Quinnipiac alum: NHL prospect edition

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

When the NHL restarted its season, teams were allowed to expand their rosters for training camp in case of any sustained injuries.

Two former Quinnipiac Bobcats received invites to training camp to showcase their skills at the top level. Brogan Rafferty and Chase Priskie, who played defense together at Quinnipiac from 2016-2019, each had the opportunity to prove their worth to NHL management. 

During his three seasons at Quinnipiac, Rafferty recorded 60 points in 108 games, helping the Bobcats return to the Frozen Four playoffs in the 2018-19 season.

Following his junior year, Rafferty signed with the Vancouver Canucks to play for the AHL affiliate  Utica Comets. The 24-year-old defender amassed 45 points in 57 games for the Comets in his rookie campaign. 

Vancouver currently possesses one of the deeper prospect pools in the league. As of the 2019-20 season, Sporting News listed Vancouver as the eighth best farm system in the league.

Graphic by Connor Lawless, photos from Chronicle Archives

Out of Vancouver’s top ten prospects, five defensemen are listed higher level prospects than Rafferty according to Sporting News. Rafferty was considered a tier four prospect when he signed, according to the Vancouver Courier. 

Rafferty’s brilliant first professional season will go down in the record books as he recorded the most points ever by a Comets defenseman. He was also the fourth Quinnipiac alumnus to be named to the AHL All-Star game.

Due to his impressive accomplishments, Vancouver called Rafferty up to the NHL in March of the 2019-20 season. However, the NHL suspended play due to COVID-19, thus ending Rafferty’s promotion. 

Just a few months out of the delayed 2020-21 NHL season, Vancouver has a very important decision to make in terms of the right-handed defenseman.

The Canucks have Troy Stetcher, Chris Tanev and Tyler Myers headlining the right side of their defensive core. Both Stetcher and Tanev are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, meaning any team in the league is free to approach them with a contract without giving compensation.

Since the NHL won’t increase its salary cap for the next three seasons, money is tight for most teams. As for the Canucks, they’ve already committed to a long-term contract with Myers worth $6 million over the next four years, a high amount considering they have $14 million left to sign 10 initial players due for new contracts. 

It seems unlikely that the Canucks will re-sign both defensemen given the financial implications and the Canucks’ pool of defensive prospects.  The last thing they need is to logjam multiple upcoming key players in their farm system.

Fortunately for Rafferty, he appears to be the most ideal skater to fill in the empty spot. He has one more year remaining on his two-year, $700,000 AAV two-way contract, and after a superb AHL season, it makes sense for the Canucks to promote him. 

As for Priskie, his pathway to the NHL is a bit cloudy. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL entry draft by the Washington Capitals during his first year as a Bobcat. 

Despite producing more than 20 points in his first three years and improving each year that he played, the Capitals didn’t sign Priskie.

During his Bobcat career, he compiled 116 points in 154 games, was named the 45th captain in program history, became a Hobey Baker finalist in his senior year, set a record for most goals by a defenseman with 39 and finished second all-time in points amongst Quinnipiac defensemen.

Once his four years were complete, Priskie signed a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes to play for their AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers. 

Carolina’s defensive core is widely considered one of the league’s deepest, ranked the third best by The Hockey Writers. Jacob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Brady Skjei, Sami Vatanen, Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury led the Hurricanes to a top 10 finish in goals against as well as finishing with the fourth-best penalty kill.

Not to mention, the Hurricanes also have another capable defenseman on the injured reserve in Brett Pesce. 

The average age of their defensive core is just under 26 years old, which did not create much of a pathway for Priskie. At the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24, Priskie was traded with three other players to the Florida Panthers.

Before being dealt, Priskie’s AHL rookie season was quite productive, as he netted eight goals and dished out 27 assists for 35 points in 57 appearances. Being traded will benefit Priskie in the long run as it was unlikely that he would be able to crack into the lineup, at least immediately.

His new team, the Florida Panthers, has been one of the worst defensive teams in the league over the last two seasons, conceding the fourth and fifth most goals, respectively.

The organizational switch allows Priskie to continue to grow and not get stuck behind the current pros. He impressed immediately as he notched four points in five games before the season abruptly ended.

With no clear expectations for the future season, Priskie must continue to impress head coach Joel Quenneville in order to breakthrough onto the Panthers’ roster. 

For now, both Rafferty and Priskie are the most anticipated prospects to represent Quinnipiac for the upcoming season.