The trade deadline doesn’t only affect current NHLers – some notable prospects will surely be on the move, too.
The June 1 deadline to sign CHL players drafted in 2018 is still far away, but with the NHL trade deadline coming up on Monday, there’s a renewed interest in some top prospects who have yet to sign a deal. In this case, we could see some late-blooming players that might be worthy of a contract thrown into trades to help sweeten the pot. For those left unsigned, eligible players will be available to get drafted again, something that isn’t uncommon if the development curve was substantial.
Of course, some might sign with the teams that drafted them – some of the names on this list are actually close. And while very few players sign at the last minute and become key NHL contributors, having depth is always a bonus. Here are 10 reserve-list heroes making a case to earn NHL contracts this year:
Tyler Tucker, D (St. Louis, seventh round, 200th overall in 2018)
Tucker has been a point-per-game player all season, and a trade to Flint at the OHL deadline hasn’t changed that thanks to 21 points in his past 19 games (a seven-point effort this past Monday helped). Drafted 14th overall in the 2016 OHL draft, Tucker has good size at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds and isn’t afraid to lay a big hit or drop the gloves if needed. Add in his puck-moving abilities and his power-play quarterback status and you have a budding prospect that could learn a job in the AHL for the next couple of seasons before getting an NHL call-up.
Declan Chisholm, D (Winnipeg, fifth round, 150th overall in 2018)
Chisholm is definitely taking a shot at the OHL’s top defenseman award this season, and it’s easy to see why. Sitting third in scoring among defensemen (only Noel Hoefenmayer, 74, and Ryan Merkley, 69, have more points), Chisholm has exploded with 61 points in 55 games in his fourth year in the OHL and was a member of Canada’s Super Series team against Russia back in November. Chisholm was highly regarded as an OHL prospect years ago but injuries slowed down the start of his career. With Winnipeg needing to build a strong defensive pipeline, Chisholm’s contract status is about to get interesting.
Wyatte Wylie, D (Philadelphia, fifth round, 127th overall in 2018)
A late 1999-born defender, Wylie has seen his two-way game flourish this season, highlighted by 52 points in 53 games with Everett and points in 13 of his past 14 games. Wylie is a strong shot-blocker who can play a physical game and has continually improved the offensive part of his game. The issue, however, is that there are no true standout qualities that can push Wylie further up the Flyers’ crowded pipeline, so the end of the season will be important for him. At the very least, his name is top-notch, even for the WHL.
Cam Hillis, C (Montreal, third round, 66th overall in 2018)
Hillis had a season to forget in 2018-19, tearing his MCL and breaking his collarbone twice,which resulted in missing half the season. Currently in his third OHL campaign, Hillis has blown all expectations out of the water with 51 assists and 71 points in 53 games to sit second in scoring on Guelph and 14th in the league. Hillis is a hardworking playmaker who has proven he’s willing to do what it takes to get the puck, but his injury history, plus underdeveloped skating with a small frame, hasn’t helped his career trajectory. Still, his bounce-back is giving Hillis a second chance at a pro career.
Luke Henman, C (Carolina, fourth round, 96th overall in 2018)
Henman didn’t see much improvement in his second full QMJHL season last year, but the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada captain has found his stride with 64 points in 54 games, far surpassing his previous best of 47 points two years ago. Henman isn’t big at 6-foot and 159 pounds (he was just 143 pounds when he was selected two years ago), so size is an issue. However, you can’t overlook his natural ability to make plays with the puck and his skill set is promising. The Hurricanes are set up for success with a solid depth chart to build upon, but Henman has fought his way into the conversation.
David Tendeck, G (Arizona, sixth round, 158th overall in 2018)
The Coyotes have a crowded goalie pipeline and can afford to pass on Tendeck, but the 20-year-old has done everything in his power to put himself in the debate, at least. The right-handed Tendeck has upped his save percentage to .922 this season with a 2.21 goals-against average, making him a top-five goaltender in both categories. Consistency has been an issue in his career, but a perfect record in February has helped to elevate his profile. Are the exploits of a fifth-year WHLer enough to warrant an NHL deal? That’s the three-year, $925,000 entry-level question right now.
Eric Florchuk, C (Washington, seventh round, 217th overall in 2018)
A true diamond in the rough? Florchuk wasn’t finding much success in Saskatoon this season with 24 points in his first 33 games, but a trade to Vancouver at the deadline saw him explode for 26 points in 17 games. While Florchuk could still add a bit of meat to his frame, he can play just about any role asked of him and doesn’t have any major flaws when dealing with the puck. If he turns pro with the Capitals organization, Florchuk will need to work on his consistency, but there’s been a steady improvement in his game and his confidence level has skyrocketed.
Riley Stotts, C (Toronto, third round, 83rd overall in 2018)
Stotts was seen as a long shot to make the NHL from the moment the Leafs drafted him in 2018 and that hasn’t changed. What has, however, is his status as a pro-caliber forward. Stotts has 22 goals and 59 points in 55 games for the best numbers of his junior career. He has been a consistent performer for the past few seasons but there’s nothing that really makes him a stand out – he’s more of a player you let sit in the AHL for a few years and call up for spot duty along the way. Still, he’s worth a shot.
Mitchell Hoelscher, C (New Jersey, sixth round, 172nd overall in 2018)
Talk about a good time for a breakout. An energetic forward, Hoelscher has found new life with OHL Ottawa this season, scoring 30 goals and 66 points (he had just 22 goals and 70 points across his previous 137 games). Having a team chock full of talent helps, but Hoelscher himself has brought immense skill to the roster and is scoring at a better pace than ever before. The more responsibility he’s given, the better Hoelscher seems to play, and that’s valuable for a player set to turn pro next season. An energy guy with a renewed license to score makes him an attractive option for the Devils, but his lack of physicality could hurt his chances of making the NHL in a bottom-six role.
Kevin Mandolese, G (Ottawa, sixth round, 157th overall in 2018)
The Senators are still chasing a goaltender of the future for when Craig Anderson retires, and while Mandolese likely isn’t that guy, he’s still a player to watch in the pipeline. The 6-foot-4 goaltender has good size and is playing the best hockey of his junior career with a 2.35 GAA and .922 SP to make him one of the best goalies in the QMJHL, statistically, and a big step up from his .895 SP last season. Earlier this month, JF Plante from LeDroit reported that the Senators were in contract negotiations with Mandolese, so patience may have worked out in this case.
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