Welcome to the Weekly Prospect Report. Here, we’ll take a look at some key names over the past week that are a big part of the next wave of NHL stars. This column will dive into both NHL-affiliated and draft-eligible prospects, focusing mainly on those outside the NHL.
Is Senators’ Prospect Batherson Done with the AHL?
Ottawa Senators’ top prospect Drake Batherson is leading the AHL in points (tied with Grand Rapids Griffins’ Chris Terry) with 27 points. He has nine goals and 18 assists in 21 games – 1.29 points per game (fourth in the league out of players with 15 or more games). This comes after his rookie season of 22 goals, 40 assists and 60 points in 59 games. So, why is he still in the AHL?
It’s pretty clear that Batherson has taken all he can out of the AHL. He’s a plus-10 on an even team, he’s shown his offensive dominance with nine multi-point games (including a five-point night from Oct. 12), and makes good decisions in his own end.
On top of his AHL production this season, he’s also been called up for two NHL games – although he didn’t record a point. Belleville’s head coach Troy Mann has said that Batherson needs to find his consistency before becoming a full-time NHLer. He has a point. Although Batherson has those nine multi-point games, he also has 10 games without a point.
Despite the potential inconsistency, Batherson deserves another shot with the big club. A big obstacle is how to do that though, with a number of veteran players clogging the system. It might take an injury or a trade for Batherson to get another shot, but it’s time for him to get another crack in the lineup.
That being said, if he were to be called up it would need to be top-nine, even top-six, minutes for him to really get a chance. Fourth line minutes simply wouldn’t give him enough of a chance. If the minutes aren’t there, perhaps the AHL is a better option. Also, if the B-Sens are looking to make a big playoff push and run, they’ll need their top scorer to do so. It’s a tough call, but the one for-sure is that Batherson is looking good right now.
Ducks Sign Prospect Tracey to Entry-Level Contract
This week, the Anaheim Ducks announced that they have signed 2019 first-round pick Brayden Tracey to an entry-level contract. The 29th-overall pick is up to 10 goals and 12 assists, for 22 points in just 14 games with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. He’s played roughly 10 games less compared to his peers in the league, but he’s third in the WHL in points per game with 1.57.
Tracey is coming off of a stellar rookie campaign in the league, where he led all rookies in goals (36), assists (45), and points (81) and was named Rookie of the Year. In 2018-19 he also suited up for Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, collecting seven points in seven games.
Coyotes’ Prospect Jeník Tied for OHL Scoring Lead
The 65th selection of the 2018 NHL Draft, Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Jan Jeník, is on fire through two months of OHL play. The Hamilton Bulldogs’ player is second the league in points with 54, tied with teammate and Los Angeles Kings prospect Arthur Kaliyev and two points behind Washington Capitals’ prospect Connor McMichael.
The Czech player has 20 goals and 34 assists (leading the league) through his first 25 games, already passing last year’s total of 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in 27 games. In 2018-19, Jeník started the season in the Czech Republic before participating in the World Junior Championships. After the tournament, his rights were traded from the OHL’s Flint Firebirds to the Bulldogs and he reported days later.
The deal has worked out for the Bulldogs and Jeník. He’s found great chemistry with Kaliyev and has taken a big step forward in his development this season. And don’t think that Jeník is just riding Kaliyev’s coattails.
The Nymburk, Czech Republic native has a point in EVERY game so far this season – Kaliyev has three games that he’s been held off the scoresheet. But it’s more than points for the Coyotes’ prospect, as general manager John Chayka pointed out.
“Obviously Kaliyev has a great shot and Jan is more of a playmaker, but he goes to the net and gets some dirty goals, too. Obviously they’ve been extremely productive, but the great thing about Jan is that he’s not only a goal-scorer and a playmaker but he hunts puck and he’s a competitive guy who wins puck battles and plays a physical game.”
Janik seems like a lock for the Czech Republic team at the 2020 World Junior Championship, where he’ll look to continue his success in front of his nation (the tournament is in the Czech Republic). His progress is very promising, leaving Coyotes’ fans very excited – as they should be.
Blues’ Prospect Perunovich On Hobey Baker Watch
The St. Louis Blues drafted Scott Perunovich 45th overall in 2018. He’s an unsigned, 5-foot-10 defenseman with elite skating and vision. If you haven’t heard of him, I suggest you look him up. He’s having an excellent season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth – but that’s nothing new.
In his rookie season in the NCAA (2017-18), he helped the team to an NCAA Championship, while being named the Rookie of the Year (NCHC), NCAA Top Rookie, NCHC All-Rookie Team and First All-Star Team, and an NCAA (West) All-Star. He had 11 goals, 25 assists and 36 points in 42 games.
In 2018-19, he built on his impressive draft year that saw him selected by the Blues. He was an NCAA Champion again, NCHC Best Offensive Defenseman and a First All-Star and NCAA (West) Second All-American. He had three goals, 26 assists and 29 points in 39 games.
This season, he might pass those numbers from both previous years. He’s up to two goals, 18 assists and 20 points in 14 games – well over a point per game. At this point, he’s leading all NCAA defensemen and is eighth in the league in points. He’s looking to help the team to a third straight title – which hasn’t been done since the University of Michigan in 1951-53.
The Blues are going to want to try and lock this one down if they can.
Askarov Becomes Second Youngest Goalie to Play in KHL
Top 2020 Draft-eligible goaltender Yaroslav Askarov made headlines this week, becoming just the fourth 17-year-old goalie, and the second-youngest overall, to suit up for in the KHL. What’s even more impressive? Askarov made 23 saves, letting in just two goals and keeping a .920 save percentage (SV%).
Askarov joins New Yorks Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin, Capitals’ prospect Ilya Samsonov, and Alexander Trushkov as the other under-18 netminders to suit up for the KHL. Sorokin was the youngest of the four.
This season, Askarov has continued to prove why he’s likely a top-10 – even a top-five – prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft. The sixth-ranked prospect in my November rankings has been playing in the VHL, putting up a 2.42 goals against average (GAA) and a .921 SV% while going 10-2-3.
Belliveau Leading QMJHL in PNHLe
2021 Draft-eligible defender Isaac Belliveau has been a standout so far this season for Rimouski Ocèanic. The QMJHL rookie is over a point-per-game with five goals and 26 assists for 31 points in just 28 games.
The just-turned 17-year-old (Nov. 26) is currently tied for fourth in the league in assists, leads all defensemen in assists, and also leads all defenders in points. It definitely helps when you’re passing up to Alexis Lafrenière, but Belliveau still has to make that first pass up the ice – which he has been doing consistently.
He has some work to do in his game (he rarely stands out on this ice), but early indications are good and the points are there. His PNHLe, as of Nov. 27, is third in the CHL and the top of the QMJHL – above Lafrenière. He’s sitting at 111 right now, which is extremely good.
From NHL Rank King, PNHLe is an offensive stat that is used to project a player’s point potential at the NHL level and is meant to standardize a variety of leagues so that prospects can be compared from one league with another. The two players that Belliveau is behind in the CHL? Quinton Byfield (113) and McMichael (112). That’s pretty good.
Goaltender Daws Making Statement Season After Going Undrafted
Another goaltender that deserves a mention is Guelph Storm’s Nico Daws. Daws was eligible to be drafted in 2019 but was passed over by every team. So far in 2019-20, he’s showing why teams made a mistake overlooking him. It likely won’t happen again.
The Canadian netminder is 11-2-4 this season, with a 2.13 GAA and a .936 SV%. His GAA and SV% are both first in the OHL right now, and his wins are third. He’s been absolutely on fire this season and because of this, he should be drawing attention in the 2020 NHL Draft.
He’ll also be earning some consideration for Team Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship. Right now, it seems hard to pass him up as the team’s starter, if he can continue this current success. Hunter Jones, Oliver Rodrigue, and Joel Hofer are also in consideration, but Daws might very well be the frontrunner right now.
Weekly Lafrenière Report: Nine-Game Point Streak & World Junior Championship Projections
This guy’s good. The projected number one prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft has put together another point-streak, now up to nine games and collecting 16 points over that time. He’s now up to 17 goals, 42 assists and 59 points in 28 games – still first in all three CHL leagues.
Also, the 2020 World Junior Championship is fast approaching and nearly every projection has Lafrenière on the top-line, with various linemates. He’ll likely be leaned on to lead Team Canada this year and will give anyone who hasn’t seen him yet a great chance to get eyes on this great player.
At the beginning of the season, I predicted that Lafrenière would finish his season with over 40 goals and in the 130-140 point range. He’s currently on pace for 41.28 goals and 143.29 points. This will continue to fluctuate through the season but there’s no denying we’re witnessing something special from the 18-year-old.
Thanks for checking out this edition of the Weekly Prospect Report. Throughout the season, I’ll keep you updated on all of the players not yet in the NHL that you should be keeping an eye on. If ever you’d like me to write about a specific prospect, have any questions or anything else, leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter: @JoshuaBellTHW.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.