The Journey examines Dobber’s Top 200 Forward Prospects List, and assesses the fast risers in the June rankings. Clayton Keller takes over the top spot in this month’s rankings and there is a ton of movement throughout the top 200.
Alex Tuch – Minnesota Wild – 43rd Overall, Up from 70th Overall
Tuch finished off a solid first professional season playing in 57 AHL games for the Iowa Wild and featuring in six games in February for their parent club in Minnesota. The power forward scored 18 times and added 19 assists at the AHL level, but failed to record a point at the NHL level.
The 18th overall selection in 2014 is one of a handful of monster forwards that the Wild have in their system at 6’4” and 220 pounds and he should be a good complementary piece for Minnesota moving forward. He certainly is physically ready for the NHL, but likely will need a little more AHL seasoning in 2017-18 before making the jump the NHL full time. Tuch has the type of skill set that will likely start in a third line-type role with some power play time, but will grow into a player who can make a difference on a line with a talented playmaker in a top-six role.
Maxim Letunov – San Jose Sharks – 61st Overall, Up from 91st Overall
In his freshman season at the University of Connecticut, Letunov was one of the best first-year players in the NCAA. He paired with Blues prospect Tage Thompson to combine for 72 points in 70 games, which was good for the second highest freshman pair in college hockey behind BC’s Colin White and Miles Wood.
Although he’s been traded twice since being drafted in 2014, it appears to be a case of teams wanting to add the talented youngster rather than organizations selling out of disappointment in his play. Now with the Sharks organization, Letunov will provide AHL depth for a couple seasons once he makes the jump from UCONN. At 6’4” and 190 pounds, his adjustment to the professional game will likely come from the tempo, rather than the physicality. He has the offensive ability to be an NHL player, but likely won’t be a star down the road.
John Quenneville – New Jersey – 64th Overall, Up from 97th Overall
The Devils picked last in the first round in 2014 following the penalties levied by the NHL after the Ilya Kovalchuk cap circumvention saga. With that pick, New Jersey selected Quenneville, who was a strong performer for the Brandon Wheat Kings during his junior career.
In his first professional season, Quenneville performed admirably at the AHL level with 46 points in 58 games, and earned a 12-game call-up to the NHL where he scored once and added three assists. His peripheral stats were solid in his NHL time with 21 shots and 15 hits, despite playing under 14 minutes a night. His deployment was encouraging for when he’s a full-time NHLer, as he played nearly two minutes a night with the man advantage.
Kerby Rychel – Toronto Maple Leafs – 85th Overall, Up from 143rd Overall
The 22-year-old Rychel has now played 161 games at the AHL level, where he has posted 112 points. Unfortunately, in his 37 NHL games over two prior seasons, he has not shown the same type of scoring ability. His nine points in 32 games for Columbus in the 2015-16 season prior to being traded were by no means terrible, but in this NHL, a first-round pick who takes a longer path can be wrongly labeled.
The former Windsor Spitfire joined the Maple Leafs organization at the draft last year when the Blue Jackets decided to make a move for Scott Harrington. As part of a young prospect core, Rychel had a great first season in the Toronto organization with 52 points and 118 penalty minutes in 73 games. This season is an important one for Rychel as he will likely receive another NHL call up, and can hopefully show this time around he belongs long term.
Kalle Kossila – Anaheim Ducks – 99th Overall, Up from 165th Overall
After finishing off a stellar senior season at St. Cloud State in 2015-16, the Finnish forward signed a free agent contract with the Anaheim Ducks and reported to the Ducks AHL affiliate in San Diego. In his short stint at the end of that season, Kossila played in 13 games between the regular season and Calder Cup Playoffs, scoring four times and adding two assists.
His first full professional season in 2016-17 was a tremendous success, finishing sixth among AHL rookies with 48 points, and third in points-per-game with a rate of .74. He is a solid playmaker who earned a one game call-up in January where he made his NHL debut, but played sparingly. He is in a group of prospects such as Kevin Roy and Ondrej Kase who will push for a roster spot in 2017-18.
Pontus Aberg – Nashville Predators – 109th Overall, Up from 150th Overall
Nashville’s injury woes in the playoffs brought Aberg’s game to the forefront and showed some of the talent that those who have watched the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals over the past three seasons are used to at this point. In just under 200 games at the AHL level, Aberg has piled up 126 points, including 52 in 56 games in 2016-17.
The former second round pick from Sweden played in 15 regular season games with minimal statistical success, but played his best when the stakes were higher in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had five points in 16 playoff games, averaging 1.4 shots-per-game which was nearly double his regular season output of .8 shots-per-game. Within the Preds organization, prospects typically take their time in the minors before they are granted a full-time roster spot in the NHL. Aberg certainly has showcased he can do it at the AHL level, and this will be the year to show his ability in Nashville.
Wade Allison – Philadelphia Flyers – 190th Overall, Up from 316th Overall
Allison was a guy that I liked in the 2016 draft, and targeted with a couple of mid-round picks in my dynasty league amateur drafts. The Flyers second rounder is a big, powerful forward who took the route from the USHL where he was nearly a point-per-game player in his draft year to Western Michigan University where he posted 29 points in 36 games in his freshman year.
Among freshman forwards who are property of NHL clubs, Allison finished ninth in scoring during his freshman year and sixth in shots-per-game at 2.69. For those in multi-category leagues, Allison’s 53 penalty minutes ranked second of that group. The 19-year-old will return to Western Michigan this year, where we should see more goals from the big sniper. He’s a player who, once he turns professional, we may not see him need too much time in the minors before he gets a taste of the NHL.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for prospect talk and happenings.
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