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      NHL Prospect Roundup: New York Rangers’ Gabe Perreault is the real deal

      Plus: Aku Koskenvuo, Colby Barlow and Brandon Lisowsky are among the other prospects worth keeping a close eye on.

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      You’ve got a great one, New York Rangers fans.

      Gabe Perreault was one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2023 NHL Draft. The offense was obvious – he’s the all-time USA Hockey National Team Development Program single-season scoring leader – but he also played on potentially the best line they have had with Will Smith and Ryan Leonard.

      They’re still together at Boston College, but once again, Perreault is leading the way in scoring with 43 points in 26 games – five clear of Cutter Gauthier, considered to be one of the best prospects in hockey today. A lot of Perreault’s prominence comes on the power play, but he’s so good in all situations. That’s why he’s second in NCAA scoring, and he’s one of just two players to have more than 30 assists.

      One of the biggest concerns? His skating. But it hasn’t been much of an issue for him this season. I noticed that during the World Junior Summer Showcase, with Perreault looking more explosive than I remember him with the USNTDP. And part of that is because he never really needed to move too much with all the great scoring chances he had in the offensive zone.

      Right now, though? Perreault at pick No. 23 is looking like quite the steal.

      NCAA

      – A third-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes last summer, 18-year-old center Jonathan Castagna is on a heater with Cornell University. The St. Andrew’s College graduate has 19 points in 23 games, but he had a four-point effort against Union on Saturday to help give him seven points over his past three games. And that’s after going through a four-game scoreless drought where nothing went right, which was surprising after scoring a hat-trick and an assist against Princeton on Jan. 19. Adjusting to the college game is never easy, but Castagna is looking good.

      – Starts have been hard to come by for Vancouver Canucks prospect Aku Koskenvuo over the past two years with just 11 games played at Harvard University. But Koskenvuo has been better than Derek Mullahy, going 3-1-1 over the past five games after finally finding some momentum. That one loss was a 2-1 effort when Koskenvuo made 37 saves against the defending national champions, Quinnipiac, so it’s been good to see him bounce back in a big way.

      AHL

      Shakir Mukhamadullin‘s first AHL campaign has gone well, with the big, two-way defenseman already delivering the highest offensive output of his pro career with 26 points in 43 games. The San Jose Sharks prospect recently impressed in a three-game NHL stint, registering his first assist in 21:59 of ice time against Anaheim on Jan. 31. I wasn’t high on Mukhamadullin’s play in his draft year because, despite having good offensive instincts, he was a giveaway machine. He’s more discerning in his decision-making now.

      KHL

      – After registering a breakthrough 55 points with SKA St. Petersburg last year, Alexander Nikishin – the team’s 22-year-old captain – is already up to 16 goals and 53 points in 62 games. If he keeps at this current pace, he’ll break the 60-point barrier – something done just once by a KHL defenseman back in 2016-17 by Chris Lee. Nikishin will be a huge asset for the Carolina Hurricanes if they don’t trade his rights before his KHL deal ends in 2025 for the way he dominates both physically and offensively.

      Niklas Kokko moved to the Pelicans to close out the season and the results have been excellent. He’s 3-0-1 with two shutouts and a .933 save percentage in five games, putting himself among the league leaders in 2024. He struggled with Finland’s World Junior Championship squad but the fresh start has been huge for his play. The Seattle Kraken prospect has serious NHL potential.

      OHL

      Colby Barlow isn’t on track to beat his 46-goal, 79-point output from a year ago, but he’s making up for a lost time (due to injury). He has six multi-point games over his past 10 outings, including a four-point show against Ottawa late last month. He’s still a shot production machine, registering at least four shots in eight of his past 10 games, leading to 12 goals in that span. It’ll be interesting to see if the Winnipeg Jets dangle Barlow as trade bait because he’s a goal-scorer with top-six upside – and just wait until next year if he stays healthy.

      – It took a bit, but Tomas Hamara is starting to look good with the Brantford Bulldogs. The Ottawa Senators prospect had a pair of points fresh off of winning bronze at the World Junior Championship with Czechia but then found himself on a four-game pointless streak – despite the Bulldogs winning each of the game. He failed to get on the scoresheet against Guelph on Friday but had had seven points over a five-game stretch as he started to look more confident.

      WHL

      – The acquisition of fellow Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fraser Minten has really helped Brandon Lisowsky, who has 61 points through 53 games for the Saskatoon Blades. He’s on pace for just fewer than 40 goals and 80 points, largely due to his 26 games of five shots or more this year. He’s a smaller player at 5-foot-9 but he has an excellent shot and can throw his weight around at times, too. Will Lisowksy be an NHLer? Not an impact guy, I don’t think, but players with his energy make it hard to ignore them.


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