Checking In With The Top 20 Prospects

With a couple days between games and finally some Stockton Heat action to talk about, now seems like a pretty smart time to revisit our summer Top 20 Prospects rankings. We’ll do this periodically throughout the season, but hopefully this shows which players are performing better-than-expected, which players are disappointing, and which cases that our rankings are just completely out to lunch.

Case in point: there are six defensemen ranked ahead of Brett Kulak, who is currently in the NHL. Granted, one of them is hurt (Ryan Culkin) and two of them aren’t pros yet (Brandon Hickey and Rasmus Andersson), but it doesn’t look too good for our rankings sometimes.

Full update after the jump!


#1: Sam Bennett – Calgary Flames

Bennett began the year as the organization’s top prospect. Through three regular season games, he’s got zero points but he’s looked like an NHL center. Most impressive? His 46.7% face-off mark, which is pretty solid for a rookie – and actually better than Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan.

#2: Jon Gillies – Stockton Heat

After being hampered by a concussion in the pre-season that largely kept him off the ice, Gillies was thrown in (relatively) cold against the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday night. In his professional debut, he made 19 saves for his first professional shutout. Not a bad start.

#3: Emile Poirier – Stockton Heat

Poirier was one of several prospects that looked good in Stockton’s debut. He had two assists, but bear in mind that they were both secondary assists. Still: points are points.

#4: Oliver Kylington – Stockton Heat

There were a few question marks about Kylington before the season began. Those questions aren’t completely answered as of yet, but all reports are that he was superb on Saturday. He had a goal and a primary assist, and generally looked like a guy that had played Swedish pro hockey as a teenager. Give it a few games before you start penciling him into the Flames line-up, though.

#5: Morgan Klimchuk – Stockton Heat

Klimchuk was one of only a few Heat players held pointless on Saturday, but remember (a) it’s his first pro season and there’s probably some growing pains involved and (b) he was playing primarily with Blair Riley and Freddie Hamilton.

#6: Rasmus Andersson – Barrie Colts

Andersson has an assist in five games with Barrie so far. I’d be a bit concerned with his -5 rating so far, but it seems like the whole team has sagged a bit lately – they’ve lost two in a row after a good start.

#7: Brandon Hickey – Boston University Terriers

Hickey began his sophomore season rather quietly, putting up zero points as the Terriers lost 5-3 to Union over the weekend.

#8: Tyler Wotherspoon – Stockton Heat

Wotherspoon had a primary assist in Stockton’s big win on Saturday night.

#9: Bill Arnold – Stockton Heat

Arnold had a power-play goal on Saturday for the Heat.

#10: Mark Jankowski – Providence College Friars

Jankowski might have done the most to elevate his status among all of the team’s prospects this weekend. Providence College beat (and tied) Miami (of Ohio) in their weekend set, and Jankowski had a goal and four assists. It’s probably not sustainable, but it’s a good start. He begins the year as Providence’s first-line center.

#11: Kenney Morrison – Stockton Heat

Morrison was a healthy scratch on Saturday. Granted, there’s a lot of defenders in Stockton, but hopefully that’s not a regular occurrence.

#12: Andrew Mangiapane – Barrie Colts (Stock Rising)

He’s slowed down a bit as the team’s struggled a bit recently, but Mangiapane has eight points in seven games. His -4 rating isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s also too early to be that concerned.

#13: Ryan Culkin – Stockton Heat

Culkin’s currently on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Current estimates see him returning to action sometime in November.

#14: Kenny Agostino – Stockton Heat (Stock Rising)

A runner-up to Jankowski for “Prospect That Elevated Their Status This Week,” Agostino had three assists -all of them secondary – in Stockton’s big win. He might not have been burying pucks in the net, but plays were definitely not dying on his stick. He’s a guy that probably deserved some NHL time last season but was a victim of the numbers game. Keep an eye on him.

#15: Hunter Smith – Stockton Heat

Smith played on the fourth line and made his pro debut on Saturday, but he was held pointless.

#16: Mason McDonald – Charlottetown Islanders

McDonald was just named to Team QMJHL in the annual Canada/Russia junior challenge. He’s been okay with Charlottetown, going 1-2-0 with a 3.33 goals against average and .898 save percentage.

#17: Brett Kulak – Calgary Flames (Stock Rising)

Kulak has zero points in three NHL games. But he’s a third-pairing guy that hasn’t been lit up, so I think he’s doing just fine.

#18: Austin Carroll – Stockton Heat

He was scratched on Saturday.

#19: Garnet Hathaway – Stockton Heat

Hathaway was named an alternate captain for the Heat, but was scratched for the season-opener.

#20: Rushan Rafikov – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Stock Falling)

The good news: Lokomotiv is in first place! The bad news: Rafikov has only played seven games (of the team’s 20), and he last played on October 5th and hit the ice for the grand total of 4:30.


Players not in the Top 20 that are making cases so far this season for their future inclusion.

John Gilmour – Providence College Friars

After missing the season-opener, Gilmour had a goal in Providence College’s tie with Miami (of Ohio). He’s a senior this season.

Pavel Karnaukhov – Calgary Hitmen

Karnaukhov missed a weekend game with a lower body issue, but was back in action soon after. He’s got two points in six games thus far.

Matthew Deblouw – Michigan State University Spartans

Deblouw is now a senior and plays right wing on the Spartans’ second line. He had an assist in two games over the opening weekend.

Riley Bruce – North Bay Battalion

Best known as “the tall kid Calgary took in the seventh round,” Bruce has a goal and is -1 through six games. His team is .500, and he’s doing just fine.

Nick Schneider – Medicine Hat Tigers

In six games with the Tigers, Schneider is 2-3-0 with a 4.45 goals against average and a scary .852 save percentage. It’s early, but yikes.

Turner Elson – Stockton Heat (Stock Rising)

A brand-new alternate captain with the Heat, Elson had two primary assists in Stockton’s rout over Rockford.

  • OKG

    “Jankowski might have done the most to elevate his status”

    As with McDonald & Kulak, he shouldn’t have been that low in the first place.

    Here is the top 10 I posted on September 5th in the comments of the #10-1 roundup:

    1) Bennett

    2) McDonald

    3) Jankowski

    4) Gillies

    5) Hickey

    6) Mangiapane

    7) Kylington

    8) Poirier

    9) Andersson

    10) Kulak

    Apparently, my top nine was worth 30 trashes, plus 6 more when I ammended Kulak in, due to Ortio not being a prospect. Keep the trashes coming guys. Or actually give somebody some educated feedback instead of blindly looking at stats and hype and hitting that button when someone’s list isn’t the same as every other list in the world.

      • OKG

        Gillies can have a great NHL career, I’m excited about, and also Ortio.

        But there are things McDonald does that get me really excited. He’s 6’4″ himself, but he’s even more athletic than Gillies, and he’s a phenomenal puck-handling goalie – if there were no trapezoid rule he’d be in consideration for the next Brodeur in that respect. Lastly, the amount of progress he took from his draft year through to now are phenomenal, the little things he does now are much improved.

        And the final kicker (not that it’s a big one)- catches right-hand.

        As for stats, Gillies has regularily been Top 3 goaltender in Hockey East while McDonald was the 2nd best goaltender in the Q last year so there’s not much difference there. Hockey East obviously is going to have prettier percentages as it’s a much more defensive league than the run n gun Q.

        • OKG

          As for stats, Gillies has regularily been Top 3 goaltender in Hockey East while McDonald was the 2nd best goaltender in the Q last year so there’s not much difference there. Hockey East obviously is going to have prettier percentages as it’s a much more defensive league than the run n gun Q.

          Yes, but let’s get a little perspective here: who’s more likely to ever play a single minute in the NHL between Connor Hellebuyck and Marvin Cupper?

          • OKG

            That’s cherry-picking. Who’s more likely to be in the NHL, Samuel Montembeault or Clay Witt? Either way 21-year-old Cupper “might” actually be a great goalie but is simply too small for the NHL so his save percentage translating has nothing to do with 18-year-old McDonald’s save percentage translating.

            End of the day both McDonald and Gillies were near the top of their conference/league. Doesn’t really matter if they were slightly beat by a Clay Witt or a Marvin Cupper. Their stats relative to their league were both very strong. Both leagues produce NHL goaltenders.

    • Brent G.

      I want to ‘trash’ this post twice.

      Once for the self gratifying BS you display is stupid and pointless on a blog. Good job, you showed us…

      Second because Jankowski is definitely not better than Gillies. MacDonald probably isn’t better than Gillies based purely on results to date.

    • Burnward

      Good list.

      Based on seeing some of the kids I’d never seen during preseason and putting my own projections, which like anyone, are subjective I’d swap some of that top ten.

      Judging top pro potential:

      1. Bennett

      2. Gillies

      3. Hickey

      4. Andersson

      5. Kylington

      6. Janko

      7. McDonald

      8. Mangiapane

      9. Poirier

      10. Kulak

      • OKG

        Most of your changes were just shuffling around G, D, and F which is fine. You didn’t seem to change the rankings within the positions much.

        As for the rest, my thoughts:

        1) Remember, Kylington is nearly a year younger than Andersson. So even if Andersson looked better in preseason as an almost 19-year old, Kylington won’t be 19 til 2016 preseason 😉

        2) I already pointed our earlier why I favor McDonald as a prospect over Gillies. The margin though, is but a sliver. And yet in 9 years our goaltending tandem might be Career Elite Goalie Joni Ortio and stud fourth-year NHL backup Nick Schneider.

        2) I know people are hesitant to hype up Jankowski, but his actual ceiling is absurdly high. He has his question marks, but the same applies to Kylington who you’ve got above Janko. In many ways Kylington and Jankowski are the same kind of prospect – serious question marks (Janko – stats, Kylington – defense) and serious ceiling (Janko – Kopitar, Kylington – Karlsson). Imagine if both were to pan out along with the guys who are already on the team, plus Granlund replaces Hudler.

        • Burnward

          Can’t disagree my man.

          Prospect rankings are like favourite beers, everyone has their own taste.

          I’m sold on Janko but don’t see him eclipsing Mony or Bennett for big-time offensive minutes.

          I just went with your ten because it was easy and seemed good to this guy.

          Might be a Klimchuck in there instead of Poirier, Mangiapane or Kulak but it’s late and the Jays fried my brain.

          • OKG

            Why eclipse them, when you can join Them? Look at the Sharks – Couture, Thornton, Pavelski, Hertl, Marleau.. who even really is a winger in that top 6?

            Can you imagine a Poirier(208lb)-Jankowski(222lb)-Monahan(215lb) line on the cycle down low, with Janko setting Monny up for one-timers and Poirier chasing down the misses with his speed and tiring out the other team, other team has to ice the puck, so Flames go to a Gaudreau/Bennett line that’s just playing mind games with these tired opponents?


  • BurningSensation

    I love that Jankowski has revived himself as a legit NHL prospect!

    At every stage he’s been doubted, questioned, and derided, and now he might actually be the player they projected when he was drafted.

    I’m going to put a plate in the fridge, because revenge is a dish best served cold.

    • Burnward

      IMO, Janko hasn’t revived anything.

      He’s just proven that people that write off teenage kids based on little more than hearsay and preconceived notions are completely out to lunch.

      • BurningSensation

        It’ more than that.

        Jankowski has not had anything like a normal dwcelopment path, in part because of the freakish growth curve he went through that saw him go from 5’10 165lbs to the 6’3″ 200lb player he is now.

        Factor in his (very) underwhelming stats, his usage as a defensive C, and the coaching emphasis on trap hockey, and its understandable that Jankowski wasn’t much respected.

        But if the new Jankowski is the real deal…well, it says something nice about Weisbrod and Feaster.

  • MattyFranchise

    First stat I’ve been checking after Flames games so far has been Bennett’s FO%. Given that he’s a rookie I’d say he’s been crushing it in that department as far as expectations are concerned.

    It’s usually one of the slowest developing skills for young centers breaking into the league.

  • OKG

    A few things to add:

    McDonald’s numbers were mostly skewed by an abhorrent season debut (which he won, apparently in spite of himself). Since, he’s posted a .917 and a .912, with a .926 so far tonight.

    I’ve heard that Andersson has been very good in spite of not reaching the scoresheet.

    Aside from his stupendous skating, I’ve noticed that Kylington has a ridiculously good shot. Check out his goal from saturday; that’s a laser.

    Adam Ollas Mattsson has played four of Djurgarden’s eight games so far. He also played two games in the Champion’s league and scored a goal (!!!).

    Also: as I said dozens of times leading to the draft, AOM is completely comparable to a certain overrated Swedish plug defenseman. Gabriel “why did he go in the first round?” Carlsson was sent back to the U20 league. Just as Ollas Mattsson was in his post-draft season.

  • Jankowski is still a long shot to be an NHL player, let alone a good one. A couple of good games to start the season in his senior year in college don’t wipe out the previous three years of completely middling results.

    • OKG

      Technically, so’s Gillies. Could end up the next Leland Irving for all we know. Doesn’t mean you have to throw water on every time someone wants to call Gillies a future franchise starter.

      Jankowski’s a great prospect and has been since the day Tod Button decided he was worth drafting, three years ago.

      • Except Gilles actually has had very good statistics to get excited about. Jankowski has had zero seasons of great statistics to lead anyone to say that he will be close to an elite player. If this player was in any other system (especially the Oilers) we would be ripping people for getting too excited about someone that looks lucky to be a 3rd or fourth line player.

        I too will eat a double serving of crow if I am wrong.

        • OKG

          Putting way too much stock into just statistics without context. There were 32 goaltenders in the NCAA last year with a .920 or better. Gillies had a .930 – there were ten goaltenders with a .930 or better. Save percentages in college don’t translate to the AHL. Save percentages in the AHL, don’t translate to the NHL. Gillies could bust. It’s a fact no one wants to acknowledge apparently.

          • I didn’t say Gilles was a lock. Certainly not a lock to be an elite goalie. Not sure who said that. I will say that I would bet that Gilles makes the NHL and that Jankowski at best makes it as a bottom sixer. That is my 2 cents based on both of their history. It is obviously much harder to make the NHL as a goalie as there are only 2 NHL goalie positions. To make it as a 4th line player is not easy per say but if Jankowski is one of your top prospects I am assuming you see him as probable for the 1st or 2nd line?

            Time will tell. I would love Jankowski to be the best player in that draft or in our system for that matter. To me nothing points to that happening.

    • MattyFranchise

      He is excellent defensively from most reports. Could be a good fourth liner. Best player from the draft? Most likely not. Good for the Flames system? At this point I say yes.