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.
October is flying by and a number of players are really starting to find their groove. If they’ve started in a new league or with a new team, chances are they are really starting to get comfortable in their new surroundings. With that comes many prospect headlines, so let’s get started.
Kings’ Prospects Fagemo, Kaliyev Excelling Early
Two prospects that are standing out right now just so happen to both belong to the same team. Samuel Fagemo and Arthur Kaliyev, both drafted in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft (50th and 33rd, respectfully), are turning heads in their leagues.
Fagemo is playing over in Sweden in the SHL for Frölunda HC. It’s his second year with the club after picking up 14 goals and 25 points in 42 games in 2018-19. So far this season, the winger has three goals and five points in his eight games played. Where he’s really stood out is the Champions League. In four games, he’s up to seven goals (second in the league with a game in hand) and eight points including a four-goal performance this past week.
Kaliyev is on this side of the pond, playing with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. After scoring 51 goals and 102 points in 67 games last season, the left winger hasn’t missed a beat, piling up 14 goals (first in the OHL) and 25 points (second in the OHL) in just 12 games. He slid out of the first round in the 2019 NHL Draft, and he’s making sure that teams know they made a mistake.
On top of the two impressive starts for these two players, another Kings’ 2019 draftee, fifth overall, Alex Turcotte (NCAA, University of Wisconsin) is right on their tail with three goals and eight points in four games. Also, Tobias Björnfot and Carl Grundström were sent down to the AHL’s Ontario Reign, each collecting two points in their first game. The Kings’ prospect group is looking very deserving of their high farm system ranking early on.
Rangers’ Prospect Kravtsov Headed for Russa?
While many people expected Vitali Kravtsov to be playing for the New York Rangers this season (including me), it looks like he might not even be playing in North America soon.
Kravtsov was sent down to the AHL before the start of the season and hasn’t been off to the best start so far. In five games with the Harford Wolf Pack, he has just one assist and only two shots on net. He’s even been a healthy scratch in what would have been his second game. In a recent game, he was benched for roughly half of the first period after a costly turnover led to a goal against.
It’s looking like being sent down was the right call for Kravstov, but it seems like he’s not happy with his current situation if he’s considering his opt-out clause to head back to the KHL. It’s not a great look, just as it wasn’t for Winnipeg Jets’ Kristian Vesalainen last season, but if it’s what he needs to find success, perhaps it’s the right call. Personally, I’d like to see the young prospect fight for the minutes with Hartford, but if his confidence is hurting, Russia might be the best option.
Penguins’ Prospect Poulin Posts Eight-Point Night
Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect Samuel Poulin was having a pretty good season. Heading into Sunday’s game versus the Shawinigan Cataractes, the Sherbrooke Phoenix winger had seven goals, seven assists for 14 points in 10 games. As I said, that’s a pretty good start. Even more impressive is that he had at least one point in all but two games, which remains the case.
But then Sunday’s game came along and Poulin went off. He finished the game with two goals and six assists, even adding in a fight for the Gordie Howe hat trick. This brings his season totals up to nine goals, 13 assists and 22 points in just 11 games. What’s even more impressive is that Poulin now has eight goals in his last four games, scoring two in each.
Poulin was the Penguins’ first selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, selecting him 21st overall. Sunday’s game shot him up the leaderboards in the QMJHL, tying him for sixth in the league. Can he make it five straight games of two goals? We’ll find out Wednesday when the Phoenix face the Saint John Sea Dogs and go for their eighth-straight win.
Stützle Off to Unprecedented Start in the DEL
If you haven’t heard this name yet, you’ve been missing out. Tim Stützle is a top prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, and what he is currently doing in the top-German league, the DEL, is unprecedented. In my preseason rankings, I had the German prospect ranked 13th. At this point, I can’t see him falling out of the top-10 and could even see him reaching the highly-talented tier(s) within the top-five.
“He is the only U18 player in the last 18 seasons to average 1.00 (points per game) or more in any of the KHL, SHL, Liiga, DEL, Czech, NLA, or Allsvenskan.” In case you don’t know, those are all of the top leagues in Europe. It’s a big deal.
He’s up to three goals and 13 points in 12 games now with Adler Mannheim and has added another two goals and five points in six Champions League games.
He’s incredibly confident with the puck, extremely creative and his vision is off the charts. He’s one of the most exciting players to watch in this year’s draft class, and that is really saying something. He has great hands and is one of the best playmakers in the draft. It’s not too early to start draft research, so put Stützle near the top of your list.
Holloway Transitioning Seamlessly to NCAA’s Badgers
Coming back to North America, Dylan Holloway is another likely first-round talent that has slid into a new team with ease. Holloway is in his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin and in just four games he’s got his first three points (one goal, two assists).
My 12th overall prospect, Holloway has been given a ton of trust early on, even being used to defend one-goal leads. He’s a threat offensively with his great hands, but he’s also great in his own end. Some even think that he could make the jump to the NHL next season.
With Wisconsin having an incredible team this season, and Holloway able to find chemistry quickly, we could be watching the start of a truly remarkable season.
Blazers’ Zary Leading WHL in Points
North of the border, potential first-rounder Connor Zary is off to a stellar start in the WHL. His five goals and 20 points currently lead the league, and the Kamloops Blazer shows no signs of slowing down.
I had Zary at 28 in my preseason rankings, but he was actually ranked as a B prospect (a second or third round prospect) in the NHL Central Scouting grades. With his early start, it looks like he could be proving that he deserves a bit more respect.
2022 Draft Watch: Wright Getting Comfortable in OHL
We’re looking way out now, but the 2022 NHL draft is going to be something else. There are three prospects that will be battling for the top spot in June 2022 and the race has already started. One of those players is 15-year-old Shane Wright, who was granted exceptional status and is playing for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.
After not recording a point in his first two games, Wright collected four goals and nine points in his next seven games, with points in six of those games. That point total currently leads the Frontenacs – did I mention that he’s 15? He’s gone the last three games without a point, but it’s looking promising for the young player.
You have to remember that Wright is playing against players one to six years older than him. The first overall pick in the 2019 OHL Entry Draft is just 12 games into his OHL career and he’s still getting used to the change of pace. He’s proved why he was deserving of the exceptional status already though. As he gets more comfortable and continues to develop, the OHL better watch out.
Weekly Lafrenière Report: Through 12 Games
I wasn’t going to include anything on the potential (probable) 2020 first-overall player, Alexis Lafrenière, after including him in the first two editions but after Sunday’s (Oct. 20) performance, it looks like I need to. Lafrenière is absolutely dominating the QMJHL (and CHL) so far. So, each Weekly Prospect Report, I’ll give an update on the skilled prospect.
On Sunday, the Rimouski Océanic star put up a season-high five points (one goal, four assists) to bring his total up to 10 goals and 34 points through 13 games. It’s his fifth four-point-plus game this season. He’s currently first in the CHL and QMJHL in points, and tied for fourth in goals in the “Q.”
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 57 goals and 178 points. Of course, this will fluctuate through the season but what a start we’ve seen 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.