The Journey: Recent Rising Prospects

by Brad Phillips on November 18, 2017

On tap for this week’s Journey I’ll be turning to Dobber’s list of forward prospect ranking to have a look at the biggest movers and shakers. I covered the biggest one, Eeli Tolvanen, a couple of weeks ago so I won’t get into him again.


Alex Iafallo – 130 up from 217

During his draft year, Iafallo posted a fairly underwhelming 32 points in 58 games playing for the Fargo Force of the USHL. Numbers like that usually won’t turn any heads and as a result he went undrafted. He headed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth and produced solid if unspectacular offensive totals in his freshman through junior season; 22, 25 and 23. But Iafallo went off in his senior year to the tune of 51 points, besting his next closest teammate by 14 and placed him in a tie for 12th in the NCAA, leading his Bulldogs to a NCHC championship. This caught the eye of the L.A. Kings who locked him to an entry-level deal. Iafallo managed to skip any type of AHL apprenticeship and jumped straight to the NHL. He’s played in every game for the Pacific Division leading Kings and has posted a respectable seven points in 18 games. His usage thus far has been encouraging from a fantasy perspective as he’s being featured in a middle-six role and has been deployed heavily in the offensive zone with some power-play time to boot. With Jeff Carter out for a while this could be a chance for Iafallo to really show what he can do.


Jordan Kyrou – 113 up from 193

The St. Louis prospect has been on fire pretty much since the CHL top prospects game in his draft year where he was a standout. In his draft+1 OHL season Kyrou lit up the OHL with 94 points in 66 games and has been even better in 2017-18. 18 games into the season he sits alone on top of the leaderboard with 42 points on the back of a league leading 25 assists and 2.33 points per game. He’s currently on pace for 158 points which would give him the fourth best OHL season ever. Kyrou is almost guaranteed to not hit this number of course as he’s pretty much a lock for Canada’s World Junior team and has had his name brought up frequently in Olympic team discussions. His combination of speed and skill would play very well on the big international ice. As evidenced by his spot in this month’s rankings, Kyrou is rocketing up the prospect charts.


Anton Slepyshev – 110 up from 175

After playing half the games last season, it appears as though Anton Slepyshev has carved out a slightly bigger role for himself in 2017-18 playing in 10 of the team’s first 15 games. He was largely ineffective failing to register a point in his first eight game before posting points in back-to-back games, one assist and one goal. However after game number 10 he found himself on IR with a groin injury. Prior to his injury Slepyshev’s most frequent line mates had been Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic with both of his points coming with this trio on the ice. It’s not a bad spot to land for the big Russian and his usage has been heavily tilted towards starting in the offensive zone. If this trend keeps up it and his line mates stay the same when he returns from injury, it could bode well for future long term success.


Kailer Yamamoto – 20 up from 70

Despite the early season struggles of the Edmonton Oilers, there was one bright spot in the emergence of 2017 first rounder Kailer Yamamoto. The undersized offensive wiz surprisingly cracked the opening night roster, relegating previous year’s first rounder Jesse Puljujarvi to the AHL, and more than held his own is his short stint by driving possession with a 59.6% CF%. On the scoresheet Yamamoto registered three assists in his first five games before being help pointless in the final four games with the Oilers. In the three games where he produced a point he was playing an average of 19 minutes and fired an average of over five shots per game. As well as he played, ultimately management decided against keeping him around for the full season which is probably best for his long-term development. Heading back to the Spokane Chiefs he hasn’t missed a beat. In his first two games back with the squad Yamamoto has a goal and three helpers. While it’s only two games, I wouldn’t be surprised if he maintained this two-point-per-game pace throughout the whole season.


C.J. Smith – 198 up from NR

The second undrafted free agent on the list, C.J. Smith entered college as a 19 year old and made an immediate impact by putting up 35 points in 39 games for UMass-Lowell. He followed that up with seasons of 39 in 40 games and 51 points in 41 games in his senior year. Like Iafallo, Smith led his team to the conference (Hockey East) championship and was named tournament MVP in the process. Recent winners of the Hockey East Tournament MVP include names like Atkinson, Gaudreau, Hellebuyck and Eichel. So, Smith is in some pretty good company in that respect. Signed by the Buffalo Sabres, he’s managed to find the transition from college hockey to the professional ranks quite smooth in the early going. He suited up for two games with the Sabres at the end of 2016-17 and found the scoresheet with an assist and currently sits atop Rochester scorers with 11 points in 13 games. If you’ve has Smith on your watch list and he’s currently a free agent in your league, now might be the time to finally pull the trigger and pick him up.


That’s it that’s all folks. Be sure to come back next week for more Journey goodness. And give me a follow on Twitter at @BradHPhillips!