Prospect Impressions: Laine vs. Puljujarvi, Frozen Four highlights, Marner makes more magic in London

By David Hahn
Drake Caggiula - University of North Dakota - 2016 NCAA Frozen Four

Photo: University of North Dakota senior forward Drake Caggiula was the scoring star for the Fighting Hawks at the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four, helping him earn the Most Outstanding Player award for the tournament (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)



There is a battle for the ages going on in Finland’s top tier of professional hockey. The Liiga playoffs have reached a semi-final impasse, as Tappara and Karpat have played six games and still haven’t decided their best-of-seven series.

In the spotlight this series are two of Finland’s brightest young stars, Tappara’s Patrik Laine and Karpat’s Jesse Puljujarvi. The two have matched each other during the series, making some incredible plays at clutch times for their teams. With the 2016 NHL Draft on the horizon, perhaps these two will be battling it out in the NHL soon? Follow along as we pick up the action in game five.

Swedish-born goaltender Jacob Markstrom signed with the Vancouver Canucks in the offseason because they presented him with an opportunity to play in the NHL. All he wanted was a chance to prove he belongs in the NHL, and the results say he does. Markstrom finished with a 13-14-0-4 record, a 2.73 goals-against average, and a .915 save-percentage. In the final game of the season, Markstrom stunned the Edmonton Oilers with a trio of saves while shorthanded, perhaps a glimpse of his long-term future in Vancouver.

The London Knights jumped out to a quick 2-0 series lead thanks to the skills of Mitch Marner. The Toronto Maple Leafs product has been stellar in the Knights second round series against fellow Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco and the Kitchener Rangers. Known for his nifty ability to setup teammates, Marner has taken a big step forward with his shot release, as seen by this absolute rocket.

Quinnipiac University has suffered their fair share of brutal defeats they wish to forget in the Frozen Four over the years, but Michael Garteig’s performance at this year’s tournament will not be forgotten. In the semi-finals against Boston College, Garteig was almost unbeatable by anything clean. If he saw it, he stopped it. That mindset took him deep into the game, and with just over a minute left, Garteig flashed the leather twice to secure a spot in the Frozen Four final.

Garteig was able to send Quinnipiac to the National Championship game, but just like the 2012-13 campaign where they fell short against Yale, the Bobcats once again ran into a powerhouse. This time it was the University of North Dakota who took home the championship, thanks in part to their top line of Brock Boeser (VAN), Nick Schmaltz (CHI), and Drake Caggiula, the latter of whom scored twice to cap off a fantastic college career. With his NHL future uncertain, it likely won’t take long before he has a new home.

After finishing his season at the University of Michigan, Zach Werenski joined the Lake Erie Monsters in the AHL and has been getting a taste of professional hockey. Fresh off being named as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Werenski scored his first professional goal for the Monsters, in overtime no less. He has been fantastic all year, picking up accolades at each stop along the way, and the Blue Jackets are looking forward to having his services next season.

One big name and big-bodied power forward climbing up the NHL Draft rankings is 6’5″, 190-pound Riley Tufte. He split the season playing for Blaine High School, as well as with the Fargo Force in the USHL. Recently named as “Minnesota Mr. Hockey”, an award that recognizes the most outstanding senior high school player, Tufte joins fellow recipients Nick Bjugstad, Nick Leddy, and Ryan McDonagh. His goal-scoring prowess is noteworthy for a player his size – take a look as he carves up the defense before unleashing a rocket seemingly out of nowhere while playing for the Fargo Force.

Last week’s Prospect Impressions feature

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey