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.
Hurricanes’ Suzuki Will Succeed with Spirit
The biggest news of the week in the CHL were the trade deadlines, and there were some massive moves. One that stands out to me is the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit landing Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Ryan Suzuki. He’s missed time this season with an eye injury but has still managed five goals and 23 points in 21 games.
Last season, with the Barrie Colts, Suzuki finished with 25 goals and 75 points in 65 games. On his new team, I believe that the playmaker can exceed that pace. That has entirely to do with who his winger wi be – Cole Perfetti.
The 2020 NHL Draft-eligible prospect is having a great season, racking up 23 goals, 46 assists, and 69 points in 40 games. Perfetti has been known as a sniper but has developed his playmaking abilities this season. Combining him with Suzuki will be mutually beneficial for the two players. And extremely beneficial to the Spirit. If you’re able to catch a game, I suggest you do so to watch the magic.
The Shestyorkin Show is in Manhattan
Arguably the top goaltending prospect in the league has come, he’s conquered, and he’s likely forcing someone out of town. New York Rangers prospect Igor Shestyorkin made his NHL debut on Jan. 7, picking up his first career win after making 29 saves.
Then two days later, Shestyorkin played his second game – making 46 stops en route to his second career win. While those are his only two games played so far, he remains with the big club and brings with him questions about the future of another young, promising netminder Alexandar Georgiev.
It’s been reported that the Rangers will start listening to offers on Georgiev, paving the way for Shestyorkin to learn from The King: Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has one more year on his deal. After this, it’s expected that the Russian netminder will take over the Rangers’ crease.
In his first two wins, Shestyorkin is already putting his name with elite talent. His 46-save performance is the third-most by a Rangers rookie behind Mike Richter (59), Georgiev (55), and tied with John Vanbiesbrouck. He’s only the eighth Rangers’ rookie to make over 40 saves and is just the sixth to earn a win in his first two starts.
If I had to guess – there’s going to be a lot more history made with Shestyorkin in the net.
Golden Knights’ Dugan has Earned Entry-Level Contract
I’ve talked about him before in the Weekly Prospect Report, and he needs some more love. NCAA star Jack Dugan, a Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect, has been leading the way for Providence College and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s leading the NCAA with seven goals, 34 assists and 41 points in 23 games. In 2018-19, he played 41 games and finished with 39 points.
That’s right, in just over half of the games played compared to last season, Dugan has passed his point totals. The right winger was the 142nd-overall pick in 2017 (fifth round) and is currently unsigned. It’s safe to say that the Golden Knights need to make sure they get this young player signed to an entry-level contract.
Dugan is the frontrunner for the Hobey Baker Award and is even outpacing Johnny Gaudreau’s Hobey Baker-winning season. Yeah, he’s playing that well. The closest to him in points is his teammate and New Jersey Devils’ prospect Tyce Thompson (35 points) and Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Tyler Madden (30 points).
The Golden Knights need to get pen to paper on this promising player. It should be a priority for the organization moving forward.
Byfield Gets His Winger in Pekar
There’s no question that Quinton Byfield is an elite prospect. If there’s one thing he hasn’t had this season though, it’s a winger that can keep up with him. Well, with the OHL Trade Deadline came Buffalo Sabres’ prospect Matej Pekar. Byfield has been unreal on his own this season, with 63 points in 32 games. Watch that rate increase for the remainder of the season.
The fact that Byfield can do it on his own is impressive. With Pekar, expect his numbers to skyrocket. The projected second-overall pick has already been in the discussion for the first-overall pick and watching him with someone with talent should further that argument.
In the first two games of the Byfield-Pekar show, Pekar put up six assists (including a five-assist game and Byfield also has six points (three goals and three assists). Yeah, this is going to be wonderful to watch.
Rossi is Playing on Another Level
Speaking of high-performing OHLers, Marco Rossi continues to impress this season. The Ottawa 67’s star is up to 74 points in 32 games. That’s 2.31 points per game – leading the OHL, CHL, and all prospects, drafted or draft-eligible.
But wait – it gets even more impressive. Rossi has been turning it on even more as of late, as he just ended an 18-game point streak where he collected a whopping 47 points. That’s a 2.61 point per game pace. In that stretch, he had just five games of one point. It’s safe to say he can produce offensively.
Rossi has just two games this season where he’s been held off the scoresheet. Out of his 32. He has 10 games of one point, five games of two points, 10 games of three points, and five games of four-six points. With the season only just over half done, expect lots more from the young player.
NEW SECTION: Undrafted Prospects
There have been a few times this season where there’s a prospect I think of writing about, but they haven’t fit into the “NHL-Affiliated” or “Draft-Eligible” sections. Well, here is the Undrafted Prospects section! They’re too old to be drafted, but they are worth a mention. This section likely won’t be a regular component of the Weekly Prospect Report, but I’ll pop it in on a need-to basis.
Dryden McKay Has Earned an NHL Contract
One player that is worth a mention right now is Minnesota State University goaltender Dryden McKay. Playing in the second season of his NCAA career, the undrafted and unsigned 22-year-old is currently leading the league in both goals against average (1.14) and save percentage (.950).
He was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award (awarded to the top goaltender in the NCAA) after repping a 1.76 goals against average and a .927 save percentage – in his rookie season. This season, he’s even in the Hobey Baker Award conversation (awarded to the top collegiate player) on top of being the likely winner of the Mike Richter Award.
When the NHL teams start picking up free agent NCAA players, don’t be surprised if this goalie gets a good, hard look from multiple teams. His play over the last two seasons, and even prior in the USHL, has earned it.
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.