NHL top prospects who could surprise during training camp


Tyler Benson, F, Edmonton Oilers: Benson (6-foot, 190 pounds), chosen in the second round (No. 32) of the 2016 NHL Draft, should challenge for a role after scoring 141 points (34 goals, 107 assists) in 156 games the past four seasons with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League. The 23-year-old is a two-way wing who can contribute on the penalty kill and chip in offensively.

Matt Boldy, F, Minnesota Wild: Boldy (6-2, 195) scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 14 games with Iowa of the AHL after signing a three-year, entry-level contract March 30 following his second season at Boston College. The 20-year-old, selected with the No. 12 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, also scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games to help the United States win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Center Marco Rossi, the No. 9 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, also will have a shot to start the season in the NHL.

Yegor Chinakhov, F, Columbus Blue Jackets: The 20-year-old (6-0, 178), chosen No. 21 in the 2020 draft, was named the top rookie in the Kontinental Hockey League last season after he scored 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) and six power-play goals in 32 regular-season games with Avangard Omsk. He scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in 21 KHL playoff games to help Omsk win the Gagarin Cup as league champion.

Riley Damiani, F, Dallas Stars: The 21-year-old was named the AHL rookie of the year last season after he scored 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 36 games for Texas. Chosen in the fifth round (No. 137) of the 2018 NHL Draft, Damiani (5-10, 170) is strong defensively with good vision, speed and work ethic.

Liam Kirk, F, Arizona Coyotes: The 21-year-old (6-1, 156), could be the first player born and trained in the United Kingdom to skate in the NHL. Last season he scored 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 12 games for Hanhals in HockeyEttan, Sweden’s third professional division, and 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games with Sheffield of the Elite Ice Hockey League. He also played for Great Britain in the 2021 IIHF World Championship where he tied for the tournament lead with seven goals and was selected to all-tournament team. The Coyotes selected Kirk in the seventh round (No. 189) in the 2018 draft.

Nils Lundkvist, D, New York Rangers: The 21-year-old (5-11, 187), selected No. 28 in the 2018 draft, was named the best defenseman in the Swedish Hockey League after he scored 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 52 games with Lulea. Lundkvist had five assists in three games for Sweden at the Worlds, tied for the lead among defensemen at the tournament. He agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract June 3.

Connor McMichael, F, Washington Capitals: The 20-year-old center led Hershey of the AHL with 14 goals and 27 points, and led AHL rookies with eight game-winning goals in 33 games last season, his first as a professional. He also scored eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games for second-place Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. McMichael (6-0, 183) was selected with the No. 25 pick of the 2019 draft.

Mason McTavish, F, Anaheim Ducks: McTavish (6-1, 207), the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract Aug. 13. He scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games last season with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland. The 18-year-old scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games to help Canada win the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.

Dawson Mercer, F, New Jersey Devils: Forward Alexander Holtz (No. 7, 2020 draft) is expected to earn a spot in the lineup this season, but Mercer (No. 18, 2020 draft) also might prove worthy. The 19-year-old center (6-0, 180) scored 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 23 regular-season games with Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in nine QMJHL playoff games. He also scored six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games for Canada at the 2021 WJC.

Ryan Merkley, D, San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have been patient with Merkley, the No. 21 pick in the 2018 draft. The 21-year-old (5-11, 170) signed a three-year, entry-level contract July 18, 2018, but spent 2019-20 with London of the Ontario Hockey League, where he scored 76 points (15 goals, 61 assists) in 60 games. Last season he scored 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 31 games with San Jose of the AHL. Merkley is a dynamic skater with elite skills and might help the power play. Improvement is needed in his defensive-zone play.

Scott Perunovich, D, St. Louis Blues: The 23-year-old (5-9, 172) was named captain for the Blues at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, held Sept. 16-20. Perunovich, who agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract March 27, 2020, did not play last season after having surgery on his left shoulder Feb. 12. He scored 105 points (20 goals, 85 assists) in 115 NCAA games during three seasons with Minnesota-Duluth and won the Hobey Baker Award as the best NCAA men’s hockey player in 2020. St. Louis selected Perunovich in the second round (No. 45) of the 2018 draft.

Jack Rathbone, D, Vancouver Canucks: Chosen in the third round (No. 95) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Rathbone (5-10, 177), has an opportunity to land a bigger role following the departures of defensemen Nate Schmidt (Winnipeg Jets) and Alexander Edler (Los Angeles Kings). The 22-year-old scored three points (one goal, two assists) and averaged 15:30 in ice time in eight games with the Canucks last season. He also scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in eight games with Utica of the AHL.

Lucas Raymond, F, Detroit Red Wings: The 19-year-old (5-11, 170) will play in North America this season, with Detroit or Grand Rapids of the AHL. Raymond possesses a well-rounded game with speed, great hands and instincts. He scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 34 games with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League last season.

Philip Tomasino, F, Nashville Predators: Versatile enough to play center or on the wing, Tomasino (6-0, 181) scored 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 29 games with Chicago of the AHL last season. The 20-year-old plays with pace and is fearless in the corners and around the net. He also scored six points (four goals, two assists) in seven games for second-place Canada at the 2021 WJC.

Connor Zary, F, Calgary Flames: Selected No. 24 in the 2020 NHL Draft, Zary began last season scoring seven points (three goals, four assists) in nine games with Stockton of the AHL, and then scored 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 15 games with Kamloops of the Western Hockey League. The 19-year-old (6-0, 178) has an impressive shot and high hockey IQ.

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