Future Watch 2020: The NHL’s prime 10 rising prospects

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We’ll quickly be two weeks into the NHL shutdown, endlessly and no assure we’ll see the resumption of the 2019-20 season. For our sanity, it’s finest to not dream about it. What we will do to whet our hockey appetites, nonetheless, is consider the longer term. It simply so occurs The Hockey Information’ Future Watch 2020 is on the market on newsstands now or, do you have to moderately keep cozy and protected at residence, for digital buy.
So what’s Future Watch? It’s an annual particular version wherein we (a) grade each NHL franchise’s assortment of 21-and-younger expertise, from gamers within the system to younger weapons on the NHL rosters and (b) rank the highest 100 NHL-affiliated particular person prospects, with “NHL-affiliated” referring to all drafted or signed gamers in a workforce’s system. A 2020 draft hopeful reminiscent of Alexis Lafreniere isn’t eligible as he doesn’t have an NHL workforce but.
How can we give you these rankings? First, we work with NHL workforce personnel representing virtually each franchise and give you an up to date listing of every workforce’s prime 10 prospects not but in full-time NHL roles. That offers us 310 gamers whole. We then flip that group of 310 over to a panel of scouts from across the NHL. They rank all of the gamers, creating a person listing of our prime 100 prospects. The identical scouting panel additionally seems to be at every franchise’s prime 10, plus the franchise’s present NHLers aged 21 and youthful, and grades every franchise, serving to us decide top-31 rankings of the very best growth methods.
Why do the 21-and-younger NHLers depend as a part of a workforce’s “farm”? Properly, if a workforce’s youth growth goes so swimmingly that its peach-fuzzers are leaping proper to the NHL whereas one other franchise’s youngest prospects are nonetheless within the minors, the workforce whose prospects are forward of the curve shouldn’t be “punished” within the rankings, ought to it? An NHL workforce desires to have elite gamers aged 21 or youthful in the event that they’re prepared. Phenoms like Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar ought to depend towards their workforce’s youth-crop rankings given they’re youthful than many prospects.
So which Future Watch prospects have made the largest leaps within the particular person rankings over the previous 12 months? A number of disclaimers earlier than you criticize, I imply learn, the listing:
(a) A participant who totally graduated to the NHL since Future Watch 2019 isn’t eligible for this listing, as he’s not even ranked in Future Watch 2020. Makar, final 12 months’s No. 1 general prospect, is a major instance.
(b) Simply because your favourite workforce’s prospect had a monster 12 months doesn’t imply he’s an computerized riser. Take Kirill Kaprizov, whom I’ve profiled within the Future Watch 2020 journal. He’s our No. Four general prospect this 12 months, however he was No. Eight final 12 months, which means he solely rose 4 spots 12 months over 12 months. This listing is about guys who made monstrous developmental leaps.
(c) A participant drafted in 2019 can’t qualify as a riser. So don’t squawk about Dylan Cozens not showing in these rankings, as an illustration. He wasn’t ranked in any respect in 2019, as he wasn’t drafted but, so he has no quantity to rise from. Not a riser.
With that, let’s start.
1. JAN JENIK, C, ARIZONA COYOTES (+65)Final 12 months: Not ranked in prime 100This 12 months: 36th
It appears loopy to really feel disillusioned that Jenik “solely” jumps 65 spots 12 months over 12 months, however he truly might’ve climbed larger had he not sustained a serious knee damage on the 2020 world juniors. He was tearing up the OHL, averaging higher than two factors per sport. One motive for the massive soar in productiveness: he was the 2018 draft class’ youngest participant, so maybe he’s catching up bodily. Jenik has dynamic arms however has additionally been singled out for his smarts and talent to play with an edge. That bodes nicely for his possibilities of impressing coaches and rising rapidly as soon as he goes professional with AHL Tucson.
2. NILS LUNDKVIST, D, NEW YORK RANGERS (+49)Final 12 months: Not ranked in prime 100This 12 months: 52nd
Like so many younger blueline prospects rising nowadays, Lundqvist has a construct that might’ve gotten him neglected or been labelled a hindrance within the early 2000s. Immediately, a cellular 5-foot-11, 174-pound defenseman can get picked within the first spherical of a draft. Lundkvist has a talent set each workforce covets. He can play massive minutes and strikes the puck rapidly and decisively. His offense took an enormous leap ahead with Lulea within the SHL this season. He’s anticipated to signal an entry-level take care of the Rangers sooner or later through the prolonged COVID-19 layoff. New York received’t should rush him, even when he impresses at camp, however he’s a key member of an thrilling youth motion on ‘D’ that features Adam Fox, Tony DeAngelo and, finally, Ok’Andre Miller.
3. KEVIN BAHL, D, NEW JERSEY DEVILS (+41)Final 12 months: Not ranked in prime 100This 12 months: 60th
Bahl is the other of Lundkvist. If Bahl had been drafted in 2003, he may need been a first-rounder given he stands a hulking 6-foot-7 and 240 kilos. As an alternative, Bahl went within the second spherical of the 2018 draft, 27 picks after Lundkvist. It’s fairly clear what Bahl will convey: a heavy shutdown sport which, if he can attain his ceiling, might flip him right into a Brandon Carlo sort, as Devils assistant GM Dan MacKinnon tells our correspondent Justin Birnbaum in Future Watch 2020. As you may count on, Bahl has to work on getting that massive physique movin’ and enhancing his skating if he’s going to make it on the NHL stage. The Devils acquired Bahl as a part of the Taylor Corridor commerce with the Arizona Coyotes in December.
4. JAKE OETTINGER, G, DALLAS STARS (+35)Final 12 months: 91stThis 12 months: 56th
Dallas’ goaltending is in a very good place. It has Ben Bishop nonetheless taking part in at a excessive stage within the NHL and below contract three extra seasons – whereas Oettinger, 21, can develop on a observe that might have him peak simply when the Stars are prepared handy over the starter’s reins. The .917 save share in his first full season as an AHL professional is spectacular, and he’s agile for a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. His puckhandling stays a piece in progress, and he possible wants one other 12 months as a real unquestioned No. 1 who begins 50-plus video games with AHL Texas earlier than he begins respiratory down Bishop’s neck. That’s positive. No massive rush. It’ll be a disgrace if Oettinger doesn’t get to play out the remainder of this season, which seems to be more and more possible, as he might’ve used some stretch-run reps. The AHL has suspended play however might finally go for a full cancellation.
5. ALEXANDER ROMANOV, D, MONTREAL CANADIENS (+35)Final 12 months: 45thThis 12 months: 10th
Even a 12 months in the past, Romanov seemed like a steal for the Habs as a second-rounder in 2018. He was named finest defenseman on the 2019 WJC, in spite of everything. Now Romanov seems to be like greater than a steal. He seems to be like a future top-pair defenseman. He emerged as an actual chief on the 2020 Russian WJC squad and performed for a Gagarin-Cup successful CSKA Moscow workforce final 12 months. He didn’t play a lot however nonetheless absorbed helpful expertise. He tasks to be a well-rounded minute-muncher with nice velocity who doesn’t present all-star offense however brings some physicality. His KHL contract was set to run out in Could, and the Habs had been eager on bringing him to North America. Assuming he comes and now we have a season that begins on time in 2020-21, Romanov might make the Canadiens and contend for the Calder Trophy. Given how sparingly he was getting used within the KHL playoffs for a second straight season – frequent observe for children in that league – it will most likely be higher for his growth to cross the pond anyway.
6. IGOR SHESTERKIN, G, NEW YORK RANGERS (+34)Final 12 months: 37thThis 12 months: third
Shesterkin? How does he qualify? We full most of our scouting-panel polling in January, and Shesterkin didn’t debut as an NHLer till then, so he was nonetheless ranked as a prospect at that time. It seems like that was an eternity in the past given Shesterkin was an instantaneous NHL star and can by no means play one other AHL sport. By the point he went down with a fractured rib sustained in a February automotive accident, he’d already been declared the Blueshirts’ No. 1 netminder, successful a three-way battle with legend Henrik Lundqvist and underrated Alexandar Georgiev. Whilst an NHLer, Shesterkin continued his pattern of tossing up video-game stats all over the place he goes. He went 6-Zero with a .948 SP in February. Shesterkin isn’t a net-filling behemoth within the mildew of Robin Lehner or Pekka Rinne however brings super confidence, anticipation and reflexes to the crease. Shesterkin ought to emerge as a Vezina-Trophy contender for years to come back.
7. KIRILL MARCHENKO, RW, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (+32)Final 12 months: not ranked in prime 100This 12 months: 69th
Marchenko’s path is one we’ve seen amongst many Russian prospects: a possible high-impact participant who falls within the draft due to uncertainty over when he would possibly come to North America, a la Kaprizov. Marchenko, 19, is below contract by 2021-22 within the KHL, which means he can’t debut within the NHL till 2022-23 on the earliest. He’s a giant, rangy goal-scorer with an correct shot who tasks to ascend to a top-six position on the NHL stage sometime.
8. URHO VAAKANAINEN, D, BOSTON BRUINS (+30)Final 12 months: not ranked in prime 100This 12 months: 71st
The offensive numbers haven’t proven up but for Vaakanainen, however most scouting experiences counsel they might come sometime, because the instruments are there. He’s a sensible puck-mover who seems to be snug skating the puck out of hassle, performs a reliable two-way sport and may kill penalties. The ceiling isn’t but clear, however the flooring appears fairly excessive, and Vaakanainen bought a five-game look with the Bruins this 12 months.
9. JUSTUS ANNUNEN, G, COLORADO AVALANCHE (+29)Final 12 months: not ranked in prime 100This 12 months: 72nd
As if the loaded Avs wanted any extra top-end prospects. They only have the magic contact proper now, and never simply with their first- and second-rounders. They nabbed Annunen early in 2018’s third spherical, and he was an absolute monster within the Liiga this season, breaking its report for the longest shutout streak. That he was competing as a teen and dominating one of many world’s finest leagues as a goalie suggests he has true NHL star potential. He’s a giant, stays deep in his internet and waits for opponents to make their strikes first.
10. JACK STUDNICKA, C, BOSTON BRUINS (+28)Final 12 months: 76thThis 12 months: 48th
Appears such as you’ve discovered one other, gem, Bruins. It’s by no means a given {that a} child transitions simply from the junior ranks to the professionals as an AHLer, however Studnicka has accomplished precisely that. He scores, he performs high-responsibility minutes, he kills penalties and disrupts the play with shorthanded objectives. He’s been one of many AHL’s higher gamers this season and doesn’t have far more to show there. He’ll be capable to assist the Bruins quickly, particularly as a result of his sport doesn’t restrict him to having to make the workforce as a top-fix ahead. His infinite motor matches into the Bruins’ id completely, too.
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Tags: prospects, lists, from the journal, nhlConnect: Concerning the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior author at The Hockey Information and has been a part of the workforce since 2011. He is your one-stop store for deep-dive participant interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy participant rankings, participant security and hair ideas. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey Information Dwell and The Hockey Information Podcast.

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