This week in the prospect corner: Hudson Elynuik goes off, Jake Bean is about to come back, Warren Foegele has put Kingston on his shoulders, and three prospects could make appearances for Team Canada at the World Juniors next month.
Elynuik’s Big Weekend
Hudson Elynuik celebrated Thanksgiving in a big way this year, putting up eight total points (4G, 4A) in a two-game weekend set on Friday and Saturday. Spokane defeated the Vancouver Giants 10-1 on Friday in a game that included two hat tricks, and a six-assist game. One of those hat tricks was from Elynuik, who also added two assists for the first five-point game of his Western Hockey League career. You know it’s a crazy evening when a five-point outburst only awards you the third star of the game.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ third-round selection from a year ago followed up his career evening with another solid three-point effort in a 6-5 loss to Edmonton. When the dust settled from this weekend, Elynuik had recorded 10 points in his last four games, bringing his season total to 27 points in 19 contests.
The big center has improved this year, on pace to eclipse the career high 44 points that he posted in 2015-16. Much can be attributed to another year of growth and increased responsibility within the Chiefs lineup, as well as synergy with 2017 draft-eligible forward Kailer Yamamoto.
Bean Remains on the Shelf
October 14th was the last time that Jake Bean played in a Western Hockey League game, where he was victim of a slash that broke his finger. The early timetable for his recovery was four to six weeks but at this point, we are pushing the back end of that timeframe.
Although it’s not something that should hamper the young defenseman long-term, its unfortunate that Bean will likely miss half of a season of development that was viewed as incredibly important. Post-draft seasons are often the year where players take a step forward with added responsibility. Just last year, Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov used his post-draft, monster WHL season to develop further and ease his transition to the NHL. Not saying that Bean is Provorov at this point in their careers, but he should be playing huge minutes against the best forwards that the WHL has to offer. Instead, he’s been sidelined due to an unfortunate play that didn’t need to happen.
Bean should be back on the ice as early as this weekend, and hopefully will have enough time to get back up to speed and play a key role for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
Foegele’s Growth On and Off the Ice
It’s easy to look at the stats and see where Warren Foegele has grown this season. He leads the Kingston Frontenacs with 21 points, despite playing seven fewer games then his teammates. He is second in the Ontario Hockey League in face-off percentage, winning nearly 64% of the on-average 24 draws he takes for his team each night. His points-per-game rate has jumped up from .92 last season to 1.24 this season, a number that ranks in the OHL’s top-25. Likewise, his shot rates have also spiked, from just under three shots-per-game to just over four shots-per-game in 2016-17.
All of these numbers show a player who has had significantly more responsibility heaped on him in his overage season. Last season, with Lawson Crouse, Michael Dal Colle, Spencer Watson and Roland McKeown in the lineup, Foegele was a secondary piece of Kingston’s puzzle. This season, he has had to be the team’s best player, and nearly every night he has been.
Since returning from Canes Training Camp, Foegele has seen his confidence swell. He carries the puck with purpose and authority, using his ability on the puck to maintain possession for extended periods of time.
As one of the team’s leaders, he is deployed in all key situations, both offensively and defensively, and takes many of the teams important face-offs. In addition to his offensive contributions, Foegele has looked increasingly dangerous while killing penalties this season.
Canada’s World Junior Championship Selection Camp Roster Released
Team Canada’s final tune up before the World Junior Championships begins on December 11th, with rosters released yesterday. Canes prospects Julien Gauthier, Nicolas Roy and Jake Bean all have been named, and will likely eventually be on the team’s final roster.
Gauthier figures to slot in as the team’s top option on the right side, on a line with Erie’s Dylan Strome and North Dakota’s Tyson Jost. Canada is missing would-be top line forwards Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs), Travis Konecny (Flyers), Anthony Beauvillier (Islanders) and Lawson Crouse (Coyotes) who are unlikely to be released from their NHL clubs for the tournament, so it’s an opportunity for Gauthier to shine in a big role. Some guy named Connor McDavid is also still WJC eligible - which is insane - but he will also be busy the first week in January.
Roy will likely be penciled in as the team’s third or fourth line center behind Strome and Mathew Barzal. Bean (if fully healthy) would likely be one of the team’s top-four defensemen, depending on the status of Coyotes 2016 first-rounder Jakob Chychrun, who is also unlikely to be released from his NHL club.
This edition of the World Junior Championships could be remembered more for the players who will not be playing than for the ones who are, as NHL regulars become younger and more relied upon each year, limiting their ability to play in the event.