NHL Prospect Notebook: Early challengers for top pick in 2023

Sportsnet's Junior Hockey Insider Sam Cosentino breaks down Sportsnet's 2022 NHL Draft rankings and that centre Shane Wright tops the list.

Sportsnet’s first 2022 NHL Draft Rankings were released Thursday. You can see them here.

While Shane Wright is the clear-cut No. 1 prospect who will go wire-to-wire, there’s plenty of volatility thereafter.

Take Finland’s Brad Lambert for example. He’s No. 2 on our list. After scoring 15 points in 46 Liiga games last season, Lambert is off to a one point in nine-game start in 2021-22. He has plenty of currency earned through his play last season, but has to pick up his boots.

Teammate Joakim Kemell (No. 9), by contrast, leads the Liiga with 14 points through his first 12 games.

With OHLers trying to play catch-up and the international break less than a month away, the rankings will look different in November.

Mac Attack

Great to see Mason McTavish not only make the Ducks roster, but score his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. Thanks to NHL stats, at 18 years and 256 days old, McTavish became the youngest player in Ducks history to score a goal. He also added an assist.

McTavish, who sniped 29 times as a 16-year-old in Peterborough with the OHL’s Petes, went to his native Switzerland during the pandemic. In the pro league there McTavish struck nine times in 13 games, but where he really made his mark was at the U18 worlds. In that event, McTavish proved he could play centre, and be physical without sacrificing his offence. Without doubt, he was the most talked about player after that event in Texas. With those additional layers to his game, McTavish was taken third overall by the Ducks in the 2021 draft.

Pain in the Neck

Washington’s Hendrix Lapierre also scored in his NHL debut, becoming the seventh teenager in Caps history to score in his first NHL game. Lapierre missed large chunks of time in his draft minus-1 and draft year with what were thought to be symptoms resulting from concussions. While there was one concussion, the symptoms were more a result of a neck issue that was diagnosed by a specialist in Florida. Thanks to hard work, dedication, perseverance, and additional support from agent Phil Lecavalier, Lapierre may end up being the steal of the 2020 draft, when Washington moved down to take him at 22.

As an aside and once again thanks to NHL stats, Lapierre wore an Ovechkin jersey to his first NHL game as a kid.

Oh Canada

Hockey Canada brass was put on alert this week when NHL opening night rosters were announced. Several players eligible to represent Canada at the 2022 world juniors in Edmonton remained with their respective NHL clubs.

Those players are: Seth Jarvis (CAR), Jake Neighbors (STL), Cole Sillinger (CLB), Cole Perfetti (WPG), Mason McTavish (ANA), Jamie Drysdale (ANA), Hendrix Lapierre (WSH), and Quinton Byfield (LAK, injured). Thanks to a new pandemic implemented rule, Kingston’s Zayde Wisdom and Barrie’s Tyson Foerster, both Philadelphia prospects, have been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley.

Bo Show

Last year’s WJC captain, Bowen Byram, got into 19 games with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2020-21 season, putting up two assists. The fourth overall pick in 2019 scored his first NHL goal in a 4-2 win over Chicago on Wednesday. He’s been overshadowed by Cale Makar, but Byram is a future star.

Sign Me Up

At the end of training camp there are always a few surprises in terms of undrafted players who were invited to camps and end up getting signed. Here are a couple examples from this season, and a great motivator for those who didn’t hear their name called in either of the past two drafts. The path to the NHL isn’s always clear cut, and undrafted players accounted for 91 (12.6 per cent) of the total players who made an NHL opening night roster.

Montreal: Defenceman Arber Xhekaj of the Kitchener Rangers. A good skater, who at 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds plays the part of the nasty, hard to play against defender. Considering he didn’t play in 2020-21 due to the OHL shutdown, this is a significant signing that speaks to the dedication of the player.

Toronto: Centre Braeden Kressler of the Flint Firebrids. Kressler centres Flint’s top line alongside New York Rangers first-rounder Brennan Othmann. He’s a playmaking centre who picked up his first goal in his first OHL game of the season.

Arizona: Goaltender Anson Thornton of the Sarnia Sting is a former teammate of Shane Wright’s, Brandt Clark’s and Brennan Othmann’s with the Don Mills Flyers. The Flyers won the OHL Cup in 2019. Thornton has NHL size and quickness, but what’s most impressive is that he wasn’t taken in OHL Priority selection, but in the supplemental U18 draft after having played his 16-year-old season in the U18 AAA loop.

Stay or Go

Vancouver prospect Danila Klimovich, who left his mark with six goals in five games for Belarus at the 2021 U18 worlds, is currently in Abbotsford, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. He was injured near the end of camp and has yet to return, and should he go back to junior when he is healthy, Klimovich would join the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL. The Huskies currently have the maximum allowable two imports on their roster and one of them would have to be released should Klimovich get loaned. While Rouyn-Noranda would love to have Klimovich’s skill, the rebuilding team would also be happy keeping fellow countryman Daniil Bourash as he is a year younger and will likely be with the club for two or three more years, where Klimovich is likely a one and done.

Happy Returns

I couldn’t be happier for Niagara IceDogs goalie Tucker Tynan, who was named the OHL Goalie of the Week ending October 10. Tynan suffered a life-threatening laceration to his thigh in a game back on December 12, 2019. Over the first week of the OHL season, Tynan backstopped the Dogs to a pair of wins, with a 1.44 GAA and a .950 save percentage. Originally from Chicago, the 19-year-old was a 10th round pick of Niagara’s in 2018.

Guy to the Roof

On October 28, the No. 4 worn by Guy Lafleur in his time with the Quebec Remparts will officially be hung from the rafters, and retired from the league. In planning for this day the number is not currently worn by anyone in the league. Fourteen players donned the No. 4 during the pandemic shortened 2020-21 season.

Swedish Inflation

Spoke to a key contact in Sweden this week and he warned against inflated statistics in the Swedish U20 league. There is a general thought that the missed developmental time has impacted players’ ability to play a sound defensive game.

Pure Gold

Keep an eye on Prince Albert defenceman Terrell Goldsmith. The 6-foot-3, 2015-pound left shot defenceman is a throwback. Having benefitted from playing in the Regina Hub as a 15-year-old last season, Goldsmith found himself engaged in several on-ice battles with Vegas first-round pick and former Winnipeg Ice centre Peyton Krebs.

Fantilli to the Bay?

It seems like forever that we’ve been talking about Adam Fantilli. The Chicago Steel forward was drafted into the OHL by the Saginaw Spirit, but his rights were recently traded for five draft picks. Does this mean he will eventually end up in North Bay? That remains to be seen. The Michigan commit is a late 2004 birthday, meaning he’s not NHL draft eligible until 2023, the same year as Regina’s Connor Bedard and Russian Matvey Michkov. As the year goes along, look for Fantilli to enter the conversation as the projected first overall pick in 2023.

Don’t Forget About Me

Add Dalibor Dvorsky to your group of players that will be mentioned with the likes of Bedard and Michkov in 2023. I had one scout tell me this season that he’s looked every bit as good as both of those top prospects.

The Great Yates

Best of luck to Mark Yates, who recently parted ways with InStat. If it wasn’t for Mark’s help last season, working the NHL Draft would’ve been next to impossible. Mark is a brilliant hockey mind who has his sights set on helping a CHL franchise. Owners take note, Mark’s experience and keen eye would be an asset to any organization.

Sick Stats

Can’t forget about an old friend and a statistical genius in Geoffrey Brandow. Although I am not on Twitter, I constantly check his feed for amazing stats surrounding the CHL. Give him a follow. How he doesn’t have a job at a major network or for a team is mind-boggling.

Brady Benefits

One group that will be sad, yet extremely excited for the Brady Tkachuk extension is the USNTDP U18 program. Up until signing his extension with the Ottawa Senators, Brady had been skating with the program in Plymouth, Michigan. Quinn Hughes and Elias Petterson were also using USA Hockey’s facilities and skating with the team until they signed in Vancouver.

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