Prospects News & Rumors: Ponomaryov, WHL & Nalimov

The Carolina Hurricanes still have a stacked pipeline, and one of their most recent draft picks continues to excel in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced part of the schedule for its Central Division. Finally, an older goaltending prospect is making his way to North America after a rough go of it in Europe.

Vasili Ponomaryov Adds to His Point Total

The Hurricanes already have a plethora of talented young players at the NHL level like Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. They still have many great young players who have just started their journey towards the pro ranks, like Seth Jarvis and Ryan Suzuki.

Their 2020 second-round pick (53rd overall) Ponomaryov has played well for the Shawinigan Cataractes this season. He was named the First Star of the Game in Thursday night’s 4-3 victory over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens for scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist.

Ponomaryov now has eight goals and 31 points in 25 QMJHL games. He is currently the Cataractes leader in both assists and points. He also scored three goals for Russia at the World Junior Championship.

The 18-year-old forward is touted for his stickhandling abilities and his elusiveness on the ice. He has good speed and a heavy shot to go with it. While his offensive abilities got him drafted in the second round, he is developing a sound defensive game too. He is always willing to mix it up along the boards and take part in both the forecheck and backcheck.

WHL Releases Partial Central Division Schedule

The WHL announced the next three weeks’ worth of games for its Central Division on Friday. The five Alberta-based teams who make up this division are playing a 24-game schedule against each other. The remainder of the schedule will be revealed in the near future.

Four of the five teams opened their season last weekend; the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers and Red Deer Rebels. The Calgary Hitmen will play their first game tonight.

Per the league’s official release:

The WHL has developed an extensive set of protocols, to not only provide a safe environment for players and staff, but to protect Albertans in the community. The WHL will continue ongoing weekly private PCR testing strategy through DynaLIFE Medical Labs. If a WHL Club has one or more players or staff test positive for COVID-19 at any point in the season, the Club will be required to suspend its Club activities for a minimum of 14 days.

The WHL’s East Division will begin play on March 12, with the U.S. Division starting on March 18. The B.C. Division has been approved to play in two hub cities, Kamloops and Kelowna. They will drop the puck on their shortened season on March 26.

Ivan Nalimov Signs with Rockford Icehogs

A 26-year-old might be too old to consider an NHL prospect still, but Nalimov has yet to play in North America since the Chicago Blackhawks drafted him in the sixth round (179th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. That could be changing very soon as the seven-year Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) veteran has signed on with the IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate.

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Nalimov signed a professional tryout contract with the IceHogs last March, but the season turned upside down due to the COVID pandemic just four days later, and he never got to appear in a game. He struggled this season behind a bad defensive Dinamo Riga team, going 2-11-0 with a .877 save percentage (SV%) and 3.58 goals-against average (GAA). In 166 career KHL games with seven different teams, he has a .910 SV% and 2.63 GAA. The IceHogs can use any help they can get between the pipes as they have allowed 43 goals on the season, the second-most in the AHL.

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