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Prospects Report

Prospects Report: Opening Week

by McKeen's Hockey
Updated On: October 9, 2019, 1:32 pm ET

Welcome to the first of a weekly column exploring the world of hockey prospects. The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com. Our scouts/analysts are based around the world and in rinks reporting firsthand on both draft eligible players and NHL prospects ready to make an impact.

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2020 NHL Draft

European prospect

Sweden – Lucas Raymond

2019 Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists in eight games with Frolunda

If you score a hat trick (including the game winner) in a gold medal game on home ice as an underage player as Lucas Raymond did at the U18 WJC this spring - you’ve set the bar for high expectations in your draft year. This season Raymond is trying to find his way on a top SHL team (Frolunda). So far, he’s doing okay but hasn’t wowed yet with one goal and three points in eight games. He hasn’t taken control of games as he has done at the junior level and will with more confidence at the senior level.

Raymond is a scoring chance machine and a tremendous driver of offensive play. He’s creative and he processes the game at a high pace. He can find open passing lanes and can pause the play and control the pace as well at a level that few players can. His hands are as quick as his mind. He is kind of raw in that he doesn’t fit easily inside the box of how it is perceived that a good offensive player should play - he can make surprise moves that sometimes make you say ‘wow’, and other times make you question his commitment to team play. The upside of that is that he isn’t a guy who has a couple of favorite moves and tries them repeatedly, he’s truly a creative force. His goal scoring so far isn’t based on high percentage shooting but on high quantity shooting. He can shoot hard and fast while moving, but to become a 40-50 goal scorer in the NHL he’ll need to improve his shot precision.

Lucas Raymond has elite NHL forward potential and he will be a solid top five pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft. – Jimmy Hamrin, Sweden

North American prospect

OHL - Quinton Byfield

2019 Stats: 7 goals, 9 assists in seven games with Sudbury

When scouts throw the name Eric Lindros around as a comparison, you know that said player has to be pretty special. This is most definitely the case for Sudbury Wolves’ center Quinton Byfield. The 2019-20 season could not have started better for the potential top three selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. Through the first seven games of the OHL season, he leads the OHL with 16 points and has been a dominating force. This is, of course, fresh off of a Hlinka/Gretzky Cup silver medal performance while playing for Canada at the late summer tournament - a very important event in the NHL scouting calendar.

The Lindros comparisons draw from the fact that Byfield is 6-4”, 215 lbs and a man among boys in the Ontario Hockey League. While he may not possess the physical bravado that Lindros did, he is equally as difficult to pin down in the offensive zone. This is due to his size, skating, and skill combination. He is such an effortless, yet explosive mover whose elite agility and edgework allow him to be extremely elusive with the puck on his stick. But with his size and strength, he can also put defenders on his back and is very difficult to stop down low. Byfield also possesses terrific hockey sense and vision, with the ability to anticipate the play faster than his peers. On nearly every shift, he is simply dominating time of possession and driving the play for he and his linemates.

Because of his unique blend of size and skill, Byfield is bound to push Alexis Lafreniere for first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft and profiles as a franchise center in the NHL who can make an immediate impact on the score sheet as a rookie in 2020/21.  – Brock Otten, OHL

In the News/On the Rise

Victor Olofsson, RW (181st overall, 2014. McKeen’s rank: 6 Last Year: 7)

2019 Stats – 3 goals, 1 assist in three games with Buffalo

Olofsson took control of the narrative in training camp and played his way on to the top line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart showing chemistry in preseason. He opened the Sabres season in their home opener with a goal three minutes into the game and he and Reinhart would finish with two goals each. He added another goal in his second game, tying the score on the power play with a well placed one timer.

After firing 30 goals for the Americans last season (second among rookies) in the AHL and leading the SHL in scoring during the 2017-18 season with 27 goals (10 more than second place), he has demonstrated goal scoring ability at every level. His offensive upside will keep him on the line but his play away from the puck and skating will determine whether the promotion lasts. Reinhart and Eichel are both responsible defensively so do not require a lot more of him beyond his finishing ability. He has been playing against men for a few seasons now and the 24-year old has the maturity to deliver on the biggest stage.

‘For a player selected in the seventh round, Olofsson has defied the odds with his natural skill and hockey smarts. He is a gifted shooter and by far one of Buffalo’s top prospects. After spending several years playing professionally in Sweden in the SHL, he made his North American debut this past season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, leading the Amerks in scoring with 63 points in 66 games. After gaining momentum in the second half of the season he earned a successful call up to the Sabres where he managed four points in six games. Olofsson has a high ceiling and natural scoring ability, and I expect to see him play what is likely his last season in the AHL as a top six forward before earning a longer call up to the Sabres where he will most likely start as a bottom six attacker.’ – Shaiyena Cote, AHL, 2019-20 McKeen’s Yearbook

New Jersey

Top Prospect: Ty Smith, D (17th overall, 2018. McKeen’s rank:2 Last Year: 1)

2019 Stats – 3 goals, 3 assists in three games with Spokane

Once again narrowly missed appearing on the opening night roster for the New Jersey Devils – and returns to Spokane in the WHL. The organization would prefer he play in the AHL for further development, and be ready for an NHL call-up, but the CHL-NHL agreement does not allow him to play there before he turns 20. He will be unavailable for call up as a result and should allow him to dominate this season.

‘Smith finished off a strong season by winning the CHL’s Defenseman of the year award. He captained the Spokane Chiefs last season and put up seven goals and 62 assists in 57 games. He was close to making the Devils out of camp last season, and after spending another season back in Spokane, has matured and continued to fill out his frame, and should make another push towards making the NHL. Smith is a fabulous skating defender, who is extremely smart, and is able to move the puck with great poise and ease. He plays the type of game that should make his lack of traditional size a non-issue. He projects to be a top pairing defender, a smooth puck mover, and a smart power play quarterback.’ – Kevin Olexson, WHL

In the line-up:

Jesper Boqvist, C/LW (36th overall, 2017. McKeen’s rank: 4 Last Year: 3)

No points in one game with New Jersey

A healthy scratch for the first game of the season, he has since skated on a line with Pavel Zacha and newcomer Nikita Gusev, seeing 12:16 worth of action. He brings important elements to the middle six on a skilled New Jersey forward group and has the ability to complement in different roles.

‘A stand-out skater with nice hands. You can’t miss Boqvist if you watch a game where he plays. As for skating with the puck, you could almost see style similarities with elite talents like Jack Hughes or Connor McDavid. Boqvist doesn’t have their hockey sense or skillset, though. His senses and skills aren’t bad on the other hand, and he is an interesting middle six forward prospect with strong NHL potential for that role. He put up 35 points in 51 SHL games last year. He is a strong puck carrier and with zone entries. He still needs to work on his decision-making regarding when to carry or when to play or dump the puck, which makes him inconsistent. Boqvist wants to create and to make stuff happen and that is a good trait. He will have a chance to make the Devils this season and if he doesn’t, he will be back for another year in SHL.’ – Jimmy Hamrin, Sweden, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook.

Philadelphia

Top Prospect: Joel Farabee, LW (14th overall, 2018. McKeen’s Rank: 1 Last Year: 1)

Has yet to play in AHL

Farabee had a very strong training camp and looked like a good bet to make the opening night roster before being a late cut. While salary cap considerations were a factor, Flyers management felt more time developing in the AHL is perhaps what the 19-year old needs at this stage. He showed he could make an impact and an injury or two in the middle six could see him back in the NHL soon.

‘I might as well start with the negative. I would not have advised Farabee to turn pro after only one season at Boston University, as he is still slight and would have a harder time gaining muscle mass under the pro schedule than he would as a weekend warrior on campus. The upside is he could probably play in the top six for the Flyers right away and has the two-way game to mature into a rare Selke candidate from the wing within a few short years. Despite his lack of mass, he is strong. His offensive tools are high end. He was close to a point per game player as a freshman on a mediocre team and performed well as an 18-year-old in the WJC. A cerebral player, Farabee is a possession monster who can control the pace of the game better than many centers. He is an impact player even when he doesn’t score, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t score at a top six level in the NHL.’ – Ryan Wagman, USHL, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook.

In the line-up: Samuel Morin, D (11th overall, 2013. McKeen’s Rank: 14 Last Year: 17)

No stats with the Flyers

As a former 11th overall pick, the 6-7” 24-year old has been on the cusp for a while -making the team out of camp last season without appearing in a game before being sent down. He is on the roster again this year but has not appeared in a game yet. There is a spot on the team that is his to take but has missed significant time in recent years and may take time to establish himself as a regular.

‘Morin is a massive defenseman who moves very well despite his size. He is more of a stay at home blueliner who contributes best to the offence by forcing high turnovers or ensuring a solid pass to start the breakout. He is a potential contender for a top two defensive pairing with the Flyers. He will be starting up in the NHL this season as a defensive defenseman responsible for stopping plays before they develop and keeping players to the outside. It would be nice if he can up his offensive numbers in the future but not nearly as important as staying healthy, considering injuries have limited him to a combined 24 games over the previous two seasons. It will be key for Morin to assert his aggressiveness and presence early this season and to not second guess his decisions allowing him to start gaining momentum early.’ – Shaiyena Cote, AHL, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook.

Los Angeles

Top Prospect: Alex Turcotte, C (5th overall, 2019.McKeen’s rank:1 Last Year: Draft Eligible)

No stats with University of Wisconsin – season has yet to start

Starting his freshman season for the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA, Turcotte is a central building block of the Kings rebuild. He will not be available to the team until after Wisconsin’s season is done but could be ready for NHL action at that time – and a regular role the following season.

 ‘Despite missing a big chunk of the first half with a lower body injury, there was no doubt that Turcotte would be a top pick in this past June’s draft. The type of center whose success is partially attributed to near elite hockey IQ, he senses lanes of opportunity better, and more quickly than just about anyone in his age group. His puck skills are also at a very high level. He has a very sharp wrist shot with a lightning quick release and his hands are among the softest outside of the NHL, able to create havoc from in tight. Turcotte is a fantastically dynamic player when he rushes the net and, in fact, carries that dynamism with him for all assignments. He is a puck hound, constantly forcing turnovers and driving possession and scoring chance creation. He needs to beef up to help him increase his durability but has first line center upside and should be ready as soon as 2020-21.’ – Ryan Wagman, USHL, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook

In the Line-up: Tobias Bjornfot, D (22nd overall, 2019. McKeen’s Rank:2 Last Year: Draft eligible)

2019 Stats – 0 goals 0 assists in 1 game with Los Angeles

Signed an entry level contract in July and paired with Drew Doughty throughout training camp. Looked poised and positionally sound for an 18-year old defender new to North America – and drawing rave reviews from his partner. He played over 15 minutes in his first NHL game largely beside Doughty and matching up against the McDavid line. He is the fifth youngest player to play for the Kings in their history and the second youngest playing in the league right now. Of 2019 draftees he joins Jack Hughes (New Jersey), Kaapo Kakko (New York Rangers), Kirby Dach (Chicago) and Ville Heinola (Dallas) as the remaining roster players.

‘He is an active, smart defenseman who can play both progressive as well as conservative when needed. His puck skills are strong, and he rarely makes a bad play. His passing skills are also strong. He is physically strong for his age and moves well. He can push plays with his skating and be a dangerous fourth attacker. He can also shut down plays with strength and skating abilities. There aren’t any real flaws in his game. Bjornfot has a high probability top four potential and maybe even top pairing if his development curve continues to be strong. The concern that could keep him from the top pair is that his offensive numbers probably won’t be that high.’ – Jimmy Hamrin, Sweden, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook

Vancouver

Top Prospect: Vasili Podkolzin, RW (10th overall, 2019. Last Year: Draft Eligible)

2019 Stats – 0 goals, 0 assists in 10 games with St. Petersburg SKA

A highly touted prospect all season for the 2019 NHL Draft and a top three pick for many – the Canucks were thrilled to grab a potential foundational piece when he slipped to 10th overall. Started the season in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg but not seeing much ice time. Sent down to the VHL the 18-year old will see more ice time and development in that environment.

‘Podkolzin had a busy season last year, playing in three leagues, two world championships, and he lined up for team Russia on more than 30 occasions. He showed phenomenal talent in most of these games, imposing his game on the opposition with his technique and skating, and of course, scoring a lot. He is a potential franchise player for the Canucks. He plays hard and with fierce determination, but at the same time he is a disciplined player who can be incredibly dangerous when the game opens up and he can use his explosive first three or four steps. A fantastic goal scorer and overall complete player, Podkolzin is expected to move overseas once his entry-level KHL deal runs out in April 2021.’ – Alessandro Seren Rosso, Russia, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook

In the Line-up: Quinn Hughes, D (7th overall, 2018. Last Year: 2)

2019 Stats – 0 goals, 1 assist in two games with Vancouver

Third among defenders through two games this season in time on ice, receiving ample power play time. He is in the NHL to stay at this point on the rebuilding Canucks.

‘In a group with Cale Makar, Erik Brannstrom, and Bowen Byram as the best defensive prospects in hockey. Hughes is an electric skater and the ideal modern-day quarterback. His hands are as quick as his feet leading to dynamic play whenever he is on the ice. A great four-way skater, he also adds an element of unpredictability to the game, making him very tough to defend. Despite being undersized, he has learned to use his stick to come away with the puck from board battles. He will gamble occasionally when pressured at the point. Usually, thanks to his sublime skill level, he wins. When he loses, an odd-man rush will occur, although to his credit, he gets back very quickly. Hughes is ready for the NHL and can log heavy minutes and led the power play. He will have to prove that he can defend at the NHL level to avoid being protected, but he has star level talent.’ – Ryan Wagman, USHL, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook

McKeen's Hockey

McKeen’s Hockey has been writing about NHL hockey and covering prospects for 25 years. Our team of scouts and analysts are in rinks around the world providing insight into the NHL’s future at mckeenshockey.com.