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:
The University of North Dakota has captured its first NCAA national championship in 16 seasons.
In the final of the 2016 Frozen Four, the Fighting Hawks dominated the nation’s No. 1 ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats from the outset of the contest to earn the eighth national championship in North Dakota’s history.
The Hawks, who entered the contest as the NCAA’s third-ranked team, opened the scoring with eight minutes remaining in the first period on a goal by Shane Gersich, but it didn’t take long before Brock Boeser, who has been one of the NCAA’s standouts this season, doubled the North Dakota lead with a shorthanded goal following a misplayed puck by Bobcats netminder Michael Garteig. Read more
The playoffs have certainly not disappointed at the prospect level so far. The Frozen Four had numerous overtimes and now the field is set for the final weekend, with North Dakota battling Denver and Boston College taking on Quinnipiac. In major junior, it’s been just as crazy, with big upsets and a couple other underdogs taking the favorites down to the wire – Kelowna finally iced Kamloops, while Barrie and Mississauga needed seven games to determine a winner. We’re also nearing the world under-18s in North Dakota, so look for more info on that in the near future. Here’s what’s going on in the world of prospects:
It’s obvious the Predators are incredibly displeased with Jimmy Vesey’s decision to opt for free agency, but the college standouts advisors released a statement Wednesday that said Nashville’s recounting of the events leading up to Vesey’s decision to test free agency are “not accurate.”
In a lengthy statement, Vesey’s advisory group, Global Hockey Consultants, said that Nashville was told prior to the trade deadline that the signing of Vesey or his choice to opt for free agency shouldn’t have any impact on their moves at the trade deadline.
“Nashville now claims and it has been widely reported that they were without knowledge of this possibility (of Vesey becoming an unrestricted free agent) and that this lack of knowledge precluded the hockey club from acquiring a player at the trade deadline,” the statement reads, via ESPN’s Craig Custance. “This contention is not accurate. The Nashville Predators were informed prior to the trade deadline that they should conduct their business as they saw fit and that the potential of signing or not signing Jimmy Vesey should not be a factor in their decision.” Read more
Everything is happening right now, as Bob Cole would say. You’ve got the Jimmy Vesey saga in Nashville, Zach Werenski signing with Columbus and Pittsburgh grabbing college free agent Ethan Prow out of St. Cloud State. Plus, the CHL playoffs are in full swing, with a couple upstarts threatening the top seeds. In the OHL for example, Sarnia is in trouble thanks to a surging Sault Ste. Marie squad, while Edmonton is giving powerhouse Brandon fits in the WHL. Oh, and the Frozen Four is set, with Quinnipiac, Boston College, North Dakota and Denver all in the mix for April 7. Let’s keep the prospect party going:
It’s not a fun day in Nashville and the Preds’ loss to Colorado is actually of secondary importance. Last night, GM David Poile revealed that highly-touted prospect Jimmy Vesey would not be signing with the franchise and would instead pursue free agency.
Poile was livid.