Fantasy prospect analysis of youngsters moved at NHL trade deadline

Defenseman Libor Hajek, pictured playing for theCzech Republic, was apparently the player the Rangers insisted on as part of the return for <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/4251/" data-ylk="slk:Ryan McDonagh">Ryan McDonagh</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/5376/" data-ylk="slk:J.T. Miller">J.T. Miller</a>. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Defenseman Libor Hajek, pictured playing for theCzech Republic, was apparently the player the Rangers insisted on as part of the return for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

By Jon Litterine, RotoWire Hockey Prospect Analyst
Special to Yahoo Sports

The NHL trade deadline saw a number of prospects move to new teams. Here’s a look at how the fallout will impact the top prospects.

Pontus Aberg (F-EDM): Acquired from Nashville in a three-team trade that sent Mark Letestu packing from Edmonton, the move should finally allow Aberg to show off his offensive abilities at the NHL level. He was always a productive scorer during his three seasons in the AHL and showed flashes of brilliance with the Predators. The 24-year-old skates extremely well. He has average puck skills, and he battles hard. As is often the case with smaller offensive players (Aberg is listed at 5-foot-11), the question is how much can Aberg accomplish if he isn’t putting up points? It’s entirely possible that he’s nothing more than a fringe NHL player, but this was a risk worth taking for Edmonton.

Victor Ejdsell (F-CHI): Less than nine months after signing with Nashville as an undrafted free agent, Ejdsell is off to the Windy City. Checking in at a massive 6-5, 215, it’s easy to see why Chicago was interested in the big Swede. Ejdsell consistently racked up points the last two seasons in his home country thanks to a great set of hands and a big shot. The question regarding Ejdsell is his skating. He really labors getting around the ice and it’s entirely possible his lack of foot speed will cost him a chance at a productive NHL career. Still, the Predators overpaid for Ryan Hartman and Ejdsell was a solid piece for the Blackhawks to acquire in return.

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Erik Foley (F-STL): Despite averaging more than a point per game (34 points in 32 games) in his junior season at Providence College, Foley projects as more of a bottom-six winger who can contribute offensively as a pro. A member of Team USA’s gold-medal winning club at the 2017 World Junior Championship, Foley showed throughout that tournament that he could excel in a depth role. He can finish around the net and is tough to knock off the puck down low despite have just average (6-0, 185) size. He’s a high-probability NHL’er for an organization that needs as many of those types of guys as it can find.

Filip Gustavsson (G-OTT): No team in the NHL needed to get a quality young goaltending prospect into its system more than the Senators and that alone makes the deal that sent Derrick Brassard to Pittsburgh a win for Ottawa. The 19-year-old Gustavsson signed his entry-level contract with the Pens last June and is on loan to Lulea in Sweden for one final season. Gustavsson has the size (6-2, 185) that NHL clubs are looking for in their goaltenders, and he plays a calm, understated game. He doesn’t flop around in the net and is rarely caught out of position. Gustavsson is one of the better goaltending prospects in the league and the Sens are going to need him to develop at an accelerated rate as Craig Anderson can’t play forever and Mike Condon is nothing more than a career backup. Anderson is signed through 2019-20, but expect Gustavsson to take over the starting job for Ottawa long before then, perhaps by the end of next season.

Libor Hajek (D-NYR): Hajek was apparently the player the Rangers insisted on as part of the return for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, and they got their wish. He was a rock on the blue line for the Czech Republic in the most recent World Juniors and has added more offense (35 points in 52 games) to his game this season in the WHL. He has underrated pucks skills and rarely makes poor decisions with the puck. Hajek seems unlikely to post more than 25 points on an annual basis at the NHL level, but he should develop into a minute-crunching, second-pairing defender. He has gotten progressively better since Tampa Bay originally drafted him 37th overall in 2016.

Brett Howden (F-NYR): I would have preferred Taylor Raddysh or Boris Katchouk in return as part of the package for McDonagh and Miller, but I understand why the Rangers opted for Howden. He is a true all-around center who has put up a boatload of points during his time in the WHL and seems like a lock to develop into a productive NHL player in some capacity. I would wager he is more of a third-line guy than a top-six option, but I see no reason he can’t score 20-plus goals a year for New York while contributing in other areas. As was the case with virtually all the prospects the Rangers acquired at the deadline, Howden isn’t a sexy player but he gets the job done. He should slot in nicely for New York behind top prospects Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson in the coming years.

Ryan Lindgren (D-NYR): Rangers GM Jeff Gorton looks like a genius for getting a massive haul for pending UFA winger Rick Nash before the market for rental forwards completely went in the tank. Lindgren was one of the main pieces who came back the other way along with Boston’s 2018 first-round pick. Currently in his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota, Lindgren is a stay-at-home defenseman with limited puck skills. As of this writing he has just three goals and 14 points in 65 career collegiate games. He has played for Team USA in each of the last two World Juniors and served as an assistant captain in the most recent games in Buffalo last December. My guess is that his long-term ceiling is that of a third-pairing defender who is an asset on the penalty kill. He isn’t flashy and I seriously doubt that he will ever be a fantasy asset as a pro, but Lindgren is the type of hard-nosed player all winning teams need.

Rob O’Gara (D-NYR): This blurb on O’Gara will be brief because I don’t think he is an NHL player. He has terrific size (6-4, 205) and a decent stick, but he makes too many mental mistakes in his own zone and his puck skills are almost non-existent. He has been awful for the Rangers since coming over in the Nick Holden deal. He belongs in the AHL. New York would have been better off trying to squeeze a fifth or sixth round pick out of Boston GM Don Sweeney as opposed to O’Gara.

Danny O’Regan (F-BUF): Although I am not ready to give up on O’Regan, I admit his development has apparently stalled and the odds are considerably worse than 50/50 that he will ever develop into a useful NHL player. Perhaps the trade to Buffalo where he will unite with former college line mates (the currently injured) Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues, will get him going. O’Regan is an offensive player who was never given a chance to lock down a full-time role with the Sharks. He has been productive in the AHL, but he was up and down during his four years at Boston University, so his struggles to establish himself at the NHL level aren’t much of a surprise. The tanking Sabres should give him a ton of ice time so they can see what they have on their hands. Maybe they get lucky. He is worth monitoring in deeper leagues for the remainder of the year.

Igor Rykov (D-NYR): Rykov joined New York from the Devils as part of the Michael Grabner deal and the first trade ever made between the two division rivals. The Rangers got plenty of looks at Rykov while scouting their 2014 fourth-round pick, and apparent heir to King Henrik’s throne, goaltender Igor Shestyorkin with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. While they will never admit it publicly, Rangers brass certainly hope that acquiring Rykov will enhance the chances of both players coming to North America when their contracts expire after the 2018-19 season. Rykov is a solid all-around defenseman that plays an effective game. He moves the puck well and can jump into the offense when needed. His time spent playing against men in the KHL should only help his transition to the smaller rinks of North America (assuming he and Shestyorkin join the team in the fall of 2019).

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