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.
It’s almost the end of November, and the 2020 IIHF U20 World Ice Hockey Championship (WJC) is just around the corner. We’ll start finding out which teams will be loaning players – a process that’s already begun. Also, this past week has seen a number of star prospects taking out due to injury. There’s lots to catch up on.
Flames’ Prospect Zavgorodniy Out 8-12 Weeks
Calgary Flames prospect and Rimouski Océanic star Dmitry Zavgorodniy is out for eight to 12 weeks with a broken collar bone. The star was as close to a sure-thing as you can get for Team Russia at the WJC, so the injury is definitely a big loss for both him and the team.
Zavgorodniy has been a part of arguably the best line in the CHL, along with 2020 top-prospect Alexis Lafrenière and Cédric Paré. He had put up 16 goals, 27 assists, and 43 points in just 23 games, which had him third in the QMJHL – just behind his two linemates.
Despite being a seventh-round pick in 2018 (198th overall), Zavgorodniy has become one of the Flames top prospects. His play over the last two seasons has Calgary general manager Brad Treliving taking notice.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, Lafrenière is a hell of a player. There’s a good chance he will be the top pick. He’s an unbelievable talent, but Dmitry does a lot of heavy lifting there,” Treliving said. “He’s on the puck. He really hounds the puck. When they don’t have it, he’s unbelievable at puck retrievals to get it back.” (From: “Flames prospect Dmitry Zavgorodniy rues recent injury but is making a big impression in Rimouski” – The Athletic – Nov. 20, 2019).
While the budding star will miss the WJC, he should be back ahead of the QMJHL playoffs. He’ll be healthy, rested, and ready to jump right back on track. That should have Flames fans very excited.
Red Wings’ Prospect Seider to Play for Germany
The names are starting to trickle in. The 2020 WJC kicks off in just over a month (Dec. 26) and we know one player that will be lacing up the skates for Team Germany – Detroit Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider.
The German hockey organization DEB announced that after talking with Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, the team will be loaning Seider to his home country for the tournament. Seider captained Team Germany last year to a gold medal at the D1A level of the U20 tournament. He collected a goal and six assists for seven points and was named the tournament’s best defender and the top player on his team while collecting the most points by a defender and the best plus/minus (plus-eight).
With Germany’s gold medal victory, they were promoted to the top-level tournament. Seider will look to continue his success and his team’s success at the international level – something he’s definitely excited for (translated from German).
“I was really happy to hear that I was allowed to support the U20 national team at the World (Championship). We will be with a good team at the start – I’m looking forward to (seeing) the guys!”
Seider has looked good so far in his AHL rookie season, collecting a goal and 10 assists for 11 points in 20 games. He’s been holding his own, not looking out of place at all. The sixth-overall pick in 2019 is making the Red Wings look good with their surprise selection so far.
Maple Leafs’ Prospect Abramov Riding Eight-Game Point Streak
Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Mikhail Abramov is riding high with an eight-game point streak in the QMJHL. The Victoriaville Tigres centreman has 15 points over that time, including nine goals and six assists. The streak has brought his season totals to 18 goals, 14 assists and 32 points in 27 games. His goal totals are third in the league, with his point totals 16th.
Abramov was the Maple Leafs fourth-round pick in 2019, 115th overall. In 2018-19, he was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie team after scoring 16 goals, 38 assists and 54 points. The prospect looks to have a ton of talent and should be a solid bottom-six (possibly middle-six) player for Toronto in a few years. They have to like how he’s progressing early.
Lundell Out Six Weeks With Injury
Another player injured is prospect Anton Lundell. He’s reportedly out six weeks with an undisclosed injury which will likely take him out of the WJC and could see him fall in draft rankings – but shouldn’t.
Lundell has been having a great season in the top-Finnish league, the Liiga. He’s put up six goals and six assists for 12 points in 20 games in his sophomore season with HIFK. In 2018-19, he collected nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points in 39 games. It’s safe to say he’s been progressing well.
Lundell would have very likely been the top-line centre for Team Finland at the WJC, so it will be a big blow to the team. He participated last year, scoring one goal and three assists for four points, helping his team to a gold medal in the event.
Many draft rankings out there – not all of them, of course – have a tendency to make big changes based on events like the WJC. Take the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, for example. Some people were ready to consider Hendrix Lapierre a threat for the first-overall pick, or at least a top-five option. The same went for Cole Perfetti (who could possibly be a top-five selection but isn’t quite there in my rankings). It works the other way too. Marco Rossi was slotted in lower in many of these rankings due to the fact that he wasn’t in the tournament. There’s a chance we see that happen with Lundell.
Currently, I have Lundell ranked fourth in my November draft rankings (that came out today!). Him not playing in this tournament likely won’t change that. With how many high-end talents there are in this draft though, a big performance from a few players could see him drop in consensus rankings. Don’t let that happen. Lundell is a top-five player in this draft and should remain as such even if he doesn’t play in the WJC. This has been a public service announcement.
Lapierre Out Indefinitely – Is it Time to Worry?
Speaking of Lapierre, he too is out of the lineup. This situation is starting to get a bit scary, as this is the Chicoutimi Saguenéens forward’s third concussion in the last eight months. Lapierre was the victim of an open-ice hit from Flames’ prospect Jakob Pelletier (a clean hit) and went to the locker room shortly after.
Lapierre is a top prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft, but three concussions in just eight months starts to get worrisome. You have to wonder if concussions will end up taking this young talent out of the game. Earlier this season, OHL defenseman Luke Beamish of the Erie Otters announced his retirement after dealing with concussion symptoms. This is not something to take lightly, and as The Hockey Writers’ Mark Scheig wrote about Beamish’s retirement, it was the right call.
Time will tell just how bad Lapierre’s current concussion is and how long it will keep him out. He’s a very skilled young forward with a bright future in the game, but I’m a strong believer in taking care of yourself first. Three concussions in such a short time for anyone, let alone a developing 17-year-old, has a huge impact that can last a lifetime. I don’t want to see Lapierre have to step back from the game he’s obviously very gifted in, but there comes a point where you have to stop and think about what’s best for your future.
There’s no question that this is alarming. I wish Lapierre a full recovery and hope this is just a series of bad luck rather than something bigger.
Weekly Lafrenière Report: QMJHL Fines Prospect $1000
Normally, every week, this is where I talk about all the points Lafrenière has racked up and how impressive it is. This is not that week – entirely. The projected first-overall pick in 2020 was in some hot water over the past few days, receiving two fines from the QMJHL.
Lafrenière was fined $500 for physical abuse of officials and another $500 for inappropriate language towards an opponent (the team gets the fine). He was given a two-minute penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct for his actions. His teammate, Frédéryck Janvier, and Shawinigan Cataractes’ Mikael Robidoux and Leon Denny were all suspended. He got very lucky coming away without a suspension, but it’s not a good look for the top prospect.
Of course, he continued to dominate the league too. Before getting kicked out of the game, Lafreniere had two goals and an assist. He added three more assists over his next two games and now has a six-game point streak with 11 points. That brings his season totals up to 15 goals, 39 assists, and 54 points in 25 games.
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 40.8 goals and 146.88 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.