This really is the best time of the year to be a hockey fan, there is wall to wall hockey on, and it is also a super important time of year to scout your prospects for next season’s fantasy hockey leagues.
The NHL playoffs first round is some of the most entertaining and fast paced hockey you will ever see. With four games on almost every night it can be hard to keep up with all the action. Plenty of prospects have a breakout performance in the post season, P.K. Subban and Matt Murray come to mind as recent examples of players who went from prospects, to keepers in the post season. Last week I wrote a ramblings focusing on this, read it here and Mark Allen had a similar Ramblings over the weekend you won’t want to miss, read that here
Outside of the NHL the KHL postseason just completed with SKA Saint Petersburg as the Champions. A lot of potential free agents played prominent roles and our Pat Quinn looks at some players who could come to North America you want to keep an eye on and if the Olympic decision by the NHL will be a factor. Read the KHL report here
The CHL leagues playoffs are in full swing as well making the hockey watching even harder with more options to watch. Fortunately they play a lot of afternoon games on the weekend. Follow Paul Zwambag on Twitter @zwambag for daily bracket updates on the CHL playoffs
Here are some prospects you want to take note of from the CHL Playoffs
Erie Otters star and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat has dominated the OHL offensively for his entire career and is working his magic in the playoffs, leading the OHL in scoring with 20 points in 10 games for 2.0 points per game.
Kingston Frontenacs were swept in their series by the Petes but 2017 NHL Draft prospect Jason Robertson who has been an underrated prospect all year was dominant for the Fronts. He was seemingly in on every goal Kingston scored posting five goals and 18 points in 11 games. His performance should secure him a first round selection in Chicago this June.
Owen Sound star Petrus Palmu has been a topic of discussion of mine in previous Ramblings and on the DobberProspects podcast and his season continues to impress as he leads the Attack in scoring with 10 goals and 16 points in 11 games, tied with another 2017 Draft prospect Nick Suzuki.
The London Knights and Erie Otters are playing an amazing series and one player really standing out as a key clutch performer is Carolina Hurricanes prospect Janne Kuokkanen. Nine goals (One GWG) and 14 points in 13 games are evidence of his ability to impact the game. The Canes second round pick last year scored just over a point per game in the regular season and looks to be a keeper prospect moving forward.
The Peterborough Petes are steamrolling their way through the Eastern Conference and are being led by their goalie, Edmonton Oilers prospect Dylan Wells. Wells has led the Petes to a perfect 8-0 record, was named the OHL player of the week, and even scored a goal in game four vs Kingston.
The Saint John Sea Dogs are also dominating the playoffs with a perfect 8-0 record. League leading scorer Mathieu Joseph (Tampa Bay Lightning) who recently signed his ELC has seven goals and 15 points in eight games. The 20-year-old is in his final season and will be turning pro next year.
His teammate Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators top prospect is the league leading scorer on defence with three goals and 13 points in eight games. Chabot will try to lead the Sea Dogs to the Memorial Cup to close out his junior career before he makes the jump to the NHL next year.
Pittsburgh Penguins rookies continue to make an impact in the playoffs, Matt Murray, Conor Sheary, Jake Guentzel are some recent examples and Daniel Sprong could be next years rookie hero. Sprong has 14 points in eight games for the Charlottetown Islanders who also sport a perfect 8-0 record.
19-year-old Vladimir Kuznetsov who went undrafted in the 2016 NHL draft after being the first overall pick in the 2015 CHL Import Draft had a point per game season for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan hopes his playoff performance of eight goals and 11 points in nine games will help him have his name called in his second go through at the NHL Draft in Chicago.
The WHL playoffs are being dominated by overage players who are undrafted and hoping to sign NHL contracts as free agents. League leading scorer Reid Gardiner is an undrafted undersized forward that started the year in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after playing four years with the Prince Albert Raiders. With only six points in 23 games in the AHL his rights as an overage were traded to Kelowna and his offensive production has been significant since returning to the dub. Gardiner should get another AHL contract to see if he can translate his offence to the pro level, he is worth keeping an eye on.
21-year-old Tyler Wong was invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs camp and also played in three AHL regular season games with the Marlies before returning for his OA season with Lethbridge. He is finishing his junior career strong with nine goals and 19 points in 13 games. An undersized winger at 5-9, but he plays a two-way game and isn’t afraid of the physical game.
Victoria Royals goalie Griffen Outhouse who went undrafted in the 2016 NHL Draft has had an impressive D+1 season posting a 2.85 GAA in 63 games after a league leading 1.82 GAA and .937 Sv% rookie year in 27 games the season prior. Why was he undrafted? Probably because he is 5-11. His post season is very strong as well with a 2.1 GAA and a .923 Sv%. Despite his size it seems the kid can play and stop the puck. The 19-year-old will go through the draft aging this summer and there are plenty of quality goalies available, but don’t be surprised if a team rolls the dice on Outhouse.
Looking ahead to the NHL Draft, you can get one last look at several of the top prospects for the 2017 Draft at the U18…if you can fit it into your viewing schedule.
Finland is on top of the world at the U18 with the top three scorers in the tournament with Kristian Vesalainen, Joni Ikonen, and Miro Heiskanen with eight, seven, and six points respectively. Finland fell well short of defending their World Junior title but they are right back on track.
A late addition to the Fins is Linus Nyman who had seven goals and 11 points in 11 games with Kingston in the OHL playoffs before they were bounced by the Petes in four games. Since joining Finland at the U18 Nyman has two goals and four points in two games.
The top two American born prospects for the 2017 with Team USA are rugged winger Grant Mismash (great name) and Ryan Poehling. Both players have stepped up for USA with offensive contributions and are increasing their draft stock.
Canada got a big boost with the late addition of Cody Glass and he did not disappoint with two goals and three points in his first game. Glass is a fast rising prospect for the 2017 Draft and could use the U18 to bolster his draft ranking much the way Tyson Jost did last year.
Another Canadian standout so far has been Stelio Mattheos of the Brandon Wheat Kings. After doubling his point totals from his rookie season and posting a goal and five points in four playoff games Mattheos has four goals in three games for Canada. Projected to be a second or third round pick after appearances at the Memorial Cup last year and the Hlinka to start the season, a strong U18 performance would help push him into the second round.
Goalies to watch in the tournament that should be prominent in the 2017 draft include Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Finland), Olle Eriksson Ek (Sweden), Ian Scott (Canada), and Maxim Zhukov (Russia).
Looking even further into the future at the U18 towards the 2018 draft there are several prominent prospects of note. Andrei Svechnikov of Russia is a potential first overall prospect for 2018. The 17-year-old dominated the USHL and could be the first overall pick in the CHL Import Draft. Svechnikov has five points in three games so far to lead Russia and is tied for fourth in overall scoring.
Czech prospect Filip Zadina is another top 2018 prospect, the 17-year-old is in his second U18 tournament. Drafted fourth overall by Vancouver in the 2016 CHL Import draft he did not report and stayed in his native Czech Republic. After playing only 25 games for HC Dynamo in the Czech league with limited minutes he produced poorly with just two points and could reconsider coming to North America for his draft year.
Boston U commit Brady Tkachuk is Matthew Tkachuks little brother…and by little I mean 6-2 and 194 pounds. As you may have guessed like father like son, he plays a gritty hardnosed game but has the skill to go with it. He has a goal and three points and 10 penalty minutes in three games so far.
Canada has a young blueline with half the group eligible for the 2018 draft, but one who has stood out to me so far is Jett Woo from the Moose Jaw Warriors. Woo is a 6-0 16-year-old defenceman who has played with tremendous poise and confidence. He stands out when the puck is on his stick and is an excellent skater, very smooth and agile with soft hands and carries the puck well with speed. He looks great in transition and on the point, keep an eye out for this kid for 2018.