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Blue Jackets top 20 prospects

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  • Blue Jackets top 20 prospects

    1. Alexandre Texier LW, 20 - In his second SM Liiga season he led KalPa in scoring and corsi while playing 16:59 per game, good for fourth on his team among forwards (most for LW). He has so many different high-end offensive tools it is almost uncanny

    First and foremost, his vision and passing abilities are elite. He finds lanes and makes plays that very few players would see, and even fewer would be able to execute with pinpoint precision, velocity and timing. He's an excellent skater and brilliantly deceptive when attacking defenders. Beats goalies clean with his shot in both Liiga and AHL (twice in just seven games).

    Effective on the forecheck, as much because of his hockey IQ as his speed. Good body and stick positioning, and again deception - he makes them think he's going left, but then he goes right. Incredible maturity, confidence and poise for a player his age.

    For KalPa he shifted between the right point and halfwall on the powerplay, and one can see why - he knows how to operate at high levels from both positions, and sliding back and forth creates confusion for opposing PKers. From the point he is sneaky at creating screens with his movement and gets shots through with perfect placement. And from the sideboards he found a few absolutely ridiculous seam passes in the highlight packs I watched.

    The only concern - and it is a big one - is that he scores very few goals from the dirty areas in front of the net. But when all of the skills are there to be an elite NHL scorer, that problem is very fixable, as long as he has the willingness and develops the strength (Jarmo said he gained ten pounds this summer). Given what I've seen in interviews and what Torts and Jarmo have said about his demeanor, work ethic and desire, I'm optimistic.

    Upside is a world-class offensive weapon who makes players around him better, creates something out of nothing, and is a fixture on the highlight reels. NHL-ready 2019.

    2. Emil Bemström W, 20 - Led the SHL in goal-scoring as a 19 year old rookie, playing just 13:46 per game. There are some reasons for caution with this prospect. He played for one of the best and deepest teams in the SHL, and their coach did an excellent job of optimizing his usage. He played mostly on the third line at even strength, which sheltered him from opponents' best players - that said, yes, Bemström is good enough that he was often able to victimize those lower line players. However, he also had the worst corsi on the team among regular forwards.

    While he was sheltered at even strength, he played on the top powerplay with some very good players. Ten of his 23 goals came with the man advantage, and most were the same one-timer from the left high slot (as well as some assists off rebounds). Credit where credit is due though - he has a real knack for slipping into those open spaces/seams unnoticed, and he has a hard, accurate one-timer - a skillset that is very translatable to the NHL. He also gets to the net in traffic and had some goals off rebounds, scrambles and tips in front.

    I'm not particularly enthused with his stick skills, and would have liked to see him beat some pro goalies clean with his shot. But considering that's not how most NHL goals are scored anyway, the fact that he scores the "right way" suggests his game should translate well to the NHL, it just might not be as high end as a lot of people are expecting without those extra goals that elite players can create out of nothing.

    Projects as a 16-19 minute goal-scoring winger and powerplay specialist. NHL-ready 2020.

    3. Liam Foudy C/LW, 19 - Has a lethal combination of high-end stick skills and puck protection capability. Exceptional skater, especially his first few steps. Excellent passing and vision; makes plays at high speeds. Silky smooth hands on breakaways. Seems perfectly competent defensively at the junior level from what little I've seen. Ceilling is a 17-20 minute offensive forward who should be able to play both center and wing at the NHL level.

    4. Danil Tarasov G, 20 - From MHL to VHL he's always been the best, or at least top three, goalie in his age group. 6'5 frame bodes well for NHL adaptability. Could be a very good starting goalie. NHL-ready 2022.

    5. Elvis Merzlikins G, 25 - Barely makes the cutoff for eligibility. Regarded as one of the best goalies outside of the NHL, he has played a key role in leading Latvian hockey to respectability on the international stage. Looks like he'll go straight to the NHL this year and back up Korpisalo.

    6. Andrew Peeke D, 21 - Has developed into a well rounded defenseman over three years in college, and finally added a bit of offense to his game last year. Projects as a 20-23 minute defensive defenseman and penalty killer. NHL-ready 2021.

    7. Krill Marchenko W, 19 - Has never been dominant in Russia at any level, but has been a top player in international competition, and his size and skillset project well to the NHL. Could be an 15-18 minute goal-scoring winger if he learns how to and is willing to use his size.

    8. Vladislav Gavrikov D, 23 - Has been one of the top defensemen in his age group in the KHL for the past two years. Third on his team in ice time last year in the world's second best league.

    9. Tim Berni D, 19 - Technically he did play regularly in the NLA at 18, but that would be generous use of the term "regularly." He was ninth among ZSC defensemen at 10:24 per game. Through two games so far this year he's fourth on the team among defensemen, at 18:20. Making good progress for a sixth round pick.

    10. Veini Vehvilläinen G, 22 - Has been arguably the best goalie in SM Liiga for the past two seasons now. I'd be surprised if he develops into a high end goalie at the NHL level, but could very well end up a 20-35 game guy.

    11. Dmitri Voronkov LW, 19 - Put up absurd numbers in the U18 league at 17 and then skipped the MHL and went straight to a depth role in VHL. Definitely a project but might have some upside, just tough to say at this point.

    12. Kevin Stenlund C, 23 - Impressive size and has steadily improved every year.

    13. Marcus Karlberg RW, 19 - Another long-term, longshot project at 5'8. But his offensive pedigree at every junior level in Sweden is intriguing.

    14. Eric Robinson LW, 24 - The way he has shown gradual but marked progression every single year since going undrafted in 2013 is pretty impressive and bodes well.

    15. Eric Hjorth D, 18 - I know there's a lot of hesitation about this prospect because he missed almost all of last season and has yet to play at any high level of junior hockey. But he was always among the best defensemen in his age group at lower levels, and he has NHL-potential size and skating.

    16. Trey Fix-Wolansky RW, 20 - Difficult not to be impressed by the fact that he scored 40 more points than his next best teammate for the Oil Kings last year. But he's 5'7.

    17. Kale Howarth LW, 22

    18. Gabriel Carlsson D, 22 - Looks like probably a bust at this point, but could still develop into an NHL depth defenseman.

    19. Carson Meyer RW, 22

    20. Tyler Angle C, 18

    Was really tough to sort out that top three, and I had to go deeper than I have on other lists, looking up more stats and watching a lot of video. I like Foudy's upside better than Bemström's, but Bemström is proven at the much higher level.

    It's interesting how opposite Texier and Bemström are to eachother. Texier has all kinds of elite skills but is a perimeter player, which raises questions about NHL translatability. Bemström does a lot of things well, but only a couple things elite, but he does go to the net and score a lot in traffic, which translates very well to the NHL.

    I was just thinking, with the way he puts himself in open areas, and with his devastating one-timer from the left side, combined with Texier's ability to find seams from the right halfwall on the PP, and also the way Texier skates around with the puck on the outside and then throws it on net just as a linemate slips into an opening for a tip or rebound, combined with Bemström's willingness to go to the net, his soft hands in tight, and ability to find those openings in front, those two could be a categorically perfect fit together.

  • #2
    Another perfect list. I have no qualms with any of the players or their positions.