At around 3:30 today Bob McKenzie of TSN reported that several underagers (18/19 year olds drafted in either 2011 or 2012) would be staying with their NHL teams for their five game tryouts and potentially beyond. In a regular NHL season, underagers are allowed a nine game tryout in the NHL before the front offices of the respective NHL teams decide whether to keep the player at the NHL level for the full year, thus burning a year of the players entry level contract. The alternative would be sending the prospect back to juniors for the entirety of the season until after the prospects playoffs for his respective junior team. In this lockout shortened season the nine game tryout period has been reduced to only five games.
McKenzie tweeted at 3:19, “So looks like following underagers start season in NHL: Rakell (ANA), Hamilton (BOS), Yakupov (EDM), Huberdau (FLA)… Dumba (MIN), Galchenyuk (MTL), Matteau (NJD), Laguhton (PHI), Scheifele (WPG). If any plays 6 NHL games, bur year of contract.”
Rikard Rikell (6-2, 190lb. Right Wing): Rikell has had an impressive season this year with 30 points in 32 (62 in 60 last year) games for the Plymoth Whalers of the OHL before taking time off to go to Ufa to compete for the World Junior Championship for his native Sweden. As an alternate captain for the silver medal winning nation he chipped in with six assists in six games. Rikell has top line potential but is no stranger to his defensive end. His best offensive ability is his puck control where he shows the ability to dangle and use his 6-2 frame to protect the puck. With Getzlav and Perry trade rumors coming out of Anaheim daily, the Ducks are attempting to find out what they have in Rikell at the NHL level.
Dougie Hamilton (6-4, 187lb. Defender): A year after being named defensive player of the year in the OHL last year with 72 points (17 goals) in 49 games, he’s showed no signs of slowing down with 41 in 32 for the Niagra Ice Dogs. This past WJC was his second and he’s tallied 8 points in 12 games in the top junior competition in the world, although he struggled this year for team Canada (as did everyone on that team). Hamilton was taken the pick after Sean Couturier in the 2011 draft and he was the guy that I thought we would have wound up with at 9th overall, however we got lucky and Couturier fell in our laps. Dougie has nothing left to prove against armatures, as I’d bet on him playing with the Bruins for not only this full year but for many years to come. He’s apparently working with Denis Seidenberg for the B’s to start off the year
Nail Yakupov (5-11, 191lb. Right Wing): This one should be no surprise at all. The number one overall pick in this past years draft is a lock to play in Edmonton all year. His skating, shooting, creativity, energy, everything about his game is NHL ready. The thing that separated Yakupov from the other elite offensive prospects (other than the fact that he was the most explosive skater and had the best shot) in this past draft is that he brings the energy of a grinder to every shift. He captained Russia’s U-20 team in Ufa this past year, winning the bronze with 8 points in 7 games. He’s tallied 10 goals and 8 assists in 22 KHL games (the top league in the world after the NHL) during the lockout after having nothing left to prove in the OHL with a 69 points season last year in only 42 games. With Yakupov, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, Eberle and Justin Schultz, the Oilers are poised for their first playoff appearance in quite some time.
Jonathan Huberdau (6-1, 171lb. Left Wing): This kid is the real deal. His 30 points in 19 playoff games in his draft year (2011) in addition to winning the Memorial Cup MVP propelled him to being selected at 3rd overall. His 105 points in 67 games as a 17-year old (also his draft year) showed he didn’t have a lot left to prove in juniors although the Panthers let him develop one more year in the “Q”. Last year his 45 points in 30 games (and 21 more in 15 playoff games) guaranteed that he’ll get a look at the NHL this year. He had 9 points in the WJC this past year playing on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele where he really showed his ability to make highlight real plays and was fantastic with the puck in tight spaces. He impressed me more than Nugent-Hopkins from a skill standpoint and should continue to impress in Florida for years to come as he’s could be their first true superstar since Pavel Bure.
Matt Dumba (6-0, 173lbs. Defender): Going into the 2012 draft there were rumors that the Flyers were looking to move up to get a “North American defender.” Obviously that never happened and we ended up with Laughton, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Dumba was the Flyers target. Thank goodness he went to Minnesota at 7 opposed to Pittsburgh at 8, which would have been horrible. He’s rather small defender with tons of speed and a big time shot but what sets him apart is his ability to throw around his smaller 173lb. frame. Go to YouTube and type in his name, he’s a human highlight real from his bone crushing hits to his ability to lead the rush to his ability to finish. His leadership abilities are evident when he captained Canada’s U-18 team last year and scored 12 points including 5 goals in 7 games. I do not expect him to make the team this year, but come next fall or possibly even the fall of 2014 Dumba will be a stud for the Wild. He was far and away my favorite prospect in the 2012 draft.
Alex Galchenyuk (6-1, 199lb. Center): After a torn ACL last year in where he only played two pointless games, Galchenyuk was taken 3rd overall this past June in the 2012 draft. “Gally” set a torrid pace this year captaining the Sarnia Sting to the tune of 61 points in only 33 games and continued it for the US in Ufa, helping us to the gold medal with 8 points in 7 games. Head coach Phil Housley tends not to use 18-year-old as much as he did his 19-year olds, which hurt Gally’s ice time, but it didn’t stop him from being one of America’s top forwards and led many to question why the lack of ice time. Rumors about his name being printed on jersey’s already at the Bell Centre lead me to believe he’ll be with the club all season as a legitimate Calder contender. He’s got tremendous offensive ability with good hands and vision for an NHLer with the ability to finish. There are questions of his two-way play, but I dismiss them as I’ve liked what I’ve seen and heard from the young prospect.
Stefan Matteau (6-2, 210lb. Left Wing): I previewed him here as he is in the Atlantic Division. I do not think he’ll make the team but the kid comes from NHL bloodlines (his father was a notable Ranger) and a few games experience in the NHL will go a long way. As the 29th overall pick this past draft he hasn’t exactly dazzled with only 28 points in 35 games in the weakest of the junior leagues, he still comes from the prototypical Devil mold with his size, skating ability, and two-way play.
Scott Laughton (6-1, 190lb. Center): Laughton is profiled in the link in Stefan Matteau’s blurb above. I’ve said it in multiple posts so I don’t feel the need to repeat myself but unless Briere is out for an extended period of time or there is another significant injury I think the Flyers should do everything in their power to keep Laughton in juniors and his contract off the books for as long as possible (that would have his contract kick in for the 2014-15 season).
Mark Scheifele (6-3, 185lb. Center): In one of the more controversial picks in this past year’s entry draft, Mark Scheifele was taken by the Jets the pick before Sean Couturier and will now have to live up to the hype of being selected the pick before a future stud. Winnipeg fans are already upset with the decision and its not easy to tell why. Coots was a can’t miss, two-way stud who put up back-to-back 96 point junior seasons and was the first draft eligible player to lead the “Q” in scoring since Crosby. Scheifele’s 63 points in 47 games last year was okay but he’s really improved upon that with a 49 point onslaught in only 30 games this year in the Ontario league. He played on that top line for Canada at the WJC with “The Nuge” and Huberdeau and provided much of the physicality for the three. From a skill perspective, he was noticeably a few notches below the other two players on his line mates although he played the most physical game of any of the Canadian forwards. I don’t see true top line center abilities but I think he can be an above-average to good second line center. I think that his five game tryout will truly be a try-out in every sense of the word. If the Jets think they can make the playoffs this year, it wouldn’t shock me if they keep him up.
There is a fantastic crop of young talent coming into the NHL and this group of players should all be able to their NHL teams sooner rather than later.