As the season begins to wind down, we’re starting to see some hardware handed out in the prospect ranks. Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful Mitch Marner, for example, just won the OHL’s Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player for his work with the London Knights. Another OHL award-winner is featured below in my weekly wrap-up. Elsewhere in the hockey world, the USHL is in the middle of its two-stage draft. During Phase 1 (for 2000 birthdays), Sioux Falls landed competitive center Gavin Hain with the No. 1 pick. Phase 2 (for 1999s and earlier) happened today. And speaking of the USHL, let’s get to this week’s round-up:
Retirement from hockey seemed likely for Amanda Kessel after battling concussions for the better part of two seasons. But a surprise return to action in February has now sparked a pro career.
Kessel, the younger sister of Pittsburgh Penguins right winger Phil Kessel, signed a one-year, $26,000 contract with the NWHL’s New York Riveters, the team announced Sunday. The deal is for the 2016-17 season.
Finland is golden again thanks to the under-18s in North Dakota and all the international usual suspects came through at the tourney. Jesse Puljujarvi was huge, Clayton Keller took home MVP honors and Tyson Jost led the tourney in scoring. European scouts are basically done watching games now and the CHL playoffs are getting to the big stages, so you can feel the draft combine coming on the horizon. With the AHL starting Calder Cup proceedings, there is still a lot of good hockey left, though. So let’s take a trip around the prospect world again, shall we?
Take a deep breath, Vancouver Canucks fans. Thatcher Demko did not pull a Jimmy Vesey.
Goaltender Demko, 20, officially signed with the team that drafted him Wednesday, as announced by the Canucks. He’s now a professional hockey player and will forego his senior year at Boston College.
The move makes sense for Demko, who has nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. He went 27-8-4 with a 1.88 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and 10 shutouts this season. That latter stat broke a school record set by Canucks alumnus Cory Schneider in 2005-06 and stands as the second-highest total ever for a college goalie in a single season.
Demko helped Boston College reach the Frozen Four and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, a.k.a hockey’s Heisman Trophy. Demko even won the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top college netminder. He acquitted himself well starting for Team USA at the 2015 world juniors, posting a .934 SP, and he’s cracked USA’s 2016 World Championship roster, following the recent footsteps of Yankee netminders John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck. Demko really needs a new challenge, and turning pro is exactly that.
The world under-18s are going full-bore in North Dakota right now and there is some fantastic talent assembled. Sure, Russia’s under-18s were pulled out because of a drug scandal, but youngsters such as Klim Kostin and Andrei Svechnikov just get to make their impressions a year earlier. And with Jesse Puljujarvi joining Finland, the Americans will have several rivals to fend off if they want to defend their gold medal from last year. We’ve also got CHL playoffs getting serious and a special guest star from the coaching ranks in this week’s prospect round-up.
By Mo Cranker
With the end of the regular season, over half of the teams in the NHL are gearing up for what they hope will be an extended playoff run.
For the teams that miss, though, it’s more about reflecting on a failed season and looking forward to and preparing for the next season.
Whichever side your team falls on, there’s probably going to be an open roster spot, or two, ripe for the taking due to players retiring, free agency or trades.
Here’s a list of 10 prospects that are ready to earn a roster spot and make an impact on their big league club next season.
Welcome to the third installment of my 2016 draft rankings. I will do one more ranking before the actual festivities throw down in Buffalo, but with the CHL playoffs getting serious and the influential world under-18s about to start, this seemed like a good time for a snapshot. Here are a few notes to frame things:
My rankings are based off numerous conversations with NHL team scouts/executives. They’re the only ones with skin in the game, so I value them the most. From those conversations, I’ve been told that this year’s crop is pretty good for about 20-23 picks and then the field is wide open. This is a sneaky way of me telling you the latter half of my first round may turn out to be off when all is said and done.
For now, my rankings are based off “best player available.” This is pertinent because we would assume that Edmonton – guaranteed a top-five pick – will take a defenseman, based on organizational need. But anything can happen on draft day, so let’s just go with BPA for now.
With that being said, here’s my updated top 30:
All hail the Frozen Four champs from North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks stomped all over Quinnipiac in the final and while Vancouver pick Brock Boeser has confirmed his return for another campaign, several free agents are drumming up interest now. Boeser’s linemate, Drake Caggiula, helped his cause with two goals in the final, while defenseman Troy Stecher is expected to leave school early for an NHL contract. In the meantime, San Jose won the derby for Lithuanian goalie Mantas Armalis and the Michigan Wolverines lost their two best players to the pro ranks. Read about them and more in our weekly prospect wrap: