Welcome back to another spin around the world of prospects. The big news this week concerns Montreal Canadiens pick Martin Reway. Just last week, I wrote in this space about how amazing the Slovakian youngster was playing in the Czech League – he was the leading scorer on the circuit. But then, he was sent down by Sparta Praha to a lower-tiered team. It sounded like insanity. According to insiders that I spoke with, Sparta wanted to sign Reway to a contract extension, but the left winger wasn’t agreeable. That led to a rift, which led to a trade request, which is where we stand now.
Here are some other names you need to know right now:
Jake Walman, D – Providence College Friars (Hockey East): When players enter a league, the goal is always to win a title. For Walman, that mission was accomplished in his freshman season as he helped the Friars shock Boston University in the 2015 Frozen Four. But the puck-moving St. Louis Blues prospect is back for more this season – sometimes the top just ain’t enough.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Walman said. “Winning a national championship is great, but there’s still work to be done. We’re looking at going into the season the same as how we did last year, just moving forward and trying to get better. There’s always room for that.”
The sophomore had a unique summer – born and raised in Toronto, but with a Connecticut mom, the dual citizen was invited to world junior camps for both Canada and the United States. In the end, Team USA won the custody battle.
“The U.S. side came to a bunch of my games and had contact with my coach,” he said. “Being NCAA, I definitely fit in better with the USA guys.”
Which will be great bulletin board material for Canada once the games roll around in Helsinki – not that the rivalry needs it. In terms of Walman’s other big decision – his commitment to Providence – the move has obviously paid off with that championship.
“It was all I could ask for,” he said. “Our team is like one family. Right from the beginning it was about coming together and everyone pulls for each other. Our coach knows what it takes to win and we all hopped on board.”
So far in 2015-16, that train has kept rolling. The Friars are 4-0-1 with a gaudy goal differential of 21-11. Walman is doing his part, leading the conference in scoring by a defenseman with six points through five games. Can he add more hardware to his trophy case this season?
In the Pipeline
Thatcher Demko, G (Vancouver): The Boston College netminder is killing it, with three straight shutouts and a 4-1 record overall. Demko, a Canucks second-rounder from 2014, has silly numbers right now, with a .974 save percentage and 0.60 goals-against average.
Kyle Connor, C (Winnipeg): One of Michigan’s top recruits, Connor has lived up to the hype so far, pacing the Wolverines with six points in his first four games. The big, gifted puckhandler hasn’t been held off the scoresheet yet as a freshman. The Jets got him 17th overall this summer.
Francis Perron, LW (Ottawa): It’s not just that Perron has 25 points in 13 games; it’s the fact the Rouyn-Noranda star has hit the scoresheet in every single game so far this season. The Huskies are hot and Perron, who has a beautiful offensive mind and the skills to make it all happen, has been a driver. Ottawa got him in 2014's seventh round.
Devin Shore, C (Dallas): Making the transition from junior or the NCAA to pro is a big leap, but Shore has found his footing. The former University of Maine standout has eight goals and nine points in his first seven games this season, his first full campaign with the Texas Stars. Last year the sniper and 2012 second-rounder got in 19 games and a brief playoff spell once his year with Maine was done.
Joel Eriksson Ek, C (Minnesota): It’s tough for teens to put up numbers in the SHL, Sweden’s top circuit, but Eriksson Ek has been great for Farjestad with seven points through 13 games. The 2015 Wild first-rounder plays a 200-foot game and has worked his way up to a spot on Farjestad’s second line, albeit on wing for now.
2016 Draft Stars
Jakob Chychrun, D – Sarnia Sting (OHL): The all-tools blueliner has kicked his offense into high gear for the Sting, registering five points in his past three games. Chychrun, most likely the first D-man off the board this summer, sits tied for fourth in the OHL among blueliners with 10 points in 12 games.
Max Jones, LW – London Knights (OHL): The highly-trumpeted Jones got off to a slow start, but part of that was a bottom-six role on a stacked Knights team. Lately, he’s been playing with Toronto pick Mitch Marner and the skies have opened up. The powerful and quick Jones has four points in his past two games.
Dynamic Duo: Center Mikey McLeod and right winger Alex Nylander are worth more than the price of admission with OHL Mississauga. Nylander (William’s younger bro) has incredible hands and creativity, while McLeod is devastatingly fast with great finishing moves and faceoff acumen. Expect both to go top-10 at this rate – the duo has 35 points combined in their first 16 games.
2017 Draft Star
Eeli Tolvanen, LW – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL): Tolvanen, a 5-foot-9 Finn who can play both wings, has been a revelation for Sioux City, finding himself as the USHL’s leading scorer or runner-up since the start of the season. Tolvanen has five goals and 12 points through 10 games and the secret to his success is his stick. “He can receive a pass and release it in a split-second,” said Musketeers GM Mark LeRose. “It actually looks different; it’s a unique release.”
Last year, Tolvanen rang up 84 points in 41 games with Espoo’s under-18 team back in Finland. He was tendered (ie protected) by Sioux City and it didn’t take long.
“It literally took one practice,” LeRose said. “We knew, this is our guy.”