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. That being said, the occasional rookie may require some notes!
Players are starting to settle in – even if where they are settling in is surprising. This week’s edition will highlight some of those that have stood out in their early starts and take a look at some surprising NHL Central Scouting grades. There’s lots to discuss so let’s dive in!
NHL-Affiliated Prospects: Early Season Impressions
Maple Leafs’ Prospects Robertson, Der-Arguchintsev Turning Heads
The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to drafting talent. Two of their selections over the past two drafts are at the top of the OHL in points, with 18 each. Nick Robertson (2019, second round, 53rd overall) and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (2018, third round, 76th overall) have helped the Peterborough Petes to a 6-3 record, good for third in the OHL.
Robertson is topping the league in goals, with 11 in nine games. He’s also second in the league in game-winning goals with three, and first in shots with 44. His efforts so far have led to him being named the Petes’ Player of the Week.
Der-Arguchintsev is topping the assists column with 16 in the same amount of games. He’s also repping a very impressive 54.1% winning rate in faceoffs.
It will be easy to keep an eye on these Maple Leafs’ prospects for fans since they both play for the Petes. Early season impressions are that these two are arguably one of the best duos in the entire league and should be watched very closely throughout the campaign.
Demotion Looking Good on Devils’ Smith
It was a hot topic when New Jersey Devils’ prospect Ty Smith was sent down to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, as many critics thought that he took all he could out of the league and was ready for the next step. Whether that’s true or not, Smith is absolutely dominated the league through his first five games.
In those games, he’s already up to three goals and three assists for six points. He’s currently third in points per game for defenders in the league, and he should continue to build on his hot start.
Wilds’ Kaprizov Proving He’s the Best Player in the World Not in the NHL
It’s often discussed who is the best hockey player in the world not in the NHL. Right now? It’s Minnesota Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov. He’s started the 2019-20 season right where he left off, with 12 goals, eight assists and 20 points in 17 games with CSKA Moscow of the KHL.
That puts him tied for first in points the KHL, with Vadim Shipachyov. It won’t be long before the Wild prospect runs past Shipachyov and takes sole ownership of the number one spot.
“Goal” Caufield is Back
He might have fallen into the hand of the Montreal Canadiens at 15th overall, but Cole Caufield should not be judged for this fall (if he has been). Playing for the USNTDP last season, he put up 72 goals in 64 games.
Now, he’s playing for the absolutely stacked University of Wisconsin Badgers and through his first two games, he has four goals – two in each. To put that in perspective, no Badger since 1963 has started their season with back-to-back multi-goal games. It’s going to be a big year for the 5-foot-7 winger, and Canadiens fan should get ready to watch with excitement as they follow one of the biggest steals of the 2019 NHL Draft.
Draft-Eligible Prospects: NHL Central Scouting Grades and the “Lafrenière Effect”
Gunler, Mysak Among Questionable NHL Letter Grades
NHL Central Scouting has released their annual players to watch list ahead of the 2020 draft. After reviewing the grade, it’s safe to say that many hockey prospect and draft writers have some questions. The grading system uses the following grade system:
“The players on the list with A ratings are considered potential first-round picks. Players with a B rating are considered possible second- or third-round choices and those with C ratings are potential fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round selections.”
Of the grades, Noel Gunler was arguably the biggest surprise. He was given a B rating when most had him pegged as a first-round talent. In my preseason draft rankings, I had the Swedish prospect 8th. Jan Mysak was another questionable decision. He was given a C rating when most have him down as a first-round talent as well. Personally, I had him ranked 14th. That a very big drop.
Some of the other surprising grades (among others) are:
- Zion Nybeck: B rating (My ranking: 18th overall/A rating)
- Vasily Ponomaryov: B rating (My rankings: 20th overall/A rating)
- Daemon Hunt: A Rating (My rankings: not ranked in the top-62)
While we can all argue these grades, it’s still very early. Looking at the many rankings already out, some players are all over the place. The season is very long and players will trend up and trend down. As we get closer to the draft, these letter grades may look extremely different.
The “Lafrenière Effect” Takes Over Oceanic
It’s already started, but the 2019-20 season is going to be filled with talk about Alexis Lafrenière. The probable first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft has started off his season just as expected, tearing up the QMJHL for Rimouski Oceanic.
The elite left winger is already up to eight goals, 17 assists in 25 points in 10 games, leading the league in assists and points. With him showing up on the scoreboard repeatedly, so do those around him.
Centreman Cédric Paré is currently number two in the league in points with 20 and is first for goals with 12. Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2017, he wasn’t offered an entry-level deal and re-enters the draft. Although playing with Lafrenière is going to pad his stat line, there will be more eyes on him and it’s very possible that another team gives him a shot.
On the other wing, Dmitry Zavgorodniy is right there as well. So far, he’s up to five goals, 13 assists and 18 points in, as you know, 10 games. He’s not draft-eligible though, as he’s actually a 2018 selection of the Calgary Flames. His point totals are very likely to be high this season, much to the joy of Flames nation.
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.