TLN Roundtable: PROSPECTS!

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With another summer of prospect rankings in the books, it’s time to take one look back on the pool, and reflect on what’s to come.

Today’s questions are: who’s a prospect you think will see their stock fall by the time our next rankings roll around? Who’s someone you think will see their stock go up?

RYAN HOBART

I can see our perspectives on Nikita Soshnikov falling pretty significantly. As one of the older prospects in the list, if he doesn’t crack the Leafs’ roster over someone like Josh Leivo or Brendan Leipsic, I definitely would anticipate people thinking less of him. There’s quite a logjam to make the roster out of camp so it’ll be tough doing for Nikita. If he goes to the minors and is productive I don’t see his rankings dropping much, but if he falls victim to a shooting percentage drop, he will likely see some ill favour in the rankings.

As for rising stars, I think Adam Brooks will definitely climb up my rankings. If he’s able to continue his offensive success from junior in the pros, he could impress a lot of people, including myself. This year, I held my suspicions with finally getting to elite junior production levels at 20 years old, but if he can utilize his skillset in the pros despite his size and late blooming, he could see a significant jump in the ranks.

KEEGAN TREMBLAY

After posting 70 points in the WHL in his draft + 1 season, Andrew Nielsen (ranked 15th) is well positioned to make a jump in our next prospect rankings. With the recent departure of T.J. Brennan, Nielsen is more likely to get a shot at some power play time as an AHL rookie. He’ll still have to compete with Rinat Valiev and fellow 2015 draftee Travis Dermott – which will be challenging – but that competition gives him a much better chance than years prior when Brennan quarterbacked the Marlies power play. If he’s able to get his fair share of offensive zone starts and work his way onto the power play, Nielsen’s ability to get shots to the net could translate into some strong AHL rookie numbers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nielsen cracks the top 10 in our January 2017 rankings.      
On the other side of the coin, I think Kasperi Kapanen (ranked 5th) is likely to drop in our rankings but by no fault of his own. Kapanen has blazing speed and great hands. His only problem is that we expect too much of him. I think Kapanen’s skill could be compared to Nazem Kadri.  You can count on Kadri to notch a highlight reel goal or assist at least once per season. However, despite his flash Kadri is going to struggle to crack 50 points, even with a ton of ice time. Traditionally we want to see players with that flash produce Malkin and Crosby numbers but not many can do that, and that’s okay. As long as we adjust our expectations, we’re going to be very happy to see Kapanen as a middle-six winger putting up 40 points a year – and giving us the occasional show. I expect a few prospects to leap-frog Kapanen in our next rankings.

SHAWN REIS

Like Ryan,
Soshnikov isn’t someone I’m very fond of and I think he’ll see his stock drop a
lot within the first two or three months of the season. Soshnikov has an elite
shot, but after that, his combination of skating, puckhandling, and general
offensive instincts just doesn’t impress me. On top of that, his numbers in the
AHL weren’t impressive (all factors considered), and those same numbers lead me
to believe his high shot rate in his brief NHL stint are something of a mirage.

On the other end of things, I think
Jeremy Bracco will probably see his stock rise as the season goes on. Bracco
absolutely tore it up with the USNTDP, and had a good season with the Kitchener
Rangers in his D+1 season. A little bit older and more experienced and already
pretty skilled, I think Bracco has a big season in the OHL this year, enough so
that people start thinking of him in a similar vein to other junior stand-outs
like Connor Brown and Dmytro Timashov. Now, I still don’t think Bracco is anything
more than a B prospect, but I’m expecting him to get back in the good book of
Leafs fans next year.

ADAM LASKARIS

Connor Brown isn’t the world’s greatest prospect, just about everyone knows that. His junior and pro career, he’s never really been heralded as the best player on his team, but he’s stuck around in the right scenarios to produce effectively enough that he’s been given a shot to keep going. 
A late bloomer of sorts, the man known for an extremely strong final two OHL seasons that intersected with playing alongside a generational talent in Connor McDavid, Brown since has shown glimpses of his talent at the NHL level last season, picking up six points in seven games. 
Though his junior totals were downright obscene, just about everyone knew it was as much more a matter of circumstance than a true reflection of his talent levels. 
Brown’s NHL debut last year was a solid but ultimately a relatively small glimpse into his potential. His age at 22 isn’t anything to be alarmed about, as prospects of his caliber often don’t find themselves getting full-time NHL work until 24 or 25.
But if Brown fails to crack a roster with limited spots for forward prospects, it’s quite feasible we’ll see the limited opportunities given to well, guys who haven’t been afforded as much of a chance.
I don’t particularly think Brown will develop any worse or better based on the next three-four months of play, but it’s definitely enough time to change our perception of him in relation to other prospects. As much as we try to avoid it, recency bias does play a part in many’s prospect rankings and an impressive AHL or NHL showing from a few  folks we haven’t had around the organization as long might bump Brown down a few places.
Essentially the opposite of Brown, Kasimir Kaskisuo is the new man in the organization — fresh blood, if you will. The thing about the goalie with the cool name is that we don’t really know much about him: even the most diehard of Leafs fans wouldn’t have likely gathered much info beyond the basic scouting report and a look at his NCAA stats. 
Because we don’t know tons about him, it’s easy to rank him low or not at all. But, as the season goes on this year, there’s a high possibility of seeing “Double-K” earn ice time at the AHL level, a team most of us follow more closely than Minnesota-Duluth.
I’m not saying a few good games will bring him to be the Leafs’ goalie of the future or anything, but that might at least put him on the radar.

  • CMpuck

    What about a article to speak of the what another season in the basement would mean? It seems like everyone is taking taking it as a given that the Leafs are going to improve by 5-10 spots.

    The conversation should be IMHO our lack of a 1D

    • Gary Empey

      If you are proposing the Leafs should tank again to acquire a top pick again this year, have you looked at the lottery odds? Vegas is awarded 3rd overall odds. If Leafs end up 30th this year they have only an 18% chance of drafting 1st. Everything after that the odds get even longer.

      In the meantime what will you do with Matthews, Marner, and Nylander. Will you send them all to the minors or ask them to play for the Leafs but not really try too hard to win?

      Here is a hot link to this year’s draft lottery odds

      http://www.tankathon.com/nhl/pick_odds

      Your point that the Leafs could use a top defenceman is a valid one. This year, I think the trade deadline is the time to consider draft lottery position or attempting to trade for one.

  • wallcrawler

    Let’s see because of circumstance Brown gets Mcdavid for a linemate for a year or so on one of the worst teams at the time that gradually got better by Browns draft year. Also during that year, he led the OHL and the CHL in points. That year Mcdavid had 99 total points finishing far back of Browns 128 points of which 83 were assists.
    So Adam, can you please explain how it was that he was fortunate to play with Mcdavid when in actuality it was Dane Fox, the third member of that line that was in a fortuitous situation of circumstance?

  • CMpuck

    Vailev got some attention in one of his NHL games
    they zoomed jn on him sitting on the bench and commented on how nothing much happens when he is on the ice. I got a kick out of those comments that a rookie could have that effect on 120 mins of NHL hockey and looking at his play off stats it’s another string of zeros. Looks like a guy our goalies will like. I hope Babcock likes him

  • wallcrawler

    I agree with Keegan about Kapanen. The centrepiece of the Krssel trade doesn’t look like he has what it takes to make it in the NHL – bit as a top-6 player as he doesn’t have that kind of skill and not as a bottom-6 player as he is soft as a feather. I hope I’m wrong but that’s what I’m seeing right now.

    I like Soshnikov though – he’s the opposite of Kapanen – gritty, hard- working player with a great shot and speed that can play up and down the lineup.

    Connor Brown, also, I think is the real deal – he will continue to surprise. Whether he gets recognition in your rankings is a different matter. C

    I don’t know how low you’ve ranked Gauthier but IMO however low is not low enough. Again, I hope he surprises and scores some goals in the AHL this season, but I’m not holding my breath. I know he wasn’t picked to score goals but such pathetic production in AHL , not being able to stay in the lineup and not even being able to win face offs leaves very little to be excited about.

    I think Marner will be better than Nylander and may well leap over Matthews as soon as this season. His hockey IQ is off the charts and he has all the skill required to execute at a high level. All he needs is some bangers on his line and the sky is the limit.

  • Tommy Cat

    Some players will always be unfairly criticized

    Brown’s success they contribute to McDavid but he has proven that McDavid didn’t drive his success as a player. Brown has stepped up to every challenge and excelled. 250 OHL pts in 199/gp. Two of Three seasons as team Captain. 90 points in 110 AHL games, 6 in 7 NHL/gp.

    Kapanen will always have the Kessel tag attached to him, his father’s legacy and his draft hype followed by falling to 21st. He could still use AHL seasoning and an elevated role but he should he a solid middle 6 NHLer for many years. At worst he will be a Bozak or J. Staal. Nothing wrong with being a 40 point player in the league.

    Valiev/Loov. They will never wow you with the puck but you don’t need every player to be a Rielly or Gardiner on defense, sometimes you need a Seabrook to your Keith or Methot to your Karlsson.

  • CMpuck

    Then you have the likes of Soshnikov, Bracco, Leipsic, and Hyman.

    If these are your bottom 6 or 4th lines, we’re doing much better than most of the league where you see the likes of Clarkson, Bolland, Bollig, Engellend, McClement, Dorsett, Rinaldo and Boulton still patrolling as regulars (when not injured former Leafs). And Calgary owns 2 of the listed players!

    Sure our 4 prospects will never be stars but they will contribute to the game and not just PIMs. They should all have NHL careers similar to players like Dominic Moore, MacArthur, Eaves, Fehr or Cullen – serviceable players that earn contracts in the NHL without people really questioning how/why.

  • Metal thrashin dad

    I think Marner might be the most overrated right now. If you think Brown was fortunate to play with McDavid, how about Marner’s linemates? He’s a top-tier prospect but IMO he’s got a lot more to prove than Nylander or even Matthews right now; both of whom have been playing with and against men for a while now. If he scores at or above 0.5pts/game in the NHL as a 19-yr old then it will cement his status.

    I don’t know where Rychel is ranked but I think he might surprise positively this season. I think Leaf fans aren’t appreciating what a good prospect he is because 1) he wasn’t a leaf pick, and 2) we pretty much got him for nothing.

    • wallcrawler

      Marner has been way better than his linemates. If you look at primary points (goals plus 1st assists) it’s easy to see Marner has been carrying his linemates.

      The year before last Marner was clearly the best player on his line outscoring all by a wide margin in points per game. On that line was max Domi who was 2 years older and wasn’t even close to Marner in ability. Last year Domi debued in the nhl and had a higher points per 60 than jack Eichel! Marner>Domi>Eichel.

      Marner scored at almost 2.5 points per game in the post season no other player was even close. Marner won ohl mvp, ohl playoff mvp, chl mvp and memorial cup mvp. All of this while being the best penalty killer in the league by a wide margin. The Knights penalty kill was atrocious until January when Marner started killing every penalty, then suddenly they had the best penalty kill in the ohl.

      Marner has a better ohl record than Stamkos, Tavares, Hall …. everyone in the past quarter century except McDavid and Kane. What the hell else do you want.

      The only knock on Marner is his size. But if you look at the statistics, size is actually negatively correlated with points production in the nhl. Moreover smaller players actually get injured less than larger ones.

      Marner is exactly the same height and weight Gretzky was when he started in the nhl. Marner is 10 lbs bigger than Gaudreau and within 5lbs of Kane, two players that just finished in the top 10 in league scoring. Kane was #1.

      Moreover Marner is a leaf fan just like us. Born loving the blue and white like us. He will be in the community giving back for his whole life. Players like Matthews and Nylander are just mercenaries who care nothing for the city or the community and who are just here because the rules say they have to be.

      Marner is the best thing to happen to the leafs since Wendel Clark was drafted

  • Tommy Cat

    So in Connor Brown’s first season in the A he does 61 points in 76 go. Next season he does 29 points in 34 gp. IN THE NHL he has 6 points in 7 games. In two AHL playoffs he has 13 points in 20.

    And Adam Laskaris says he isn’t a great prospect and still talks about his junior numbers playing with McDavid?

    That’s just dumb.

  • Gary Empey

    Adam Laskeris just lost all credibility. Nothing he says from this point on will carry any weight from now until the end of time. Better find a new profession, obviously hockey blogging isn’t something you’re good at.