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 every team, with more content rolling out daily!. To keep up with all of the 2020 World Junior content, you can do so here.
To recognize this grand (and yes, slightly overrated) tournament, this Weekly Prospect Report (along with the next few), will have an extra section to take a look at some of the headlines of this tournament!
But before we get to the prospect headlines of the week, there’s one story that needs to be told that is more important than anything that happened on the ice.
Tynan’s Surgery Successful After Scary Cut
One of the biggest stories of the hockey world this week was of OHL goaltender Tucker Tynan of the Niagara IceDogs. Playing against the London Knights on Thursday, Tynan took a skate to his leg, suffering a severe cut to his thigh and was rushed to the hospital. Tynan underwent surgery to repair the cut, which was later reported as a success.
“Certainly it’s been a pretty traumatic 14 hours for us here in Niagara,” IceDogs general manager Joey Burke said after the incident. “We’re all very shaken up and obviously our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with Tucker and his family.”
The OHL impressed in it’s reaction to this devastating injury, not only postponing the IceDogs/Knights game but postponing the next two games so that the team can recover from this life-threatening injury and seek out the necessary assistance in doing so.
It’s also important to recognize the incredible job done by the on-ice medical staff, whose quick work likely saved Tynan’s life. The hockey world held it’s collective breath with this injury, not being released until Tynan himself announced that he was doing alright after surgery.
This tragic injury causes reflection on the fact that there are more important things than hockey. It’s in times like this that the hockey world shows it’s compassion, coming together to think of Tynan, his family, and both teams on the ice for the game.
As THW’s Greg Boysen and Stephen Ground have already noted, we at The Hockey Writers wish Tynan the best in his recovery. We are thinking about him, his family, and his teammates and are extremely thankful for the medical teams that helped him through this traumatic experience.
World Junior Championship News
Team Canada Makes Nine Cuts, Get NHL Reinforcements
The heavy favourite to win the 2020 World Junior Championship, Team Canada made their first round of cuts this week, frankly with a few surprises among them.
The cuts included forwards Cole Perfetti, Dylan Holloway, Connor Zary, Alex Newhook, Peyton Krebs, defensemen Braden Schneider, Peter Diliberatore and Thomas Harley, and goaltender Hunter Jones. Many had Jones as one of the team’s three goaltenders, but the play of Nico Daws likely played him out of that spot. The three netminders are now set, with Daws, Olivier Rodrigue and Joel Hofer.
Factoring into these cuts is the fact that the group has received the support of some AHL and NHL talent, including Detroit Red Wings’ Joe Veleno and Arizona Coyotes’ Barrett Hayton. They still need to cut at least one player, but are waiting to see in Noah Dobson will be made available by the New York Islanders. If Dobson comes, they’ll need to make two cuts.
The team has two exhibition games approaching, Dec. 19 against Team Switzerland and Dec. 23 against Team Finland. The team will likely wait until after these games to finalize their roster.
Finland Trims Camp
The reigning champions of the World Junior Championships also trimmed their roster this week, down to 25. They’ll still have two more cuts to make, but like Team Canada, the goaltenders are set with Justus Annunen, Jasper Patrikainen, and Kari Piiroinen.
Among the team’s 11 cuts, Anton Lundell stands out. A top prospect ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft, Lundell would have been a star player in this tournament, but an injury sustained prior to selection camps will keep him out of the tournament.
Lundell, Roni Hirvonen, Niklas Nordgren, Leevi Aaltonen, Henri Nikkanen, Samuel Salonen, Patrik Siikanen, and Mikko Petman were some of the players cut. In my preview of Team Finland, I had a healthy Lundell, Hirvonen, and Salonen on the final squad – Hirvonen is the biggest surprise to me among these cuts.
Maple Leafs Loan Sandin to Team Sweden, Blackhawks Keep Boqvist
As if the Swedish defensive unit wasn’t scary enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they have loaned top prospect, Rasmus Sandin, to the team. The unit will now feature as many as five first-round picks on their defensive unit.
The Chicago Blackhawks have already said that they won’t be loaning defenseman Adam Boqvist to the team, as he’s playing in the NHL and it seems likely he’ll stick there. So far this season, he’s played 10 games with the Hawks, collecting a goal and an assist.
Sandin, on the other hand, started the season with the Maple Leafs, playing six games and getting his first two NHL assists. In the AHL, he has two goals, 10 assists and 12 points in 18 games. He played in last year’s World Juniors, scoring two goals and adding two assists in five games.
He’ll join a defensive unit that looks to include Los Angeles Kings’ prospect Tobias Björnfot, Edmonton Oilers’ Philip Broberg, New York Rangers’ Nils Lundqvist, and Arizona Coyotes’ Victor Söderström.
Austria to Play in 2021 World Junior Championship
Team Austria will participate in the 2021 World Junior Championship after winning the D1A U20s in Belarus. Austria edged out Team Slovenia 4-1 in the gold medal game. It remains to be seen who gets relegated to open up a spot for them in the top division, with the Czech Republic, Germany, Kazakhstan, and Switzerland as possibilities.
Team Austria was led by tournament points leader, Benjamin Baumgartner, who collected five goals, six assists and 11 points through five games. Goaltender Alexander Schmidt played all of Austria’s games, collecting a 2.00 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
The 2021 edition could see prospect Marco Rossi in the tournament. The 2020 NHL Draft-eligible player is one of the draft’s top prospects. In a tournament made for the best under-20 players in the world, he deserves to compete in the event. Unless he’s in the NHL of course.
Austria last played at the top level in 2010.
Rangers’ Prospect Kravtsov Comes Back to North America
The saga of New York Rangers’ prospect Vitaliy Kravtsov continues. The prospect returned to North American after just six weeks spent in Russia between the KHL and VHL. He’ll report to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack to start.
Many were surprised when the Russian was cut from the NHL squad in the preseason. They had him as one of the top prospects in the league and thought that he would make the jump to the Rangers lineup. Instead, he was sent down to the Wolf Pack, collecting just one assist in five games and was even a healthy scratch.
He went to play in the KHL for Traktor, recording two goals and an assist through 11 games before being demoted to the VHL’s Chelmet where he had two assists in three games.
Anthony Scultore of Forever Blueshirts spoke with KHL reporter Gillian Kemmerer about the strange demotion of Kravstov in Russia, which points to mismanagement of the player as a whole. In the interview, Kemmerer points out that CSKA general manager Sergei Fedorov noted that “anyone in Kravtsov’s inner circle set reasonable expectations for his first days in America.”
Federov also “would have liked to see Kravtsov stay in the KHL along the lines of a (Nikita) Gusev or (Artemi) Panarin, and come to New York in his mid-twenties.”
The Rangers need to put Kravstov in a position to succeed. His confidence is understandably broken right now. On Twitter, Kemmerer noted that when Kravtsov came to Russia from the AHL, he was “dismantled” and “upset.” The team needs to fix the damage done to this promising prospect.
At this point, the well-being of Kravtsov is first and foremost. Lost on some, this is just a 19-year-old player who came to a new country. It’s a very difficult transition and so far, the organization has botched his development.
Wild Prospect Boldy Left Off Team USA Selection Camp Roster
One of the most surprising snubs of the World Junior selections was Minnesota Wild prospect Matthew Boldy being left off the Team USA camp roster. Boldy was the 12th-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and has represented the USA in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2018 (WHC-17), and the World Under-18 Hockey Championship (WJC-18) in 2019.
At the WHC-17, the left-winger had three goals and nine points in six games. At the WJC-18, he was named the alternate captain and had three goals and 12 points. Last season with the U.S. National Under-18 Team, he had 33 goals, 41 assists, and 81 points in 64 games.
But this season, as a freshman with Boston College in the NCAA, Boldy has just one goal and three points through 15 games. It seems that Team USA hasn’t like what they’ve seen so far this season, but considering Boldy’s history with the national team, it’s strange that he didn’t at least get an invite.
This tournament would have been a great way for Boldy to regain any lost confidence, but perhaps the invitation snub will be enough of a boost to motivate him moving forward.
Raymond Out of WJC?
As mentioned, the World Junior Championships are a place where the best prospects in the world should be playing. However, it seems that one of those prospects might not get a chance to play in Sweden’s Lucas Raymond. The third-ranked prospect in my November rankings reportedly has a viral infection that could hold him out.
Raymond has played in the SHL (three goals, two assists, five points in 16 games), SuperElit (two goals, four assists, six points in five games) and the CHL (two goals, one assist, three points in five games) this season.
If Raymond is held out, it will be a large blow to the team’s offense, as the forward would likely be on the team’s top line and be one of their top players. The status of Raymond will be something I keep a close eye on as the World Juniors approach.
Brisson, Ponomaryov Among Standouts at WJAC
The 2019 World Junior A Challenge wrapped up on Sunday, with Russia winning 2-1 over Canada East in double overtime on a goal from 2020 draft-eligible Shakir Mukhamadullin.
Among the players in the tournament, Team USA’s Brendan Brisson and Team Russia’s Vasily Ponomaryov stood out as players that excelled against their peers. Ponomaryov was an impact player every time he stepped onto the ice, absolutely dominating other teams. He showed off his puck skills and his strength throughout the event.
Brisson led the tournament in scoring with 12 points, including five goals and seven assists. He was arguably the best player in the Challenge, showing off his incredible one-time shot, high hockey IQ, and his stickhandling throughout the week.
In the play below, he shows his ability to battle through defenders, and his excellent vision on this pass to another player I liked in this tournament, Sean Farrell.
It’s also worth noting tournament MVP Devon Levi, the goaltender for Canada East. The 2020 draft-eligible goalie played the most games of any netminder (six), faced the most shots by a large margin (217), helped his team to a silver medal with a 2.85 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.
Lambert Makes Liiga Debut
Brad Lambert, one of the top prospects in the 2022 NHL Draft, continues to impress at just 15-years-old. On Dec. 13, he made his debut in the Liiga with HIFK, making him the third-youngest player to ever do so behind Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Mikko Kokkonen and Florida Panthers’ prospect Aleksi Saarela.
The young player impressed in his debut, playing 16:41, with two shots, a Corsi for of 55.6%, and a drawn penalty. He even saw time on the power play in the match.
Playing on the HIFK U20 team in the Jr. A SM-liiga this season, Lambert has 14 goals, 15 assists and 29 points in 30 games. He will be a top-three prospect in 2022, with the very real potential of being the number one pick.
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.