We’re closing in on the World Junior Championship (WJC), college hockey is starting to return (albeit with a very bumpy start), and the ECHL season is about to begin for Florida.
After much uncertainty about where prospects would play and what leagues could get off the ground, only five players in the organization (outside of Milwaukee and Florida) will be sidelined still after this weekend (Farrance, Reid, Fontaine, Prokop, and Evangelista). Here’s the latest on Nashville’s prospect pipeline during the 2020-21 season.
1... It’s certainly to small of a sample size, but — as expected — Yaroslav Askarov is dominating the KHL. In seven appearances this season, he’s posted a 0.962 save percentage (highest in the league) and saved 6.956 goals above average. The consensus that Askarov will head to Nashville in two seasons is coming closer to reality.
Before heading off to WJC camp for Team Russia this past weekend, Askarov was sidelined with illness for a few starts.
2... With such a stacked roster headlined by names like Quinton Byfield, Dylan Cozens, and Kirby Dach, it felt like Philip Tomasino could be relegated to bottom-six duty for Team Canada at the 2021 WJC. With the OHL without a season start date, Team Canada hopefuls are participating in a month-long WJC camp in Red Deer; team activities are currently paused due to coronavirus spread.
Philip Tomasino (@PredsNHL) took the Kirby Dach (@NHLBlackhawks) spin-o-rama pass and sent it home.— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) November 24, 2020
Tomasino was the 20th-ranked prospect outside of the NHL when our team of scouts wrote about them a month ago.
: https://t.co/RxGONuqEim pic.twitter.com/kRYbcDSkM2
After three intra-squad scrimmages, Tomasino is leading all players in camp with five points and looks well on his way to securing a critical role for Team Canada come tournament time. It’ll be a nice tune up for the 2019 first-round pick who we anticipate will head to Nashville once the NHL season begins. After being snubbed of a WJC camp invite last year, Tomasino looks ready to prove his worth.
3... Outside of Askarov and Tomasino, Nashville will send three more prospects to the 2021 World Junior Championship later this month. Semyon Chistyakov and Egor Afanasyev will also suit up for Team Russia, and Juuso Pärssinen will likely dress for Team Finland.
Click here for the full tournament schedule starting Christmas Day.
4... After starting the season with 17 points in 18 games (although just five of those were primary points at even strength), Isak Walther’s season is on pause.
Svenska Ishockeyförbundets verkställande utskott tog under gårdagen beslut om att pausa seriespel för J20 Nationell och J18 Regional med anledning av ökad smittspridning av covid-19. Läs mer: https://t.co/W713hdX3mx pic.twitter.com/fiypherfHw— Swehockey (@swehockeyse) November 11, 2020
Due to the surging coronavirus, the Swedish hockey federation paused all junior hockey at the U20 and U18 levels until January at the earliest.
5... Down to just four teams for the 2020-21 season, the ECAC has yet to put together a conference schedule for after the winter break. But teams like Clarkson have been playing non-conference match-ups in the meantime. Through three games, Alexander Campbell has impressed. He’s buzzing all over the ice and has notched his debut NCAA goal and two assists:
First career goal for Campbell was special, you can tell he’s going to be a good one pic.twitter.com/kXRSq9U6ct— LetsGoTech (@LGT221) November 28, 2020
Ethan Haider has started just one game for the Golden Knights — an 8-5 drubbing from RIT — where he was pulled after six goals. He was hung out to dry for most, but I’m curious to see how many starts Haider earns in his freshman season.
6... Loaned to Villacher SV of the (mostly) Austrian ICEHL shortly before Thanksgiving, defender Frédéric Allard has appeared in two games overseas, recording one goal in mostly top-pairing ice time. The 2016 third-round draft pick was injured at the end of his second game, however, and has missed the last few contests.
This is a consequential season for Allard who has seemingly fallen out of favor in Nashville. At one point, a full-time opportunity for Alexandre Carrier in Nashville meant a bigger spotlight for Allard in Milwaukee. But with the former relegated to a depth role at the most, Jérémy Davies impressing, and prospects like David Farrance knocking on the door, Allard could see himself traded before the 2021-22 season.
7... Another Admiral looking to take the next step this season, Connor Ingram is biding his time in Sweden’s second tier league with IF Björklöven — Hardy Häman Aktell’s former team. Ingram has started all five games since arriving in Sweden.
After a bumpy start allowing seven goals in his first two games, Ingram has settled in somewhat, allowing just five in his last three — including a 25-save shutout last time out. He’s still allowed 0.734 goals above average, but those numbers should shoot up in due time. I’m curious to see when Ingram — Nashville’s top option should Rinne or Saros get hurt — is recalled if the NHL and AHL restart don’t line up.
8... After an injury-riddled sophomore year, UMass defender Marc Del Gaizo is eager to have a stellar season as the Minutemen’s top blueliner. Unfortunately, the 2019 fourth-round pick is already sidelined with injury after just a two-game series against UConn. UMass Coach Greg Carvel has reported his status as day-to-day, although he’s missed the last two contests.
9... There hasn’t been much fuss about Eeli Tolvanen this season despite it seeming likely he’s been penciled into a top-six role in Nashville whenever the NHL season begins. There will never be a consensus on his potential, but it’s silly to build your expectations off a snapshot of a special KHL season three years ago.
Is he going to be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL? Probably not. Is that the end of the world? Not at all. It may be tiring, but it’s true: in watching nearly every game of Tolvanen’s the past three years, he’s making plays this year he just wouldn’t or couldn’t before. The way he (#20, white) stretches the ice in the clip above, breaking up an odd-man rush then leading the offensive charge and using his body to protect possession are signs of a more mature game.
His transition game remains excellent (and quicker), exiting the defensive zone with possession 77.27% of the time and entering the offensive zone with control 58.54% of the time (in six games tracked); he’s fifth among all U22 forward in the KHL in points per game (0.50, including four primary points at even strength); there’s simply more decisiveness and pace to his game this season.
What I’m reading:
- 10 Questions With Penn State Men’s Hockey Forward Chase McLane - Onward State
- EP Rinkside 2020-21 Prospect Pool Rankings: No. 16 - Nashville Predators - EP Rinkside [$]
- The Faceoff: Steph Klein - KHL
- Jokke Nevalainen got a dream job from the NHL - NHL Finland
- 2020 NHL Draft By The Numbers: Part 1 / Part 2 - Silver Seven Sens
- Jasper Weatherby and Jacob Bernard-Docker explain why they will kneel for the national anthem at UND’s season opener - Grand Forks Herald
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and my own manual data tracking.