Noah Hanifin (photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Our prospect expert digs back into the (virtual) mailbag to tackle questions sent in by you, the reader. Who has the most upside between Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski? That answer and more inside.
Thanks to summer world junior camps, prospects have been in the spotlight this week and for some, that meant reinforcing decisions on where they will play next season. Calgary's Brandon Hickey says he's going back to Boston University, Leafs pick Jeremy Bracco confirmed his commitment to Boston College and Zach Werenski is indeed headed back to Michigan. And speaking of Werenski, he's part of our first mailbag question this week. As always, if you have a draft or prospect-related question, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy, using the hashtag #thnfutures with your question.
Let's get to it.
Which of the first round 2015 defensemen has the biggest upside? And who is closest to being in the lineup?
– Tomas Djupsjobacka (@tdjupsjo)
In terms of upside, I'd go with either Carolina's Noah Hanifin or Columbus' Zach Werenski. Both have great size and skating ability, plus they can play in all situations. If you had asked me right after the draft who was closest to being in the lineup, I would have said Philadelphia's Ivan Provorov, since he has the hockey IQ and physical edge to compete right away. But then Carolina signed Hanifin to his entry-level deal, ending his Boston College career after one stellar campaign. Perhaps he goes to the AHL this season, but given Carolina's lack of depth on the back end, Hanifin may end up being the answer to both questions (Provorov also has more competition in Philly).
Very curious about your opinion on Sean Day's development in Mississauga
– Alex Sloan (@Alex_Sloan)
Funny how that question became a flashpoint this week, what with Day missing the cut for Canada's under-18 Ivan Hlinka squad. But I can also expand on the defenseman's trajectory here. I think Day has been good so far in Mississauga, but this will be a huge year for him – and not just because he's up for the draft. Conditioning was reportedly a factor in his national team cut, so that should be a priority. The Steelheads are also growing around him, so I need to see good offensive numbers, but also improvement in his own end. With his natural physical gifts, Day has great potential as an NHLer, if he can harness it and become a student of the game.
Which five NHL teams do you feel are in the best position when it comes to prospects and which five are in the worst position?
– Keenan Clarry (@KeenanClarry)
Here's my best:
Edmonton – The high end of Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse vaults the Oilers to the top since McDavid is such a sure thing. I'm also a big William Lagesson fan.
Buffalo – Jack Eichel is the Sabres' McDavid equivalent, plus you have Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey and some nice long-term catches in Will Borgen and Christopher Brown.
Winnipeg – The deepest pool. Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Kyle Connor, Erik Foley…it's almost unfair at this point.
Arizona – Another great assembly with Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Max Letunov, Brendan Perlini and Nick Merkley,
Anaheim – Already a great team, the Ducks have reinforcements ready in Nick Ritchie, Nic Kerdiles, Shea Theodore and Kevin Roy, plus longer-term gems such as Julius Nattinen and Jacob Larsson.
And my worst, with the caveat that some of these teams are in a win-now window and have therefore sacrificed prospects:
San Jose – Timo Meier and Nikolay Goldobin are solid, but not much depth behind them.
Pittsburgh – Derrick Pouliot used to be surrounded; now he's one of the last elite prospects in the pipeline.
New Jersey – Pavel Zacha will help, but there isn't much more scoring coming otherwise.
Toronto – Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington have all really helped the Leafs' outlook recently in this category, but they were thin before.
New York Rangers – Just don't have the critical mass of prospects since they're in their Stanley Cup window right now. Adam Tambellini and Pavel Buchnevich are good, though.
It's been three years since he was drafted, but what can we expect from Scott Laughton?
– Vincent Mongrain (@vincentM10)
If the Flyers move out Vincent Lecavalier, Laughton is in a great position to make an impact on Philadelphia's third line – which may not sound impressive for a first-rounder, but it's a good role because Laughton can handle the responsibility. With Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier ahead of him, Laughton won't be getting the big assignments in the early parts of his career anyway, but he can be a solid contributor and a two-way player.