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?
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.
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.
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.