It’s prime time for prospect season! The World Junior Championships are set to begin this week, and while the NCAA took a break for the holiday season, the Belleville Senators rolled along with their team of young forwards. Everything you need to know from the past week can be found below, but first, here are the biggest standouts.
It’s been a bumpy start to Parker Kelly’s pro career, to say the least. Following a 2018-19 season where he found success as part of the CHL’s biggest powerhouse, the 20-year-old forward joined Belleville in the hopes of translating his game. In a way that’s what happened, as he’s using his strong physical presence every game as a fourth-line checker. But he’s been silent on the scoresheet, with only a single point in his first 21 games.
That all changed for one game, however, as Kelly scored two goals and added an assist in the same day, as the B-Sens beat the Syracuse Crunch by a score of 7-3. Playing on a line with Cole Cassels and Joseph LaBate, his performance earned him the first star of the game.
If Kelly has hopes of becoming an NHLer, we’ll need to see more performances like this. He already has the right physical tools, it’s now a matter of rounding out his skillset — his skating, vision, offensive awareness — so that he doesn’t just play as a fourth line plug. His 35 goals last season certainly indicates he has a scoring touch, so let’s hope he displays it more like he did this week.
While Belleville as a team had a losing week, it was a winning week for Vitaly Abramov. He scored at least a point in all three games, including two goals in 4-3 loss. His current streak now has him scoring over a point-per-game pace — the only other U22 players on a higher pace are Drake Batherson and Stockton’s Matthew Phillips.
This is far from Abramov’s first time being mentioned in this section, although it’s worth emphasizing his bounce-back from last season, and how it was probably expected. His 22 points in 52 games last season was underwhelming for a rookie pro, given he was one of the QMJHL’s all-time greatest players after posting three monster seasons. But given his current trajectory, last season now seems like an anomaly rather than part of a trend.
When the Sens eventually start calling up young players, Abramov has done enough to put himself on the shortlist.
His numbers may not jump off the page (1-0-2, Sv% of 89.6%), but Marcus Högberg had a fantastic week in the NHL. With Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson both dealing with injuries this month, and defencemen getting swatted down like flies, Högberg’s been relied upon to give the Sens a chance to win. And given the lack of help the defensive corps has been able to provide, he’s performed really well.
At 25 years old, Högberg’s just inside the prime age for goaltenders. Like this past week, his AHL numbers the past two years have been very mediocre, but the defence in front of him was some of the worst in the AHL. Let’s not forget that before that, in 2016-17, he put up a save percentage of 93.2% in the SHL, a men’s pro league. He was only 22 years old at the time and has only gotten better since. Now that he’s finally getting the chance to play on the NHL stage, he’s rising to the occasion.
Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration — after all he allowed four goals per game this week. But it was great to see him pick up his first NHL win after coming so close the previous game. Let’s hope he can keep it up, as he appears to be much further ahead than the rest of the Sens’ goalie prospects.
Here was one of the many spectacular saves he made against the Flyers.
- Drake Batherson continued to do Drake Batherson things, putting up three points in three games while making opposing defencemen look silly. Him, Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers are continuing to show their chemistry, with Balcers’ point streak reaching 15 games.
- The B-Sens are in the middle of a short Christmas break, and will return on boxing day. Hopefully it’s enough time for some players to heal, including Michael Carcone, Morgan Klimchuk and Christian Jaros. Only Carcone’s absence was disclosed as sickness, but all three are likely just day-to-day.
- After a ten-game stint in the Allsvenskan, Viktor Lodin has returned to the SHL, playing on Örebro’s fourth line.
- Pierre Dorion mentioned on the radio that if the Sens’ defensive injuries continue to pile up, they’ve looked at the option of bringing over Olle Alsing from Sweden on an emergency basis. It’d be a big hit to Djurgårdens, so hopefully it doesn’t reach that point.
- The World Juniors start this week! Shane Pinto (USA), Jacob Bernard-Docker (CAN) and Lassi Thomson (FIN) will be the Sens’ representatives, with Thomson being named Finland’s team captain. Follow the open thread here!
Pro (NHL, AHL, ECHL)
- Multi-point weeks for Formenton, Batherson, Norris, Balcers, Abramov, Kelly and Chlapik.
- All the defencemen were in the NHL this week given the amount of injuries on the main roster.
Canadian Hockey League
|Johnny Gruden||LW||19||London Knights||OHL||3||4||1||5||0||14||29%|||||44||21||28||49||21||112||19%|
|Maxence Guénette||RD||18||Val-d'Or Foreurs||QMJHL||3||0||2||2||4||2||0%|||||45||8||22||30||20||100||8%|
|Mark Kastelic||C||20||Calgary Hitmen||WHL||2||2||3||5||2||8||25%|||||39||23||22||45||59||143||16%|
- Gruden was the only one in action this week since being cut by Team USA, scoring a pair of goals.
|Angus Crookshank||LW||20||Univ. of New Hampshire||2||0||0||0||2||6||0%|||||24||12||4||16||12||93||13%|
|Chris Wilkie||RW||23||Colorado College||2||0||0||0||0||19||0%|||||22||17||8||25||13||122||14%|
|Jakov Novak||LW/C||21||Bentley Univ.||2||0||3||3||2||5||0%|||||26||14||12||26||39||75||19%|
|Luke Loheit||RW||19||Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth||2||1||0||1||0||3||0%|||||23||3||1||4||6||18||17%|
|Shane Pinto||C||19||Univ. of North Dakota||2||0||2||2||2||1||0%|||||23||11||9||20||27||61||18%|
|Jacob Bernard-Docker||RD||19||Univ. of North Dakota||2||0||0||0||0||4||0%|||||22||3||13||16||8||39||8%|
|Jonny Tychonick||LD||19||Univ. of North Dakota||1||1||0||1||0||2||0%|||||18||4||6||10||6||10||40%|
- Christmas break in the NCAA, hence zero games for everybody.
|Viktor Lodin||C/LW||20||Örebro HK||SHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||22||0||4||4||2||20||0%|
|HC Vita Hästen||Allsvenskan||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||10||3||2||5||2||26||12%|
|Olle Alsing||LD||23||Djurgårdens IF||SHL||2||0||0||0||0||1||0%|||||36||4||16||20||20||55||7%|
- Lassi Thomson is off to the World Juniors!
- Markus Nurmi was the only Euro prospect to get on the scoresheet, as Olle Alsing has really slowed down since the beginning of the season.
|Filip Gustavsson||21||Belleville Senators||AHL||1||1||28||2||92.9%|||||18||11||5||2||0||519||55||89.4%|
|Joey Daccord||23||Belleville Senators||AHL||2||1||1||61||4||93.4%|||||13||9||3||2||1||434||36||91.7%|
|Marcus Högberg||25||Belleville Senators||AHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||15||7||6||0||0||408||42||89.7%|
|Kevin Mandolese||19||Cape Breton Eagles||QMJHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||#VALUE!|||||26||17||6||1||0||726||57||92.1%|
|Mads Søgaard||19||Medicine Hat Tigers||WHL||2||1||1||27||4||85.2%|||||28||15||10||1||1||744||75||89.9%|
- Filip Gustavsson was pulled yet again this week, dragging his Sv% this season down to 87.4%. With him and Joey Daccord playing around the same level recently, it’ll be interesting to see who gets sent down once both Anderson and Nilsson are healthy.