Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – March, 2020

Well…what else is there to do right now?  Not a heck of a lot.  But I have some blogs in the vault that I had been working on, and after a few days of depression and sitting around thinking “what the fuck?!”, I’ve now gotten back on track.  Did a podcast last week, looking to put out some of the blogs I had started (such as this one), maybe try some different blogs, maybe knock out some different podcasts, and we’ll see how this goes!  HOPEFULLY, no matter what I put out for content, it’s entertaining and helps people pass the time.

 

Oh how things have changed since the last time around!  Three players have graduated from the list, unfortunately another damn good one from the last list has been lost, and therefore the list definitely isn’t near as strong as it was.  Having said that, the top end is still strong, and their is still ridiculous potential with the group I speak of in this list.

 

As for how I rank them, it’s no doubt a bit of a juggling act.  I place a much higher value on potential then how close someone is or isn’t to playing with the big club.  For example, William Lagesson is nearly a lock to being their number seven defenceman for the 20-21 season, but the upside is severely lacking.  So for me, that isn’t going to fetch him a high ranking on my list as that type of player is a dime a dozen.  Having said that, a certainty can have more value than someone who is still multiple years away from playing.  So it can be confusing how I rank them, but

 

With my last list in my honourable mentions, I mostly discussed the kids who had just been drafted by the club and didn’t make the top 20.  This time around I picked five guys (best burger joint on the planet) who have questionable futures with the organization.

 

The first time I did my own Oilers prospect rankings was just days after they were eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2017 playoffs.  That was the only list I did that didn’t have Kailer Yamamoto on it.  The other thing was it had a couple of defencemen ranked 2nd and 3rd who after watching their WHL careers unfold I seemed to be much higher on than most were.  Now I get to rave about how all three have graduated to the big club.

 

Graduated

Ethan Bear

Phenomenal rookie season.  Absolutely phenomenal.  I’ve said this before this season, but it still baffles me how people were so shocked at his emergence this season.  He fell as far as 8th in the last rankings I did, but he never fell because I soured on him.  I always maintained that if he cleaned up his skating that he’d be a top-four defenceman, and if he didn’t then he could still be a bottom pairing guy.  I won’t go as far as to say that I saw this coming THIS season, but it definitely didn’t shock me.  His emergence might have been the biggest reason for the turnaround.  Far from the only reason, but had Bear not stepped up, the blueline would have been THIN.

 

Caleb Jones

As great as Bear was this season, I still wonder though if Jones will end up being the better defenceman.  Not that I see it being a big gap between the two either way, but Jones skating is so terrific, and I don’t believe we’ve truly seen what Jones can do offensively yet.  He became more and more comfortable as the season went on, and by the time Klefbom went down he was more than ready for a top-four role.  That is so key for this organization, as now if they need to protect 7/3 in next year’s expansion draft rather than 4/4, they can move a big-time guy like Klefbom or Nurse out and still be in great shape.

 

Kailer Yamamoto

I’m not sure fans understand exactly what the Oilers just might have with Yamamoto.  We might be talking about this kid before too long in the same breathe as McDavid and Draisaitl.  Not that he is going to be a 100 point guy, that would be absurd!  But that he has the ability to carry his own line and dominate a hockey game if need be.  He has the speed, skill, and the compete level to become a high-end player in the league.  It took him longer to establish himself than I believed it would (though only by a season), and now that he has, he’s proving he’s the goods.  The focus of a lot of Oilers fans moving forward is what a contract extension for Ethan Bear will look like.  Well for Yamamoto (would have been July 1st, but who knows when the new league year will begin at this point), he is eligible for an extension and if I’m Ken Holland I’m looking to do as many years as I possibly can to ensure Oilers fans see all of this kids prime.

 

Hounourable Mention

Jesse Puljujärvi

Team: Kärpät  League: Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 201  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 24  A: 29  P: 53

DOB: 05/07/98, Älvkarleby, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The first of two where I ask: are they prospects?!  We all know the story, he says he’s never coming back to the Oilers, and Ken Holland isn’t going to move him unless he gets a great offer.  I laugh at the “threat” that he’ll stay for another year in Finland.  AWESOME!!!  I was saying last year at this time (before he even asked for a trade), that the best-case scenario for Puljujärvi would be that he goes overseas for two years to develop.  This is not hurting him in the slightest.  It’s not hurting his game or his value.  For me, if I’m Ken Holland, I wait until he’s willing to return because I have always seen him as a kid with massive talent who will eventually put it all together.  I’m not saying I expect him to become the star I once believed he’d be, but a top-six player definitely isn’t out the question given he’s still doesn’t hit 22 until May 7th.  He needs to fire his agent in my opinion, and he needs to mature.  After next season I would suggest that the pressure could begin to mount to move him, but I don’t believe it’s this off-season and I don’t believe Holland will move him just to be done with it.  That’s not his style.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

Anton Slepyshev

Team: CSKA Moskva  League: KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 18  A: 27  P: 45

DOB: 05/13/94, Penza, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 88th Overall, 2013 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The second of two who I’m not sure whether or not they could be referred to as prospects.  Unlike Puljujärvi however, it really sounds for sure that Slepyshev will be back with the Oilers next season.  The problem I could see though is where exactly he fits in the lineup.  At this point, it looks as though everyone they currently have up front will return.  Still, Slepyshev is capable of being a very solid top-nine forward for this club.  This time around, he’ll have a head coach who isn’t looking for any reason possible to pull him from a line or completely out of the lineup…

ETA: Early 20-21

 

Joe Gambardella

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 50  G: 14  A: 14  P: 28

DOB: 12/01/93, Staten Island, NY

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 28th, 2017

Previous Rank: 14

Ken Holland increased the depth of the Oilers dramatically last off-season simply by bringing in a lot of fringe NHL players.  What that did was essentially make a guy like Gambardella strictly an AHL player.  His struggles this season MIGHT be the result of a guy who lost some of his passion to play given that he is now 26 years old and the NHL is looking more and more like a pipe dream after getting into 15 games last season.  I’ve always felt like he’s had the tools to be a role player in the league.  Great wheels, plays with a ton of passion, doesn’t shy away from the dirty area’s, it still wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up spending some time in the show at some point.  But even with a year left on his contract, it sure doesn’t look like that’ll be with the Oilers.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

Josh Currie

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 24  A: 17  P: 41

DOB: 10/29/92, Charlottetown, PE

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed July 19th, 2018

Previous Rank: NR

I can’t see Currie re-signing (his deal is up this off-season).  After getting into 21 games down the stretch in the 18-19 season, he became an afterthought for the new brass.  Perhaps he resigns himself to the thought that he simply sign an AHL deal and stay in Bakersfield.  But if he still has NHL aspirations, then he’ll be looking for a new home as time is running out for him.  If this is it for Currie, it’ll be a big loss for the Condors as he has carried them offensively for the last few seasons.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

Shane Starrett

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 194  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 14  GAA: 3.63  Sv%: .874

DOB: 07/12/94, Bellingham, MA

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 10th, 2017

Previous Rank: NR

It’s very possible that Starrett has played his final game for the Oilers organization.  He is a group VI (6 for those who don’t do Roman numerals, I don’t know why they always are but I don’t want to look any dumber than I already am) free agent this summer, Olivier Rodrigue will be entering pro hockey and need starts, Dylan Wells still has a year left on his ELC, and of course, Stuart Skinner does as well.  Not much room for Starrett, who after a terrific 18-19 regular season, started to fall off in those playoffs, and then injuries really have taken their toll on his performance this season.  Personally, I’m not too high on Starrett.  In my viewings, he is a guy who blocks pucks but can’t make saves.  This is something I’ve talked a lot about in the past with goaltenders.  Having size and being positionally sound is great, but I still need to see that a guy has the athleticism to make a big save and I’ve never seen that with Starrett.  Beyond that, it is much more vital to be giving starts to the younger guys which of course is difficult to do with Starrett in the fold.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

I hope you enjoyed the appetizers, and now for the main course…

 

20. Matej Blümel

Team: HC Dynamo Pardubice   League: Czech

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 31  G: 4  A: 1  P: 5

DOB: 05/31/00, Tabor, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: HM

There is nothing that stands out with Blümel, but everything checks out as ok at this point.  He is a solid skater, good size, and he is pretty skilled.  Obviously playing in Pardubice this season it is much tougher to gauge his skill, but at the WJC we all had a good look at him.  It was a BIT of a disappointing performance for him, but it became a bit of a mess with the Czech team with all their injuries.  What I did like is that he saw a lot of tough minutes, and I believe that is how he is going to get the attention of the organization moving forward.  As I said, nothing stands out but he does everything well so if he can develop his 200-foot game then he will have that special trait he will need.  The beauty of his situation is that the Oilers have a while before a decision is needed on whether or not to sign him.

ETA: Mid 23-24

 

19. Markus Niemeläinen

Team: Ässät  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 55  G: 1  A: 6  P: 7

DOB: 06/08/98, Kuopio, FIN

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Niemeläinen is one of those guys who just MIGHT still surprise us, simply because the ability is so ridiculous.  Not just the size, but he has always had people intrigued because he can also skate extremely well for that size, and he also moves the puck well.  He has never shown any interest in becoming a two-way defenceman as many desired him to be, but he has always been solid in his own zone.  And the thing with this club is that they are now getting to a point where they will have plenty of offensive production coming from the blueline.  They might need a shutdown guy as Niemeläinen has more than enough potential still to become.  This is the final chance they have to sign him (becomes a UFA June 1st), so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they do so.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

18. Ostap Safin

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 16  A: 19  P: 35

DOB: 02/11/99, Praha, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: HM

Some…maybe most, will have given up on Safin.  And I get it.  A) the Oilers prospect depth isn’t what it was thanks to the kids who have graduated this season.  B) he’s still just a season removed from his hip issues.  C) the size, skating, and edge combination with this kid is worth investing time in.  Even if Safin only becomes a 4th line player, he would still be a 4th line guy with size who can really skate and punish the opposition.  Last year wasn’t pretty, and this season putting up average numbers in the ECHL doesn’t inspire much.  But I have to see a healthy season out of him in the AHL before I’m ready to write him off because there is just too much to work with here.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

17. Aapeli Räsänen

Team: Boston College  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 11  A: 13  P: 24

DOB: 06/01/98, Tampere, FIN

Acquired: 6th Round, 158th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Back, and better than ever!  Räsänen was a kid who I was pretty high on prior to last season.  And then last season was…horrific.  He went from being a kid who was a no-brainer to sign to a kid who there was no way you’d waste a contract on.  Now he’s back on the radar, but with a regime in place that didn’t draft him.  It’ll be interesting to see if A) they attempt to sign him and B) if he’s willing to sign with the Oilers as he will become a free agent next summer.  The Oilers could really use another centre in the system as some may argue they don’t have one coming (McLeod might be better suited for the wing, Lavoie is likely a winger in the pros, and Marody had an awful season).  I don’t see Räsänen as anything more than a 4C (always compared him to Mark Letestu), but a 4C who can be thrown on the ice in any situation is a pretty damn valuable piece to have.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

16. Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 13  A: 60  P: 73

DOB: 09/23/00, Pardubice, CZE

Acquired: 6th Round, 162nd Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: HM

It’s funny, in doing this write-up about Mazura the thought started to run through my mind “this situation reminds me a lot of Mark Jankowski” before I even realized that Jankowski went to Providence college…where Mazura is going this fall.  A total project, but one that has me overly intrigued.  Mazura is an EXTREMELY likable kid.  If you recall at last year’s development camp he held court with the media, and basically just had a conversation with all of them as if he’d been around them for years.  If you don’t recall that, click here to see it.  Most kids at that age will give the media the standard answers they’re coached to give by the teams PR people and get the hell out of there.  Mazura loved every minute of it and could have talked all day!  Then you have the size.  Last summer he was listed at 6’2, 170lbs.  Now (as you can see) it’s 6’4, 190.  And the kid is still RAIL thin.  It’s that size combined with his very solid skating ability and vision that has me giddy about what he could be.  But again, he’s a total project and a total project means that he’s still a long way away.  He has yet to truly be tested, but that will change this fall.  High IQ, great size, great skater, tough to bet against this kid becoming a player someday.

ETA: Early 24-25

 

15. Dylan Wells

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 7  GAA: 3.77  Sv%: .878

DOB: 01/03/98, St. Catharines, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 19

A very disappointing season for Wells, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s a result of an organization showing absolutely zero faith in the kid?  I’ll tell you, one of the most bizarre situations this season has been the organization giving Stuart Skinner ample opportunity when Shane Starrett went down and giving next to none for Dylan Wells, despite the fact that Wells had nearly identical numbers to Skinner’s.  This happened last year in the playoffs too when Wells played tremendous in game two of Bakersfield’s 2nd round series vs San Diego, and then never dressed again in the series.  The only thing I can point to as to why this might be is that Keith Gretzky was responsible for drafting Skinner, and Wells wasn’t his pick.  Other than that, I don’t understand why they prefer Skinner so much to Wells.  Nevertheless, Wells is still a kid who has a lot of talent and has flashed that talent on numerous occasions, it’s just a matter of finding consistency.  It’ll be make or break for Wells next season, the final year of his ELC.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

14. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 40  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .912

DOB: 07/13/98, Yaroslavl, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 85th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank:17

What looked like a draft day heist by the Oilers quickly started to look like a draft day bust playing for Craig MacTavish to start the season as Konovalov’s numbers took a massive dip, and even after MacTavish was shown the door Konovalov’s numbers never recovered and quite frankly it was a disaster of a season.  The numbers were really the only big reason to get excited about Konovalov, as the size is very questionable for an NHL goaltender.  And those numbers that were so disappointing this season, were even worse in the playoffs wherein five games Konovalov had just a G.A.A. of 3.64 and a Sv% of .888.  No doubt that he has the quickness needed for a sub 6’0 goaltender, and I love how technically sound he is and how he tracks the puck in my viewings.  But it was definitely a season to forget, and now we’ll see how he rebounds.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

13. Filip Berglund

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 5  A: 15  P: 20

DOB: 5/10/97, Skellefteå, SWE

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

Previous Rank: 15

Joel Persson out, Filip Berglund in?  That could be the case this fall in Bakersfield as a decision needs to be made on Berglund.  Like Niemeläinen, Berglund needs to be signed by June 1st or else the Oilers will lose his rights.  From what I’ve seen, Berglund is the much more important and the much more polished of the two defencemen.  Like the aforementioned Persson, Berglund isn’t the best skater.  Unlike Persson, he plays more of a stay at home style similar to Adam Larsson (I’m far from the first to make that comparison).  He does show a bit of offensive ability in his game and does move the puck well, but it’ll be his defensive game that will potentially be his ticket to play in the show.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

12. Cooper Marody

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 30  G: 5  A: 12  P: 17

DOB: 12/20/96, Brighton, MI

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

Previous Rank: 11

It is pretty depressing for me how this season went for Marody.  This time last year, this kid was trending towards making the team before too long.  A dirty hit and a concussion later, and Marody all of a sudden is a shell of what he once was and there are rumours that he has lost the passion he once had for the game.  When he’s right, this guy has terrific skill and vision, and much like Tyler Benson or formerly Ethan Bear, his skating was the only question mark he had.  Perhaps this time away will serve him better than anyone.  A chance to get healthy, perhaps get in a better frame of mind, and with that possibly gets his career back on track.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

11. William Lagesson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 3  A: 7  P: 10

DOB: 02/22/96, Göteborg, SWE

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

Previous Rank: 13

It’s tough to imagine that Lagesson can become anything more than he has at this point.  He really has maxed out his ability just getting to the cusp of the NHL as he has.  But having said this, he is still the likely candidate to be the team’s number seven defenceman next season and he is very capable of filling that role.  The skating ability is just average, which is the biggest issue he’s facing, and the way he skates it’ll be very difficult to improve it.  We have yet to see “his game” at the NHL level though.  When he’s right, he can play a nasty/in your face physical game.  And he moves it very well for a stay at home type.  But again, tough to imagine him being more than a 6/7 at this point.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

10. Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  GAA: 2.32  Sv%: .918

DOB: 07/06/00, Chicoutimi, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 20

It’s ironic.  When Rodrigue was selected as the 3rd goaltender for Team Canada for the 2020 WJC, he wasn’t playing that well.  I can’t recall the exact numbers, but his Sv% was around .905.  Bob Stauffer blindly ranked him 5th in the organization just because he made Team Canada.  And then of course when Nigel Dawes falter in Canada’s goal, Rodrigue still didn’t even get a look.  He wasn’t already a bust, but he was a pretty big disappointment to that point.  Once he returned though, his game took off and Rodrigue ended the season with the 2nd best Sv% in the QMJHL (minimum 20 games played).  He has the ability to make it, all the raw ability in the world.  But at his size, it is imperative that he is nearly perfect technically.  Rodrigue will likely spend next season with Wichita in the ECHL where he will get the starts he needs, and we’ll see what happens.  The door could be open to get some starts in Bakersfield with Starrett likely out the door and the organization showing next to no faith in Wells.

ETA: Early 23-24

 

9. Stuart Skinner

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 41  GAA: 3.31  Sv%: .892

DOB: 11/01/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 18

I don’t know if he’s a stud prospect, but he sure is getting every opportunity possible to be one!  Clearly the favourite of the Oilers brass, he did show flashes of becoming that stud goaltending prospect the Oilers have lacked since Devan Dubnyk was in the system (and Dubnyk never looked like he’d be much while in the AHL).  If I remember correctly, he went on a 10-15 game run where his Sv% was around .915.  I apologize that I can’t recall the exact numbers, but it was a good stretch nonetheless.  You could argue that Skinner is the organization’s most important prospect, with none of the other goaltenders showing much promise this season, and no long term answer anywhere in the organization at the moment.  Skinner is the closest thing to it.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

8. Philip Kemp

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 32  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/12/99, Greenwich, CT

Acquired: 7th Round, 208th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 16

He’s a forgotten prospect at this point.  But he will be an important one IF he signs with the team.  Straight up, I doubt he will.  American kid, so close to free agency, I bet he is dealt this off-season, which sucks.  However, should he stay and sign he would be the top prospect on the right side beginning next season (obviously in saying that, I’m assuming Bouchard will be on the big club).  Kemp is nothing flashy, but he skates well and is a terrific defender.  He’s very similar to Matt Benning, although I wouldn’t say he’s as physical as Benning is.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

7. Ryan McLeod

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

DOB: 09/21/99, Mississauga, ON

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 9

When we are looking at the most important prospects in the Oilers organization, McLeod is right near the top of the list.  The big question for me is whether or not he can play the middle.  If he CAN, he’s a vital piece for an organization with a severe lack of depth down the middle.  Potentially the 3C this organization has been looking for.  The talent is there for McLeod to be that guy.  Outstanding skating ability with great vision and a very solid 200-foot game.  He has the raw tools to be not just a 3C but a damn good 2C.  But he plays on the perimeter and shies away from playing in traffic.  If he’s only going to be a winger, I believe he can be a top-nine winger starting next fall.  But the organization needs more from him, and if he delivers it would be massive.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

6. Dmitri Samorukov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

DOB: 06/16/99, Volgograd, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 7

He is a pretty important prospect.  Perhaps more than most realize at this point.  The reason for this is the plan they clearly have in place with the expansion draft in 15 months.  At this point, it looks like a lock that they’ll keep seven forwards and three defencemen, meaning that they’ll either be trading or simply losing an LHD (Klefbom, Nurse, or Jones).  When that happens (and obviously I’m guessing here), the organization is hopeful that one of their young defencemen is ready to make the jump to the bottom pair.  Most will suggest that prospect is Broberg.  But in my opinion, Broberg needs more time than just next season.  Samorukov, on the other hand, could be ready with another year in Bakersfield.  Barring Broberg coming over, Samorukov will be the star prospect on the Bakersfield blueline as Bouchard will likely make the jump to the Oilers.  That means he should be in line for a ton of opportunity and a chance for his game to take a major leap forward.  The skating, puck-moving, size, and physicality is all there with Samorukov.  Definitely top-four potential.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

5. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 38  A: 44  P: 82

DOB: 09/25/00, Chambly, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 38th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 10

Freshly signed to his ELC, it’ll kick in at the start of next season and he will likely burn at minimum one year of it in Bakersfield.  What really made me sit up and take notice of Lavoie this season was his performance at the World Juniors.  Yes, he played very well, but it was what he excelled at which made me excited.  Dale Hunter had him in a 4th line checking role, and he was tremendous.  That showed me that this is a kid who isn’t going to let his ego get in the way, and is willing to play any role asked of him which is exactly the type of guy who will thrive playing for Dave Tippett.  We already knew he had good size, was a decent skater, and had a hell of a shot.  Thinking down the road with him, you give him next season to develop in Bakersfield, and then a spot opens up in the bottom six with Chiasson’s deal being up.  That’s a long way to go and a ton can and will change, but as of writing this that is the scenario I could see playing out.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

4. Kirill Maksimov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 5  A: 8  P: 13

DOB: 06/01/99, Moskva, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 6

The stats look extremely underwhelming.  So why is he still this high on my list?  If you know anything about Bakersfield this season, you know A) their season was a MASSIVE disappointment, and B) there was hardly any opportunity for Maksimov with so many AHL vets and NHL players on the squad this season.  Then on top of that, Benson, Marody, and until the new year Yamamoto were all ahead of him as well so it was next to impossible for Maksimov to get top nine minutes, let alone produce.  The fact of the matter is this kid is continually showing good improvement in his skating ability and play away from the puck, and obviously he still possesses very good size and an amazing shot.  Todd McLellan had a very obvious bias against European kids, and Jay Woodcroft was McLellan’s right-hand man for so many years.  That’s a big concern for me with Maksimov as he received such little opportunity this season.  That needs to change next fall because this is in my mind is one of the most important prospects in the pipeline, one of the most talented prospects in the pipeline, and by all accounts a very hard-working kid as well.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

3. Tyler Benson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 9  A: 27  P: 36

DOB: 03/15/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 5

He’s right there.  He looked better in his second stint (although he really never left) than in his first, and he will have the summer to work more on his foot and edge work.  His speed is fine, it’s funny how many good observers confuse speed with pace of play.  Pace of play is something that will come for a kid with elite hockey sense and Benson has that.  But he’ll have to work hard to gain traction with the big club, not because he can’t play in the league, but all of a sudden they’re pretty deep up front.  By now, you all know Benson’s game.  Extremely high IQ and terrific playmaker who is often on the right side of the puck and good along the wall and down low.  Just like Ethan Bear at this time last year, it’s all about the skating.  If it doesn’t develop further, he will play in the league, but probably only as a fringe top-six winger.  If he can clean it up though, he’s a stud.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 45  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

DOB: 06/25/01, Örebro, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 8th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 2

The potential is enormous.  But I can’t stress enough that the Oilers need to take their time with him.  Right now, if I’m projecting, he’s Jay Bouwmeester 2.0 (and yes I know I’m not the only guy to suggest that).  But he has the tools to become a complete defenceman.  I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have been better off playing in the OHL this season (I believe Hamilton owned his rights) and playing against kids his own age where he’d perhaps be able to work more on his game rather than just look to keep his head above water playing for Skellefteå.  I’m greedy, I want Broberg to become the legitimate number one D-man he has the potential to be.  But I would be taking my sweet ass time with him.  Another year in the SHL, followed by at least one full season in the AHL, if not two.  If he never reaches that potential, you’re still looking at a new age, shutdown D-man like Bouwmeester which is nothing to be upset with.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 7  A: 29  P: 36

DOB: 10/20/99, Oakville, ON

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 1

They have a stud on their hands.  Credit where it’s due because I don’t see eye to eye with a lot of what he has to say, but Craig Button was the first one I heard who compared him to Larry Murphy and I believe that is an extremely accurate projection.  Now, consider that when Murphy played, even though he eventually got in the Hall of Fame, he bounced around the league because he drove teams nuts with his lack of physicality.  Bouchard has the same issue, but in today’s game that is not anywhere near the sin that it was in the 80’s and 90’s.  This is pretty exciting for the organization and their fans that barring a rash of injuries and a need to use Bouchard this post-season that they’ll have three full seasons of a ready prospect like this on his ELC capable of playing top-four minutes right from the start.  I would guess he is occupying the point spot on the top PP unit by December at the latest.

ETA: Early 20-21

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 20 WHL Prospects (March, 2020)

The first year that I attempt to tackle just the WHL and focus solely on one league, and I get about the worst year possible to rank their kids!  Nobody is pulling away for me in this race and we are splitting hairs with so many of these kids.  Guhle vs Schneider, Zary vs Finley, Wiesblatt vs Neighbours, anyone can rank these kids in pretty much any order and I’m not going to put up much of a fight.  Which means the guy doing the rankings better put a HECK of a lot of time into research and going over everything with a fine-tooth comb (which is one reason I’m so late in getting this list out).  This is what I’ve done, but it’s frustrating because I might look back at this in two weeks and start kicking myself and I don’t just give myself love taps, I kick hard!!

It’s crazy.  I won’t be the least bit surprised if there are no WHL kids who go in the top 15 of the draft.  All the top kids in this year’s class have noticeable warts.  Having said that, I believe there are nine kids as of writing this who could then go in the 15-40 range.  You can make a legitimate case for any of the kids I have ranked 1-6 here being the top WHL draft prospect right now and I truly mean this that the gap from 1 all the way down to 14 is very small, so the depth here is just crazy.

I’ve decided to give you a top 20 this time around…just because I’m THAT good of a person.   Added to that are 6 honourable mentions, and 4 more kids playing tier II junior out West to bring the total to 30 players in the rankings this time around.  I’m like the Oprah of the WHL.  Souprah.

 

1. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 11  A: 29  P: 40

Previous Rank: 1

Born: 01/18/02, Sherwood Park, AB

He remains number one for me yet again, though this is getting even tighter.  I’ll tell you the one thing that drives me nuts this season though is anyone trying to make the case that Braden Schneider is a better prospect than Kaiden Guhle.  By no measure (in my opinion) is Schneider better than Guhle.  They are such similar defencemen, but Guhle is a better skater, not nearly as filled out at this point, just as physical, and a draft year younger.  You’re talking about a big, physical, terrific skating defenceman who is miserable to play against in his own zone and moves the puck well.  And when you’re looking at his defensive game specifically, there isn’t anything I dislike.   Positioning, angling, stick, zone entries, and puck retrievals are all high end for a draft eligible defenceman.  He reminds me a lot of two different defencemen: Darnell Nurse and Brent Seabrook.  Both guys never put up big offensive numbers in their draft years and yet one was a cornerstone for a three time Cup winner and the other is a 25 year old, top four defenceman, who just got 5.6 million per season.  Pretty good company.  If you’re looking at the here and now with Guhle, maybe you’re not as high on him.  But I believe the upside is ridiculous with Guhle.  This kid has all the tools (and I consider IQ and work ethic in those tools) to become a terrific defenceman in the show someday.

 

2. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 40  A: 51  P: 91

Previous Rank: 4

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

The most skilled player to come out of this year’s crop of WHL kids checks in at 2 this time around, barely edged out for 1st by Guhle for me.  All season I talked about how Jarvis is in that group of kids who could be ranked anywhere from 3rd to 9th for me, and I had him as the top kid in that group the last time around, but now Jarvis is starting to separate from that group.  Skating, IQ, vision, compete are all very solid, but its the hands which are perhaps what I like about his game the most.  There are a lot of players that Jarvis reminds me of.  A bit of Jordan Eberle, a bit of Brendan Gallagher, a bit of Nik Ehlers, all players who are undersized, but all players who have a different skill set.  He needs to improve his play away from the puck, but it’s not any worse than most kids his age.  He’ll fly the zone quite a bit but that’ll likely be coached out of him in time.  He’s not on the top of my list this time around, but if he continues trending how he has of late, I can’t imagine I’d have anyone higher than him the next time around.

 

3. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 17  A: 36  P: 53

Previous Rank: 10

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

He takes a very big jump up my rankings.  And I’m well aware that many won’t agree with this, and that’s fine.  This is how I feel right now, and just hear out my POV on this.  Obviously the tool kit stands out.  He’s not just 6’5, he’s not just 207 lbs, he’s a good skater who is putting up impressive numbers when you factor in that he’s been seeing a ton of tough minutes in Spokane.  His season is actually greatly replicating the season Ryan Johansen had in his draft year, and it took scouts a while that season until they started to really recognize Johansen.  Finley is a kid who to me looks like a sure thing to play in the league, but the upside is still there.  Of course, the one guy most noticeable who I’m ranking behind Finley is Connor Zary.  When I break down Finley v Zary, I have all the edges other than raw point totals going to Finley.  Even strength scoring however, Finley is better PPG (0.78) than Zary (0.76).  If Finley were the one playing with Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo (shoutout to my fellow Marwayne Wildcats…) then would his numbers resemble Zary’s?  In my opinion, they’d be as good or better.  Is Finley going to make a lot of highlight reels?  No.  He’s not overly dynamic.  Luckily for Finley, I’m not big on players being dynamic.  Being intelligent and constantly on the right side of the puck isn’t sexy, but production is production.

 

4. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 52  G: 34  A: 43  P: 77

Previous Rank: 2

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

The work ethic and the IQ really stand out when you watch Zary play and as I’ve said before the guy is a coach’s dream.  You can put him in any situation and he’s going to thrive.  My buddy Larry Fisher compares him with Bo Horvat and it really is a spot-on comparison.  I’d say you’re at least getting a Jarret Stoll type with Zary (who was similar to Horvat but simply didn’t sustain the offensive production Horvat has and will).  Captain material.  He simply does everything very well.  However, that can be viewed as a negative too, as a fellow contributor to the oilknight.ca pointed out (I won’t say who, but I’ll just say he knows the QMJHL extremely well…) sometimes it’s not so much that they do everything well as it is they don’t do anything great.  And that is fair with Zary is he doesn’t do one thing that stands out, and for me, the skating is a bit concerning.

 

5. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 7  A: 35  P: 42

Previous Rank: 9

Born: 09/20/01, Prince Albert, SK

As you can see, I am coming around on Schneider.  Way too tough on him in the summertime, I tend to do that with the kids who have the late birthdays.  He’s a safe pick.  As I said earlier, he’s very similar to Guhle, I just don’t feel as though there is anything Schneider does better than Guhle, and I believe Guhle has some offensive upside where I’m not sure Schneider has much.  The comparison I’ve used all season though is Travis Hamonic, and no team is going to cry about getting a D-man like that.  I like his skating, and he’s not just a physical guy in his own zone.  Much like Guhle, good gap control, positioning, and stick.  You can really see with Schneider that he takes pride in being that shutdown/throwback defender.

 

6. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 24  A: 44  P: 68

Previous Rank: 5

Born: 03/09/02, Calgary, AB

So if you’re looking at just the skill sets on the dub kids who I have so closely bunched up (Wiesblatt, Jarvis, Neighbours, McClennon, Sourdif, etc), Wiesblatt could be the least skilled of those kids.  But on the other hand, Wiesblatt is perhaps the most likely to simply play in the NHL of the group.  So how do you rank that?!  It’s tricky, and I admit I do have to come up with more of a system to make such issues much easier to figure out.  Wiesblatt, in my opinion, is going to be the type of player who can play in any situation.  Right now he’s playing the middle for the Raiders, though I see him as a winger down the line.  Good skater, good motor, plays physical, plays a little greasy at times, he’ll be a fan favourite wherever he goes.

 

7. Jake Neighbours 

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 23  A: 45  P: 68

Previous Rank: 6

Born: 03/29/02, Airdrie, AB

I get why some people love him as much as they do.  That’s never been lost on me.  Neighbours plays a pro game, he can play a hard game, and he can play a bit of a greasy game at times too.  His IQ is high end.  I really worry about the skating though.  It’s not that it can’t improve, but it’s much more to do with a theory I have.  Neighbours is already pretty filled out at 5’11 and near 200 lbs.  That doesn’t suggest he is going to gain a whole lot more strength.  Maybe.  I’m not saying he won’t.  But I’m more willing to bet on kids making a big improvement in their skating ability who aren’t yet filled out.  If he can get his skating to where it needs to be, I love him just as much as everyone else seems to.  But I’m just not sure he can.

 

8. Connor McClennon

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 157  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 21  A: 28  P:  49

Previous Rank: 8

Born: 06/25/02, Wainwright, AB

Maybe the toughest kid to rank.  On one hand, he has exploded offensively after a slow start.  He recently went on an 11 game point streak and had 29 points in his last full 18 games played.  Why did I say “full”?  Because in his last game McClennon suffered a broken collarbone and will be out likely until the end of the WHL regular season, if not longer.  The other thing some would point to in terms of his production was that he took off once Peyton Krebs returned from his Achilles injury.  But let’s not pretend McClennon is playing on some offensive juggernaut in Winnipeg where he’s able to live off other’s accomplishments.  McClennon is a lot like Kailer Yamamoto, not just in stature but also with his drive and fearlessness on the ice.  He plays much bigger than his size.  The skating isn’t where Yamamoto’s was at this point though.  I personally believe it’s better than some have suggested, but there is no doubt it needs work.  Opposite of Neighbours though, McClennon has a lot of weight and strength to pack on still, so it’s possible it could greatly improve as he does.

 

9. Justin Sourdif

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 163  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 24  A: 28  P: 52

Previous Rank: 3

Born: 03/24/02, Surrey, BC

A big slide down my rankings for Sourdif, but again, I have to stress that I don’t see anything of a big gap between 1st and 9th, and it’s an even smaller one between 6th and 9th.  The thing you have to remember with Sourdif that while the numbers aren’t where many believed they would be for him this season, it is the Vancouver power play that is killing his production more than anything.  So while he’s down at 9 for me at the moment, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to go on a tear at some point and shoot back up into my top 3.  It’s that tight.  And with Sourdif, the skillset isn’t in question.  I do worry though that the drive isn’t there with Sourdif.  He isn’t very assertive with the puck, and he doesn’t bring much in terms of physicality or gamesmanship.

 

10. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 162  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 24  A: 33  P: 57

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/08/02, Lethbridge, AB

Greig is an intriguing prospect for a lot of people.  He plays a pro game and he has a lot of growing to do physically so that always will make people wonder where the ceiling is.  I like his skating ability and feel as though there is room for that to grow quite a bit in the next few seasons.  He has excellent hockey sense, is a decent playmaker, protects the puck well, plays a solid 200 foot game, he is willing to play a physical game, he is just simply a very complete player.  For me, I see him as potentially a terrific two-way centre.

 

11. Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 3  A: 29  P: 32

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/02/02, Yellowknife, NT

The skating ability is his calling card.  You’d think that with a defencemen sub 6’0 and a great skater that he’s a big risk-taker.  But remember: he’s playing for Everett, and the Silvertips under Kevin Constantine previously, and currently Dennis Willaims, are the stingiest team in the WHL.  Don’t let the numbers fool you, this kid can move the puck very well and has a lot of untapped offensively ability.  At this point, I don’t see Seeley going in the top 62 of the draft, but he is a sneaky good prospect who has been a personal favourite of mine.  If I’m an NHL team, I’m not looking to reach to get him, but I’d slot him in the 63-124 range (3rd or 4th round) and hope he finds his way to our pick because there is a lot to work with here.

 

12. Tristen Robins

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 31  A: 35  P: 66

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 11/15/01, Brandon, MB

The first thing that stands out with Robins is his speed.  This kid is a burner, but he combines that with a terrific compete level which makes him lethal on the forecheck, on puck retrievals, and on the backcheck.  He plays the middle for the Blades, but for me personally, I would be drafting Robins as a winger.  Hey, if he can play the middle that’s even better!  But I see him as a winger in pro hockey and while I question if he’ll have the skill level to produce at a top six level, he sure looks as though he has the speed and work ethic to be an effective top nine winger in the show.

 

13. Dylan Garand

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 172  Glove: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G.A.A.: 2.23  Sv%: .922

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 06/06/02, Victoria, BC

At the start of the year I have to admit, I didn’t like Garand mainly because of his size.  And though the size hasn’t improved, and NHL organizations still prefer bigger netminders, it isn’t as though 6’1 is a size of goaltender which isn’t going to get a look in the league.  And then the season he’s having has now is so damn impressive!  His numbers are right there with Team Canada’s Joel Hofer who is playing on a more dominant team in Portland.  And it’s not as though Kamloops is some defensive juggernaut, this is a team who has played pretty wide open hockey this season.  I love the way Garand moves in net.  He’s very technically sound with terrific reflexes.  If this kid’s ability to track the puck can catch up to the rest of his game, he will be an NHL goaltender even at this size.

 

14. Pavel Novak

Team: Kelowna Rockets

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 52  G: 22  A: 30  P: 52

Previous Rank: 7

Born: 04/16/02, Tabor, CZE

Before I get to Novak, what a mess in Kelowna this season.  As a Western guy and covering the WHL for Sean as I do, this is humiliating that this team is hosting the Memorial Cup this season.  I thought 2013 was bad with the Blades being bounced in the 1st round, it is nothing compared to what is going on with the Rockets.  And they are the last franchise I thought I’d ever type something like that about in the WHL.  Ok, Novak.  He’s the Rockets leading scorer as of writing this.  He’s a very similar prospect to Wiesblatt, McClennon, Sourdif, etc. in that he’s a bit of an undersized guy who can produce.  The thing that scares me with Novak is the skating ability isn’t great.  He has the skill to succeed, but at the moment I don’t believe his skating is good enough to get him to the next level.  If he can get it to where it needs to be, Novak will be pretty intriguing.

 

15. Alex Cotton

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 18  A: 47  P: 65

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 05/12/01, Langley, BC

Something that keeps me up at night when ranking kids for their drafts: the late bloomer/over-ager.  I get so locked in on certain kids that I rarely give consideration to such things!  Thankfully, I didn’t miss Alex Cotton’s incredible 3rd season in the WHL that is getting more and more attention as the year has worn on.  He moves the puck extremely well, has a great shot, and he showcases good compete.  The play in his own zone needs work, but the big concern with Cotton are the boots.  His skating is just ok, but the positive with it is that he has improved it quite a bit over the last year.  Can it continue to improve?  If it can, the team which drafts him will have quite the prospect on their hands.

 

16. Christoffer Sedoff

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 189  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 59  G: 5  A: 14  P: 19

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 02/20/02, Helsinki, FIN

Sedoff is starting to get some love from the scouting community despite playing on a rebuilding Rebels club.  He is their horse, chewing up a ridiculous amount of minutes a lot of nights for Brent Sutter’s club.  He’s a very smooth skater, good puck mover, and despite not having stats that jump off the page he has displayed some pretty good offensive skills at times.  He’s solid in his own zone also with good gap control, a good stick, and a willingness to compete down low and in front of the net.  There is a lot to work with here.  Another interesting tidbit is his size.  Elite Prospects lists him at 5’11, 159lbs.  The WHL’s site has him at 6’1, 189lbs, a pretty damn big difference!  When I’ve seen him, it appears to me like the WHL size is the correct one, at least in terms of height.

 

17. Kasper Puutio

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 53  G: 5  A: 20  P: 25

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 06/03/02, Vaasa, FIN

A very similar prospect to Sedoff, but in a very different situation (at least he is since his trade to Everett).  The skating ability of Puutio, much like his teammate Ronan Seeley, makes him a very intriguing prospect in the middle to late rounds of the draft.  He’s very raw at this point.  Both offensively and defensively, there is a ton of room for growth.  But he’s a kid who as I already said is a terrific skater, and he moves the puck very well.  If he can refine his defensive game, there is no reason he couldn’t be a Jonas Brodin type D-man down the line.

 

18. Josh Pillar

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 14  A: 27  P: 41

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 02/14/02, Warman, SK

When you’re just simply looking at stats, Pillar doesn’t stand out.  But this kid has been a favourite of mine all season because of his wheels.  I’m a big believer in taking kids later in the draft who have one terrific trait and looking to develop the rest, and Pillar has that in his skating.  Very similar to Tristen Robins who is in his 18 year old season, and  Pillar is already out producing what Robins did last season.  Also like Robins, he’s playing the middle for Kamloops.  If Pillar was playing the wing he’d likely have a lot more freedom offensively, and likely be getting a lot more attention than he has.  31 ES points on the season playing primarily in a checking role for the Blazers this season.

 

19. Simon Knak

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 46  G: 9  A: 24  P: 33

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 01/27/02, Kloten, SUI

A player who does everything well, but nothing great.  Ok size, ok speed, ok hands, ok vision, ok hockey sense, an ok shot, he’s just ok.  Now, if Knak has a great work ethic than he is just scratching the surface on what he can become.  And what will help him a lot with that development is being a Winterhawk with Mike Johnston as his coach.  I’m not sure if Knak has shown enough to get himself drafted at this point, but he will have a lot more of an opportunity on a Winterhawks team which looks primed for a deep run into the WHL playoffs.

 

20. Bryan Thomson

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 181  Glove: L

2020 Stats – GP: 28  G.A.A.: 2.94  Sv%: .896

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 04/09/02, Moose Jaw, SK

Nothing like Garand.  Garand gets love for the numbers he’s put up this season and the mystery of whether or not he will be just big enough to succeed.  Thomson has the size and ability but doesn’t have the numbers as he fluctuates above and below a .900 Sv% this season.  But the upside is tough to ignore with this kid.  I hate comparing him to a former Hurricane (because I worry about it coming off as lazy on my part), but he is very similar to Stuart Skinner when Skinner was 17.

 

Honourable Mention

Orrin Centazzo

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 163  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 42  A: 34  P: 76

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 04/17/00, Marwayne, AB

This one is both interesting and fun for me to write.  A kid who’s family I know well, I watched a ton of as he was growing up, played on a line with my nephews in their U-16 Midget season, and is tearing it up on the best line in the WHL this season along with Connor Zary and fellow Marwayne Wildcat (once again, shoutout to my fellow Wildcats) Zane Franklin.  Orrin has always possessed ridiculous skill, and now he seems as though he’s putting it all together and figuring out just how good he can be.  No doubt, he benefits from having Zary and Franklin on his line.  But there are some who feel it’s Centazzo who is the offensive catalyst of that trio.  If I were a team, I’d give him a close look in the later rounds.  I think the higher level of hockey this kid plays, the more he is going to elevate his game.  He has the skill to play in the show.  Tough to rank at this point for me which is why he is in the HM section, but he’s an intriguing player to keep an eye on.

 

Michal Gut

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 48  G: 13  A: 22  P: 35

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/16/02, Kadan, CZE

Last time I said that Gut was a good skater, but I’m not sure that was very accurate as in my viewings since it has been the one thing about his game that has concerned me.  He is however a kid who looks to do everything right out on the ice, a very responsible 200-foot player.

 

Cross Hanas

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 19  A: 25  P: 44

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 01/05/02, Highland Village, TX

Has some high end skill in his game scoring some highlight reel goals this season.  But the hockey sense is very questionable.  If he can learn to start playing a simpler game and improve his play away from the puck, he might be a player.  Just as the case with his teammate Simon Knak, the one thing Hanas has going for him is that his head coach Mike Johnston has one heck of a track record developing players and Hanas has a skill set Johnston can work with.

 

Daemon Hunt

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 0  A: 11  P: 11

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 05/15/02, Brandon, MB

Such a difficult kid to rank as he has been out since the 3rd of December (suffered a severe cut to his arm).  He’s nothing flashy.  Some might even say he’s boring.  But he’s effective.  Terrific in his own zone with his gap control, angles and stick, he was logging all the tough minutes for a weak Warriors squad.  The PPG might look solid at first glance for a defenceman.  Obviously having no goals in 23 games isn’t a great sign.  But if we’re talking about statistical red flags, the one for me is that of his 11 assists, only two came at even strength, and one of those was a secondary assist on an empty net goal.  On top of that, I don’t love the skating ability when I’ve viewed him.

 

Owen Pederson

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 23  A: 21  P: 44

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 03/27/02, Stoney Plain, AB

Pederson plays on the top line in Winnipeg with Vegas Golden Knights 1st round pick Peyton Krebs.  For what turned out to be a short period of time, Pederson was flanked by both Krebs and Connor McClennon and they were one of the hottest lines in the league before McClennon got hurt.  As you can likely guess, it is Pederson’s skating that needs work.  His assets are obviously his size, but also he isn’t afraid to use that size which makes him an effective player on the cycle and in front of the net.  Finally, Pederson has very good hands too.  So there is a lot to work with here, but the skating needs a lot of work.

 

Luke Prokop

Team: Calgary Hitmen

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 218  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 59  G: 4  A: 19  P: 23

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 05/06/02, Edmonton, AB

Hey, what do you know!  The night I do the write-up for Prokop is the night he busts out offensively!  1 goal on the season going in, 2 goals in the game!  But obviously that is not what Prokop is known for.  He’s a throwback type of D-man.  A bruiser in his own zone who will throw people around.  The skating and the hockey sense are the concerns with him.  I think the skating is OK, it’s not great but I think it’s passable, and then the hockey sense is obviously a concern.  He’s iffy to get drafted, but it wouldn’t surprise me given the tools he has in his arsenal.  You get down to the later stages of the draft and sometimes it isn’t about how good the kids are but much more about how much you’ll have to work with as an organization attempts to develop a kid.

 

AJHL

Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 12  A: 63  P: 75

Born: 01/05/02, St. Albert, AB

I’ve often pointed to the comparison in his numbers to Cale Makar’s draft year this season (keeping in mind that Makar was in his 18 year old season vs this being Benning’s 17 year old season), so let’s do it again!  They finish with the exact same games played (54) and the exact same point totals (75).  Now, as mightily impressive as that is for Benning, he’s not Makar.  They are obviously very mobile offensive-minded D-men, but Makar was more dynamic than Benning is.  Benning is much more of a cerebral player and not the skater Makar was/is (even though Benning is a terrific skater).  But let’s look at other recent AJHL comparisons.  Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th overall in 2018) had 41 points in 49 games.  Ian Mitchell (57th overall in 2017) had 37 points in 53 games.  If we are comparing their games, Mitchell’s most closely resembles Benning’s.  And don’t say “yeah, but the teams they played on…” these four played for what are currently the four best programs in the AJHL.   In a way, they really aren’t even AJHL teams, but rather minor league teams for NCAA programs.  Benning is also pretty solid in his own zone.  Despite his stature, he does not get pushed around and is willing to battle in all the tough areas.  It won’t be his calling card, but he’s not at all a liability in his own zone as the Crusaders lean heavily on him defensively.

 

Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 53  A: 46  P: 99

Born: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

The most anticipated game of the year in the AJHL was on January 18th.  Sherwood Park vs Brooks.  At the time, the top two teams in the CJHL going head to head.  A possible preview of the AJHL final.  What did Carter Savoie do?  Plays his best game of the year.  Hatty, plus an assist (all points at even strength), Crusaders win 7-4.  The knock on Savoie is his skating.  From the get-go this season I didn’t have the issue with it that most seemed to, and as the season has worn on I feel stronger than ever in the opinion of him being a guy who just simply picks his spots and plays a much more cerebral game than most give him credit for.  His skating doesn’t stand out, but it’s fine.  He cranks it up when he needs to, and there is plenty of room for improvement.  Also, he’s a miserable SOB to play against!  He’s not afraid to go after a guy.  He’s not overly physical, but he plays in the tough area’s and will do what he has to do to create space.  He can look lazy at times, but it’s the same type of thing you see out of most goal scorers that they’re always just looking for dead ice.  50 goals in 50 games, near 2 PPG on the season, the kid has lived up to his hype in the AJHL this season.  It’ll be interesting to see what he does in the playoffs.

 

Ethan Edwards

Team: Spruce Grove Saints

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 50  G: 9  A: 24  P: 33

Born: 06/06/02, Grand Prairie, AB

I’m not liking that my secret player is not being kept a very good secret!  Ranked 85th by NHL Central Scouting among North American players, only 15 spots back of Benning.  Edwards plays at a quicker pace than Benning and might be a little bit better skater of the two.  Edwards can also (as you’d expect), really move the puck well.  Despite all this, he really isn’t a big risk taker in my viewings of him.  Again I am going to point out as I did last time, he isn’t a kid I’d be looking to take in the top 93 of the draft, but in the later rounds he could be a flat out steal.  Committed to Michigan, but not until the 21-22 season, meaning the team which drafts him would have as much as five seasons to allow him to develop before making a decision on him.

 

BCHL

Ethan Bowen

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 12  A: 19  P: 31

Born: 05/14/02, Chilliwack, BC

He’s run into injury issues this season, likely are the big reason for his somewhat disappointing season to this point.  I still worry about the skating with Bowen, but again I’ll point to how big and gangly he is at this point.  There are other kids in the BC league challenging Bowen for top prospect, but all of them seem to also have their warts.  At this time I still believe Bowen is the most intriguing of them all, but it’ll be interesting to see where it stands once we’re a round or two into the post-season which starts soon.  Heading to North Dakota beginning next fall.

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Soups Rankings: March, 2020

Better late than never I guess, seeing it’s March 4th.  It would have been better for me to have done this a week ago, right after the trade deadline, so it would have been more of a deadline recap.  This still is, but obviously a week has gone by.  Ok, I’ll quit bitching and get on with this.

Before I start, again I’ll explain: I have teams still in the hunt behind teams with no chance.  Why?  Because I don’t feel those teams still in the hunt will make the playoffs, and that they’re in a worse situation moving forward.  So, for example, I have Ottawa higher than Arizona.  Arizona is in the race in the West, but I don’t feel as though they’ll get in, and therefore I look at how they are moving forward and moving forward the Senators are LOADED.  It’s a different/weird way of doing it, I’m aware, but it’s how I want to do it.  Also, these have very little to do with how teams are playing of late as some moronic power rankings do it.  Basically, I’m ranking who I like to win the Cup until I get to the teams that have no shot (and then as I just explained, I then rank those teams differently).  We good?  We better be…

 

31. Detroit Red Wings

Last month: 31st

They haven’t moved above 30 this season.  The worst thing for Wings fans is that I’m not sure this season will be the end of the worst of it.

 

30. San Jose Sharks

Last month: 30th

What a mess this is.  And they might get back in the hunt next season to make the playoffs, but they aren’t going anywhere if they do.  Doug Wilson just seems to refuse to rebuild it, and I understand why.  But they need a massive rebuild and continually putting it off just digs a deeper hole.

 

29. Los Angeles Kings

Last month: 29th

Unlike the Sharks, they’ve accepted who they are.  But I still say, I do not have a clue what they are hanging onto Kopitar and Doughty for.  “But they have NTC’s!”  Ask them.  If they don’t want to go, fine, but ask them.  This rebuild will not be done before they are, so move them now and get some big returns for them.

 

28. Anaheim Ducks

Last month: 27th

The Ducks don’t have a big time player to move like the Kings do.  You might say Getzlaf, but they wouldn’t get anything for Getzlaf at this point.  The other thing is that the Ducks have drafted well over the years, so they have more of a head start on things than the Kings and the Sharks.  It is still a big hill to climb though.

 

27. Chicago Blackhawks

Last month: 21st

They’re going nowhere.  Absolutely nowhere.  Third year in a row that they’ll miss the playoffs, and I’m not sure where they’re headed.  They do have some very nice young pieces, but much more is needed.

 

26. Montreal Canadiens

Last month: 26th

You know, I don’t think they’re out of it thanks to how inconsistent the Leafs are and how bad the Panthers are playing.  But I don’t like this team at all moving forward as I’ve expressed several times by now.

 

25. Arizona Coyotes

Last month: 20th

They likely gave the Devils a top 10 pick for a player that they won’t be able to re-sign.  A top 10 pick, for nothing.  That stings.  They have to hope they win a top 3 spot so they can avoid that happening.  Well, they’ll still lose Hall, but at least if they win a top 3 spot the pick defers until next season and perhaps they can ensure it’s a pick in the 16-30 range.

 

24. New Jersey

Last month: 28th

How ironic that I have the Devils one spot ahead of the Coyotes before the season is out.  They could have three 1st round picks this year, two could be top 10, the other would likely be in the 15-20 range.  Combine that with Hischier and Hughes and they are in a very good spot in their rebuild.

 

23. Ottawa Senators

Last month: 24th

While the Devils might have three 1st rounders, the Sens are guaranteed to have two, and at this point they would be no worse than 6th and 8th.  Add to that, the Islanders are looking dicey to make the playoffs and that 1st rounder is only top three protected.  So they might be looking at three picks in the top 15 of the draft.  It gets better as they own four picks in the 2nd round and three of those look like they’ll be in the top 50.  So six picks in the top 50 of a deep draft, seven likely in the top 60, and of course this is a team that has already acquired a boatload of talent.  They are going to get REALLY good before too long.

 

22. Buffalo Sabres

Last month: 22nd

So I think they’re growing and are in the best spot they’ve been in since their rebuild began, but it sure sounds like there is a ton of panic there again.  I worry Eichel is going to ask out after the season.  He doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would be willing to stick it out.  I’m not sure it would be the worst thing for them either.  Awesome talent, but the return they’d get would be astronomical, and I could see it being a bit like the Duchene situation in Colorado with Rasmus Dahlin playing the role of Nathan MacKinnon.

 

21. Florida Panthers

Last month: 8th

I’m tapping on them!  This is a mess.  Bobrovsky looks done, because don’t forget this didn’t just happen.  He was never right all last season either.  Showed up in the playoffs, but was awful by his standards in the regular season.  So weird that Joel Quennville didn’t “change the culture” there.  I was told that coach Q was going to “change the culture”.  And now it looks like Dale Tallon is going to be axed, and therefore Quennville may get axed, and they are likely bleeding money given the rumour that they need to cut 10 million from the payroll…WHAT.  A.  MESS.

 

20. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last month: 16th

The Seth Jones injury has killed their season.  If you go by percentage points, they’re already on the outside looking in at the playoffs and Jones isn’t coming back.  Their only wins in the last month have been against teams that they should be beating.  I think they’re done, but it’s been one hell of an effort.

 

19. NY Islanders

Last month: 15th

The Jackets have been sliding, but so have the Islanders, and the way I have it finishing up I don’t believe the Islanders will get in either!  It’ll be close, but the Rangers are trending up, and the Hurricanes are simply a better team.  Four points up right now, but I just don’t believe they’ll make it, much to the delight of Ottawa Senators fans barring the Islanders then winning a top three pick.

 

18. Minnesota Wild

Last month: 25th

I am at a bit of a loss as to how this team is playing so well.  I like their blueline a lot, but offensively I just don’t get how they aren’t relatively easy to shut down.  But they’re charging up the standings right now, and just may get in.  The big test is that they still have to play Nashville twice, and Winnipeg once.  But the reverse of that is they have seven games on the schedule that they should win.

 

17. NY Rangers

Last month: 23rd

It’s funny, I hate that they think they’re done their rebuild because I don’t feel as though they have much more coming.  And as great as Panarin has played this season, this is likely the peak.  Kakko is going to be a good player, I don’t know if he’s going to be that star who can carry a team.  But credit where it’s due, they’re coming on strong, and they might have the best goaltending in the league right now, and I believe they are going to sneak in the playoffs.

 

16. Calgary Flames

Last month: 17th

I sound like a broken record with them, but I just don’t know that they do or have anything elite that is going to give opponents trouble.  Ok goaltending, ok blueline, ok forwards, ok speed, ok size, everything is just ok.

 

15. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last month: 10th

I fully admit I’m now starting to get worried about this team moving forward.  I worry Dubas can’t bring himself to make the type of move he may need to do where he’ll sacrifice a bit more than he should to get the piece or pieces they need.  Beyond the blueline which looks fine moving forward it just isn’t great at the moment, what really concerns me is that none of their big four up front bring a 2nd dimension to the table.  Dubas might need to move one of them out either to get the roster tremendous depth, or to get a different element much like how in the fall of 1996 the Red Wings dealt Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey and a 1st for Brendan Shanahan (and Brian Glynn, but nobody remembers poor Brian Glynn).  They’re getting in the playoffs this season, but I can’t see them getting out of the first round, and wonder about how it’ll work moving forward.

 

14. Winnipeg Jets

Last month: 14th

At 14 and holding for the 3rd straight month.  It’s funny too because I don’t ever look at what they were previously ranked until after I rank the teams.  If this team can sneak into the playoffs, they’re capable of doing some damage.  But can they overcome all the issues they’ve been faced with this season?

 

13. Vancouver Canucks

Last month: 12th

The BIG x-factor here is Markstrom’s health.  If they can hang on without him, and he’s back by the playoffs, I really believe they can do some damage.  I know they don’t have much experience, but they have a lot of guys who are made for April and May.  But they need their stud goaltender to lean on.

 

12. Nashville Predators

Last month: 11th

Remember the 2006 Oilers?  Meet the 2020 Preds, a team that by a lot of measures has been excellent this season and can’t figure out their special teams.  This is one of the best rosters in the league and in a wide open West, it is just begging for another 2006 Oilers, 2012 Kings, etc.  I’m not suggesting they are going to do that, but to me they have that kind of feel to them.

 

11. Philadelphia Flyers

Last month: 13th

They are so quietly playing terrific hockey.  But I just don’t buy them in the playoffs.  Right now they look like they’d play either Pittsburgh, Carolina, or Washington in the first round.  I don’t like them against any of those teams.  They are a very well-rounded club though.

 

10. Edmonton Oilers

Last month: 19th

I cringe having them this high, but if they’re healthy, they’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the league.  They might be the fastest team in the league.  They can put burners on all four lines, good-great skaters will occupy 10 of the 12 forward spots.  They haven’t sacrificed size to do it either and they still have a lot of skilled size that teams need in the playoffs.  Finally, that blueline features five guys who can move the puck (when healthy) and is extremely deep.  That is scary.  Now, the two question marks for me are A) will they be able to figure out where Anthanasiou fits by the playoffs?  B) will the goaltending hold up?  We’ll have to see about A, but if you look close at B, Mike Smith has been very solid this season if you simply take out a bad month of December when the Oilers as a team played awful.  I don’t feel as though they have a major flaw.

 

9. Colorado Avalanche

Last month: 9th

I can’t recall who it was around the deadline, but they put it perfectly.  The Avs window is just now opening.  You don’t go for it the moment your window opens, because how do you even know you don’t have enough to win already?!?  I’d take it a step further, I personally don’t believe their window opens until next season when Bowen Byram steps in.

 

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Last month: 7th

I’m still sky high on that roster, but that goaltending scares the hell out of me!  I don’t understand why it wasn’t more seriously addressed at the deadline.  Trocheck, Skeji and Vatanen is a great haul, but I’m not sure how much they improve the Hurricanes.  A good goaltender would have made them serious contenders.  And obviously, they have to get in!  IF they get in, they’re a threat.

 

7. Dallas Stars

Last month: 6th

This team is much more built for the playoffs than the regular season, and they are going to be one very difficult out for whoever gets them.  The one thing I will say though is that it’s very possible one of Nashville or Winnipeg gets the wildcard spot for that division, and both those teams match up very well with the Stars.  Not to mention they have the Blues to deal with as well.

 

6. Vegas Golden Knights

Last month: 18th

A massive jump, but they got the top four defenceman they needed, and they went out and upgraded their goaltending which was smart.  Although someone needs to point out that Robin Lehner’s numbers have gone down as the season has worn on.  They still feel very flawed to me, but this team has an ability to get hotter than any team in the league when they feel it.

 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last month: 5th

I believe this is the third straight month I have them at five.  They appear to have completed their hot streak that they badly needed to get back in it, and now that they’re comfortable they appear (to me anyway) to have let off the gas and are getting ready for the playoffs.  The Stamkos injury hurts a bit, but not to the level that others will have you believe.  As long as they get him back before the start of the second round, I believe they’ll be fine and I see them taking their game to another level come April.

 

4. Washington Capitals

Last month: 2nd

They have everything you need to win…except the speed.  That didn’t matter in 2018, and it didn’t matter for the Blues last year, but it has hurt the Caps in the past when playing Pittsburgh and last season with Carolina.  But they have as good of a shot at winning it all as anyone.

 

3. St. Louis Blues

Last month: 1st

They’ve seemed kind of bored of late.  I really don’t see anyone knocking them off in the West though.  They just seem to have everything.  The one thing I would worried about for the Blues is that they might end up getting one of Nashville or Winnipeg in the first round, and if either of those teams got right, they could knock off the Blues.  But they sure look like a team that is going to go back to the final.

 

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last month: 4th

They look scary good.  I’ve probably wrote this for four seasons now, but the fall off a cliff is coming for this group.  But it hasn’t happened yet and won’t happen this season.  I like the Zucker pick up despite how much they gave up, I feel as though he’s a perfect fit.  It’s a solid team everywhere, and two of the best players in the world (still) leading the way.

 

1. Boston Bruins

Last month: 3rd

For me, no team stands out as a clear cut favourite to win the Cup at this time.  And I’m not sure I should be putting THIS much stock into a team that might get worn out having just gone to game seven of the final last season.  But they are fast, play tough, are great defensively, have great goaltending, and can score.  This is a terrific team that can play it any way you want.

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