Nashville’s prospect pool has continued to excite over the past month as some standout players have been excelling, earning World Junior Championship roster selections, and more. As December gets underway, here’s the latest on some of these future Predators.
1. What more can be said about Luke Evangelista after the month he had? 10 goals and 19 points in 10 November games gives the 2020 second-round pick 20 goals and 37 points on the year for the London Knights. That's good for first in the OHL in goals, fifth in points, second in shots on goal (105), and third in points per game (1.85).
Earlier this year, Evangelista told me that one of his biggest priorities heading into this season was focusing on his strength and shooting talent. That work is clearly paying off as he’s been London’s game-breaker nearly every night, including on the six infrequent evenings the Knights haven’t won.
Evangelista’s stellar start to the season earned him a call-up to Hockey Canada’s 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) selection camp where the winger has an excellent chance of making the final tournament roster before the competition kicks off later this month.
2. Speaking of Hockey Canada’s 2022 WJC selection camp, Nashville’s Zachary L’Heureux wasn’t as fortunate. The Canadian roster was always going to be hard to crack—especially a forward group that is loaded with talent, but L’Heureux’s omission is a tough pill to swallow. He recently told NHL.com’s, Guillaume Lepage:
“I think I deserved to be on the list. I will do everything in my power to make them regret this decision. It is something that’s beyond my control. I can’t really say more about it.”
The hard-nosed forward has notched five goals and 11 points in six contests since returning from a four-game suspension, and his 1.59 points per game are tied for seventh in the QMJHL. Nashville’s Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development, Scott Nichol, and Jean-Philippe Glaude, one of the team’s amateur scouts, were scouting L’Heureux in person this past week. The former shared his reaction to L’Heureux not being invited to Hockey Canada’s camp with Lepage as well:
“As an organization, we would have liked to see him there, but [it’s] not disappointing. He has to go through hardships, and it’s good to be faced with it early in his career.”
3. Joining Evangelista, most likely, at the World Juniors later this month will also be Simon Knak (Switzerland), Anton Olsson (Sweden), Yaroslav Askarov (Russia), and Fyodor Svechkov (Russia).
Team Switzerland has announced their preliminary roster for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.— Marek Novotny (@MarekNovotny96) December 2, 2021
Players to keep your eyes on: Lian Bichsel and Lorenzo Canonica #2022NHLDraft #WJC pic.twitter.com/Yr1UpT7pRQ
4. Fyodor Svechkov’s rollercoaster of a season continued ahead of joining Russia’s WJC training camp last week. After four KHL appearances earlier in the year, the 2021 first-round pick saw the ice in 15 VHL games for SKA-Neva, notching 11 points, including just four primary points scored at even strength. After a break for the Karjala Cup, Svechkov was then sent to SKA-1946 of the MHL and played alongside Nikita Chibrikov (Winnipeg) and Matvei Michkov (2023), recording eight assists (three primary ones at even strength) in four games.
Bouncing around the St. Petersburg machine with inconsistent ice time may not be what Nashville wants in one of their top prospects in his DY+1 season, but a big performance at the World Juniors could be a good confidence boost for the rest of the young Russian’s season.
5. One prospect I was down on at the start of the season was Clarkson University forward Alexander Campbell. The 2019 third-round pick—who finished second in team scoring in his freshman year—struggled out of the gate, scoring just three points in seven October games.
But since then, Campbell has notched six goals and 12 points in ten games for the Golden Knights, including two three-point performances (against Harvard and Princeton). Campbell’s red-hot November has launched him into the team scoring lead (15 points, two shy of his 2020-21 total), and we’re finally seeing him use his speed more to attack the middle of the ice (above) and control play with the puck instead of floating along the perimeter.
6. Campbell’s teammate, goalie Ethan Haider, frankly hasn’t been getting the attention he deserves for his performances in Upstate New York this year. Haider has started all 17 games for Clarkson, clocking in a 0.925 save percentage and a stellar 7.222 goals-saved above average (GSAA). Haider also took home ECAC Goalie of the Week honors twice in November.
7. Over in the Liiga, everyone’s favorite Finnish prospect is still lighting up the scoresheet for TPS. Juuso Pärssinen, who’s serving as an assistant captain, has been centering TPS’ top line and scored seven goals and 20 points in 18 games. You don’t have to go far to find several Finnish viewers and commentators who are arguing he’s the league’s best player right now.
Pärssinen is third in the league in points per game (1.11), 13 of his 20 points were primary ones scored at even strength, and he’s recorded a primary point on 65.0% of the even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for. On top of all that, he’s taken just one minor penalty all season.
Once the Liiga season ends, expect Pärssinen to come over to Milwaukee for the end of their season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him launch a serious bid for a Nashville roster spot in 2022-23.
8. As Nashville’s lone contracted player playing in the ECHL right now, Tomas Vomacka hasn’t gotten a ton of attention. The University of Connecticut alumnus has been splitting the net with veterans Cam Johnson and Parker Gahagen and has had some growing pains in his adjustment to the pro game.
Through eight appearances, Vomacka has a 0.893 save percentage and a -5.344 GSAA. Those aren’t numbers you’d be thrilled with, but he’s also playing behind a team that’s giving up three goals a game.
Off the ice, as Mike Ashmore notes in the profile above, Vomacka will be earning his degree from UConn this winter.
9. One prospect I’m a bit more concerned about is Spencer Stastney. The Notre Dame defender’s sophomore season remains his best statistically (20 points in 36 games), and it looks impossible for him to change that this year. His seven assists in 14 games are fourth among the D corps—one he was projected to anchor this year.
He’s still playing sound defense and making plays in transition on most shifts, but in the games I’ve tracked, I’ve noticed some unusual lapses here and there. Maybe that’s just a product of an Irish team that’s a bit more disjointed and less sure of their identity than past squads. I think Stastney has done enough to earn himself an entry-level contract (ELC) in the offseason when his negotiating rights with Nashville expire, but could we see a situation similar to Tommy Novak? The Nashville center came to Milwaukee on an AHL deal after college before earning an ELC after his rookie pro season.
What I’m reading:
- Doing It Wright: The Way-Too-Early 2022 NHL Draft Mock — FC Hockey
- How Native American hockey star Abby Roque is bringing diversity to her sport — Today
- Vladislav Yeryomenko about the Russians on the Belarus national team, his own progress, and Nashville — Belarus Hockey
- Mooseheads’ Zachary L’Heureu has spring in his step after having to sit for four games — Saltwire
- Alexandre Carrier: le fruit est mûr — Le Journal de Montreal