1. On March 9, University of Connecticut goalie Adam Huska signed his entry-level contract with the New York Rangers after finishing his junior season with the Huskies.
OFFICIAL: #NYR have agreed to terms with goaltender Adam Huska on an entry-level contract.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 9, 2019
Huska, 21, appeared in 69 collegiate games over three seasons with the University of Connecticut (2016-17 – 2018-19). pic.twitter.com/hwMllkXqMO
There was much chatter that this obviously opens the door for Preds prospect Tomas Vomacka to start next season which is true, partially. Vomacka had pretty much solidified the starting job for himself, regardless of Huska, by the end of the season, finishing by turning away 100 shots out of 106 in his final three starts—good for a .943 save percentage. Regardless, the Huskies are Vomacka’s team now.
2. Speaking of the Huskies, Jachym Kondelik had a quiet finish to his season, but still finished tied for third among drafted freshmen and tied for seventh among all freshmen in the NCAA this season with 26 points in 34 games.
Someone on Twitter brought up the idea of Kondelik moving to the CHL to change up his development. It won’t happen; he’s indicated how much he loves Connecticut. But I was curious where he would go if it happened. Sudbury selected Kondelik fifth overall in the 2016 CHL Import Draft. Some other notable selections there: Nico Hischier at sixth overall to Halifax, Pavel Koltygin ninth overall to Drummondville, and Eeli Tolvanen seventeenth overall to Oshawa.
3. Speaking of the CHL, the playoffs are fast approaching. All three Predators prospects in the CHL will be playing in the playoffs, with the Niagara IceDogs and Drummondville Voltigeurs entering their respective tournaments with high expectations.
With a few games to go, the IceDogs are second in the OHL’s Eastern Conference with 89 points. If everything holds, they’ll face the Hamilton Bulldogs in round one. This isn’t news for you all, but what a season Jacob Paquette is having in Niagara. Before his fourth year in the OHL, Paquette capped out at 15 points in a season; this year he’s up to 27 points in 56 games, with 23 of those coming in 32 games with the IceDogs. What’s been most impressive since his trade, however, is he has only accrued six penalty minutes in Niagara and 23 total this season after 51 last season. For a defensive, physical player that’s certainly impressive.
I’m pushing hard for Paquette to score an entry-level deal this summer. He’s a good skater, decent passer and doesn’t mind shooting from the point. He won’t cash in on a ton of high-danger chances, but he’s molded into a very intelligent player.
The IceDogs defender touches on a few interesting things in an interview here, including being bilingual, what Nashville has said about his game, and what he expects out of himself on the ice.
4. This might be an unusual stance, but I don’t find a ton of difference in the way Paquette and Dante Fabbro defend. Obviously, Fabbro is much more literate on the other end of the ice, but I think their fluid skating helps me see similarities.
Anyway, I suppose it’s officially #FabbroWatch season. The hype seems to have died down, and I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s too much pessimism on Twitter (duh). The Hockey East conference tournament begins this weekend with the Terriers traveling to Lowell to take on the Redhawks.
It’s a complete toss-up of a match up for me, but it’s possible Fabbro’s junior season finishes up on Saturday or Sunday night. Boston won’t make the Frozen Four tournament unless they win the Hockey East, which is unlikely with the UMass Minutemen, Providence Friars, and Northeastern Huskies in the mix.
Fabbro sits 13th among all NCAA defenders in scoring with 30 points on the season, but sits fourth on that same list in share of team offense—behind Joseph Duszak (41.6%), Adam Fox (41.2%) and Dalton MacAfee (36.3%)—by contributing directly to 34.5% of the Terriers’ goals this season.
5. Nothing new to report on the other goalies in the organization, or, at least, nothing new you can read here. I took a deep dive into the seasons of Karel Vejmelka, who is playing for a contract this summer, and Milan Kloucek, who is adjusting to a new coach on a bad team.
Check it out tomorrow.
6. Continuing our tour around the CHL, let’s consider the turnaround of the Calgary Hitmen. Vladislav Yeryomenko and company sat with a 10-14-3 record at the end of November. Since then, they’re 26-9-3 and have vaulted themselves to a clinched playoff spot.
Yeryomenko has been streaky when it comes to scoring but is a big reason why this Hitmen team is where it is. With two games to play, he won’t match his 41 points from last season, but 33 in 61 games is respectable and puts him 29th in scoring among defenders in the WHL and second on his team behind Flyers prospect Yegor Zamula.
There’s no doubt the Nashville brass anticipated some offensive growth from Yeryomenko this season, but he’s really grown defensively and showed well at the Division IA World Junior Championship in December.
7. To wrap up our CHL playoff preview, Pavel Koltygin and the Drummondville Voltigeurs are anticipating another deep run in the QMJHL playoffs. With two games to go, a first-round date with the Gatineau Olympiques seems likely.
Koltygin likely won’t match the 47 points he scored in his first season in the QMJHL, but it’s possible with 42 of them in 61 games so far—37 of which are primary points, ranking him 55th among all forwards in the QMJHL.
He’s already scored more goals this season, 25, than he has in his previous two seasons, but his play still remains maddeningly inconsistent.
He’s been a hound around this net this season—in a way that reminds me of Yakov Trenin during his time in the QMJHL—but he is shooting at 18.66%, which is high: 13th among forwards.
Koltygin is right on the cusp of being a good first-line player in the QMJHL, but he could stand to shoot more. On a dominant Drummondville his production shares are probably inflated a tad—68.18% Goals-For and 4.02 Goals-For Relative—but he has been cashing in well on his medium-danger chances (likely due to his lethal wrist shot) with a 30.43% conversion rate, good for 28th among all QMJHL forwards.
8. Back in January, it was reported that forward Grant Mismash would be out for the season after a knee-on-knee collision.
Brad Berry says Grant Mismash's season is probably over.— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) January 27, 2019
Towards the end of February, I reported that Mismash was skating again on his own—not conducting drills, but getting back into game shape. As a surprise to most, Mismash re-entered the lineup on March 8 against Nebraska-Omaha as an extra forward.
Grant Mismash playing his first game since January. Listed as the 19th skater. Guessing he will play limited minutes and PP. https://t.co/7RJtPEf9gb— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) March 8, 2019
Mismash had a quiet game but totaled four shots on net before sitting the next night. But Mismash will be back in the lineup this weekend as North Dakota takes on Denver in the NCHC quarterfinals. From Mismash:
“I feel good. My leg is still a little weak, but it’s in game shape. I’m excited to play two or three games this weekend, depending on how many we play. I’m a full go. (My knee) isn’t fully there yet, but it’s good enough to go.”
Additionally, I got the pleasure of checking out Ralph Egelstad Arena a couple weeks ago. It’s a remarkable facility up there for a town that loves their collegiate hockey.
9. David Poile essentially confirmed that the organization plans to ask Rem Pitlick to come out of school early after his junior year ends in the coming weeks.
GM David Poile says on @1025TheGame that the #Preds will conversations about turning pro with prospects Rem Pitlick (Univ. of Minnesota) and Dante Fabbro (Boston University) once their NCAA seasons end.— Jeremy K. Gover (@govertime) March 7, 2019
Related: Mad props to @dmac_1025 for asking about Pitlick specifically.
I know I’ve been beating this drum for a bit now, but this is the smart move. Pitlick is a gifted skater and despite having a small stature he has shown he can excel in all situations without elite line mates (see: the departure of Casey Middlestadt last year). I’ll dive more into the numbers in a breakdown later on, but I really don’t think enough can be said for this pick.
I liked Pitlick a lot coming out of Muskeegon of the USHL, but had no idea he would grow to be the offensive force he is, leading the league in scoring since the turn of the calendar. This season he’s scored the most goals for Minnesota since Nick Bjugstad did in 2012-13, and will likely be the first Golden Gopher to lead the team in scoring in back-to-back seasons since Erik Haula those same years.
This isn't relevant to the Preds, but I want to give a quick shout out to my alma mater, as the Syracuse Women’s Ice Hockey team won their first CHA championship and earned their first ticket to the NCAA Ice Hockey tournament.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.