The Journey: Prospect Storylines to Watch in 2017-18 – Part Two

by Kevin LeBlanc on September 23, 2017
  • The Journey
  • The Journey: Prospect Storylines to Watch in 2017-18 – Part Two


The Journey digs into possible prospect storylines heading into training camps and the start of the 2017-18 season.

The most recent editions of The Journey can be found here


1. What does a potential Riley Sheahan for Derrick Pouliot mean for both teams?

This deal was teased by Elliotte Friedman in the now “31 Thoughts” column earlier this week. Sheahan at this point wouldn't be considered a "prospect" by our standards but he is a young player who heading into his fourth professional season who has not yet broken out for a 40+ point campaign. Pouliot is very much still a prospect, and one who seems to be fading from an opportunity in Pittsburgh.

Needless to say, a change of scenery could do good things for both players. Detroit's motivation appears to be financial, as moving Sheahan allows the team more room against the cap needed to sign Andreas Athanasiou. Pouliot, who was drafted eighth overall in 2012 had battled inconsistency for the Pens, never sticking in what has been a revolving door of bottom pair defensemen since his draft year in Pittsburgh. For the Pens, Sheahan would provide good center depth for a team who lost Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen this offseason. Currently, Pittsburgh's third line center is Jay McClement, who likely doesn't belong higher in the lineup then a NHL fourth line at this point in his career. What do you think? Could Pouliot show anything for Detroit is this deal happens? Or is he likely to remain a fringe AHL-NHL player?


2. Which prospects may have a dip in production this season?

The big ones off the top of my head are both in the Metro Division, and they would be Jake Guentzel and Brady Skjei. Not to say that either won't be viable fantasy assets this season, but both had some unsustainable shooting percentage numbers a year ago.

Guentzel was good for his 40-game regular season stint, and even better in the playoffs where he seemed to score big goal after big goal. His 16-goal regular season was aided by just one power play marker, but was padded by an outrageous 19.8% shooting percentage. Continuing at his rookie pace over 82 games would have been a 68-point season with 33 goals. I don't see him being far off those numbers, but think it settles in more around 25 goals and 58-60 points. 

Skjei was terrific in his first full season for the Rangers, posting a near 40-point season, with most of that damage coming at even strength. In fact, he led all defensemen in 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage at nearly 11%. Skjei truly maximized his points potential each time he stepped on the ice. It's unlikely that he will have the same Impact at even strength two years in a row. Also, standing in his way from a points perspective is the Rangers offseason signing of Kevin Shattenkirk who is sure to get the lion’s share of power play ice time.


3. Will Jake Virtanen find a spot with Canucks this fall?

The smart money is on the idea that the 2014 sixth overall pick will be back in the AHL when camp breaks and, honestly, it's the best place for him at this point. Virtanen is still just 21 years old, and his development is better served playing big minutes in the minors rather than toiling away in a fourth line role in the NHL playing 10 minutes per night.

The Canucks top-nine is largely set after the late offseason signing of Thomas Vanek. As far as prospects go, Brock Boeser will be the prospect that fits into Vancouver’s top-nine and on to one of their two power play units this fall. His skill set is certainly the more offensively dynamic of the two. Virtanen posted just 19 points in 65 games in Utica a season ago, which was his first full season at the minor league level. A season of regular top-six minutes with power play opportunity in the AHL should see him closer to 20 goals and 40-50 points. He will need to start producing these sorts of numbers, or risk being passed on the depth chart and ticketed for a grinding role at the NHL level moving forward. He’s never going to be a scoring leader, but if he can become a 50-point player who can play his physical game night in and night out, he will be a valuable asset for the Canucks.


4. Which St. Louis prospect defenseman is the closest?

Jordan Schmaltz? Jake Walman? Vince Dunn? The Blues have a few options on their blueline this season to fill their sixth defense spot, and for me Walman is the one who has the leg up. Both Schmaltz and Dunn have more AHL service time then the former Providence College star, but for the role that the team is looking to fill, Walman brings more to the table in terms of overall skill level and power play ability. However, Jay Bouwmeester’s fractured ankle could mean two of the three could start the season in the Blues defensive corps. Bouwmeester’s timetable is likely around a month, which could mean a couple weeks’ worth of call ups to replace the veteran’s spot in the lineup. Schmaltz is the only of the three who has played NHL minutes at this point after a nine-game trial a year ago, so he could be one to get the call.

Long-term for fantasy, I would rank the three options Walman, Dunn and Schmaltz. Walman has the highest ceiling, and could get power play time with the second unit behind Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko as early as this season. Dunn put up a terrific offensive season in the AHL, piling up 45 points in his first 72 professional games. He also has a bit of a mean streak, which should help those who prefer multi-category defensemen to fill out their roster. Schmaltz is a right shot, where Walman and Dunn both shoot left, which will help his ability to fill in moving forward this season in injury situations. His points-per-game rate in 113 games at the AHL level is admirable, posting a point in over half the games he plays. All three are likely to be valuable pieces for the Blues moving forward.


5. Nico or Nolan?

We heard the debate all last year of who would be drafted first overall, and now that the top two selections have had some time in their organizations and we have seen the way the New Jersey and Philadelphia’s rosters are shaking out, who is the better fantasy play for this season?

For a few reasons, I would take Hischier. First and foremost, the breakout of the two rosters. New Jersey has far less talent then Philadelphia does, allowing the Swiss forward ample opportunity to play in favorable deployment situations. The Devils are offensively starved, and the will likely rely on their young dynamo to help bring them some spark, right from the start of the 2017-18 season. Even if his line mates aren’t as talented, Hischier is a driver of offense, and the fact that he’ll be leaned on in man advantage situations make him a solid points-only league play this year.

Organizationally, Patrick found a great landing spot in Philadelphia on draft day, but the Flyers strength down the middle and on the power play cap a bit what he may do in his rookie season. The good thing is that Sean Couturier will likely continue to get a bunch of defensive zone starts, which opens Patrick to some more favorable minutes. The Flyers have flirted with moving Claude Giroux to the wing a bit in camp, but that was likely more of a preseason experiment if for some reason they need him there down the road. I’d say a 50-point season for Patrick would be in line, whereas Hischier could be over 60 if his cards fall right.


Be on the lookout for Part Three of this series next week with five more fresh prospect storylines heading into the 2017-18 season!


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


  • MarkRM16

    Look at Guentzel’s career numbers – he’s always had a high shooting %. It’s likely to drop over the course of a whole season, but perhaps not as much as you’d think.

    Is the Flyers’ offense better than NJ’s this year? That’s debatable given the decline of Giroux and Voracek and the loss of playoff supremo Schenn, replaced by Lehtera – a 3rd liner at best. If he can’t put up good numbers centering Tarasenko, what’s his upside in Philadelphia? 40 points? Remember that the Flyers’ 5-on-5 scoring was not good – it was their powerplay that they relied on for scoring. The Flyers only had 14 more goals at 5-on-5 than the Devils.
    Meanwhile, the Devils acquired Johansson, who will up their scoring at ES and on the PP, and then have Hischier entering the lineup as well.
    i’m not discounting the potential impact of Patrick, but I’m not confident that he’ll play 60+ games given his fragility. What NJ does lack is a legit D they can deploy on the PP like Ghost or Provorov, so that may make it a wash. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flyers and Devils end up with similar goals for this year.

  • Mathieu

    Thanks Kevin. Great insight, as usual.