With NCAA hockey officially in full swing, there is action aplenty to watch for in the prospect world. Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Erie’s Connor McDavid already seem to have a fantastic game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better going on, but who else should you be watching this season? Here are some of the other names making noise right now.
The American Hockey League came down hard on Adirondack Flames forward Trevor Gillies Monday, suspending him 12 games for viciously assaulting Rochester forward William Carrier Friday. But some would argue they didn’t come down hard enough, and that hockey as a whole still has a ways to go to give real teeth to their punishments and truly dissuade players from becoming repeat offenders like Gillies, who was suspended twice (for a total of 19 games) in his justifiably brief NHL career (57 games from 2009-11). But that doesn’t make it any less stomach churning to watch him snap and smash Carrier’s head into the ice. See for yourself:
After taking home last year’s American League championship, the Texas Stars look to go back-to-back. Spoiler Alert: they’re our favorites in the West, but the competition is stiff – and as any fan of the AHL knows, things can get wild very quickly. Picking the standings is a tough chore, but we’re up to the challenge.
BY ROBIN SHORT
The American League rulebook has been revised for the coming season, and some significant rule changes are set to take effect.
Most notably, overtime guidelines have been revamped in an effort to decide more games before the shootout, with 3-on-3 at the heart of the new format.
Regular season overtime moves from five minutes to seven, with the first three minutes being played at 4-on-4 and the final four minutes at 3-on-3. The shift in players per side will occur after the first whistle beyond three minutes of elapsed time. The OT period will begin with a dry scrape and teams changing sides, in order to create the “long change” that theoretically generates scoring chances against tired lines.
If the score remains tied, the game is decided with a three-round shootout. The league previously decided shootouts in five rounds.
Dmitrij Jaskin wants to play in St. Louis. Blues GM Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock think he’s good enough to play in St. Louis. Alas, he’ll open 2014-15 with the team’s American League affiliate in Chicago. The Blues were just too deep, with too many players on one-way deals, so down went Jaskin, the team’s No. 1 prospect in Future Watch 2014.
In one sense, St. Louis is prospect heaven. The Blues are a well-coached Stanley Cup contender with plenty of great two-way players to learn from. In another sense, it’s prospect hell, or at least purgatory. It’s oh-so difficult just to make the team, as Jaskin learned, and even if you do, there’s still the matter of winning Hitchcock’s trust. Just ask Vladimir Tarasenko.
Talk to any scout, GM, media member or hockey pool guru about the most promising young goal scorers in the game today and, invariably, Tarasenko’s name pops up. There’s no denying what the kid can do with the puck on the stick. He has an Alexander Mogilny-like ceiling. He made that clear with five points in his first two NHL games two seasons ago.
That same year, Future Watch 2013 ranked Tarasenko the top prospect in the game. In an interview for that magazine, however, Hitchcock foresaw a bump in the road. ‘Hitch’ predicted an adjustment from lateral puck movement to linear. Sure enough, Tarasenko slumped badly in the second half of that season. Hitchcock, who preaches defensive responsibility and system play like few other coaches, entrusted his rookie sniper with just 13 minutes of ice time per game in 2012-13.
Between learning Hitchcock’s scheme and simply cracking one of the NHL’s densest, most talented depth charts, life is difficult for any Blues rookie. That’s why Jaskin has an uphill climb.
“It’s always hard to be a rookie, but especially here, when you get 12 of the best players in the NHL,” he said two weeks before being cut. “It’s way harder to get here faster and get more time. But that means you have to work for it harder than somewhere else.”
On Tuesday, the Dallas Stars assigned offensive defenseman Julius Honka to the American League’s Texas Stars. As an 18-year-old experiencing his first NHL training camp, it was no surprise that the Finnish blueliner wouldn’t make the cut. What surprised many observers was that Dallas was allowed to assign Honka to the AHL in the first place.
After all, Honka played in the Western League for Swift Current last season and conventional wisdom held that players drafted out of the CHL who still had major junior eligibility (such as Honka) had to be returned to junior; they couldn’t go to the AHL.
This is the rule that has vexed sometimes-Buffalo Sabre Mikhail Grigorenko for a couple years now, since he was drafted out of the Quebec League. But the Stars were confronted with a glitch in the system.
Welcome back to another season of The Hot List, my weekly update of who is making noise in the world of prospects. Players are eligible for the list as long as they haven’t stepped on the ice for a regular season NHL game; otherwise, they come from all different leagues and development points. Some will be on hot streaks, others will be new names you’ll want to bank in your memory. All will be potential NHLers one day. Hockey’s back, so let’s take a look at this week’s roundup.
If you’re a fan of the possibility of 3-on-3 overtime in the NHL, pay close attention to the United States League this fall. The NHL will be.
The junior developmental loop is experimenting with the format during its pre-season contests; any games tied after regulation will go directly to five minutes of 3-on-3 play. Further, any game played during the USHL’s “Fall Classic” week (it began yesterday and runs through Sept. 20) will automatically go to 3-on-3 overtime regardless of the score.
Since the USHL is such a prolific producer of prospects – it had 35 players/alum selected in the 2014 NHL draft – big brother will indeed be watching.