Pro Hockey Rumors continues our series profiling this year’s crop of rookies, now moving on to the Atlantic Division and four more first-year players who could make a splash this season. You can see the first posts covering the Metro Division here and here.
Brandon Carlo (Boston) – Even though Boston has an aging roster and failed to qualify for the postseason in either of the last two seasons, the Bruins surprisingly might not be integrating any rookie talent to the roster to start the 2016-17 campaign. The team does have some quality young talent coming down the pipeline but most of those prospects are probably a year away and Boston wouldn’t appear to have much room on their roster for a first-year player. But if one of the kids does give the Bruins a reason to carry a rookie this year it may well be defenseman Brandon Carlo.
Carlo was chosen by Boston in the second-round of the 2015 entry draft with the 37th overall selection on the heels of a 25-point campaign with TriCity of the WHL. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds, Carlo certainly has NHL size. He currently projects as a smooth skating, defense-first blue liner with enough tools to project as an above-average offensive contributor if he develops further.
The incomparable Zdeno Chara still anchors the Bruins defense corps but is 39-years-old and has seen his best years are in the rear-view mirror. Torey Krug is probably the club’s #2 defenseman – if not #1 – and Adam McQuaid is solid enough. But outside of those three players, the Bruins currently have Kevan Miller, John-Michael Liles and Colin Miller in the top-six on their depth chart. Assuming Carlo shows well at training camp, he could easily force his way onto the roster ahead of any one of the latter three names.
“Obviously [you had to like] what Carlo did when he was brought in [to Providence] at the end. It just bodes well for what we have coming this year. Zboril and Lauzon are probably going back to junior, but Carlo is going to get a long look.”
Bradley’s comments certainly suggest Carlo has a leg up on his fellow top defense prospects coming into camp.
Hudson Fasching (Buffalo) – Last season, Buffalo broke camp with two supremely talented rookies, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, in their opening night lineup. The duo would combine to score 47 goals and 98 points in 160 games for the Sabres. Hudson Fasching is unlikely to have that same type of impact in Buffalo this season but should earn a regular role and has the potential to provide some offense from the team’s bottom-six.
Fasching made his Buffalo debut last season, appearing in seven contests and netting his first career NHL goal. He signed his ELC with Buffalo after wrapping up his junior season at the University of Minnesota, where he scored 20 goals in 37 games for the Golden Gophers. Fasching also saw action in 10 games during the 2016 IIHF World Championship and tallied two assists playing for Team USA.
At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Fasching has the size necessary to excel in a power forward role. Whether or not he can score enough to eventually fill a top-six scoring role with the Sabres is the question. But with talented players like Eichel, Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo around him, Fasching could produce points if he can develop chemistry with some combination of the aforementioned skaters.
Anthony Mantha (Detroit) – The development of Mantha could be key to Detroit’s ability to keep its 25-season playoff appearance streak in tact. Like Boston, Detroit’s core is aging with half of the 18 skaters expected to see regular ice time either turning or already at least 30-years-old during the 2016-17 season. Mantha has the skill and talent to join Dylan Larkin as future foundation pieces for Detroit.
Mantha got his first taste of NHL action last season, racking up two goals and three points in 10 games while averaging 11:42 of ice time per contest. He has also accumulated extensive pro experience playing for Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. In 122 games with the Griffins, Mantha recorded 36 goals and 88 points. His experience playing for Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, both with Detroit and Grand Rapids, should benefit the big winger as he attempts to make the roster for the 2016-17 campaign.
The 6-foot-5, 214 pound Mantha is said to be an excellent skater with a terrific shot and release. Detroit is known for being patient with their prospects and allowing them to develop at a slow pace in the minor leagues. It’s possible Mantha will start the year in Grand Rapids but could position himself as one of the first players promoted in the event of an injury on the big club. If he does get his shot at some point with the Wings, Mantha could surprise some people.
Michael Matheson (Florida) – The Panthers boast a solid defense corps with plenty of options to flesh out the six man group. Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic and Jason Demers comprise a skilled group of top-four blue liners while currently Mark Pysyk and Jakub Kindl are listed as the third pair on the team’s depth chart. Additionally, the team can also call on veteran Steven Kampfer to provide further depth.
There doesn’t seem to be room for a rookie to earn a spot but injuries are an unfortunate reality in hockey and Michael Matheson would likely be the first player Florida goes to if one of their regulars goes down. Matheson got into three games with the Panthers last year, going scoreless and averaging 17:32 of ice time. He’s also appeared in 59 AHL games over the last two seasons and recorded eight goals and 22 points during that time.
The former Boston College Eagle was the Panthers first-round pick, 23rd overall, in the 2012 draft. He’s known as an excellent skater and puck-handler with offensive instincts. With the NHL evolving into a speed and transition gme, Matheson would seem well-suited to one day play a regular role in the league. If things fall just right, that day could come as soon as this season.