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.
While the hockey world is on a COVID-19 shutdown, the 2020 NHL Draft will still happen – somehow. Throughout “The Pause,” I’ll keep my content rolling to ensure you have some reading material to get through quarantine. The Hockey Writers have started to compile it’s annual NHL Draft Guide, and you can check that out for tons of prospect profiles, features, rankings and more!
The Weekly Prospect report will go on as long as it can, although it might look differently in the coming weeks. As there’s still been prospect news rolling in, we have some items to touch on this week.
Ducks’ Francis Diagnosed with Leukemia
Before we dive in, I’d like to take a moment for Anaheim Ducks’ prospect and University of Minnesota-Duluth commit Will Francis, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. The 19-year-old has begun chemotherapy. In situations like this, hockey takes a backseat and the health and wellbeing of Francis are first and foremost.
Francis began feeling sick a few weeks prior to the diagnosis and was treated for tonsilitis. He continued with his day-to-day activities, even going skiing and snowboarding with family before he started to experience extreme fatigue and loss of appetite. He was tested for mono when the doctor found his white blood count was through the roof. That night he was told he had B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Remission rates are high, especially for younger patients, which is a positive in all of this. Francis had recently spoken to The Hockey Writers’ Eddy Jones about his season-ending knee injury, which was going well. It’s been a tough stretch for Francis, who has more and more become a very promising defensive prospect.
The Hockey Writers would like to wish Francis a quick and successful recovery and to let him know that he’s in our thoughts. As Francis himself said, he’s going to “kick it’s a**!”
While there’s not a ton of news in the hockey world right now other than speculation and rumours, the NCAA has given provided quite a bit of content. This week’s NHL-Affiliated Prospects is an all-NCAA edition!
Canadiens’ Caufield Staying in Wisconsin
With a few NCAA players – both affiliated and non-affiliated – signing NHL contracts, all eyes were on Montreal Canadiens’ prospect Cole Caufield. Would he be a one-and-done player for the University of Wisconsin or would he play another year?
That decision has been made, and the Canadiens’ top prospect will be staying in the NCAA for at least one more season. In a decision between Caufield, the university and the Canadiens, they agreed that Caufield should pursue his academic career.
“This additional year in the NCAA will benefit Cole and will allow him to continue developing his skills within the Badgers’ environment,” said general manager Marc Bergevin. “Cole is an important part of the Montreal Canadiens’ future and we will continue to follow his development with interest.”
Caufield is coming off a season where he was the NCAA (B1G) scoring champion, collecting 19 goals, 17 assists, and 36 points in as many games – as a rookie. Drafted 15th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Canadiens are likely hoping that he can put on a bit of size, as he’s 5-foot-7, 163 pounds. While that’s not unheard of in the NHL, another year of training in the NCAA will definitely make a jump to the NHL easier.
Avalanche’s Newhook Following Makar’s Footsteps
Another NCAA rookie standout this year was Colorado Avalanche prospect Alex Newhook. He was honoured heavily for his efforts this season:
- NCAA (All-USCHO) Second Team
- NCAA (Hockey East) All-Rookie Team
- NCAA (Hockey East) Rookie of the Year
- NCAA (Hockey East) Second All-Star Team
All of this while helping Boston University to the regular-season championship title. Newhook tied Caufield in goals with 19, adding 23 assists for 42 points in 34 games. Also just like Caufield, Newhook will be staying put next season.
“I think for me, the plan has not changed as of now,” says the rookie standout. “The Avs are a really strong team and they have a lot of depth. I am in a good spot at BC, and to be in a good spot like this and have this position of not being rushed and not being forced out of a good spot makes my situation that much better.” (from: “The season that could have been for Alex Newhook now drives him even more” – The Athletic – March 20, 2020).
Newhook is right on the money here and just happens to be following the footsteps of another young Avs player – Cal Makar. In his rookie year, Makar was named to the NCAA (Hockey East) Third All-Star Team and the All-Rookie Team while being named the NCAA (New England) Rookie of the Year. His second season? First All-Star Team and a Hobey Baker winner, followed by a memorable NHL playoff run. These are good footsteps to be following.
Hobey Baker Finalists Announced
Speaking of the Hobey Baker Award, the finalists for the Hobey Baker Award have been announced, with six NHL team prospects in consideration for the NCAA’s top award. Here’s the full list:
- David Farrance (NSH)
- Scott Perunovich (STL)
- Jeremy Swayman (BOS)
- Jack Dugan (VGK)
- John Leonard (SJS)
- Morgan Barron (NYR)
- Marc Michaelis (VAN)
- Dryden McKay (Undrafted)
- Jordan Kawaguchi (Undrafted)
- Jason Cotton (Undrafted)
While I won’t go into each player, I believe three of them stand a very good chance at winning the prestigious title.
Providence College’s Dugan likely leads the way for me, after leading the NCAA with 10 goals, 42 assists, and 52 points. The Vegas Golden Knights prospect played at a 1.53 point-per-game pace and was named to the NCAA First All-Star Team and NCAA (Hockey East) First All-Star Team.
Farrance, from Boston University, would be a close second for me. The Nashville Predators’ prospect led all NCAA defenders with 14 goals, 29 assists, and 43 points. Just like Dugan, he was named to the NCAA First All-Star Team and NCAA (Hockey East) First All-Star Team.
Finally, Swayman could very well come out with the honour. The Boston Bruins’ prospect went 18-11-5, carrying a 2.07 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. He also led the NCAA with 1,099 save this season, setting a University of Maine record in the process. He has a long list of accolades this season, including being named to the NCAA (All-USCHO) Second Team and NCAA (Hockey East) First All-Star Team, and winning the NCAA (Hockey East) Goaltender of the Year, NCAA (Hockey East) Player of the Year, and the NCAA (New England) Walter Brown Award as the best American-born player in New England.
The 2020 NHL Draft Will Nothing Like Past Drafts
We know that the 2020 NHL Draft will happen – it has to. But we don’t know when, where, or even how the draft will take place. COVID-19 has put the world on lockdown, let alone the hockey world, and there are many uncertainties surrounding one of the biggest events on the NHL’s schedule.
Even how NHL Central Scouting works will be changing this season. For the first time in its 44 years, Central Scouting will be using video conferencing to finalize their NHL Draft rankings. Originally, they were supposed to meet in person in Toronto’s NHL headquarters, but that can’t happen now. They are hoping to release their final rankings by mid-April.
Among the cancellations in the hockey world were the 2020 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships. According to Director of NHL Central Scouting, Dan Maar, “The opportunity to focus scouting on players of interest based on a club’s potential draft position has been lost.”
“In particular, the cancellation of the IIHF World Under-18 Championship eliminated the chance of many NHL general managers being able to live scout some of the top prospects in the world.”
Past the rankings though, how will the draft take place? Usually, teams gather and make their selection in person, with numerous members of the team’s front office and fans in attendance. Expect that not to happen this year.
As The Hockey Writers’ own Mark Scheig writes, “One thing I could see happen is a remote draft. This already happens in junior hockey. Basically, when it’s your turn, you announce your pick over the phone on a conference call. Teams have a war-room like setup where they’re all at their home arena when the draft is taking place. Connor McDavid was drafted by the Erie Otters in this manner just to give you some perspective.”
They could also push the draft back to try and keep the regular atmosphere surrounding the draft. There are still a lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers. Of course, the health and safety of everyone are more important than hockey. Hopefully, the COVID-19 outbreak can start to be contained and clarity around the NHL’s calendar and events come to light.
Underrated Player of the Week: Martin Chromiak
Bell’s Ranking: 54th
Already covered in the Underrated Player of the Week has been James Hardie, Yan Kuznetsov, and Ozzy Wiesblatt. Next up, Kingston Frontenac’s left winger Martin Chromiak. In my February draft rankings, the Slovakian player came in in the middle of the second round, sitting 54th.
Chromiak started out the season playing for HK Dukla Trencin in the top Slovakian league, putting up five goals and an assist in 32 games. He was a shocking cut from Team Slovakia in the 2020 World Juniors and decided to bring his talents overseas to the OHL’s Frontenacs where he was drafted second overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft.
He’s shown what he’s capable of in the OHL, putting up 11 goals, 22 assists, and 33 points in 28 games. Chromiak is a goal-scorer that can pass, bringing speed and great puck-handling skills to his game. He’s good in his own end and can play in any situation, making him a very versatile player. While he projects to be a middle-six winger, he could play up and down the lineup and on special teams. He’s a good player to have on your team.
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.
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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.