Many prospects come through the CHL leagues: the QMJHL, the OHL, and the WHL. The Tampa Bay Lightning have had three prospects eliminated from the playoffs just recently. They are all eligible to join the Syracuse Crunch for the remainder of the season, much like defenseman Libor Hajek.
Center Brett Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL), winger Dennis Yan of the Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL), and forward Otto Somppi of the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) have had their team eliminated. Howden and Somppi’s teams were expected to be eliminated because they were mid-level for their league. Shawinigan was supposed to be a threat to win the QMJHL championship, so their elimination came as something of a surprise.
The Syracuse Crunch have been dealing with injuries, as well as call-ups to the Lightning, that have depleted their forward corps. The last game the Crunch played, they dressed eight defensemen. The two games prior to that, they dressed nine. This has been going on for a while, and the Crunch could really use the help up front that these prospects can provide.
Yan was a third-round pick of the Lightning in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. American born, but of Russian lineage, Yan played for the U.S. National Team Development Program for a season before joining Shawinigan. He has just completed his third year in the league. Over his three seasons, he has put up 64, 69, and 75 points with 33, 32, and 46 goals respectively.
Yan has a sniper’s shot, but has a long way to go on the defensive side of the puck. Development in the AHL will determine if he makes it to the NHL or not, and he could be a long-term project. If he makes it to the NHL, it will be as a third-line winger with a good shot that can help on the power play.
Yan has already signed an entry-level contract and should be with the Crunch to start next season. Getting a head start going into the summer will be beneficial for getting him off on the right foot in his development at the professional level.
Update, good news:
Groulx said Lightning 2015 third rounder Dennis Yan is likely to join Crunch for practice Thursday.— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) April 4, 2017
The Lightning’s first-round pick from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the organization’s scouts saw a lot of him while checking up on Brayden Point. Howden followed Point as Captain of the Moose Jaw Warriors. He’s also the younger brother of Winnipeg Jets forward Quinton Howden, formerly a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers.
Howden is a center with size that plays a solid two-way game. He’s listed as 6’3” and 191 pounds. He has room to fill out his frame with some muscle and at 19 year old he’s not done growing yet. Howden dealt with some injuries this year that caused him to miss time. His offense hasn’t quite reached the level in the WHL that Point’s did, but that was to be expected. After scoring 24 goals and 64 points in 68 games during his draft season, Howden scored 38 goals and 81 points in 58 games.
Howden has signed an entry-level contract. However, he is too young to play for the Crunch next season and will head back to Moose Jaw for another season. He has the offensive punch to be able to contribute to the Crunch now as they go into the end of the season and potentially the playoffs.
Somppi was a late-round lottery ticket in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, selected in the seventh round, 206th overall. The Finnish forward had a lackluster year and didn’t take much of a step forward in his offense, but was also surrounded by a not very good Halifax team.
Somppi separated his shoulder a couple weeks ago and is not likely to play again this season, so we won’t get to see him in the AHL just quite yet. He has yet to sign an entry level contract, which is not a surprise given his low draft status and lack of progress in development this season. He’ll have another year to play in the QMJHL before the Lightning have to make a decision on him.