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.
With December underway, the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship is fast approaching and The Hockey Writers has you covered. We’ve already published team previews on Team Finland, Team Kazakhstan, Team Czech Republic, and Team Slovakia with more coming soon. To keep up with all of the 2020 World Junior content, you can do so here.
In the meantime, here’s what’s happening in the wonderful world of prospects.
Capitals’ McMichael is the Rising Prospect of 2019-20 – So Far
Drafted 25th overall by the Washington Capitals, Connor McMichael is easily the prospect that has raised his stock the most in 2019-20 – so far. The OHL’s London Knights centreman is currently leading the OHL and is third in the entire CHL in points, with 59 in 27 games.
McMichael is nearly at a goal-per-game with 25 goals, and has been piling on the assists with 34. He’s been a dominant player, and a threat to be a game-changer every night. This week, he saw a 17-game point streak come to an end, in which he had 42 points. That’s 2.47 points per game.
This season, he has a pace of 2.19 points per game. Last season, he finished with 72 points in 67 games (36 goals and 36 assists). That’s 1.07 points per game. McMichael is scoring over an extra point per game this season compared to last – in which he was drafted 25th overall.
McMichael has been invited to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp, and seems like a lock to make it. Capitals’ fans, how are you feeling about your team’s selection right about now?
Sabres’ Cozens Proving Draft Pick Right
With the seventh selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Canadian centreman, Dylan Cozens. Boy, was that choice right. Cozens is currently leading the WHL in points for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, with 20 goals, 26 assists and 46 points.
Like McMichael, Cozens has also been named to the Team Canada selection camp, and also seems likely to make the team. The 6-foot-3 forward should be a top-six, key player in the lineup for a Canadian squad that has big hopes for the World Juniors.
The Sabres have played well this season, showing flashes of offense. It’s likely that they’ll add Cozens to that group next season, where he’ll provide an additional boost to the team. Sabres management and fans will be watching closely as the season moves on.
Lundqvist Looking Good in SHL, Leading Team in Points
The New York Rangers had the best prospect pool in the NHL to enter the season, While Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox have graduated, and Vitaly Kravtsov isn’t having the best season, the team still has one of the better farm systems in the league. A large part of that is Nils Lundqvist.
The Swedish defender is up to four goals, 13 assists, and 17 points in the Swedish top-league, the SHL. He’s also a remarkable plus-15. As the Rangers’ Stats and Info Twitter account explains, those totals lead all U20 players in assists, points, and plus/minus. His point total is also third-best out of all defenders.
Lundqvist has more assists than any U20 player has points. He’s also the only player in the league at any age to have 16 points or more and a plus-15 or better rating. Even better, Lundqvist’s 13 assists are already sixth-most by a U20 defender in SHL history. His 32 points in his SHL career are fifth-most by a U20 defenseman in SHL history.
The Rangers have the potential to have the best defensive unit in the league in the future, between Lundkvist, Fox, Matthew Robertson, and K’Andre Miller. Lundqvist is very much in the conversation as the team’s best prospect right now.
Barron Out Indefinitely with Blood Clot
Halifax Moosehead defenseman Justin Barron has been sidelined indefinitely after being diagnosed with a blood clot. Projected to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, there is no timetable for his return.
Barron told the team therapist in their game on Nov. 30 that he was feeling numbness in his arm. The therapist thought that Barron should go to the hospital, where he was told to return the next day and was then diagnosed.
The hope is that Barron won’t miss too much time, as this is valuable development time for him in his draft-year. Of course, health comes first and a blood clot is nothing to mess around with.
The 17th-ranked player in my rankings has four goals, 13 assists and 17 points in 27 games this season.
Hunt Also Goes Down with Scary Cut
Barron isn’t the only draft-eligible prospect to be sidelined with an injury this week, as Moose Jaw Warriors defender Daemon Hunt had a nasty cut from a skate blade in Tuesday’s game versus the Edmonton Oil Kings. Hunt’s cut will require surgery but is expected to make a full recovery.
My 65th-ranked prospect has 11 assists in 23 games so far in the WHL, over halfway to his totals from last season (20 points in 57 games). Like Barron, the Warriors hope that Hunt can heal quickly and get back on the ice soon.
Wright Cementing Spot as Top Player in the 2022 NHL Draft
Let me start by reminding you that Shane Wright is 15 years old. He’s playing in the OHL, one to six years younger than the entire league. Even so, he’s racked up 14 goals, 11 assists, and 25 points in 24 games. Yes – over a point per game. As a 15-year-old, in case you missed that.
Wright currently has a nine-game point streak going, in which he has nine goals and 14 points. It’s safe to say that he’s starting to find his rhythm. He’s leading the Kington Frontenac’s in points (tied with Zayne Wisdom) and is second in goals (by one, Wisdom again).
Compared to all rookies in the league (all of whom are older than Wright), he’s second in goals – by one, in one less game – to Peterborough Petes Mason McTavish, and is leading in points. He also leads all rookies in power-play goals with six, game-winning goals with three, and is the only rookie with an overtime goal.
Coming into the season, it was known that Wright is a special player. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been granted exceptional status. But this is something else. For comparison, in Connor McDavid’s OHL rookie season, he had 0.40 goals per game and 1.05 points per game. Wright currently has 0.56 goals per game and 1.04 points per game.
He has some competition for the top spot in 2022, with Brad Lambert and Matthew Savoie who are still very much in consideration for that top spot, but Wright’s season so far has been spectacular on a Frontenac’s team that is second-last in the league.
Weekly Lafrenière Report: Sets Longest Point-Streak of the Season – and Counting
Projected number-one draft pick ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft, Alexis Lafrenière, has set a new season-high point streak this season to 12 games. Over that time, the left winger has 12 goals, 15 assists, and 27 points. That brings his totals on the season up to 24 goals, 46 assists and 70 points in just 32 games.
What’s most impressive about Lafrenière’s streak is the increase in goals. He’s scored half of his season goal total over this stretch – in just a third of the season. At this point, he’s basically toying with the entire league as he runs away with the CHL scoring race.
With the World Junior camp getting underway, Lafrenière should be a lock for the top-line. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this future star yet, the World Juniors will be the perfect opportunity.
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.