With another update to RotoWire's Top 100 NHL Prospects (for fantasy purposes) comes another opportunity for me to hit on the big risers and fallers, and there was none bigger on this list than Jakob Silfverberg, who went from being unranked (my bad; I have no excuse for missing him last time) all the way to No. 25 on the latest list. Recently featured in "The Future To Come" in this very column, the 21-year-old Senators prospect put up 54 points in 49 games with Brynas IF this season, good for second in the circuit. He's part of a spectacular group of Senators prospects, including Mark Stone (No. 11), Robin Lehner (No. 13), Mike Zibanejad (No. 38), Shane Prince (No. 64) and Matt Puempel (No. 88). Only one other team is so well represented: the Panthers, who have three in the top 10 (Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Jacob Markstrom). Look no further to find your future NHL powerhouse teams.
If you've read my work, you know that I'm not the kind of prospect analyst who's inclined to just pile all the recent first-round picks at the top of the list. This is a results-oriented business and fantasy is a numbers game, and so you shouldn't be surprised to find the relatively unheralded defenseman Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Sabres) and goalie Frederik Andersen ('Canes) in the No. 18 and 19 spots (up from 29 and 43), respectively. Finding Andersen ahead of better-known netminding prospects like Matt Hackett, Jake Allen, Eddie Lack, Martin Jones and Jack Campbell may seem surprising, but he reminds me of a certain other seventh-round Scandinavian goalie who's likely to win the Vezina Trophy this year. Andersen and Henrik Lundqvist are nearly the same size - Lundqvist has an inch on the 22-year-old - and Anderson's numbers in the SEL are eerily reminiscent of The King's ridiculous totals there before he came to America.
Word is that Justin Schultz (No. 14) may become available after July 1 because he doesn't particularly want to sign with the Ducks. If any NHL GM doesn't look into that, he should be fired.
I could keep going at length, but I've got the rest of a column to write and you've got the rest of a column to read.
The following players graduated from the list by appearing in 25 or more NHL games: Ryan Ellis, Brayden Schenn, Slava Voynov, Carl Hagelin, Eric Tangradi, Zac Dalpe, Louis Leblanc, Roman Josi, Zack Kassian and Nino Niederreiter.
Gustav Nyquist, C, DET - Down went Nyquist at the end of last week, and up comes Nyquist on Sunday. Our No. 20 prospect (up from 23!) has simply been a machine for AHL Grand Rapids, as no matter how many times the Red Wings ship him up and down, he maintains his point-per-game pace. Just visiting with the Griffins, he collected two goals and an assist in two games. Nyquist is one of those guys who I truly look forward to watching throughout his career.
Brayden McNabb, D, BUF - RotoWire's No. 35 prospect (seventh among defensemen) lost his spot on Buffalo's blue line after suffering a concussion back in mid-January, was sent down to AHL Rochester to get back into gear, and had a truly terrific run with the Americans, putting up 15 points in 17 games. Overall, the 21-year-old has 25 points this season in 36 minor-league games to go with a plus-15, astounding totals for a rookie on the blue line. He skated an uneventful 13:17 with no power-play time in his return to the Buffalo blue line March 14 against Colorado, then was scratched Saturday as Andrej Sekera returned for the Sabres. With Tyler Myers (suspension) back soon, too, look for McNabb to go back to Rochester soon. I'm willing to guarantee that, barring injury, he makes the roster out of camp next year.
Kyle Palmieri, RW, ANA - Our No. 23 prospect has had perhaps the most dominant season in the AHL this year, as his 42 games with Syracuse have resulted in the following stat line: 32 goals, 55 points, 47 PIM, plus-16. That's an old-tyme Alex Ovechkin pace. The 26th overall pick in 2009 got some opportunity to shine while Corey Perry was injured, and he delivered a two-goal game March 14 against Detroit. Perry's back now, though, and as a result Palmieri's skated 10:07 and 11:51 in his last two games. Not coincidentally, he's without a point during that time, though he has managed three shots and three hits.
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR - The Rangers have had a great year, and as a result, Zuccarello's been stuck toiling in Connecticut, where he's endured an injury, but also made the AHL All-Star team and put up a sparkling 36 points in 37 games. The Norwegian Hobbit Wizard (I know he hates the nickname, but I love it so) finally got the call back to New York on March 11, and despite fairly limited ice time (but huge power-play time), he's got a goal and an assist in four games. The Rangers are desperate for offense right now, and Zuccarello can certainly provide that. He's averaged 4:33 on the power play over the four games since he's been up, so he makes for an excellent short-term add in deeper leagues.
Marcus Foligno, LW, BUF - A 2009 fourth-round pick, Foligno hasn't really outperformed in the AHL - with 34 points and 70 PIM in 55 games, he didn't really look like the kind of guy who would instantly leap into the arms of NHL success. But that's just what he's done in his four games since being promoted - Foligno's found the scoreboard in each game, totaling three goals and two assists in as impressive and unexpected a debut (I'm not counting his one-game stint back in December) as we've seen in the league this year. The son of former Sabre Mike Foligno never flashed big-time scoring potential in juniors - his final year with OHL Sudbury was by far his best, as he put up 59 points in 47 games, but he was never close to a point per game before that - so fantasy owners would be wise to temper their expectations, but he's certainly got the size at 6-3, 227, to get along in the NHL, and it could be that the 21-year-old is just blooming relatively late.
Teemu Hartikainen, LW, EDM - He may not be a huge point producer, but Harty is one of those "glue guys" that NHL coaches love. With 14 goals and 30 points in 48 AHL games this year, he's not wholly without offensive ability, but the 21-year-old is most likely to make his living as an energy player on a third line. In his first game back with Edmonton on Friday, he picked up his first NHL point of the year (an assist) along with seven hits and a plus-1, and that got him a lot of opportunity in Sunday's game, in which he went plus-1 with four shots in nearly 16 minutes of ice time, but didn't get on the scoreboard. He hasn't played at all on the power play for Edmonton yet, and he probably won't this year, which certainly doesn't help his short-term fantasy prospects. Long-term, it's possible that the hard-working Finn could develop the offense to be a top-six player.
Braden Holtby, G, WAS - With Tomas Vokoun dealing with an injury, Holtby will back up Michal Neuvirth in the near term. Holtby's been fighting it again lately with AHL Hershey, as he's lost four of his last five starts and allowed at least four goals in three of those games. I still believe, and as a result he hasn't moved from his No. 31 spot on the prospects list.
Tim Erixon, D, NYR - No. 51 on our latest prospects list, Erixon has had a very successful season in Connecticut since the Rangers sent him down early in the year, posting a terrific 33 points (3 goals, 30 assists) in 43 games. He got into Saturday's game against Colorado, skating only 9:57 and going minus-1 with three hits and no shots despite more than a minute of power-play time. The 21-year-old Swedish-American obviously has pedigree as a 2009 first-round pick by the Flames, and has provided clear evidence of his offensive ability both in Sweden the last couple years and with the Whale this year. Word from the Rangers is that they love how he's improved his strength over the course of the year. It's just a matter of time until he puts it together, but New York can't afford for him to learn on the job.
David Rundblad, D, PHO - Rundblad picked up just one assist in his four games back with Phoenix before being reassigned to AHL Portland, where his minus-13 tells a tale of poor defense even by the already low standards of the Pirates, who have some truly atrocious goaltending. In only 18 games, he's already two ticks off the team "lead" in negative plus-minus. On the bright side, Rundblad's got 11 points to his name in that time as well. So you take the good and the bad together. After being scratched for a couple games, Rundblad was demoted to Portland, where he's got an assist and minus-3 rating (shocker!) in three games.
Leland Irving, G, CGY - I ranked Irving 69th largely based on his impressive early returns in limited time for the Flames. Miikka Kiprusoff's contract is getting close to running its course, and Henrik Karlsson still hasn't proven to be the natural successor. Irving got into another game Friday, stopping 22 of 25 in a loss to Edmonton before being sent down. He's got a .912 save percentage in seven appearances for Calgary despite getting little help from his defense, as he's faced 34 shots a game on average.
The Future to Come
Our prospect of the week is Tobias Rieder, a right wing with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers and a 2011 fourth-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers. Rieder has immediately paid dividends for the Oilers organization after being taken 114th overall, as he turned his solid junior debut last season (49 points in 65 games) into an explosive second season, as the German native finished fifth in the OHL in goals, totaling 42 markers and adding another 42 assists for a team-leading 84 points in 60 games. With that effort, the previously unranked Rieder makes his first appearance on our Top 100 Prospects, clocking in at No. 84 - with potential to rise with a big showing in the OHL playoffs. A speedy winger, Rieder has added a lot of size and strength this year, and at 5-11, 190, he's of a size with, for example, Ryan Callahan, so where size was once a concern, it's probably not anymore. At 19 years old, he's not done growing, either, and that projection of future size combined with Rieder's high-end skill and compete level have put him firmly on my radar.
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