It’s 2020 and with the new year, there has been some reinvigorated play from some of Nashville’s top prospects. But, as always, there’s lots to unpack about the organization’s pipeline.
Before you dive in below, check out October and November’s reports if you haven’t already and my recent breakdown of Spencer Stastney’s performance at the 2020 World Junior Championship.
1... The headline of late for the organization outside of Nashville and around much of the prospect world has been Philip Tomasino. As I speculated last month, the OHL trade deadline was sure to be a busy one. The prevailing narrative was that IceDogs forward and Los Angeles prospect Akil Thomas would be moved as Niagara looked to rebuild.
There was an okay chance that Tomasino would be dealt, too, but it seemed less likely. As roadblocks to a Thomas trade began to pop up leading up to the deadline, Niagara pulled the trigger on Tomasino, sending him to the Oshawa Generals in exchange for nine draft picks over the next four years—including six second-round picks (first-round picks cannot be traded in the OHL).
Oshawa is re-tooling their roster in an attempt to host the Memorial Cup in 2021 and Tomasino will return in 2020-21 as one of the top players in the OHL. Since joining the Generals, Tomasino has skated in four games and recorded six goals and ten points total.
For you kids watching at home, this is how you rip a backhander @PredsNHL prospect @philtomasino26 fit right in with the @Oshawa_Generals, providing points and this #BestOfOHL brilliance. pic.twitter.com/HisWdqMo1i— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) January 10, 2020
Tomasino now has 28 goals and 67 points in 40 OHL games while recording a primary point on 60.42% of the even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for. He’s now tied for fourth in OHL scoring behind Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti and Arthur Kaliyev.
On Monday, Tomasino was named the OHL Player of the Week for the second time in the 2019-20 season.
2... The Generals are in a tight race for good playoff positioning in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Egor Afanasyev and the Windsor Spitfires have suffered the second-least amount of regulation losses this year (9) and sit just one point of first place in the Western Conference.
In 40 games, Afanasyev is up to 18 goals and 45 points: 22 of those are primary points at even strength, giving him an iP1P of 47.83% (the third-lowest rate among all forward prospects).
Afanasyev’s 45 points rank him second on the Spitfires and sixth among ‘Draft-Eligible + 1’ skaters in the OHL.
Afanasyev was left off of Russia’s World Junior Championship roster that finished with a silver medal in the Czech Republic. It’s not unusual for Russia to exclude players skating in North America, but there was a handful of CHL players on the 2020 roster, making the decision a tad more curious.
3... Elsewhere in North America, a few Nashville prospects are heating up in the NCAA ranks. As the lengthy list of Hobey Baker Award finalists came out last week, UMass defender Marc Del Gaizo has been busy making a case for himself should he have been healthy all season.
Del Gaizo has now skated in 12 games for the Minutemen recording two goals and nine points scoring in every game but two (one of which he skated a mere single shift in). Of the ten even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for, he’s recorded a primary point on half of them. His 0.75 points per game rank him 23rd among all defenders in the country.
There were natural questions about how Del Gaizo would fare without his 2018-19 defense partner, Cale Makar, but he’s settled in nicely on the second pair with Matthew Kessel since returning from injury. Expect his even-strength ice time to increase as the second half of the season gets underway; Del Gaizo, as shown in the clip above, has become such an important reason why UMass is excellent at maintaining possession deep in the zone and limiting breakouts that lead to shot attempts against.
Shot Attempts Per 60— RecoveringOps (@RecoveringOps) January 14, 2020
➡️AFA, Cornell, FSU, Brown
⬅️Omaha, BU, Dartmouth
4... Notre Dame just completed a weekend series at Ohio State, finishing with one tie and one loss. Nashville’s Spencer Stastney collected two assists on the weekend, so he’s now totaled ten points in 23 games for the Fighting Irish.
It’s an encouraging sign for the South Bend squad that sits at 0.500 halfway through their curious season. Stastney has the ability to get more involved—like Del Gaizo—lower in the offensive zone with his excellent skating, and we saw that from the primary assist he picked up on Saturday.
Stastney left much to be desired from his offensive capability at the 2020 World Junior Championship, but he showed some excellent awareness and defensive prowess. I broke down hours of game tape to analyze his U20 Team USA debut, which you can read here:
5... Over in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), the country’s best team, North Dakota, has had a strange run of games which includes nearly being upset by Alabama-Huntsville, losing to Nebraska-Omaha, tying Miami of Ohio and then escaping the Redhawks on Saturday with a comeback win.
Grant Mismash has become a major player in the Fighting Hawks’ offense over the last several weeks. Before Thanksgiving, Mismash had recorded just six points on the year; since then, he’s posted ten points, including a five-game point streak that ended Saturday night at Oxford, Ohio.
13 of his 16 points this year have been primary ones scored at even strength, but his recent run of offense still has him ranked just sixth in team scoring.
Mismash has teased with obvious offensive talent, but, despite skating on one of the country’s most dangerous lines with Jordan Kawaguchi and Collin Adams, Mismash boasts just 22 percent of that trio’s total points (72) and 26.9 percent of their total goals (26).
6... Omaha Lancers forward Alexander Campbell has ten points in his last 11 USHL games stretching back to December 13th, but his scoring hasn’t been as consistent as it seems. The Clarkson-commit exploded for a hat trick and an assist on New Year’s Eve against Sioux City, but his longest point streak during this time was just three games.
His 29 points in 28 games leads the Lancers and 15 of those points have been primary ones at even strength. He’s still contributing heavily to goals being scored while he’s on the ice with a 68.18& iP1P, but his negative goals-for rate relative to his teammates indicates his line isn’t driving production for Omaha.
Still, the Nashville prospect is 24th in USHL scoring and 20th when it comes to points-per-game with a 1.04 scoring rate.
7... Jumping across the ocean to Europe, Nashville prospect Semyon Chistyakov has had the opposite of a productive month. To kick off the month, the Russian was given a match penalty for an unnecessary hit to the head on December 3rd:
About a week later, he was traded from the Ufa organization to Avangard with a modicum of hope that he would be promoted from the MHL to Russia’s second-tier league, the VHL. That promotion never came and Chistyakov has skated in just one game for Omskie Yastreby of the MHL, recording two assists.
To add to it, the Nashville prospect was left off Russia’s 2020 World Junior Championship roster, too. That decision was almost certainly age-based, and I anticipate Chistyakov should have a good shot at the roster for the 2021 tournament.
8... The month of December started off well for Finnish forward Juuso Parssinen as he was promoted from the Jr. A SM-liiga to the top TPS squad in the Liiga. Since then, he’s carved out a role as the team’s number three center and has developed some international experience playing in the 2019 Spengler Cup last month.
Parssinen scored his first Liiga goal of the year the other day, notching the game-winner on a power play, but through 14 games he has just three points (two are primary ones at even strength) while averaging around 13 minutes of ice time per night.
9... Defender Vladislav Yeryomenko likely anticipated a successful homecoming when he signed with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL this past summer. But, after starting the season on the Bison’s top defensive pairing and skating close to two dozen minutes per night as a 20-year old, the Nashville prospect has slid to the team’s sixth defender.
He’s now just averaging 18:29 per game as the signing of NHL journeyman Joe Morrow has expunged Yeryomenko from the top pair.
On top of that, it’s not helpful that Yeryomenko is playing for the KHL’s worst team; he’s now allowing 3.26 goals-against per 60 minutes of even-strength play through 41 games.
10... I hate to end things on such a sour note, but goaltender Niclas Westerholm continues to have a miserable season in the Liiga. On January 11th, Westerholm picked up his first win—3-2 over JYP—since November 29th.
With 26 starts under his belt, the Finn has secured just eight wins and allowed 12.39 goals above average. His 0.890 save percentage is 19th among the 27 goalies who have started 10 games or more this season.
Notes from around the NHL:
- As mentioned above, the nominees for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award were announced on Thursday. David Farrance and Patrick Harper are among the field of 75+ collegiate players.
- New Jersey Devils prospect Akira Schmid was traded to Sioux City (USHL) on January 4th. Schmid joins Nashville prospect Ethan Haider in net for the Musketeers who has started 24 of their 32 games this season.
- I missed this last month, but Alaska’s two collegiate programs—Fairbanks and Anchorage—have been cleared to play through the 2020-21 season. Over the summer, seven of the WCHA’s ten teams informed the conference they would be leaving to form their own conference and budget cuts to the state university system left Alaska scrambling for answers. For now, both programs will continue as separate teams, but the search for a new conference remains.
- If you’ve been on Twitter at all the past few days, you’ve probably caught wind of the KHL All-Star festivities. It’s remarkable how much more fun they have doing it over there; here is just one example.
- Nashville Assistant GM Jeff Kealty took time away from scouting Niclas Westerholm a couple weeks ago to comment on 2020 NHL Entry Draft prospect Anton Lundell, including an interview during the intermission broadcast.
What I’m reading:
- Former UMass teammates share stories, thoughts on Cale Makar - Mile High Hockey
- New wave of black players ready to make impact on hockey - NHL
- Hockey has a race problem. At Syracuse, things might be changing - The Daily Orange
- Cam Robinson: 2020 Draft Rankings - Dobber Prospects
- 2020 NHL Entry Draft Ranking Version 1.0 - EP Rinkside [$]
- Dreams and nightmares: Inside Akim Aliu’s troubled hockey past... - The Athletic [$]
- Behind the scary moments that saved Niagara IceDogs goalie... - The Athletic [$]
- Inside the long, lonely journey of Yu Sato, the CHL’s only Japanese player - The Athletic [$]
- Emilie Castonguay blazes a trail as the agent for probably No. 1 pick... - The Athletic [$]
- Ranking the top five Nashville Predators prospects - A to Z Sports Nashville