The jump from college hockey to the American Hockey League is a big one for a young player to make.
Perhaps if you play for a top team in a big hockey market, the jump is a little easier to make. But for prospects coming from lesser-known schools, the transition to one of the world’s best professional leagues can be quite a shell shock.
23-year-old defenseman Gavin Bayreuther can probably attest to that.
Signed by the Dallas Stars as an undrafted free agent out of St. Lawrence University last spring (Jim Nill himself made sure to go there and get a good look), Bayreuther had a 15-game cup of coffee with the Texas Stars before joining the team full-time in 2017-2018.
The first few months of this season were a learning period for Bayreuther. The puck-moving blueliner had some early troubles defending his own zone against better competition and struggled to showcase the same offensive prowess that he displayed in the NCAA.
Fast forward to the past little while, however, and you can see the areas where Bayreuther’s game has grown.
Showing more confidence with and without the puck, he’s picked up four points in his last five games while also showing more poise and consistency in his own zone.
He still has some more ground to cover in his development, but Bayreuther is a prospect that could grow into a regular NHL defenseman if things keep going according to plan.
The Texas Stars pulled a two-fer over the weekend, taking both games in a series against the Milwaukee Admirals. Veteran Mike McKenna started and finished each contest, taking back the Stars net from Landon Bow thanks to a recent string of successes manning the crease.
Denis Gurianov had one goal and one assist, Jason Dickinson had two assists, and Dillon Heatherington picked up one helper while also being his usual defensively-stout self. Roope Hintz, however, missed both of the games due to injury (he is currently skating though, so that’s a good sign).
North American Juniors
Riley Tufte snapped a recent mini-slump with a huge four-point weekend for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He’s brought his totals for the season to 15 goals and 25 points in 32 games, which is good for first in goals and the third in points on his team.
Joseph Cecconi also had a three-point week in the NCAA, as he picked up his fifth goal and 20th point on the year. His University of Michigan club begins a playoff series against the University of Wisconsin this weekend.
Jake Oettinger had a stellar pair of games for Boston University this past weekend. He picked up a 33-save shutout and then stopped 28 of 29 shots in a 1-1 tie, both against the University of Vermont. Playoffs are next for Oettinger and his club, where they’ll play a three-game elimination series on March 9-11 against UConn.
Colton Point returned from a recent injury and appears to have not missed a beat. He stopped 34 of 36 shots in a win and 21 of 22 in a tie. His Colgate team begins an elimination playoff series this weekend against fellow Stars prospect Michael Prapavessis and the RPI Engineers.
Liam Hawel is still a hot-and-cold player for the Guelph Storm, but he was hot this weekend, as he recorded three points in three games.
Brett Davis stays hot for the Kootenay Ice, as he notched two points in his past three games. Both of those points, a shorthanded breakaway goal and a power play assist, were pretty impressive:
Miro Heiskanen finished his Olympic debut with one goal in five games, but no medal, as Finland was eliminated by Canada 1-0 in the quarterfinals. He logged 19:19 of ice time in the final game, and showed how much trust his coaches had in him. All in all, Heiskanen’s play at this year’s Olympics only strengthened the argument that he could be NHL-ready by next season.
Miro Heiskanen has scored a goal for Finland at the Olympics today. Highlight is here: https://t.co/sZhqkTeFEJ— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) February 20, 2018
18-year-old forward Jacob Peterson scored his second professional goal in Sweden in dramatic fashion, as he netted the overtime-winner for Bjorkloven in the Allsvenskan. It’s also a pretty good sign that his team would be willing to play him in overtime at all since he’s so young and a new addition for them. Video highlights can be found here.
John Nyberg returned to action for Frolunda after the SHL’s Olympic break ended and played a team-high 23:13 of ice time in a 6-4 win over Orebro.
2018 NHL Draft Watch
Last week I used this space to discuss one top Russian prospect for the 2018 entry draft, Grigori Denisenko, and this week I’m going to profile another: Vitali Kravtsov.
Kravtsov has been playing each year over in Russia and hasn’t yet appeared in any major international events, so it has been a challenge for North American scouts to get many notes on him. However, it’s known that he has ideal size at 6’2”, the numbers he’s producing are pretty solid (seven points in nine games in Russia’s second-tier-pro VHL league and six points in 33 KHL games), and, most notably, some of the highlights of him that are popping up online are simply jaw-dropping.
He’s a late 1999 birthday, so he has more experience than most prospects in this draft. Nevertheless, is there some elite talent here that’s currently flying under the radar of most independent scouting services?
Feb 15, 2018 VHL: Kravtsov no-look pass to Podkorytov goal vs MNk pic.twitter.com/4I4ta3sQgI— HockeyRU20 (@HockeyRU20) February 15, 2018
Feb 13, 2018 VHL: Vitaly Kravtsov goal vs Sokol pic.twitter.com/dEhmVljb32— HockeyRU20 (@HockeyRU20) February 13, 2018