Prospects News & Rumors: Lundell, Chinakhov & WHL

The Florida Panthers’ top pick of the 2020 NHL Entry draft was said to have a low offensive ceiling, but he is proving that to be a false narrative over in Finland. The Columbus Blue Jackets got a lot of criticism for their first-round pick, but he is continuing his great start in Russia. Finally, the Western Hockey League (WHL) is allowing players to transfer down a level while they wait to start their 2020-21 season.

Lundell’s Proving Critics Wrong

One of the biggest knocks on Finnish forward Anton Lundell heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was that he didn’t have a ton of offensive upside. Our own Chris Faria even mentioned it in his Draft Prospect Profile of Lundell.

However, because Lundell is so committed to smart positioning and strong defensive play, he’s been criticized for a lack of offensive “flash.” Without that one standout skill that most top prospects have, he’s sometimes written off as more of a potential middle-six than top-six centre.

These concerns did not worry the Panthers too much as they selected him with the 12th pick overall earlier this month. The 19-year-old center is starting to quiet his doubters with his start to the season with HIFK in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league.

Lundell scored four goals on Saturday, including his team’s first three, in a 5-2 victory over SaiPa. This beauty completed his hat trick.

With his outburst on Saturday, Lundell now has seven goals and eight points in seven games. Not too bad for a teenager playing against Finland’s best professionals. While nobody will expect a goal per game average, if he can add more offense to his game, on a consistent basis, the Panthers may have hit the jackpot.

Chinakhov Continues to Impress

The Blue Jackets made the most surprising pick of the entire 2020 NHL Entry Drat when they selected Yegor Chinakhov 21st overall. There are reaches and there is the Chinakhov pick. Heading into the draft, he was projected to be picked anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds.

Just before the draft, we mentioned that Chinakhov had gotten off to a great start in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). His strong play has carried through the month of October. On Saturday, he picked up a career-high three assists in Bob Hartley’s Avangard Omsk’s 6-3 victory over Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg.

Chinakhov is now up to six goals and 12 points through the first 17 games of his KHL career. The Blue Jackets took a beating for selecting where they did. Even if he turns out to be worthy of a first-round pick, the team will still be ripped for not waiting for another two or three rounds to make the selection. However, if Chinakhov turns out to be an effective NHL talent, neither the management nor the fans will care much.

WHL Allows Player Transfers

With uncertainty surrounding the start of the WHL season, the league announced on Saturday that it has granted temporary transfers for its players who want to play at the Junior A, Junior B, and Under-18 levels.

“This is an opportunity for WHL roster players to continue their development by playing hockey at a competitive level,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in an official statement. “We felt it was very important to accommodate the requests of WHL roster players to play competitive hockey on a temporary basis in anticipation of WHL Training Camps beginning after Christmas.”

The WHL is hoping to open training camps after Christmas break and start their season on Jan. 8, 2021. This will allow some of their younger players to get some ice time and prepare for WHL competition.

The United States Hockey League (USHL) could be a destination for many of these players. However, not all the teams are looking to bring in players on a temporary basis. Ryan Hardy, the general manager of the Chicago Steel, does not plan to accept any WHL transfers.

“”We are empathetic to any player without a place to play but we will not be adding players on loan from the CHL,” Hardy said via Twitter. “We are committed to the development of our current players and will not sacrifice their growth for a perceived short term gain.”

One can argue that this isn’t fair to those players in the lower levels who will now lose developmental time to the WHL transfers. But this is just one of the situations that must be dealt with as we try to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay tuned for all the prospects updates out Europe and, eventually, when junior and minor league hockey starts up again throughout the United States and Canada.