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With a ton of prospects to cover in this week’s column, we will keep the preamble short. Clare McManus brings her AHL checkup for the month of November with some names that are on the cusp.
In an excerpt from a much longer prospect tour of the continent recently published for subscribers on www.mckeenshockye.com, Chapin Landvogt takes us through the players and stories making noise overseas. The full article can be found here.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website.
PROSPECTS IN THE NEWS: AHL NOVEMBER CHECKUP
By Clare McMannus
In the last addition of the AHL prospects check-in, I mentioned Alexander Holtz and how he should be called up to the NHL Devils. On November 4th, the Devils made the right move and called up their young sniper amid the Jack Hughes injury. He has appeared in six games for the Devils scoring two points.
Since Holtz has been called up, there have been a handful of young guns who continue to perform well at the AHL level.
In this prospect check in, I will list a couple of notable prospects currently playing in the AHL and give an overview on their performance so far in the season.
Morgan Frost, C, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers)
2021/22 Lehigh Valley, AHL, 16GP-3G-12A-15PTS
Top Flyers prospect and 2017 first-round pick, Morgan Frost had a rough start to the season with the Phantoms in the beginning of the year. He seemed to struggle and wasn’t producing all that well, which made Flyers fans worried. As of late, Frost has heated up and become a very reliable playmaker on the Phantoms roster. He is becoming a very confident player who has the ability to be creative and protect the puck well. Frost is also playing a well-rounded defensive game, which is intriguing to see. This past weekend, he put on a show playing the Rochester Americans and Toronto Marlies respectively. In the two games, he posted two goals and two assists for four points. With the recent news of the Kevin Hayes injury, the Flyers could very well call up Morgan to fill the missing center role. He works very well when paired with captain Claude Giroux.
Adam Ruzicka, C, Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames)
Stockton Heat, AHL, 12GP-10G-6A-16PTS
The Calgary Flames 2017 fourth-round pick has been on fire this season. He currently leads the AHL with 10 goals scored and stands seventh in the league in total points scored. The Slovakian native has played the past three seasons with the Heat. He has been a pretty solid point producer at the AHL level and could potentially see the NHL soon. Last year, Ruzicka appeared in three games with the Flames and picked up an assist. This season, Ruzicka suited up with Slovakia for the Olympic Qualifiers, notching two goals. As for the Flames, Ruzicka has been a thrilling player to watch and has mostly played on a line with Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Phillips.
Jacob Perreault, RW, San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks)
San Diego Gulls, AHL, 12GP-7G-8A-15PTS
Ducks 2020 first-round pick is in the midst of his second full AHL season and continues to impress with his skill. The former Sarnia Sting forward extended his career-high point streak to eight games with a multi-point performance this past weekend against the San Jose Barracuda. According to the AHL, Perreault's point streak is the fourth longest active streak in the American Hockey League. He currently sits ninth in the league in points and first on the Gulls in goals and points scored. Hopefully he continues his streak, and we see a call up in the future. The Ducks could definitely use his strong goal-scoring ability.
John Peterka, W/C, Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres)
Rochester Americans, AHL, 14GP-4G-11A-15PTS
German-born forward and 2020 second-round pick for the Buffalo Sabres has done seemingly well in his first pro North American season. Peterka has been one of the best young players for Rochester and is very close to NHL ready for the Sabres. He currently has four goals and 11 assists, sitting second on the team in total points scored. He formerly played for EHC München, where he showcased his great skating and playmaking abilities. On the international stage, Peterka has also been a force with team Germany, which is definitely exciting to see for Sabres fans.
Marco Rossi, C, Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild)
Iowa Wild, AHL, 11GP-3G-11A-14PTS
After a long, hard battle with Covid-19, Marco Rossi is finally playing his first pro season with the Iowa Wild in the AHL. Playing the past few seasons with the Ottawa 67's of the OHL, Rossi dominated the league with 68 goals and 117 assists for 185 points in 109 OHL games. His elite offensive skill made the Wild select him in the first-round, 9th overall, in the 2020 NHL draft. So far, he’s off to a good start with the Iowa Wild, having scored three goals and 11 assists for 14 points. The last few games he has spent playing alongside fellow top Wild prospect, Matthew Boldy, and the two seem to be clicking.
Dustin Wolf, G, Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames)
Stockton Heat, AHL, 2.22 GAA - .931 SV%
The Calgary Flames top goalie prospect, and 2019 seventh-round pick, Dustin Wolf is doing well this season for the Heat. He currently has a record of 6-0-2, with a 2.22 goals-against-average and a .931 save percentage. He has also made a total of 242 saves. The undersized, but very skilled, netminder has played the past few seasons with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. In 149 career games with the Silvertips, he posted a 106-34-6 record, with a 1.84 save percentage and a .935 save percentage. Hopefully Wolf continues his great streak with the Heat and sees a future call up with the Flames.
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EUROPEAN PROSPECT ROUNDUP – SPECIAL GROUP OF SLOVAKS ON THE RISE
By Chapin Landvogt
The 21-22 season has been underway for over nine weeks now in Europe, with the KHL having kicked off the fun at the end of the summer. With the ending of a basically European-wide break in regular season action so that just about everybody’s national team can participate at a number of tournaments across the continent, this is a good time to take a look at a number of drafted and yet undrafted prospects. The break applied not only to the men’s teams, but also the U20, U18, and in some cases, the U17 side.
One of the most interesting developments of the season can be seen in the KHL, where Winnipeg Jets 5th round draft pick, Dmitiri Rashevsky, taken as an overager in his third year of eligibility, has exceeded many expectations in popping in 14 goals and 24 points over 27 games thus far. That’s good for 19th in scoring throughout the entire league. He’s also sporting a strong +13 rating and thanks to some real good offensive company playing for Dynamo Moscow, there’s really little reason to think he’ll slow up all that much this season. He’s the highest scoring 21-year-old in the KHL just now.
Of course, this is, and continues to be, the eventful year of the Matvei Michkov watch. Being 16 years old and getting into 10 KHL games (3 points) is a feat in and of itself, but his 11 goals and 18 points in seven games in the junior level MHL show that he’s ready for much more daunting tasks. He debuted for the Russian national team recently, where he got the hockey Twitterworld jumping out of their seats over his “Michigan goal” against Sweden. Getting phone calls from Alex Ovechkin is the icing on the cake for now and the hockey world is looking forward to the soon-to-be 17-year-old be a part of the WJC-fun in Edmonton next month.
Next door in Finland, there’s no less noise being made by a few of the nation’s top youngsters. The biggest news in Liiga is Toronto Maple Leafs pick Topi Niemela, a defenseman taken in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft, is fifth overall in league scoring with four goals and 18 points in 20 games. We are talking about a 19-year-old kid who’s barely 170 pounds soaking wet. He was already a sensation for Finland at last winter’s WJC and he’ll be looking to return to Edmonton as Suomi’s go-to guy on the blueline.
He may very well be joined on the team by the OTHER biggest sensation in Liiga play this year, namely the draft eligible Joakim Kemell and boy, has this kid been something special. His 12 goals lead the league, and his 18 points have him tied for second overall in league scoring, one point behind the league leader. More amazingly is that he’s done it in just 16 games, five less than the league’s top point producer. Some hockey people knew he’d be a player this year, after producing no less than five goals and six points in five Hlinka Gretzky Tournament games, but his season has been off the charts since. There’s no other way of putting it.
As we continue looking westward, Sweden is once again providing the world with plenty to talk about at the U21 level. No team is more aware of this than the Detroit Red Wings. To begin, defenseman Simon Edvinsson has basically been the best U21 player in the country. Sure, his nine points and +7 in 16 games for Frolunda, a team always in the hunt for the championship, has been sweet, but we just can’t emphasize enough how solid he’s been in an all-round capacity. His understanding of his position and how to use his enormous body to his advantage is clearly beyond his years.
His teammate Elmer Soderblom is a giant at 6’8”, 238 lbs., and has seen his development take a considerable boost after what was already a strong 20-21 showing. He’s been getting first line minutes on a term with four solid lines, and it’s resulted in eight goals and 11 points in 19 games. There’s also first year SHLer Theodor Niederbach who has managed to stick with the big club through 19 games. His four points are nothing to write home about, but he’s showing a keen sense of doing what’s necessary to stick in the line-up and assume the role necessary in a line-up that is full of established offensive players.
The Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament this summer was a “case in point” in what some had been saying was on the way, namely that the Slovakian program had a special wave of players on the way up. Indeed, it’s looking so good that some in the region are reminiscing about the days when Peter Stastny and Zdeno Ciger were ushering in the Zigmund Palffys, Miro Satans, and Peter Bondras of the world, with the Marians Hossa and Gaborik soon to follow. There are several key reasons for this.
To begin, the 6’4”, 225 lbs. Juraj Slafkovsky has been trucking down a road to a top 10 selection for well over a year now (currently #4 on our most recent McKeen’s rankings). Sure, he’s got but three points in 14 Liiga games this season, but his 17 points in nine U20 league games as well as his six goals and nine points in five Hlinka Gretzky Tourney outings have shown him to be among the best anywhere in his age group. Scouts naturally love his size and jam, as Juraj isn’t one to take anyone’s crap. And why should he with a body like his? That he can do some playmaking and rocket off shots has got more than a few just licking their chops about the possibilities.
Behind him, albeit not all too far, are defenseman Simon Nemec (#5 on our most recent list), likely one of the top five defensemen available in this draft class, and forward Filip Mesar (#20 on our most recent list), who debuted for the Slovakian men’s team this past weekend at the Deutschland Cup. Both are 17, both are playing in Slovakia’s top men’s league, and both scored at over a point-per-game pace at the Hlinka-Gretzky event.