It’s about that time, folks. The Memorial Cup field has been set, the AHL is into the conference finals and the NCAA champs were crowned long ago. So which players repped their franchises the best? The following list is made up of the prospects I believe had the best seasons for their parent franchises.
These are not necessarily the most NHL-ready players or the top prospects in the organizational pecking order, but these guys had the most success overall (but yeah, a lot of the top guys are here anyway). Factors include individual stats and growth, plus team success – so don’t be surprised to find some North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Brandon Wheat Kings on the list. One more note: any player who is Calder-eligible for the current NHL season does not count – that means no Frankie Vatrano for Boston or Connor Hellebuyck for Winnipeg, as examples.
Let’s get to it:
ANA – Shea Theodore: He got a good run from fellow D-man Brandon Montour, but Theodore’s freshman pro campaign was augmented by a solid NHL debut where his vision and puckmoving skills were obvious.
ARI – Christian Dvorak: Another tight race thanks to Dylan Strome, Dvorak beats his fellow OHL center thanks to slightly better numbers and a head-to-head playoff sweep. Conor Garland got some consideration, too.
BOS – Ryan Fitzgerald: Is it cool that Fitzgerald found chemistry with Ottawa pick Colin White? Well, deal with it, because they made Boston College hum this season. Fitzgerald was a top scorer in the conference. Respect to Jeremy Lauzon, too (slowed by injury).
BUF – Cal Petersen: The netminder had some outstanding games for Notre Dame, as he did the year before as a freshman. Great numbers in a tough conference.
CGY – Andrew Mangiapane: Racked up 106 points in just 59 games for the Barrie Colts and snagged his first contract with the Flames in the process.
CAR – Sebastian Aho: With apologies to Alex Nedeljkovic, Aho was crucial in Finland’s world junior gold medal and played great for Karpat Oulu back in Finland as well. His responsible nature let Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi soar in Helsinki.
CHI – Nick Schmaltz: The playmaker supreme on North Dakota’s dominating ‘CBS’ line, Schmaltz got bronze at the world juniors before winning the national title with the Fighting Hawks.
COL – Mikko Rantanen: What else can be said? Rantanen broke a bunch of offensive franchise records with AHL San Antonio and helped Finland to gold on home ice at the world juniors.
CBJ – Zach Werenski: Captain of the U.S. world junior team, big-time scorer for Michigan and now the defenseman is slaying the AHL playoffs with Lake Erie.
DAL – Esa Lindell: Boasted the same offensive numbers as fellow D-man Julius Honka, but does so in a bigger pro frame with more defensive upside.
DET – Evgeni Svechnikov: A good soldier on Russia’s silver-medal world junior squad and a dangerous offensive threat in the Quebec League with Cape Breton. The size and strength scream “pro upside.”
EDM – Ethan Bear: Helped Seattle to the WHL final with a ton of offense from the blueline, leading all defensemen with 22 points in 18 games after a solid regular season.
FLA – Jayce Hawryluk: Loads of offense for WHL champ Brandon; the gritty center had 106 points in 58 games, then 30 in 21 playoff games.
LA – Mike Amadio: Outstanding campaign with OHL North Bay included a five-goal night and 50 goals overall. Also helped AHL Ontario with a key OT playoff goal in his first pro post-season.
MIN – Kirill Kaprizov: A KHL all-star game nod as a teenager this year, Kaprizov also played for Russia’s world junior team. A little short, but the kid has lots of skill. Alex Tuch was also pretty good at Boston College.
MTL – Artturi Lehkonen: The skilled Finn played in Sweden for Frolunda, putting up good numbers in the regular season and then catching fire in the playoffs, en route to a championship title.
NSH – Kevin Fiala: Unfortunately for the Preds, a certain Harvard player isn’t interested in signing, so let’s go with Fiala, who led AHL Milwaukee in scoring with 50 points in 66 games.
NJ – Mackenzie Blackwood: John Quenneville had a great run with WHL Brandon, but Blackwood was named OHL goalie of the year with Barrie, so he gets the edge.
NYI – Ilya Sorokin: The Isles had a bunch of candidates, but Sorokin was a monster in net. He led CSKA to the KHL final with the best goals-against average in the league (1.32) and played in the mid-season all-star game.
NYR – Adam Huska: The USHL’s goaltender of the year was very sharp for Green Bay, rocking a .931 save percentage. He also committed to UConn, where the Huskies will need him next year.
OTT – Francis Perron: The skilled left winger led the QMJHL playoffs in scoring en route to Rouyn-Noranda’s first-ever playoff championship. He also put up 108 points in the regular season to finish second in the league.
PHI – Ivan Provorov: Silver for Russia at the world juniors, more than a point per game during the regular season from the blueline and a WHL playoff championship with Brandon.
PIT – Matt Murray: Still eligible since he only played 13 games in the regular season. Does anything more need to be said about the lanky goaltender currently in the Stanley Cup semifinal?
SJ – Timo Meier: He was great in Halifax and even better once traded to Rouyn-Noranda, torching the QMJHL en route to a playoff title. Shout-out to OHL scoring champ Kevin Labanc, too.
STL – Ville Husso: Excellent goaltending performance in Finland’s best league, posting the best save percentage (.927) for a team that would go on to the playoff final. Husso was also named goaltender of the year.
TB – Brayden Point: An offensive machine for a very potent top line in WHL Moose Jaw, Point had 88 points in just 48 games, missing time due to injury and the world juniors.
TOR – Mitch Marner: Explosive offensive force was OHL playoff MVP thanks to insane 44 points in 18 games with London. He also had 116 in the regular season and looked good for Canada at the world juniors.
VAN – Brock Boeser: Freshman years don’t get much better. Boeser led the NCHC in scoring with 60 points in 42 games and helped North Dakota to a national championship along the way. That title gives him the nod over BC’s Thatcher Demko, who was also spectacular.
WAS – Ilya Samsonov: Another titan goaltender in the KHL, Samsonov rocked a .925 save percentage in the KHL and was great at the world juniors – when he got into the crease.
WPG – Kyle Connor: Yes, Connor was robbed of the Hobey Baker. No question. When you put up a nation-high 71 points in 38 games, it doesn’t matter that you’re a freshman. Now he has turned pro and the Jets will reap the rewards.