Welcome back to the new iteration of The Hot List, now known as Prospect Need to Know. The NCAA season kicked off in earnest on the weekend and though I’d like a bit more of a sample size before handing out accolades, let it be known that Arizona prospect Maxim Letunov had a hat trick in his first game with UConn. And yes, Calgary Flames fans, Mark Jankowski is off to a hot start with Providence. There’s a lot of goodness to cover off this week, so let’s get right to it:
It’s mailbag time, folks. We’ve got some very interesting questions this week, concerning prospects from many different levels. Most developmental leagues have already begun play (American prep and high schools are still on the sidelines), so there’s actual action to consider, though naturally we’re just at the start of what is shaping up to be a very fun 2015-16 campaign. If you have a question, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and use the hashtag #thnfutures so I don’t miss it.
Let’s get to it.
It’s rare that you get to see the debut of a generational type of player. It’s even more rare when you get to see two of them make their debuts on the same night, as we will tonight with McDavid and Eichel. The only thing better is if the NHL had arranged for the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres to play one another Thursday. Come to think of it, why didn’t it do that? Alas, we’ll have to all wait until Dec. 6 for that one.
I’m strongly considering going top 60 next year. This is the second time I’ve done a top 50 for the upcoming NCAA season and a lot of very good players didn’t make the cut. Such is life, I suppose. What is left is a pretty hardcore collection of prospects from across the NCAA. Rankings and selections are skewed towards NHL potential and overall buzz, so don’t be surprised to see more underclassmen than seniors. Let’s get to the list, shall we?
Advanced statistics have permeated hockey so much that they now reside on NHL.com in their own category. We don’t need to repeat how many teams have hired experts. But that doesn’t mean the numbers game won’t evolve again. As Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas once told me, hockey’s analytics are 20 years behind baseball’s. Sooner or later, someone will invent a more accurate way to track statistics like possession.
Is Drake Berehowsky that someone?
It’s been a long time since we saw Berehowsky, 43, manning a blueline. He last suited up in the NHL for the Leafs, the team that took him 10th overall in 1990, late in the 2003-04 season. He bounced around the Swedish League, AHL and German League after that and retired in 2006. But Berehowsky stayed busy. He’s spent the better part of the past decade behind various benches, from OHL Barrie to AHL Peoria to ECHL Orlando and WHL Lethbridge, where he was head coach the past two seasons. Now he’s back in the OHL as an associate coach with the Sudbury Wolves.
Along the way, through the ups and downs helming all those different teams, ideas danced around in his head. Was there a better, faster, more accurate way to evaluate his players? Could he pinpoint what data would help him and others make wiser decisions, be they in-game line combinations or even just deciding who should and shouldn’t make the team?
Drake and his sister, Danielle, began work on an idea called StatsTrack, an application that tracks player and team events on the ice in real time. Drake provided the ideas and concepts behind what the program would track, Danielle ran the business side of things, and they worked with a team of digital technology specialists to develop the concept. The NHL Alumni Association also came on board as a partner.
Welcome to the rebirth of The Hot List. From now on, my weekly collection of top prospects will be known as Prospect Need to Know and the format will be a little different. The biggest changes involve star power and flexibility – there will be more of both. If your prospect knowledge is limited, I’ll have you covered with a steady dose of names such as Auston Matthews, Alex DeBrincat and Patrik Laine. If you like to go deeper, there will be categories on sleeper picks, major injury news and, as the season goes on, high risers in the draft rankings. Basically, I wanted to make sure I have a platform that would not limit me in bringing you the most essential prospect news. And for organizational purposes, players will now be listed in groupings, with those already drafted first (after the spotlight player, of course). So let’s get to it and have some fun:
Real hockey is here, folks. Erie’s Alex DeBrincat scored five goals against Niagara Thursday night and he did it without Connor McDavid or Dylan Strome – so he’s got that going for him. A lot of 2015 draft prospects seem to be sticking around for the start of the NHL’s regular season and one of those kids comes up in a question below. If you have a query about prospects and the draft, look me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and include the hashtag #thnfutures. You may see the answer in the coming weeks. Let’s get to the bag.
When Auston Matthews decided to eschew major junior and the NCAA in favor of a trailblazing route in Switzerland, the hockey world was intrigued. How would an American teenager fare against men in a league known for being one of the most challenging in Europe?
In the early goings, the answer is “quite well.”