Welcome to the 2017 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. During the summer, I will feature a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
I will link you to those articles; as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2017-18 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a dark horse to make the NHL. 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old is the cut-off for prospects. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Carolina Hurricanes Prospects
It was a season of deja vu for the Carolina Hurricanes. Once again, they were not quite good enough to make the playoffs. They also were considerably better than teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks who languished in the league basement. The Hurricanes are a young team, who just have improved, but just have not been able to get over that final hurdle.
General manager Ron Francis has spent the off-season trying to address the Hurricanes problems, while also looking to the future. He acquired goaltender Scott Darling to shore up issues between the pipes. He also signed forward Justin Williams and traded for Marcus Kruger to give the team scoring, experience, and two-way play up front. On defence, Francis locked up Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce to long-term deals, and traded for Trevor van Riemsdyk.
2017 NHL Draft Picks: Martin Necas, Eetu Luostarinen, Luke Martin, Morgan Geekie, Stelio Mattheos, Eetu Makiniemi, Brendan de Jong, Ville Rasanen
Graduates: Sebastian Aho, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Brock McGinn,
Top Prospect: Jake Bean
Defense — shoots Left
Born Jun 9th, 1998 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 6’1″ — Weight 172 [185 cm/78 kg]
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 1st round, #13 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Bean had another solid season for the Calgary Hitmen. Though his goals per game was down, his assists and points per game were way up from his draft year. He finished with 45 points in just 43 games. Bean and the Hitmen were quickly swept out of the playoffs though, with the blueliner picking up just two assists in the four games. He also picked up just two assists in seven games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
Jake Bean shows outstanding skating. He is blessed with very good speed and excellent acceleration. This is true in both directions and really helps him to be a two-way defender. Add to that, outstanding edge work and agility and Bean has the ability to walk the line to open up passing and shooting lanes, as well as to pivot quickly to transition from defence to offence and vice-versa. He is capable of covering a lot of ice, and of pinching in at the line and knowing he can still get back defensively. Bean could stand to add a bit more lower body strength and improve his balance in order to improve his ability to battle in the corners and in front of the net. This will become more important as he hits the next level and faces bigger and stronger opponents
Bean has great puck control and combines with his skating skill to elude forecheckers and move the puck into good areas to start the rush. In that way he can lead the rush himself, or can make a strong pass to get the transition game going. He shows poise with the puck in the offensive zone, and as mentioned he walks the line well in the offensive zone opening up those passing and shooting lanes. His slap shot is hard and accurate, while his wrist shot features a quick release and he uses it effectively to get pucks on net quickly and through heavy traffic. He has very good vision and passing skills, able to thread the needle to set up his teammates for good scoring opportunities. Bean is a dynamic offensive blueliner.
Bean can play a more physical game if he can add some muscle this year. He’s got good height, but needs to add strength to his frame. Bean is not a huge hitter, but he’s not afraid to get involved physically battling for pucks in the corners or in front of the net. His defensive game matches his offensive game. Bean has very good positioning, he shuts down the middle of the ice and keeps attackers to the outside. He uses an active stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes.
Bean has a year of junior eligibility left. Expect to see him back with the Hitmen, as well as playing for Team Canada in the World Juniors. With the competition for defence spots fierce in Carolina, they can afford to be patient with Bean. He has the skills necessary for that patience to pay off in a big way.
#2 Prospect: Martin Necas
The Hurricanes drafted Necas with the 12th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Necas. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Haydn Fleury
Defense — shoots Left
Born July 8th, 1996 — Carlyle, Saskatchewan
Height 6’3″ — Weight 207 lbs [191 cm / 94 kg]
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 1st round, #7 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Fleury had a solid first pro season with the Charlotte Checkers. He scored seven goals and added 19 assists for 26 points in 69 games. He led all Checkers blueliners in goals, and finished second in points, all while playing a top four role on the defence, and logging big minutes.
Fleury is a solid two-way defender with good size at 6’3″, and impressive skating. He has good edge work, and solid mobility. His long and smooth skating stride lets him generate good top end speed and he is able to cover a lot of ice in just a few strides. He has worked to improve his first step and acceleration over the past couple of years. Fleury also has good agility and balance. He is also talented in his backwards as well as his forward skating.
Fleury has decent puck handling skill and good vision and passing ability. He makes a strong first pass to start the transition game, and also has the poise to quarterback the power play from the blue line. While not having a huge point shot, it isn’t bad either. Fleury’s shot gets through the shooting lanes. He avoids defenders trying to block his shot. His wrist shot is remarkably effective, showing power and a great release. The quick release often makes it a better option for him when facing pressure at the point. Fleury is able to keep his shot low and on net to create tip-in and rebound opportunities for teammates.
Fleury is a solid defensive defender, with long reach, and the ability to cut down passing lanes. Since being drafted, he gets stronger and better in board battles each year. His ability to read the play, his positioning, and overall defensive fundamentals have taken a huge step forward. He is equally good at defending against the rush and defending in the zone. Fleury maintains great gap control and is tough to beat to the outside.
It looks like Fleury is ready to make the jump to the NHL. He will likely battle Klas Dahlbeck for the role as the third pair left handed defence. If he can win that spot, its likely he stays with the big club. If he does not have a good camp, and looks like a 7th defender, it is more likely the Hurricanes send him back to the AHL, where he can continue to play big minutes.
#4 Prospect: Julien Gauthier
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born October 15th, 1997 — Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec
Height 6’4” — Weight 224 lbs [193 cm/102 kg]
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 1st round, #21 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Gauthier was involved in a mid-season trade that say him go from the Val d’Or Foreurs to the Saint John Sea Dogs. Saint John was loading up for a run at the Memorial Cup. Gauthier helped Saint John win the QMJHL title with 11 goals in 16 playoff games. While he put up two goals and six points in four Memorial Cup games, the Sea Dogs fell in the semi-final. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Gauthier scored five goals and seven points in seven games in the tournament.
Gauthier is a great skater for a big man with very good top end speed as well as the power to fight through checks, or bowl over a defender on the way to the net. His agility and ability to weave through traffic could be improved. Currently he is more willing to just bowl over a defender on his way to the net than to move around him. He has very good lower body strength and balance, allowing him to win board battles or establish position in front of the net. He’s strong on the puck, which makes him able to use his body to shield off defenders in the cycle game.
At 6’4″, Julien Gauthier is a power forward prospect with the size and the strength to dominate the game down low. Gauthier throws big hits on the fore check, protects the puck on the cycle, takes the puck to the front of the net, and wins battles with opposing defenders. He also has an outstanding wrist shot, with great power and a hair trigger release. He also has shown good hockey IQ, and a knack for eluding defences and finding openings in the defence where he can set up to unleash a wicked one timer. His stickhandling is very good, and he has the ability to make plays while skating at top speed.
One concern is that he has developed a bit of tunnel vision, in that he seems to fire everything at the net, even when sometimes a pass to a teammate might be a better play in the zone. He worked to correct that problem this year, and did it less than in his draft season. It can still be an issue from time to time though.
Gauthier shows a strong defensive game. He plays his tenacious puck pursuit game in all three zones, back checking and battling for pucks in his own end. Gauthier has shown a bit of a mean streak at times. He is also not afraid to block shots, and uses his big frame to effectively cut down on passing and shooting lanes. Once he is able to gain control of the puck, he transitions quickly to offence.
Gauthier headed for his first pro season. Expect to see him start off in Charlotte, but he could come up for a few games as an injury replacement. Gauthier could be a full-time NHLer by 2018.
#5 Prospect: Nicolas Roy
Center — shoots Right
Born February 5th, 1997 — Amos, Quebec
Height 6’4″ — Weight 209 lbs [193 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 4th round, #96 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Drafted first overall in the 2013 QMJHL Draft, Nicolas Roy had a very pedestrian campaign in his draft year. Despite having many traits that NHL teams look for, the lack of production caused him to fall to the fourth round of the draft. Its turned out to be a steal for the Hurricanes, as Roy has exploded over the last two seasons. He had 36 goals and 80 points in just 53 games for Chicoutimi this year, and added 21 points in 17 playoff games. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, picking up three goals and an assist in seven games.
Roy’s skating is a work in progress. His speed and acceleration are just average. He worked hard to improve this area and it’s no longer a liability, but it isn’t really a strength either. The bigger issue is his first step, which really needs to be improved. Roy has decent agility for a big man. He does have good lower body strength, and power. Roy is able to fight through checks and get to the front of the net.
At 6’4″, Roy plays a power forward’s game. He controls play below the circles, using his long reach and big body to protect the puck and extend plays. He works to get the puck to the front of the net, and causes havoc there, looking to bang away at rebounds, screen goalies, and tip in shots. Roy also has an excellent wrist shot and release.
While he is more of a goal scorer, Roy can also facilitate. He has good vision and the ability to make passes through tight openings. His puck protection game, leads to extended possession and more scoring chances. The skills were always there; the criticism around Roy that dropped him to the fourth round had mainly focused on the fact he did not seem to be putting all those skills together to get points. His hockey IQ was questioned. Roy has put those doubts to bed in his last two seasons.
Roy’s defensive game is very good. He plays a shutdown role against opponent’s top lines, and a big role on the Chicoutimi penalty kill. He played this same role for Team Canada. Roy is excellent in the face-off circle. He also plays an extremely smart positional game, and helps support the defence down low. He cuts down passing and shooting lanes, and is willing to put his body on the line to help his team win.
Roy is headed to Charlotte, where he will have a chance to find chemistry with World Junior linemate Gauthier. Roy might take a little longer in the AHL than Gauthier does, as sometimes bigger players take a little longer to find their game when transitioning from junior to pro. This is more true for a player like Roy who is still working on his skating. Centre is also a tougher position to learn.
#6 Prospect: Lucas Wallmark
Center — shoots Left
Born September 5th, 1995 — Umea, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 176 lbs [183 cm / 80 kg]
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 4th round, #97 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Wallmark came over from Sweden and had a solid first year in the AHL. He scored 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 67 games as a rookie. He also added three goals and six points in five playoff games. Wallmark even got a chance to go to the NHL for a short stint, picking up two assists in eight games.
Wallmark’s skating is his biggest weakness. It is what is currently holding him back from being an NHL player. He has a short, awkward stride and poor acceleration. Wallmark has worked hard to improve it and while he has gotten better, it is still the big sore spot. Quicker feet would also likely lead to better agility. He has a strong lower body, and good balance, allowing him to protect the puck in the cycle game and win battles along the boards.
Wallmark is a play-making centre with good vision and hockey sense. He anticipates plays extremely well and almost always makes the smart play with the puck. Wallmark has good stick handling and controls the play. He slows things down so his teammates can get open. When they do, he is ready to feather a tape-to-tape pass through traffic. While not known for his goal scoring, Wallmark has worked to improve his shot. His wrist shot is accurate, and he has added more power. He also has learned to vary his release points. This has created a problem for goalies in the AHL.
Wallmark is also a strong two-way player. He is good on face-offs. He uses his good hockey sense in the defensive zone, anticipating plays and creating turnovers. Wallmark has strong positioning, and uses an active stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. He is not afraid to block shots, or battle with forwards down low.
Wallmark will battle for a spot in training camp. However, the Hurricanes top nine might be too tough to crack at this point in his career. He will likely be the top centre in Charlotte, and have opportunities for call-ups if injuries arise. The 21-year-old could be NHL ready in 2018.
Sleeper Prospect: Callum Booth
Goalie — Catches Left — Shoots Left
Born May 21st, 1997 — Montreal, Quebec
Height 6’3″ — Weight 187 lbs [191 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 4th round, #93 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Note: Booth is not the 7th best prospect in the system. Nor is he the best goalie prospect in the system at this point (we rank Alex Nedeljkovic ahead). He is the top prospect remaining who fits our criteria of being a 4th round pick or later.
Booth went from the Quebec Remparts to the Saint John Sea Dogs in another move meant to strengthen Saint John for the stretch drive. While he struggled a bit in the regular season for Saint John, he was brilliant in the QMJHL playoffs with a 1.67 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
At 6’3″, Callum Booth has the type of size that scouts are looking for in young goaltenders. He gets out well to cut down angles and give shooters very little to look at. Booth has extremely solid technique for a young goaltender, with a good compact butterfly. He gets up and down quickly. His long legs take away a lot of the lower part of the net, and he has a good glove to take away the top parts of the net. Even when on his knees he is tall enough to cover the top corners.
Over his junior career, Booth has really improved his puck tracking and his side to side movements. He has good rebound control, which is something we don’t often see in a young goaltender. It can still improve, but he is ahead of most goalies his age. If there is a criticism, it is that he is not one to be able to come up with an acrobatic save when his positioning and technique fails him. Booth is simply not going to make a lot of reflex saves when he does get caught out of position.
He has decent puck handling abilities and can make an outlet pass to get the transition game going when he sees the opponent on a change.
Booth is calm and cool in the net and does not let a bad goal rattle him. He has the type of demeanor that makes him a natural leader on the ice. He does not let things spiral out of control, and is ready to make the next save
Darling and Cam Ward will be the goalies in the NHL this season. Nedeljkovic has established himself at the AHL level. The Hurricanes also have Jeremy Smith under contract. At this point it looks like Booth could find himself playing in the ECHL or playing an overage season in the QMJHL. At 20 years old, he needs to play; and being an AHL back-up is not good for Booth’s development. Like most goalies, this is a long-term project.
The Hurricanes had an outstanding 2017 Draft, where we gave them an A Grade. Necas fills a huge need as a potential first line centre. Eetu Luostarinen, Morgan Geekie, and Stelio Mattheos are also solid picks down the middle. In addition to the prospects named above, Janne Kuokkanen, Aleksi Saarela, Hudson Elyniuk, Valentin Zykov, and Warren Foegele give great depth at the forward position.
Luke Martin adds to the great young defence the Hurricanes are building, with a number of graduates already at the NHL level. Further defence prospects include Roland McKeown, Noah Carroll, and Trevor Carrick. In net the Hurricanes also have a good duo with Booth and Nedeljkovic. The Hurricanes added Eetu Makiniemi in this year’s draft.
This is currently one of the best prospect groups in the NHL.
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