With February coming to a close, prospects’ seasons are winding down, and we could see some movement (entry-level contracts, European players coming overseas, etc.) in the Nashville organization very soon. In the meantime, here’s the latest on several prospects in the Preds’ pipeline.
1. Kicking off last month’s report is defender Ryan Ufko. The 2021 fourth-round pick has been a standout rookie for the UMass Minutemen this season, skating with veteran Matthew Kessel on the team’s top pair.
He’s scored five goals and 26 points in 33 games this season, which is good for third on the team in scoring and is just four points behind the defensive scoring leader, Scott Morrow (who has been the subject of headlines all season long). Last month, the 5’10” defender scored three goals and ten points in eight games and subsequently earned Hockey East Rookie of the Month honors.
2. Another collegiate blueliner in the organization that really stood out in February was Notre Dame defender Spencer Stastney. The senior assistant captain has been a big—arguably the biggest—reason why Notre Dame finds themselves seventh in the latest USCHO poll.
One thing that makes Spencer Stastney (#24) such an effective D-man is how quickly he can take away space.— OTF: Preds Prospects (@OnTheFutureOTF) February 13, 2022
Times his crossover step well in the NZ, angles the puck-carrier to force a pass, and takes away space/passing lanes for #11, forcing a perimeter shot. #Preds pic.twitter.com/cPJZWwRaLs
He’s one of the best skaters in the pipeline and that helps him control so much space, on both sides of the puck, at the college level. His offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, although he has scored a career-high 27 points in 36 games this season, but he’s so hard to wrestle the puck from and that shows in the stats I’ve tracked: 57.3% Corsi (in ten games) and a 75.6% controlled zone exit rate, including 49.2% of said exits which he skated out on his own.
Stastney—who I anticipate Nashville will sign to an entry-level contract this summer—has five goals and 18 points in his last 20 games. He’s also incurred just eight penalty minutes all season.
3. Up in New York, forward Alexander Campbell has continued his excellent season for the Clarkson Golden Knights. The 2019 third-round pick has scored 14 goals and 30 points in 34 games, which is good for second on the team in scoring. 18 of those points are primary ones scored at even-strength, and he’s recorded a primary point on 69.2% of the even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for. Much like last season, he’s taken just one minor penalty all year.
Campbell has shown a lot of growth this season and has been one of the best forwards in the ECAC. He's got strong offensive metrics across the board, is very good at entering the zone, and wins a high percentage of his battles. Also excellent penalty differential. #Preds https://t.co/m0FO6HAxPh pic.twitter.com/cc5CtXKWvj— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) March 2, 2022
4. While Ryan Ufko is quietly bolstering the UMass lineup, their conference rival—the UConn Huskies—is being led by senior forward Jachym Kondelik. The 2018 fourth-round pick has progressed well from his freshman year, improving his skating and the physicality in his game. He’s been consistent offensively, too; Kondelik has scored 20+ points in all four seasons at UConn and has notched a career-high 32 points in 33 games this year.
He’s still much more a set-up man (13.24 primary shot assists per 60 minutes) than a shooter (8.57 shot attempts per 60 minutes), but he’s hit double-digit goals (12) for the first time in his NCAA career as a senior. Last month, Kondelik reached the 100-point mark in his collegiate career and became the all-time assist leader in UConn history; he’s also just a handful of points away from becoming the program’s all-time scoring leader.
5. On the flip side of all this success, one prospect who has disappointed this season is Luke Reid. The University of New Hampshire defender has tried to stay afloat with a Wildcats team that’s gone 14-16-1 and just 8-13-1 in conference play. Play a similar style (and with a similar stature) to Ryan Ufko, I think Reid has taken a step back in his sophomore year. He hasn’t been a difference-maker on offense or on defense most nights and has just three goals and eight points in 33 games (his exact point total from 22 games as a freshman).
6. Luke Evangelista: what is there to say?
If you haven’t been paying attention, it wouldn’t take you much Google or Twitter searching to see that the Preds’ 2020 second-round pick has been lighting up the OHL. In 44 games this year, he’s scored 43 goals and 82 points and is on pace for 119 points over a whole season. He leads the league in goals and is tied for fourth in points but sits atop the OHL with 1.86 points per game.
Alexander Radulov holds the record for the best CHL scoring season of a drafted Preds’ prospect with 152 points. Will Evangelista beat that? No chance. But in 2022, anything over 100 points is incredible.
40 of Evangelista’s 82 points this season are primary ones scored at even strength, he’s put 240 shots on net, and he’s recorded a primary point on 70.2% of even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for. The icing on the cake for all of this? Evangelista will be eligible to play in Milwaukee next year. He’s not quite ready for the NHL and could use some added strength, quicker timing when making plays, and a chance to master more defensive scenarios, but with the way he’s worked on his shooting and utilizing his awareness with the puck, he could be a huge addition to the Admirals in 2022-23.
7. Returning from a six-game suspension, fellow CHL’er Zachary L’Heureux has had a handful of great performances for the Halifax Mooseheads. Across seven games in February and March, L’Heureux has scored three goals and eight points, increasing his season total to 19 goals and 46 points in 31 games.
Of L’Heureux’s 46 points, 23 of them have been primary points scored at even strength; he also leads all forward prospects in the pipeline in recording a primary point on 74.2% of even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for.
8. Hoping to purposefully limit my KHL and VHL coverage right now, here’s a quick update on Nashville’s prospects playing in Russia:
- Omsk (KHL) is up three games to none in their first-round series; Semyon Chistyakov dressed for just game three
- Dinamo Minsk (KHL) is down three games to none in their first-round series against SKA; Vladislav Yeryomenko has averaged 12:43 of ice time in those three games
- SKA Neva (VHL) won their first-round series four games to two; Yaroslav Askarov started three games, finishing with a 0.937 save percentage, and Fyodor Svechkov scored one goal and one assist in six games
9. On top of everything else, we’ve also reached undrafted free agent and entry-level contract season. After March 1, teams can sign draft choices on their reserve lists (look to Adam Wilsby and Askarov here) and free agents that are no longer eligible for the entry draft. Nashville has made some key signings in this department in the recent past, including Tanner Jeannot, Cole Smith, and Mathieu Olivier, but I don’t expect them to be too busy this season given an already crowded depth chart in Milwaukee for next season. Regardless, here are a few names to keep an eye on:
- Strauss Mann: The American goalie started two games for the U.S. at the Olympics this year and has had a solid year (0.917 save percentage) with Skellefteå AIK in the SHL. His name was out there last summer after his NCAA career finished at Michigan, but he ultimately didn’t sign an NHL deal.
- Riese Gaber: At 5’8”, Gaber is a very undersized forward, but he’s excelled at North Dakota the past two seasons. He notched 21 points in 29 games as a freshman and has upped that to 35 points in 30 points this year. Corey Pronman has reported he’ll likely return for his junior season.
- Ben Meyers: Another U.S. Olympian, Meyers has attracted NHL interest for a couple of seasons now. He comes in under 6’0”, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a harder working forward in college hockey. In his third year at Minnesota, he’s scored 15 goals and 34 points in 29 games.
- Jake Livingstone: I expect Livingstone to draw several contract offers. He’s excelled for Minnesota State with 40 points in 64 career games after a stellar BCHL career. He’s also a right-shot defender who stands at 6’3”.
What I’m reading:
- Matthew Kessel and Ryan Ufko continue to gel as UMass’ top defensive pairing — The Daily Collegian
- Irish skaters have someone special in Spencer Stastney — ND Insider
- Forward Jachym Kondelik is helping a streaking UConn men’s hockey team gather momentum in Hockey East — The Hartford Courant
- Minor league baseball, hockey teams seeking COVID-19 relief — AP
- Penn State men’s hockey loses key contributor ahead of final home series of season against Minnesota — The Daily Collegian