Welcome back to my mailbag, where all manner of questions on prospects and the draft are answered. If you have something you want to know about, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and hashtag it #thnfutures. You might see the question here in a couple weeks.
In the meantime, let's get to the latest round of inquiries, the first of which is very timely:
How many (and which) players from the 2015 draft do you expect to play in the NHL this season?
– Dave Morin (@cflyer73)
This a fun one – and at the same time, precarious. The first two are easy, the next one a near-lock and then we get into the maybes:
Connor McDavid, Edmonton – Lock.
Jack Eichel, Buffalo – Lock.
Noah Hanifin, Carolina – Pretty darn close to a lock.
Dylan Strome, Arizona – I know he was drafted before Hanifin, but I think he has a tougher path. Having said that, the 'Yotes have loved him so far.
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey – Signs all positive so far; he's even been playing on a line with Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri. They could use him.
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado – The Avs had spots to fight for and a couple of small injuries (Iginla, Everberg, Landeskog) opens the door wider. The big Finn will still have to play well to make the cut, however.
Cody Ceci or Jonas Brodin for a fantasy keeper league?
– Darren (@crump12)
I'd go with Ottawa's Ceci on this one. You get him on the power play point consistently with Erik Karlsson in the near future and he's going to produce. In Minnesota, Brodin has to contest with Jared Spurgeon already, not to mention Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson coming up (going under the obvious assumption that Ryan Suter is the No. 1 PP guy in town).
I have a trade prospect of David Pastrnak for John Klingberg; who do you think will have the more successful sophomore season?
– Kyle Harper (@deadcanvas)
According to THN fantasy expert Matt Larkin, both players are close, but Pastrnak's a bit ahead. Matt likes both guys to have big sophomore seasons and I would agree. Fantasy-wise, Pastrnak is a better bet, especially since he'll have a pretty sweet scoring role on the Bruins. Klingberg will get nice touches in Dallas, but relative to him being a blueliner, so in terms of raw output, Pastrnak's the better bet.
Can Anthony Mantha still be the player everyone was thinking he could be two years ago in junior?
– Scott Cameron (@cameron2K_12)
I feel it's important to parse this question into two parts. To begin, yes: the Detroit Red Wings prospect still has a goal-scorer's touch, a big frame and moves well. That was the upside the Red Wings saw when they drafted him and after he torched the Quebec League for 57 goals and 120 points in 57 games as a 19-year-old.
But here's the second consideration: Mantha's deficiencies have always been seen on the defensive side of things, in what he does (or does not do) away from the puck. When people asked how he only went 20th overall in the 2013 draft, that was the answer.
In Traverse City this year, that was still the knock on him. So my answer to you is that yes, Mantha can still become the player we expected, but he must use this season in AHL Grand Rapids to work on his game away from the puck and get more active on defense. If he does, I bet the offense will flow more freely at the pro level as well.