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Futures mailbag: Adam Erne's upside, the NHL's sneaky prospect and more

In this week's installment of Ryan Kennedy's mailbag, our prospect guy answers questions from readers on Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Adam Erne, which 2016 draft hopefuls folks should watch for in Europe and more.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Real hockey is here, folks. Erie's Alex DeBrincat scored five goals against Niagara Thursday night and he did it without Connor McDavid or Dylan Strome – so he's got that going for him. A lot of 2015 draft prospects seem to be sticking around for the start of the NHL's regular season and one of those kids comes up in a question below. If you have a query about prospects and the draft, look me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and include the hashtag #thnfutures. You may see the answer in the coming weeks. Let's get to the bag.

Does Adam Erne have enough speed to be a top-six forward in Tampa Bay?

– Michael D. (@lawnjock478)

I'm a big fan of Erne when he's on his horse and yes, I do believe he has the speed to be a top-six guy with the Lightning. The bigger question is when? Erne will start his pro career with AHL Syracuse and given how loaded the Bolts are with skilled forwards, it's no surprise. After all, you've already got The Triplets and the Stamkos-Filppula-Killorn combo up top, plus Jonathan Drouin waiting in the wings for a bigger scoring role.

Perhaps we need to look at where the NHL is heading and forecast Erne (and Drouin) as top-six talents that end up playing on a third scoring line in the future. Erne's strengths are in his speed and his physicality: he arrives quickly and in ill humor. Contrast that with the incredible vision and hands of Drouin and you have the beginnings of a dangerous line, especially if the youngsters aren't facing top checkers.

What can we expect to see from Nikolay Goldobin in San Jose and can he be the future that right now looks so bleak for us?

– Ken Haynes (@smallgovken)

Goldobin is an offensively gifted player with smarts and great playmaking vision who still needs to work on the defensive end of his game. If and when he makes the Sharks, he'll be the type of player who can put up points if he's slotted in the right situation and given San Jose's depth at center, that shouldn't be a problem.

Is he the answer to all that ails the Sharks? No. Sure, his scoring prowess will help an offense that hasn't been very good recently, but the Sharks missed the playoffs last year because they couldn't keep the puck out of their own net, either. Goldobin will be part of a solution that will also include Mirco Mueller, Timo Meier, perhaps Jeremy Roy and Rourke Chartier and whomever they draft in 2016 (which, for the team's sake, will hopefully be a high selection).

Who are the top Euros for 2016 outside of Matthews, Puljujarvi and Laine?

– Jared Gatzemeyer (@the_great_gatz)

Originally I would have said Alexander Nylander, but he's over here in Mississauga now. Similarly, many of the best Europeans available have come over to other CHL locales, including Windsor's Mikhail Sergachev, London's Olli Juolevi and Saskatoon's Libor Hajek.

The one name to really keep watch on is Sweden's Rasmus Asplund, a center/left winger playing for Farjestad in the SHL. Though he doesn't have a point yet through five games, he has been described as a Henrik Zetterberg type of player and has already been a captain internationally for Tre Kronor junior squads. Left winger Carl Grundstrom is also in the SHL with Modo, bringing confidence and a good shot to the squad.

Who is a sneaky prospect that no one is talking about this year?

– Nick Robinson (@NickTwinsFan)

You know who probably isn't getting enough love right now? Colorado's Mikko Rantanen. The big Finnish kid is getting a long look from the Avs and has even been playing on a line with Nathan MacKinnon. He's got the size, shot and two-way game to play as an 18-year-old and with few cuts left to make in Denver, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on opening night.

What are your thoughts on Vancouver Canucks prospects Ben Hutton, Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen?

– Dave Avery (@Davery222)

I've been pretty impressed with that cohort of kids, as many others have been. McCann obviously found his offensive stroke early in camp, while Virtanen has carried over the confidence and grit that made him so intriguing when he finished up last season in AHL Utica. As for Hutton, he's the sort of older prospect who can fit in well right away (and given that defensemen tend to develop later, it almost makes more sense that way).

Given how well the trio has played, it's really too bad the Canucks likely don't have room for all of them. It's going to be an uneven year for Vancouver and if the Canucks went into an "instant rebuild mode" by shipping out vets and letting the kids learn on-the-job, it might benefit the franchise more in the long run. Think about it: that trio, plus Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter, prepare to become the guts of the future, but the team likely doesn't win a lot in the short-term and lands a high draft pick.

I know that's a lot easier in theory than practice, but I guess it's my way of saying that Hutton, McCann and Virtanen have been very intriguing.


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