I spoke for more than 90 minutes with an NHL scout recently when he was driving home from a scouting trip. Here were his thoughts on a bunch of 2023 draft-eligible prospects:
Dalibor Dvorsky – He was good (in HockeyAllsvenskan). I don’t know how much offensive upside he has but he’s a really good two-way guy. You’ve got a good player if you get him, I’m just not sure he has as much offensive ability as some. It may come…maybe when he’s playing a little bit more with his own peer group it will be different, he won’t play as safe. With the men, he’s a little stiff sometimes with the puck. He’s good on the power play but off the rush, he doesn’t have very good range when he’s carrying it up ice. But he makes plays – he’s okay, just not a high-end guy. But his two-way game is incredible. Really, really good defensively, smart. All the details are in order. I really like him. He’s a middle-line center. The worst he’ll ever be is a third-line center, but he could be a second-line center. Guys that didn’t really light it up in their draft years like (Ryan) O’Reilly. These guys who were a bit defensive-minded start figuring it out. As an underage he was great, so I’ll be interested in seeing how he does at the WJC. I thought he would take charge this year, but we’re still waiting to see it. It may give him a chance.
Matteo Mann – They’re bringing him back slowly. He’s keeping it simple. Good feet for a big guy. His feet will be fine. He’s a big body, he engages. He will need to keep it simple but when he’s under pressure he moves pucks. A defensive defenceman. a right-shot dman. His feet are good, he kept it simple. I think a right-handed guy that big who can play a simple game is at least a second-rounder. He’s a project but…if he plays a simple game, plays physically and defends, he’s not far off of guys like Cleveland.
I saw him on the big ice in Chicoutimi so he had a bit more time. He uses his time wisely, and chips pucks out without firing it into crowds. He’ll chip it off the glass or whatever. No bad turnovers, pretty safe. I don’t think he has any sense problems. He knows his limitations I think. He does roam a little bit. Wants to be involved a little more than he perhaps should be. That can be good and bad. At least you don’t have to push him to be involved. He thinks he’s going to activate to be part of the play. That can be fixed with coaching; knowing when it’s the right time to jump up. He’ll get defined as he plays. I think he just is trying to do it all. He’s not going to do that at the next level. That’s fine…he’s just trying to be noticed I think. He engages – he really imposes. He uses his size a little bit like Cleveland. I like that. I think a big 6-5 right-shot dman is going to have a chance to make the NHL.
Brady Cleveland – He’ll go higher than 40. Maybe not a first rounder but close. I started him out (in my rankings) really well but I backed off a bit. He’s not really a puck-friendly dman either. But he’s really imposing. He uses his size. He plays physically, he’s aggressive. We’ll see if he can round himself into one of the top defencemen.
David Reinbacher – Probably the best defenceman I’ve seen so far. You’ll like him. He played well. He won’t be a secret for very long. There are no dmen in this draft.
Theo Lindstein – He’s been hurt. He’s not coming over to the WJAC.
Axel Sandin-Pellikka – He’s small but he’s such a good skater and smart. A really good puck mover. 5-10.5. He’s a better skater than Mattias Havelid but not as good in defending, but he can dangle.
Cam Allen – He’s a strong kid but he’s not offensively inclined. He doesn’t have the ability to move pucks under pressure. He’s got no points. He doesn’t have the footwork to create a lane. But he’s strong. He’s a man out there. He may have topped out; that’s the problem. If his name wasn’t Allen you wouldn’t even know where to put him.
Ethan Miedema – I think his skating will be fine. He’s going to have to grow into his body. He needs to get stronger. He’s got a good shot, he’s got vision. He’s a skill guy with size. I think he’s going to be in the top 40 all day. He’s a warrior compared to Rehkopf and Ritchie. I saw him play soft in one game and was worried…but then I saw him play with some bite, scored a goal, made some plays. I think he’s starting to figure some things out. His attributes are good.
David Edstrom – A little concerned with his skating. He’s got a bit of a hippy skating stride. I’m not going to kill him on it, but there’s a little bit of an issue there. He’s big and he has some abilities.
Ethan Gauthier – He played center in the last game I saw of him. I don’t think he’s a center…or at least, not a top-two center prospect. If you play him on the wing I think perhaps you could slot him higher. You’ve got a little warrior. Everything for his size is good…not great. But he knows how to play, he’s competitive as hell, and he can make those little plays for you. He’s got good instincts. He’s just not a dynamic guy. You want him on your team but you just have to make sure you get him in the right spot. From 15 to 25.
Calum Ritchie – He should be ahead of a lot of guys but if you draft a (soft player), that’s no good. I don’t give a f*** how good you think he could be, you’ve got to be able to apply it.
Eduard Sale – What a softie that guy is. Whoa. I know he’s a boy playing with men and all that but you’ve got to compete a little bit. Right now I’m not happy with him, Ritchie and Rehkopf at all. He’s going to have to play harder. I get all that regarding his ability but he’s going to have to play harder.
Nate Danielson – I liked him last year. I will see him in January.
Ryan Leonard – He’s very competitive. He goes out hunting. He wants to get somebody every shift. He’s got skill. It’s not a great draft year, and guys like that jump right up for you.
Brayden Yager – He’s a little opportunistic himself.
Will Smith – Very talented. After the Five Nations, I put him ahead of Leonard. He took over in that tournament. Those prima donnas drive you crazy. They need to get into college and get in shape. Get it going.
Zach Benson – He’s better than 13 (overall). You never see him play and go “I wish he would play harder.” All he does is play the same every game. I know he’s not big but he’s fearless and he makes plays. He just plays the right way, I love it. He’s got everything, all 5-foot-9 of him. He’s better than (Matt) Savoie.
Colby Barlow – He’s already a man but I like him. He competes. A good shot. He’s pretty direct but he can make plays. I think he can complement a good center. He is what he is…he’s maxed out, and I like him. But he’s got to be able to translate that game to the next level and be a top-two-line guy. I’m not sure. He’s got no more projection to his game. He’s going to have to translate what he’s got now to the next level, and that’s not easy to do. He’s a mature kid. You want to see a little rawness in their game, especially physically.
This guy is like a man right now. He’s stronger than all the other guys. It’s just a little easier for him. when it gets a little tighter at the next level when he’s the same strength. We’ll see if he can use that strength to outmuscle guys at the next level. He looks like he’s 24 years old. A full mustache right now. I already like his game. He might be a goal scorer, a second-line guy…but he might be a third-line guy too. I don’t know how much stronger and quicker he’s going to get, how much faster. Some guys are exceptions. Mike Richards played the same way at the next level and didn’t get a whole lot bigger. But he was so smart and so competitive. He’s not a high-skill guy, he’s a direct player. He’s the safest guy in this draft I think. He’s a third-line guy all day…maybe a second. You just have to be careful not to pass on some high-end skill.
Kasper Halttunen – He’s a lesser Barlow. He’s a big strong guy who competes and can shoot it. But he’s not that smart I don’t think. He might be a third-line heavy-play winger I think.
Oliver Moore – He could be a top 10. He can outskate guys, and it causes him to hang onto the puck too long at times. He plays a bit on the outside at times, skating around and not moving the puck quickly enough at times. It might be because he can. It may be better to watch him versus better competition because he might move it quicker. He’s so fast. He plays a speed game similar to Jesper Bratt, maybe not as smart.
Matthew Wood – His feet are a huge concern but he can score. He has a great shot. A power play guy. Maybe he’s the next Tage Thompson.
Gabe Perreault – He’s better than he’s showing. He’s smart and skilled. Very smart…off the charts smart. He’s just a little too pretty sometimes, he’s really weak. If he gets stronger he should be a really good player.
Daniil But – I liked him as an underage. He’s interesting but when are we going to see him?
Danny Nelson – This kid played defence all of his life and now he’s a winger. I don’t think he’s a centerman. He’s got to work on his foot speed a bit, his quickness, but he could be a big power forward. I think he’ll be a first rounder.
Quentin Musty – I saw him early and I really liked him. I hated him in the summer, I thought he lacked sense. But he played smart for me in the league game I saw. He made plays, just missed scoring a couple of goals. I wish he played a little harder but he’s pretty good.
Matthew Mania – He’s alright. Good feet, a puck mover. His sense is okay.
Alex Pharand – Big winger type. He kind of reminds me of Nick Paul a bit.
Andrew Cristall – He might just be a good junior. He’s small and he doesn’t skate great. It’s like watching Luca Pinelli in Ottawa. I know they’re good juniors. I get it. You just worry that they’ll be able to translate it to pro.
Luca Pinelli – He’s 5-8 and not a very good center. He’s a great junior. I’ll tell you one thing, the Habs are done drafting their small guys. They already got them. Caufield is one in a hundred.
Riley Heidt – He’s not a first-round guy. He’s shorter than he’s listed. I guess he’s been alright.
Carson Rehkopf – He’s so f…ing soft. He’s 200 pounds that fu**er. He plays like he’s 140. It’s sad when you have to take a guy like that out of the first round.
Noah Dower-Nilsson – I think the talent level is there to be a first but I don’t like his body makeup, and I don’t like the way he plays on the outside.
Samuel Honzek – I think he’s going in the first. He’s a big guy that can play in a lot of situations. We’ll see him a little at the World Juniors.
Carson Bjarnason –
Michael Hrabal – Oh fu**, he’s a first rounder. Both those (goalies) are first rounders in any draft. They’re good. He’s pretty good. They look like goalies.
Oliver Bonk – I didn’t like Bonk at all in the summer, he was so limited. Now I watch him. The guy is pretty smart. I think he’s a solid pickup, and I would never have said that after the Hlinka.
Mathieu Cataford – He’s pretty good. He was playing with (Jordan) Dumais so that helps, but Dumais was out and he was still putting up points. I think he’s early second round. He can skate, he’s pretty smart, he’s got a little jam in his game, he can shoot pretty good. He’s solid.
Otto Stenberg – He’s flying around the outside and I’m not sure about his sense. He overhandles the puck at times because he can. I’d like to see him playing against better competition.
Noel Nordh – He let me down. I liked him in the summer…a big power forward that looked like he could translate his game. I didn’t like his feet and his decisions weren’t quick enough. I was looking forward to seeing him, and he looks to have plateaued a bit. He didn’t get any better. He couldn’t keep pace. He’s going to have to be better.
Hunter Brzustewicz – Phenomenal puck mover. I wish he had a shot threat, but he makes plays, he can thread it. He creates lanes, he’s got deception in the way he plays. Is he a great skater? No, but I don’t think it’s that bad. He gets away from guys. His sense helps him. I like him. Best draft-eligible defenceman in the OHL.
He wins battles. He’s not a bruiser or anything but he wins battles, has a great stick. He lets the puck do the work for him. I would like to see him push harder at times. He can play too casually but I think he can do that. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, I like his game. He has that touch on his game that I love.
Tyler Peddle – I’m not a fan. He works until he gets there, and then he doesn’t work. He’s got this work ethic that’s good until he needs to do something physically. I don’t like his stride. I think it’s flawed. He’s got a hoppy turn. He skates straight ahead but he can’t carry the puck because he doesn’t have any range. He’s got to give and go and then get open. He rubs me the wrong way. He can score but it’s got to be put on a tee for him.
Gavin Brindley – From what I hear he’s a second rounder.
Tom Willander – A two-way dman. Probably a second-round guy. He gets it out of his end. I think everything closes in on him as he gets closer to the offensive blueline. But he’s competitive and he moves pucks.
Lukas Dragicevic – The guys out west aren’t getting me to run and see him anytime soon. So…
Caden Price – I think he can look good but there’s an issue there. He can be pretty casual and make poor decisions.
Etienne Morin – He’s playing better. He’s a power-play guy. Probably a second-round guy. He can run a power play. You hope his feet come along and he’s a little casual. This guy’s got ability.
Andrew Strathmann – I like him. Smallish but he’s strong and he can dangle. He’s getting better with the puck.
Jesse Kiiskinen – I don’t mind him.
Carey Terrance – He’s starting to score. I wasn’t sure if he was going to go into the dirty spots. He’s talented. He can skate, he’s got a pretty good shot. He’s a slight body though.
Ethan Miedema – Top 40 guy. I think you’re going to like him by the end of the year.
Andrew Gibson – I wanted to like him. Not very smart, not really engaged. I need to see him more. going to hold off
Florian Xhekaj – Well he can fight but he’s not a very good player. He beat the fuck out of one guy. a late bloomer, we’ll wait and see.
Konnor Smith – He’s okay. Big defenceman in Peterborough. He’s a project. He’s a 6-6 killer. Pretty limited. Maybe a third rounder.
Brett Gardiner – He’s the best prospect on the 67s. Mid-round guy. Smart, plays the body.skates fine, good sense of the game, he can score. He should have more assists than he does because guys can’t finish. He sets up guys a lot.
Cooper Foster – I like him. I’m not sure if he’s got NHL upside. He works hard, has good sense. He might go late.
Chris Barlas – He’s turned out to be a decent junior, it’s starting to come for him. Maybe he can be a minor leaguer some day. He’s quick and works his balls off.
Nick Lardis – I don’t like him as a pro prospect. A good junior.
Denver Barkey – Someone is going to take him before the third. He and Cristall were both very good.
Charlie Stramel – I’m not sure his feet are going to be good enough to be a top-two center but he’s a big strong horse of a guy on a shitty team.