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Preds Prospects Report: November

The latest on Nashville’s pipeline.

Sarnia Sting v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Last month, the Nashville Predators added a new prospect to the pipeline, a few players returned from lengthy injury absences, and some are gearing up for hopeful World Junior appearances. I’ve got the latest on Nashville’s prospect pipeline below.

November


1. Missing the first 22 games of the season is not how anyone wants to start their DY+2 season, especially as a first-round pick. But that’s exactly the fate Zachary L’Heureux was dealt this year.

After finishing the 2021-22 season on a down note in terms of offensive production—including an eight-game pointless streak—L’Heureux spent the beginning of this season in the pressbox due to a long-term hip injury.

But since returning to the Halifax Mooseheads’ lineup last weekend, L’Heureux has done nothing but score, totaling five goals and seven points in five games. Unfortunately, his time off due to injury will likely keep him off Canada’s 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) roster, which should be announced any day now. Regardless, he’s off to a much-needed strong start in his return.

2. Also returning from injury recently is Nashville’s first-round pick from last year, Joakim Kemell.

With seven goals and nine points in 20 games in the Finnish Liiga this season, Kemell is expected to suit up for his national team at the 2023 WJC later this month. But he was recently sidelined for seven games after appearing in three international friendlies last month. He returned for JYP over the weekend, going scoreless in just over ten minutes of ice time.

3. On the flip side of the injury news is defender Luke Prokop. The 2020 third-round pick started the season with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals, scoring his first professional goal in eight games.

But, after his Western Hockey League (WHL) rights were traded to Memorial Cup-contending Seattle, Prokop was reassigned there by Nashville early last month. The 6’6” blueliner skated in three games for the Thunderbirds, scoring one goal, but has since been out of the lineup with a lower-body injury. Missing the past six games, Prokop is considered week-to-week.

4. Nashville’s newest prospect—Nolan Burke—is also on the injury list. Burke is a 6’1” forward with a December 2002 birthday. He went undrafted during his eligible years even after breaking out to score 34 goals and 59 points in 64 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Sarnia Sting last season.

Burke started the season with a torrid scoring pace this year, notching 15 goals and 26 points in 18 games, including 10 primary points scored at even strength. That earned him a three-year entry-level contract worth $861,667 per year from the Nashville Predators, and due to his signing age, there’s a curious quirk about Burke’s deal:

Burke hasn’t played since November 19 (seven games) after being knocked out of a game against the Barrie Colts:

5. In his junior season at Clarkson University, goalie Ethan Haider has started all 13 games for the Golden Knights. The 2019 fifth-round pick got off to a slow start this year, failing to post a save percentage above 0.900 in four of his first five games.

But in five of his last six starts, Haider has earned two shutouts against RPI and Colgate, stopped 55 of 59 shots in two outings against Arizona State, and turned aside 39 shots against #2 ranked Quinnipiac. His season save percentage sits at 0.899 and his goals saved above-average mark is at -4.736

6. Another NCAA prospect that’s turning heads is UMass defender Ryan Ufko, who is trying to make his case for a spot on the United States’ 2023 WJC roster. The sophomore blueliner—who posted five goals and 31 points in 37 games as a freshman—has already tacked on three goals and 13 points in 15 games this season.

Nashville Defense Prospects | Perimeter vs. Slot Defense
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Through four of his games I’ve tracked this season, Ufko has a 54.08% Corsi share, has registered 11.49 shot attempts and 6.19 primary shot assists per 60 minutes, and has allowed just 1.77 high-danger shots against per 60 minutes at even strength.

He’s been excellent as a shutdown defender for the Minutemen, allowing a successful zone-entry rate of 33.33% and keeping two-thirds of those successful entries to the perimeter of the zone. Look for more on Ufko from me this week.

7. Across the state at Northeastern University, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine is off to a good start for his junior season for the Huskies.

I’ve been skeptical of the 5’8” forward’s NHL prospects for some time. And while his five goals—three shy of his career-high—and 16 points in 16 games are solid, just six of those points are primary ones scored at even strength. He currently ranks third on Northeastern’s roster in scoring.

8. Over in Russia, Vladislav Yeryomenko is on pace for a career season with the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In and out of the lineup, often playing on their third pair, the 2018 fifth-round pick has still posted three goals and five points in 23 games this year.

While his future as a legitimate NHL prospect is over, Nashville does hold his exclusive negotiating rights indefinitely.

9. Also in the KHL is defense prospect Semyon Chistyakov, who is suiting up for Avangard Omsk. After a two-game relegation to the VHL earlier this year, Chistyakov has been a regular in the KHL lineup this season (aside from a recent six-game absence for undisclosed reasons), averaging 15:01 of ice time each night.

He’s scored three goals and 11 points, including four primary points at even strength, in 28 games this year. His contract in Russia expires at the end of this season; Nashville made an aggressive push to sign him after the 2020-21 season, but he chose to stay in the KHL for a bit. I’d expect him to wind up in Milwaukee for the 2023-24 campaign.


What I’m reading:


All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, khl.ru, or my own manual data tracking.