Prospect mailbag: On impact rookies, and the Sabres' future star

The Prospect Mailbag returns with questions about Charlie McAvoy, Thomas Chabot, Casey Mittelstadt and much more.
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It’s time for another prospects mailbag. I had so many good questions the first time, it was only fair to do a second edition this summer. The following queries were garnered from Twitter and if you like prospect talk, get ready – we’ve got some more stuff coming up this year to slake your thirst. Let’s get to the questions.

@lateinthegoldieHow impactful can Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork be for the Bruins this season?

I can see both contributing, with McAvoy being slightly more important. Bjork will be solid and after the trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the Bruins depth chart. Could the fast and versatile Notre Dame product find a job as high as the second line? Yes, it’s certainly possible.

Meanwhile, the defense corps is a unit in transition and McAvoy’s mobility and fearlessness from the blueline dovetails perfectly with where the NHL is right now. With Zdeno Chara nearing the end of his effectiveness and Colin Miller sacrificed to Vegas, the Bruins will need McAvoy, Torey Krug and the emerging Brandon Carlo to make a lot of noise.

@wingerjayWhat's the realistic expectation for Kailer Yamamoto? And do you see him pushing for a roster spot this year?

Yamamoto’s best path is to return to the Spokane Chiefs this season and have a big campaign. He’ll have a nice crew with him, including Kings second-rounder Jaret Anderson-Dolan and high 2018 prospect Ty Smith, plus a good chance to make a statement at the world juniors with Team USA. I don’t see him in the mix for a roster spot this season (he needs to get stronger), but he could threaten for a scoring role as soon as 2018-19. And I don’t mind the idea of him playing wing with Connor McDavid eventually – that would be very enticing.

@Flyal13: Do Thomas Chabot and Colin White start in the NHL?

I believe they will. Ottawa’s top two prospects both have tantalizing skill sets and the timing is right here. With Chabot, his mobility, offensive upside and stamina will make him a baby Erik Karlsson early on and that will create serious match-up problems for the enemy. In White’s case, his versatility will allow him to be whatever the Senators need him to be. Can you put him on a scoring line? Certainly – he’s got the speed and the hands. Can you put him on a shutdown line or an energy unit? Yep, because once again he’ll use his speed – but in this scenario, he uses his excellent defensive acumen to help the cause.

@_kozakbYour thoughts on Buffalo’s Casey Mittelstadt?

I think University of Minnesota fans should enjoy this season, because it’s probably the only one he’ll spend in a Gophers uniform. Mittelstadt is so compelling because he wrecked the USHL last year, even though he spent most of the campaign with his high school team back in Eden Prairie. He was a standout at the World Junior Summer Showcase, even though there were many older players than him. Simply put, he rises to every occasion. Mittelstadt has the speed and the talent to be a big offensive driver and it will be fun to see how the Sabres align their offense in the near future with him, Jack Eichel and Alex Nylander all at their disposal.

@FigmentofYour19Who of the Golden Knights rookies do you see emerging as their biggest star?

This is one of those “who’s your favorite child?” questions, because I loved all three of Vegas’ first-rounders (and I’m assuming that’s who you are talking about – apologies if you weren’t). But I’m going to say Erik Brannstrom, because of how important mobile defensemen have become in the game. I don’t think any of the three will play in Vegas this season (what’s the point? They have tons of players already and it’s going to be a chaotic year that no 18-year-old needs to be a part of), but I do think all will have an impact in the near future. Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki will be vital top-six forwards in the coming years, but Brannstrom has the chance to be absolutely deadly thanks to his mobility and his vision. Plus, as a defenseman he’ll log more minutes than the other two.

@Mitchman_17Projections for Clayton Keller this season?

My expectations are pretty high for Keller this year and Arizona’s growing core gives me reason to believe he can make an impact right away. But here’s the hitch: I don’t know how successful the team itself is going to be. Will they get buried more nights than not, or will the additions of Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta stabilize things and make them a tough out? Hard to say right now. So what I will say is that Keller could be one of their top scorers and a Calder Trophy favorite. Depending on how the Coyotes fare, that might mean 60 points, it might mean 45. But this kid knows how to produce offense.




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