Welcome to the October edition of On the Rush, the first of 2015-16. For first-time readers, this is a monthly column featuring prospects at various levels of competition who are either exceeding expectations, or falling a little behind.
We start this year’s edition examining prospects that have come out strong looking to prove a point and those off to sluggish starts or are simply misfiring. This cast features a pair of surprising pros, sleepers that are turning into potential stars, a European prospect that has reached another level, and two junior players that are facing pressure a month into the 2015-16 campaign.
By all accounts, Colton Parayko has been an excellent addition to an already strong St. Louis blueline group. After earning a roster spot in training camp, the little-talked about University of Alaska product has solidified himself as a top-four gem in the Gateway City. He has logged 10 points in his first 14 games, almost completely bypassing the AHL on the way. Playing the majority of his time with veteran Carl Gunnarsson, Parayko has also contributed in several key analytics categories, such as holding a 71.4 goals-for percentage and 54.5 Corsi-for percentage while on the ice at even strength. He has regularly been playing over 20 minutes a night for Ken Hitchcock, and that probably won’t stop until his exceptional play falls off.
Oscar Lindberg has exceeded expectations in his rookie year. Considered a replacement after the Rangers traded Carl Hagelin over the summer, the Swedish forward started the season on fire—scoring a goal in the each of the first three games of the season. Throughout October, he provided an offensive spark while top scorers Rick Nash and Chris Kreider had not hit their rhythm. He might not have the speed that his departed countryman Hagelin had, but Lindberg appears to have better offensive instincts. Whenever the puck is down low in the offensive zone, he seems to be in the right spot around the net.
Lindberg finished October with five goals, six assists and a plus-6 rating. His performance on the third line with Kevin Hayes and Viktor Stalberg has provided balance to the Rangers lineup and is a factor in New York’s strong start to the 2015-16 season.
Adin Hill, G, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes
3rd round, (76th overall), 2015
With Mike Smith playing well enough to keep the Coyotes relevant out west, goaltender Adin Hill has kept the Portland Winterhawks afloat as well. Despite holding a 7-7-0 record, Hill has accumulated a 2.60 goals-against and .926 save percentage. Three of those losses have come in three shaky starts in November. In the month of October, he was simply outstanding. He was named WHL Goaltender of the Month and compiled a .944 save percentage, 2.02 goals-against, and three shutouts. Portland is going through a bit of a rebuilding phase, so Hill should see plenty of work moving between the pipes. He has already faced over 30 shots in eight of the 14 games he has started. He has faced over 40 shots twice. Can his strong play hold up?
A few months ago, Toronto was baffled but delighted to select Dmytro Tiimashov in the fifth round of the NHL Draft. He was considered a second rounder after producing 71 assists in 2014-15 and was named QMJHL Rookie of the Year. Yet he fell in the draft due to his uninspiring 5-foot-10 size. The Maple Leafs may have the last laugh as the Ukrainian-born winger is on pace to shatter his impressive rookie numbers.
Timashov is an exciting playmaker who, despite his size, uses his stocky frame to create time and space to find the open man. He has also picked up his goal-scoring this year, but passing remains his bread and butter. In his first 14 games through October, he tallied six goals, 16 assists and a 19.4 shot percentage. As November has progressed, he has picked it up a notch, scoring multiple points per game for 39 total points through 21 contests. Toronto fans should keep an eye on Timashov’s development as he continues this fine form he is in.
Jake Walman, D, Providence College (NCAA)
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues
3rd round, (82nd overall), 2014
As if the emergence of Colton Parayko wasn’t enough, another defenseman from the NCAA ranks is having a marvelous start. Former third-round selection and sophomore Jake Walman has upped his game at Providence this season. After having a respectable freshman year where he posted 16 points in 41 games, the Toronto native already has 12 in his first seven, including seven goals. The 6-foot-1 defender only managed one in the entirety of last season. The smooth skating defenceman ranked 12th on the most recent St. Louis top-20 list at Hockey’s Future, but his stock could certainly rise with continued strength from the Providence blue line.
New Jersey has been unsure of what to make of Miles Wood since he was drafted in 2013. He dominated the prep school league for two years and made an appearance last year with Team USA in a bottom-six role. As the Buffalo native entered his first year with Boston College, was it worth pondering how he would handle the higher quality of play of the NCAA? Wood answered that with an exclamation mark by taking a top-line spot and becoming an impact player.
The freshman scored three points on opening night and has only gotten better. With the departure of Jeremy Bracco, the Buffalo native saw his role solidify and continued to produce in the spotlight. In 10 games, Wood has four goals, eight assists, 1.20 points-per-game, 32 shots and a plus-6 rating. The power forward sees himself as a complimentary piece, but he has the size, skill and skating to take over games. If he keeps this up, the Devils will have a new top-six forward waiting in the pipeline.
What a difference a year makes, right? Last season, Kirill Kaprizov looked like another smallish, yet skilled, late-round draft pick from Europe who had a boom or bust quality to him. He had just four goals and eight points in 31 games last year with Novokuznetsk. Fast forward to 2015-16, and the Minnesota Wild are watching their young Russian forward flourish. He currently sits in the top 50 in KHL scoring, with 17 points in his first 27 games of the year. He has already obliterated his 2014-15 totals in less time.
His success could be attributed in part to playing alongside the shifty, undrafted forward Maxim Kazakov and former Avs prospect Ryan Stoa. All three are having tremendous seasons, and the Minnesota Wild brass are beginning to look brilliant for taking a flier on the winger in the later rounds. Unfortunately, Metallurgy NK are not off to as great a start as their top line. The team has won only 5 of 27 games, good enough for dead last in the KHL. Outside of their top line and top defensive pairing of Roman Manukhov and Cade Fairchild, there has been very little going on for Novo. Kaprizov is a nice surprise for them though.
Wallmark signed his entry-level contract with Carolina this offseason but was loaned back to Lulea to further his development during the 2015-16 campaign. Last season’s performance has earned the Swedish native a bigger role with Lulea, including more ice-time and special teams opportunities. The centerman has taken advantage of his situation and has produced 13 points in 12 games in the first month of the season, ranking him 27th overall in league scoring. If that offense carries over to the pros next year, it will be a bonus. Wallmark is expected to become a complementary point producer who can contribute in all three zones and win face-offs.