Grant’s Slant is a season-long collection of Grant’s scouting thoughts displayed in a timeline, and many more from the past six months will be added in the next two weeks. To see all of Grant’s Slant, subscribe today to Recrutes.ca!
I was a little surprised to receive a text halfway through the Ivan Hlinka tournament from an NHL scout that suggested that Rasmus Dahlin may not even be the best defence prospect from his country, let alone the first overall pick in the draft. The more I studied Adam Boqvist, however, the more I realized that he cannot be discounted from the first-overall discussion at this early stage in the proceedings.
Most hockey pundits would find this outlandish – for six months now we have been reading that without a doubt Dahlin and Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov are the best draft prospects, and in recent months that Dahlin will be the top pick, but if history has taught us anything, it’s to not count your draft chickens before they are hatched, especially when it comes to Swedish defencemen.
In the summer of 2014, independent draft lists were all touting Oliver Kylington as a top-five lock and a very good bet to be the second or third pick in the draft. Yes…believe it or not…many had him ranked ahead of Eichel in the summer of 2015. Kylington would end up coming perilously close to sliding out of the top 60, being selected 59th overall by Calgary after scouts began taking a detailed look at him.
Last summer Timothy Liljegren was all the rage – list after list in August of 2016 had him anointed as the second-best prospect after Nolan Patrick, even after his mediocre performance at the Ivan Hlinka which made me wonder just what folks were thinking. He did not look like a top-ten prospect in that event, let alone a top two, yet he remained entrenched in the top two of countless lists until 2017.
All that said ; Dahlin looks very much to be an exception. He is a much safer bet to not be sliding out of the top five as he has already proven himself at the SHL and U-20 level, something Liljegren and Kylington had not achieved by the age of 17.
Dahlin didn’t play at the Ivan Hlinka this summer because he was good enough to compete in the World Junior Showcase, and he produced at close to a point-per-game level as a 16-year-old in Sweden’s top junior league in 2016-17, something no other Swedish defenceman has clome close to doing in the past two decades.
Dahlin is a pretty good bet to be a top-three pick in the draft given those accomplishments, and with the exception of Svechnikov and Boqvist, no one at this early part of the scouting year looks to have the upside to potentially surpass him over the next ten months.
I’ve seen gradings on Dahlin where he gets a perfect mark on his hockey sense. That for me, though, is the one issue in his game, and what may end up costing him billing as the top-overall prospect. Not coincidentally, it was defensive play/sense that caused Kylington and Liljegren to drop, and Dahlin is far from perfect in his own zone at this point, making risky decisions with and without the puck that cause chances for the other team.
As talented as Dahlin is offensively…even the great defenders don’t have the puck more than ten per cent of the time. To be truly great you need to be able to play away from the puck, especially in your own zone. Where Dahlin has an edge on Liljegren and Kylington is that he’s bigger and more physical…already 6-2 and will likely be a 215-pound defender, but poor decisions in the defensive zone will cost your team no matter how big you might happen to be.
Boqvist is not without offensive talent, mobility and puck-handling skills either – he was a human highlight reel at the Ivan Hlinka, beating opponents with speed, guile and soft hands on a regular basis while also looking after his own zone. Boqvist led all defencemen in scoring, but even more importantly showed off skating and puck skills that put him in a tier all by himself against his peers at the event.
Dahlin is bigger, more accomplished and may have an edge in offensive skills, but at this point Boqvist looks like the more complete defender thanks to superior hockey sense and less risk-taking. So…we shall see…but let’s not anoint Dahlin as a lock to be the first-overall pick just yet. History has taught us that things can change.
That does, however, give you an idea of just how good Sweden’s top two draft-eligible defencemen are if Dahlin ends up not being drafted ahead of Boqvist – we may ultimately be looking at the best pair of defencemen ever drafted from the same country in the same year when it’s all said and done.
Ryan Poehling wasn’t the only Habs prospect who has impressed at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, MI. Victor Mete has been one of the more solid blueliners for Canada at the event and Joni Ikonen has been solid in a second-line center role for Finland in three contests.
One western conference scout has liked what he has seen from Victor Mete, and when comparing him to another undersized blueliner from the 2016 draft, Samuel Girard, who was picked in the second round while Mete was a fourth-round pick, he has liked the London Knights’ blueliner a lot more.
“Mete played well,” said the scout. “I think he makes the team. Girard had a tough time…especially with puck retrieval under pressure and a little shy. That’s not an issue with Mete..he’s a solid two-way defender. Mete is the better player in my opinion.”
The midwest-based scout also has time for Ikonen, who he had not seen before the Showcase.
“He is pretty feisty, noted the scout. “He stuck his nose in there, played in the hard areas. He didn’t back down from people, saw him attack the net and try to go through people. I was impressed for a smaller guy…he wasn’t shy at all. Willing to go through traffic to score.”
I got some interesting views on the departure of Andrei Markov after 17 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens from an NHL executive this morning who doesn’t necessarily buy that his leaving is all on Bergevin’s shoulders.
“Does anyone put any of the onus on Marky?” he asked. “His ex-wife died and left him with two Russian sons. Does he want to play in Olympics? Did some high Russian hockey people persuade him? Did he get greedy in his contract demands? All major questions that only he truly knows.”
Given the Habs’ organization’s tendency to remain mum on such subject, and Markov’s reluctance to say much about anything on a personal note, we may never get the full picture.
I watched Eeli Tolvanen play last night versus the Waterloo Black Hawks in Game 3 of the USHL semi-finals in a match Sioux City won 3-0. Tolvanen went pointless, and apart from one nice dangle in close that almost resulted in a goal he didn’t create much in the way of offensive chances.
Tolvanen threw a few hits tonight which was encouraging, however many of them were on his opposite wing and were hardly bruising checks…the most notable thing about them was that they left him out of position…and that was a common theme on the night.
Even though he’s a left winger he spent more time on the right side than the left… and that included in his own zone. He covered the right-side defenceman about 20 percent of the time, preferring instead to be running around chasing the puck. Luckily it did not result in any goals against, but it’s not hard to see why he’s not on the Musketeers’ penalty kill.
The other concern with his game is his skating. His stride is pretty sloppy…he flails around a lot, making his mechanics less than efficient. There will be lots of work to do gaining lower-body strength if he hopes to be a good skater in the NHL…he has decent agility and quickness but his stride is certainly not very powerful at this point, and when you’re undersized, it doesn’t get any easier at the NHL level as he’s not going to gain positional advantages with sheer brawn/strength… he will have to make a strong offseason commitment.
One USHL-based NHL scout weighed in on the draft-eligible winger last night:
“He’s competitive in the same way guys like Sprong and Ho Sang are,” said the scout. “Competitive to score, etc. but you’ll never see them compete to get a puck out of the defensive zone and they cheat like crazy. Coaches and teammates don’t like them but they play and produce some in NHL… time will tell if they win.”
A lot of parallels can be drawn between former London Knights center Bo Horvat and 2017 draft eligible center Robert Thomas. Both were considered to be mid teen prospects going into the OHL playoffs on most NHL draft lists…but as scouts saw more and more of what they could do in big games they climbed into scouts’ top ten rankings.
Thomas has been sensational for London in the playoffs, and while he’s not producing at the same clip and scoring as many clutch goals as Horvat did in 2013 in leading London to the OHL championship with 16 goals, scouts are already more comfortable with Thomas’ overall skill package as there are no question marks with his skating. Horvat on the other hands wasn’t thought to be overly agile or quick at the time…however nobody could discount his clutch playoff performances, and Vancouver stepped up and grabbed him ninth overall. Time has shown that the skating concerns were overblown, as Horvat won the fastest skater category at the NHL All Star skills competition and improved his skating immensely.
Thomas may not possess Horvat’s goal-scoring prowess – certainly he’s not as hungry to score and more inclined to set up plays – where he does draw comparison though is in his ability to win the absolute trust of his coach Dale Hunter to be played in every and all important situations at such a young age. Power plays, penalty kills, 4-on-4, up a goal, down a goal, key faceoffs…he has surpassed Cliff Pu as London’s most effective pivot and now centering London’s top line with Kuokkanen and Stephens…setting up the latter for the winning goal in OT to send London’s series with Erie to a Game 7 winner take all.
As one NHL scout said the other night when he texted me inquiring whether I was watching London…”Thomas…wow. Gets better every game. Great hands and hockey sense.”
Much like Nick Suzuki, scouts have come to appreciate Thomas the more they see him. With his smarts, skill and competitiveness, he simply does not have off nights..he comes to play and makes things happen every game, be it offensively or defensively. A 200-foot player that will be able to play any role asked for him in the NHL…just like is happening in London with a coach…who knows a good player when he sees one.
As the season has gone on several things have stood out in regards to Swedish defence prospect Timothy Liljegren. There is no question that he is a natural, smooth skater, and that first and foremost is why scouts were so high on him going into the season. He also has good puck skills, and is able to dangle at the U18 level and without question he is one of the more skilled players in this draft.
What is disconcerting to me and many in the scouting community is his vision, sense, shot and decision-making, and they really lead me to wonder just how much offensive upside he will bring at the NHL level. I have a hard time envisioning him ever being a double digits goal scorer as he simply does not have the shot or instinct to find the open lanes to shoot at the opportune time. He takes wrist shots the majority of the time…I’m not sure how effective his slapshot is as it’s rarely utilized…and his shot lacks heavy velocity with rare exceptions
Equally as troubling are his passing skills in the offensive zone in particular…his overwhelming tendency is to shoot…the quicker the better. He rarely finds the best shooting location however…especially on the powerplay. If one wonders why Swedish U-18 coaches have stopped using him on the first powerplay in the past two tournaments…you have your answer, because he’s not creating offence with either his shot or his passes. Yesterday in one 40-second sequence versus Belarus Liljegren attempted six shots on goal, four which were blocked and two that were at least a foot wide. He has been one of the most frequent shooters in the tournament so far with 16 SOG, but that’s because he is ALWAYS looking to shoot even though his shot is often far from dangerous. I have no doubt that he leads all players in attempted shots in this tournament, almost all of them wrist shots from the blueline.
Another concern is when he has the puck in the defensive zone he invariably does one of two things..tries to carry it out of the zone or tries to make a two-line stretch pass. It is exceedingly rare to see Liljegren attempt a ten- or 20-foot pass or a dish laterally to his defence partner…and if you think he might ever consider reversing the puck or passing it backwards, you can forget it…his passes are going forward…and so are his rushes. One wonders if he needs to pull an Al Arbor and play with spectacles on….or at the very least convex mirrors on his faceshield, as it sure seems like he lacks peripheral vision.
He’s a half decent one-one-one defender thanks to a quick stick and excellent mobility..but when the puck starts getting passed around in his defensive zone he can get out of position and leave opponents open…once again because of his lack of vision and hockey sense. He is not being used by the Swedes on the penalty kill…and for a player who many still project to go in the top ten..if he’s not good/smart enough to play on the first PP or PK against fellow 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, what makes one think he’ll be able to do it at the NHL level? It’s no easy task teaching smarts and vision…they are pretty innate.
He’s not a big defender, so you aren’t looking at a player who is going to be a defensive bruiser that clears the front of the net and intimidates opponents. He competes okay, and he should become a reasonable defender one day if he can figure out how to read plays, cover the right opponent, and see the whole ice surface. A whole lot of maybes.
So it begs the question…just what will he be at the NHL level? If he doesn’t have the sense/vision//creativity/shot to be a ten-goal scorer or 45-point defenceman, and has enough question marks and lack of size to be a stalwart defender…you likely have a mobile puckhandler who at best might be a number three or four defenceman. That’s not top-ten material, and if you are worried about the mistakes, questionable passing and turnovers…may well not be enough to be a top-15 or even top-20 selection.
Liljegren still has a few games to make me change my mind in his upside, but he is quickly running out of time. I’d like nothing more than there to be another candidate for my final top-ten rankings…but after 20 or so disappointing viewings since the summer I’m not holding my breath.
Heiskanen passed it more times to his d partner in one shift than Liljegren did in an entire game. The simple play is often the wisest. Nothing flashy from Heiskanen in the first…making the simple/safe plays and as always solid in his own zone. Often times the less said about the
Finland strikes first on the power play…nice feed by Ikonen to Talvatie, whose pass to the crease goes off the goalie right to Nyman, who deposits the rebound.
Vesalainen needed to show he could finish and create at the U18…and so far so good, as after four periods he has a goal and three assists. He gets the puck high in the slot later in the first period, slides laterally and unleashes a hard low writer that gets tipped by Nyman in front of the net.
Vesalainen has been the best player on the ice without question through two periods…skating, dangling, passing, competing, shooting. Has had a half dozen highlight reel plays…almost impossible to check when he’s entering the offensive zone with speed..using soft hands, length and puck protection skills to make Swiss cheese of the Switzerland defence. Demonstrating keen vision in this game..making several smart passes that created excellent scoring opportunities. Today at least…he looks like a top ten prospect…perhaps top five. May have a rise similar to Logan Brown’s last U18…but his could be even more dramatic. Struggling to score in men’s competition evidently didn’t ruin his confidence as he has tried all sorts of offensive moves and succeeded with all of them.
Given that there is a huge divergence of opinion on Jarret Tyszka…ranging from scouts that like him in the first round to some who would be hesitant to pick him in the mid rounds – I decided to have an in-depth video look at him. I focused on the first game of Seattle’s WHL semi-final series versus Everett. I started watching him at about the 7 or 8-minute mark of the first period – here is a shift-by-shift breakdown of what I saw that was notable:
Very first shift I look at…D partner gives it to him..he skates up to his own blueline like a house on fire with it and head down, then realizes he can’t do anything, stops just as he’s going to get checked and softly dumps it to the Everett dman on the opposing blueline.
2nd shift – ….I’ll let the play-by-play commentator sum up the shift…. “Right side Tyszka….gives it right back to the Silvertips.”
3rd shift – Gets the puck in the O zone with a good chance…wrist shot four feet over the crossbar and two feet wide.
4th shift – Pressured an opponent in his own end..puck ended up going out of his zone…he chases it all the way down to behind the Everett net as the first forechecker…circles the Everett net…follows the puck on his way back to his own zone a line behind it and out of the play as a forward covered for him. Looked fast doing it though…he can skate.
5th shift – Last 30 secs on the pp..made three short passes in the EVT zone that weren’t intercepted. No mistakes…but nothing noteworthy.
6th shift – Nothing noteworthy happened good or bad..deflected a shot out of play.
7th shift – Nothing happened…he was there. No offensive or defensive plays.
8th shift – Strand played with his regular D partner Hyman
9th shift – Touched the puck once…puck came to him at his blueline…pass went off the Everett player pressuring him..turned over but nothing bad happened.
10th shift – Went back behind his net to retrieve the puck..skated around his net and tried to keep it from the forechecker but lost it..puck was fed into the slot but no great scoring chance…turnover. Puck battle with his D partner in his own one on his left side…instead of staying on the right hand side of the net stands about ten feet away from his partner on the same side..leaving the entire right side exposed..nothing bad happens.
11th shift – With Bear. Everett comes down…he backs up right to his goalie…is on the same side as Bear and ends up with his back turned facing the goalie. Two Everett forwards on his side left alone…rebound comes to Tuololla..he scores with Tyz still turned around facing his goalie. inexplicably. 1-1. Next shift Bear plays with Hyman.
Played last 15 second of the second…lost a puck battle behind his net..Everett ran out of time
13th shift – puck takes a funny bounce.behind his own net..puck comes to the front of the net with goalie out..Tyszka was there..lost the puck again behind his own net..got it back and got it to a teammates…uneventful other than that.
14th shift – Tyszka gets the puck deep in his own..moves slowly with it and doesn’t pass..Everrett fwd takes it from him…D partner rescues him. Puck comes to him behind his own net..gets bumped off it…Everett gets it…takes a shot on net.
15th shift – Nothing happened….never had the puck.
16th shift – Offensive zone faceoff won back to him..went over his stick..D partner quelled the chance as he skated back behind the play. Gets puck in off/ zone at the blueline..takes a wrist shot that never finds the net.
17th shift – Seattle up 2-1 late. Everett gets puck along the boards..he leaves the front of the net open and stands high in the slot..leaving forwards to cover the front of the net…puck comes to Seattle..he takes off like a bat out of hell ahead of the other four teammates..don’t even see him in the screen he’s so far ahead of the play hoping for a pass..this is with his team “protecting” a one-goal lead…it was quite mind boggling. Seen him do it before as well.
18th shift – Puck comes to him in own zone..tries to head behind the net..gets it checked off his stick three times.manages to club it over to the boards where luckily a teammates gets it..certainly wasn’t a purposeful ‘pass’..more a play of desperation.
19th shift – Puck comes to him in own zone and once again just hung onto it until it was checked off his stick..swung it away from the opponent and it ended up behind the net..where he lost it again Gets the puck…and often does nothing with it until it’s checked off of his stick. This happened at least eight times. He had two shifts the last 11 minutes.
PP time – 30 secs at the end of one PP
PK time – None
Shots – None
Scoring chances created – None
Plus/minus – He was -1 in a game his team gave up one goal.
Turnovers – If you count ones where he ended up knocking the puck back off the Everett players after he lost possession…more than a dozen. At least six times he took the puck below his goal line and stood there with it until it was taken off his stick…simply handed it to the Everett dmen three times…another three times his own zone passes were intercepted, three other occasions as he glided in his own zone with it he had it stripped.
Draft potential – This is not the first time he’s had a bad game..there have been more bad ones than good for me in the 15 or so I’ve watched. Major issue with his hockey sense….it’s a big issue with me. I would not draft him in the top-three rounds. I would not draft him at all, frankly, as he’ll be gone by the time I’d consider him. Someone will pick him based on his size and skating higher than he should be.
We’re seeing a shift in thinking at the junior level in recent years..and there no better example than the OHL Draft, where 14 of the 21 players selected in the first round of the 2017 OHL Priority Draft are under 6-0.
A dozen years ago there were seven players under 6-0 selected in the first round…so it’s gone from 1/3 of the players to 2/3….a very notable shift. And it’s not like they’re all 5-11.5 either…as six of them are under 5-10, and it’s not like it’s only happened this year..there has been a notable trend towards shorter players being selected higher in the draft in the past few years.
It’s slowly creeping into the NHL game too…many of the more skilled prospects being considered for the top 60 are players under the NHL “standard” of 6-1.5, especially on defence where it’s not inconceivable that seven who are 5-11 or shorter will be taken in the first three rounds. Teams are looking for more puck movers on the blueline now…15 years ago it was inconceivable to have a blueliner under 6-0 on your bottom NHL pairing…now it’s becoming more and more common.
The NHL still wasn’t ready to pick a player under 5-9 in the first round two years ago when Alex DeBrincat was passed over despite a 50-goal season…this time around, though, it is looking more likely that Spokane winger Kailer Yamamoto will make history in becoming the first player under 5-9 ever selected in the first round of the NHL draft. Let’s hope he goes on to a highly successful NHL career and this aversion to picking a highly skilled player strictly because of his height becomes a thing of the past.
Over the past decade at numerous times I have had draft followers mention that such-and-such would or wouldn’t be a good fit as a draft selection because they shoot left or right. I have never in the past ten years factored the way a player shoots into my draft evaluations or mock draft scenarios. To me it would be destructive to choose a player you don’t like as much as another because he shoots a certain way – you are not drafting for tomorrow, you are drafting for 5-10 years down the road.
I was sitting with two high-ranking NHL scouts on Sunday and even though I knew the answer I asked them anyway if they ever consider which way a player shoots….I was given a look of incredulity.
“You aren’t looking to fill out your roster tomorrow,” said one of the scout while the other was chuckling. “That’s what fans don’t get. You are drafting for the future. You have no idea who will be on the team when that player makes it. No way you pass over someone you like the most because of the way he shoots.”
What if the Columbus Blue Jackets had used that philosophy going into the 2015 NHL draft? They had high hopes for Ryan Murray as a very recent top-two pick being a top-four dman along with Jack Johnson on the left side..backed up ably by Kevin Connauton..all left-hand shots. Their pick comes up and they are looking at Zach Werenski…but…lo and behold..he also shoots left. Why don’t they pass on Werenski and draft the most highly regarded right-handed defencemen Noah Juulsen or Jeremy Roy? Or take a forward like Lawson Crouse instead. Are they better off today in any way??
If two defenceman are dead even in your ranking and the club has an embarrassment of young riches on one side or another with the big club..then perhaps you take the defenceman that plays on the other side, but one never knows what the defence will look like in five years..players you think will develop into top four dmen often don’t, players leave by free agency and in deals..so it really isn’t something that is a priority discussion in a draft room.
Look at the Habs when they chose Juulsen – since then there have been 4-5 defencemen added to the roster and they also drafted another one even higher…by the time he is playing regularly the Habs may have one defenceman that was on their roster when he was drafted, so why would it have mattered which way he shoots?
Draft picks are assets first and foremost. Why did Nashville pick Seth Jones even though they were stacked on defence? He held the most future value as the BPA in their estimation..and he ended up landing him their first-line center when Jones was dealt. Draft picks aren’t always for life..or tomorrow.
Tri-Cities season is over and it was mostly disappointing for draft-eligible prospects. Kyle Olson got his first and only point tonight on a goal, Rasmussen missed the playoffs with a broken scaphoid bone, Juuso Valimaki had just one one assist and struggled defensively at times. After a 90-point regular season..once the checking got tighter Morgan Geekie was essentially a non-factor in the playoffs scoring one goal in the four-game sweep. A team that won 41 regular season games facing a Seattle team without Barzal should not have been swept, and a grand total of three points from three DE’s that had 208 between them in the regular season didn’t help matters. If Geekie hoped to be drafted in the top-four rounds…these playoffs struck a blow to that dream, and that’s also the case with Valimaki going top 12 and Olson in the top 70. None of those things are as likely to happen.
Some notable performances from draft eligible players tonight:
Ben Mirageas 1g 1a
Casey Mittelstadt 1g
Mario Ferraro 2a
Robert Thomas 1g
Morgan Frost 3a
Conor Timmins 3a
Linus Nyman 1g 1a
Jason Robertson 1g 2a
Jack Studnicka 1g
Nick Suzuki 1g 1a
Nico Hischier 1g 2a
Shawn Boudrias 1g
Josh Brook 1a
Kyle Olson 1g
Alex True 2g
Urho Vaakanainen played a regular shift today in a big SM-Liiga playoff game for JYP with the series tied 2-2. The coaches had no issues playing him regularly in such an important contest, and he didn’t disappoint..almost ending the game in overtime when he pinched in and took a shot on goal from ten feet out while wide open in the slot, then getting the puck over to a teammate when the rebound came to him which resulted in the game winner. One concern from the U-20’s was that Vaakanainen seemed to be hesitant to try anything offensively, so to see that confidence playing against men in overtime of a tied series was an indication he will indeed have the mindset to contribute to the offence at the pro level.
I have great respect for my NHL scouting contacts and consider them to be among the very best talent evaluators on the planet. There are occasions when I disagree with one of their opinions, however, even when I’m only seeing a player on video, and one such instance this season concerns Seattle defenceman Jarret Tyszka.
A former first-round pick of the Thunderbirds, the 6-2.25 blueliner has decent puck skills and has good mobility, so it’s easy to see why, on the surface at least, there is intrigue in the scouting fraternity.
What I have seen far too often in my ten or so viewings of him are issues with his defensive hockey sense in particular, and I have relayed those feelings to a scouting contact who feels differently. He sees him as a surefire top 50 prospect… and last night got the chance to see him once again.
The issues I’ve had in his game were evident again last night in the video I studied. In his own end I have had some concerns when he gets stuck watching the puck and leaving guys alone or gets caught out of position…he also makes some poor puck decisions under pressure, like in the first period when he got the puck behind the goal line and decided the best route was to head to the front of his own net…he had the puck stripped instantly and came very close to allowing Seattle’s first goal. Later on at the end of the second period while leading 2-0 he decided to try the same thing…carry the puck in front of his own net..and just as he was once again about to be checked he threw the puck blindly to the point…where it was intercepted and quickly ended up in Seattle’s net to cut the lead to 2-1.
At the start of the third period Seattle took two quick penalties and Tyszka never saw the ice until eight minutes had expired. He did not play on the penalty kill last night…the coaches instead preferring to exhaust their top guys instead of letting him see the ice in a defensive situation..a clear signal that I’m not the only one who has had some misgivings about his own-zone play.
He got a secondary assist on the power play in the first period and another one in the last 20 seconds on the power play with his team up 4-2…but there was nothing he did in this game or any others I’ve seen that suggests he has the skill/vision/passing skills to be anything but a second power play guy, or an offensive defenceman in the NHL. Here is what I wrote about his game:
” I see too many mistakes and too little defined NHL role. What is he? He’s not a shutdown guy…they won’t let him near the ice on the PK and with good reason as he makes too many errors in his own end. He’s not a big offensive guy..no elite vision or puck/passing skills…he’s not going to be a 10-15 goal guy at the NHL level IMO either. He has nine goals in 102 WHL games and that is a fair representation on his goal-scoring upside ..maybe he can develop into a second power play unit guy. Defensively…he never saw the ice the first 7 mins of the third period..in large part because they killed two power plays. Nursing a one-goal lead Tyszka played one shift in the first half of the third. We saw why coaches were hesitant to have him in a position where he would have to deal with a lot of pressure…as he has a tendency to turn the puck over..often because of a quick no-look pass, but also with ill-advised forays in front of his own net that backfire. I get it that he’s (almost) 6-3 and can skate…I have seen good plays from him and he is not without some skill or smarts. I can’t help that think, however, that he could just as easily bust as become a top 4 dman.”
I will get a couple more looks at him..I am by no means adamant in my opinion of him as I respect this scout’s eye, especially given that he’s watching him live… and there’s always the possibility that I have been too harsh with him. You need to find the proper balance between performance and projecting a player’s upside..sometimes that perception can get a bit skewed one way or another. As is often the case when there are such discrepancies in what I see and what NHL scouts see…I try to find a happy medium as I don’t consider my video evaluations to be infallible. My goal is to produce the best possible draft list..and that means compromises, changes, concessions..and also at times sticking to my guns. It is an extremely inexact science…and I love it.
The two teenaged forwards on Brynas have really moved up the pecking order in the SHL playoffs. Jesper Boqvist is really wheeling today…it looks like he’s gotten even quicker since he played for Timra…a very fast pace and he’s keeping up no problem. Working hard on the forecheck and getting back defensively no problem.
He’s on a line with Linus Olund, a 1997- born center, who has been playing quite well in the playoff games I’ve watched…they’ve been one of Brynas’ top two line in the playoffs, starting out as the fourth line, but playing like a second-line in term of ice time by the third game of their series vs. Linkoping.
Olund with two goals and four points through three games, double their next leading scorer. Despite playing less than ten minutes per game and missing 13 games at the start of the season when he was still in junior, Olund had eight goals and seven assists to finish top 12 in team scoring. His points per minutes were top eight on the team; projected over the full season Olund was top five in points per minute played. He keeps playing like this he may get some draft consideration…still just 19.
Lots of folks on Twitter bring up Bo Horvat as an example of why Gabriel Vilardi should be ranked higher on Recrutes’ draft list because he improved his skating so much…well…the guys ranked in front of him are also very good players AND they skate well. Horvat was an exception, not the rule, and his skating at the time projected to be better than Vilardi’s…he was a better skater his draft year and had better mechanics and quickness.
The other thing that is brought up is how young Vilardi is…my answer to that is that eight months ago in Mittelstadt’s instance…he still skated better than Vilardi does today at the same age. Glass is four months older than Vilardi…well, four months ago he skated better than Vilardi does today. Same with Tippett, Mittelstadt and Pettersson. Odds are that Vilardi will never skate as well as the other prospects in the top ten mix…so he has to be “penalized” as such when trying to produce a final ranking. Is he smart and skilled? Undoubtedly…but so are Glass, Mittelstadt and the others. If he doesn’t end up being in my top ten it will certainly not be because I don’t think he’s a good prospect – only that I like ten better in terms of NHL upside.
Brynas is playing Linkopings in the first round of the SHL playoffs and the first game was today. Boqvist started the game on what was listed as the fourth line, but by the end of the game the trio was playing as much as anyone, and playing well. Boqvist was solid once again…I’ve never seen him play a poor game. He competed hard, isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty versus men as he threw a few hits and went to the scoring areas. He scored a goal in the crease…a rebound came out, he did a spinarama to avoid the defenceman and backhanded the loose puck in as he spun around….a very smart and skilled play. He was effective on the forecheck and created a few scoring chances while also coming quite close to potting his second goal in the third period. He will be a dangerous player in the SHL as soon as next season..I would suspect staying at least one more year in Sweden would do him good as he needs to get stronger, and there should be little concern about him not being an SHL regular.
With Hischier’s recent drop in production one wondered if perhaps he was hitting a wall..then I looked at the video from his March 15 game versus PEI…and the Nico we’ve all come to love was in full display. We saw in the first two shifts why he’s ranked number one on our list…terrific speed, skill. smarts, defence and vision all quite evident in the game’s first five minutes. He had an assist, and with any kind of finish would have had three in his first two shifts. Makes passes so quickly and skillfully you sometimes wondered if he intended on making them..but having seen it all season long you know it’s not luck or a fluke. A terrific first period from the Moooseheads’ center, who had three assists in the game, but none were more impressive than the second one, where he showed off his terrific burst, puck protection, vision and playmaking. That play alone summed up why Hischier is in serious contention to be picked first overall in the draft.
I got my first look at a 1998-born goalie that’s been getting lots of buzz in NHL scouting circles out west – Linden Marshall with the Trail Smoke Eaters. He made 33 saves and let in one in a 2-0 loss to Vernon tonight. If not for his performance the game would have been a lot more lopsided…he stopped 28 in the first two periods to keep the game scoreless and give his team a chance. At 6-3 205 he’s got the size scouts crave, and he also possesses good athletic ability and technique…he drops smoothly into the butterfly and has good post-to-post movement. He had trouble handling the puck on a few occasions so that will be an area he’ll have to continue working on, but early impression is that he’s got a chance at being drafted as an 18-year old.
Isaac Ratcliffe has looked better again the last 3-4 games after a lull. Like him when he’s moving his feet and competing…certainly has some puck skills for a big guy…good hands.
Three seconds into his first shift I say to myself “that has to be Casey”. Mittelstadt stands out like a sore thumb in this league with his quickness, skill and anticipation. Been watching a lot of USHL hockey in the past two weeks and he was noticeable above all others I’ve seen as soon as he hit the ice. I love his competitiveness..always keeps his feet moving . Strides are a little short but his legs are going a mile a minute. Sometimes the legs are pumping but he’s not going anywhere…definitely not the longest, smoothest stride but lucky for him he has a Michael McLeodian motor. He is studious on the defensive end…looks after his own zone.
Mittelstadt with a power play assist early in the third, then with the score tied in the last ten minutes he gets the puck in the high slot on the power play and puts it top shelf on a wicked wrist shot. With 1:30 left Mittelstadt is on the ice taking care of his own end…a very strong performance defensively tonight…he gets the puck and zips it the length of the ice into the empty net to officially seal the contest, making it 4-1 Green Bay. No question for me who the better prospect is between Mittelstadt and Tolvanen…the nod goes to the Gambler by a significant margin.
Watched Valimaki again…he is not very agile without the puck..but with it..he makes those shifts that throw his opponent off…I guess it’s his pivots without the puck more than anything that are the concern…but he can move laterally okay when he has the black biscuit… it’s when he’s defending that he gets caught flat-footed at times.
Seen four periods of Chicago. Defenceman Ben Mirageas has a very nice size/skating combo…stands out in the USHL. Limited offensive skills. He’s not going to go coast-to-coast with great dekes but he makes a smart and safe first pass. Looks like a 50-70 pick. Fellow defenceman Reilly Walsh has looked half decent so far…a little too offensive-minded at times perhaps but he moves okay, is smart and has very good vision and puck skills. He can make plays…had a terrific assist last night where he got the puck in the middle of the ice at the point and threaded a pass to a guy in the slot perfectly that allowed him to score, one of the nicer passes I have seen this year. Not as steady or as competitive as Mitchell and not as good a skater but he’s in that mould…similar size, smarts and puck skills. Goalie Keith Petruzzelli looks like a good technician with good mechanics and positioning, reads..strong competitor. He as square to the puck and made most stops look easy as he reads the play well. Looks to have nice upside.
I watched Bowers versus Tolvanen tonight…clear edge to Bowers. Tolvanen started the game with three cross ice pass turnovers in his own zone…which never endeared him to scouts. Far too much standing around…while Bowers was the opposite…as always he was working and moving his feet. creating chances with his effort and speed. You could have put a pedometer measuring feet on Tolvanen and one measuring yards on Bowers and Bowers would still have had more clicks. Bowers a main penalty killer and power play guy…must have played 20 minutes. Tolvanen bothers me away from the puck a lot of the time…seems to be into the game at times and not at others..waiting for the puck to magically arrive on his stick. Bowers the better skater, harder worker, bigger, more physical and more competitive, plays more of a pro game. much more consistent. Tolvanen has a better shot and puck skills….but not going to matter if he isn’t competing. Today I would pick Bowers ahead of him.
I watched Mitchell last night in first playoff game..he’s pretty solid defensively…smart positionally…no running around.. good feet. He makes some great shifts with the puck in the off. zone that throw off opponent. Looks like a pretty steady two-way defenceman. He was an integral part of Spruce Grove taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
Watched Glass last night…beast mode again. He could have three points every night…he may get 150 next year Skating looked okay..and really responsible at both ends. He has to be in the top three mix…keeps doing this in the playoffs and who knows..a fellow socuts’ point point is very valid in 8 guys being in the mix for third overall…and he’s certainly one of them. Seen him score some nice goals so not just a playmaker either. More consistent and better defensively than Rasmussen at this point..better playmaker…pick your poison. Either would be outstanding picks at 5 or 6.
U-Mass Amherst is going to welcome two high-octane offensive defencemen with Cale Makar & Mario Ferraro joining the blueline next year. Instant offensive infusion for any college team.
Liam Hawel is Guelph’s first-line center now..quite a jump from fourth line winger in Soo…you like to see improvement and this year he’s the CHL poster boy…really starting to look like Arnprior is going to finally develop an NHL player for the first time since Danny Fridgen. He gets stronger and he’s going to be a powerful skater – he’s huge, smart, competes hard, decent vision, can handle the puck…starting to look like he’d be a nice pick at the end of the second round or early third at the latest.
Kailer Yamamoto, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Hudson Elyniuk been put together in Spokane the last couple of weeks…and have been pretty dominant as Spokane’s top line. Will putting all of your eggs in one basket work in the playoffs? If a team can shut them down Spokane will be in trouble..but easier said than done with that talented trio.
Jason Robertson’s shot/release aren’t far off of Owen Tippet’s…. deadly from 25 feet out..about the 25th he’s scored there. Puck skills and ability to protect it are good too..and his vision and passing. How much better is his skating than Jonah Gadjovich…30 spots…50 spots? Guess that’s what needs to be figured out, some parallels though.. Gadjovich more of a garbage goal guy and a little grittier, Robertson more offensive upside and skates better. Robertson creates more on his own…Gad has better linemates A bit like Lucic without the fists..which you don’t need any more. I’d be a little wary taking Robertson in the first. Lots to like…but that skating is a concern. He’s likely a 30-40 pick at this time.
I may like Dolan-Anderson a little more because of size/age…almost a year younger…but Yamamoto is a helluva smart skilled player. Will be one if the quandaries down the stretch, figuring out who is better.
First time seeing Peterborough in months…Gallant has really improved, playing a ton in all situations, decent on the pk…18 pts in last 16 games Decent size, skates okay…has some jam. He’s really good on faceoffs. Looks like a top 80 pick at least.
A better game from Kristian Vesalainen last night, but neither Finn forward (Eeli Tolvanen) has looked like a top-ten guy so far. They are not going to the scoring areas, nor have they been dangerous. After Hischier, the best DE forward has been Lias Andersson.
Miro Heiskanen has been the best Finnish prospect for me so far..the two Finn forward have disappointed. Interesting that he is ahead of Juolevi and Valimaki on the Finnish power play. Really steady and poised back there, great skater, excellent one-on-one defender. If Saarijarvi could find the open lanes and shoot Heiskanen has three or four assists yesterday. I find he stand round a bit too much on the PP at times though. He needs to use that lateral agility to get into good shooting positions and unload instead of just passing it to his D partner all the time.
I wonder how much better Patrick Harper is than Casey Mittelstadt, who has always shined for the US national team? Why did they not bring him to the WJC for the experience? He’d have been in their top 6 by tournament’s end I think.
Klim Kostin looks great about three or four shifts a game as a rule….otherwise he borders on bust material…so inconsistent. Midway through the second some silly Russian was trying to stickhandle to the front of his own net..I’m thinking…who could be that dumb…seconds later the number 24 flashes by.
If Honka was a top 15 pick what does that make Makar? His skating and puck skills are a treat to watch. I loved him at last year’s tournament too…arguably better than Fabbro and Cholowski were. He went to the wrong junior camp – should have been at the WJC.
I haven’t seen much offence from Filip Westerlund yet but taking care of his own end with smarts and skating. Will need to show some offensive skills to go top three rounds at his size I guess..but impressive that he’s on top pairing on a SHL team with two losses in Frolunda..and doesn’t look out of place. He wasn’t as effective as the game went on and he was subjected to a bit more pressure, especially when he wasn’t teamed with Tammenes. His size defensively will be the issue.
NHL teams might want to keep an eye on Frolunda dman Henrik Tommenes…third in SHL scoring with 25 points in 27 games. A 6-1 defenceman who skates well. and competing okay defensively. Vancouver gave up on him pretty quickly.
Safin’s consistency to compete and defence are concerns. I like him with the puck, not without it. Lots of skill, but you need to be willing to work hard and take a hit to make the next step.
I know Heponiemi is just 5-10 150 pounds.but man…he’s a dandy little player. Anywhere after 50 IMO that kid might end up being a great pick. One of the top skaters in the draft, especially in terms of edge work…he competes and is not afraid either. He makes a great behind the net pass back across the grain as he’s circling..seen him pick up several assists with it now. I don’t disagree with CS’s decision to upgrade him from a C to a B.
Nikita Popaguev scored a beauty Saturday night…wrist shot from close to the blueline that was a rocket. His second goal, the GWG, was also a nice one…a quick one timer from the slot off the post. He has an excellent release and hard, accurate shot.
Regina is fun to watch..especially with Brooks back..they will be tough to beat in the west. Jake Leschyshyn is on a tear…21 points now..13th in the league. Decent skills and speed.wish he was a bit bigger but someone to see for sure. Zablocki is a 5-11 tank on his wing..good along the boards, 13 points in 15 games….worth keeping an eye on those two. Nick Henry is also producing, but not seeing a lot of skill for his size…smart.
I like Liam Hawel’s upside..hope he gets traded…should be a third line center. Update January – Got my wish with his move to Guelph but he hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity as of yet. Perhaps he’s a little out of shape given his lack of ice time in the Soo..will have to get in shape quickly or in danger of being a later draft pick.
I watched Missy vs. WSR last night…early edge to Valardi over Tippett. Great puck skills and vision…better playmaker for sure…but edge to Tippett in skating. He looked really good on a line with Brown and Addison. Tippett playing with McLeod and Bastian..no real chemistry yet. Hague was okay…not as high on him as some though. Skating and decision making are concerns.