Welcome to PHR’s Big Hype Prospects series. Like the MLB Trade Rumors series of the same name, we’re taking a look at the performances of top prospects from across the hockey world. We’ll look at drafted prospects who are rising, others who are struggling, and prospects for the upcoming draft who are notable.
Five Big Hype Prospects
David Edstrom, C, Vegas Golden Knights (Frölunda HC, SHL)
7GP 2G 4A 6pts 13:13 ATOI
Drafted with the final pick of the 2023 first round, Edstrom was chosen on the back of a strong season at the J20 Nationell level in Sweden that included 11 games in the SHL with Frölunda’s senior team. A professional two-way center with a well-rounded game, there was a general belief that both Edstrom’s tools and overall style would translate seamlessly to the pro game, which is far more physically and mentally demanding than playing junior hockey against peers.
This season, Edstrom has so far passed all tests with flying colors. The rangy six-foot-two pivot has flown out the gates for Frölunda, tied for the team lead in scoring with six points in seven games. He’s flashed some serious skill along the way, and if he can keep up this kind of offensive production the public scouting sphere, which widely ranked Edstrom within the first-round/second-round bubble, may need to re-think what his true offensive upside looks like at the highest level.
That being said, it’s far from a guarantee that Edstrom will be able to maintain his spot atop his team’s scoring leaderboard. He’s still playing in a somewhat limited role with just over 13 minutes of ice time per game. That could very well be because Frölunda doesn’t want to overwhelm him and give him too much responsibility too soon, or it could also be an indication of how they plan to use him for the rest of the season. Either way, both management at Frölunda and in Vegas could not have envisioned a better start to the season for the 32nd overall pick.
Will Cuylle, LW, New York Rangers (Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL)
69GP 25G 20A 45pts (2022-23)
Unlike most prospects featured in this series, Cuylle has actually already made his NHL debut. The 21-year-old former captain of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires received two NHL call-ups in early 2023, skating in four total games for the Rangers. He didn’t play much (the most ice time he received in any game was 7:46) but made his mark with a total of 10 penalty minutes.
Entering training camp, Cuylle was believed to be most likely heading back for a second season with the Wolf Pack, a team he led in goals last season with 25.
But as the New York Post’s Mollie Walker reports, Cuylle is under serious consideration for a role on Peter Laviolette’s opening-night roster on Broadway. Cuylle beat out veteran signing Alex Belzile to remain on the Rangers’ roster, and could very well end up factoring into the Rangers’ bottom-six mix sooner than expected
A six-foot-three power forward, Cuylle’s game has drawn stylistic comparisons to a player Laviolette coached for the last two seasons: Washington Capital Tom Wilson.
If Cuylle can even remotely resemble Wilson, who is making $6.5MM against the cap through the end of the decade, he could provide the Rangers with some serious value in their bottom-six.
Anton Silayev, RHD, 2024 draft prospect (Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo, KHL)
12GP 1G 5A 6pts 17:33 ATOI
Most North American hockey fans aren’t familiar with Silayev, which makes sense. He’s still just 17 years old, plays all the way in Russia, and has virtually no footprint on this side of the Atlantic. But soon enough, hockey fans this side of the Atlantic will come to know the name of Torpedo’s star rookie.
Silayev has been a revelation this season. In a league that is notoriously difficult for young players to succeed in, Silayev has managed six points in 12 games, averaging a healthy 17:33 time on ice per game. That’s earned him the KHL’s Rookie of the Month honors, and shot him up public NHL draft projections. TSN’s Bob McKenzie ranked Silayev ninth overall in his pre-season 2024 NHL Draft rankings, while The Hockey News had him all the way at the number-five slot.
So why is Silayev getting top-five buzz when just a month or two ago he wasn’t even in the conversation? First and foremost, it’s due to his tools. Silayev is a right-shot blueliner, something that is already coveted in the NHL, and he’s also six-foot-seven, 207 pounds. Right-shot blueliners at that size are exceedingly rare, so from a measurable perspective alone Silayev has enough to draw interest.
But that’s not the only aspect of Silayev that’s rare. Not only is a freakish athletic talent, he’s also the rare draft-year KHL defenseman playing regular minutes in Russia’s top league, and putting up points while doing so.
It doesn’t even end there. Silayev is also regarded as a strong skater overall, which is an exceptionally rare trait for someone that big and that heavy. His size and mobility combo makes him something of a “unicorn” prospect, and makes him arguably the most intriguing player to track in advance of the 2024 draft.
Bogdan Konyushkov, RHD, Montreal Canadiens (Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo, KHL)
12GP 1G 6A 7pts 24:18 ATOI
Even with all the buzz surrounding Silayev and his potential for the 2024 draft, one could make the argument that it’s Silayev’s teammate, Konyushkov, 20, who has actually had the most impressive start to the KHL season for Torpedo.
Konyushkov went undrafted in consecutive NHL drafts before he was selected 110th overall by the Canadiens in 2023. The Canadiens took a bit of a risk selecting a twice-undrafted player in the fourth round, but Konyushkov’s 2022-23 campaign where he scored 25 points in a regular role on a KHL playoff team likely gave them confidence. Konyushkov has more than validated that faith this season.
So far, the right-shot defenseman has scored seven points in 12 games and is currently leading all KHL defensemen in time-on-ice per game. He’s breaking out as a legitimate minutes-eating, all-situations number-one defenseman in the KHL, an extremely impressive feat for such a young player. While he doesn’t possess the measurables Silayev can boast, his KHL performance so far is extremely encouraging.
Konyushkov is under contract through 2025-26, so the Canadiens have a bit of a wait in store before they can bring Konyushkov to North America. But if he’s already leading KHLers in average ice time, there’s a legitimate possibility that Konyushkov will be able to step right into the NHL once he’s signed to an entry-level deal.
In any case, his success early this season gives the Canadiens an intriguing trio of right-shot defensive prospects who have excelled in top European leagues. (Konyushov, Adam Engström, David Reinbacher)
Dalibor Dvorský, C, St. Louis Blues (IK Oskarshamn, SHL)
6GP 0G 0A 0pts 12:15 ATOI
The St. Louis Blues don’t make top-ten picks very often, so when they spent their rare top selection on Dvorsky, it was something of a home run swing. Dvorský had performed exceptionally against his peers, scoring 13 points in just seven games at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships and a whopping 21 points in just 10 games in the J20 Nationell.
But against men in a professional setting, Dvorský couldn’t dominate in the same way. Pro players proved more resistant to Dvorský’s impressive physical tools, and the increased pace of the pro game made his lackluster skating more of an issue. He ended up scoring just 14 points in 38 games in the HockeyAllsvenskan with AIK.
This season, there was hope that more experience and physical maturity would allow Dvorský to succeed in the SHL, a full division higher than the league he played in with AIK last season. So far, that hasn’t happened. Dvorský is currently scoreless through six games with IK Oskarshamn, receiving just over 12 minutes of ice time per night on a team that currently ranks as the worst in the SHL.
There’s still more than enough time for Dvorský to push forward his production, but this early sample size of games does raise questions as to whether Dvorský is truly ready to be a top player in one of the world’s best pro leagues, especially seeing as he wasn’t a difference-maker in Sweden’s second division. He’s still just 18 years old and has all the upside in the world, but these first few games have led some to wonder if Dvorský’s development is best served in the SHL.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images