Regular seasons have mostly come to a close, some prospects are hitting free agency in their respective leagues, and Askarov Watch is just a few weeks away (his KHL contract expires April 30). Here’s the latest on the Nashville Predators’ pipeline.
1. With the CHL some of the only regular-season hockey left playing, Jack Matier has had a quietly good month for the Ottawa 67’s. The 6’4”, right-handed defender has now recorded nine goals and 29 points in 64 games for Ottawa this year, tripling his freshman OHL season total of nine.
We’ll never quite know how much sitting out the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 set back his development, but he’s come on strong offensively in the latter half of this season. Since the start of March, he’s collected two goals and seven points in 14 games and leads the blue line in scoring for an Ottawa team that’s headed to the playoffs as of yesterday.
Matier’s size and strength are impressive (see here), and I like the foundation of puck skills that he flashes from time to time. Another year in the OHL should help with speed and skating mechanics to better take on opponents’ top lines.
2. While Jack Matier was on the upswing in March, Zachary L’Heureux and the Halifax Mooseheads were not. Since the beginning of March, Halifax is 6-11-0 and has been outscored by their opponents 59 to 91. During that stretch, L’Heureux has scored just two goals and seven points, bringing his season total to 21 goals and 52 points in 43 games. That puts him third on the team in points per game (1.21) behind captain Elliot Desnoyers and 2022-eligible prospect Jordan Dumais and sixth among U19 drafted QMJHL players.
25 of his 52 points are primary ones scored at even strength, and L’Heureux has scored a primary point on 65.79% of the even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for — a good sign that his scoring woes are concurrent with the team’s scoring woes.
3. In March, Luke Evangelista became just the third Nashville-drafted prospect ever to score 50 goals in a CHL season, joining David Legwand and Alexander Radulov. The London Knights star is up to 53 goals and 104 points in 58 games, putting him on pace for 114 for the season.
The first player in the #OHL and the @CHLHockey with 5⃣0⃣ goals is the @PredsNHL prospect!— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 28, 2022
Luke Evangelista (@levang22) scores his 50th on the campaign to go along with 50 assists to give him points on the year for the @LondonKnights and a 2-0 advantage pic.twitter.com/c49xonp47J
He joins elite company, including Patrick Kane, Christian Dvorak, and David Bolland, in the Knights’ 50-goal, 100-point club and simply cannot stop scoring. He sits first in the OHL in goals, third in points, and second in points per game (1.79); 55 of his 104 points are primary ones scored at even strength, and he’s thrown 310 shots on net this year. Of his 58 games this season, he’s been held off the scoresheet in just eight of them.
4. Here’s the latest on the Preds prospects in Russia:
- Vladislav Yeryomenko and Dinamo Minsk were eliminated (4-0) in the first round of the KHL playoffs by SKA; Yeryomenko then played two playoff games for Dinamo-Molodechno in the Belorussian league. His KHL contract expires his off-season.
- Semyon Chistyakov and Avangard Omsk were eliminated (4-3) in the second round of the KHL playoffs by Metallurg Magnitogorsk; he has one year remaining on his KHL contract.
- SKA Neva is losing their third-round series in the VHL playoffs two games to one; Fyodor Svechkov has scored five points in 11 playoff games but has not been in the lineup for the past few contests. Yaroslav Askarov has started just three playoff games for Neva and finished with a 0.937 save percentage.
5. In his sophomore season at Clarkson University, goalie Ethan Haider increased his workload from 16 to 29 starts, but his save percentage dropped from 0.921 to 0.908; he stopped 4.638 goals above average this year.
Backup goalie Jacob Mucitelli picked up 10 starts, particularly during a stretch at the start of the new year when Haider struggled a bit and went 8-0-1 with a 0.944 save percentage (albeit against some weaker opponents). After a disappointing loss to Harvard in the ECAC tournament to end their season, I was wondering which one of the two netminders would budge seeing as they may both be NCAA starting-caliber players. Ultimately, last week, Mucitelli entered the NCAA transfer portal and will leave Clarkson this summer.
6. Anton Olsson’s Malmö Redhawks did not make the SHL playoffs and with their season over, he’s now a free agent over in Sweden. I’ve reported this here before, but it seems all but certain Olsson will sign a deal with Skellefteå AIK, joining fellow Preds prospect Adam Wilsby there next year.
Olsson—who finished the year with two goals and six points in 39 games—will be playing for Sweden’s U19 team at a Four Nations Tournament from April 14 to 16.
7. Another European free agent in the pipeline is goalie Konstantin Volkov. The 2016 sixth-round draft pick played his first season in Finland this year for Ässät—the Liiga’s worst club. In 37 games, he went 7-25-4, recorded a 0.897 save percentage, and allowed 5.947 goals above average. There’s no future in Nashville for him, but the organization does hold his exclusive negotiating rights until he turns 27.
8. Simon Knak and HC Davos are facing elimination for the third straight game in the Swiss league playoffs today. Knak—who was scratched for game five—finished his regular season with six goals and 11 points in 42 games (including seven primary points scored at even strength), playing mostly fourth-line minutes.
Knak has another year on his NLA contract and will likely return to the make-up World Junior Championship in August to captain the Swiss team after he missed out in December due to a positive COVID diagnosis.
9. Earlier last month, forward Juuso Pärssinen was the victim of a massive open-ice hit that left him motionless on the ice. Pärssinen was stretchered off, taken to the hospital, and diagnosed with a concussion; the Liiga decided the hit was not worthy of a suspension.
Pärssinen has since returned to the TPS lineup for their playoff run and has notched two goals and five points in five games as their top-line center.
After a scorching start to the season, Pärssinen was slowed by the concussion and a severe case of COVID-19 but finished the year with nine goals and 32 points in 41 games—good for 17th among Liiga skaters in points per game (0.78) and fourth among U21 skaters (behind Aatu Räty, Mikael Pyyhtiä, and Topi Niemelä).
Earlier this year, Scott Nichol confirmed the plan is for Pärssinen to join Milwaukee this spring after his Liiga season is over, and it seems clear TPS plans for him to be in North America full-time next season (given rumors of them courting Lukko’s leading scorer, Arttu Ilomäki, in free agency).
What I’m reading:
- Preds Prospect Luke Evangelista Shining Bright in OHL — NashvillePredators.com
- Unmasking the Lyon — TheAHL.com
- Stastney named Notre Dame hockey MVP — South Bend Tribune
- Dobber’s DraftCast: Episode 4 - Nashville Predators Prospects — Dobber’s DraftCast
- Oilers to honour openly gay NHL prospect Luke Prokop on Pride Night — Daily Hive