Thursday, January 17th
As we get set for the 2012-2013 NHL Season to begin (finally), I wanted to touch base on a few prospects turning my head before the hockey world eventually turns their head on the minor and junior leagues (shame on you if you are guilty of this lol).
Here are ten rookies I feel could have the biggest impact (if they make their squads) in the 2012-2013 NHL season:
1. Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) – Yep, I have him ahead of Yakupov, Granlund, Tarasenko, Schultz and Huberdeau. Why? Galchenyuk is oozing confidence and his size, skill and determination will set him above. Sure, it is a bold prediction, but if anyone has proved people wrong before it is Alex Galchenyuk. It will be a top-six and second PP role for Galchenyuk or back to junior, so he will make noise if he stays. Furthermore, Galchenyuk has been rumoured to be slated to skate with Plekanecs on the second line and will draw defensive assignments as a result. As Landeskog did in 2011, Glachenyuk could have a similar (to a lesser extent) impact at both ends of the rink.
Prediction: 45 GP- 14G – 20A – 34P or 6GP-2G-2A-4P
2. Justin Schultz (EDM) – He is going to get every opportunity to play ‘his’ game and after a ridiculous start to his AHL career, Edmonton is going to ride his hot hand. Schultz has zero competition for his role in Edmonton which gives him a loooooong leash.
3. Mikael Granlund (MIN) – The most anticipated prospect to arrive in North America in several years will step right into a top-six role on an improved Minnesota Wild team. Granlund will skate on the second line with seasoned veterans and will not have to face top opposing defenders that he would on the first line.
4. Sven Baertschi (CGY) – My sleeper pick is Sven Bartschi. The young Swiss forward owns that “it” factor and there is plenty of opportunity in Calgary for offensive ice time. Bartschi is not the sexiest name here but he proved last year in a short stint that he can be a trusted and effective player.
5. Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) – Huberdeau’s time has arrived to make the jump to the NHL and if he can find some immediate chemistry then he jumps way up this list. The Panthers’ overall team depth may limited his offensive opportunities in his rookie season though.
6. Jakob Silfverberg (OTT) – The new Sens’ arrival already has professional experience and his tremendous SEL resume speaks to itself.
7. Nail Yakupov (EDM) – I am hesitant to place Yakupov too high on this list simply based on what I have observed over the past few years. If Yakupov finds chemistry with Hemsky and Gagner then he will transition nicely to the NHL. However, it appears that Yakupov has battled internally whether or not he should lean towards being a sniper or a playmaker. Of course, ideally Yakupov would fill both roles but he is at his best when he is “the man” and with him playing on a deep Oilers’ roster I have a feeling that he struggles to find his way in his rookie season. Then again, I could be wrong.
8. Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) – Another anticipated arrival, Tarasenko will also walk into a scoring opportunity but on the Blues’ deep roster he will have to earn every minute. Tarasenko could go through an adjustment period as he starts his North American hockey debut. He is a player that will either “get it” right away or take his time to stardom. As with most Blues’ prospect, I expect him to take the latter route.
9. Gustav Nyquist (DET) – Slated to start the season in the top-six with potential linemate Pavel Datsyuk instantly makes Nyquist a legit Calder threat.
10. Beau Bennett (PIT) – Auditioning to play with Evgeny Malkin is a nice way to enter the NHL and if Bennett wins the job then he will produce simply through osmosis.
(Long Overdue) World Junior Championship Thoughts:
The tournament certainly had some studs and duds, as expected, so here are a few names that stood out for me over the course of event.
STUD: Joel Armia (BUF) was a polarizing player at the 2012 WJC tournament but the big talented Finn helped his case with a strong performance at the 2013 WJC. Armia showcased his elite offensive skills on several occasions and at times, simply dominated the competition. Blessed with an elite shot and advanced puck handling skills, Armia owns the complete package of size, skill and intelligence to become an NHL star. His consistency and compete level are the two areas that will either make or break his NHL career.
STUD: Alex Galchenyk (MTL). I know, I know…how much more can @RossyYoungblood keep touting this young future superstar? Well, as I have been saying for over two years now, Galchenyuk is a player that is a must own in all keeper leagues. He was not as dominant as he could be at the WJC, mainly because the coaching staff utilized him ineffectively (in my opinion), but this kid oozes star potential.
Beyond the WJC, Galchenyuk is impressing at the Canadiens’ training camp and is surely going to see a short NHL stint before the Habs’ brass are forced to make a decision to either keep him or send him back to Sarnia. My bet: Based on his play (has the potential to be one of Montreal’s top forwards as a rookie), Galchenyuk is going to force their hand and keep him for this shortened NHL season. The only way he returns to Sarnia is because the Canadiens do not want to burn a year off his ELC or are too close to the cap. His play will keep him in Montreal, where he belongs. My top Calder favourite if he stays.
STUD: Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) took a few games to get going at the WJC but once he hit his stride, the little playmaker was unstoppable. The Flames have struggled over the past decade or so drafting talent but in the past few drafts; their scouting staff has done a good job at adding players of Gaudreau’s ilk. Keep an eye on Gaudreau as he is a prospect that I really, REALLY like. It’s his tenacity, drive, and hockey sense that should almost assure him some NHL time in the near future.
STUD: John Gibson (ANA) was easily the top goaltender in the 2013 WJHC as he single handily led his American team to the gold medal. Poised with an unflappable demeanor about him, Gibson showed why he could quickly become the Ducks’ future goaltender between the pipes (ETA: 2015-16). It’s probably too late now but Gibson is a netminder to target in all keeper leagues.
STUD: Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF) continues to make teams look foolish for passing over him at last years’ draft. There is little doubt that Grigorenko will become the steal of the draft after sliding to the Sabres at the 12th selection. His size, poise with the puck and ability to dominate puck possession make him an ideal NHL prospect. I was high on him prior to last year’s draft and that hasn’t changed one bit six months later.
STUD: Tomas Hertl (SJS) was probably the Czech Republic’s most dominant player as he showcased his advanced puck skills and incredible hockey sense. Hertl was a player that controlled the pace of the game and the Sharks have to be thrilled with his WJC showing.
STUD: Dmitrij Jaskin (STL) showed much better than he has over the past few seasons. Jaskin was much more physical (important for a 6’3” forward) and was an effective playmaker for the Czech team executing pin-point passes. He remains a project but his strong WJC definitely bodes well for this Blues’ prospect.
STUD: Jacob Trouba (WPG) was a man-beast for the American squad. It is safe to say that many people left the WJC thinking, “how in the hell was any defenseman drafted ahead of Jacob Trouba?” The big smooth skating reliable defenseman showed offensive skills that I was not expecting; at least not to the level he displayed them. Dominant. The Jets have another defensive gem to add to the likes of Byfuglien, Enstrom and Bogosian.
DUD: Dougie Hamilton (BOS) was THE biggest disappointment for me and he did not receive the criticism that he deserve, in my opinion. The big rearguard should have dominated this tournament but instead was just a mere shadow of his OHL-self, scoring a measly 2 points in six games.
Hamilton will almost certainly play the remainder of this season in Boston under the watchful eye of veteran Bruins’ Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg and (much like Yakupov) it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NHL. To me, Hamilton’s skating was not as strong in the WJC and that was shocking since he has normally been very mobile. From a fantasy perspective, I would not expect much from Hamilton this season.
DUD: Ryan Murphy (CAR) received ample time to prove himself playing under Rangers’ coach Steve Spott but he failed to show up until the bronze medal game, when it was too late. Murphy has been mediocre all season long in the OHL and it continued into the WJC where he seemed to lack the confidence that makes him such a dangerous weapon from the blue line. He has been focusing on improving his defensive game but it is certainly coming at a cost. He has not been the same offensive dynamo we have witnessed at past international events for Canada.
DUD: Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) was a player I had high expectations for coming into the 2013 WJC and maybe these lofty expectations are the reason I have labelled him a “dud”. Maybe my expectations were too high. Regardless, Teravainen had some fantastic moments showing his skill that made me a huge fan of his but it was his compete level that really soured me. Teuvo was often disengaged and did not show much battle in his game. It’s a small red flag for Teravainen and it will be an area to watch in his future games.
DUD: Nail Yakupov (EDM) was expected to dominate his competition and he simply did not show up. Am I surprised? Absolutely not. From a person with endless views of Yakupov, I can confidently say that he rarely dominates a game from start to finish. Yakupov is a “big shift guy”, meaning that he can be put out onto the ice in moments that his team needs a goal. Yakupov will dazzle with a beautiful rush here and there but it’s rare to see him dominate in the same way that his former teammate Alex Galchenyuk can throughout an entire 60 minute game. It is this reason that I had Galchenyuk as the long-term better NHL investment. Yakupov had a strong bronze medal game to pick up bronze but his WJC performance was disappointing nonetheless. As he transitions to the NHL, it will be interesting to see if he can adapt his game (he has the skill to) to tap his massive potential. Chemistry will certainly be a big factor in his success in Edmonton.
Other Notable Strong Performances:
Fillip Forsberg (WSH) – Snakebit for most of the tournament, Forsberg’s lack of production wasn’t a result from a lack of trying. He was all over the ice creating opportunities for Sweden.
Markus Granlund (CGY) – A player that keeps showing me that he will always find a way to “get it done” and I love these types of prospects - always overachieving until we finally accept that he will be a good player.
Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) – Grimaldi struggled to find the game sheet (except in the Gold medal game) but he found a way to make himself effective, specifically on the defensive side of the puck. The small forward puts a lot of pressure on himself to play well and it’s noticeable in his astute two-way game.
Yaroslav Kosov (FLA) – In every viewing of Kosov’s game (Can-Rus Challenge, Super Series, WJC, etc.), I walk away impressed. Kosov owns great puck pursuit skills and is a man-beast to deal with in the puck possession game. Florida keeps on drafting some great talent and each of them seem to have good intangibles too.
Xavier Ouellet (DET) – Playing in the shadows of bigger names (Hamilton, Murphy, etc.) on Canada, Ouellet earned his minutes on the blue line with his strong play, especially on the offensive side of the puck. He owns a good shot that seems to always find its way to the net and makes strong decisions with the puck.
Morgan Rielly (TOR) – Rielly had an up-and-down tournament but that is expected with his style of play. His elite skating and puck handling allow him to take offensive chances and with that style of play also comes some risk. For the most part, Rielly was an impressive player for Team Canada and I felt that he should have been given the minutes that defenseman Ryan Murphy seemed to gobble up under coach Spott. The good outweighed the bad for Morgan Rielly.
NHL Training Camp Cuts: Brett Ritchie (DAL), Radek Faksa (DAL), Stefan Noesen (OTT), Cody Ceci (OTT), John Gibson (ANA) to name a few.
Scott Laughton (PHI) has reportedly played very well at Flyers camp and could stick with the club. I'm not surprised, I tweeted last week that he was a player I thought had a real chance of making the NHL this year. Ditto for Boone Jenner (CBJ).
Thanks for reading,
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