Preds Prospects Report: January
If Nashville’s season goes sideways, there’s always college hockey.
As the second half of the season has gotten underway, some of Nashville’s prospects have begun to raise some eyebrows both in North America and Europe. It’s almost an awkward time for prospect coverage: on one hand, fans are still clinging to potential playoff hopes; on the other, some are looking to the pipeline and upcoming draft eagerly.
Regardless, when surveying the organization’s pipeline, management has to be happy with where they’re at. The talent levels are leaps ahead of where they were this time last year, and, in some cases, Nashville boasts some of the most productive prospects around the league.
On top of that, David Poile has five picks in the first three rounds at the draft this June. Like I said, management has to be pleased.
Preds Prospects Report: October
Preds Prospects Report: November
Preds Prospects Report: December
Below I’ll span the pipeline to highlight a few stories from the past month. As always, check out previous reports via the links above.
1... On Valentine’s Day, business was as usual for TPS of the Finnish Liiga as they faced the Aces of Pori. Ultimately, the Turku squad came up short with a 5-3 loss, but there was an unusual player leading the offensive charge for TPS.
Nashville’s Juuso Parssinen took Friday’s contest to register two even-strength goals—both of which were an impressive display of the seventh-round pick’s skill:
It was the latest in good showings in Finland’s top league for Parssinen, who now has three goals and eight points in 24 games for TPS this season. Despite a long season under his belt including an off-season injury, 20 games for TPS’ Jr. A SM-liiga squad and a Spengler Cup appearance, Parssinen has quietly proved he could be a seventh-round steal for Nashville.
Of his eight points, six of them are primary ones scored at even-strength, meaning he’s contributed directly to two-thirds of the nine even-strength goals he’s been on ice for. Of all the U19 skaters in the Liiga with more than 10 games played, Parssinen is third in points-per-game (0.35) behind the Blackhawks’ Antti Saarela (0.39) and 2020 top-15 pick Anton Lundell (0.67).
2... Sitting right behind TPS in the Liiga standings is SaiPa, who has struggled this year with just 20 wins in 48 contests. Nothing has highlighted their inconsistency more than goaltender Niclas Westerholm who, in 33 starts, has allowed 90 goals on 854 shots which is 8.87 goals-allowed above average.
But there’s been somewhat of a revelation lately. Westerholm’s last five starts have been his best stretch of the season: 10 goals allowed on 125 shots, and two shutouts. If he’s turning a corner, it’s likely too late for this SaiPa team but maybe it’s fortunate for the only goalie outside of North America under contract for next year.
3... On January 3rd, Sioux City of the USHL acquired Devils prospect Akira Schmid from the Omaha Lancers. Ethan Haider then started three straight games for the Musketeers before Schmid began to split duties in net with the Nashville prospect.
Since those three consecutive starts, Haider and Schmid have, to some extent, alternated control of the net (Schmid was pulled in a 6-1 loss to Omaha on January 25) until the Musketeers’ past two games where the latter prospect took the ice for both.
Who has been better in that stretch? Haider allowed nine goals on 73 shots for an 0.877 save percentage (-4.179 GSAA on the season); Schmid allowed 11 goals on 88 shots for an 0.875 save percentage.
4... Through the first 27 games of the SuperElit season, Sodertalje SK’s U20 team was the worst in the league winning just four times and possessing a minus-68 goal differential. After that stretch, Sweden’s top junior circuit splits into two divisions: the top 10 and the “Forts” group, or the bottom eight. At season’s end, the playoffs are composed of the top 10 division and the six best teams from the latter group; the bottom-two teams enter into a relegation round.
Ten games into this stretch of games, Sodertalje is hanging onto a playoff spot with all they can muster. They’ve won three times in relegation and sit just one point ahead of seventh-place Rogle BK.
Isak Walther gör 2-0 till Södertälje mot Karlskrona, assisterad av Gustav Walther. #J20gifs #J20SEForts #twittssk #Preds pic.twitter.com/6xZwcpOzTM— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) February 14, 2020
Who’s been a second-half surprise for Sodertalje? Nashville’s own Isak Walther. In those ten games, he’s scored four goals—including two on Valentine’s Day—to more than double the three he notched in his first 23 games. Walther is up to just 11 points on the season now and has recorded a primary point on just one-third of the even-strength goals he’s been on ice for.
5... Defender Semyon Chistyakov has made his return to the lineup for Omskie Yastreby of the Russian MHL. After a December trade, the 2019 fifth-round pick dressed once for his new team on December 18 before a near two-month injury hiatus.
Chistyakov has dressed in four games since recording three assists; he now has three goals and 16 points in 21 games all season and leads all defenders in the pipeline with a 3.45 goals-for per 60 minutes rate.
Chistyakov should graduate to the VHL next season, especially since his trade sparked conversation about a potential promotion, and will likely be an important piece of Russia’s World Junior Championship roster for the 2021 tournament.
6... The UConn Huskies took on the Maine Black Bears this past weekend in a critical series for the Hockey East standings. As the NCAA approaches conference tournament season, these games are undeniably important; a hot run in a conference tournament can propel a team into the 16-team show at season’s end.
No team illustrates how important conference play is more than Providence: they’re 14th in USCHO’s latest poll with a 14-9-6 record overall, but the Friars sit ninth out of 11 teams in the Hockey East standings with an 8-8-3 conference record.
The Huskies are fighting for one of the eight spots in the Hockey East tournament, as it will be their only hope at an NCAA tournament bid. As of Saturday afternoon, this is how tight the Hockey East picture is:
Since the new year, Jachym Kondelik has six points (two goals, four assists) in eight games for the Huskies but went scoreless in five of those contests.
UConn GOAL!!!! Huskies tie it up early in the 2nd off a Maine turnover. Sasha Payusov buries a feed from Jachym Kondelik at 3:25 to tie it at 2-2 . #IceBus pic.twitter.com/rpqLhzVvPO— UConn Men's Hockey (@UConnMHOC) January 16, 2020
He’s doubled his goal total from last season already (8), but might fall short of his freshman year point total (26) without a point-per-game showing down the stretch. The previously-identified skills are still apparent some nights, but there’s no doubt the Czech center has fallen short of expected progress in his sophomore year.
7... If you missed this year’s edition of the Beanpot Tournament (or don’t know what I’m talking about), you’ll be kicking yourself when you see the highlights. At the annual gathering of Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College and Boston University, the on-ice product did not disappoint.
Boston’s quarterfinal contest against BC was full of drama as the Terriers trailed 2-0, 2-1 and 3-1 before responding with three straight goals on the backs of David Farrance and Patrick Harper. The Eagles tied things late, and one overtime period wasn’t sufficient; ultimately, freshman Wilmer Skoog sent BU to the championship game with a 5-4 winner in the second overtime frame.
Taking on Northeastern for the Beanpot championship, the Terriers jumped out to a 2-0 lead before surrendering four-straight goals in quick succession to the Huskies in period two alone. Farrance responded quickly into the third with a suave move on the power play and then kept BU’s championship hopes alive with an unbelievable offensive zone keep-in late that period. Harper collected the puck off of Farrance’s impressive play and catalyzed one final attack which Trevor Zegras punched home with just one second remaining.
In double overtime, Harper was whistled on a weak penalty, and Northeastern took advantage of the power play, sending the Terriers home in heartbreak. But those two games still highlighted how critical Farrance and Harper are to BU’s operation; the two Nashville prospects combined for 11 points in the tournament alone.
Needless to say, BU wouldn’t have come close to any Beanpot success without these two nor, for that matter, any success this season as a whole. Farrance and Harper are fifth and ninth in the nation in scoring with 37 and 35 points, respectively. Farrance leads all defenders in scoring and goals (14), and Harper has notched a primary point on 55.17% of all even-strength goals he’s been on ice for.
Expect both to be offered entry-level contracts once the Terriers’ season ends.
8... He’s been so dominant this season, especially since being acquired by the Oshawa Generals, that it’s almost boring to talk about Philip Tomasino. The 2019 first-round draft choice for Nashville now has 37 goals and 92 points in 52 games for Oshawa and Niagara. He’s helping Oshawa score at an astonishing 4.10 goals-for per 60 minutes rate at even-strength play and was rewarded with OHL Player of the Month honors at the end of January.
Of his 16 games (as of Saturday afternoon) in a Generals uniform, he’s been held off the score sheet just three times and has recorded six games of 3+ points. He sits in third in OHL scoring at just five points back of 2020 NHL Draft prospect Marco Rossi, and is sixth in the league in goals.
There’s been chatter about him claiming an NHL roster spot next season. I won’t rule it out, but, unless he’s a Calder Trophy front-runner, it’s best he dominate the OHL at age 19.
9... Over the past few games, defender Hardy Haman Aktell has been sidelined from the Allsvenskan-leading Bjorkloven lineup with a nagging groin issue. It’s certainly a bump in the road in what has otherwise been a personally remarkable season for Aktell. He’s averaging 18:40 of ice time per night—fourth among defenders on the team—and has five goals and 14 points in 42 games.
All of that is excellent progress for the 2016 fourth-round pick who spent much of 2016 through 2018 sidelined with a myriad of injuries that ultimately required surgery on both hips.
Notes from around the NHL:
- The 2021 Memorial Cup host bid will come down to the Oshawa Generals or the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. If it’s the former, that would grant Tomasino an automatic appearance in the CHL’s four-team playoff next spring.
- This was expected, but the Laval Rocket will host the 2021 AHL All-Star Classic.
- Undrafted college free agent season is approaching. I’ll be putting together my annual piece on some potential options, including Arizona State defender Brinson Pasichnuk who became the first player in the Sun Devils’ program to record 100 career points.
- With Igor Shestyorkin graduating to the Rangers, I wonder if Connor Ingram is the most NHL-ready goalie outside of the league now.
- One player who impressed me most at the Beanpot was Vancouver’s Aidan McDonough; the seventh-round pick has 24 points in 24 games at Northeastern as a freshman./
What I’m reading:
- Three Players Apply for the CHL’s Exceptional Status - The Prospect Network
- As search for a new Hockey East commissioner pushes forward... - USCHO
- Crowded Interest - College Hockey News
- The hype around Eeli Tolvanen is gone... - The Athletic [$]
- 10 NHL prospects who could be on the move at the trade deadline - The Athletic [$]
- Pronman: Ranking the 2020 NHL Draft top prospects at midseason - The Athletic [$]
- Renewed Focus Helping Predators Prospect David Farrance Lead Terriers - EP Rinkside [$]
- 2020 NHL Entry Draft Ranking Version 2.0 - EP Rinkside [$]
- “Then I thought - damn, now it’s over.” - HockeySverge.se/
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, liiga.fi, collegehockeynews.com, ontariohockeyleague.com, and swehockey.se.