One of the most common questions posed to me via Twitter around this time of year is some version of "Is Prospect X going to make the team?" to which I usually answer "I don't know" and "It's not my decision, but I can tell you what I would do if it was". Even when I do have inside information as to who will make the team, they sometimes turn around and do something different after seeing their options after the pro camp ends.
Most teams have made their final cuts. Some have a handful left, while others are letting some juniors take their nine-game stint before their Entry-Level Contract officially kicks in. Here are my thoughts on the teams' roster finalizations to date. Players from the Top 100 prospect list will have their ranking in brackets.
Anaheim Ducks: Forward Devante Smith-Pelly remains with the team, while they still haven't fully trimmed down their roster as of this writing. I personally am not a huge DSP fan, but I can certainly buy on the intangibles, the physical game, and a skating stride that has shown improvement. I do not remain convinced though that he's anything but a bottom-line player in the NHL. Kyle Palmieri (50) was cut, but that is likely a short-term move as he's one of the most pro-ready scoring forward prospects there are. At the first sign of injury to a semi-notable forward, expect Palmieri to be up and pushing for a regular spot.
Boston Bruins: Winger Jordan Caron made the club, but on a team with competition in the system and a strong club overall, he will have to play well to remain. As a player with defensive value, if he can play against the opponents' better players, it will do a lot to help him stick.
Buffalo Sabres: Luke Adam (45) is one of the most ready prospects from my Top 100 list to contribute right away, so it's not surprising that he made the team. He's improved his skating quite a bit, and is a fine all-around player who should make some noise this season.
Calgary Flames: Roman Horak, the player acquired in the Tim Erixon deal, will stick after a number of injuries on the big club. He had a good summer development-wise as he's put on weight and muscle, which was his biggest issue last year. He may or may not be here to stay, but if not, he will be soon.
Carolina Hurricanes: Zac Dalpe (44) has made quite an impression early this year and could be a potential Calder candidate if he gets long-term scoring minutes with the club. Defenseman Justin Faulk (72) and Ryan Murphy (20) are surprisingly both with the team as of this writing, but I'd bet on Faulk sticking and Murphy being given one more OHL season. Zach Boychuk (58) looked poor in camp, and may be a potential fall candidate on my board if he doesn't have a big year.
Chicago Blackhawks: I wrote at the time of the draft that I thought Brandon Saad could fast track saying, "I'm not sure if he has the upside to project as anything past a second liner and while he has some development left it's not that hard to see him in that slot within a handful of years." I didn't think he would make the team this quickly, but I'm not 100% surprised. He's a big man who has a fine but not overwhelming all-around skill set that is accentuated by his skating ability and it's not a stretch to think my 22nd ranked prospect at the draft is ready to stay beyond nine games. Brandon Pirri (53) didn't make the team but as of this writing has been called up with injuries to the club. I don't think he will be a full-time regular this year as he could still use some more seasoning, but I'm a big fan of his possession skills.
Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog (39) making the team is no surprise, as one of the main selling points on him out of the 2011 draft was his polished game and NHL-readiness. Stefan Elliot (92) got an extended look at camp, but was a late cut and some AHL time will do him some good to work on his defensive game at the pro level before making the jump.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A lot of top prospects have made the Jackets this year including Ryan Johansen (3), David Savard (15), Cam Atkinson (77), and Maksim Mayorov. The first three could all potentially be notable contributors this year while Mayorov is an interesting case of a former scoring prospect who has effectively turned himself into a checker.
Dallas Stars: Not a lot to talk about here other than Philip Larsen on the team. He's a solid defense prospect with good hockey sense, but even at his peak you shouldn't expect too much out of him.
Detroit Red Wings: Gustav Nyquist (16) had a great camp, but was a late cut who could push for a regular job soon if he continues his brilliance in the AHL. Brendan Smith (25) looked like he was on his way to a regular spot, but after getting the Shanahammer for a head check, I'm not sure what his future entails in regards to short-term NHL playing time. Cory Emmerton remains on the roster, but on a deep team, he may be a secondary option for a bottom line job.
Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2) and Anton Lander (91) both make the team. While I don't mind the latter, I'm a little skeptical about the former unless Edmonton think he's physically ready to play significant minutes. And even then, on what will likely be a poor team, I still wouldn't be crazy about burning an ELC year off of a cornerstone like RNH.
Florida Panthers: After being a late cut last year, I'm not surprised that Erik Gudbranson (64) made the team. Physically, he's more than ready, as his physical game and skating ability are very desirable assets, but playing defense in the NHL may really push the young rearguard and the team will likely have to protect him usage-wise.
Los Angeles Kings: Not a lot to report here. Top prospect Andrei Loktionov (10) was sent down and should be the primary option if a key piece up front gets injured.
Minnesota Wild: Brett Bulmer had a very good offseason and remains with the club. Many scouts I've talked to have always loved the offensive tools but were waiting for his sense and physical game to catch up and it looks like it has. Colton Gillies makes the team, but I'm not really a fan of his. He's a fourth-line type who doesn't bring many tangible hockey skills to the table. Not surprisingly, Marco Scandella (42) made the club and should be slotted in for significant minutes. Justin Falk may get some time on defense too, but right now is listed right outside the starting six rearguards. A fun fact to note is that over in Finland, Mikael Granlund (1) is currently leading the SM-Liiga in scoring as a 19-year-old after a very good start potting three goals and 12 points in his first six games. One more year Wild fans.
Montreal Canadiens: Alexei Yemelin (41) and Rapheal Diaz both make the club with Andrei Markov still sidelined. It should be noted though that Yemelin did not look as polished as some would have hoped, and came into camp in less than ideal shape conditioning-wise and was scratched on opening night. Aaron Palushaj (96) got an extended look, but was a late cut who should be a primary callup option this year. Andreas Enqvist remains on the roster. I don't have much on him, but he's a big man who can do fine in his own end.
That's the first 15 teams. Stay tuned for the next 15 teams in my next column.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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