Our prospect expert has answers to all your questions. This week, we’re covering off the burgeoning career of New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock, a couple Florida picks in Kingston and more.
It’s about that time again. For all of you who love prospects or just want to know what your NHL team has in the pipeline, the THN Futures mailbag is here for you. If you have any questions relating to the next generation of stars, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and use the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I see it.
Let’s get to this week’s questions.
What do you think is holding New York Islanders pick Ryan Pulock back from the NHL?
– Greg Niemczyk (@gniemczyk15)
I would be patient with Pulock. The biggest jump a player will make in his career is from junior to pro, whether that be NHL or AHL. This is doubly true for defensemen. The Aaron Ekblads of the world who can win the Calder straight off the draft podium are incredibly rare.
When you’re a rookie forward, your defensive responsibilities tend to be limited and if you screw up, you’ve still got two D-men and a goalie to bail you out. A rookie defenseman loses a layer of protection, so teams must be sure that a kid is ready.
In Pulock’s case, he’s got a crackling point shot and great size – things you can’t teach. But he’s also just 21 with one full season in Bridgeport to his name. He is still learning the pro game and there’s nothing out of the ordinary there. The fact he has three points in four games for the Sound Tigers is a good omen and once he gets more reps, he’ll be fine.
How does the Florida Panthers/Kingston Frontenacs duo of Juho Lammikko and Lawson Crouse look?
– Shane O’Donnell (@shane1342o)
It’s funny when two junior linemates are also property of the same NHL team, but that’s the case with Crouse and Lammikko. Crouse has only played two games for Kingston so far due to a suspension that he received last season, but the early returns are good. Lammikko was actually supposed to play the year back in Finland, but returned to Kingston instead – a huge boon for the Fronts, as he is their second-leading scorer right now. Both players are big bodies with skill and beasts on the penalty kill. They will be key to Kingston’s success this year.
Are there any 2016 prospects who can make Canada’s world junior team?
– Jake Baskin (@baskincase)
Lawson Crouse was a surprise last year (Connor McDavid less so), so you can never say never, but odds are against it. Val-d’Or’s Julien Gauthier was the only 2016 prospect invited to the summer camp and even though that’s not an ironclad prerequisite, it is illuminating.
Gauthier would still be a big dark horse to make it, especially since the big right winger’s production is down year over year, and the only other candidate I see is defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Now, that defense corps is going to be pretty stacked, so Chychrun’s best hope is that Hockey Canada wants size along with mobility – the latter is taken care of more than the former and Chychrun has both.
Bruins first-rounder Zach Senyshyn was highly scrutinized, with Matt Barzal rated higher and still on the board. Who has the higher ceiling?
– Michael Coady @bruinsfan87)
Barzal, who was snapped up by the Islanders, has the higher ceiling for me. I believe the Seattle Thunderbirds center can be a No. 1 pivot in the NHL some day thanks to his smarts, playmaking ability and lower-body strength.
That’s what upset me the most about the Senyshyn pick. Boston probably could have gotten him in the second round, but now he’s pegged as a first-rounder and there will always be comparisons to Barzal and Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor, who was also passed on by the Bruins. It’s not fair to the kid.
Senyshyn is a solid prospect in his own right and you could see the potential in Sault Ste. Marie last season even though he was buried behind older, elite forwards. Right now the right winger is tied for the team lead in scoring with nine points in 10 games, so he’s doing his job. But Barzal has eight points in five games for Seattle and is doing it as a center – a tougher role to fill at the next level.