Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. The cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Ranking The Top NHL Affiliated Prospects: Part 1 (100-76)
With all thirty NHL teams reviewed its time to wrap up the series. In order to do this we will be releasing a number of wrap up pieces this week. Stay tuned for our organizational rankings, looking at the deepest and best prospect systems in the NHL, as well as our top 10 Calder Contenders. How are the Calder contenders different from the top prospects you ask? Well, our top 30 prospects are who we are picking to have the best careers, a Calder contender will be a prediction of who is going to have the best rookie season. NHL readiness, the situation inherited (linemates and opportunities) and the fact that the Calder is typically a very difficult award for a defenceman to win in recent years all play into this.
As for today, we bring you our selection for top NHL Prospects.
Note that by clicking on the player name you will get a full report.
McCoshen is done with Boston College and moving to the pro game. While he is mainly a defensive defenceman, he has shown some signs of untapped offense, and potential two-way game.
Compher had a massive season. He captained the Michigan Wolverines to the Big 10 title, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey. He also played for Team USA at the World Championships. He’s also headed to the pros this year.
Bowey is an excellent puck mover with the ability to rush the puck or to make a strong first pass. He also has a cannon of a slap shot from the point. While he’s very good offensively, its the combination of that along with Bowey’s defensive abilities that make him a top quality prospect.
Dermott’s biggest asset is his hockey sense. His positioning at both ends of the ice is extremely strong. He reads the play well, and picks the right times to pinch in at the blue line, to join the rush, or to look to step up and make a hit.
Svechnikov has good size at 6’3″. He shows off an outstanding wrist shot and release. He also has an impressive snap shot and a very hard one-timer. When it comes to his shooting arsenal, Svechnikov has pro-ready skills. He needs to work on skating and his defensive game.
Scherbak suffered an ankle injury in training camp last year, that really marred the start of his first pro season. When he finally did get in the lineup; he struggled with his skating. When healthy, Scherbak is a good skater, and very good stick handler who is able to make a wide variety of moves at top speed. He also has the ability to show some power in his game.
The Stars first round pick, Tufte can become a valuable weapon in time, with a shot at being a top six forward. His size, skating, and skill with the puck are an intriguing combination for any team. Tufte has an excellent wrist shot and quick release. He also has a good snap shot and slap shot.
Eriksson-Ek is a pure sniper with a tremendous wrist shot, and impressive snap shot. He is strong in the cycle game and extremely hard to knock off the puck. He is not afraid to battle in the corners and often comes out with loose pucks. Eriksson-Ek’s defensive game is also well developed.
Pokka plays a simple, but very effective game. He has great vision and hockey IQ which help him to quarterback the power play. A very good passer, Pokka can make effective tape to tape passes to teammates both from the blue line in the offensive zone and in his own zone to start the breakout.
Listed at 6’7″, Morin is an imposing physical specimen at the back end. He plays a strong defensive game, using his size and physicality in his own zone. He may never be a huge scorer in the NHL, but there is some offence, and perhaps the potential to be one the second unit of the power play.
Skjei is a very good skater. He possesses excellent edge work and agility for a big man. He has very good mobility, balance, and makes quick pivots. This gives him the ability to play a strong two-way game.
Shinkaruk is a quick and shifty skater. He has very good edge work, and strong lateral agility. He has a tremendous wrist shot and excellent release, particularly when coming in on a rush off the left wing. Not just a one trick pony, Shinkaruk also has very good play making skill and vision which makes him very difficult to defend.
Bailey has the type of ideal size that NHL teams long for. He also has a tremendous arsenal of shots. His snap shot and wrist shot are both lethal and feature the type of hair trigger release that drives goalies nuts. His slap shot and one-timer are accurate and powerful. He has all the makings of a sniper. Bailey is also strong on the puck, and his good puck protection, balance, and ability to win board battles makes him strong in the cycle game.
Masin’s game has come a long way. Always known for his defensive skills, he has gotten better offensively each year. Masin was once only a defensive defender, but now makes strong, heads up passes, both out of his own end to start the rush and in the offensive zone as well. He has become more poised and confident with the puck on his stick as well. Masin has improved in these areas, but remains strong offensively.
Injuries limited Jon Gillies in his first year as a professional. He played in just seven games for the AHL Stockton Heat. He was very good when he got on the ice, putting up a 2.31 goals against average and .920 save percentage. This follows a very good college career, including leading the Providence Friars to the 2014-15 National Championship and being named Frozen Four MVP. He is a big goalie who plays the butterfly style.
Rubtsov plays a strong two-way game, highlighted by his strong hockey sense. Offensively he makes smart plays with the puck, showing off good vision, and excellent anticipation of where his teammates will be. This makes him a very good playmaker. Rubtsov shows a real commitment to playing defensive hockey. He is often used as the Russian U18 Team’s top shot down centre, playing against other team’s top lines.
Kempe plays the game like a bull in a china shop. He drives the net hard, not caring who he has to bulldoze to get to the areas he wants to go. He is first in on the fore check, and just loves to punish defenders in the corners. Given his age and a need to fill out his frame, he is still remarkably effective in winning board battles at the AHL level.
Schmaltz was part of the “CBS line” that led the University of North Dakota to the National Championship this season. He put up 11 goals and 35 assists for 46 points in just 37 games. Schmaltz’s best assets are his hockey sense and ability to read the play. He seems to be one step ahead of other players on this ice. Couple this with with his great vision and play making skills in the offensive zone and it is easy to see how he has become an elite play maker in the NCAA. He’s now ready to start his pro career.
In the offensive zone, Perlini possesses very good hockey sense, good creativity and excellent vision to be a dynamic play maker with the puck on his stick. He has good stick handling, and the puck protection skills needed to extend plays and give his linemates time to get open. He is also very good in the cycle game, protecting the puck down low. While Perlini has great height, he could stand to put on more muscle and play a more physical game going forward.
Like his father, Kieffer Bellows is a pure sniper. He has a tremendous wrist shot and release, as well as an excellent one-timer. His arsenal also features a heavy snap-shot, and good back hand. Bellows also has the soft hands, and quick reflexes, to get deflections and to pounce on rebounds and score in tight. He is not afraid to get his nose dirty, battling for space in front of the net. Bellows is more of a physically punishing forward than his father was, as he is more than willing to throw big hits when he gets in on the forecheck.
Goldobin has outstanding offensive skill; there is no doubt about that. He knows how to put up points, and has all the tools to do so. He can stickhandle in a phone booth. His wide array of moves can leave defenders spinning. He also has a killer wrist shot, and an outstanding release. Goldobin also has a very effective one-timer. Add to all of this great hockey sense and the ability to find holes in the defense. However, Goldobin needs to add strength. He can be knocked off the puck by bigger and stronger players. He must also round out his defensive game.
Sprong is a pure sniper. He is dangerous every time he touches the puck, and loves to shoot. In fact there are times when he might get too focused on taking the shot instead of looking for a teammate. Don’t get the wrong impression though, Sprong also has excellent passing ability and can thread the needle and play the role of playmaker if a linemate has an opportunity. He just needs to work on doing it a little more often. Sprong must get stronger to win board battles. He has high hockey IQ and the ability to find open spots in the defence to set himself up to unleash that wrist shot or a strong one-timer.
Kunin’s release is quick and his shot is heavy, fooling goaltenders. He can also score goals in front of the net, with quick hands to pounce on rebounds, and the hand-eye co-ordination to tip-in shots. Kunin shows the stick handling ability to protect the puck, extend plays and work in the cycle game. Kunin also has the vision and passing skills to set up others, making tape-to-tape passes when he finds a linemate open. He plays an intense game getting involved in board battles and in front of the net. He could stand to improve his strength, and add muscle to his frame, this would make him more effective in the cycle game, in board battles, and give even more power to his shot. Kunin has the versatility to play both centre and on the wing.
Travis Konecny has excellent speed, and tremendous acceleration. He utilizes it both on the rush, and to be a cannonball on the fore check. He has good balance and is strong on his skates. This helps him to to grind in the corners, work in the cycle game, or fight through checks to get to the front of the net. His speed must be respected. He takes defenders wide and cut to the net. This gives him the ability to slow up quickly and create shooting or passing lanes. Add to this great vision and passing ability and Konecny is the type of player who can make his linemates better.
At 6’4″, Julien Gauthier is a power forward prospect with the size and the strength to dominate the game down low. Gauthier throws big hits on the forecheck, protects the puck on the cycle, takes the puck to the front of the net, and wins battles with opposing defenders. Gauthier is a great skater for a big man with very good top end speed as well as the power to fight through checks, or bowl over a defender on the way to the net. He can score goals in a variety of ways, whether that be in tight to the net, or with an excellent shot. His defensive game is surprisingly good for his age.