Prospect Impressions: Boston College duo shines, two impressive AHL goals, more plays of the week

By David Hahn
Kevin Hayes - New York Rangers

Photo: New York Rangers rookie forward Kevin Hayes has turned in a solid rookie season in 2014-15 after signing with the Rangers as a free agent in August of 2014 (courtesy of Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

 

Boston College may have been eliminated from Hockey East playoff contention, but a pair of prospects showed why the future is bright in Boston. Two NHL rookies showed off their skill and creativity last week, while a pair of players in the AHL work to adjust to life in professional hockey. Finally, one of the best draft-eligible goaltenders shows why he was ranked as the top North American goalie available this June. All this and more in this week’s Prospect Impressions.

The Boston College Eagles were shocked when Vermont Catamounts completed a 1-0 win in the deciding third game of their playoff series. In a game that could have gotten out of hand, Thatcher Demko was brilliant in the crease for Boston College. The Vancouver Canucks prospect made a diving save against UVM’s Mike Stenerson, keeping the game within reach. Demko finished the season 20-12-3 with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

Earlier in the same series, BC picked up a 4-2 win over UVM thanks to a two-point effort from freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin. The top-ranked defenseman in North America as noted by NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings, Hanifin would likely be the first overall selection were it not for two generational talents named McDavid and Eichel. In 36 games, Hanifin scored five goals and 18 assists, including eight powerplay assists to lead the Eagles.

The Marko Dano Show was on full display in Columbus last week. Dano showcased why the Blue Jackets made him a first round pick in 2013, doing all the work while setting up Scott Hartnell for a tap-in. He has not been afforded significant icetime, but Dano continues to be productive in a season to forget for Columbus. Through 23 games, Dano has five goals and six assists while maintaining a +3 rating.

Mackenzie Blackwood had a relatively late start to becoming a goaltender, filling in for a teammate when Blackwood was 12 years old. In some regards, Blackwood is still learning how to play the position, but that process has been accelerated in Barrie and for good reason. Billed as the top-ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting in their midterm rankings, Blackwood has had a fantastic season for the Barrie Colts. His skills were on display in a 38-save shutout over the Peterborough Petes this weekend, and one of those in particular showcased his quick reaction time during a point-blank opportunity. Blackwood has gone 33-14-1 for Barrie, with a 3.10 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

Prized Toronto Maple Leafs‘ prospect William Nylander is working to make the necessary adjustments to life in North America. After making his AHL debut in January, Nylander has started to produce offensively for the Toronto Marlies. Nylander’s impressive puck handling and quick shot release resulted in a goal and assist in the Marlies’ 4-3 loss to Lehigh Valley. He has played 22 games so far, posting six goals and 10 assists along with a +6 for the Marlies.

The Detroit Red Wings affiliate in Grand Rapids is loaded with top prospects. One of their unheralded, under-the-radar prospects is Andreas Athanasiou, a former fourth round pick in 2012. Athanasiou has always been capable of highlight reel goals, but translating some of that success in junior hockey to the professional ranks is a challenge. In last week’s game against Charlotte, Athanasiou rushed down the ice to score his 13th goal of the season, a spectacular effort proving that Athanasiou is meeting that challenge.

At 6’5″ and 225 pounds, New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes is a difficult player to contain. In the final game between the Islanders and Rangers at Nassau Coliseum, Hayes would not be denied, going one-on-one against Islander defenseman Thomas Hickey. This summer, Hayes opted to test the free agent market after turning down the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Rangers sure are pleased he chose to play for them. Through 65 games, Hayes has 13 goals and 19 assists, good for eighth in NHL rookie scoring.

More Prospect Impressions coming your way next Monday!

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey