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Hot starts outside of the NHL

Axel Holmstrom should be a top prospect in the Detroit system very, very soon. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NCAA, NHL and AHL seasons have barely started, but plenty of hockey has already been played around the world. Interesting storylines are already emerging when it comes to the top drafted prospects and prospects for the 2015 draft and beyond. Furthermore, there have been some emerging player development trends.

There have been some remarkable performances in leagues all over thus far, but we're not focusing on that right now, since small bursts of production can be anomalous.

Instead, we'll focus on some players who have shown a marked improvement in one or more skills based on where they were at the end of last season, or during events of the summer:

[Note: Stats are current heading into the games of Oct. 15.]


Axel Holmstrom | C | Detroit Red Wings

Holmstrom, the 196th overall pick in the 2014 draft, has eight points already in his 18-year-old Swedish Hockey League season. That is a giant scoring spike for a player his age in that league.

Only 14 under-20 players last season in the SHL scored more than eight points all season, and only five under-19 players scored seven or more. Three of those were first-rounds picks in 2014: William Nylander, Kevin Fiala and Adrian Kempe (who were in their 17-year-old seasons). The others were Jacob de la Rose -- who came close to making Montreal's team during this year's camp -- and Carolina's Lucas Wallmark.

At the Lake Placid World Junior Championship evaluation camp this summer, Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said of Holmstrom: "He has tremendous skill, he moves the puck real well. He played on the highest scoring line at the under-18 World Championship. That tells you his ability on the ice. He's also very responsible in his own end."

After the camp, I discussed Holmstrom's strong performance, saying it wasn't crazy to envision him as a top 10 prospect in the Detroit system by next summer. That statement may have been too conservative.