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Preds Prospects Report: October

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The start of the 2019-20 season has been a mixed bag of prospects’ success.

Violet Turtle Photography

While Nashville’s season may still be young, several of the organization’s prospects are deep into their 2019-20 campaigns. The monthly prospects report will remain a regular feature of the coverage I provide here at On The Forecheck. But I do want to expand these posts this season - here’s how:

  • Continued notes on various prospects in the pipeline accompanied by video breakdowns
  • Analysis on advanced metrics derived from my tracking project aided by forthcoming data visualizations (to explore my weekly prospect charts - courtesy of Bryan - click here)
  • Various thoughts on prospects around the league and the upcoming NHL Entry Draft
  • Links to what I’ve been reading the past month in the prospects sphere

I hope to see this column grow to be more comprehensive as the season rolls on. For now, enjoy some notes on the past month.

October


1... Kicking things off in Russia, I would be remiss not to touch on the season Konstantin Volkov is having. The 2016 sixth-round draft pick had his 2018-19 season written off, starting just eight total games due to injury and being traded to his current club, Yugra.

The Mammoth sit third in the entire VHL (the second-tier Russian league), having lost just five of their 24 games. Volkov has started 15 of those, claiming 11 wins (including a 67.7% quality start rate) and posts a 0.917 save percentage.

His -2.728 goals-saved above average rate is largely due to the inflated numbers of his peers given small sample sizes.

2... Another name that has maybe been lost in the shuffle to start the year is Vladislav Yeryomenko. Before the season began, I wrote about Yeryomenko’s curious decision to head to the KHL and how injury impeding ice time through the first half dozen games of the season was not an ideal start for a prospect looking for an entry-level contract.

But, since returning, Yeryomenko has been steady, posting five points in 17 games (including his first professional goal seen above) for a struggling Dinamo team (six wins in 24 games). He’s been all right defensively, is playing against top competition with veteran Marc-Andre Gragnani, and averages 20:15 of ice time each contest.

Some more details have come to light about Yeryomenko’s decision to leave the WHL and Nashville’s involvement in the move; I’ll detail those next week in a more extensive post.

3... Before the season began, I tabbed Isak Walther as a potential breakout candidate in the pipeline this season. He dominated the J18 level in Sweden and given his stature and offensive prowess, I anticipated a similarly impressive campaign. I’ll be the first to say I’ve been dead wrong.

Walther has struggled with just three goals and five points in 16 games for Sodertalje SK this season. He’s shooting 2.63 shots per game and is tied for eighth on the team in scoring. But the situation around him won’t cultivate much success: Sodertalje sits dead last in the SuperElit with just two wins all season and a staggering minus-47 goal differential.

4... Earlier this week, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Czechia participated in a Four Nations tournament with rosters used partially to evaluate final lineups for the World Junior Championship next month. Concurrently, Russia is fielding a U20 roster for the Canada-Russia Series versus the Canadian Hockey League.

Some nagging injury complications kept defender Semyon Chistyakov off both rosters. Given his age, I think there’s only an outside chance he suits up for Russia in December at the WJC (although his Ufa teammate Shakir Mukhamadullin has made considerable noise as a 17-year old 2020 NHL Entry Draft prospect).

Despite this, Chistyakov has had an excellent start to his MHL season.

In 12 games, he’s scored three goals and nine points and carries an on-ice goals-for rate of 4.44 per 60 minutes. His 0.75 points per game rank him third among U20 MHL defenders who have played 10 or more games and first among U19 defenders league-wide.

5... Bored may not be the right word, but that’s how I imagine Milan Kloucek feels at times this year starting for Motor Ceske Budejovice. Loaned to the Chance Liga (second tier of hockey in Czechia) at the start of the season to get adequate starts, Kloucek has been dominant.

Among goalies with six or more starts, he has the second best save percentage (0.938) and has allowed the tenth fewest goals (20) as he sees just 25.2 shots per night on average. He’s saved 8.98 goals above average this season.

It can be hard to develop repetition for technique when you aren’t facing tons of shots each night, but it’s noticeable that Kloucek has been working on how he frames the net better this season. As you can see below, he’s focused on upping his foot speed when squaring up to the puck as it moves across the zone. Sure, he allows a pretty clean goal there, but those have been rare unless it has come from that high-danger area.

6... For the first time in what seems like forever, Nashville has two top prospects playing in the OHL. Both have been off to good starts: Philip Tomasino has 26 points in 21 games and Egor Afanasyev has 16 points in 16 games. There’s no need to sound any alarms, but both have relied on power play scoring a tad more than you’d like to see.

Additionally, both are playing in the Canada-Russia series mentioned above. Tomasino has suited up for two contests and Afanasyev for one; both players failed to record a point.

The last Nashville prospect to record over a point per game in their Draft+1 season in the CHL was Frederic Allard in 2016-17 (65 points in 63 games); the last forward prospect to do so was Anthony Richard in 2015-16 (87 points in 58 games).

Finally, there’s been some rumblings that OHL players’ labor issues are starting to resurface. There’s been a long-standing battle between players and the league over a minimum wage and other labor practices. The Ontario provincial government has largely sided with the league, which believes the players’ current stipend is sufficient and that a wage would dismantle the integrity of junior hockey, on this. I’ll provide further details should they surface.

7... What a season it’s been for Nashville’s two prospects at Boston University. David Farrance was expected to take a leap forward this season as the Terriers’ top defender, but in just nine games, he’s six points away from his 2018-19 season total and 15 away from matching his previous two seasons’ total.

He leads all NCAA defenders with 39 shots on goal, but is converting at a 20.51% rate and has just three primary points at even strength.

Despite a two-game injury absence, senior forward Patrick Harper is also off to a hot start with four goals and 13 points in seven games. Harper is playing for an entry-level contract this year after a rocky two years riddled with injury, illness and inconsistency.

8... One prospect I almost always enjoy watching is Notre Dame defender Spencer Stastney. Unless you were paying close attention, you’d likely not know the sophomore is scoring near a point-per-game pace (seven points in eight games).

He’s taken just six shots on net this season and three of his seven points are primary ones at even strength, but he also has an 8.46 goals-for per 60 minutes rate at even strength, too.

He’s arguably one of the best-skating prospects in the organization, and it’s helped him play versatile minutes for the Irish. A second-pairing defender on a nightly basis, Stastney gets top priority for minutes in overtime for reasons seen in the clip above. Ignoring the goal against, there aren’t many who can force a defensive zone turnover, pursue possession 200 feet down the ice, and race back to somewhat challenge the shooter with his kind of pace.

His seven points rank him tied for fourth on Notre Dame’s roster in scoring.

9... Finally, Grant Mismash is a player I think is really struggling this season despite okay counting stats. He has five points in nine games for North Dakota and an 11.47% relative goals-for rate at even strength, but his spot on the Fighting Hawks’ top line has been rescinded at times, and he’s largely been absent when the team has been dominant.

North Dakota has scored 44 goals this season for an average of 4.89 per game. Mismash has scored two of those goals (4.54%), been on the ice for eight at even-strength (25% of the 32 total scored at even-strength) and collected just four total primary even-strength points (6.25% of the 64 primary even-strength points the team has recorded).


Notes from around the NHL:

  • Tomasino’s teammate and Kings 2018 second-round pick Akil Thomas is a name to monitor. The IceDogs are rebuilding this season and there have been early whispers that he could be moved to an OHL contender.
  • The Connor McMichael pick at #25 by the Capitals this past June continues to make them look brilliant. The London Knight has 41 points in 16 games to start the season.
  • It’s never too early to touch on potential free agents coming out of the collegiate ranks at the end of the season. One name I’ve been keeping tabs on is Penn State’s Nate Sucese. He has 14 points in nine games and is an alumnus of Nashville’s summer development camp. He’ll garner significant interest this spring.
  • Speaking of the NCAA, Vegas prospect Jack Dugan is off to an absurd start with 24 points in 10 games for the Providence College Friars.
  • The World Junior Championship is fast approaching, and despite Nashville likely to not be extensively represented, I will have more comprehensive previews and post-tournament coverage.

What I’m reading:


All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, hokej.cz, khl.ru, swehockey.se, fightinghawks.com, and ontariohockeyleague.com.