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Preds Prospects Report: February

As most seasons have come to a close, where does the pipeline stand?

Kitchener Rangers v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

In an unexpected turn of events, the NHL, and nearly every league outside of it, has suspended or canceled play for the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s certainly not a sentence I anticipated writing just weeks ago, and it’s with a somber attitude that I note this could be the last prospects report of the season.

There will still be content from me over the coming weeks; three of the organization’s prospects are actually still playing hockey and maybe some leagues will return to the ice this spring. In the meantime, catch up on prior months’ reports below:

Since this could be my last monthly update for the time being, I’ll do my best to touch on every prospect in the pipeline outside of Milwaukee and Florida.

February


1... Nearly every note below will follow with the status of a prospect’s season re: COVID-19. Some of them, and their clubs, were dealt tougher hands than others and that includes Hardy Haman Aktell and IF Bjorkloven of Sweden’s Hockey Allsvenskan.

After a 2018-19 campaign that ended on the brink of financial ruin, Bjorkloven loaded up in search of promotion to the SHL in 2019-20. Unfortunately, they were on track to do so just as this pandemic hit. Aktell’s club finished with a record 121 points atop the league and began a five-game series against Modo Hockey for a shot at promotion. The winner of that series takes on the SHL’s worst team for a chance at promotion.

League Status: Suspended - Bjorkloven’s series with Modo is tied at one game apiece.

Contract Status: Free agent on June 1, 2020

2... As I mentioned at the top, three Nashville prospects continue play as of Saturday morning, March 14. The Russian and Belorussian leagues have yet to suspend play, as their playoffs are well underway.

Semyon Chistyakov’s regular season was spotted with injury and a big trade to the Omsk organization. As of now, Omskie Yastreby took their first-round series against Ugra three games to one. In those four games, Chistyakov has one assist.

League Status: Playing as scheduled

Contract Status: Unsigned

3... I noted this in RacheI’s and my latest Milwaukee Musings, but before the NHL suspended play, I was surprised as the lack of speculation surrounding David Farrance potentially leaving Boston University early. On March 12, Hockey East announced it was canceling its conference tournament, which effectively ended the Terriers’ season. The next day, the NCAA made such a decision across the country, giving programs a formal conclusion to the 2019-20 campaign.

So, where does Farrance sit with Nashville? The junior has one more year to go back to Boston if he wants. He can also withdraw from school and sign with Nashville. Should he withdraw, Nashville would have to entertain the same question they did with Dante Fabbro: rest Farrance until 2020-21 and save a year on his entry-level contract or dress him in the playoffs?

This, of course, depends on if the NHL season does return. It’s also no guarantee Farrance leaves school early: maybe a lost season motivates him to return for a senior year where he’ll once again compete for the Hobey Baker Award.

One way or the other, Nashville has found themselves a player. Farrance led all defenders in the country in scoring with 43 points and was sixth among all skaters. There is a word of caution, though: only 12 of those points were primary ones at even strength. That’s still good for a 33.3% iP1P, but he relied heavily on power play production this season. On another note, his defensive game has improved massively.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2021

4... Suffering the same fate as Farrance and Nashville’s other collegiate prospects was defender Marc Del Gaizo. His season, to start, was derailed by injury, but he stepped up with some big games down the stretch including February 29 against UConn.

The night before, Del Gaizo drew the ire of his head coach, Greg Carvel, who said, “I challenged him. I thought he was our worst defenseman last night, so I challenged him today, and you could just tell he’s been waiting to break out” (courtesy of Liam Flaherty of The Daily Collegian). Del Gaizo answered with one of his best nights of the season, posting two goals to finish his year with four goals and 15 points in 22 games for the Minutemen.

I got to speak with Del Gaizo and one of his coaches, Ben Barr, recently. I’ll share that interview with you all in the coming week.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2022

5... I don’t think there was enough chatter about Spencer Stastney’s season for Notre Dame. The 2018 fifth-round pick finished with three goals and 20 points in 36 games as the Fighting Irish’s year came to a disappointing end in the first round of the Big Ten conference tournament. In fact, he led all of Notre Dame’s defenders in scoring and was tied for fifth on the team overall.

It’s obvious a rather silent trip to the World Junior Championship motivated Stastney down the stretch; he scored 12 points in his final 18 games. Expect Stastney to lead the blue line next season in South Bend. Since he’s such a cerebral player, expect a breakout year during even-strength play, too.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2022

6... Defender Vladislav Yeryomenko is another Nashville prospect still in action. After Dinamo Minsk’s KHL season ended, he was send to Yunost Minsko of the Belarus Extraliga. Minsk is up two games to none in their semifinal series of the Belarus’ playoffs; through six games, Yeryomenko has two goals and seven points.

League Status: Playing as scheduled

Contract Status: Unsigned

7... There is still a sense of uncertainty about the remainder of the season when it comes to the Canadian Hockey League. The Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), a developmental league a tier below the OHL, canceled their season. On the other hand, the CHL playoffs are so critical for players wanting to improve their draft stock. If the NHL or AHL cancels instead of just suspending, I can’t see the CHL doing otherwise.

Regardless, it’s been a successful season for Nashville’s second-round pick from last summer, Egor Afanasyev. I think we had a sense of how good he could be, but I would be lying if I said I expected him to lead the Windsor Spitfires in scoring (31-36-67) alongside players like Tyler Angle and Jean-Luc Foudy.

Scott Wheeler of The Athletic wrote a fantastic profile of Afanasyev where he noted the uncharted waters the Russian is entering with the season suspended:

“‘Oh, I’m not going to the rink, I’m not going to have a practice today, I’m not going to see the guys.’ It’s weird,” Afanasyev said. “The last couple of days have been stressful. You look at the news and stuff and what’s going on and it’s not a joke.”

Afanasyev will be back in Windsor in the fall, and he should lock up a spot on Russia’s World Junior squad after failing to last December. Most importantly, Nashville has to be pleased with his rookie CHL season.

League Status: Suspended

Contract Status: Signed a three-year entry-level contract on October 19, 2019

8... In American juniors, Alexander Campbell has had a quietly good season for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. The highest-drafted Clarkson University commit since 1989, Nashville’s third-round pick last summer notched 18 goals and 54 points in 46 games, which led the Lancers in scoring in 2019-20.

Campbell can fly; he’s one of the fastest skaters I’ve seen at the junior level and his zone exit and entry abilities help make him so dangerous (through three games tracked): 73.68% controlled exits, 50.0% controlled entries.

League Status: Suspended

Contract Status: Unsigned

9... Like I mentioned above with David Farrance, Patrick Harper and the BU Terriers needed a Hockey East championship to make the NCAA Tournament. Without that guarantee, their season was effectively done before the NCAA canceled things outright.

But, this shouldn’t distract you from Harper’s impressive season. After a near-point per game freshman year, Harper’s sophomore and junior seasons were beset by injury and illness. Harper needed a Hobey Baker-level year to get back on track, and he delivered. The 2016 fifth-round pick was rejuvenated playing alongside Trevor Zegras and finished second on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 37 points.

Harper needs a contract from Nashville or he becomes a free agent on August 15. Should he want to sign, Nashville would be wise to do so.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2020

10... Forward Jachym Kondelik had a somewhat down season for fellow Hockey East competitor UConn. The Czech center finished with eight goals and 23 points - 14 of those were primary ones at even strength. That’s double his goals from his freshman campaign but three fewer points and ties him for just third on the Huskies in scoring. He’ll need to hit another gear in 2020-21.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2022

11... Speaking of down seasons, I’d consider Grant Mismash’s an outright disappointment. The second-round pick skated on the country’s top line all season with presumptive Hobey Baker finalist Jordan Kawaguchi and only managed eight goals and 20 points in 35 games (two points less than his freshman year).

There’s no reason he should be just seventh in scoring on a team that rolled through opponents all season on their way to being dominant favorites to win the national championship. Mismash is playing for a contract next season, but I don’t see the necessity.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2021

12... Finnish forward Juuso Parssinen was loaned back to TPS’ U20 squad for the Jr. A SM-liiga playoffs that were abruptly canceled. Parssinen excelled for his age in his time in the Liiga - five goals, 12 points (75% of which were even-strength, primary ones) and a 66.7% iP1P.

I’m enthralled by the seventh-round pick, who will be playing in the Liiga full-time next season.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on June 1, 2023

13... Assuming the OHL season is over, Philip Tomasino finished fourth in league scoring - behind Marco Rossi (2020), Cole Perfetti (2020) and Connor McMichael (Washington) - with 40 goals and 100 points in 62 games. He’s the first Oshawa player to hit the century mark in 12 years (John Tavares, Brett MacLean), but he was a bit quiet in his final ten outings: three goals, five assists.

League Status: Suspended

Contract Status: Signed a three-year entry-level contract on October 21, 2019

14... The Swedish SuperElit season was officially cancelled on Friday. Isak Walther finished with 10 goals and 16 points in 39 games for a historically-awful Sodertalje team. It’s much worse of a season than I anticipated from Walther, and I’m curious how much time he can swing in the Allsvenskan next season.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Unsigned

15... As mentioned above, the USHL is suspended until further notice, but it’s hard to imagine the league resumes play in 2019-20. By the time things clear up, high school could be nearing an end for some of these players with college commitments looming. Goalie Ethan Haider had a tough season for an even worse Sioux City team. He heads to Clarkson University in the fall after 34 starts, a 0.891 save percentage and 6.412 goals allowed above average.

League Status: Suspended

Contract Status: Unsigned

16... Nashville has some interesting decisions to make in net this summer. Saros and Rinne seem to be set in Nashville, Connor Ingram is pushing for NHL minutes and Troy Grosenick has been excellent for the Admirals too. But the organization also has two goalies in Europe, including Milan Kloucek, that will force someone’s hand.

Kloucek was absurdly good in Czechia’s Chance Liga (the country’s second-tier league). His 30 wins in 35 starts and 19.263 goals saved above average propelled Ceske Budejovice to a record 153 point season and an automatic promotion to the Tipsport Extraliga in 2020-21.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on June 1, 2020

17... Tomas Vomacka was excellent, once again, for the UConn Huskies this season. Despite a 0.898 save percentage, his 3.365 goals saved above average demonstrates how critical he was to the team he started 33 of 34 games for.

League Status: Canceled

Contract Status: Free agent on August 15, 2022

18... Just like Semyon Chistyakov in the MHL, Konstantin Volkovs season in the VHL (Russia’s second-tier league) continues as Ugra finds itself down two games in the league’s quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Volkov hasn’t started a playoff game for the Mammoth and had just five in Ugra’s last 19 games of the regular season.

League Status: Playing as scheduled

Contract Status: Unsigned

19... We could be approaching a moment where it’s deemed the Niclas Westerholm experiment hasn’t worked. The Finnish goalie has one more year on his entry-level contract but was horrendous this season for an equally-bad SaiPa team. 13 wins in 39 starts covers the failings of the latter; an 0.896 save percentage and -8.91 goals allowed above average does so for the player. David Poile has a decision to make in whether he wants Westerholm in Milwaukee next season.

League Status: Suspended

Contract Status: One year remaining on a three-year entry-level contract


What I’m reading:


All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and my own manual data tracking.