Prospect Impressions: Young NHL forwards impress, Dupuy goes coast-to-coast, Labate loses fight but scores afterwards

By David Hahn
Nikolaj Ehlers - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Winnipeg Jets rookie forward Nikolaj Ehlers is currently 10th among NHL rookie scorers with five goals and 11 points in 25 games in 2015-16 (courtesy of Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

There are a number of NHL teams relying upon young talent gracing their lineups to contribute on a nightly basis. International stars Aleksander Barkov, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Rickard Rakell are all performing under pressure, and hometown hero Frankie Vatrano is off to a nice start in Boston. Also in this week’s Prospect Impressions, an unexpected goal from a Rochester Americans forward, a Utica Comet has a memorable night full of firsts, and a Quinnipiac Bobcats goaltender keeps the team undefeated in regulation.

After returning from an early-season injury, Aleksander Barkov picked up right where he left off. Centering fellow first-rounder Jonathan Huberdeau and ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr, Barkov has been able to make some fantastic plays and maintain puck possession almost more than any other player in the NHL. However, it is his individual talent that is really starting to shine this year. Channeling his inner Petr Forsberg, Barkov scored the prettiest shootout goal you’ll see all year. You’ll want to turn your volume up for this one!

The Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets matched up this week in a matinee affair, with the Jets picking up a much-needed two points in the standings. The game was a tightly contested one, with the two teams trading scoring chances throughout. With a few minutes left in the game, the Jets’ prized prospect Nikolaj Ehlers rushed in on a breakaway and buried it to put his team up for good.

The Anaheim Ducks have tried a bevy of different options on left wing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but they might have found the best option yet. Rickard Rakell has entered the picture, and has been performing admirably for the Ducks. The former first round draft pick spent last season playing on Anaheim’s bottom two lines, but has thrived in his new role this season. Rakell is on pace to surpass his career-high point total of 31, and if he keeps making plays like this, that will happen sooner rather than later.

Frank Vatrano hasn’t experienced many different jerseys throughout his career, as the former Boston Junior Bruin is now wearing the same jersey he idolized growing up. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Vatrano returned home and is living a life-long dream of playing at home. After scoring 10 goals in 10 games for the Providence Bruins, the team had no choice but to call Vatrano up, and he has continued scoring goals in the NHL. With the game on the line, Vatrano tipped one home in front and his celebration was one appreciated by everyone except one person, the referee!

One of the OHL’s most popular players throughout his career, Jean Dupuy was a mainstay in the lineups of the Kingston Frontenacs and, more recently, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Known more for his pugilistic tendencies and aggravating nature, Dupuy occasionally pulls something out of his bag-of-tricks and makes a spectacular play. With the game on the line in overtime, the Rochester Americans forward used the extra open ice to his advantage and rushed coast-to-coast to bury an absolute beauty.

Former University of Wisconsin forward Joseph Labate is competing in his first season of professional hockey with the Utica Comets. Labate, a consistent two-way forward, recently checked off a couple of “firsts” on his hockey resume. Labate engaged in his first professional fight against Philadelphia Flyers prospect Samuel Morin, which didn’t go so well. Then, after serving his penalty, Labate’s first shift back resulted in his first AHL goal. Pretty solid turn of fortune for a hard-working young man.

Tucked away in the foothills of Sleeping Giant State Park, Quinnipiac University houses one of college hockey’s top teams. The Bobcats have relied upon a heavy dose of home cooking this season, and have asked a lot of senior goaltender Michael Garteig. The Prince George, BC native is putting up career-highs in every major statistical category so far, and is a big reason why Quinnipiac has gone undefeated in regulation. Garteig recently picked up his 59th career win, tying the school record, and currently has a shutout streak of 168:21 on home ice. With saves like these, it is no wonder Quinnipiac has emerged as a National Championship contender.

 

Last week’s Prospect Impressions feature

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey