The Journey examines Dobber’s Top 200 Forward Prospects List, and assesses the fast risers in the October rankings.
Jesper Bratt – New Jersey Devils – Up to 37th from Not Ranked
Raise your hand if you had fast starts by New Jersey and Las Vegas this season. No one? Didn’t think so. However, there were many in our small prospect community who were high on Jesper Bratt. Sure, Nico Hischier gets the headlines, and Mike McLeod among others were mentioned first, but Bratt was a name that I heard all along as one to watch for.
Fast forward to four games into the season, and the Devils are 3-1, and Bratt has six points in those four contests, with three goals and three assists. Is he going to shoot 60 percent for the rest of the season? Absolutely not. However, his early season usage is promising. The former sixth rounder is averaging 16-plus minutes per game with just over three minutes per game coming with the man advantage. The Stockholm native doesn’t shoot or hit a ton, and likely is playing his best hockey of the season right now, but if you need a hot hand, he is it and depending on his usage moving forward, he could be a viable fantasy candidate this season.
Jordan Weal – Philadelphia Flyers – Up to 44th from 68th
Weal appears to have found a permanent spot with the Flyers. The 25-year-old signed a two-year deal before the season, and beat out the likes of Matt Read to start the season in Philadelphia. In turn, Weal has paid the Flyers back with three points in his first four games. The former third round pick of the Kings was terrific in Lehigh Valley a season ago, scoring at over a point-per-game pace, and has shown that he has outgrown the AHL.
In addition to his one goal and two assists to start the season, Weal has also piled up nine shots, and has been utilized both at even strength and on the power play. The young forward has always been a high-volume shooter, with 62 shots in 41 games, and has had a decent shooting percentage of 14.5% in a limited sample size of half a season. With as many goals as the Flyers pile up on the power play, keep an eye on Weal’s usage with the man advantage. There could be some free points out there.
Filip Chytil – New York Rangers – Up to 51st from 102nd
Of the two Rangers first rounders from 2017, Lias Andersson was the one who most thought would break camp with the Blueshirts. As a prospect, he was regarded as a high-ceiling guy, and one of the 2017 draftees who was the most ready to play at the NHL level quickly. Chytil, however, played well in the preseason, and flashed some of the raw skill that New York saw when they drafted him 21st overall in June.
Although he played in the Rangers first two games of the season, he was by no means trusted by the coaching staff to play a regular role. The Czech born forward totaled just over six minutes per game at the NHL level and was sent back to the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack after just a couple contests. He is one for the future, but his place right now is at the professional European level, or in the AHL. He will get plenty of development in either situation.
Alex Kerfoot – Colorado Avalanche – Up to 59th from 116th
After a decorated career at Harvard University, Kerfoot decided to use his status as a collegiate free agent to look around for what would be the best fit for his NHL career. He settled on the Colorado Avalanche, spurning the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him 150th overall in 2012. Going the other way from Colorado to New Jersey at the same time, was Denver defenseman Will Butcher.
Following a disaster of a season a year ago, the Avs have started 4-1 in 2017-18. Some of that can be tied to the play of Kerfoot. He has started up top with Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov, who has picked himself up off the proverbial scrap heap to start the season well. Kerfoot hasn’t been receiving an overwhelming amount of ice time at even strength, but nearly a quarter of his time on ice has come with the man advantage. I don’t expect Colorado to keep this start up, and likely the Vancouver native is a better fit in a middle or bottom six role, but someone will have to post points for this team, and if Kerfoot continues getting the type of usage he is, he could be a producer on a bad team.
Vitali Abramov – Columbus Blue Jackets – Up to 94th from 146th
In 66 games a year ago in the QMJHL, Abramov posted 104 points. That means in the last two seasons, the young Russian has put up 197 points in 129 games. That type of offense is tough to ignore, no matter what league you are playing in.
The third-round pick from 2016 is back with Gatineau this season, where he will push to be the top scorer in the Quebec league. With the success of other undersized players in the league over the last handful of years, Abramov’s chances have been given a definite upgrade from what they would have been in another era. The Blue Jackets have a boatload of young talent, so it remains to be seen where Abramov fits in, but it is an organization that values offense and top-end skill. Likely he will continue his professional career in Cleveland at the end of the season, with an eye on a permanent spot in the AHL in 2018-19.
Martin Frk – Detroit Red Wings – Up to 104th from 179th
Frk was waived by the Red Wings a season ago, where he was picked up by the Carolina Hurricanes and former coach Bill Peters to start the season. The Czech forward did not stick in Carolina and was a castoff when some of their regulars returned from injury. He was returned to the Detroit organization, and went on to a great 2016-17 season for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, putting up 50 points in 68 regular season games, before starring en route to a Calder Cup win.
As the 2017-18 season started, the Wings were quick to install Frk into the lineup after the preseason. Thus far, the former second rounder has three goals and one assist in just five games this season, averaging over two shots per game and a hit per contest. He isn’t getting a ton of ice time, but about 20% of what he has warranted, has come with the man advantage. In the long run, Frk likely settles as a bottom six forward who can chip in offensively, and could score some power play points if he continues to be deployed how he currently is.
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