The last two guys on my list are indeed top prospects, but both still have junior eligibility. Which means it’s either Columbus, or back to their respective CHL teams.
Denton Mateychuk is going to be a 15 year NHL player. I keep saying that, and the only question I really have is: how soon will he get started? I’m not real confident that it will happen this year, but like Stanislav Svozil, there’s the potential for a shocker here since he plays on that left side.
Mateychuk plays the game with so much poise and precision, that he makes it look easy. He does a terrific job of controlling his gaps, using his skating and stick positioning to be a solid defender. But when he has the puck on his stick, the pace of the entire game changes. If he starts moving up the ice and doesn’t like what he sees, he simply pivots back and turns to buy himself more time and reset the play. He’s also a gifted playmaker, able to dish out passes from anywhere on the ice and generate transitional play or offense. He picked up 7 assists in 2 games at Traverse City last weekend.
Denton doesn’t have the size, physicality, or the booming shot that you typically see in top defense prospects. Honestly, he’s more of a cerebral player, a high level thinker of the game, the kind of mind you typically see in elite puck distributors like Johnny Gaudreau – but he’s a defenseman. I think he will put up a ton of assists in the NHL, but also provide long-term stability to the back-end. This year, though? I’m thinking he’ll be back in Moose Jaw to keep working on his overall game, while maintaining his offensive confidence. Chance Mateychuk is on the team: 25%
Which brings us to a player who seems to split the fanbase at times. Some have him written onto the roster in ink – while others think he has a 0% chance of being on the team this fall. We’re talking about Jordan Dumais, who obliterated the QMJHL last year by scoring 54 goals and 140 points in 64 games. He seems to be on a mission this fall, coming into rookie camp and dominating at Traverse City with 4 goals and 4 assists in 2 games.
Dumais is another elite thinker of the game. He sees plays developing well before everyone else, and goes to where the open space is going to be right when the play gets dangerous. The puck finds him in those dangerous areas often, and once he has it on his stick, he’s an elite handler and strong distributor, flinging around passes that not many players see – even the guys on the receiving end of the puck. Look at how he buys time here by slowing the game down, then finds Fantilli with speed:
But his game is far from perfect, like many other players his age. He’ll still need to adjust to the quicker pace of the professional level, while continuing to add some bulk to his diminutive frame. He’s also not a high end skater like you would typically expect from a 5’9″-or-so top prospect, something he’s been working on over the summer. Ultimately, I think he’ll probably need another year in junior – PLUS a year in the AHL before he’s ready to make an NHL impact. Chance Dumais is on the team: 10%
In the end, it will be tough for anyone not named Adam Fantilli to crack this roster this fall, and that’s just fine. The Jackets have one of the top prospect pools in the NHL, and they should be in no hurry to ruin these guys by putting them in roles they aren’t ready for. They have a talented roster that should vastly improve upon last year’s 31st place finish, so there’s no real rush. The slow path to success is the key to long-term contention. When the kids are ready, they’ll let us know.