Ranking Every NHL Team’s Prospect Pool: 2023 Edition, 25-32

Sometimes I like to think about the future of each team in the NHL. That’s what prospect pools are all about. Some teams’ futures are dark, while others’ futures are bright. Though for most franchises, shallow prospect pools are a byproduct of their consistent winning. Those who have been missing the playoffs yet have deep prospects pools have had good Drafts, a strong development system, and, often times, years of missing the playoffs. The rare exceptions are the Vancouver Canucks in the case of the former and the New Jersey Devils and the Seattle Kraken in the case of the latter. I’ve looked at each teams’ prospect pools and ranked them from worst to best. Here are the bottom eight prospect pools.

32nd: New York Islanders

There is a strong argument that the Islanders have the worst prospect pool in the league. Don’t find it surprising if none of the prospects in their pool don’t become an everyday NHLer. They have not had a first round pick in four years, and just four since 2016. At least Mat Barzal (2015) was a successful pick, but outside of Noah Dobson (2018), what else really is there? Though Dobson has turned out to be the Islanders’ best offensive defenseman, Oliver Wahlstrom (2018) hasn’t been hitting expectations, Kieffer Bellows (2016) turned into a bust, and Simon Holmström (2019) is just finding his way to the NHL. Further bad news is that the Islanders might have hit their ceiling with their current core two seasons ago in reaching their second straight Final Four, and they may have to consider a full rebuild even though Lou Lamoriello won’t openly admit it, especially after trading away top prospect Aatu Räty to acquire and later sign Bo Horvat to an eight-year extension. Their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Islanders, did have some nice pieces last season, with William Dufour, Sam Bolduc, and Ruslan Iskhakov having positive impacts, and OHL standout Matt Maggio is ready for the next step. Calle Odelius and Jesse Nurmi will continue improving their game in Europe. It can also be said that the most underlooked elements of a prospect pool is bottom six players with a high impact, and Danny Nelson fits that mold with size and skill. Nurmi is still a work in progress, but he can be a depth scorer if he fixes some of the flaws in his game. However, this pool lacks an impact player. Dufour had a great season, but can he take that next step to the NHL and turn into the 5th round steal the Islanders view him to be? If not, who else will be the difference-maker? The pool lacks a top-four defensive option after Dobson’s graduation and also lack a quality backup goaltender.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. William Dufour (RW), 21, Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
    • Dufour is continuing his outstanding QMJHL production into the AHL, where he is coming off a 21-goal, 48-point season in 69 games with Bridgeport. He also made his NHL debut on January 18th, which was not a significant one, totaling just 6:48 of ice time. In his last year in the QMJHL, he had 56 goals and 116 points and had a point-per-game run at the 2022 World Juniors. He has no problem scoring, but can he challenge for a roster spot?
  2. Sam Bolduc (LD), 22, Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
    • The 6′ 4″ defenseman saw his first NHL action last season, with three points in 17 games. He also skated in two playoff games, playing sheltered minutes. He looked good in limited action, including two games where he put up three points in April against the Lightning and Flyers. He should get an extended look at the NHL after a nice 35-point campaign in Bridgeport.
  3. Matt Maggio (RW), 20, Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
    • Maggio is a nice late-round pickup in 2022, where he put up 54 goals and 111 points with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires last season. He carried that success to Bridgeport with two assists in three games to close off the year. He is an offense-first winger who works hard, and he has improved on that over the last two years. It’s one thing to score in the juniors, but it’s another to score in the pros. A 40-point season in Bridgeport could be a nice start for him.
  4. Danny Nelson (C), 18, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA)
    • One thing that Islanders Faithful should like about Danny Nelson is that he says he likes to model his game after Brock Nelson. He was one of the most improved players on the U.S. NTDP this past season, with 47 points in 62 games, and capped it off with a point per game in the final 16 matches. He comes in with good size, at 6′ 3″, and shows no fear using it. His game is simple, as he makes sure the opponent he faces doesn’t have the puck as quickly as possible. His transition to the NCAA should be intriguing.
  5. Ruslan Iskhakov (C), 23, Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
    • The 5′ 8″ Iskhakov has gone around the world through the last six years, playing in Russia, the NCAA, Finland, Germany, and, most recently, with Bridgeport. He put up 51 pints in 69 games in his first full AHL season, showcasing his potential as a depth forward. However, he’s not a dynamic enough player to get a spot outside of a scoring role, but his offensive production can’t be taken for granted.
  6. Calle Odelius (LD), 19, Djurgårdens IF (Allsvenskan)
    • Odelius is a two-way defender who is coming off a rollercoaster season trying to get Djurgårdens out of the second-tier Swedish league. They didn’t in the end, but his competitiveness and his confidence went up as the season went on. Though he scored once in the World Juniors, he was rather disappointing there. On the long-term he’d focus on getting more ice time, while being more active on the rush.
  7. Jesse Nurmi (LW), 18, KooKoo (Liiga)
    • Nurmi is a high-energy forward who works hard, and had 50 points in 41 games, the most among any U18 scorer in the Finnish U20 league. Against his own competition, he stood out, though one concern I have with him coming into the Liiga is that he lacks any physicality to keep up with the pros and is average skating-wise. Him chasing after pucks doesn’t mean he will come out on the right end of the battle.
  8. Alex Jefferies (LW), 21, Merrimack Warriors (NCAA)
    • Jefferies has gotten better with each season in Merrimack. After 23 points in 2021-22, he racked up 41 as a junior. He will return for his senior season, where he will be relied on heavily as a veteran scorer. After that, it is yet to be seen if he will turn pro. He’s a fast playmaker who can shoot, but he needs to work on his two-way game.
  9. Quinn Finley (LW), 19, Chicago Steel (USHL)
    • Finley was average for two years in the USHL before putting up 65 points split between the Madison Capitols and the Chicago Steel. He did help the USA win gold at the World Junior A Challenge, with six points in the tournament. He brought speed to them, but didn’t do enough to get him a spot on the final team. He will be headed to the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA starting in 2024-25, so this will be a learning experience for him.
  10. Tristan Lennox (G), 20, Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
    • Lennox was once one of the best young goalie prospects ahead of the 2018 OHL Draft but saw his stock fall in recent years. Inconsistency was his issue with the Saginaw Spirit, though the team didn’t give him enough defensive support. He did look good at the international stage with Canada, albeit with solid lineups in front of him. He should challenge Jakub Skarek for the starting job in Bridgeport, though if Semyon Varlamov retires in the future, Lennox might be ready to give the Islanders much-needed insurance as Ilya Sorokin’s backup.

31st: Edmonton Oilers

As long as the Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, they have to continue making all-in pushes for the Stanley Cup. While the furthest they have gone was in the Conference Finals, it feels they’re not too far away after some good playoff showings in the last two years. However, in doing so, they are forced to trade away prospects and draft picks to do everything to keep the window as open as possible. In this year’s Draft, they had just three picks, and such is the cost of remaining competitive. It doesn’t help that the Oilers have had a rather underwhelming Draft history in the last few years. Further shallowing the pool are the graduations of Stuart Skinner, Vincent Desharnais, Philip Broberg, and Dylan Holloway. That means Xavier Bourgault and Raphaël Lavoie are the top two prospects in the system. They could challenge for roster spots, with Lavoie looking more NHL-quality, but after that it starts to fall off. Matvey Petrov is a project, while the other players are a few years away from the NHL at best. Like all other bad prospect pools, it’s hard to pinpoint the strength, though it’s basically depth options, like Bourgault and Lavoie in this case, while others like Petrov, Maxim Berezkin, and Max Wanner have outgrown their Draft position. But it’s no secret that Holland has passed on goaltender Jesper Wallstedt in 2021. Skinner has been solid, but if he isn’t the long-term solution, there isn’t really anyone who can fill the hole in the system. Olivier Rodrigue, even after a bounce-back season after injuries, is a backup at best. Ryan Fanti is another longshot. There aren’t any high-impact players on the system, and most of these prospects are basically trade chips for Ken Holland to bring in someone notable.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. Xavier Bourgault (LW), 20, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • Bourgault made a good first impression in his first season with Bakersfield, where he had 13 goals and 34 points. He seemed to have added speed to his game to go with it, though the goal for him this coming season will be to take more control of the puck and get more scoring chances consistently before he gets a full-time role with the Oilers in 2024-25.
  2. Raphaël Lavoie (C), 22, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • Lavoie is coming off his best season to date with Bakersfield, scoring 25 goals and 45 points in 61 games. He’s 6′ 4″, so he has the size to be a bottom six power forward at the NHL level, though his scoring touch from the juniors is finally showing. There is a future for him as a depth scorer with the Oilers, but he has to prove that he is worth an extended look.
  3. Matvey Petrov (RW), 20, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • After back-to-back 90-point seasons with the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, the 6′ 2″ forward is ready to transition to the pros. His goal-scoring might have dipped from 40 to 27, but his 66 assists with his playmaking make up for the goal-scoring fall-off. That’s especially true during the postseason where he had 18 apples in 20 games. His skating is his big concern, but the hope is that he improves that with the Oilers organization.
  4. Beau Akey (RD), 18, Barrie Colts (OHL)
    • Akey was the Oilers’ top pick in this year’s Draft and has become the team’s top defensive prospect. While more eyes were on Brandt Clarke in Barrie, it’s hard to overlook Akey’s 30-point jump. He can rush the puck down the ice from his zone and doesn’t make hesitant passes as much as he used to. With Clarke getting set to turn pro this coming season, Akey will play a bigger role with the Colts, something he doesn’t have a hard time with.
  5. Maxim Berezkin (RW), 21, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
    • Berezkin set a new career-high in games played (52), goals (7), assists (19), and points (26) in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Standing 6′ 2″ and weighing 216 lbs., he has good size for a forward. He is improving on his confidence and decision-making with the puck. However, he is under contract with the KHL until 2025, so he is still a work in progress, so he is on his way to being a more valuable scoring threat.
  6. Max Wanner (RD), 20, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • Wanner has turned into a stud with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. His two-way game has improved, and he can get nasty on that. Notably, the Oilers signed the former 7th round pick a year after he got drafted, and many scouts thought that he could be an NHLer. However, that may be a stretch, as he is not spectacular at anything, but it is to be seen how he adjusts to the pros.
  7. Ty Tullio (C), 21, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • Tullio had growing pains last season, where he had 13 goals and 26 points in 63 games with Bakersfield. He was great in the middle of the season but was rather underwhelming at the start and finish. However, he is a very talented offensive player with good puck skills. He is a smart forward in the organization with his decision-making, and if he can find that consistency, he will be an intriguing addition to the Oilers’ depth.
  8. Nikita Yevseyev (LD), 19, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)
    • Yevseyev spent most of last season with the KHL, where he had five goals and seven points in 48 games. He’s more of a shutdown defenseman, though he’s not afraid to shoot or rush the puck. He can skate and work as hard as anyone else. Most likely, he’ll be a third-pairing defenseman at the NHL level at best, and he will need AHL seasoning first. He has a deal with the KHL until 2025, so there is still room for improvement.
  9. Carter Savoie (LW), 21, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • Savoie’s rookie pro season with Bakersfield was tough, as an early season injury derailed his campaign. He didn’t really look fully healthy, and he had 11 points in 44 games. He is a good shooter who can produce everywhere on the lineup before he got to the AHL. Though he’s 5′ 9″, it’s good to stay optimistic, and a fresh start next season could pay dividends.
  10. Jayden Grubbe (C), 20, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
    • Acquired in a trade during this year’s spring, Grubbe made a splash with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, going from 35 points in the previous campaign to 67. He carried it on to the playoffs, where he had 14 assists and 16 points in 12 games. It took a while for his promise to show, but his mix of size (6′ 3″, 203 lbs.), defensive game and playmaking make him a nice depth piece in the system. He’ll need time to adjust to life in the AHL, but the Oilers have something with him.

30th: Tampa Bay Lightning

Almost every Stanley Cup contender has traded away valuable draft picks to stay at the top of the NHL chain. The Lightning are no exception to this. They have picked just six players in the first round since 2013, and the only one who remains is Isaac Howard. The most productive of those first rounders was Jonathan Drouin, who had 95 regular season points and 14 playoff points, the latter all coming in 2016. The best first round defenseman? Tony DeAngelo, who never even played a game for them. But they have managed to hit on late round picks, such as Brayden Point (third round in 2014), Anthony Cirelli (third round in 2015), and Ross Colton (fourth round in 2016, no longer on team). The team managing to find late-round talent and banking on them has paid off, and they were rewarded with three Stanley Cup Final appearances in as many years from 2020 to 2022, winning the first two. While they have one of the worst pipelines in the league, that’s no surprise, given that they’re expected to be a top team this coming season and beyond. It’s hard to give the pool credit because they’re basically lacking in every aspect. But historically, the Lightning organization have done an outstanding job at developing depth goal-scorers. If Howard can find his way to the league and be more consistent in the AHL, he could be a nice middle-six player. Other interesting options are Jack Finley and Dylan Duke. Don’t expect any of them to be NHLers, but it’s still good depth scoring. But there might not be a single player on here that can carve out a top-six or top-four role. The closest is Ethan Gauthier, but his offensive potential isn’t that high to get teams intrigued in the NHL. And defensively, the pool is filled with bottom-pairing players at best. But this is expected when the Lightning rarely pick above the bottom quarter of the first round.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. Ethan Gauthier (RW), 18, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
    • Lightning fans are going to love what Gauthier has to offer. A late first round pick from 2023, he is a fierce competitor who can never stop moving. The cousin of Julien and the son of Denis Gauthier, his offensive output went up from 39 to 69 points with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, and has established himself as a goal-scorer. He is a power forward, which suits him in a middle-six role. He will now settle in with Drummondville after getting moved on the final day of the NHL Draft combine.
  2. Isaac Howard (LW), 19, Michigan State Spartans (NCAA)
    • Howard has lit up goalies with the U.S. NTDP in 2021-22, scoring 33 goals, but didn’t find that same success as a college freshman with Michigan State. He had just six goals and 17 points in 35 games after transferring out of Minnesota-Duluth. Looking to bounce back from a rough season, he wants to play a bigger part of a team with just a handful of NHL prospects. He is a strong scorer/passer dual threat forward, but he doesn’t have the defensive game to become an effective two-way player. Should he make it to the big leagues, he’ll be a depth option.
  3. Dylan Duke (C), 20, Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)
    • Duke had a better sophomore season with Michigan, where he had 18 goals and 32 points in 41 games. A hard-working forward who looks for opportunities at the net-front, he brought that exact playstyle to USA’s World Juniors team, not only scoring, but also playing physical and blocking shots. He has the makings of a bottom six forward that can do a bit of everything. The Wolverines are going to look different with the departures of Adam Fantilli and Luke Hughes, so Duke will be relied on more.
  4. Hugo Alnefelt (G), 22, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
    • Alnefelt split time in the crease with Max Lagace last season in Syracuse, where he posted a 17-12-2 record with three shutouts. He had a better second season in the AHL, outperforming Lagace for the most part, and he was widely considered to be the new backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy after the departure of Brian Elliott. The team chose to sign Jonas Johansson, who, despite years of inconsistency, has more NHL experience. A good way for Alnefelt to start the year is to give him some call-up opportunities.
  5. Niko Huuhtanen (RW), 20, Jukurit (Liiga)
    • Huuhtanen might be the most recent example of the Lightning finding late-round talent. He was the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2021 Draft, and has kept on scoring. He had 37 goals and 77 points in his lone year with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips before coming back to his home country of Finland, finishing as the only U20 30-point scorer in the Liiga. He has a nice shot, and is not afraid to use the body with his frame, and doesn’t lose a lot of puck battles. While he’s not the best skater, eh could get a role in the NHL if he continues improving.
  6. Jack Thompson (D), 21, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
    • Thompson showed in the AHL that he has it in him to hang with the pros. He is smart with the puck, and is a solid skater with a nice all-around game after he was a dynamo with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds in the latter half of the 2021-22 season. He’s not the most creative of defensemen, which can make him easy to read, but it’s the little things that can help him carve out a potential bottom-pairing defensive role.
  7. Jack Finley (C), 20, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
    • Finley’s first year in the AHL was solid, even if his points production won’t garner a lot of attention. A 6′ 6″, 223 lbs. power forward, he is a decent skater for his size, but it’s not NHL-caliber skating. What stands out is his physicality, and he is not afraid to use it if it means benefiting his team in winning puck batatles. His NHL potential is a big question mark, but he could be a nice stopgap option for a team looking for a fourth liner.
  8. Gage Goncalves (C), 22, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
    • Concalves burst into the scene with a good rookie season with Syracuse in 2021-22, but has improved his production with 41 assists and 54 points last season. He is a playmaker with a nice release that hasn’t been seen in the AHL as often as it did when he was with the Silvertips. He is a speedy froward too, which makes him hard to defend against, continuing to work hard to elevate his game. What could prevent him from being an NHLer is his play in his own zone, though.
  9. Max Crozier (D), 23, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
    • Crozier just graduated from Providence College, where he was a two-time member of Hockey East’s third all-star team. He is a hard-hitting defender who looked like he belonged when he was with the Friars. While there’s not a lot of things that are eye-catching offensively, eh is a smart defenseman with good hands. At best, he’s a depth option, but it won’t hurt that much if he is needed.
  10. Emil Martinsen Lilleberg (D), 22, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
    • Martinsen Lilleberg had a great World Championship with Norway, playing north of 25 minutes a night in his country’s wins over Slovenia and Canada. He plays more of a shutdown defenseman game, and has spent the majority of the time with IK Oskarshamn of the SHL, putting up three goals, eight assists, and 11 points in 46 regular season games, along with an assist in three playoff games. While “EML” didn’t make things work with the Coyotes, perhaps the Norwegian figures it out with the Lightning.

29th: Florida Panthers

Florida has a shallow prospect pool, which means the onus is on their current core to get things done. Luckily, they made it to the Stanley Cup Final this June. While they were overmatched by a tightly knit Vegas Golden Knights team, as long as the Panthers have Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov to go with their other key contributors, they should be in playoff contention for the next few years. The pipeline, however, is not great, and it’s near the bottom. Though a few of their NCAA players look like they could be steals. The key piece here is Mackie Samoskevich, with Grigori Denisenko likely to earn a full-time role with the Panthers this season after getting 19 regular season games and one Final game of NHL experience. While none of the prospects are that high, the goaltending depth is clearly there. None of them truly have starter potential, especially after Spencer Knight’s graduation, but they’re going with quantity to find a potential backup on the long-term. In a perfect world, Knight would be the starter for the Panthers in five years. If that happens, could Mack Guzda become the backup? What will happen to Kirill Gerasimyuk, Ludovic Waeber, and Tyler Muszelik? Waeber could push for starts after he had a strong run in Switzerland, though Guzda has the highest potential of these goalies, but he’s 22 and there is no need to rush him into the scene. The downside of this pool is that there is arguably not a single impactful forward outside of Samoskevich. Denisenko hasn’t really panned out. Justin Sourdif and Gracyn Sawchyn are intriguing options, but they are more of bottom-six players. The Panthers should enjoy what they have now, and they can take solace with the many other contenders that are in the same position as they are in terms of the future.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. Mackie Samoskevich (RW), 20, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
    • Samoskevich wasn’t a big scoring threat with the USHL’s Chicago Steel. He was more known for his IQ, his playmaking, how he works in the tight areas, how he gets around defenders, and how hard it is to steal the puck away from him. That further showed in his two-year stint with the NCAA’s Michigan Wolverines, where he had 20 goals and 43 points last season on the top line. He later finished the season with the Charlotte Checkers, with two assists in two regular season games and four assists in seven playoff games. It’s a great start to his professional career, and he will likely come to the Checkers for more seasoning. There is a high chance that he will become a middle-six winger in a couple of years.
  2. Justin Sourdif (RW), 21, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
    • Sourdif had a nice first year in the pros, with 24 points in 48 games with the Checkers. He is a balanced forward who plays hard and is a creative passer who can play in both special teams situations. Even if he is 5′ 11″, he doesn’t lose a ton of puck battles. As he looks to build on his first year in Charlotte, he can end up becoming a bottom-six threat at the highest in the NHL, and a big come-up with the Checkers can help with that.
  3. Mike Benning (D), 21, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
    • Benning signed his entry-level contract in the spring after three years with the NCAA’s Denver Pioneers. In that stint, he has been a staple to their core, with 83 points in 101 games as an offensive play-driver with great passing ability. But at 5′ 9″ with little physical ability, will that be enough? Yes, he added weight during his college run there, but his strength looked lacking. Some time in the AHL can help with that, but he has the makings for a bottom-pairing defenseman.
  4. Grigori Denisenko (RW), 23, Florida Panthers
    • This is Denisenko’s last chance to crack an NHL roster, and he is on track to make the final cut. He was once a star in the scoring department for the Russian junior national team, but has since struggled after arriving to North America. This past season, he had a career-high 12 goals and 36 points in 56 games with Charlotte, and has zero goals and seven assists in 26 NHL games. He has the makings of someone with great puck skills, vision, and a good shot. Even so, he’ll likely settle for a bottom-six role, and there are others in the organization that can do that. On the upside, he is on a league-minimum deal for two more years, so he is inexpensive to the organization, which helps.
  5. Gracyn Sawchyn (C), 18, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
    • Sawchyn took a risk in leaving the U.S. NTDP, where he was the team’s fourth-leading scorer, to join the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL. It paid off, not only winning a WHL championship, but after a point-per-game rate while showing his speed, his smarts, and his work ethic, it helped his draft status significantly. It would be nice of him to get more offense on the board, but he’s at his best when off the puck that fans of his game would be impressed.
  6. Evan Nause (D), 20, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
    • The 6′ 2″ defenseman has a frame any team would look for if they want to get a pro. Nause skates and moves the puck very well, reading the plays on the rush and doesn’t make a mistake when passing the puck. In the past year, his development has been promising, especially since he got more comfortable taking on more responsibility. He is a modern-day defenseman type, and while a broken foot slowed down his season, a healthy Nause can be a force in the AHL.
  7. Kaspser Puutio (D), 21, Pelicans (Liiga)
    • Puutio rarely got games where he had north of 18 minutes of ice time, as a vast majority of matches being at most 13 minutes with KalPa. A change with the Pelicans could turn that around. He is an all-around defenseman who loves to have the puck on his stick, and does a solid job at shutting things down. There are enough off games that can worry scouts, but as he gets more mature and experienced, he can improve on his game.
  8. Ludvig Jansson (D), 19, Luelå HF (SHL)
    • Jansson was a star for Sweden in the World Juniors, with four goals and 10 points in seven games. Given he had 10 points in 44 games in the Allsvenskan with Södertälje, the rise was remarkable. He plays a nice two-way game that benefits his skating and his play at his own end, and while ice time can be hard to come by for him, he generates his chances by being constantly active on the puck and playing a strong positional game.
  9. Mack Guzda (G), 22, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
    • Guzda didn’t have things easyin his rookie year in Charlotte, but he had his moments while he and Alex Lyon shared the net. At 6′ 5″, he is athletic for his size, and uses his height to his advantage in lookin garound traffic. Ludovic Waeber will challenge him for starts next season, given his pro experience, but Guzda, an undrafted free agent, might be a late bloomer that the Panthers can keep in their system.
  10. Ryan McAllister (C), 21, Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
    • McAllister was Adam Fantilli’s primary threat for being at the top of the NCAA scoring last season. He ended the campaign with 13 goals and 49 points in 39 games as a freshman with the Western Michigan Broncos. It was a one-and-done run, with the Panthers immediately signing him afterwards. He took the long route to the NCAA, starting in Junior B in 2018-19 before three years split between British Columbia and Alberta. With the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits, he had 57 goals and 139 points, so his offensive explosion with the NCAA is of no surprise. He had seven points in as many games with Charlotte split between the regular season and playoffs, so he is ready for bigger opportunities.

28th: Vegas Golden Knights

Like every other Stanley Cup champion, the Golden Knights traded away high-quality prospects to go after high-quality NHL talent to win the Stanley Cup. They have exceeded expectations after building what looked like an underwhelming roster in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Since that day, George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have been very active on the trade front, trading away all their first round picks except Brendan Brisson for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in their sixth season of existence. They didn’t have to trade away their first round pick this time around, which they used to select David Edstrom, an underrated selection with the last pick of the first round. But when they eventually fall off, it will be a big drop off. They lack high-end talent, with most of the core comprising of depth options. There is solid center depth, headlined by Edstrom, Brisson, and Matyas Sapovaliv. Though it’s an inevitability some will move to the wing, it’s nice to have center depth when one of the Golden Knights’ centers gets hurt. Edstrom has the potential to be a middle six center with his two-way game, and the other two can be wingers should the situation call for it. However, the majority of these players have a slim chance of becoming regulars in the NHL. Edstrom has the highest upside, though there are enough nitpicks to point out the flaws in the rest of the pool to be worried about the long-term potential. If the Knights are forced to go into rebuild mode in the near future, there aren’t enough players to build around.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. David Edstrom (C), 18, Frölunda HC (SHL)
    • Edstrom was picked by Vegas after a strong finish to the season with Sweden’s U18 team. He was primarily paired with Otto Stenberg, forming one of the best in the U18 World Hockey Championship, leading Sweden to a silver medal after losing to the United States in the Gold Medal Game. He is an excellent skater and a well-rounded forward. Standing 6′ 3″, he has the size for a power forward, and he has the dual threat advantage of being a shooter and a passer. He will spend the 2023-24 campaign on Frölunda’s senior team, which is a good test for him.
  2. Lukas Cormier (D), 21, Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
    • Few offensive defensemen in the QMJHL can keep scoring at the rate that they have been in the juniors when they turn pro. Cormier put up 10 goals and 35 points last season in his rookie year with Henderson after a successful run with the Charlottetown Islanders. He’s not an overly physical defenseman at 5′ 10″, though he had some flashes of defensive play in his own end, and there is a lot to like about his creativity when he has the puck.
  3. Brendan Brisson (C), 20, Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
    • Alongside Edstrom, Brisson is the only other first round pick in Golden Knights history to not be traded. After a two-year run with the NCAA’s Michigan Wolverines, his first full year in Henderson produced mixed results. He has an exciting offensive kit, with amazing hands in traffic, and with a nice shot and nice release. He had 18 goals in 58 games, but he is a below-average skater, and his lack of footspeed can hurt his stock. He thrives on the power play, which can give him a shot at the NHL.
  4. Pavel Dorofeyev (LW), 22, Vegas Golden Knights
    • Dorofeyev looked like he was going to break through for a full-time role in his first five games after getting called up last season, with four goals. He quieted down with just two points in his final eight games and did not appear in the playoffs, but still had seven goals and nine points in 18 games, and after some difficult stretches with Henderson, and consistency issues plaguing him, it was refreshing to see him produce the way he did in that 18-game stint. He is a flashy offensive player who works hard, but when he’s away from the puck, he’s not effective enough to get a full-time role in the NHL.
  5. Matyáš Šapovaliv (C), 19, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
    • Šapovaliv lit it up during the World Juniors, with seven assists to help Czechia to take the silver medal. In a year in which he hasn’t showed out offensively with Sagnaw until the playoffs, this was a nice boost to his game. While his skating has looked pedestrian, he has excellent hands and plays at his best in his own zone. He fits more as a bottom six defensive center with elite puck protection, and he can be a long-term option for Vegas. He will have a chance to show out as one of Saginaw’s more experienced players.
  6. Carl Lindbom (G), 20, Färjestad BK (SHL)
    • Lindbom was one of the last players taken in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and quickly has emerged into one of the best goalie prospects in the league. He posted a .930 save percentage with Djurgårdens in the Allsvenskan, with a 25-11-0 record and seven shutouts. He is 6′ 1″, rather small for a goaltender, but he is quick and athletic and can find pucks through screens well, as was shown in the World Juniors. Moving to the SHL will be a big step forward for him, but he will have a chance to lean on former Knights goalie Max Lagace for help.
  7. Kaeden Korczak (D), 22, Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
    • Korczak got 10 NHL games of action last season, and it didn’t take long for him to log 19 minutes in a game. When he is on his groove, he can get up to five shots, and while it didn’t always show in Henderson (four goals and 14 points), he makes up for it with his defensive reads, his reach, his physicality, and winning one-on-one battles. He has improved his offensive game and can skate well. While he is a third-pairing defenseman at best, he should get more games this season.
  8. Daniil Chayka (D), 20, Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
    • Chayka’s best component to his game is his reach, taking away a lot of space with his stick and has the footwork to use that reach to his advantage. Though his offensive game was at its best with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, he hasn’t taken off in the creative ways that Vegas was hoping for when he transitioned over to Henderson. His gaps could also be tighter on his end, though he mostly focuses on protecting the middle of the net. At best, he’s a third-pairing defensive defenseman.
  9. Jakub Brabenec (C), 19, Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
    • Brabenec has a high-end hockey sense. His skating has vastly improved over the years, matching his competitive level. He is someone that loves being at the front of the net, seeing opportunities and parks at the top of the zone for passes. There are concerns that he is not a good enough finisher to be a scorer in the NHL, but with the way he chases after pucks and stops plays, he can find value as a bottom six player.
  10. Mathieu Cataford (C), 18, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
    • There is a lot to like about Cataford’s game from last season. He is more confident and has more refinement in his two-way game, to go with his physical edge. There isn’t a skill that is missing on the offensive side for him, whether it be getting his teammates to the slot or making plays in transition. His skating still needs work, and part of that may have to do with his conditioning. But there is a good chance he is a third round steal in the 2023 Draft based on his hard work.

27th: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have had just four first round picks in the past decade, so it’s not surprising that they have one of the worst pools in the NHL. It doesn’t help that two of those picks, Kasperi Kapanen and Samuel Poulin, have not panned out in the way they were hoping for. Poulin is still a young forward, but with just three NHL games under his belt, it’s hard to get excited about his potential. Though they found some nice gems in the middle and later rounds of the Draft, few teams have lacked success drafting like the Penguins. Of the 31 players selected between 2016 and 2021, just two of them have played more than 10 NHL games: Filip Gustavsson and Calen Addison. All of those games have come outside of the organization. They also traded away their 2024 first round pick in the Erik Karlsson trade, leaving them with just five picks for that year’s Draft, including two in the seventh round, so the prospect pool is not expected to improve anytime soon. They’re basically doing everything they can to keep the Crosby/Malkin/Letang era alive. This is what happens to teams in long-term contention windows. Kyle Dubas is not wrong for keeping it alive as much as possible, as he believes this core can still win. With the pool, however, it’s not expected that they be of much help in the future, though they have some solid goaltending prospects to keep an eye on. Joel Blomqvist has the best shot of being an NHLer. He’s also young, given he’s 21. Taylor Gauthier also had a solid season split between the AHL and ECHL and should get call-up opportunities in the future. Sergei Murashov tore up the MHL, but he gets a tougher challenge in the KHL. Filip Lindberg is also there, who will return to Finland for 2023-24, and is the oldest goalie in the system, at 24. Though the reality of the pool is that if the top three names don’t become full-time NHLers, there’s a realistic possibility that nobody else in this pool becomes more than just a depth option.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. Owen Pickering (D), 19, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
    • Pickering stands at 6′ 4″ and is dangerous with the puck. He’s smart, deceptive, and not afraid to shoot the puck from the point, and provides a nice size advantage, which makes his puck-moving ability impressive. However, he doesn’t always use his size aggressively—he would rather use it to separate the puck from the opposing puck-carrier. He closed out last season on a nine-game stint with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, which was a good chance to see what he could do. The Swift Current captain should play a vital role in Canada’s World Junior team this coming December.
  2. Brayden Yager (C), 18, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
    • Do the Penguins finally have a scoring prospect that can truly get fans excited? Yager was the team’s first pick of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and he has the makings of an impact top-six forward. He is a hard-working shooter, though he had 50 assists, showing that he can bring in highlight-reel plays outside of lighting the red lamp. He has been a career center, though he can also play on the wing. There are enough off-games with Moose Jaw that can have scouts concerned. He is an all-situations player, though he doesn’t really engage physically, and more scouts wanted more goals out of him. Say that he moves to the wing and gets a more responsibly sound center, and that allows him to be the scoring threat that he is hyped up to be.
  3. Joel Blomqvist (G), 21, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
    • After he shared the net with the Finnish Liiga’s Kärpät last season, where he had a .907 save percentage, Blomqvist is set to get his first full season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. He had a pair of starts in the last two seasons where he recorded losses, but he hasn’t had a lot in front of him to work with. The crease in WBS is crowded, as Magnus Hellberg, Taylor Gauthier, and Garret Sparks are all signed to the AHL squad, but the 21-year-old will get his chances. He’s a top-15 goaltending prospect in the NHL, and he projects to be a future long-term option.
  4. Valtteri Puustinen (RW), 24, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
    • By now, Puustinen is approaching “last chance” territory on a breakthrough year. He was a late-round pick in 2019, and looked like he was going to be one of the few players that was going to make a big impact in the pros. He finished last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 24 goals and 59 points in 72 games, but did not get a call-up to the NHL like he did in 2021-22, where he had an assist in his lone game with Pittsburgh. He still has offensive talent; it’s more of a matter of finding the right spot on the lineup for him to get a long-term fixture.
  5. Samuel Poulin (RW), 22, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
    • Poulin was once the top prospect on the Penguins’ system, but has since struggled as an AHL rookie with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before stepping away from the organization to focus on his mental health for three months. It was refreshing to see him get back on WBS to finish the 2022-23 season, and hopefully this offseason can treat him well. He is still a power forward who can score and has good hands, though his skating has been holding him back from scoring more in the AHL. He will have another chance for a spot on the Penguins, but expect him to start the year with WBS again.
  6. Isaac Belliveau (D), 20, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
    • Belliveau finally signed his entry-level contract after a 46-point campaign with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques last season. While it’s not his career-high in points, having recorded 11 goals and 53 points in 2019-20, it was a good year for him as an offensive leader. He drove the bus on that front, and defended well too. Consistency is one of his knocks, and he can have significant valleys in his game when he is not on his game. But with him set to play his first full season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, some seasoning could help him and could lead him as an injury call-up in the future.
  7. Tristan Broz (C), 20, Denver Pioneers (NCAA)
    • Broz transferred to Denver after just one season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. His lone year with the Gophers was slow, though it can be attributed to a lack of pace. With Denver, he put up a respectable 10 goals and 28 points in 40 games. He wasn’t much of a scorer with the USHL’s Fargo Force, but he attacks the play, forces the turnovers, and makes the right reads. His impact, however, can be limited when he’s not attacking outright. He needs to take another step on his game in 2023-24 if he wants to get himself a legitimate opportunity in the NHL.
  8. Emil Pieniniemi (D), 18, Kärpät (Liiga)
    • Pieniniemi is projected to be more of a depth option, though he was one of the first players to be signed to an entry-level contract right out of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He spent most of last season in the Finnish U20 league, where he had a goal and 13 assists in 31 games with Kärpät. He also stood out against the U18 competition, where he put up six points in seven playoff games. He should get consideration for a roster spot on Finland’s World Junior team in December before he gets a bigger role in 2025.
  9. Jonathan Gruden (LW), 23, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
    • The son of Toronto Marlies head coach John Gruden, Jonathan had the best season of his AHL career last season, where he had 16 goals and 31 points. He also got three NHL games of action, but didn’t record a point in either one of them, though he will try to stick with the NHL in his next call-up. This coming season will be his age-23 season, where he will be facing a make-or-break year, with his strong two-way game. He can score in the AHL, but now the question is if he can score enough to get a bottom-six role in the NHL.
  10. Sergei Murashov (G), 19, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
    • Murashov had a dominant season with Loko Yaroslavl in the MHL last season. In 37 regular season games, he posted a 1.53 GAA and a .948 save percentage with 11 shutouts while posting a 26-9-6 record, and also won his KHL debut with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He carried on that strong play to the MHL playoffs in 10 games, with a 2.07 GAA and a .932 save percentage. He is the top NHL goalie prospect in the top Russian junior league. Scoring is low in the league, so it’s not really a good indicator of his abilities, but he was still dominant. The hope is that he will get more starts in the KHL.

26th: Boston Bruins

The price of being a competitive team is one of the worst prospect pools in the league. The Bruins have been one of the best teams in the NHL for over a decade. Not a lot of teams can be in the Stanley Cup Final at the start and end of a decade, which was the case for Boston in 2011 and 2019. The sustained level of success meant that they had to trade draft picks to bolster their Cup pushes, and when they didn’t, they were drafting in the later stages of each draft round. In the last five Drafts, only Fabian Lysell and Johnny Beecher are the only first round picks that Boston selected. They have moved out most of their first round picks in recent years, and have had just four picks in the top 85 draft selections in the last four years. They’ll do whatever it takes to remain a competitive team, and it often means trading away picks and prospects. Lysell remains their top prospect, even if his last season wasn’t as successful as he and the Bruins were hoping for. Last season also saw Mason Lohrei finishing his tremendous two-year run with the Ohio State Buckeyes, while Matthew Poitras and Brett Harrison had breakout years in the juniors. Their two undrafted free agent signings, Brandon Bussi and Georgii Merkulov, made big strides this past season in Providence. What the Bruins’ pool lacks in skill, they get it back in energetic and hard-working skaters. These types of players are needed to win, and they have an abundance of players with skilled, gritty, and speedy depth options. Some are not far away from getting in full-time roles. But this comes at the expense of a legitimate game-breaker. Lysell, at his highest, is a scoring middle-six player, though after that comes Lohrei, who looks solid, but don’t expect him to play 18 minutes on a nightly basis.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. Fabian Lysell (RW), 20, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Lysell was a controversial selection when he was drafted in 2021. Many were wondering about what his NHL future would look like. He played his first season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins, but he didn’t light the lamp at the rate that he was expected to, with 14 goals and 37 points in 54 games after he had 22 goals in 53 games with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. A disastrous World Juniors where he was held off the scoresheet entirely didn’t do himself any favors, either. He still has the skill, but he will need to take a step forward this coming season with Providence. He’s still young, so he just needs to put things together.
  2. Mason Lohrei (D), 22, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Lohrei was a surprise at pick no. 58 in 2020, especially since he was ranked 132nd that year among North American skaters entering the Draft by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. Ever since, he has looked like an outstanding steal in the second round, where he put up outstanding numbers with the NCAA’s Ohio State Buckeyes in his two-year tenure before turning pro to get his first taste of professional hockey to close out the season. The 6′ 4″ defender is now ready to take the next step.
  3. Matthew Poitras (C), 19, Guelph Storm (OHL)
    • Poitras was a revelation last season, where he had 79 assists, ranking second in the OHL, and 95 points to lead the Guelph Storm in the point-scoring department. He is a hard worker who can make something out of nothing thanks to his patience and his hands, showing why he is one of the most effective passers in the juniors. His ceiling projects to be a middle-six playmaker, which is an excellent value find after he was picked deep in the second round in 2022.
  4. Jakub Lauko (LW), 23, Boston Bruins
    • Lauko will now get a full-time role in the NHL this coming season. He finally burst into the scene last year with seven points in 23 games, which gave the Bruins a hard-working depth option with straight-line speed. Offensively, he’s not someone who can get more than 15 points in a season, and he hasn’t been an overly flashy player, but he can help get the job done with his physical play. These kinds of players are needed for competitive teams.
  5. Georgii Merkulov (C), 22, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Have the Bruins found a diamond in the rough in Merkulov? An undrafted free agent, he had 24 goals and 55 points in his first season with Providence. He had a quick transition to the pros, and he has been excelling since arriving to North America in 2019-20, but nobody would have expected this kind of offensive breakout with Providence last season. The Russian has quick hands, a good release, and a knack for finding his offense.
  6. Johnny Beecher (C), 22, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Beecher is a big 6′ 3″ forward who, like many other players in this pool, works hard to retrieve pucks, and has the strength to keep up with the play. He turned pro last season, and while he struggled at being an offensive driver, he put up a respectable 23 points in 61 games, though it’s not the offense that the Bruins are looking for, and time is running out for him to make an impact. He’s a good skater though, and is tough to steal the puck from, while also being a defensively responsible center. Should Boston turn to the youth movement, he could be a nice bottom six option for them.
  7. Alec Regula (D), 22, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Regula was part of the Taylor Hall trade return. He got in 22 career NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he had just one assist in the three-year span from 2020-21 to 2022-23, though with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, he had a respectable 21 and 26 points in the last two campaigns. Offense, however, is not his specialty, as he is more of a defensive defenseman, and he will get looks with Boston because of his size, standing at 6′ 4″.
  8. Brandon Bussi (G), 25, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Given that Bussi is 25, it’s hard to classify him as a prospect. But he was one of the best goaltenders in the AHL in his first year with Providence, improving on his numbers with the NCAA’s Western Michigan Broncos with a 22-5-4 record with a 2.40 GAA and a .924 save percentage in 32 games. Like Merkulov, Bussi is an undrafted free agent signing last season, and he was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team. He is currently the third-string goaltender to Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, but he showed that he is ready for a call-up should that situation be necessitated.
  9. Brett Harrison (C), 20, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • Harrison is set to turn pro with Providence after capping off his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires. While he didn’t take off in the juniors, he brings a mix of hockey IQ and physicality, such as trailing the play in receiving drop passes and shots from the top of the circle, that can lead to him getting some NHL games in the future as a depth option. Adjusting to the AHL will be the next step in his career.
  10. Reilly Walsh (D), 24, Providence Bruins (AHL)
    • After a successful run with the NCAA’s Harvard Crimson, Walsh turned pro with the New Jersey Devils organization, where he spent three seasons with their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets (earlier the Binghamton Devils). After back-to-back 40-point seasons with Utica, he now joins the Bruins organization by way of a one-for-one swap with Shane Bowers going the other way. Walsh is a mobile defender who has nice creativity, which can be good enough for a third-pairing defenseman role on the team given his trajectory.

25th: Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche once had the worst prospect pool in the league after their Stanley Cup-winning season, and it only improved because of two good late first round picks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Before that Draft, they found themselves without a possible legitimate top six forward and only one possible top four defenseman in Sean Behrens. Nikolai Kovalenko had a breakout season to have someone truly worth watching. But after that, this is where the Avs are lacking. They appear to be leaning towards the NCAA, picking up Sam Malinski (Cornell Big Red), Jason Polin (Western Michigan Broncos), and Ondřej Pavel (Minnesota State Mavericks). Behrens (Denver Pioneers) is still a top prospect option on the team, while Colby Ambrosio (Boston College Eagles) could be a depth option in the future. Though there is also a good chance that just one of these five players becomes and NHLer. This is by design as well, as they had just two picks in 2022, selecting 193rd and 225th overall, and just 16 picks in the last four years. This is because they’re busy trading away picks and prospects for players that can help them win now. That worked out perfectly in 2022. The pool is starting to feel the effects of success. Colorado will have four picks in 2024, and if they were to remain competitive, don’t be surprised if any of them get moved. The positive about this prospect pool is their two stout left-handers, Behrens and Gulyayev. They both should be on the team’s long-term plans. With Cale Makar and Bowen Byram anchoring the right side of the defense, and with Devon Toews leading the left side, these two could be intriguing prospects. Though Colorado doesn’t have a game-changer in their pool. Ritchie and Gulyayev are nice bets to be NHLers, though they are still a few years away. Kovalenko is also looking to replicate his success from last season into the KHL, and Behrens could be a complementary piece to the blueline. After that come longshots that are depth options are best.

Top 10 Prospects

  1. Calum Ritchie (C), 18, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
    • The Avalanche got themselves a nice pick in Ritchie. While he wasn’t explosive in the OHL, having produced at just a point-per-game rate, he could only do so much on a low-scoring Generals team. He still has the tools for being a top six center, being a more dominant two-way threat, tearing up the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Canada and capping it off with a U18 World Championship, fighting through a shoulder injury. With Alex Newhook now in Montreal, Ritchie could be a nice two-way center down the road in the big league.
  2. Mikhail Gulyayev (D), 18, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
    • Though Gulyayev is an undersized defenseman, he is one of the most creative in the 2023 class. He tore through the MHL, with 23 assists and 25 points in 22 games. While he had mixed results playing in the KHL, it’s not often that young defenders get much ice time there. There’s still enough about his game that gives the impression of a future top-four defenseman. He is a magician in the offensive zone, using the open space to his advantage and is speedy in bursts. He brings value as a transitional puck-mover to complement what is already a stable defensive core.
  3. Sean Behrens (D), 20, Denver Pioneers (NCAA)
    • Behrens has the skills of the modern-day NHL defender. He brings smooth passing and puck-handling, which makes him lethal with the puck. While he’s undersized at 5′ 10″, he plays heavy minutes with the Pioneers and his agility doesn’t seem to slip. He is consistent with his play, putting up strong effort defensively every night. He doesn’t pinch a lot, and can be passive, but he still can be a pass-first top four defenseman that could make the jump after another year in the NCAA.
  4. Nikolai Kovalenko (RW), 23, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL)
    • Fresh off signing his entry-level contract, Kovalenko won’t take long until he challenges for a roster spot with the Avalanche. He was outstanding with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, where he had 21 goals and 54 points in 56 games, smashing his previous career-high of 22 points. That is an outstanding come up. He is a natural with the puck in tight and gets creative in those situations. He will spend another year in the KHL before he moves to North America for 2024-25. If he can build on last season’s success, he could find a spot in the Avs’ middle six right out of the gates.
  5. Oskar Olausson (LW), 20, Colorado Eagles (AHL)
    • Olausson made his NHL debut last season, where he played 7:02 against the Vancouver Canucks in November. It was a difficult first year in North America with only 11 goals and 20 assists in 63 games in the AHL, including just three points in the final 20 games of the season. Growing pains are common when transitioning from the juniors to the pros, but he did play against professionals in the SHL, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he performs better. He has the raw talent, along with his shooting and size, and he’s just 20. Playing consistently is what is key.
  6. Justus Annunen (G), 23, Colorado Eagles (AHL)
    • Standing 6′ 4″, there is a lot to like about Annunen’s frame. His development has been very up-and-down, and while he had a 2-1-1 record in the last two seasons in the NHL, he put together a better AHL season, with the best numbers of his career to date (2.55 GAA, .916 save percentage, one shutout, 22-10-8 record in 41 games). General manager Chris MacFarland suggested that he could make the jump to the NHL sooner than later, though another year with the Eagles won’t hurt his development.
  7. Jean-Luc Foudy (C), 21, Colorado Eagles (AHL)
    • Like his brother Liam, Jean-Luc is one of the fastest young skaters in the AHL. He got his first taste of NHL action last season, but didn’t record a point in nine games. Though he used his speed to his advantage in the minors, racking up a nice 36 points in 46 games. His quick decision-making with the puck is questionable, however. Because of the pandemic, he went straight to the pros with the Eagles in 2020-21 and hasn’t looked back at the juniors, but a proper full season with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires would have benefitted his development. Nonetheless, he’s trending upwards with solid progress in his game.
  8. Colby Ambrosio (LW), 20, Boston College Eagles (NCAA)
    • Ambrosio has been a consistent scorer, with 58 points through 98 career games with Boston College. He flourishes in the offensive zone, combining his lateral quickness with his stick-handling maneuvers, and tracks pucks well. He’s undersized, at 5′ 9″, but he could get a role as an energy forward if the Avs can get a roster spot for him in a few years from now.
  9. Alex Beaucage (RW), 22, Colorado Eagles (AHL)
    • Beaucage has been having it rough transitioning from the QMJHL to the AHL. He averaged over a point per game with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in his final two years there, but totaled 32 points in 103 games so far with the Colorado EEagles. His skating has been so-so, but he still has good size with a good shot.
  10. Ivan Zhigalov (G), 20, Yunost Minsk (Belarus)
    • The “Mr. Irrelevant” of 2022, Zhigalov had an interesting career. He was passed over in 2021, but he was drafted after a nice year with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix in 2021-22. He was drafted in the CHL Import Draft for a second time, this time with the Kingston Frontenacs, where he started the majority of their games. However, he could only do so much for a team committing so many turnovers, but he had flashes where he stole the show. He turned heads in Colorado’s development camp, and now he’s set to be Yunost Minsk’s starter.

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