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Futures mailbag: Daniel Sprong's value, 2016's top goalie and more

Our prospect expert opens up the Friday mailbag to answer your burning queries on all matters rookie and draft-oriented. Will Daniel Sprong remain a Penguin? Who's the top goalie in the 2016 draft class? Those answers and more inside.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Say, do you like rookies? Because so far it looks like we're in for a great Calder Trophy race and it won't necessarily be a Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel show. Max Domi, Mattias Janmark and Artemi Panarin have all been doing big things, while another frosh – Pittsburgh's Daniel Sprong – just got his first NHL goal. He's the subject of one of our questions this week and as always, you can submit your prospect and draft-related queries to me on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy, using the hashtag #thnfutures. Let's get to it.

What are Daniel Sprong's chances of seeing more than nine games this year? And would Pittsburgh trade him for a D-man?

– Omur Mete (@OMete86)

The nine-game question is a good one for Sprong, since he would have to return to junior in Charlottetown and cannot play in the AHL. But I think he's in for the long-haul this season. The evidence, albeit in a very small sample size, is in his favor: the right winger's ice time has continually increased since Game 2, while his 17 shifts in Game 4 were by far the most he has been given.

Not only that, but the Penguins were already thin in forward depth and that was before Beau Bennett got hurt again. Unless he has a signficant downturn, Sprong stays and I don't think they trade him for a defenseman: they still have Derrick Pouliot in the pipeline, after all.

Who is your top goalie prospect for 2016?

– Jared Gatzemeyer (@the_great_gatz)

This is a toughie right now, as many of the big names have struggled out the gate. Evan Fitzpatrick of QMJHL Sherbrooke would have been my pre-season favorite, but he's getting rained on so far (4.20 goals-against average, .877 save percentage on what was supposed to be the best team in the league). Same goes for Tyler Parsons with OHL London, though at least his Knights are putting up enough goals to get wins.

It's early, but right now I'm looking at Canada's two netminders from the summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament: Dylan Wells of OHL Peterborough and Carter Hart of WHL Everett. Wells was in net for the gold and basically flawless, while Hart had excellent stats as well.

Both netminders have good size (basically a requisite these days) and have decent stats with their club teams. It's important to remember that potential is just as important as the here and now when it comes to goalies, since even the best 17-year-olds in major junior tend to have short resumes. But Wells and Hart would be my picks right now.

Is Colin White going to be a star?

– The Jackal (@BeauDipini)

Ottawa got a great pick when they netted White with the 21st selection overall this summer and he'll be a key freshman for Boston College. It's all about expectations: White has excellent speed and plays hard at both ends of the ice. His ceiling is to be a Patrice Bergeron type of player; if he doesn't achieve that, he can still be a serviceable third-liner in the NHL.

Is that enough to make him a star? I would say so. Bergeron is a very important NHLer. White's never going to win scoring titles, but there is more to the game than just sniping.

How strong is the 2016 draft on a scale of 0-10?

– Jason Liebert (@jel779)

With the caveat that it is super-early, I would look at this draft as a 7, perhaps even an 8. Let's assume 2015 was a 9, since McDavid and Eichel were such hefty prizes, and 2003 was a 10 (Eric Staal, Getzlaf, Perry, Weber, Suter, Kesler, etc.)

When I look at 2016 right now, I see a huge prospect in Auston Matthews; a can't miss. Jakob Chychrun, Jesse Puljujarvi and Matthew Tkachuk look like true players already, while there is a nice amount of potential in players such as Patrik Laine, Max Jones and Tyson Jost, to name a few. How many would jump right into the NHL? Probably the first four I mentioned, plus there's always one player that surprises.

Where the draft would "lose" marks for me is in the initial depth; forecasting an obvious top-10 right now is difficult and there will certainly be a range of opinions out there on the top-20, more so than usual.


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