leading the way in the Ontario Hockey League points race.
I was a huge fan of Mascherin last season, and thought he was a steal going 38th to the Panthers. He drives offense, has high-level skill and is a high-volume shooter. Last season, Mascherin peppered the net with 258 shots in 65 games, and he’s picking up right where he left off this year with 72 shots in just 15 games.
DeBrincat and Raddysh have been a dynamic duo for Erie this season, with Raddysh acting as the play-maker and DeBrincat as the scorer. DeBrincat leads the OHL with 15 goals, and Raddysh sits first overall with 22 helpers.
– 2015 second round pick Filip Chlapik (OTT) is pacing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in points with 26 in 15 games for the Charlottetown Islanders. After a bit of a down season in 2015-16, Chlapik appears to be on his way to a career season.
– 2016 first round draft pick Sam Steel (ANA) looks to be in the midst of a breakout campaign for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats. The young center has tallied 14 goals and 14 assists in just 13 games on the season.
– Philadelphia goaltending prospect Carter Hart has been dynamite in the early season for the Everett Silvertips, leading all WHL goaltenders in goals against average at 1.89. He ranks in top three in the league in save percentage (.926%), wins (nine) and shutouts (one).
One last thing…..
I’ll just leave this here.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
- Ramblings: Updates on Mantha and Demko; Kravtsov to return; Christmas wish list - December 13
- Ramblings: #OskarStrong, Saturday Goalie Starts, Hall Trade Imminent?
- Looking Ahead: Holiday edition
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Analyzing rookies this year
- Daily Fantasy Saturday: Load Up On Habs
- The Journey: Projecting WJC Outcomes
- Saturday's NHL Picks: Penguin Parlay
- Ramblings: Kucherov, Barkov, Barrie Injured; Hall Continues to Wait; Duclair Stings Jackets (Dec 15)