Wheels up

Ranking the 30 Rshl prospect pools. #25-22

Here we are for the second installment of the RSHL top prospect pools.  I won't rehash the criteria but I will say I did miss Suzuki on the Islanders.  That certainly would have pushed them out of the basement tier and into the next level but we can't look back now, he will just have to live with my harsh judgement of his prospect pool.  The next group of teams have one or two top talents but struggle with the overall depth to replace and back fill roles as players start aging out.  There is a chance to always trade and add guys but everyone has to rebuild eventually but hopefully none last as long as the 22 year rebuild the Coyotes have been going through at the NHL level.  This section hosts another group of perennial contenders with the Canadeins, Sharks, Oilers and Blue Jackets.

  1. San Jose Sharks are blessed with a complete and explosive roster.  They have talented high-end players at every position so much so that 1st overall pick Rasmus Dahlin is playing on a sheltered 3rd pairing role.  The roster boasts some elite talent like Crosby and Mackinnon and the pair of them are able to dominate games seemingly at will.  San Jose is a long ways from Cole Harbour but the boys are happy to be on the coast together and looking to get a championship this year.  Despite so much of their talent being in their prime the Sharks land at 25 on this list with a couple of significant blue line assets leading their prospect pool… well that's really it just these two guys but I like them both a lot.  I rank these two behind Edmonton just because I have Pettersson slightly ahead of Dahlin and Romanov and Dobson as pretty much dead heat.

    Top Prospects:
  1. Rasmus Dahlin is one of the more cerebral defenders out there right now.  A combination of injuries and being on the NHL Sabres has his woefully underrated.  He is an attacking wizard from the blue line and has had to play tough match ups right away.  Guys like Hughes and Makar have been insulated by already deep blue lines but Rasmus has been out on an island.  He is an elite skater, passer and playmaker and does it while playing on a team that doesn't deserve him in the NHL.  His ratings will be suppressed a bit until something changes but I expect his production to increase year over year and reach near point per game status in the next couple of seasons.
  2. Noah Dobson is the perfect complement to a defender like Dahlin.  He is a strong punishing and powerful defender that has solid vision and puck moving skills.  His wheels are slow compared to Dahlin but he is above average for the pro game.  He is the ideal right shot compliment and is capable of contributing offensively as well.
  1. Edmonton is a roster that is the envy of the league.  Conner McDavid, Artemi Panarin, and Mitch Marner are three of the top 10 forwards in the league.  That a guy like Pettersson is nothing more than a depth piece this season shows how deep and strong the line up is.  There isn't much depth here but when you are spending assets to keep the window open and adding Hellebuyck last year via trade it is to be expected.  There are two very foundational pieces that we consider as prospects for Edmonton.

    Top Prospects:
  1. Elias Pettersson is one of the more dynamic players in the pro game right now.  He struggled with injuries this season which is why he still slots in as a prospect but when he is going he is elite.  His combination of puck skills and speed make him a nightmare to defend and while he is small in size he doesn't hide from the center of the ice.  His finishing ability is another underrated quality.  We have Pettersson 3 on our list behind Makar and Svechnikov as the top prospects in the RSHL and that sort of pedigree keeps this thin group of the bottom tier.
  2. Alex Romanov has a big World Jr after a solid U-20 season in the KHL.  He brings a hard hitting, aggressive style of game to the blue line where is polishing some of his offensive tools.  He may never quarterback a powerplay but his style of game and overall ability have him pegged to be a middle pairing defender that can be on the ice in any situation.  A expanded role in the future NHL roster will make him a valuable RSHL asset this season and beyond.. 
  1. Tampa Bay Lightning are a team that seem to have some found money in terms of future goalies and defenders.  While they don't have any elite forward talent in the prospect pool Nico Hischier (included because of injury last year) sits as their top prospect.  The roster already boasts some of the best young goaltending prospects and their blueline has some hopeful candidates as well.  They don't have enough here to become a team that outscores you but they do have several contributors who should strengthen the middle of the line up down the road.  Guys like Simek, Walman and Ryan should continue to grow although they may never be more than bottom pairing guys.

    Top Prospect:
  1. Nico HIscher has had some injury issues which is why he was able to qualify for the list. He is a cerebral passer and has shown why many thought he should go first overall in his draft year.  The young Swiss player is has the skill and hands to be a dangerous puck handler.  He has elite vision and as he is surrounded with more talent in the NHL his production should grow for seasons to come. 
  2. Alex Georgiev has established himself as a capable back up.  Granted his age makes him the oldest guy I have considered a prospect but that is more because of the depth of the crease in Tampa.  Binnington and Reimer ahead of him he is a high end trade chip at worst and a future number one at best.
  3. Jeremy Swayman looks to have a back up job locked up in the NHL this season.  Good honest work behind a solid Bruins line up that should keep his stats nice and high.  Another player that is going to get some opportunity to play some games.  As Rask ages another year there will come a time when Boston moves to the crease over to a younger guy and Swayman is a guy that can take that role over permanently.
  4. Dan Vladar was moved to Calgary to solidify the crease in the NHL for next season which is an ideal spot for him.  The 6'5 puck stopper has good agility and is highly competitive which has enabled him to be successful in 3 leagues las season even if his stats in the NHL don't jump off the page.  Getting a controlled number of starts for a season or two could make him a very valuable asset as crease positions rarely align with guys under 25.
  5. Ty Kleven is a mammoth sized defender who play a solid defensive game.  He manages gaps and spacing well while also controlling key areas like along the wall, or in front of his own net.  He has some offensive upside because he has a rocket of a point shot and one timer.  Few players from the blue line ever has more goals than assists from the blue line but Kleven did so at the UND where they have a great history of developing solid two way defenders.
  1. Montreal Canadiens have a competitive and balanced roster.  They have 23-25 year old players coming up at every position that I don't consider prospects any more but would have a season ago.  This graduation rate show progress.  This isn't a system devoid of talent though.  A few top picks that haven't quite hit their stride yet highlight their top end.  There has been some big swings in terms of prospects over the past years but the prospect list is starting to look a bit like a scrap heap rather than providing the pro roster some shiny new players.  There is not a lot of depth behind those on the farm today.  Top picks like Conner Bleackley, Mason Macdonald, Ryan Spooner, Mario Lucia and Marco Dano just haven't ever seemed to hit their stride.  Is it all on the players or does the franchise bear a bit of responsibility for not turning these potential players into something more than they are now.

    Top Prospects:
  1. Thomas Harley is a top 4 defender that oozes confidence with the puck. He is a transition monster with zone exits and entries coming a variety of ways.  He uses good vision and passing skills while also not being scared to log the puck up the ice on his own if there is a lane.  He has a good frame and with high end mobility that makes him an offensive threat even when playing a more two-way role.  He truly is a top talent that helps change the direction of the blue for the better in Montreal as early as next season.
  2. Filip Zadina is a burner.  Feet, footwork, edges, acceleration, agility are all off the chart with this kid, however the offense isn't coming like it did in Junior.  There is also some concerns that because he is pre-Yzerman in Detriot he will be passed on the depth chart by a number of players drafted by the new regime.   At 21 he isn't dead to rights by any means but this is a huge season for him to show he is part of the long term solution for the RSHL Canadeins winger support for elite forward Leon Draisaitl
  3. Olli Juolevi is an example of how development is not linear.  He lags significantly behind the production and value of those he was drafted around.  Keller and Thachuk being selected right after him while defenders like CHychrun and McAvoy taken after him make him look like a bust.  His game is coming though and while he may never reach the heights of his top 5 selection he certainly looks like a lock for minutes this year at the NHL level. 
  4. Kaedan Korczak is a gem of a prospect who's offensive game from the blue line has really taken off since his draft year.  He got some pro experience last season before returning to Junior hockey for the WHL's return to play.  He was an impressive +9 in 11 games which is not typical for 20 year defenders in the AHL.  He is a nice combination of size feistiness and skill, where he uses his 6'4 frame and 200 pound body to punish opponents and make them pay.
  5. Conner Bleackley is a retread of a retread.  Drafted in the first round he was expected to be a solid 3C but some commitment issues and lack of focus derailed his production in his last seasons of junior.  When the pro game came calling he was shocked that he couldn't just skill past the players an quickly found himself unsigned then redraft in the AHL.  He has been in limbo between ECHL and AHL since he left junior and looks a long shot to ever contribute to an RSHL roster.  He does have great hair though.

Perennial contenders usually end up in the bottom 3rd of the league when it comes to prospects.  Teams that are focused on winning now tend to have less depth and overall talent in their prospect pool via trade or later picks.  A quick review of our list shows that is playing out in the RSHL as well.  At this point 5 of the top 6 teams from last season's standings are off the board with the Canucks and Blue Jackets still remaining.  As we approach the middle third the pools will often have more than 5 propsects of note and so I may include them, especially if the depth is a big reason for their ranking.  I might do a deep dive on the top 10 prospect pools when I get there which.  Also as for the comments and banter on the boards I just want to say we at the Athletic have very thick skin and won't bruise from a few people challenging us.  It's meant to be fun and a way to distract from Covid, no hockey and the Bill's crumbling under expectations in the NFL.  Wheel's up on another addition of Wheel's Up RSHL Prospect Poll Rankings.

Your Call

Another excellent article. I hope we can keep the responses on point and polite, not defensive and overly sensitive to being a struggling “fantasy GM”

Great read!!

Well done

Another awesome read! Keep up the great work

Very nice!

Another good one. The longer it takes to seem my team the better.

6 cups between these 4 franchises, no wonder they’re at the bottom end. Would you trade futures for a guaranteed cup?

Interesting observation ^^

Interesting observation ^^

Will you be doing a best team/roster now kinda article? Curious to see where some of these teams land

Cut the guy some slack… he’s been releasing stellar articles and lots of them… now asking for more?

let him get through the current topic at least..

Like I said before my focus is prospects and players outside the NHL. There is plenty of great writers who fill other roles out there that will be churning out content soon enough as the season starts up. I look forward to reading some other work.


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