We’ve now reached the top-10 in our 2015 Prospect Rankings. This particular column could be thought of as a review of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft as four of the five prospects in this group came from that draft class.
As we’ve done the last couple of years, the top-10 have been voted on by members of our HW writing staff while the remainder of the rankings were done by yours truly. Here are the criteria that each player had to meet to be eligible to be in these rankings:
1) The player must be 24 years old or younger as of October 1, 2015
2) The player must have no greater than 50 games of NHL experience (including regular season and playoffs)
3) The player cannot be signed to an AHL contract
Here are the departures from last year’s list (in alphabetical order):
Graduated: Nathan Beaulieu (NHL GP), Mike Condon (age), Magnus Nygren (age), Greg Pateryn (age), Maxim Trunev (age)
Released: Josiah Didier – he signed an AHL deal but Montreal has relinquished his NHL rights
Traded: Patrick Holland, Jack Nevins, Jiri Sekac
Included with each ranking is an estimate of each prospects’ NHL readiness date. For some players, the estimate is a specific season while others whose projected development paths are harder to determine will be in a range.
#10) Artturi Lehkonen
Left Wing/Centre, Frolunda (SHL)
2nd round pick (55th overall) in 2013
2014-15 was an up-and-down season for Lehkonen. An offseason bout with mono cost him time in Montreal’s development camp although it didn’t stop him from getting off to a good start with his new team in a new league. However, he slowed down in mid-November (pointless in 19 straight games spanning three months) and didn’t perform to his high expectations at the World Juniors. Come playoff time though, Lehkonen came back to life, finishing second in team scoring.
An interesting development in the early going this season is that Frolunda is experimenting with him as a centre. Although he’s a bit undersized for the position, his skill set makes him a good fit to play down the middle as his playmaking skills are strong while his defensive game has shown improvement. On the downside, moving him over has dropped him down a bit in the lineup although there is plenty of time for that to change. In the early going this season, Lehkonen has become more of an offensive threat, a trend that should continue throughout the year.
2014-15 Stats: 47 GP, 8-8-16, +18 rating, 12 PIMS, 72 shots, 13 hits, 19 blocks, 13:30 ATOI
Previous HW Ranking: 7th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 11th
NHL ETA: 2017-18/2018-19 – It’s expected that Lehkonen will come to North America for next season but despite playing the last four seasons in pro leagues, an adjustment period will be required. Once he’s in the AHL, he could be one to move through the system quickly. Continuing to bulk up would go a long way in accelerating his timeline.
#9) Martin Reway
Left Wing, Sparta Praha (Czech Extraliga)
4th round pick (116th overall) in 2013
His decision to leave the junior ranks to play professionally overseas was a controversial one (and one that the Habs reportedly weren’t all that thrilled about). However, it’s hard to say it was a bad call as he averaged more than a point-per-game and quickly became a top line threat. He also was a dominant player at the World Juniors. All that said, there is still a lot of negativity surrounding Reway.
He has a well-earned reputation for clashing with his coaches at all levels and his surprising omission from Slovakia’s World Championship entry appears to be another of those despite their official reasoning suggesting he wasn’t feeling well. His decision to go on vacation during Montreal’s offseason development camp also rubbed many the wrong way. And, of course, his size (5’8 or 5’9 depending on the source) is cause for concern in itself.
Reway’s on-ice play also opens himself up to some questions. There are times where he tries to take over the game by himself and while he has some defensive skills, his willingness to use those wavers from shift to shift. However, you can’t deny his offensive talent which is among the best in the organization. Truthfully, there is a case to be made that he has the most pure offensive skill of any Montreal prospect which is what got him into the top-10 on our list this year.
2014-15 Stats: 34 GP, 9-28-37, -3 rating, 54 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 11th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 10th
NHL ETA: 2016-17/2017-18 – Assuming he’s willing to cross the pond once again (and I’m not sure that’s a guarantee at this point) after his contract expires following this season, Reway will probably have to spend a bit of time in the minors unless he blows the team away at training camp. With his offensive skills, him doing that wouldn’t really surprise me all that much though he’ll need to be more dedicated to two-way play than he is now for that to happen.
#8) Sven Andrighetto
Right Wing, Hamilton (AHL)
3rd round pick (86th overall) in 2013
Sometimes the challenge for young players is simply to duplicate a strong freshman season let alone improve upon it. That was my expectation for Andrighetto last season and that’s what he provided, very similar play to his rookie year. He also held his own in a stint with the Habs and wound up playing all three forward positions at times as well.
Despite being undersized, Andrighetto is more of a stocky player that can take a hit and keep going. His playmaking skills are underrated while he’s a good enough shooter to be a threat as well. Despite that, I question whether or not those will be enough for him to be a successful top six forward in the NHL as his own-zone play isn’t good enough yet.
His early-season line in the minors has him with two quality defensive forwards so Andrighetto should be put into some situations where he can work on that side of his game. If he can improve there, he could conceivably fit on Montreal’s two-way third line in the not-too-distant future.
2014-15 Stats: 60 GP, 14-29-43, -6 rating, 42 PIMS, 155 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 8th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 6th
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – He currently appears to be one of the top recall options should there be injuries up front with Montreal. Accordingly, Andrighetto should get a look or two at some point this season and strong play could force their hand to keep him. If not, he has to clear waivers next year so at this point next season, he should either be on the Canadiens’ opening roster or in a different organization on their opening roster.
#7) Jarred Tinordi
Defence, Hamilton (AHL)
1st round pick (22nd overall) in 2010
Although 2014-15 got off to a good start for the hulking blueliner (he made the Canadiens out of camp), it was pretty much downhill from there. When he was in Montreal’s lineup, Tinordi struggled with his confidence which led to a lot of mistakes. He was better in Hamilton where he was a top four defenceman but for a player in his third full pro season, he was nowhere near the impact player he should have been for a player in his situation.
Of all the writer-voted rankings, Tinordi’s was the most polarizing. Four had him inside their top-5, four others had him outside the top-10 entirely. Some still expect him to be a core piece in the near future, others think of him as a bust already.
Because of his waiver situation, Tinordi is a largely undeserving member of the Habs this season which is a good thing and a bad thing. While he’ll benefit from practicing against NHL’ers, he’s rarely going to play barring injury. If he’s willing to take some conditioning stints, that will get him into at least some game action which could help (or hurt) his case for NHL playing time.
2014-15 Stats: 44 GP, 1-6-7, +9 rating, 36 PIMS, 53 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 2nd
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 7th
NHL ETA: 2015-16 – Considering that he’s up now and not likely to clear waivers, this one is somewhat easy. That said, it will take longer for him to become any sort of regular or even an impact player, if he does at all. The Habs have the time and the cap space to be patient with Tinordi so he may still get that chance with the Canadiens. He’ll just have to wait a while to get it.
#6) Zach Fucale
Goaltender, Rimouski/Quebec (QMJHL)
2nd round pick (36th overall) in 2013
Fucale, like Tinordi, is a prospect where there is a large discrepancy in perceived potential. Some still view him as a starting goalie in the NHL in the future. Others think he’s more of a backup type. Others have doubts he’ll even make the NHL.
Last season provided arguments for all three. There were moments when Fucale stole some games. On the flip side, he cost his teams a few as well. And in between, there was a whole lot of mediocrity. What was somewhat encouraging was Fucale’s postseason performance…once he regained the starters’ role. He didn’t have to steal a lot of games but he wasn’t costing the Remparts greatly either while his numbers were much closer to seasons past.
For 2015-16, his playing time is still largely in question. While he starts the season as the #2 with St. John’s, he likely isn’t going to play a whole lot behind Dustin Tokarski. If Montreal’s management wants him to play more, he may be spending some time in the ECHL.
2014-15 Stats: 41 GP, 21-17-2 record, 3.20 GAA, .885 SV%, 3 SO
Previous HW Ranking: 5th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 8th
NHL ETA: 2017-18/2018-19 – Regardless of how much playing time he gets this year, Fucale is very much a long-term project. He has four years of waiver exemption and could conceivably take advantage of all of them as even if he is ready to be an NHL backup in three years, the preference may be for him to play a #1 role on the farm as long as he can. It’ll be a while before he’s in a Montreal uniform.