Prospect Impressions: Eichel, Gostisbehere contend for Calder, Marner magic, Leipsic’s first NHL goal

By David Hahn
Brendan Leipsic - Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Brendan Leipsic celebrates his first NHL goal in a game against the Vancouver Canucks this past weekend (courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images)



The Calder Trophy race is in full swing, and it appeared to be a three horse race heading into the rest of the regular season, but Shayne Gostisbehere is making a case to join Jack Eichel and others featured in this week’s Prospect Impressions. Also included is Brendan Leipsic’s first NHL goal, Joe Blandisi’s betweeen-the-legs effort, and more from Mitch Marner and a look at Jeff Lerg’s fine year in the ECHL.

Jack Eichel is building a solid case towards capturing the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie. With Dylan Larkin and Artemi Panarin reminding us of why they are worthy of consideration, it is nice to see Eichel continue to step up and contribute in fine fashion. With injuries mounting in Buffalo, Eichel has had a number of linemates this season, but for this coast-to-coast effort, he didn’t need anyone else as he carved Colorado up.

Speaking of the Calder Trophy race, Shayne Gostisbehere’s calls for attention are being heard loud and clear. The former Union College defenseman recently entered the NHL’s record book by amassing an 11-game point streak, the longest by a rookie defenseman in NHL history. Despite playing in only 35 games, Gostisbehere is fifth in rookie scoring with nine goals and 20 assists. Compared against historical data through 35 games, Gostisbehere’s 0.83 points-per-game average ranks ahead of Ray Bourque, Denis Potvin, and Bobby Orr, clearly putting into perspective how historic this run is.

Over the last few years, the New Jersey Devils have struggled to develop offensively productive players in their prospect pool. When the Colorado Avalanche failed to sign Joe Blandisi as one of their draft picks in 2014, the Devils sprung into action and brought him into their system. While it remains to be seen if Blandisi can ignite the fire on a consistent basis, the free agent signing is certainly not your average Joe. He led the OHL is goals last year, and was fourth in points behind Mitch Marner (TOR), Dylan Strome (ARI) and Connor McDavid (EDM). Take a look at this between-the-legs beauty, not bad for a free agent.

No matter what level of hockey he has been playing, Brendan Leipsic has put up points. No different through one game in the NHL, as the rookie scored a goal in his first NHL game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Acquired from the Nashville Predators last year in the Cody Franson trade, Leipsic was among the Marlies leading scorers and was a quality choice for a call-up after scoring 14 times and assisting on 20 others. His first goal is a memory that will last a lifetime, especially considering he showed off his baseball skills by batting a puck straight out of midair.

Speaking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of their prized prospects pulled off what could very well be the goal-of-the-year. Dodging Niagara IceDogs defenseman Vince Dunn (STL), Mitch Marner ducked in and out of traffic and eventually beat one of the OHL’s top goaltenders in Alex Nedeljkovic (CAR). After missing games due to his participation at the World Juniors, Marner is playing catch-up in the OHL’s scoring race. Sitting third with 89 points, Marner will try to catch Barrie Colts forward Kevin Labanc (SJS), who recently passed the 100-point plateau.

For those looking for a bit of nostalgia, Jeff Lerg is still in action in the ECHL and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. The dimunitive goaltender is excelling for the Toledo Walleye, posting a 2.05 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage, both good for third in the league. Lerg often defies physics, twisting and contorting to make miraculous saves, like this unreal save this weekend.

Last week’s Prospect Impressions feature

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey