Prospect Need To Know: Juolevi finds footing in Finland, Necas primed for WJC

Our weekly glance at NHL prospects who are making noise around the hockey world. Olli Juolevi has picked up his pace after a slow summer, while Martin Necas continues to cruise.

The big prospect news this week was Dylan Strome getting called up from the AHL by Arizona. Strome, the big center drafted right after Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in 2015, has obviously taken longer to develop, but the carnage he inflicted on his AHL opponents this season proved he’s ready for the next challenge. Now, who will be next? Folks in Winnipeg want to see Jack Roslovic up from the ‘A’ and he has certainly warranted a look – but the Jets are also hot right now, so they have the luxury of letting him marinate.

Let’s take a look at some of the other kids making noise around the hockey world:

Olli Juolevi, D, TPS Turku (Fin.)
It was a disappointing summer for Juolevi, who didn’t make a great impression with the Canucks, but the Vancouver first-rounder (fifth overall, 2016) took his game back to Finland and he’s really starting to make things happen. The big, talented defenseman has six points in his past six games, while averaging 17:33 of ice time over the course of the season. A big world juniors would go a long way, too. NHL arrival: 2018-19

Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
A big-bodied power forward who can skate, Noel has been excellent for the Gens in his draft year, putting up a point per game. With eight points in three games, the 6-foot-5, 203-pounder earned himself OHL player-of-the-week honors and he has real chemistry with fellow 2018 prospect Allan McShane. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Martin Necas, C, Kometa Brno (Cze.)
A great skater who can contribute at both ends of the ice, Necas has five points through nine games while playing in the top Czech league. Amongst junior-aged players, he’s second in ice time at 14:52 to Jakub Galvas, a defenseman picked by Chicago. Necas already made his NHL debut with Carolina this season, so look for him to be key for the Czechs at the world juniors. NHL arrival: 2018-19

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
The latest phenom to play for the Oceanic (joining the likes of Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards), Lafreniere is tearing apart the ‘Q’ in his rookie season. An offensive dynamo with great hands and instincts, the left winger hung four goals on first-place Blainville-Boisbriand on the weekend and has 25 points in 19 games. He’ll be a top threat for the 2020 draft. NHL arrival: 2020-21

Morgan Barron, LW, Cornell Big Red (ECAC)
A big frame and great maturity have helped Barron, a U.S. college freshman, catch on to the NCAA game a lot quicker than most may have expected. The New York Rangers prospect (174th overall, 2017) from St. Andrew’s College in Ontario has nine points in 10 games for the sizzling Big Red. He can also play center. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Austin Strand, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Strand has made the most of his development opportunities in Seattle and after going undrafted, the 6-foot-4, 193-pound free agent blueliner has signed a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Along with his size, Strand is mobile and has 26 points in 24 games, including 14 on the power play. NHL arrival: 2020-21

Maksim Zhukov, G, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
The goalie of the week in the USHL, Zhukov has surrendered just three goals in his past three games for the Gamblers. The Vegas Golden Knights draft pick (96th overall, 2017) has great size and is both calm and aggressive (if that makes sense) in the crease. Russia has a number of options for the world juniors, but I think Zhukov at least has to be in the mix. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Nick Merkley, RW, Tucson Roadrunners (AHL)
A linemate of Strome’s in Tucson (along with Lawson Crouse), Merkley has been hot himself this season with 21 points in 16 games. How well can the sturdy and talented Coyotes prospect do without his center? That’s the next question, but Merkley’s pedigree (30th overall, 2015) suggests he’ll be fine. NHL arrival: 2018-19

Erik Foley, LW, Providence College Friars (Hockey East)
Foley has always been a fave, but the powerful and athletic winger deserves some love right now thanks to a six-game point streak that has seen him rack up 11 points during the span. The Winnipeg Jets pick (78th overall, 2015) leads the Friars in scoring. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Ryan Bednard, G, Bowling Green Falcons (WCHA)
A towering presence in net at 6-foot-5, the Florida Panthers prospect (206th overall, 2015) hasn’t lost a regulation game in a month. Bednard has nice athleticism and has used it to sport a .929 save percentage and 1.92 goals-against average. Both numbers are best in the conference. NHL arrival: 2021-22