The Athletic’s Corey Pronman wrote over the summer that the Washington Capitals have the second-worst farm system in the NHL. But after another great draft, the Capitals are making Corey reconsider.
Monday, the prospects guru named Aliaksei Protas the 2019 NHL Draft’s biggest riser.
The Capitals drafted Protas in the third round, number 91 overall.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) November 25, 2019
Protas has been a standout in his second North American season in the WHL playing for the Prince Albert Raiders. The 6’6’’ center currently leads the WHL in scoring with 37 points in 25 games. The next highest scorer on his Raiders team is nine points behind that mark. He has only gone pointless in four of those 25 games and was named as one of alternate captains for the team in 2019-20.
It’s not just the numbers and team praise though that now have scouts raving about the giant Belorussian forward. Protas has a newfound confidence in all three zones and a constantly improving “skating stride” to go along with his already lethal wrist shot and creative offensive mind. The biggest positive of those things is that his skating has seemingly come leaps and bounds already from where it was last year. He was noticeably quick for his size during the NHL preseason with the Caps, even tallying three points in his debut against the Blackhawks. It looks like that has only continued in the WHL.
Capitals on Penguins prospect crime right here. https://t.co/DjADY2kHsU
— Chris Cerullo (@CJC_95) November 23, 2019
Pronman believes that Protas’s improvement this season is due to a much-improved skating ability along with more confidence and aggressiveness.
It’s the vision, shot and size I saw last season; coupled with more confidence with the puck, a more well-rounded game where he attacks the middle and plays tough minutes, and a much-improved skating stride. I thought his skating was fringe pro quality last season; Prince Albert’s coach Marc Habscheid called it almost NHL quality when I talked to him a few weeks ago.
Pronman’s criteria for a “riser” is as follows.
The names mentioned here must fit two criteria. 1) A subjective assessment by myself that the prospect improved his stock and 2) A general consensus from NHL scouts that, if the draft was redone now, the player would go higher than he did last June. I’m considering a riser someone who would go about 30 picks higher.
In essence, The Athletic’s prospects expert is basically saying that Protas would be selected in the second round, at the worst, if the 2019 NHL Draft was held again today.
During Protas’s draft year, the forward had only 40 points in 61 games during the regular season before exploding with 22 points in 23 playoff games for the eventual WHL champs. So Protas’s success this season isn’t completely unexpected.
After having their cupboard barren of forward prospects, the Capitals now have several who are excelling such as Connor McMichael, which is something we haven’t been able to say much in recent years.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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