Which NHL franchises gave themselves a leg up on the future before the deadline passed? The Canucks lead the way in that department.
The trade deadline is as much about the future as it is about the present, with draft picks and prospects representing hope for the teams shedding NHL players. Those assets contain loads of potential, but naturally, to varying degrees. So which NHL franchises gave themselves a leg up on the future before the deadline passed? Here’s a look at the top-10 prospects that were dealt. The top players on this list have the highest ceilings, in my opinion, so older assets who may already be on their way to careers in the AHL are ranked near the bottom. For the sake of drawing a line in the sand, players such as Curtis Lazar (who has spent a couple years in the NHL, despite some AHL seasoning recently) are not considered prospects anymore.
1. Nikolay Goldobin, LW (Vancouver, from San Jose): On Vancouver’s threadbare lineup, Goldobin can come in directly and show his stuff. A quick, talented and creative playmaker, his defensive work was holding him back from the Sharks’ lineup, but San Jose brass had been pleased with his recent improvement in the area. Nearly a point per game player for the AHL’s Barracuda.
2. Jonathan Dahlen, C (Vancouver, from Ottawa): Despite being a teenager, Dahlen is one of the top scorers in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, one rung below the SHL. A smart kid with great offensive instincts and a deadly shot, the son of former NHLer Ulf Dahlen is still working on his strength and his quickness, but neither appear to be big barriers to success. Another season in Sweden is expected.
3. Zach Sanford, LW (St. Louis, from Washington): The Calder-eligible Sanford has excellent size and nice hands, though he is still getting used to the pro game. Since he was drafted in 2013, Sanford’s physical gifts always seem to have gotten him to the next level a little early and he left Boston College after two seasons. Spending some more time in the AHL wouldn’t be a bad idea for him.
4. Dillon Heatherington, D (Dallas, from Columbus): The Stars have a lot of offense-minded blueliners, so Heatherington gives them a different look. A big kid at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he’s the shutdown guy on a pairing and could work well in the future with say, Julius Honka in Dallas.
5. Sven Andrighetto, RW (Colorado, from Montreal): The smallish speedster is no longer Calder-eligible, but is still kind of an NHL/AHL tweener. Had some offensive success in Montreal and definitely finds himself on a softer depth chart in Colorado, where he can attempt to prove himself.
6. Frank Corrado, D (Pittsburgh, from Toronto): Infamously caught in waiver hell for most of the season (#FreeFrankie), Corrado finally saw games in the AHL with the Marlies thanks to a conditioning stint. The puck-moving defenseman will now shift over to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins where he can get more reps and perhaps help out as a bottom-pairing guy in the NHL soon.
7. Erik Cernak, D (Tampa Bay, from Los Angeles): I’m not particularly bullish on Cernak, a big-bodied defenseman still playing junior with the OHL’s Erie Otters. The four-time world junior competitor for Slovakia doesn’t look to have much offensive potential in his game and that’s kinda important now. His reach and strength help, but best-case scenario is a sixth or seventh D-man for the Bolts.
8. Byron Froese, C (Tampa Bay, from Toronto): We’re definitely on the prospect/AHL lifer border here. Froese did a lot of penalty-killing and took a bunch of faceoffs for the Leafs in 2015-16, when Toronto was in full-on tank mode. Now that the Leafs have talent, Froese has been with the AHL’s Marlies. Essentially, the Syracuse Crunch got a top scorer in this trade.
9. Mark McNeill, C (Dallas, from Chicago): The Blackhawks made a mercy move here. McNeill was a first-rounder in 2011 who never climbed his way far enough the depth chart in the organization to get a serious NHL crack (he has one game to his record so far). A strong skater with good size, McNeill’s downfall has been consistency. Will a change of venue help the pivot?
10. Grayson Downing, C (Arizona, from Minnesota): The University of New Hampshire alum gives the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners a utility man, but that is probably the 24-year-old’s ceiling as a pro.