analysis Prospect Rankings

2019 Trade Deadline – Top Prospects

The 2019 Trade Deadline came and went, with multiple prospects exchanged between clubs. Here, I breakdown the top 15 prospects moved in deals in lead up to February 25th, with thoughts on their skill sets and what impact you may expect out of them in the future. Starting with the biggest prize in the biggest trade of the day:

1. D Erik Brännström – Acquired by Ottawa from Vegas

I raved about this kid in my recap from this year’s World Junior Championship. Brännström is one of the very best defense prospects in the entire NHL, and his stock has only risen since his draft year. What Brännström brings from the back end is elite mobility, puck skills, and offensive awareness, as he loves to play the role of a rover and jump into the offensive zone to create scoring opportunities. He’s a constant threat, and by my view, he’s destined to become one of the better offensive defensemen in the NHL. Getting Brännström in the Mark Stone deal was a massive get by Pierre Dorion to continue Ottawa’s rebuild.

2. C/W Ryan Donato – Acquired by Minnesota from Boston

Donato is a player that’s really won me over the past year or so. He didn’t quite get a consistent opportunity in Boston’s top 6 this year, but so far with Minnesota, he’s seizing that opportunity with 6 points in his first 4 games with the Wild. He’s an incredibly smart player and shows a great amount of versatility with his ability to play all three forward positions, and I really like his abilities as a goal scorer. By my view, he was USA’s best player at the PyeongChang Olympics and I see him becoming a consistent top 6 contributor in Minnesota for a long time. If I’m being honest, I’m higher on Donato now than I ever was on Charlie Coyle. Love that trade for Minnesota.

3. RW Vitaly Abramov – Acquired by Ottawa from Columbus

Abramov is a player I’ve long been a fan of. He’s an incredibly skilled winger who absolutely lit up the QMJHL in his three season stint there with 301 points in just 185 games, and he’s held his own thus far during his first pro season in the American Hockey League despite playing a lesser role for Cleveland. With his skill level, smarts, and a proper opportunity in Belleville, I think Abramov can eventually blossom into a top 6 option for the Senators in the NHL. He’s a player that I thought was worth a 1st Round pick in 2016, and I haven’t moved off that position.

4. LW Jonathan Dahlen – Acquired by San Jose from Vancouver

Dahlen I was surprised to see moved by the Canucks because he seems like the exact type of player they’ve been fishing for along the wings with NHL stopgaps like Reid Boucher and Josh Leivo. Dahlen is a pure goal scorer who has produced at just about every level he’s played, and he owns a good amount of skill on the puck. His skating is just okay which may limit his potential down the road, but by my view, he seems like the perfect player to plug into your powerplay where ever you can fit him. He possesses a good shot and he’s willing to drive to the net as well, which can make him both effective as a shooter from the outside or a player below the dots in a powerplay formation. I like Dahlen a lot and look forward to seeing how he does with San Jose.

5. LW Carl Grundstrom – Acquired by Los Angeles from Toronto

Grundstrom has become a very solid pro player at both the professional level in Sweden and in the American League and should get a good opportunity with the Kings as they look to retool. He’s a bull on the puck as he has great strength and protection skills, and he’s unafraid to play the front of the net to bang home goals from in close. He has some underrated hands as well as he can make the occasional flashy play, though this certainly isn’t the calling card to his game. He’s the perfect player for the “low ceiling, high floor” delineation, as I see him topping out as a good 3rd liner at the NHL level that can dual function on a 2nd powerplay unit. He’s going to play, I don’t have any doubt about that.

6. D Brendan Guhle – Acquired by Anaheim from Buffalo

Guhle I think has a limited ceiling, but he has a definite chance to play in the NHL as he continues to mature at the AHL level. He’s an excellent skater and has remarkable mobility which allows him to effectively defend and move the puck out of his own zone, which gives him very good two-way potential. My question marks with Guhle are with how high his offensive ceiling, as I find his hands to be just average and he doesn’t seem like a risk taker in the offensive zone. He’s going to make it because of his mobility and poise, but I don’t think I see him going any higher than a #4 on a contender’s blue line.

7. D Sean Durzi – Acquired by Los Angeles from Toronto

Durzi is a puck-moving defenseman, though he earns that distinction based on his passing ability and vision more so than his skating ability. For a smaller defenseman, he’s just an okay skater with average top speed and above average agility, but he makes up for it with his high-end passing ability. Very effective as a powerplay specialist and can often thread the needle to teammates in the slot or find a pass through the seam for a one-timer. Projects mostly as a third pair, powerplay specialist for me, but that could change if he can improve his skating ability.

8. RW/C Nic Petan – Acquired by Toronto from Winnipeg

Petan I’ve been a fan of since his days in junior, where he was among the most dangerous players in the entirety of the WHL during his time there and also put together excellent tournaments for Canada at the World Juniors in 2014 and 2015. He’s always gotten by on his skill and vision which has made him an excellent playmaker at both the junior and AHL level, though he hasn’t quite gotten the chance to show it at the NHL level with Winnipeg. Petan reminds me quite a bit of another current Maple Leaf – Tyler Ennis, who has been able to carve himself out a role as a hard-working skill guy in Toronto’s bottom 6. I believe with the proper opportunity, Petan could do the same and become a good, cost-controlled asset for the Leafs depth chart.

9. RW Jonathan Davidsson – Acquired by Ottawa from Columbus

Davidsson was an intriguing get for the Senators in the Matt Duchene trade, and while I don’t see a high-end ceiling for him, there is reason for Sens fans to see this guy as a future player. Davidsson has become a good pro over in Sweden while playing for Djurgårdens as he produces at around a 2nd line rate in the SHL. His best asset is his skating ability as he has very good speed and is effective at using his feet to push defenders back and gain zone entries. I don’t love his puck skills, but they’re above average and good enough to the point where I can see him making his way to the Senators as an effective player on their 3rd or 4th line.

10. C Linus Karlsson – Acquired by Vancouver from San Jose

To be honest, I don’t really understand the swap of Dahlen for Karlsson by the Canucks.  Canucks GM Jim Benning cited this is one of the main reasons for the swap:

That comment perplexes me because Karlsson isn’t much of a burner either. His skating I would say is about average, but in comparison to Dahlen his skill and raw offensive talent aren’t quite up to snuff. Karlsson’s skill level and smarts are adequate and he can make plays at the 2nd tier pro level in Sweden, so maybe he can eventually carve his way into a depth role with the Canucks. It confuses me giving up on a guy like Dahlen for just Karlsson one-for-one, however.

11. LW Dominik Kubalik – Acquired by Chicago from Los Angeles

Kubalik has become a regular point-per-game player in Europe over the past few years, spending time in both the Czech and Swiss pro leagues since leaving Kitchener and the OHL. He has a pretty complete package of assets that, while not high-end, encourage me that he could reliably become a 3rd liner at the NHL level. The reason he’s a bit lower on this list is two-fold: he’ll be 24 at the start of the 2019-20 season, and he hasn’t yet shown any commitment to coming over to North America at some point, which I’m assuming was the impetus for the Kings moving him for a minor asset.

12. LW Brendan Lemieux – Acquired by NY Rangers from Winnipeg

Lemieux, like Petan previously, I included on this list despite having some previous NHL experience in large part because of a lack of true opportunity. Brendan is not too unlike his father Claude, as he’s a very physical player and relishes playing the role of pest while he’s on the ice. He never shies away from finishing his checks and he’s incredibly hard-nosed both below the dots and in front of the net. His skill level will likely prevent him from ever carving out a role higher in the lineup, but he should be able to solidify himself as a good 4th line option with the Rangers.

13. G Anthony Stolarz – Acquired by Edmonton from Philadelphia

Stolarz is already 25, which makes him a bit harder to place on a prospects list, but there are some aspects of his game that I think make him worth mentioning. For starters, he’s a massive netminder at 6’6″ which will not look too dissimilar to Oilers fans in comparison to their 6’7″ starter in Mikko Koskinen. He has some good athleticism and his positional play is generally sound. He’s had mixed results at both the NHL and AHL level, but he has an opportunity to carve his way into a stable backup role with Edmonton.

14. LW Adam Helewka – Acquired by Nashville from Arizona

Helewka was picked up by the Predators from Arizona for Emil Pettersson, and by my judgment that was a shrewd upgrade by Nashville for their AHL depth. Helewka is a very good playmaker and has shown so at the AHL level while playing for San Jose and Tucson since leaving the WHL. He has good vision and puck skills which makes him valuable on the powerplay, however his skating leaves much to be desired. He has an outside chance of making his way into a depth NHL role just based on skill alone.

15. RW Cliff Pu – Acquired by Florida from Carolina

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Pu and was surprised to see him be one of the centerpieces of the Jeff Skinner trade. His best asset is his skating ability and he has very good speed, though I really question his skill level and I don’t see him ever becoming a reliable offensive option at the pro level. He can skate, he works hard, and generally makes smart plays on the puck which could maybe lead to a minor depth role, but I’m not terribly optimistic. Worth the flier by the Panthers picking him up for Future Considerations, but his status as a real prospect is waning.

Others: D Julius Bergman (NYR from CBJ, OTT), C Emil Pettersson (ARZ from NSH), D Darren Raddysh (NYR from CHI)

These three I don’t see much in terms of potential NHL upside, but all three can provide some capable AHL depth. Bergman and Raddysh, a pair of defensemen acquired by the Rangers, are both right shot defenders with decent skating ability who won’t bring much in terms of offensive production at the pro level. Both will likely serve as depth pieces in Hartford, though it’s unclear at this point if Bergman will head back overseas to play for Frölunda. Emil Pettersson is the older brother of Canucks rookie sensation Elias Pettersson, but doesn’t quite have the same upside, to say the least. He is skilled and can make some plays with the puck on his stick, but he’s a below average skater which will prevent him from becoming more than an AHL option in Tucson.

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