We’ve heard all about the star players that changed teams at the NHL trade deadline, but in return, a number of prospects switched organizations and now, to varying degrees, will be counted on to contribute in some way to a brighter future.
Who are these guys?
Here are the prospects move at the NHL trade deadline, analyzing what they are as players and where they are at in their development.
Erik Brannstrom: Traded to Ottawa
One of three first-round picks made by the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural NHL draft in 2017, Brannstrom was taken 15th overall. He has been destined for stardom, having consistently played above his age group, and debuting in the Swedish League at just 16 years old. A year later, he played regularly as part of HV71’s championship team.
Internationally, Brannstrom has played in all the major events, most of them on multiple occasions, in-part as an underaged player. He was named to the 2019 WJC All-Star team after leading all defencemen with four goals in the event.
At 5-foot-10, 173 pounds, he represents today’s typical smallish, puck-moving defenceman. The thing you notice most when watching him is how his skating pops. He’s got great edges and agility, with first-unit power play potential. He comes by his play honestly as his dad, Niklas, played several years in the SHL, while his older brother Isaac plays for HV71.
Making the jump to the AHL hasn’t been a problem for Brannstrom who had 28 points through 41 games with Chicago before the trade. He will get a chance to hone his defensive game under development guru Paul Boutilier in Belleville and will likely see time in the NHL before the season’s out. Down the road think of the one-two punch of Thomas Chabot and Brannstrom steering the ship for the Sens. Of all the prospects moved on deadline day, Brannstrom has the most star potential.
Jonathan Davidsson: Traded to Ottawa
He was taken by Columbus in the sixth-round of the 2017 NHL Draft, his final year of eligibility. Considered to be a late bloomer, the 5-foot-11, 184-pound winger has been on a steady developmental path in the Djurgardens system. Now into his third full SHL season, Davidsson’s numbers have been steady, though not spectacular.
His play for Djurgardens in the 2018 post-season, when he notched eight points in 11 games, is likely what stuck out most when Ottawa was thinking of this acquisition. Davidsson is streaky and being able to find consistency in his game will be key in terms of his NHL potential. Considered to be a slick, play-making winger with good vision, transitioning to the fast-paced, physical play in the NHL will be the biggest hurdle for Davidsson to overcome.
AHL seasoning in Belleville will be the next step. Younger brother Marcus was also taken in the 2017 draft, as Buffalo’s second-round pick, 37th overall. Over the years, Ottawa has had great success with Swedish players, and surely their European intelligence made Davidsson appealing in the Matt Duchene trade.
Cliff Pu: Traded to Florida
Originally drafted by Buffalo in the third round of the 2016 draft, Pu was moved to Carolina in the Jeff Skinner trade, and now he’s taking his act to the Florida Panthers. His pro career path has mirrored his OHL career where he was a first-round pick by Oshawa before being moved to London and eventually to Kingston. His first pro season hasn’t been at all indicative of his final OHL season where he put up 29 goals and 84 points split between London and Kingston.
The same recipe for success at the junior level should be followed in the pros. London used Pu sparingly as an offensive go-to player early in his tenure. Utilizing his speed to disrupt the breakout, on the back-track and on the PK helped develop his play away from the puck. Later, winning face-offs and transitioning to an offensive player with a solid defensive foundation made Pu an effective all-around junior player. There’s no question Pu can handle the pace of the NHL game, but it will be about getting some of the honesty back into his game that will allow him to move forward as a pro.
Julius Bergman: Traded to NY Rangers
Another former London Knight who was originally drafted in the second-round by San Jose, Bergman is now on his third team this season. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound defenceman is good at just about everything, but not great in any one particular area. Now into his fourth full AHL season, it’s near the make-it or break-it point of his North American pro career. At his best, he projects as a back-end defenceman, the type of player who can fill-in at the NHL level in an injury situation for the short-term. He can eat minutes and play more of a prominent mentorship role in the AHL.
Nick Baptiste: Traded to Toronto
Another third-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres from the 2013 draft, Baptiste is the type of player who has to work for everything. He’s put up decent AHL numbers and has played close to 50 NHL games, all with Buffalo. Baptiste has shown flashes of goal-scoring ability at the pro level, but he rates out more as a bottom-six NHL player who could be useful in PK situations.
He can be a difficult player to play against with some physicality in his game. He does play with some bite, and given the opportunity, he can take advantage of a good, accurate shot with a decent release. On a team that could see cap issues down the road, he could eventually be a nice fit for Toronto as a useful NHL player.
Vitali Abramov: Traded to Ottawa
One of the most interesting prospects traded before the deadline, Abramov has potential to produce at the next level. His pedigree in the QMJHL is something to take note of. In 2015-16 he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year after putting up 93 points. The following season he put up 104 points in just 56 games to win the league scoring title and MVP. But due to his 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame and some deficiencies with his skating, he fell to Columbus in the third round of the 2016 draft.
Another red flag was his inability to produce for Team Russia at the 2018 world juniors, where he put up just one goal in five games played. Having said all that, he has a good motor, great stick skills and he can really shoot the puck for a smaller player. Processing the game quicker will help make up for his average skating ability. Abramov played in Gatineau for two and a half seasons, so Senators GM Pierre Dorion has a great knowledge base on this player and obviously feels he can be a top-six NHLer down the road.
Brendan Guhle: Traded to Anaheim
No question it’s Guhle’s skating ability that should have Anaheim fans excited for this acquisition. A second-round pick of Buffalo in the 2015 draft, Guhle has progressed steadily in the AHL. His game somewhat resembles a former Anaheim pick in Shea Theodore, whose ability to play a two-way game is based on a great skating foundation.
Guhle has a more physical edge to his game than Theodore, which should fit well into the Ducks’ future plans. He’s got good size (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) and shoots the puck well. A change of scenery and a chance to become an NHL regular will be motivating factors. One thing is certain with Guhle that he projects to be an NHL regular with some potential to play in the top four.