Happy Holiday's to every man, woman and child who is reading this article - Christmas is a fun time of year, and I hope that everyone gets to see their family and friends at this time.
Teddy Purcell was put on waivers by the Los Angeles Kings this past weekend, and was not claimed by an NHL team (customary for waiver players making above $1 million). With Purcell's demotion to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League, no Newfoundland-born kids are currently lacing 'em up in the 'National League'. Lets take a closer look at who could be the 'next one'....
Easy Pick: Clark Bishop (Charlotte Checkers, AHL). The eldest son of Steve and Millie is the most likely choice to be the 'next one', as he is only one level from reaching the summit. Bishop was signed to the entry-level deal by the Carolina Hurricanes in April, and has spent the entire 2016-17 season in the minors with Charlotte. While Bishop's offensive numbers in the A are nothing to get excited about, Clark projects to be a crash-and-bang forward at the NHL level and possesses a lot of intangibles (very coachable, great on the PK, leadership). Players like Bish are standing at every street corner in the minors, however, I think that Clark will get a shot and hook in with a Hurricanes team that will continue to build around their youth.
It Could Be, It Might Be...: Nathan Noel (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL). Of all the Newfs currently playing in the Q League, Noel is probably the most skilled and has been turning it on of late. Noel has 27 points in 26 games played for the 'Dogs in 2016-17, and will (in all likelihood) be at the Chicago Blackhawks' preliminary camps in 2017. Nathan was selected by the perennial cup favourites in the 4th round of the NHL Draft in 2016, and if there's a team that needs draft picks to come in and produce right away, it is the salary cap-strapped 'Hawks.
Digging Deeper: Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrook Phoenix, QMJHL). Fitzpatrick was a 2nd round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2016, which bodes well for the '98 born Newfoundlander to see an NHL crease. Fitzpatrick is playing for the Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) at the moment, but will more than likely be starting for the Blues AHL-affiliate next season. It seems as if St. Louis has a plan for their investment, as they signed current backup Carton Hutton to a 2-year pact this offseason. By the time Hutton's contract expires, Fitzpatrick will have the seasoning required to move to the NHL presumably in 2018-19. Fredericton, NB native Jake Allen will still be the starter, but if anything happens to Allen on the injury front, Fitzpatrick will be his likely successor. I think that Fitzpatrick will play in the NHL, but it will take a couple of years before that comes to fruition.
Long Shot: Tyler Boland (Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL). Boland is enjoying a breakout season offensively for the Oceanic, with 42 points (21G, 21A) in his first 30 games played. Boland was passed over in back-to-back NHL Drafts and has never attended an NHL camp, however, the 20 year old's offensive outburst in 2016-17 will likely land him an NHL tryout in 2017-18. Boland is a good hockey player and a mature leader, and while making the NHL as an undrafted 21 year old is a long shot, stranger things have happened!
Side Note: While Purcell is not currently playing in the NHL, I believe that #16 will get the call before the season is out. Purcell's 20 points in 28 career playoff games will be coveted by a playoff-destined team down the stretch, and I wish the best for my good friend in getting back to the highest level.
Until Next Time,