Final cuts are coming down across the league and, when it comes to prospects, there have been a few surprises. Who has made an NHL roster for opening night and who will be starting the campaign elsewhere?
With little more than 48 hours remaining before the start of the NHL regular season, teams are beginning to trim their rosters for the final time and set their 23-man lineup for the 2017-18 campaign.
And as these final cuts start to roll in, we get a better picture of where some of the league’s top prospects stand and whether or not they’re in line for a job in the big leagues this season. In some cases, those who were expected to be in the big leagues aren’t. In others, we’re seeing some surprising names among those set to suit up on opening night.
Here’s a list of the notable prospects who remain in camp to this point and where they stand as final roster cuts approach:
Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes: A no-brainer to make the team out of training camp and one of the early favorites for the Calder Trophy. Keller had one of the more impressive statistical pre-seasons of any player in the league, scoring three goals and eight points in four games. Out of the gate, he’s looking at a top-six job and could work onto the top line in no time.
Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes: Many believed he had a chance to stick with the team last season, but Strome went back to major junior after a seven-game tryout. This time around, though, he seems to be in line for a full-time spot in the bottom six. He’s put up one goal and four points in five games and gives the Coyotes one more scoring option down the middle.
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: His playoff performance set him up nicely coming into training camp this season, and it should come as no surprise that he’s expected to start the season in Beantown. McAvoy has all the makings of a top-pairing blueliner and he could climb the depth chart in short order. Darkhorse candidate for the Calder, too.
Alexander Nylander, Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres still haven’t been able to get a look at Nylander, who has been out since the start of the pre-season with a lower-body injury. He wasn’t a lock to make the lineup, but the longer he remains on the shelf, the more likely it is he has to start the year with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and work his way up.
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks: The diminutive winger was believed to be a bubble player in Chicago with some time in the AHL a likelihood. Instead, he has powered his way onto the opening-night squad. Not hard to see why, either, when you consider he had two goals, three points and plenty of chances in his five games with the Blackhawks. If he suits up with Patrick Kane, DeBrincat could be in for a big freshman year.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets: One year ago, Dubois threw the draft board into disarray by jumping into the third spot ahead of Jesse Puljujarvi. He wound up back in major junior out of training camp, though, only to have a tough year. But Dubois has bounced back in a big way, coming into camp and winning himself a spot on the Blue Jackets’ roster come opening night. A natural center, he’s likely to start the season as a winger.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers: After a strong finish to last season in the minors, Puljujarvi was expected to be on his way to the big club this season. That won’t be the case, however. He managed two goals and three points in five games with Edmonton during the pre-season but was demoted to the Bakersfield Condors as the Oilers prepare their 23-man roster. He won’t spend all season in the AHL, though.
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers: Yamamoto stuck around through the early part of training camp thanks to consistent offensive output, remained in camp because he couldn’t stop scoring and, as it turns out, has gone straight from the 2017 NHL draft and onto the Oilers’ roster. That’s what five goals and six points in five games will do. Look for him to start in the bottom-six and get some time on the second power play unit.
Owen Tippett, Florida Panthers: A monster 44-goal season as a sophomore in major junior led to Tippett’s 10th overall selection in the 2017 draft. His numbers aren’t going to leap off the page, but Tippett was consistent offensively en route to landing a spot on the Panthers’ opening-night roster. If he doesn’t start scoring, he could be back in the OHL after a nine-game stint.
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils: He leapt over Nolan Patrick and into the No. 1 spot in the 2017 draft, and Hischier earned his way onto the Devils’ roster. He shined offensively, scoring four goals and seven points in four games, and he’s going to get a shot at centering one of the top two lines right out of the gate. The injury to Travis Zajac makes that a necessity, too.
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: He opened the pre-season with a goal, added another tally in his second game and then exploded for three assists in the third game of the exhibition schedule. Barzal hasn’t just made the Islanders, but given the team a legitimate reason to question whether he can step up the lineup at some point and take on a top-six role. His offensive ability gives New York another weapon.
Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators: There were high hopes for Chabot this season after an impressive World Junior Championship last year and another standout performance in major junior. Chabot scored one goal and two points in five games. Some even suggested he’d start the year on the top pairing. He’ll begin the season with the AHL’s Belleville Senators, but he’s likely the go-to call-up if Ottawa needs another blueliner.
Colin White, Ottawa Senators: The Senators’ top forward prospect was expected to get his shot at a full-time gig after earning two regular season games and one playoff outing last season, but a broken wrist has cost White not only the pre-season, but the start of the actual campaign. He’s expected to be back about a month into the season, at which point he’s going to be in line for a bottom-six center role.
Logan Brown, Ottawa Senators: The injury to White has opened up a spot on the bottom half of the roster, which puts Brown in position to land a spot on opening night. He would be deserving of a limited look at the very least, too. He scored three goals and six points in five games throughout the pre-season. If he does stick around, he’ll have to prove himself game in and game out.
Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia Flyers: Did he turn in highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play? Absolutely not, but what Patrick did was consistently showcase the two-way ability that many saw as his best quality. Patrick put up three assists in six exhibition outings and consistently played in the middle of the lineup. He’s going to start with the big club, but the Flyers won’t throw him to the wolves.
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning: Throughout the pre-season, Sergachev was asked to log heavy minutes; four times in six games he eclipsed the 20-minute mark and he was twice above 22 minutes on the night. Sergachev produced, too, popping home one goal and three points. He may have been on the outside looking in to start camp, but he’ll be there on opening night for the Lightning.
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs: Talk about hanging around in camp longer than expected. Liljegren, drafted 17th overall in June, wasn’t projected to sniff the roster yet hung around until nearly opening night. He only appeared in two games, neither of which saw him take big minutes, but it may have provided him with some good experience. What’s next? The AHL or Sweden seem most likely.
Olli Juolevi, Vancouver Canucks: There were more tough moments than promising ones for Juolevi, which is why he’s not going to be on the big club this season. The only question now is where he plays. He’s not eligible to play in the AHL, so there’s a chance the Canucks forego sending him back to junior and instead ship him off to Finland where he can get pro experience in the Finnish League.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks: Still on the bubble in Vancouver. The Canucks have yet to trim their roster for a final time and Boeser remains on the squad. One would imagine he did more than enough offensively to stick around. He scored four goals and seven points in five games, and as a bottom-six option, he’d give the Canucks some extra scoring punch.
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