At this time in the year NHL teams have conducted interviews with their scouts, with the top eschlon players and have put their final lists together. NZ has released to our subscribers both a Players Under Consideration List which includes 550+ prospects our NHL Draft team has written reports on this season and then a final Top 307 NHL Draft Rankings for the best NHL Draft eligible prospects.
Ian Moran, NHL veteran of over 550 games and Director of NHL Scouting for Neutral Zone, takes a look at our A and A- rated prospects for the draft and makese a case why they are ranked where they are and also makes a case against for the critics.
NZ will be doing the same analysis for subscribers next week breaking down B+ prospects and continue each week leading up to the draft.
|Shane Wright||Kingston Fronteacs||OHL||R||C||6’1″||187||Kingston Frontenacs | 2019||Vaughan, ON||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why #1: He’s been the best in this class for so long that you have a very good understanding of what you’re getting as a player and more importantly as a leader. Wright has been and will continue to be a high-end leader no matter how old he is or where he’s playing.
Why not: The same reasons. Is this what he is? Do a few of his peers have more game popping upside? I feel his floor is a third-line center who plays for a decade, but when it comes right down to it will he be the offensive game-breaker at the NHL level? That’s true nit-picking because the organization that chooses him is getting a future captain and a player who will play 18+ minutes a night.
|Logan Cooley||NTDP U18||USHL||L||C||5’10”||174||Minnesota | 2022||West Mifflin, PA||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a dynamic offensive weapon who has been the offensive catalyst for the 2004 NTDP team since the team was announced. He sees the ice well as well as anyone and has great edge work & balance that has allowed him to bounce off bodies in junior hockey, and a very high compete level. Double under-ager on the US World Junior Team who looked to be running a power-play unit before the games were canceled.
Why not: Slight frame. After spending 2 years with the NTDP team training and doing endless hours of work is he what he is, and can he put the meat on his bones to play center in the defensive zone against the NHL’s elite? Even if he can’t play center he will be a first-line winger who puts up points.
|Juraj Slafkovsky||TPS||Liiga||L||LW||6’4″||225||Erie Otters | 2021||Kosice, SVK||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: NHL frame right now, and quite frankly has had it for a few years. Has been playing against men in the Liiga and having success as well as playing very well in the 2022 World Championships. To add to that, he played at over a point per game pace in the 2022 Winter Olympics and 2022 World Championships. As a puck carrier, he’s comfortable in traffic and shows quick hands on rebounds around the net. Big kids with this skill set do not come around very often.
Why not: As a big man on the wing will he have the pace to drive the net combined with the strength to carry opposing defenders to the top of the crease? Does he have the intestinal fortitude to live at the top of the crease taking kidney shots to win loose pucks and hammer home rebounds?
|Joakim Kemell||JYP||Liiga||R||RW||5’11”||176||Regina Pats | 2021||Jyvaskylan mlk||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s been a goal scorer everywhere he’s been, including the Liiga where he has 16 goals in 40 career games. Ultra quick release with the ability to fire it through legs or just past traffic and still hit the net. Plays with confidence moxie and jam. He was an assistant captain of the Finnish U18 WJC team.
Why not: Yes he scores goals at a high rate, but he has only been a point per game player in his peer group. We’ve seen him play with jam against his peers and talk crap, but in the Liiga he has 2 penalty minutes in 40 games. Does this mean that he’s smart enough to stay out of the crap because he knows time in the box will impact his ice time? Or at 5’11” 175lbs is he only tough against his peers because he matured early?
|Simon Nemec||HK Nitra||Slovakia||R||D||6’1″||192||Cape Breton Eagles | 2021||Liptovsky Mikulas, SVK||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a 6’1″ 190-pound right-shot defender who has played against men for the past three years in Slovakia and had success. He’s a leader and was an assistant captain on his U20 World Junior team. As an offensive-minded defenseman, he is dominant in his end below the face-off dots and consistently starts clean breakouts when it looks like his 5 man unit will be trapped in the defensive zone. The NHL is a transition game and we feel he is the best transition defender in the class.
Why not: Although he is an offensive defenseman he does not appear to have a rip of a shot from the point or the willingness to attack the middle. He does have a quick snapper that hits the net and it is tippable, but against NHL level goalies will his shot generate rebounds or just offensive zone face-offs? He is also very content to take his snapper from along the blue line near the walls and with NHL defensive zone coverage being so tight and compact we’re not sure how many of those shots get through.
|Danila Yurov||Metallurg Magnitogorsk||KHL||L||RW||6’1″||179||Chelyabinsk||2003||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a smooth-skating scorer who has 32 goals in 64 MHL games. He has played against men in the KHL and although he might not have put up points he has competed with 42 games of KHL experience. As a December 2003 he had 11 points in last year’s U18 World Championships in 7 games and we feel if there were ever some sort of 2022 draft class games Yurov would be in the mix for leading scorer and MVP.
Why Not: Although he did play games in the KHL, it is very difficult to find many games where he was on the ice for more than 4 minutes of playing time. How badly did that lack of playing time hinder his development or does he have the practice habits to maintain his development curve. His contract situation with Metallurg? When will he be available to come to North America to play? And what will it cost?
|David Jiricek||HC Plzen||International||R||D||6’3″||190||Spokane Chiefs | 2020||Klatovy, CZE||2003||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a 6’3″ 190-pound right-shot defender who processes the game cleanly, has a balanced fluid skating style with a skating base that will allow him to carry more weight and he is a leader. We like that he has some edge to his game to go with the strength to clear shooting lanes and end the cycle. When the puck is in his corner in the defensive zone he is a player that the coach will not have to worry about getting beat or beaten to the net. A very hard one-timer that seems to generate consistent rebounds.
Why not: There’s not a whole lot not to like about his overall game, but when you’re taking a defenseman this high you want to make sure he has more than just a cannon of a shot to produce points. Can he run a power play or will he be a secondary shooter who plays top 4 and kills penalties? Either way, you’re getting a kid who’ll play over 20 minutes and eventually could match up against the other team’s number 1 unit.
|Pavel Mintyukov||Saginaw Spirit||OHL||L||D||6’1″||192||Saginaw Spirit | 2020||Moskva||2003||2021-2022: A|
Why: He didn’t play any games during the Covid season, but came out this year to lead Saginaw with 62 points in 67 games. And I don’t mean Saginaw defensemen. He was their leading scorer. He reads the game as a solid two-way defender who calculates risk well and he does not leave his partner out to dry. He has an NHL combination of size & speed, and we love his willingness to engage physically.
Why not: He’s very similar to Jiricek in that you know you’re going to be getting a potential top 4 who can consistently contribute to the special teams game, but can he run an NHL power play, or is he a secondary guy? We feel he’s going to play big minutes because of his brain, but the concern will be can he produce points both 5on5 and on the PP?
|Alexander Perevalov||Loko Yaroslavl MHL||MHL||R||LW||6’0″||192||Mezhdurechensk, RUS||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: This kid plays like he expects to score every shift. He is opportunistic and he reads when to take off very well. Every time I’ve seen him play he’s led the game in scoring opportunities and honestly I feel like he has the potential to score every shift. He also has serious hand-eye coordination and settles bouncing pucks very quickly and smoothly.
Why not: How’s he going to help you if he’s not scoring? Will he start to cheat on every puck? Does he have the attention to detail to not be exploited in defensive situations because NHLers look for the sniffers and then take advantage of them?
|Marco Kasper||Rogle BK||SHL||L||C||6’1″||183||Innsbruck, AUT||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a 6’1″ 185-pound 200-foot center who has 56 games of SHL experience. We feel it shows leadership that he left Austria when he was 17 to head to Sweden for more consistent competition and development. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and has some very nice grime to his game. We like that when he loses a 50/50 puck he will track his opponent and win the puck back. In the offensive zone he is very strong below the goal line and has shown he can protect the puck for extended periods when playing against men in the SHL. We like his willingness to not only be a net-front presence but to stand directly in front of the goalie to take his eyes away and he has very quick hands-on rebounds.
Why not: Physically he might take a little bit longer to get there so the team that drafts him will have to be patient, but we feel once he gets there you’re looking at a top 9 who can play center or wing with the temperament to impact the game in a variety of ways for a long time.
|Matthew Savoie||Winnipeg Ice||WHL||R||C||5’9″||179||Winnipeg Ice | 2019||St. Albert, AB||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: Dynamic point producer who understands how to be effective with or without the puck. He processes the game quickly and moves to create opportunities for his teammates and is thinking about the next play while he is moving. The quick first step, smooth first touch, and a variety of release points will make him dangerous in professional hockey.
Why not: At 5’9″ and 180 pounds will he be able to defend as a center in the NHL or is he automatically put on the wing? If a team views him as a center he’s going to go around #10. If they think he projects as a winger he will go closer to #20.
|Jonathan Lekkerimaki||Djurgardens||SHL||R||C||5’11”||172||Huddinge, SWE||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: During the 2021-22 season he was a dominant force while playing in the J20 recording 35 points in 26 games while playing against 20 years. He also played 26 games in the SHL scoring 7 goals and 2 assists. And then to top it all off he led the U18 World Championships in scoring with 15 points in 6 games. He’s not only talented but he reads depth and width well when he doesn’t have the puck & in our opinion showing a brain away from the puck will make his transition to the NHL an easier one.
Why not: As one of the better offensive players in his age group you can deal with the turnovers because there’s a high probability that he will create/generate enough offense to offset it, but we would like to see him win more 50/50 puck battles. 50/50’s… you have to win them or you will not be trusted by an NHL coaching staff.
|Liam Ohgren||Djurgardens||SHL||L||LW||6’1″||187||Stockholm, SWE||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He plays with the attitude and aggression to be an impactful winger in the NHL. He was the captain of Sweden’s U18 team at the World Championships and scored 33 goals in 30 games in the J20 Nationell. He has many of the attributes that an NHL player has.
Why not: After totally dominating the J20 he only had 2 points in 25 games for Djurgarden in the SHL so is he a kid who matured early and therefore still needs to figure out different ways to be effective? If that’s the case it will take him a little bit more time to find his way onto an NHL line-up.
|Jimmy Snuggerud||NTDP U18||USHL||R||RW||6’2″||187||Minnesota | 2022||Chaska, MN||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a big strong winger who can skate with a power forward’s mentality on getting to the net. He played at over a point per game with the NTDP team and he’s heading straight into Minnesota next year where we feel he is capable of playing meaningful minutes immediately. He has hockey in his bloodline and will have resources to help him figure it out when things get rough.
Why not: There were times in the games versus USHL teams when he seemed to be flying around without much of a purpose. He’s big and he’s damn fast, but to be an impactful NHLer he will have to learn to have consistent purpose and details in each shift. He is by no means the only young power forward who has this trait, but to be a middle of the first round guy he will need to bring it every shift for the next 20 years.
|Ivan Miroshnichenko||OMSK Krylia||VHL||R||LW||6’1″||185||Acadie-Bathhurst Titan | 2021||Ussururiysk, RUS||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He’s a 6’1″ goal scorer with real speed. He understands how to find the quiet area and once he gets there he trusts his teammates to get him the puck…. meaning he doesn’t try to do it by himself. He uses his size to create leverage along the walls and then uses his quickness to trap defenders and beat them to the net. He is very confident and resilient to contact between the hash marks down to the top of the crease in the offensive zone.
Why not: For a goal scorer he seems overly content attacking wide and staying outside the dot line on zone entries. Once he’s below the tops of the circles he gets to the slot, but on zone entries, we feel he is too predictable about going to his left/wide. We’d like to see him use his speed to attack the middle and then dish wide to an open teammate in the lane so he can use his net-front confidence to bury.
|Noah Ostlund||Djurgardens||SHL||L||C||5’11”||163||Nykvarn||2004||2021-2022: A|
Why: He plays a full 200′ game with a motor and competitiveness. He plays with his eyes up and has the game awareness to catch opponents in bad changes or long shifts. He had 42 points in 32 J20 Nationell games last year, as well as 10 points in his six U18 World Championship games. He has an easy first touch on both his forehand and backhand when he is at top speed & is always ready to make a pass.
Why not: With the way he plays he needs to get stronger and more powerful to have a consistent impact with his style of play. He digs, grinds & jabs, and to do this for an NHL carrier he will need to add some depth to his frame. I think most people will have him later, but to me he comes over at 21 years old with some meat on him and he is a plug-and-play kid.
|Cutter Gauthier||NTDP U18||USHL||L||LW||6’2″||194||Boston College | 2022||Northville, MI||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: This kid is going to be an NHLer. He has the physical traits to impact the game in a variety of ways as well as the physical skills to be impactful on the scoreboard.
Why not: This kid is going to be an NHLer, but where does he fall in the lineup? Is he a top 6 or bottom 6 guy and how quickly will he adjust to the role he’s best suited for?
|Kevin Korchinski||Seattle Thunderbirds||WHL||L||D||6’2″||185||Seattle Thunderbirds | 2019||Saskatoon, SK||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: 6’2″ point per game defenders in the Western League are hard to find and when you mix that in with high compete and power play savvy you have yourself a real NHL prospect. He also wins almost 60% of his puck battles and from below the goal line those 50/50 wins turn into clean breakouts.
Why not: He averaged 23:33 in TOI with 3:43 coming on the power play and only 0:44 while coming shorthanded. That means to go this high you’ll be betting on a player who you view as a potential top-pairing defender who you’re going to have to teach the focus and attention to detail to be an impact defender in all three phases of the game. This means the GM is going to have to whole heartedly trust his development team.
|Lian Bichsel||Leksand||SHL||L||D||6’5″||216||Wolfwil, SUI||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a 6’5″ 220-pound defender who left Switzerland to play in the J20 Nationell and SHL during his draft year. He made himself feel uncomfortable and to us, that shows leadership. He defended against the pros on a big sheet in Sweden helping his footwork and overall development. He is a strong human who’s only going to gain strength and power as he continues to mature.
Why not: He’s a knock-kneed skater and traditionally that skating style doesn’t survive in the National League. The drafting team will have to understand his work ethic because he’ll need to invest serious time into himself. If he’s willing to do this you’re looking at a monster of a kid who has the defensive awareness to play against the other team’s top unit for a long time.
|Luca Del Bel Belluz||Mississauga Steelheads||OHL||L||C||6’1″||179||Mississauga Steelheads | 2019||Woodbridge, ON||2021-2022: A-|
Why: After not playing during Covid and only having 6 points in his rookie OHL year he finished 2021-22 with 76 points in 68 games leading the Steelheads in assists. He plays with his eyes and can find passing potential seams before he receives the puck.
Why not: While thriving in the passing game and especially when finding passing lanes in transition, he will need to continue gaining leg strength and building that explosive first step to have the same type of impact in the NHL’s transition game where the players are faster and smarter.
|Sam Rinzel||Chaska||Minnesota HS||R||D||6’4″||181||Minnesota | 2023||Chanhassen, MN||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a 6’4″ right-shot defender who put up good offensive numbers in the Minnesota Elite League and for Chaska during the High School season, but the thing that separated him from his peers for us was his time in Waterloo. Most players have a difficult time adjusting to the USHL after playing high school hockey, but Rinzel was poised and confident. He didn’t get a ton of time on the penalty kill, but he was a power-play performer, finished more games with a 50/50 puck winning percentage and his shots hit the net. Phenomenal feet and skater.
Why not: He’s 6’4″ 181 pounds and he is rail. The drafting team will be betting on Father Time that he can put on the pounds before he forces free agency after his time at the University of Minnesota.
|Jagger Firkus||Moose Jaw Warriors||WHL||R||RW||5’10”||154||Moose Jaw Warriors | 2019||Irma, AB||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He was a 4th round pick in the WHL bantam draft. He’s never ripped it up offensively, but our notes say he’s always been smart and knows where to be before the puck arrives. He has the skill, vision, and high compete. And this year he puts up 88 points in 66 games while still being a slight 150lbs.
Why not: For this guy, it’s not about skill or will its about when his body will catch up to his mind so he can get to around 170 pounds. We feel it will happen at some point, but how long will the combination of training and physical development take?
|Isaac Howard||NTDP U18||USHL||L||LW||5’10”||183||Minnesota Duluth | 2022||Hudson, MN||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a thickly built goal scorer and a consistent one at that. He plays his best hockey against the best competition. As an under-ager at the U18 World Championships, he had 4 points in 5 games and followed that up this year with 6 goals and 11 points in 6 games. He’s going to Duluth so you know he’s going to have to battle against older more physically mature kids in practice and he’s going to be playing in meaningful games. If he’s not a top 6 in the NHL he has shown the attention to detail to be a bottom 6 and contributes in ways other than on the score sheet.
Why not: He changes his angle when he shoots, but does his shot have the juice to translate into goals against NHL goaltenders? Is this what he is physically… meaning does he have the slippery in him to be a goal scorer in professional hockey or are you taking a potential top 12 towards the end of the first round? He wins under 40% of his puck battles.
|Owen Pickering||Swift Current Broncos||WHL||L||D||6’5″||179||Swift Current Broncos | 2020||St. Adolphe, MB||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a 6’5″ 179-pound defender who dominates in his end below the goal line and in front of his net, so can you imagine the impact he can have on games when he’s 200lbs? 210lbs or even 220lbs? He played in all situations for Swift Current including being a key contributor on both special teams units. Defenders with his combination of size and mobility do not come around very often.
Why not: There were times at the U18 World Championships when he struggled with the quickness and agility of some of his highly-rated draft class peers. How long will it take for him to gain those needed pounds and how will his skating posture hold up to the weight?
|Jani Nyman||Ilves||Liiga||L||LW||6’3″||207||Valkeakoski, FIN||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a big strong power forward who played at a point per game pace in the Mestis this past season including 18 goals in 34 games. He played games in the U20 SM-sarja the past two seasons and has been offensively productive. He uses his size to protect the puck and is willing to take a hit to make a play.
Why not: For a player who’s 6’3″ 207lbs he averages under one hit per game and wins under 50% of his puck battles. Is this a result of him just being a big player who’s growing into his thick frame or is this a sign of things to come that he can be out-hustled?
|Kasper Kulonummi||Finland U18||International||R||D||6’0″||175||Helsinki, FIN||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He is a team tone-setter and he has played well against his peers in International competitions. Has played in the U20 SM-sarja the past two seasons and was an assistant captain this past season. Although he is only 6’0″ he has strong hands and shows an understanding of leverage and body positioning. He wins 62% of his loose puck battles and those wins turn into transition.
Why not: At 6’0″ 175lbs does he have the size and strength to win those same battles against the best in the World in the NHL? He’s played serious power-play minutes in U18 and U20 hockey, but is he a number one power play option in the NHL?
|Frank Nazar||NTDP U18||USHL||R||RW||5’10”||174||Michigan | 2022||Mt. Clemens, MI||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: Has game-breaking offensive 1v1 abilities that will bring fans out of their seats. He sees the ice very well and is a dual scoring passing threat. He’s more detailed without the puck tan he gets credit for.
Why not: At 5’10” 174lbs he seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of contact and needless hits. Will those 1v1 abilities translate to offense or turnovers versus the world’s best defenders?
|Ty Nelson||North Bay Battalion||OHL||R||D||5’10”||196||North Bay Battalion | 2020||Toronto, ON||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: Smart two-way defender who can impact the game in all three phases of the game. Although only 5’10” he is built like a truck at almost 200lbs. His combination of strength and quickness allows him to play against small quick forwards or bigger power forwards.
Why not: Loves to be involved physically and will his body hold up to that style over an NHL season and NHL career?
|Tomas Hamara||Tappara||Liiga||L||D||6’0″||185||Praha, CZE||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a solid two-way defenseman who over the past two seasons has played 67 games in the U20 SM-sarja finishing with 43 points. Excellent versus his draft class peers at the U18 World’s. Has played 24 games in the Liiga versus men and dome more than hold his own.
Why not: Although he is a very smooth skater, he will need to continue adding explosiveness to his first step. He’s spending 2022-23 in the Liiga and then coming over to North America? How long will his adjustment to the smaller ice surface take once he does come over?
|Conor Geekie||Winnipeg Ice||WHL||L||C||6’4″||205||Winnipeg Ice | 2019||Strathclair, MB||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s big and strong, but let’s not discount the fact that he knows how to play with highly skilled players after spending time with Savoie. He’s very confident attacking the middle ice through the neutral zone as a puck carrier. Plays an NHL-style heavier game right now and will more than likely play professionally closer to 220lbs rather than 200lbs.
Why not: As with most young big players he will need to work on his first step four-way explosiveness. It will be very important for him to continue working on his return leg and skating glide or efficiency so he can play with less effort to be at an NHL pace.
|Owen Beck||Mississauga Steelheads||OHL||R||C||6’0″||190||Mississauga Steelheads | 2020||Port Hope, ON||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He is a true 200′ center who understands two-way puck support from the defensive end out. Can win face-offs, especially in his end when down a goal. Plays a steady physical game and does not look for hits that will take him out of the play. He understands to shoot for rebounds and his shot generates secondary scoring opportunities. He will positively impact the game while shorthanded and while being difficult to play against.
Why not: Although he is a 200′ center, he was never been a real offensive juggernaut while growing up. He was essentially a point per game player before heading Mississauga and he will more than likely be a third-line center who shuts down the other team’s top unit and chips in offensively. Definitely an important role on a winning team, but will a team be looking for more at the end of the first round?
|Filip Bystedt||Linkoping HC||SHL||L||C||6’4″||187||Linkoping, SWE||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a big offensively gifted center who can play on the wing. He’s played games in the SHL over the past two years including 15 games this year. A key member of Sweden’s U18 special team’s game at the U18 World’s. Has the vision and passing skills to play both the mid-wall and point while on the power play. At 6’4″ 187lbs, we feel he will have the frame to be a net-front presence in North America after a few years of training.
Why not: We know he’s going to have to work on his overall strength and power, but at his size, we would like to see him dominate the net-front areas and below the goal line. In North American professional hockey 6’4″ skilled players need to bang and this is an element that he will need to add.
|Denton Mateychuk||Moose Jaw Warriors||WHL||L||D||5’11”||187||Moose Jaw Warriors | 2019||Winnipeg, MB||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a highly mobile defenseman who creates offense and transition in all three zones, but he excels at being a defenseman who can make plays from between the face-off dots. Rarely do you see him get trapped along the walls and when he is trapped he has the balance and edgework to escape the pressure. He wins 61% of his puck battles.
Why not: Although he sits at just under a point per game in the WHL he does not have a rocket from the point and relies heavily on a quick-release snapper that gets through for rebounds. The question is will those snapshots get blocked by disciplined NHL forwards and will NHL goalies be giving up those rebounds?
|Elias Salomonsson||Skelleftea AIK||SHL||R||D||6’1″||183||Skelleftea, SWE||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a 6’1″ right-shot defender who’s played games in SHL. He has excellent lateral mobility which allows him to defend with very tight gaps and pinch line rushes off near his defensive blueline. He plays stick-on puck in the defensive zone ending the cycle quickly. He does not lean while defending…. meaning he’s very confident in his footwork.
Why not: Although a key member of Sweden’s U18 National team he seems to consistently be forth in TOI for their defensive core.
|Aleksanteri Kaskimaki||HIFK||Liiga||L||C||6’0″||183||Espoo, FIN||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He wore an “A” for Finland at the U18 World Championships. He can score. Against high-end U18 International competition, he’s scoring goals at an every other game pace. This past season in U20 SM-sarja he scored 19 goals in 31 games. His goals aren’t high light reel goals either. Yes, some come on quick stick one-timers or explosively splitting the defenders when he finds a lane, but the majority of goals are from outworking his opponents within two feet of the crease for loose pucks.
Why not: Will he be strong enough to continue winning those net-front battles in the NHL? Does he survive on elite puck anticipation skills for those net-front goals or is he just quicker than his age group and that allows him to score?
|Simon Forsmark||Orebro HK||SHL||L||D||6’2″||194||Kumla,SWE||2003||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s got an NHL frame right now with very good lateral movement. While defending line rushes he has great stick placement and pinches plays off in the neutral zone. He can play both sides equally well. He’s an October 2003 who played at over a point per game pace in the J20 Nationell this year with 27 points in 25 games.
Why not: Although he is very strong in the defensive zone below the goal line there are times when he has difficulty containing forwards when they roll up the wall into the dot lane seam. Offensively his points are generated from high in the zone… this could be viewed as a plus or a negative depending on how a team views his lateral mobility along the blueline.
|Nathan Gaucher||Quebec Remparts||QMJHL||R||C||6’3″||207||Quebec Ramparts | 2019||Longueuil, QC||2003||2021-2022: A-|
Why: At 6’3″ 207lbs he is starting with an NHL frame and can continue to add to it. He has been a consistent goal scorer over his three years in the QMJHL. His shots hit the net 62% of the time and he is very good at attacking the net from below the goal line.
Why not: At 6’3″ 207lbs a team would like for him to win more than 44% of his loose puck battles. As a right-shot, he generates most of his offense from the right side through the dot lane and into the offensive zone right face-off circle.
|Calle Odelius||Djurgardens||SHL||L||D||6’0″||185||Kitchener Rangers | 2021||Sodertaije, SWE||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: As a left-shot defender he is very comfortable playing the right side. When under pressure he easily pulls the puck off the wall, which allows him to start transition quickly or to maintain offensive zone time by making quick decisions while keeping the puck in at the offensive blue line. He’s very well balanced and clears shooting lanes with his hips low and his eyes facing the puck. He believes in himself.
Why not: At 6’0″ 180 pounds will he be strong enough to clear the slot and win battles against the NHL’s best night in and night out when he’s matured physically? Rarely has he engaged offensively from anywhere but the blueline in the offensive zone.
|Adam Ingram||Youngstown Phantoms||USHL||L||LW||6’2″||174||St. Cloud | 2022||West St. Paul, MB||2003||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a 6’2″ 175 pound left wing who is very strong along the walls and when attacking the net from the goal line. He has a quick in stride release and has an expanded one-timer shooting zone.. 62% of his shots hit the net.
Why not: He is not an overly physical player and hovers right around 50% for puck battles won. Will need to add the details required to be a penalty killer to earn key minutes in professional hockey.
|Mattias Havelid||Linkoping HC||SHL||R||D||5’10”||172||Taby||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: The NHL is a transition-based game and he can generate quick strikes from the chaos very quickly. He does an excellent job of reading the layers to a forecheck and rarely looks confused or thrown off. Racked up 12 points in six games at the U18 World Championships.
Why not: He has a willingness to take hits to make a play, but at 5’10” and 170 pounds will the mass of consistent NHL forecheckers take its toll on his body early in his professional career?
|Mats Lindgren||Kamloops Blazers||WHL||L||D||6’0″||176||Kamloops Blazers | 2019||North Vancouver, BC||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: In the transition game he consistently makes hard flat passes that hit his target in stride and when the player wants it. Has the lower body leg drive to hit and pin in the defensive zone. He shows a good understanding of establishing body positioning early during net-front battles. Undersized defenders need to understand how to match speeds when defending a line rush… he has the feet to do this in professional hockey.
Why not: As an offensive-minded defender he can panic while on the power play when he does not receive a perfect pass. Must continue developing strength and his release while walking the blueline.
|Maveric Lamoureux||Drummondville Voltigeurs||QMJHL||R||D||6’7″||196||Drummondville Voltigeurs | 2020||Hawkesbury, ON||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s a 6’7″ 200-pound defender who wins about 60% of his loose puck battles. His skating base will allow him to carry more weight and gain speed as he gains strength and power. He looks athletic during quick transition and pivoting.
Why not: He’s a 6’7″ 200-pound defender, meaning how long will it take him to add meat to his frame and will he be willing to put in the time and effort? On a QMJHL team that struggled to keep the puck out of their net, he lead the way with a -30 plus / minus rating. Was this due to ice time or is he a liability?
|Tristan Luneau||Gatineau Olympiques||QMJHL||R||D||6’2″||174||Gatineau Olympiques | 2020||Trois Rivieres, QC||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s got a National League frame to go with his National league confidence and in professional hockey you can’t teach confidence.
Why not: That same confidence can work against you if you’re not willing to adapt your game and listen to instructions. He fully believes he has an elite backhand and likes to use it.
|Gleb Trikozov||Russia U18||International||R||C||6’1″||185||Omsk, RUS||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He is big. He is strong. He can score. He is incredibly consistent with having 60% of his shots hit the net which means in professional hockey he will be generating second and third scoring opportunities.
Why not: Although we have seen him engage in net-front scrums, we have also seen him take the easy route far too often for a player with his size and strength. Wins under 50% of his puck battles.
|Viktor Neuchev||Avto Yekaterinburg||MHL||L||RW||6’2″||165||Chelyabinsk, RUS||2003||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He is a late 2003 who has never played on the International stage, yet ripped up the MHL and has a played a game in the KHL. To us, this means that he’s hungry and trending upward. He’s strong on the puck, yet only weighs 165 pounds.
Ian Moran’s Thoughts: His team scored 197 goals on the season and Neuchev scored 40 of them. He plays and handles his stick like a goal scorer. His first touch is smooth. All in one motion he prepares his hands to receive the puck and snap it with eyes up looking for the netting… not the goal. The netting behind the goalie. I’m sure we have him higher than most people, but goals are goals and he can score. (May 15, 2022)
Why not: He is still very raw and has a long way to go in terms of playing a team game and playing away from the puck.
|Nicholas Moldenhauer||Chicago Steel||USHL||R||C||5’11”||170||Mississauga, ON||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: A highly competitive player who processes the game very quickly and cleanly. Played at a point-per-game pace in the USHL this year. Can impact the game offensively from all three zones. Had 43 points in 41 games for the Chicago Steel while averaging under 17 minutes of ice time per game. 66% of his shots hit the net which was up from 57% last season.
Why not: As an offensive catalyst he had three points in four games for Team Canada at the U18 World’s. Although he was a first-rounder in the OHL he chose to play in the USHL. He has six penalty minutes over his last 60 games while winning 48% of his puck battles.
|Lane Hutson||NTDP U18||USHL||L||D||5’8″||159||Boston University | 2023||Chicago, IL||2004||2021-2022: A-|
Why: He’s an incredibly smooth offensive presence with a low panic point and elite processing. He defends through body positioning using his feet to maintain tight gaps which allows him to take larger opponent’s hands and hips away.
Why not: Although he has smooth feet and understands body positioning, will he be strong enough to defend while on the road when the other team can match lines?
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images