Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – March, 2020

Well…what else is there to do right now?  Not a heck of a lot.  But I have some blogs in the vault that I had been working on, and after a few days of depression and sitting around thinking “what the fuck?!”, I’ve now gotten back on track.  Did a podcast last week, looking to put out some of the blogs I had started (such as this one), maybe try some different blogs, maybe knock out some different podcasts, and we’ll see how this goes!  HOPEFULLY, no matter what I put out for content, it’s entertaining and helps people pass the time.

 

Oh how things have changed since the last time around!  Three players have graduated from the list, unfortunately another damn good one from the last list has been lost, and therefore the list definitely isn’t near as strong as it was.  Having said that, the top end is still strong, and their is still ridiculous potential with the group I speak of in this list.

 

As for how I rank them, it’s no doubt a bit of a juggling act.  I place a much higher value on potential then how close someone is or isn’t to playing with the big club.  For example, William Lagesson is nearly a lock to being their number seven defenceman for the 20-21 season, but the upside is severely lacking.  So for me, that isn’t going to fetch him a high ranking on my list as that type of player is a dime a dozen.  Having said that, a certainty can have more value than someone who is still multiple years away from playing.  So it can be confusing how I rank them, but

 

With my last list in my honourable mentions, I mostly discussed the kids who had just been drafted by the club and didn’t make the top 20.  This time around I picked five guys (best burger joint on the planet) who have questionable futures with the organization.

 

The first time I did my own Oilers prospect rankings was just days after they were eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2017 playoffs.  That was the only list I did that didn’t have Kailer Yamamoto on it.  The other thing was it had a couple of defencemen ranked 2nd and 3rd who after watching their WHL careers unfold I seemed to be much higher on than most were.  Now I get to rave about how all three have graduated to the big club.

 

Graduated

Ethan Bear

Phenomenal rookie season.  Absolutely phenomenal.  I’ve said this before this season, but it still baffles me how people were so shocked at his emergence this season.  He fell as far as 8th in the last rankings I did, but he never fell because I soured on him.  I always maintained that if he cleaned up his skating that he’d be a top-four defenceman, and if he didn’t then he could still be a bottom pairing guy.  I won’t go as far as to say that I saw this coming THIS season, but it definitely didn’t shock me.  His emergence might have been the biggest reason for the turnaround.  Far from the only reason, but had Bear not stepped up, the blueline would have been THIN.

 

Caleb Jones

As great as Bear was this season, I still wonder though if Jones will end up being the better defenceman.  Not that I see it being a big gap between the two either way, but Jones skating is so terrific, and I don’t believe we’ve truly seen what Jones can do offensively yet.  He became more and more comfortable as the season went on, and by the time Klefbom went down he was more than ready for a top-four role.  That is so key for this organization, as now if they need to protect 7/3 in next year’s expansion draft rather than 4/4, they can move a big-time guy like Klefbom or Nurse out and still be in great shape.

 

Kailer Yamamoto

I’m not sure fans understand exactly what the Oilers just might have with Yamamoto.  We might be talking about this kid before too long in the same breathe as McDavid and Draisaitl.  Not that he is going to be a 100 point guy, that would be absurd!  But that he has the ability to carry his own line and dominate a hockey game if need be.  He has the speed, skill, and the compete level to become a high-end player in the league.  It took him longer to establish himself than I believed it would (though only by a season), and now that he has, he’s proving he’s the goods.  The focus of a lot of Oilers fans moving forward is what a contract extension for Ethan Bear will look like.  Well for Yamamoto (would have been July 1st, but who knows when the new league year will begin at this point), he is eligible for an extension and if I’m Ken Holland I’m looking to do as many years as I possibly can to ensure Oilers fans see all of this kids prime.

 

Hounourable Mention

Jesse Puljujärvi

Team: Kärpät  League: Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 201  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 24  A: 29  P: 53

DOB: 05/07/98, Älvkarleby, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The first of two where I ask: are they prospects?!  We all know the story, he says he’s never coming back to the Oilers, and Ken Holland isn’t going to move him unless he gets a great offer.  I laugh at the “threat” that he’ll stay for another year in Finland.  AWESOME!!!  I was saying last year at this time (before he even asked for a trade), that the best-case scenario for Puljujärvi would be that he goes overseas for two years to develop.  This is not hurting him in the slightest.  It’s not hurting his game or his value.  For me, if I’m Ken Holland, I wait until he’s willing to return because I have always seen him as a kid with massive talent who will eventually put it all together.  I’m not saying I expect him to become the star I once believed he’d be, but a top-six player definitely isn’t out the question given he’s still doesn’t hit 22 until May 7th.  He needs to fire his agent in my opinion, and he needs to mature.  After next season I would suggest that the pressure could begin to mount to move him, but I don’t believe it’s this off-season and I don’t believe Holland will move him just to be done with it.  That’s not his style.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

Anton Slepyshev

Team: CSKA Moskva  League: KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 18  A: 27  P: 45

DOB: 05/13/94, Penza, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 88th Overall, 2013 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The second of two who I’m not sure whether or not they could be referred to as prospects.  Unlike Puljujärvi however, it really sounds for sure that Slepyshev will be back with the Oilers next season.  The problem I could see though is where exactly he fits in the lineup.  At this point, it looks as though everyone they currently have up front will return.  Still, Slepyshev is capable of being a very solid top-nine forward for this club.  This time around, he’ll have a head coach who isn’t looking for any reason possible to pull him from a line or completely out of the lineup…

ETA: Early 20-21

 

Joe Gambardella

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 50  G: 14  A: 14  P: 28

DOB: 12/01/93, Staten Island, NY

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 28th, 2017

Previous Rank: 14

Ken Holland increased the depth of the Oilers dramatically last off-season simply by bringing in a lot of fringe NHL players.  What that did was essentially make a guy like Gambardella strictly an AHL player.  His struggles this season MIGHT be the result of a guy who lost some of his passion to play given that he is now 26 years old and the NHL is looking more and more like a pipe dream after getting into 15 games last season.  I’ve always felt like he’s had the tools to be a role player in the league.  Great wheels, plays with a ton of passion, doesn’t shy away from the dirty area’s, it still wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up spending some time in the show at some point.  But even with a year left on his contract, it sure doesn’t look like that’ll be with the Oilers.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

Josh Currie

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 24  A: 17  P: 41

DOB: 10/29/92, Charlottetown, PE

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed July 19th, 2018

Previous Rank: NR

I can’t see Currie re-signing (his deal is up this off-season).  After getting into 21 games down the stretch in the 18-19 season, he became an afterthought for the new brass.  Perhaps he resigns himself to the thought that he simply sign an AHL deal and stay in Bakersfield.  But if he still has NHL aspirations, then he’ll be looking for a new home as time is running out for him.  If this is it for Currie, it’ll be a big loss for the Condors as he has carried them offensively for the last few seasons.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

Shane Starrett

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 194  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 14  GAA: 3.63  Sv%: .874

DOB: 07/12/94, Bellingham, MA

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 10th, 2017

Previous Rank: NR

It’s very possible that Starrett has played his final game for the Oilers organization.  He is a group VI (6 for those who don’t do Roman numerals, I don’t know why they always are but I don’t want to look any dumber than I already am) free agent this summer, Olivier Rodrigue will be entering pro hockey and need starts, Dylan Wells still has a year left on his ELC, and of course, Stuart Skinner does as well.  Not much room for Starrett, who after a terrific 18-19 regular season, started to fall off in those playoffs, and then injuries really have taken their toll on his performance this season.  Personally, I’m not too high on Starrett.  In my viewings, he is a guy who blocks pucks but can’t make saves.  This is something I’ve talked a lot about in the past with goaltenders.  Having size and being positionally sound is great, but I still need to see that a guy has the athleticism to make a big save and I’ve never seen that with Starrett.  Beyond that, it is much more vital to be giving starts to the younger guys which of course is difficult to do with Starrett in the fold.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

I hope you enjoyed the appetizers, and now for the main course…

 

20. Matej Blümel

Team: HC Dynamo Pardubice   League: Czech

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 31  G: 4  A: 1  P: 5

DOB: 05/31/00, Tabor, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: HM

There is nothing that stands out with Blümel, but everything checks out as ok at this point.  He is a solid skater, good size, and he is pretty skilled.  Obviously playing in Pardubice this season it is much tougher to gauge his skill, but at the WJC we all had a good look at him.  It was a BIT of a disappointing performance for him, but it became a bit of a mess with the Czech team with all their injuries.  What I did like is that he saw a lot of tough minutes, and I believe that is how he is going to get the attention of the organization moving forward.  As I said, nothing stands out but he does everything well so if he can develop his 200-foot game then he will have that special trait he will need.  The beauty of his situation is that the Oilers have a while before a decision is needed on whether or not to sign him.

ETA: Mid 23-24

 

19. Markus Niemeläinen

Team: Ässät  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 55  G: 1  A: 6  P: 7

DOB: 06/08/98, Kuopio, FIN

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Niemeläinen is one of those guys who just MIGHT still surprise us, simply because the ability is so ridiculous.  Not just the size, but he has always had people intrigued because he can also skate extremely well for that size, and he also moves the puck well.  He has never shown any interest in becoming a two-way defenceman as many desired him to be, but he has always been solid in his own zone.  And the thing with this club is that they are now getting to a point where they will have plenty of offensive production coming from the blueline.  They might need a shutdown guy as Niemeläinen has more than enough potential still to become.  This is the final chance they have to sign him (becomes a UFA June 1st), so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they do so.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

18. Ostap Safin

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 16  A: 19  P: 35

DOB: 02/11/99, Praha, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: HM

Some…maybe most, will have given up on Safin.  And I get it.  A) the Oilers prospect depth isn’t what it was thanks to the kids who have graduated this season.  B) he’s still just a season removed from his hip issues.  C) the size, skating, and edge combination with this kid is worth investing time in.  Even if Safin only becomes a 4th line player, he would still be a 4th line guy with size who can really skate and punish the opposition.  Last year wasn’t pretty, and this season putting up average numbers in the ECHL doesn’t inspire much.  But I have to see a healthy season out of him in the AHL before I’m ready to write him off because there is just too much to work with here.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

17. Aapeli Räsänen

Team: Boston College  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 11  A: 13  P: 24

DOB: 06/01/98, Tampere, FIN

Acquired: 6th Round, 158th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Back, and better than ever!  Räsänen was a kid who I was pretty high on prior to last season.  And then last season was…horrific.  He went from being a kid who was a no-brainer to sign to a kid who there was no way you’d waste a contract on.  Now he’s back on the radar, but with a regime in place that didn’t draft him.  It’ll be interesting to see if A) they attempt to sign him and B) if he’s willing to sign with the Oilers as he will become a free agent next summer.  The Oilers could really use another centre in the system as some may argue they don’t have one coming (McLeod might be better suited for the wing, Lavoie is likely a winger in the pros, and Marody had an awful season).  I don’t see Räsänen as anything more than a 4C (always compared him to Mark Letestu), but a 4C who can be thrown on the ice in any situation is a pretty damn valuable piece to have.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

16. Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 13  A: 60  P: 73

DOB: 09/23/00, Pardubice, CZE

Acquired: 6th Round, 162nd Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: HM

It’s funny, in doing this write-up about Mazura the thought started to run through my mind “this situation reminds me a lot of Mark Jankowski” before I even realized that Jankowski went to Providence college…where Mazura is going this fall.  A total project, but one that has me overly intrigued.  Mazura is an EXTREMELY likable kid.  If you recall at last year’s development camp he held court with the media, and basically just had a conversation with all of them as if he’d been around them for years.  If you don’t recall that, click here to see it.  Most kids at that age will give the media the standard answers they’re coached to give by the teams PR people and get the hell out of there.  Mazura loved every minute of it and could have talked all day!  Then you have the size.  Last summer he was listed at 6’2, 170lbs.  Now (as you can see) it’s 6’4, 190.  And the kid is still RAIL thin.  It’s that size combined with his very solid skating ability and vision that has me giddy about what he could be.  But again, he’s a total project and a total project means that he’s still a long way away.  He has yet to truly be tested, but that will change this fall.  High IQ, great size, great skater, tough to bet against this kid becoming a player someday.

ETA: Early 24-25

 

15. Dylan Wells

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 7  GAA: 3.77  Sv%: .878

DOB: 01/03/98, St. Catharines, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 19

A very disappointing season for Wells, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s a result of an organization showing absolutely zero faith in the kid?  I’ll tell you, one of the most bizarre situations this season has been the organization giving Stuart Skinner ample opportunity when Shane Starrett went down and giving next to none for Dylan Wells, despite the fact that Wells had nearly identical numbers to Skinner’s.  This happened last year in the playoffs too when Wells played tremendous in game two of Bakersfield’s 2nd round series vs San Diego, and then never dressed again in the series.  The only thing I can point to as to why this might be is that Keith Gretzky was responsible for drafting Skinner, and Wells wasn’t his pick.  Other than that, I don’t understand why they prefer Skinner so much to Wells.  Nevertheless, Wells is still a kid who has a lot of talent and has flashed that talent on numerous occasions, it’s just a matter of finding consistency.  It’ll be make or break for Wells next season, the final year of his ELC.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

14. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 40  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .912

DOB: 07/13/98, Yaroslavl, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 85th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank:17

What looked like a draft day heist by the Oilers quickly started to look like a draft day bust playing for Craig MacTavish to start the season as Konovalov’s numbers took a massive dip, and even after MacTavish was shown the door Konovalov’s numbers never recovered and quite frankly it was a disaster of a season.  The numbers were really the only big reason to get excited about Konovalov, as the size is very questionable for an NHL goaltender.  And those numbers that were so disappointing this season, were even worse in the playoffs wherein five games Konovalov had just a G.A.A. of 3.64 and a Sv% of .888.  No doubt that he has the quickness needed for a sub 6’0 goaltender, and I love how technically sound he is and how he tracks the puck in my viewings.  But it was definitely a season to forget, and now we’ll see how he rebounds.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

13. Filip Berglund

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 5  A: 15  P: 20

DOB: 5/10/97, Skellefteå, SWE

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

Previous Rank: 15

Joel Persson out, Filip Berglund in?  That could be the case this fall in Bakersfield as a decision needs to be made on Berglund.  Like Niemeläinen, Berglund needs to be signed by June 1st or else the Oilers will lose his rights.  From what I’ve seen, Berglund is the much more important and the much more polished of the two defencemen.  Like the aforementioned Persson, Berglund isn’t the best skater.  Unlike Persson, he plays more of a stay at home style similar to Adam Larsson (I’m far from the first to make that comparison).  He does show a bit of offensive ability in his game and does move the puck well, but it’ll be his defensive game that will potentially be his ticket to play in the show.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

12. Cooper Marody

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 30  G: 5  A: 12  P: 17

DOB: 12/20/96, Brighton, MI

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

Previous Rank: 11

It is pretty depressing for me how this season went for Marody.  This time last year, this kid was trending towards making the team before too long.  A dirty hit and a concussion later, and Marody all of a sudden is a shell of what he once was and there are rumours that he has lost the passion he once had for the game.  When he’s right, this guy has terrific skill and vision, and much like Tyler Benson or formerly Ethan Bear, his skating was the only question mark he had.  Perhaps this time away will serve him better than anyone.  A chance to get healthy, perhaps get in a better frame of mind, and with that possibly gets his career back on track.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

11. William Lagesson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 3  A: 7  P: 10

DOB: 02/22/96, Göteborg, SWE

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

Previous Rank: 13

It’s tough to imagine that Lagesson can become anything more than he has at this point.  He really has maxed out his ability just getting to the cusp of the NHL as he has.  But having said this, he is still the likely candidate to be the team’s number seven defenceman next season and he is very capable of filling that role.  The skating ability is just average, which is the biggest issue he’s facing, and the way he skates it’ll be very difficult to improve it.  We have yet to see “his game” at the NHL level though.  When he’s right, he can play a nasty/in your face physical game.  And he moves it very well for a stay at home type.  But again, tough to imagine him being more than a 6/7 at this point.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

10. Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  GAA: 2.32  Sv%: .918

DOB: 07/06/00, Chicoutimi, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 20

It’s ironic.  When Rodrigue was selected as the 3rd goaltender for Team Canada for the 2020 WJC, he wasn’t playing that well.  I can’t recall the exact numbers, but his Sv% was around .905.  Bob Stauffer blindly ranked him 5th in the organization just because he made Team Canada.  And then of course when Nigel Dawes falter in Canada’s goal, Rodrigue still didn’t even get a look.  He wasn’t already a bust, but he was a pretty big disappointment to that point.  Once he returned though, his game took off and Rodrigue ended the season with the 2nd best Sv% in the QMJHL (minimum 20 games played).  He has the ability to make it, all the raw ability in the world.  But at his size, it is imperative that he is nearly perfect technically.  Rodrigue will likely spend next season with Wichita in the ECHL where he will get the starts he needs, and we’ll see what happens.  The door could be open to get some starts in Bakersfield with Starrett likely out the door and the organization showing next to no faith in Wells.

ETA: Early 23-24

 

9. Stuart Skinner

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 41  GAA: 3.31  Sv%: .892

DOB: 11/01/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 18

I don’t know if he’s a stud prospect, but he sure is getting every opportunity possible to be one!  Clearly the favourite of the Oilers brass, he did show flashes of becoming that stud goaltending prospect the Oilers have lacked since Devan Dubnyk was in the system (and Dubnyk never looked like he’d be much while in the AHL).  If I remember correctly, he went on a 10-15 game run where his Sv% was around .915.  I apologize that I can’t recall the exact numbers, but it was a good stretch nonetheless.  You could argue that Skinner is the organization’s most important prospect, with none of the other goaltenders showing much promise this season, and no long term answer anywhere in the organization at the moment.  Skinner is the closest thing to it.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

8. Philip Kemp

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 32  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/12/99, Greenwich, CT

Acquired: 7th Round, 208th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 16

He’s a forgotten prospect at this point.  But he will be an important one IF he signs with the team.  Straight up, I doubt he will.  American kid, so close to free agency, I bet he is dealt this off-season, which sucks.  However, should he stay and sign he would be the top prospect on the right side beginning next season (obviously in saying that, I’m assuming Bouchard will be on the big club).  Kemp is nothing flashy, but he skates well and is a terrific defender.  He’s very similar to Matt Benning, although I wouldn’t say he’s as physical as Benning is.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

7. Ryan McLeod

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

DOB: 09/21/99, Mississauga, ON

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 9

When we are looking at the most important prospects in the Oilers organization, McLeod is right near the top of the list.  The big question for me is whether or not he can play the middle.  If he CAN, he’s a vital piece for an organization with a severe lack of depth down the middle.  Potentially the 3C this organization has been looking for.  The talent is there for McLeod to be that guy.  Outstanding skating ability with great vision and a very solid 200-foot game.  He has the raw tools to be not just a 3C but a damn good 2C.  But he plays on the perimeter and shies away from playing in traffic.  If he’s only going to be a winger, I believe he can be a top-nine winger starting next fall.  But the organization needs more from him, and if he delivers it would be massive.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

6. Dmitri Samorukov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

DOB: 06/16/99, Volgograd, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 7

He is a pretty important prospect.  Perhaps more than most realize at this point.  The reason for this is the plan they clearly have in place with the expansion draft in 15 months.  At this point, it looks like a lock that they’ll keep seven forwards and three defencemen, meaning that they’ll either be trading or simply losing an LHD (Klefbom, Nurse, or Jones).  When that happens (and obviously I’m guessing here), the organization is hopeful that one of their young defencemen is ready to make the jump to the bottom pair.  Most will suggest that prospect is Broberg.  But in my opinion, Broberg needs more time than just next season.  Samorukov, on the other hand, could be ready with another year in Bakersfield.  Barring Broberg coming over, Samorukov will be the star prospect on the Bakersfield blueline as Bouchard will likely make the jump to the Oilers.  That means he should be in line for a ton of opportunity and a chance for his game to take a major leap forward.  The skating, puck-moving, size, and physicality is all there with Samorukov.  Definitely top-four potential.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

5. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 38  A: 44  P: 82

DOB: 09/25/00, Chambly, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 38th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 10

Freshly signed to his ELC, it’ll kick in at the start of next season and he will likely burn at minimum one year of it in Bakersfield.  What really made me sit up and take notice of Lavoie this season was his performance at the World Juniors.  Yes, he played very well, but it was what he excelled at which made me excited.  Dale Hunter had him in a 4th line checking role, and he was tremendous.  That showed me that this is a kid who isn’t going to let his ego get in the way, and is willing to play any role asked of him which is exactly the type of guy who will thrive playing for Dave Tippett.  We already knew he had good size, was a decent skater, and had a hell of a shot.  Thinking down the road with him, you give him next season to develop in Bakersfield, and then a spot opens up in the bottom six with Chiasson’s deal being up.  That’s a long way to go and a ton can and will change, but as of writing this that is the scenario I could see playing out.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

4. Kirill Maksimov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 5  A: 8  P: 13

DOB: 06/01/99, Moskva, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 6

The stats look extremely underwhelming.  So why is he still this high on my list?  If you know anything about Bakersfield this season, you know A) their season was a MASSIVE disappointment, and B) there was hardly any opportunity for Maksimov with so many AHL vets and NHL players on the squad this season.  Then on top of that, Benson, Marody, and until the new year Yamamoto were all ahead of him as well so it was next to impossible for Maksimov to get top nine minutes, let alone produce.  The fact of the matter is this kid is continually showing good improvement in his skating ability and play away from the puck, and obviously he still possesses very good size and an amazing shot.  Todd McLellan had a very obvious bias against European kids, and Jay Woodcroft was McLellan’s right-hand man for so many years.  That’s a big concern for me with Maksimov as he received such little opportunity this season.  That needs to change next fall because this is in my mind is one of the most important prospects in the pipeline, one of the most talented prospects in the pipeline, and by all accounts a very hard-working kid as well.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

3. Tyler Benson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 9  A: 27  P: 36

DOB: 03/15/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 5

He’s right there.  He looked better in his second stint (although he really never left) than in his first, and he will have the summer to work more on his foot and edge work.  His speed is fine, it’s funny how many good observers confuse speed with pace of play.  Pace of play is something that will come for a kid with elite hockey sense and Benson has that.  But he’ll have to work hard to gain traction with the big club, not because he can’t play in the league, but all of a sudden they’re pretty deep up front.  By now, you all know Benson’s game.  Extremely high IQ and terrific playmaker who is often on the right side of the puck and good along the wall and down low.  Just like Ethan Bear at this time last year, it’s all about the skating.  If it doesn’t develop further, he will play in the league, but probably only as a fringe top-six winger.  If he can clean it up though, he’s a stud.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 45  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

DOB: 06/25/01, Örebro, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 8th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 2

The potential is enormous.  But I can’t stress enough that the Oilers need to take their time with him.  Right now, if I’m projecting, he’s Jay Bouwmeester 2.0 (and yes I know I’m not the only guy to suggest that).  But he has the tools to become a complete defenceman.  I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have been better off playing in the OHL this season (I believe Hamilton owned his rights) and playing against kids his own age where he’d perhaps be able to work more on his game rather than just look to keep his head above water playing for Skellefteå.  I’m greedy, I want Broberg to become the legitimate number one D-man he has the potential to be.  But I would be taking my sweet ass time with him.  Another year in the SHL, followed by at least one full season in the AHL, if not two.  If he never reaches that potential, you’re still looking at a new age, shutdown D-man like Bouwmeester which is nothing to be upset with.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 7  A: 29  P: 36

DOB: 10/20/99, Oakville, ON

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 1

They have a stud on their hands.  Credit where it’s due because I don’t see eye to eye with a lot of what he has to say, but Craig Button was the first one I heard who compared him to Larry Murphy and I believe that is an extremely accurate projection.  Now, consider that when Murphy played, even though he eventually got in the Hall of Fame, he bounced around the league because he drove teams nuts with his lack of physicality.  Bouchard has the same issue, but in today’s game that is not anywhere near the sin that it was in the 80’s and 90’s.  This is pretty exciting for the organization and their fans that barring a rash of injuries and a need to use Bouchard this post-season that they’ll have three full seasons of a ready prospect like this on his ELC capable of playing top-four minutes right from the start.  I would guess he is occupying the point spot on the top PP unit by December at the latest.

ETA: Early 20-21

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 20 WHL Prospects (March, 2020)

The first year that I attempt to tackle just the WHL and focus solely on one league, and I get about the worst year possible to rank their kids!  Nobody is pulling away for me in this race and we are splitting hairs with so many of these kids.  Guhle vs Schneider, Zary vs Finley, Wiesblatt vs Neighbours, anyone can rank these kids in pretty much any order and I’m not going to put up much of a fight.  Which means the guy doing the rankings better put a HECK of a lot of time into research and going over everything with a fine-tooth comb (which is one reason I’m so late in getting this list out).  This is what I’ve done, but it’s frustrating because I might look back at this in two weeks and start kicking myself and I don’t just give myself love taps, I kick hard!!

It’s crazy.  I won’t be the least bit surprised if there are no WHL kids who go in the top 15 of the draft.  All the top kids in this year’s class have noticeable warts.  Having said that, I believe there are nine kids as of writing this who could then go in the 15-40 range.  You can make a legitimate case for any of the kids I have ranked 1-6 here being the top WHL draft prospect right now and I truly mean this that the gap from 1 all the way down to 14 is very small, so the depth here is just crazy.

I’ve decided to give you a top 20 this time around…just because I’m THAT good of a person.   Added to that are 6 honourable mentions, and 4 more kids playing tier II junior out West to bring the total to 30 players in the rankings this time around.  I’m like the Oprah of the WHL.  Souprah.

 

1. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 11  A: 29  P: 40

Previous Rank: 1

Born: 01/18/02, Sherwood Park, AB

He remains number one for me yet again, though this is getting even tighter.  I’ll tell you the one thing that drives me nuts this season though is anyone trying to make the case that Braden Schneider is a better prospect than Kaiden Guhle.  By no measure (in my opinion) is Schneider better than Guhle.  They are such similar defencemen, but Guhle is a better skater, not nearly as filled out at this point, just as physical, and a draft year younger.  You’re talking about a big, physical, terrific skating defenceman who is miserable to play against in his own zone and moves the puck well.  And when you’re looking at his defensive game specifically, there isn’t anything I dislike.   Positioning, angling, stick, zone entries, and puck retrievals are all high end for a draft eligible defenceman.  He reminds me a lot of two different defencemen: Darnell Nurse and Brent Seabrook.  Both guys never put up big offensive numbers in their draft years and yet one was a cornerstone for a three time Cup winner and the other is a 25 year old, top four defenceman, who just got 5.6 million per season.  Pretty good company.  If you’re looking at the here and now with Guhle, maybe you’re not as high on him.  But I believe the upside is ridiculous with Guhle.  This kid has all the tools (and I consider IQ and work ethic in those tools) to become a terrific defenceman in the show someday.

 

2. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 40  A: 51  P: 91

Previous Rank: 4

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

The most skilled player to come out of this year’s crop of WHL kids checks in at 2 this time around, barely edged out for 1st by Guhle for me.  All season I talked about how Jarvis is in that group of kids who could be ranked anywhere from 3rd to 9th for me, and I had him as the top kid in that group the last time around, but now Jarvis is starting to separate from that group.  Skating, IQ, vision, compete are all very solid, but its the hands which are perhaps what I like about his game the most.  There are a lot of players that Jarvis reminds me of.  A bit of Jordan Eberle, a bit of Brendan Gallagher, a bit of Nik Ehlers, all players who are undersized, but all players who have a different skill set.  He needs to improve his play away from the puck, but it’s not any worse than most kids his age.  He’ll fly the zone quite a bit but that’ll likely be coached out of him in time.  He’s not on the top of my list this time around, but if he continues trending how he has of late, I can’t imagine I’d have anyone higher than him the next time around.

 

3. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 17  A: 36  P: 53

Previous Rank: 10

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

He takes a very big jump up my rankings.  And I’m well aware that many won’t agree with this, and that’s fine.  This is how I feel right now, and just hear out my POV on this.  Obviously the tool kit stands out.  He’s not just 6’5, he’s not just 207 lbs, he’s a good skater who is putting up impressive numbers when you factor in that he’s been seeing a ton of tough minutes in Spokane.  His season is actually greatly replicating the season Ryan Johansen had in his draft year, and it took scouts a while that season until they started to really recognize Johansen.  Finley is a kid who to me looks like a sure thing to play in the league, but the upside is still there.  Of course, the one guy most noticeable who I’m ranking behind Finley is Connor Zary.  When I break down Finley v Zary, I have all the edges other than raw point totals going to Finley.  Even strength scoring however, Finley is better PPG (0.78) than Zary (0.76).  If Finley were the one playing with Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo (shoutout to my fellow Marwayne Wildcats…) then would his numbers resemble Zary’s?  In my opinion, they’d be as good or better.  Is Finley going to make a lot of highlight reels?  No.  He’s not overly dynamic.  Luckily for Finley, I’m not big on players being dynamic.  Being intelligent and constantly on the right side of the puck isn’t sexy, but production is production.

 

4. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 52  G: 34  A: 43  P: 77

Previous Rank: 2

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

The work ethic and the IQ really stand out when you watch Zary play and as I’ve said before the guy is a coach’s dream.  You can put him in any situation and he’s going to thrive.  My buddy Larry Fisher compares him with Bo Horvat and it really is a spot-on comparison.  I’d say you’re at least getting a Jarret Stoll type with Zary (who was similar to Horvat but simply didn’t sustain the offensive production Horvat has and will).  Captain material.  He simply does everything very well.  However, that can be viewed as a negative too, as a fellow contributor to the oilknight.ca pointed out (I won’t say who, but I’ll just say he knows the QMJHL extremely well…) sometimes it’s not so much that they do everything well as it is they don’t do anything great.  And that is fair with Zary is he doesn’t do one thing that stands out, and for me, the skating is a bit concerning.

 

5. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 7  A: 35  P: 42

Previous Rank: 9

Born: 09/20/01, Prince Albert, SK

As you can see, I am coming around on Schneider.  Way too tough on him in the summertime, I tend to do that with the kids who have the late birthdays.  He’s a safe pick.  As I said earlier, he’s very similar to Guhle, I just don’t feel as though there is anything Schneider does better than Guhle, and I believe Guhle has some offensive upside where I’m not sure Schneider has much.  The comparison I’ve used all season though is Travis Hamonic, and no team is going to cry about getting a D-man like that.  I like his skating, and he’s not just a physical guy in his own zone.  Much like Guhle, good gap control, positioning, and stick.  You can really see with Schneider that he takes pride in being that shutdown/throwback defender.

 

6. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 24  A: 44  P: 68

Previous Rank: 5

Born: 03/09/02, Calgary, AB

So if you’re looking at just the skill sets on the dub kids who I have so closely bunched up (Wiesblatt, Jarvis, Neighbours, McClennon, Sourdif, etc), Wiesblatt could be the least skilled of those kids.  But on the other hand, Wiesblatt is perhaps the most likely to simply play in the NHL of the group.  So how do you rank that?!  It’s tricky, and I admit I do have to come up with more of a system to make such issues much easier to figure out.  Wiesblatt, in my opinion, is going to be the type of player who can play in any situation.  Right now he’s playing the middle for the Raiders, though I see him as a winger down the line.  Good skater, good motor, plays physical, plays a little greasy at times, he’ll be a fan favourite wherever he goes.

 

7. Jake Neighbours 

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 23  A: 45  P: 68

Previous Rank: 6

Born: 03/29/02, Airdrie, AB

I get why some people love him as much as they do.  That’s never been lost on me.  Neighbours plays a pro game, he can play a hard game, and he can play a bit of a greasy game at times too.  His IQ is high end.  I really worry about the skating though.  It’s not that it can’t improve, but it’s much more to do with a theory I have.  Neighbours is already pretty filled out at 5’11 and near 200 lbs.  That doesn’t suggest he is going to gain a whole lot more strength.  Maybe.  I’m not saying he won’t.  But I’m more willing to bet on kids making a big improvement in their skating ability who aren’t yet filled out.  If he can get his skating to where it needs to be, I love him just as much as everyone else seems to.  But I’m just not sure he can.

 

8. Connor McClennon

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 157  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 21  A: 28  P:  49

Previous Rank: 8

Born: 06/25/02, Wainwright, AB

Maybe the toughest kid to rank.  On one hand, he has exploded offensively after a slow start.  He recently went on an 11 game point streak and had 29 points in his last full 18 games played.  Why did I say “full”?  Because in his last game McClennon suffered a broken collarbone and will be out likely until the end of the WHL regular season, if not longer.  The other thing some would point to in terms of his production was that he took off once Peyton Krebs returned from his Achilles injury.  But let’s not pretend McClennon is playing on some offensive juggernaut in Winnipeg where he’s able to live off other’s accomplishments.  McClennon is a lot like Kailer Yamamoto, not just in stature but also with his drive and fearlessness on the ice.  He plays much bigger than his size.  The skating isn’t where Yamamoto’s was at this point though.  I personally believe it’s better than some have suggested, but there is no doubt it needs work.  Opposite of Neighbours though, McClennon has a lot of weight and strength to pack on still, so it’s possible it could greatly improve as he does.

 

9. Justin Sourdif

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 163  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 24  A: 28  P: 52

Previous Rank: 3

Born: 03/24/02, Surrey, BC

A big slide down my rankings for Sourdif, but again, I have to stress that I don’t see anything of a big gap between 1st and 9th, and it’s an even smaller one between 6th and 9th.  The thing you have to remember with Sourdif that while the numbers aren’t where many believed they would be for him this season, it is the Vancouver power play that is killing his production more than anything.  So while he’s down at 9 for me at the moment, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to go on a tear at some point and shoot back up into my top 3.  It’s that tight.  And with Sourdif, the skillset isn’t in question.  I do worry though that the drive isn’t there with Sourdif.  He isn’t very assertive with the puck, and he doesn’t bring much in terms of physicality or gamesmanship.

 

10. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 162  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 24  A: 33  P: 57

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/08/02, Lethbridge, AB

Greig is an intriguing prospect for a lot of people.  He plays a pro game and he has a lot of growing to do physically so that always will make people wonder where the ceiling is.  I like his skating ability and feel as though there is room for that to grow quite a bit in the next few seasons.  He has excellent hockey sense, is a decent playmaker, protects the puck well, plays a solid 200 foot game, he is willing to play a physical game, he is just simply a very complete player.  For me, I see him as potentially a terrific two-way centre.

 

11. Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 3  A: 29  P: 32

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/02/02, Yellowknife, NT

The skating ability is his calling card.  You’d think that with a defencemen sub 6’0 and a great skater that he’s a big risk-taker.  But remember: he’s playing for Everett, and the Silvertips under Kevin Constantine previously, and currently Dennis Willaims, are the stingiest team in the WHL.  Don’t let the numbers fool you, this kid can move the puck very well and has a lot of untapped offensively ability.  At this point, I don’t see Seeley going in the top 62 of the draft, but he is a sneaky good prospect who has been a personal favourite of mine.  If I’m an NHL team, I’m not looking to reach to get him, but I’d slot him in the 63-124 range (3rd or 4th round) and hope he finds his way to our pick because there is a lot to work with here.

 

12. Tristen Robins

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 31  A: 35  P: 66

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 11/15/01, Brandon, MB

The first thing that stands out with Robins is his speed.  This kid is a burner, but he combines that with a terrific compete level which makes him lethal on the forecheck, on puck retrievals, and on the backcheck.  He plays the middle for the Blades, but for me personally, I would be drafting Robins as a winger.  Hey, if he can play the middle that’s even better!  But I see him as a winger in pro hockey and while I question if he’ll have the skill level to produce at a top six level, he sure looks as though he has the speed and work ethic to be an effective top nine winger in the show.

 

13. Dylan Garand

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 172  Glove: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G.A.A.: 2.23  Sv%: .922

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 06/06/02, Victoria, BC

At the start of the year I have to admit, I didn’t like Garand mainly because of his size.  And though the size hasn’t improved, and NHL organizations still prefer bigger netminders, it isn’t as though 6’1 is a size of goaltender which isn’t going to get a look in the league.  And then the season he’s having has now is so damn impressive!  His numbers are right there with Team Canada’s Joel Hofer who is playing on a more dominant team in Portland.  And it’s not as though Kamloops is some defensive juggernaut, this is a team who has played pretty wide open hockey this season.  I love the way Garand moves in net.  He’s very technically sound with terrific reflexes.  If this kid’s ability to track the puck can catch up to the rest of his game, he will be an NHL goaltender even at this size.

 

14. Pavel Novak

Team: Kelowna Rockets

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 52  G: 22  A: 30  P: 52

Previous Rank: 7

Born: 04/16/02, Tabor, CZE

Before I get to Novak, what a mess in Kelowna this season.  As a Western guy and covering the WHL for Sean as I do, this is humiliating that this team is hosting the Memorial Cup this season.  I thought 2013 was bad with the Blades being bounced in the 1st round, it is nothing compared to what is going on with the Rockets.  And they are the last franchise I thought I’d ever type something like that about in the WHL.  Ok, Novak.  He’s the Rockets leading scorer as of writing this.  He’s a very similar prospect to Wiesblatt, McClennon, Sourdif, etc. in that he’s a bit of an undersized guy who can produce.  The thing that scares me with Novak is the skating ability isn’t great.  He has the skill to succeed, but at the moment I don’t believe his skating is good enough to get him to the next level.  If he can get it to where it needs to be, Novak will be pretty intriguing.

 

15. Alex Cotton

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 18  A: 47  P: 65

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 05/12/01, Langley, BC

Something that keeps me up at night when ranking kids for their drafts: the late bloomer/over-ager.  I get so locked in on certain kids that I rarely give consideration to such things!  Thankfully, I didn’t miss Alex Cotton’s incredible 3rd season in the WHL that is getting more and more attention as the year has worn on.  He moves the puck extremely well, has a great shot, and he showcases good compete.  The play in his own zone needs work, but the big concern with Cotton are the boots.  His skating is just ok, but the positive with it is that he has improved it quite a bit over the last year.  Can it continue to improve?  If it can, the team which drafts him will have quite the prospect on their hands.

 

16. Christoffer Sedoff

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 189  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 59  G: 5  A: 14  P: 19

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 02/20/02, Helsinki, FIN

Sedoff is starting to get some love from the scouting community despite playing on a rebuilding Rebels club.  He is their horse, chewing up a ridiculous amount of minutes a lot of nights for Brent Sutter’s club.  He’s a very smooth skater, good puck mover, and despite not having stats that jump off the page he has displayed some pretty good offensive skills at times.  He’s solid in his own zone also with good gap control, a good stick, and a willingness to compete down low and in front of the net.  There is a lot to work with here.  Another interesting tidbit is his size.  Elite Prospects lists him at 5’11, 159lbs.  The WHL’s site has him at 6’1, 189lbs, a pretty damn big difference!  When I’ve seen him, it appears to me like the WHL size is the correct one, at least in terms of height.

 

17. Kasper Puutio

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 53  G: 5  A: 20  P: 25

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 06/03/02, Vaasa, FIN

A very similar prospect to Sedoff, but in a very different situation (at least he is since his trade to Everett).  The skating ability of Puutio, much like his teammate Ronan Seeley, makes him a very intriguing prospect in the middle to late rounds of the draft.  He’s very raw at this point.  Both offensively and defensively, there is a ton of room for growth.  But he’s a kid who as I already said is a terrific skater, and he moves the puck very well.  If he can refine his defensive game, there is no reason he couldn’t be a Jonas Brodin type D-man down the line.

 

18. Josh Pillar

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 14  A: 27  P: 41

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 02/14/02, Warman, SK

When you’re just simply looking at stats, Pillar doesn’t stand out.  But this kid has been a favourite of mine all season because of his wheels.  I’m a big believer in taking kids later in the draft who have one terrific trait and looking to develop the rest, and Pillar has that in his skating.  Very similar to Tristen Robins who is in his 18 year old season, and  Pillar is already out producing what Robins did last season.  Also like Robins, he’s playing the middle for Kamloops.  If Pillar was playing the wing he’d likely have a lot more freedom offensively, and likely be getting a lot more attention than he has.  31 ES points on the season playing primarily in a checking role for the Blazers this season.

 

19. Simon Knak

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 46  G: 9  A: 24  P: 33

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 01/27/02, Kloten, SUI

A player who does everything well, but nothing great.  Ok size, ok speed, ok hands, ok vision, ok hockey sense, an ok shot, he’s just ok.  Now, if Knak has a great work ethic than he is just scratching the surface on what he can become.  And what will help him a lot with that development is being a Winterhawk with Mike Johnston as his coach.  I’m not sure if Knak has shown enough to get himself drafted at this point, but he will have a lot more of an opportunity on a Winterhawks team which looks primed for a deep run into the WHL playoffs.

 

20. Bryan Thomson

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 181  Glove: L

2020 Stats – GP: 28  G.A.A.: 2.94  Sv%: .896

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 04/09/02, Moose Jaw, SK

Nothing like Garand.  Garand gets love for the numbers he’s put up this season and the mystery of whether or not he will be just big enough to succeed.  Thomson has the size and ability but doesn’t have the numbers as he fluctuates above and below a .900 Sv% this season.  But the upside is tough to ignore with this kid.  I hate comparing him to a former Hurricane (because I worry about it coming off as lazy on my part), but he is very similar to Stuart Skinner when Skinner was 17.

 

Honourable Mention

Orrin Centazzo

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 163  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 42  A: 34  P: 76

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 04/17/00, Marwayne, AB

This one is both interesting and fun for me to write.  A kid who’s family I know well, I watched a ton of as he was growing up, played on a line with my nephews in their U-16 Midget season, and is tearing it up on the best line in the WHL this season along with Connor Zary and fellow Marwayne Wildcat (once again, shoutout to my fellow Wildcats) Zane Franklin.  Orrin has always possessed ridiculous skill, and now he seems as though he’s putting it all together and figuring out just how good he can be.  No doubt, he benefits from having Zary and Franklin on his line.  But there are some who feel it’s Centazzo who is the offensive catalyst of that trio.  If I were a team, I’d give him a close look in the later rounds.  I think the higher level of hockey this kid plays, the more he is going to elevate his game.  He has the skill to play in the show.  Tough to rank at this point for me which is why he is in the HM section, but he’s an intriguing player to keep an eye on.

 

Michal Gut

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 48  G: 13  A: 22  P: 35

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/16/02, Kadan, CZE

Last time I said that Gut was a good skater, but I’m not sure that was very accurate as in my viewings since it has been the one thing about his game that has concerned me.  He is however a kid who looks to do everything right out on the ice, a very responsible 200-foot player.

 

Cross Hanas

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 19  A: 25  P: 44

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 01/05/02, Highland Village, TX

Has some high end skill in his game scoring some highlight reel goals this season.  But the hockey sense is very questionable.  If he can learn to start playing a simpler game and improve his play away from the puck, he might be a player.  Just as the case with his teammate Simon Knak, the one thing Hanas has going for him is that his head coach Mike Johnston has one heck of a track record developing players and Hanas has a skill set Johnston can work with.

 

Daemon Hunt

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 0  A: 11  P: 11

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 05/15/02, Brandon, MB

Such a difficult kid to rank as he has been out since the 3rd of December (suffered a severe cut to his arm).  He’s nothing flashy.  Some might even say he’s boring.  But he’s effective.  Terrific in his own zone with his gap control, angles and stick, he was logging all the tough minutes for a weak Warriors squad.  The PPG might look solid at first glance for a defenceman.  Obviously having no goals in 23 games isn’t a great sign.  But if we’re talking about statistical red flags, the one for me is that of his 11 assists, only two came at even strength, and one of those was a secondary assist on an empty net goal.  On top of that, I don’t love the skating ability when I’ve viewed him.

 

Owen Pederson

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 23  A: 21  P: 44

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 03/27/02, Stoney Plain, AB

Pederson plays on the top line in Winnipeg with Vegas Golden Knights 1st round pick Peyton Krebs.  For what turned out to be a short period of time, Pederson was flanked by both Krebs and Connor McClennon and they were one of the hottest lines in the league before McClennon got hurt.  As you can likely guess, it is Pederson’s skating that needs work.  His assets are obviously his size, but also he isn’t afraid to use that size which makes him an effective player on the cycle and in front of the net.  Finally, Pederson has very good hands too.  So there is a lot to work with here, but the skating needs a lot of work.

 

Luke Prokop

Team: Calgary Hitmen

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 218  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 59  G: 4  A: 19  P: 23

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 05/06/02, Edmonton, AB

Hey, what do you know!  The night I do the write-up for Prokop is the night he busts out offensively!  1 goal on the season going in, 2 goals in the game!  But obviously that is not what Prokop is known for.  He’s a throwback type of D-man.  A bruiser in his own zone who will throw people around.  The skating and the hockey sense are the concerns with him.  I think the skating is OK, it’s not great but I think it’s passable, and then the hockey sense is obviously a concern.  He’s iffy to get drafted, but it wouldn’t surprise me given the tools he has in his arsenal.  You get down to the later stages of the draft and sometimes it isn’t about how good the kids are but much more about how much you’ll have to work with as an organization attempts to develop a kid.

 

AJHL

Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 12  A: 63  P: 75

Born: 01/05/02, St. Albert, AB

I’ve often pointed to the comparison in his numbers to Cale Makar’s draft year this season (keeping in mind that Makar was in his 18 year old season vs this being Benning’s 17 year old season), so let’s do it again!  They finish with the exact same games played (54) and the exact same point totals (75).  Now, as mightily impressive as that is for Benning, he’s not Makar.  They are obviously very mobile offensive-minded D-men, but Makar was more dynamic than Benning is.  Benning is much more of a cerebral player and not the skater Makar was/is (even though Benning is a terrific skater).  But let’s look at other recent AJHL comparisons.  Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th overall in 2018) had 41 points in 49 games.  Ian Mitchell (57th overall in 2017) had 37 points in 53 games.  If we are comparing their games, Mitchell’s most closely resembles Benning’s.  And don’t say “yeah, but the teams they played on…” these four played for what are currently the four best programs in the AJHL.   In a way, they really aren’t even AJHL teams, but rather minor league teams for NCAA programs.  Benning is also pretty solid in his own zone.  Despite his stature, he does not get pushed around and is willing to battle in all the tough areas.  It won’t be his calling card, but he’s not at all a liability in his own zone as the Crusaders lean heavily on him defensively.

 

Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 53  A: 46  P: 99

Born: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

The most anticipated game of the year in the AJHL was on January 18th.  Sherwood Park vs Brooks.  At the time, the top two teams in the CJHL going head to head.  A possible preview of the AJHL final.  What did Carter Savoie do?  Plays his best game of the year.  Hatty, plus an assist (all points at even strength), Crusaders win 7-4.  The knock on Savoie is his skating.  From the get-go this season I didn’t have the issue with it that most seemed to, and as the season has worn on I feel stronger than ever in the opinion of him being a guy who just simply picks his spots and plays a much more cerebral game than most give him credit for.  His skating doesn’t stand out, but it’s fine.  He cranks it up when he needs to, and there is plenty of room for improvement.  Also, he’s a miserable SOB to play against!  He’s not afraid to go after a guy.  He’s not overly physical, but he plays in the tough area’s and will do what he has to do to create space.  He can look lazy at times, but it’s the same type of thing you see out of most goal scorers that they’re always just looking for dead ice.  50 goals in 50 games, near 2 PPG on the season, the kid has lived up to his hype in the AJHL this season.  It’ll be interesting to see what he does in the playoffs.

 

Ethan Edwards

Team: Spruce Grove Saints

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 50  G: 9  A: 24  P: 33

Born: 06/06/02, Grand Prairie, AB

I’m not liking that my secret player is not being kept a very good secret!  Ranked 85th by NHL Central Scouting among North American players, only 15 spots back of Benning.  Edwards plays at a quicker pace than Benning and might be a little bit better skater of the two.  Edwards can also (as you’d expect), really move the puck well.  Despite all this, he really isn’t a big risk taker in my viewings of him.  Again I am going to point out as I did last time, he isn’t a kid I’d be looking to take in the top 93 of the draft, but in the later rounds he could be a flat out steal.  Committed to Michigan, but not until the 21-22 season, meaning the team which drafts him would have as much as five seasons to allow him to develop before making a decision on him.

 

BCHL

Ethan Bowen

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 12  A: 19  P: 31

Born: 05/14/02, Chilliwack, BC

He’s run into injury issues this season, likely are the big reason for his somewhat disappointing season to this point.  I still worry about the skating with Bowen, but again I’ll point to how big and gangly he is at this point.  There are other kids in the BC league challenging Bowen for top prospect, but all of them seem to also have their warts.  At this time I still believe Bowen is the most intriguing of them all, but it’ll be interesting to see where it stands once we’re a round or two into the post-season which starts soon.  Heading to North Dakota beginning next fall.

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Soups Rankings: March, 2020

Better late than never I guess, seeing it’s March 4th.  It would have been better for me to have done this a week ago, right after the trade deadline, so it would have been more of a deadline recap.  This still is, but obviously a week has gone by.  Ok, I’ll quit bitching and get on with this.

Before I start, again I’ll explain: I have teams still in the hunt behind teams with no chance.  Why?  Because I don’t feel those teams still in the hunt will make the playoffs, and that they’re in a worse situation moving forward.  So, for example, I have Ottawa higher than Arizona.  Arizona is in the race in the West, but I don’t feel as though they’ll get in, and therefore I look at how they are moving forward and moving forward the Senators are LOADED.  It’s a different/weird way of doing it, I’m aware, but it’s how I want to do it.  Also, these have very little to do with how teams are playing of late as some moronic power rankings do it.  Basically, I’m ranking who I like to win the Cup until I get to the teams that have no shot (and then as I just explained, I then rank those teams differently).  We good?  We better be…

 

31. Detroit Red Wings

Last month: 31st

They haven’t moved above 30 this season.  The worst thing for Wings fans is that I’m not sure this season will be the end of the worst of it.

 

30. San Jose Sharks

Last month: 30th

What a mess this is.  And they might get back in the hunt next season to make the playoffs, but they aren’t going anywhere if they do.  Doug Wilson just seems to refuse to rebuild it, and I understand why.  But they need a massive rebuild and continually putting it off just digs a deeper hole.

 

29. Los Angeles Kings

Last month: 29th

Unlike the Sharks, they’ve accepted who they are.  But I still say, I do not have a clue what they are hanging onto Kopitar and Doughty for.  “But they have NTC’s!”  Ask them.  If they don’t want to go, fine, but ask them.  This rebuild will not be done before they are, so move them now and get some big returns for them.

 

28. Anaheim Ducks

Last month: 27th

The Ducks don’t have a big time player to move like the Kings do.  You might say Getzlaf, but they wouldn’t get anything for Getzlaf at this point.  The other thing is that the Ducks have drafted well over the years, so they have more of a head start on things than the Kings and the Sharks.  It is still a big hill to climb though.

 

27. Chicago Blackhawks

Last month: 21st

They’re going nowhere.  Absolutely nowhere.  Third year in a row that they’ll miss the playoffs, and I’m not sure where they’re headed.  They do have some very nice young pieces, but much more is needed.

 

26. Montreal Canadiens

Last month: 26th

You know, I don’t think they’re out of it thanks to how inconsistent the Leafs are and how bad the Panthers are playing.  But I don’t like this team at all moving forward as I’ve expressed several times by now.

 

25. Arizona Coyotes

Last month: 20th

They likely gave the Devils a top 10 pick for a player that they won’t be able to re-sign.  A top 10 pick, for nothing.  That stings.  They have to hope they win a top 3 spot so they can avoid that happening.  Well, they’ll still lose Hall, but at least if they win a top 3 spot the pick defers until next season and perhaps they can ensure it’s a pick in the 16-30 range.

 

24. New Jersey

Last month: 28th

How ironic that I have the Devils one spot ahead of the Coyotes before the season is out.  They could have three 1st round picks this year, two could be top 10, the other would likely be in the 15-20 range.  Combine that with Hischier and Hughes and they are in a very good spot in their rebuild.

 

23. Ottawa Senators

Last month: 24th

While the Devils might have three 1st rounders, the Sens are guaranteed to have two, and at this point they would be no worse than 6th and 8th.  Add to that, the Islanders are looking dicey to make the playoffs and that 1st rounder is only top three protected.  So they might be looking at three picks in the top 15 of the draft.  It gets better as they own four picks in the 2nd round and three of those look like they’ll be in the top 50.  So six picks in the top 50 of a deep draft, seven likely in the top 60, and of course this is a team that has already acquired a boatload of talent.  They are going to get REALLY good before too long.

 

22. Buffalo Sabres

Last month: 22nd

So I think they’re growing and are in the best spot they’ve been in since their rebuild began, but it sure sounds like there is a ton of panic there again.  I worry Eichel is going to ask out after the season.  He doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would be willing to stick it out.  I’m not sure it would be the worst thing for them either.  Awesome talent, but the return they’d get would be astronomical, and I could see it being a bit like the Duchene situation in Colorado with Rasmus Dahlin playing the role of Nathan MacKinnon.

 

21. Florida Panthers

Last month: 8th

I’m tapping on them!  This is a mess.  Bobrovsky looks done, because don’t forget this didn’t just happen.  He was never right all last season either.  Showed up in the playoffs, but was awful by his standards in the regular season.  So weird that Joel Quennville didn’t “change the culture” there.  I was told that coach Q was going to “change the culture”.  And now it looks like Dale Tallon is going to be axed, and therefore Quennville may get axed, and they are likely bleeding money given the rumour that they need to cut 10 million from the payroll…WHAT.  A.  MESS.

 

20. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last month: 16th

The Seth Jones injury has killed their season.  If you go by percentage points, they’re already on the outside looking in at the playoffs and Jones isn’t coming back.  Their only wins in the last month have been against teams that they should be beating.  I think they’re done, but it’s been one hell of an effort.

 

19. NY Islanders

Last month: 15th

The Jackets have been sliding, but so have the Islanders, and the way I have it finishing up I don’t believe the Islanders will get in either!  It’ll be close, but the Rangers are trending up, and the Hurricanes are simply a better team.  Four points up right now, but I just don’t believe they’ll make it, much to the delight of Ottawa Senators fans barring the Islanders then winning a top three pick.

 

18. Minnesota Wild

Last month: 25th

I am at a bit of a loss as to how this team is playing so well.  I like their blueline a lot, but offensively I just don’t get how they aren’t relatively easy to shut down.  But they’re charging up the standings right now, and just may get in.  The big test is that they still have to play Nashville twice, and Winnipeg once.  But the reverse of that is they have seven games on the schedule that they should win.

 

17. NY Rangers

Last month: 23rd

It’s funny, I hate that they think they’re done their rebuild because I don’t feel as though they have much more coming.  And as great as Panarin has played this season, this is likely the peak.  Kakko is going to be a good player, I don’t know if he’s going to be that star who can carry a team.  But credit where it’s due, they’re coming on strong, and they might have the best goaltending in the league right now, and I believe they are going to sneak in the playoffs.

 

16. Calgary Flames

Last month: 17th

I sound like a broken record with them, but I just don’t know that they do or have anything elite that is going to give opponents trouble.  Ok goaltending, ok blueline, ok forwards, ok speed, ok size, everything is just ok.

 

15. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last month: 10th

I fully admit I’m now starting to get worried about this team moving forward.  I worry Dubas can’t bring himself to make the type of move he may need to do where he’ll sacrifice a bit more than he should to get the piece or pieces they need.  Beyond the blueline which looks fine moving forward it just isn’t great at the moment, what really concerns me is that none of their big four up front bring a 2nd dimension to the table.  Dubas might need to move one of them out either to get the roster tremendous depth, or to get a different element much like how in the fall of 1996 the Red Wings dealt Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey and a 1st for Brendan Shanahan (and Brian Glynn, but nobody remembers poor Brian Glynn).  They’re getting in the playoffs this season, but I can’t see them getting out of the first round, and wonder about how it’ll work moving forward.

 

14. Winnipeg Jets

Last month: 14th

At 14 and holding for the 3rd straight month.  It’s funny too because I don’t ever look at what they were previously ranked until after I rank the teams.  If this team can sneak into the playoffs, they’re capable of doing some damage.  But can they overcome all the issues they’ve been faced with this season?

 

13. Vancouver Canucks

Last month: 12th

The BIG x-factor here is Markstrom’s health.  If they can hang on without him, and he’s back by the playoffs, I really believe they can do some damage.  I know they don’t have much experience, but they have a lot of guys who are made for April and May.  But they need their stud goaltender to lean on.

 

12. Nashville Predators

Last month: 11th

Remember the 2006 Oilers?  Meet the 2020 Preds, a team that by a lot of measures has been excellent this season and can’t figure out their special teams.  This is one of the best rosters in the league and in a wide open West, it is just begging for another 2006 Oilers, 2012 Kings, etc.  I’m not suggesting they are going to do that, but to me they have that kind of feel to them.

 

11. Philadelphia Flyers

Last month: 13th

They are so quietly playing terrific hockey.  But I just don’t buy them in the playoffs.  Right now they look like they’d play either Pittsburgh, Carolina, or Washington in the first round.  I don’t like them against any of those teams.  They are a very well-rounded club though.

 

10. Edmonton Oilers

Last month: 19th

I cringe having them this high, but if they’re healthy, they’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the league.  They might be the fastest team in the league.  They can put burners on all four lines, good-great skaters will occupy 10 of the 12 forward spots.  They haven’t sacrificed size to do it either and they still have a lot of skilled size that teams need in the playoffs.  Finally, that blueline features five guys who can move the puck (when healthy) and is extremely deep.  That is scary.  Now, the two question marks for me are A) will they be able to figure out where Anthanasiou fits by the playoffs?  B) will the goaltending hold up?  We’ll have to see about A, but if you look close at B, Mike Smith has been very solid this season if you simply take out a bad month of December when the Oilers as a team played awful.  I don’t feel as though they have a major flaw.

 

9. Colorado Avalanche

Last month: 9th

I can’t recall who it was around the deadline, but they put it perfectly.  The Avs window is just now opening.  You don’t go for it the moment your window opens, because how do you even know you don’t have enough to win already?!?  I’d take it a step further, I personally don’t believe their window opens until next season when Bowen Byram steps in.

 

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Last month: 7th

I’m still sky high on that roster, but that goaltending scares the hell out of me!  I don’t understand why it wasn’t more seriously addressed at the deadline.  Trocheck, Skeji and Vatanen is a great haul, but I’m not sure how much they improve the Hurricanes.  A good goaltender would have made them serious contenders.  And obviously, they have to get in!  IF they get in, they’re a threat.

 

7. Dallas Stars

Last month: 6th

This team is much more built for the playoffs than the regular season, and they are going to be one very difficult out for whoever gets them.  The one thing I will say though is that it’s very possible one of Nashville or Winnipeg gets the wildcard spot for that division, and both those teams match up very well with the Stars.  Not to mention they have the Blues to deal with as well.

 

6. Vegas Golden Knights

Last month: 18th

A massive jump, but they got the top four defenceman they needed, and they went out and upgraded their goaltending which was smart.  Although someone needs to point out that Robin Lehner’s numbers have gone down as the season has worn on.  They still feel very flawed to me, but this team has an ability to get hotter than any team in the league when they feel it.

 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last month: 5th

I believe this is the third straight month I have them at five.  They appear to have completed their hot streak that they badly needed to get back in it, and now that they’re comfortable they appear (to me anyway) to have let off the gas and are getting ready for the playoffs.  The Stamkos injury hurts a bit, but not to the level that others will have you believe.  As long as they get him back before the start of the second round, I believe they’ll be fine and I see them taking their game to another level come April.

 

4. Washington Capitals

Last month: 2nd

They have everything you need to win…except the speed.  That didn’t matter in 2018, and it didn’t matter for the Blues last year, but it has hurt the Caps in the past when playing Pittsburgh and last season with Carolina.  But they have as good of a shot at winning it all as anyone.

 

3. St. Louis Blues

Last month: 1st

They’ve seemed kind of bored of late.  I really don’t see anyone knocking them off in the West though.  They just seem to have everything.  The one thing I would worried about for the Blues is that they might end up getting one of Nashville or Winnipeg in the first round, and if either of those teams got right, they could knock off the Blues.  But they sure look like a team that is going to go back to the final.

 

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last month: 4th

They look scary good.  I’ve probably wrote this for four seasons now, but the fall off a cliff is coming for this group.  But it hasn’t happened yet and won’t happen this season.  I like the Zucker pick up despite how much they gave up, I feel as though he’s a perfect fit.  It’s a solid team everywhere, and two of the best players in the world (still) leading the way.

 

1. Boston Bruins

Last month: 3rd

For me, no team stands out as a clear cut favourite to win the Cup at this time.  And I’m not sure I should be putting THIS much stock into a team that might get worn out having just gone to game seven of the final last season.  But they are fast, play tough, are great defensively, have great goaltending, and can score.  This is a terrific team that can play it any way you want.

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Going Out on a High

Wednesday night brought an end to the Lloydminster Bobcats 2019-20 season, with the Olds Grizzlys in town for the final showdown of the season.  It was Lloydminster and District Co-Op pink in the rink night, the Cats were looking for their 4th win in their final 7 games to close out the season, and for Cats assistant captain Chance Adrian, the team’s lone 20 year old, it was an opportunity to go out on a high note.

 

The Cats came out flying and ended up out shooting the Grizzlys 17-12 in the opening frame, but it would be the Grizzlys who emerged with a 1-0 lead as with just 14 a point shot from Josh McNeil found the back of the net.

 

It’s always a concern when you outplay your opponent in a period and they come out with the lead, especially when it’s a goal in the final minute that is from a fortunate bounce as the McNeil goal was, those are normally backbreakers.  Especially for a young team.  But it was another sign of how far the Bobcats have come this season as they shook it off, and at 6:20 of the 2nd, Mack Stewart would keep the puck on a 2 on 1 and beat Grizzlys starter Ty Marcinkowski to tie the game.  They didn’t stop there as just 2:23 later it would be Cam Aucoin making a pretty centring pass to Alex Danis who was driving the net and was able to redirect the Aucoin pass into the back of the net and it was 2-1.  Then just 1:25 after that, on the power-play, it would be Chance Adrian in his final game in a Bobcats uniform sending a backhander towards the net that Nolen Coventry was able to tip in.  3 goals in 3:48 and the Bobcats were in control.  The Grizzlys would get one back as former Bobcat Logan Bromhead made a great feed to Daine Milgate and Bobcats netminder Josh Dias had no chance as Milgate tipped it in.  3-2 Cats after 40.

 

You had to wonder if the Bobcats were going to have one of those nights where no matter how much they did right, things weren’t going to bounce there way as 5:08 into the 3rd the Grizzlys tied the game off the stick of Brendan McBride got a weird one past Dias.  Once again though, the Cats showed how resilient of a team they had become throughout the season and continued to tilt the ice in their favour.  Finally at 13:40, Ty Mosimann would steal the puck and rip one far side on Marcinkowski to make it 4-3.  The Grizzlys would push in the final minute, but the Cats held strong and to cap off the regular season, Jayvon Leslie made a great play to get the puck up to Cam Aucoin who would seal it right at the end of the game (19:59 officially, but it turned out to be the final play of the game and the season).  The Bobcats go out on a high with a 5-3 victory.

 

After the game I caught up with Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube who had these thoughts on the game.  “Awesome way to finish off the year.  Through the last 11 we’re 4-5-2, a lot of people are probably looking at that and looking at our growth over the year.  What a crowd tonight too.  Hats off to the Lloydminster and District Co-Op for the kindness wins pink in the rink…it was just awesome.  Exclamation point on the month.  And credit to this group in there.  It was a special group that I think is going to be looked back on with the foundation they’ve laid here for the Bobcats.”  I couldn’t interview Dube this time around without getting his thoughts on Chance Adrian after wrapping up his AJHL career.  “Chance is a special person, a special player.  What he brings to the organization or any organization every day with his heart and his passion is amazing.  When we brought in Tegan Skehar as a 16 year old, we put Tegan with Chance to lead him and teach him the right ways, that demonstrated exactly what he is and what he means to this organization.  I saw the 113 games he’s played here, he’s a bright spot and wears his heart on his sleeve.  I could go on for hours about what a great kid he is.”  Finally, I asked Dube about how bright the future is for the organization with all but one player eligible to return in the fall.  “The biggest part when we go back and talked about what needed to be done this season was to establish a foundation.  And that kind of phrase maybe got lost a little along the way when you have your tough weeks or your tough games when people ask what’s going on, but I don’t think within the organization that was ever lost and that was the path we continued on.  We went young, we stayed young, and we matured throughout the year and we grew as it went on.  And credit to the 22 guys in the dressing room.  It wasn’t easy for them, and yet the work ethic that they brought everyday whether it was in the room, on the ice, in the gym, or in the community being the spectacular role models they were.  They performed every day with a smile on, and it speaks to their character.”

 

So that’s a wrap on the 2019-20 season for the Lloydminster Bobcats.  It was a rebuilding season where we saw the Bobcats truly grow.  When organizations go through rebuilding phases at any level, there is always going to be pain, and not necessarily growth.  And this season had its pain.  But throughout the season, the games got tighter, the wins became more frequent, and by the end they had managed to get wins against two of the best teams not only in the AJHL but in the CJHL (which were the top ranked teams in the country at the time of the wins by the Cats).  By the end of the season, people were going to the rink expecting the Cats to win as opposed to hoping they’d win.  The future is extremely bright for this organization, and it’s going to be an exciting 20-21 season!  See you in the fall!

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Grand Larseny! Bobcats Netminder Leads them to an Upset Win Over the Top Team in the Nation

Back on January 17th, the Bobcats hosted the then number 1 ranked team in the CJHL, the Brooks Bandits. The Bobcats came out on top of that one for their biggest win of the season by a score of 4-3. 27 days later, they once again played host to the top ranked team in the CJHL, but this time it was the Sherwood Park Crusaders, a team that had beat up on the Bobcats the last time they were in town by a score of 8-1. But this was not the same Bobcats team that the Crusaders faced back on December 22nd.

Alex Danis got things started for the Cats at 13:06 of the 1st period…sort of. Former Crusader Cam Aucoin gained the zone and dished off to Brendan Morrow who put the puck on goal. Danis in front got a stick on it, the save was made by Crusaders starter Jordan Frey, but then deflected off Will Zapernick and into his own net. It doesn’t matter how, it’s how many and the Bobcats had 1. They got a 2nd just before the 1st period ended as Ty Mosimann sent a pass over to Aucoin and he found the back of the net from the slot and the Cats went to the dressing room with a big 2-0 lead.

The Bobcats momentum would carry over to the 2nd period as just 1:54 into the frame as Frey would rob Sam Carper with the initial scoring chance, but then Jared Miller was able to find the rebound and put it in for a 3-0 lead. That would be the end of the night for Jordan Frey who was the recipient of some very bad bounces, and the Crusaders would turn to Carter Gylander for the rest of the night. But it would be the starting netminder at the other end of the ice who was the story in this game, and at 3-0 the game turned into the Garrett Larsen show. Larsen, who was rewarded with his 2nd straight start after one of his finest performances of the season in the Cats win on Saturday, was even better on this night making several tremendous stops to keep it a 3-0 game. Before the period was done, Brendan Morrow would make it a 4-0 game as Gylander had trouble with the Tegan Skehar point shot, and Morrow was there to put it in. 4-0 Cats after 40 minutes, and Larsen was up to 36 saves on the evening.

Even at 4-0, I don’t believe that anyone on the Cats bench assumed the game was done facing the top team in the nation, and as expected the Crusaders came at the Cats hard. It wasn’t until 12:50 of the period, their 45th shot, Gylander out and the Crusaders on the power-play that the Crusaders finally broke through on Larsen as Reid Irwin put in a rebound. Sherwood Park got another quick one off the stick of the leading scorer in the AJHL Arjun Atwal to make it 4-2. The Crusaders continued to put the pressure on, but the Bobcats did a good job from that point defending the 2 goal lead and finally at 18:19 it would be Tanner Mack putting it into the empty net for the Bobcats and putting the game on ice. The Crusaders ended up putting 53 shots on Garrett Larsen by the end of the night, but they could only get two of those pucks past the Wisconsin native, who needless to say was spectacular for the Cats this evening.

I caught up with Bobcats head coach after the game who had these thoughts on his teams performance. “I thought that our guys came prepared to work, and it continued on from last week. I thought we got out shot at the start, but we didn’t give up great chances and we stuck with it. And we’ve talked a lot about throwing pucks towards the net, and we did that and we found ways to convert on their turnovers and score some goals.” I asked Dube specifically about Larsen’s performance. “The tandem that we have back there with JD and Larss is huge, and for Larss to come in again was a big test to go back to back and he came through. Both goalies have everyone’s confidence throughout the room. Tonight Larss came up with some big saves at big times and guys rallied around that.”

The Bobcats will go for their 3rd straight win this Saturday as they head up to Fort McMurray to take on the Oil Barons. Puck drop for that one at the Casman Centre will be 7:30 and you can catch all the action on Hockey TV as Taylor Pope will have the call on that one. The Cats are only in action one more time at home for the 2019-2020 season, that being on Wednesday February 26th as they play host to the Olds Grizzlys. That one will get underway at 7:30, however if you are unable to make it down to the Civic Centre, Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call for you both on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!

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The Come Back Cats: Bobcats Rally to Down Drayton Valley

There was 8:52 to play in the 3rd period when Brendan Morrow gained the zone on Saturday night at the Centennial Civic Centre against the Drayton Valley Thunder.  The Thunder had a 2-0 lead.  Shots were 39-24, also in favour of the Thunder.  And Morrow was on his own as the rest of his line-mates were making a change, so he was 1 on 4.  This game simply had a feeling that it just wasn’t going to be the Bobcats night…

 

After a fast paced 1st period between the two teams produced zero’s on the scoreboard, the Thunder got it rolling in the 2nd.  Colson Gegenbach, after hitting the crossbar early in his shift, and then getting stopped point blank by Cats starter Garrett Larsen, refused to be denied as he one-timed a puck that bounced off the boards perfectly for him to hammer home and the Thunder had a 1-0 lead.  The Thunder continued to tilt the ice and finally were rewarded with their 2nd goal of the frame as Bailey Tomminga drilled one past Larsen from the right dot that was in off the back crossbar, wouldn’t be shocked if it made a dent, and the Thunder not only had a 2-0 lead but were all over the Cats.  Shots in the 2nd were 19-9 for the Thunder in the period, and the scoring chances were likely more lopsided than that for Drayton Valley.  Following the game Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube said of the period “I thought in the 2nd period we were awful, and there’s no other way to put it.  We didn’t compete hard, we cheated the game, and they got 2.”

 

As things got going in the 3rd, the Bobcats weren’t able to generate much.  They were executing better, but the ice was still tilted in Drayton Valley’s favour as Larsen was doing everything he could to keep it a 2-0 game, and he did just that making two or three excellent saves, and finished the evening with an outstanding 38 saves on 40 shots sent his way by the Thunder.  Then came that Morrow zone entry…

 

As I said, 1 on 4 didn’t give Morrow many options and the Thunder were able to corral the puck, but couldn’t get it out past Cats defenceman Cole Jungwirth who threw the puck to the slot.  With Morrow having worked his way into the slot, he had the presence of mind to find Chance Adrian, fresh off the bench and all alone behind him in the slot and Adrian buried it to not only make it a 2-1 game but completely ignite his hockey team.  I asked Dube after the game about the impact that goal had on the team.  “I think you would have felt like the game could have been a 4 or 5-0 game before that goal, and then when you cut the lead in half it revives everyone and that was what we said at the media time out.  And then a big power-play.”  That big power-play Dube referenced came with 6:37 to play as the Cats, already with a 5 on 4 advantage caught a break when Drayton Valley got caught with too many men on the ice.  It didn’t take the Cats long as Ty Mosimann cashed on the 5 on 3 and all of a sudden it was a tied game.  But the Cats weren’t done there as just 3:12 later and with only 3:00 to play the Cats won a big draw in the Thunder zone and it would be a shot from the point off the stick of Gunner Kinniburgh finding the back of the net, and the comeback was complete.  The Cats locked things down in the final 2:55 after the Kinniburgh goal and walk out of the Centennial Civic Centre a VERY happy group after the 3-2 victory.

 

“I was proud of our effort and what we did to come back in the 3rd period.  We persevered, and found a way.  It was a gutsy effort and proud of how they responded to the 2nd, and the effort throughout this week was pretty good” Dube said following the game.  1-1-1 record against 3 of the top 5 teams in the AJHL North absolutely is a heck of an effort by the Bobcats.  And not only a good effort, but the one thing that has become very noticeable with this hockey club as the season has moved along is the resiliency.  Early in the season, I don’t believe they come back from a 4-1 deficit in Bonnyville as they did Wednesday night.  Early in the season, I don’t believe they give the Spruce Grove Saints the fits that they did on Friday night.  And early in the season, I don’t believe they fight back from the 2nd period that they had Saturday night to pull out a victory.  They’re really starting to grow as a group.

 

The next time you have the chance to see that growth will be Wednesday night at the Civic Centre when the number one ranked team in the CJHL, the Sherwood Park Crusaders come to town to take on the Bobcats.  The last time the Bobcats took on the number one ranked team in the CJHL was just a little over 3 weeks ago when they defeated the Brooks Bandits by a score of 4-3.  Will history repeat itself?  Puck drop at the Civic Centre will be 7:30 PM, and of course if you can’t make it down to the arena, Shane Tomayer and myself will have all the action for you on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!

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Soups Rankings: All-Star Break, 2020

I’ve written so damn much today, rushing to get three different blogs out by the time you’re reading this (with three more on the way, hopefully this week), I’m not going to waste much time on this opening.  Jumping the gun by a week on these rankings with everyone off this past weekend for the All-Star break, much easier to do them when I’m not having to adjust on a night to night basis.

Quickly before I start, I’m essentially ranking my Cup favourites here, and at a certain point (this time around it’s 22) I go from ranking Cup chances to where they are as organizations.  So then it becomes more about where their rebuild is at because those teams aren’t making the playoffs.

 

31. Detroit Red Wings

Last month: 31st

What did I say about them in the previous months?  Go back and read that, I don’t feel like typing it again!

 

30. San Jose Sharks

Last month: 23rd

I gave them this last month, and then Couture got hurt and their season was DOA.  What a fucking mess!  No assets in the system, enormous cap issues, Doug Wilson is a good GM but he got flat out stupid with the Erik Karlsson trade, and then was even more dumb with the Erik Karlsson signing.  You need to go for it when your window is open, but you need to stay calculated and Wilson didn’t, and it may have crippled this organization.  Reminder: The Sens own their 1st round pick this season.

 

29. Los Angeles Kings

Last month: 29th

Same as Detroit, I’ve wrote the same thing on them all season, I’m sure you get it by now.  Things are bleak!

 

28. New Jersey Devils

Last month: 30th

Keep your eye on that Arizona pick as it’s only top 3 protected.  With Kuemper out they’ve been in free fall, and the Devils may end up hitting a home run with the Hall trade thanks to that.

 

27. Anaheim Ducks

Last month: 28th

Congratulations to the Ducks who move up a spot in my rankings thanks to me giving up on the Sharks.  A proud day for Bob Murray and company, no doubt…

 

26. Montreal Canadiens

Last month: 21st

Until they rebuild properly, I’m going to be down on them.  Now is the time to move on a big time rebuild for the Habs, and I’m TERRIFIED that Geoffry Molson won’t do it.  He’ll keep Marc Bergevin employed and they will just keep beating their heads against the wall as an organization.  Some might see this as “shitting” on the Habs, I’m actually pulling for the Habs because I want to see them get back to where they should be which is being a Cup contender.  They aren’t going to do that until they rebuild and not a dip their toe in the water type rebuild they’ve attempted.  Blow it the fuck up.

 

25. Minnesota Wild

Last month: 22nd

Dropped a little this month, that loss to the Panthers right before the break was a backbreaker.  They refuse to rebuild it, and the longer they try to put that off, the years I believe they are adding to the rebuild.  There is still a chance they make the playoffs, but even if they got in they aren’t going anywhere.

 

24. Ottawa Senators

Last month: 24th

I’m sure this one will be the most controversial, but the fact of the matter is that I love where this team is sitting with their rebuild.  As it currently stands, they have a 17% shot at winning the top pick, and I believe they have a chance to have as much as a 21% chance.  To put that in perspective, 31st only gets you 18%.  But just put that aside, this draft is amazing and they’re looking at owning two top 10 picks, and five in the top 62 in what is one of the deepest drafts we’ve seen in the last decade.  Combine that with all the quality kids they already have in the organization and this team is completely loaded moving forward.  They’re not good at the moment, but who cares?!

 

23. New York Rangers

Last month: 25th

I’m not in love with what they have moving forward.  They are ok, they have some decent pieces, but the one guy they have who might have superstar type ability is Kakko, but I’m not sure he can get to that level either.  Now, they can draw UFA’s as well as any team in the league so that has to be factored in, but I don’t know if they are set up right now to be anything more than just a perennial playoff team down the line.

 

22. Buffalo Sabres

Last month: 19th

I really believe that even though they won’t make the playoffs this season, they are finally on the rise.  Bittersweet for Sabres fans perhaps, but I see this as a massive step and perhaps next season they take another one where they’re in the playoffs.

 

21. Chicago Blackhawks

Last month: 27th

They’re coming.  2nd straight season they are making a strong push after looking like they were done.  I still don’t know though.

 

20. Arizona Coyotes

Last month: 16th

This is very dependent on Darcy Kuemper’s return…or lack thereof.  I didn’t buy into Kuemper having the numbers he had, but since he’s gone down so have the Coyotes.  This at least has the potential to get interesting with Taylor Hall.  The way they’re going, they could fall out of it if they don’t get out of this tailspin and if they do, I’m sure John Chayka would visit the possibility of cutting his losses.

 

19. Edmonton Oilers

Last month: 20th

I’m staying reserved on their success despite looking MUCH better in January.  But they also have the most potential to jump up all the way to the top 10 because they are 10 games away from being a buyer.  If they are in it by the deadline (it’s actually 13 games until the deadline, but you get what I’m saying), they’ll buy and then they can add some depth.  If they get depth upfront, this could be a scary team come playoff time.  But they have to make it until the trade deadline and their schedule is pretty tough in the next 10.  One encouraging stat is that they’re 3rd in the West/8th overall in regulation points percentage at .541.  No 3 on 3 or shootouts come playoff time.

 

18. Vegas Golden Knights

Last month: 8th

A big fall down my rankings.  I have to say, I hate this coaching change.  And I worry that this is a rare coaching change that will actually hurt the club rather than help.  I’m not seeing what Peter DeBoer can adjust to make them better.  Gerard Gallant had a system in place that hid their flaws.  The blueline is awful and they are too slow, which Gallant countered by having them play a style where they were constantly moving.  Add to all this, Marc-Andre Fleury’s career year of 2018 isn’t what he is.  This season falls in line more with what he really is.  And Malcolm Subban has never really progressed, so combined it’s not a very good combo.

 

17. Calgary Flames

Last month: 18th

I believe they are the 2nd best team in the division, if not the top team.  But they only have 17 wins in regulation right now.  That’s tied for 22nd in the league.

 

16. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last month: 26th

It is such a GREAT story.  But I just simply don’t buy that they are truly legitimate.  Having said that, this is the value of a great blueline and they perhaps have the most underrated ones in the league.

 

15. New York Islanders

Last month: 12th

I’m not a big believer in them either despite loving what they’ve accomplished with what they have.  Slowly, they are coming back to earth after an incredible start.

 

14. Winnipeg Jets

Last month: 14th

It’s odd.  I shouldn’t like them more than Vegas as right now it’s essentially the same roster, but I like the Jets speed better and I believe the break could be huge for Hellebuyck to get back on track.  But it goes without saying that they better get it together soon.  I don’t want to hear about the Byfuglien situation handcuffing them, they just don’t want to part with one of their top forwards to upgrade the D.  Do it and chase a forward once the Byfuglien situation is resolved, not that hard.

 

13. Philadelphia Flyers

Last month: 15th

I really don’t know what to make of this team.  They’re good, they look like a playoff team, but I wonder if this is what they are built to be is a perennial playoff team and nothing more, which would be pretty disappointing after going through their rebuild.  At least it looks like they’ve FINALLY found their goalie, only took 30 years or so.

 

12. Vancouver Canucks

Last month: 17th

I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the best of this team yet.  The one thing I’d like to see is for them to upgrade the blueline, but I’m not sure what they can do with it.  But they’re really deep up front, good blueline, good goaltending.

 

11. Nashville Predators

Last month: 9th

I’m still not quitting on them, but I’m very close to doing so.  One of the best 5 on 5 teams in the league though so if they can get their special teams figured out under John Hynes then they’ll be a force.

 

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last month: 7th

Again, really no different from the Jets and Knights.  They are getting Muzzin back this week which will be massive.  IF they can get in the playoffs (which unfortunately for Leafs fans, it is far from a certainty), then the Morgan Rielly injury could end up being a blessing in disguise as they could put him on LTIR until the end of the season and use that cap money to make a big addition.  But we’ll see if they choose to go that route.  Badly need to upgrade on Michael Hutchinson to give Andersen some rest and get back to the level he’s capable of playing at.

 

9. Colorado Avalanche

Last month: 11th

I love this team and they are going to be a Cup contender VERY soon, I just don’t see them as one quite yet.

 

8. Florida Panthers

Last month: 13th

I am very up and down on this team.  On one hand, if Bobrovsky gets back to form, they’re good enough to win it all.  On the other hand, Bobrovsky has been putrid this season and it isn’t as though they can move him out and upgrade between the pipes.  For now, I’ll go with the former.

 

7. Carolina Hurricanes

Last month: 4th

I don’t really love having them this high to be honest, but they’re a goaltender away.  And this team is LOADED with assets and movable contracts.  So if Eric Tulsky (I mean Don Waddell…) wants to, they can go get a goaltender.  Robin Lehner is apparently their first choice, but Chicago is now in the hunt.  I would bet they are the team that ends up landing Georgiev, who might not seem like a big get but with that team in front of him he could be a game-changer.

 

6. Dallas Stars

Last month: 10th

This team is built for playoff hockey, and they appear headed for a 1st round matchup with the Avs who I love, but I would bet everything I could on the Stars in that series.  The question I have for the Stars is whether or not they can handle the Blues.

 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last month: 5th

Here they come.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you I’ve been saying this all season.  And they’ve overcome adversity this season, overcome the 1st round sweep, they’re a legit contender once again.

 

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last month: 6th

I’ve probably said this every month this season, I thought they were done.  They’re not done.  And now, that Crosby injury will actually help them as he’ll be fresh as we get into the playoffs.  I believe Jim Rutherford will load up too.  At first glance, they don’t have much cap room, but Alex Galchenyuk is expiring so they can dump his 4.9 million, and there are other things they can also do to free up a lot of money and really load up.  This might be their final shot.

 

3. Boston Bruins

Last month: 2nd

They’re bored.  I’ve debated still having them 1st, but in thinking about the playoffs, they are going to have a tough road even if they cruise into the postseason.  I believe Tampa will catch them for the division crown, but as we know the Bruins are built for the playoffs.

 

2. Washington Capitals

Last month: 3rd

It’s really just the same old, same old for the Caps.  I do wonder if Brian MacLellan will get aggressive at this deadline though with Holtby’s contract being up and the Backstrom extension kicking in next season, this might be their last chance.

 

1. St. Louis Blues

Last month: 1st

At this point, I don’t know who can beat them in the West.  Dallas is maybe best suited to do so, but

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2020 NHL Draft: Mock Draft V.1

Wow.  I was worried this season would be like the last where I had no time to do a top 32 list, and no time to do any mock drafts which are probably what I do best.  So I have to admit, I’m pretty pumped I managed to get a mid-season one out!

You have to understand one thing when reading this: It’s just for fun.  It’s a fun read, lots of people love the draft and love reading mocks.  It also helps fans who blindly say “trade a pick” to put a face to that pick.  All of a sudden, fans aren’t so eager to “trade a pick”.  This is the perfect time to do one though as we’re a little under a month away from the trade deadline.

Be sure to check out my top 32 rankings that I’m also releasing today to read up more on how I feel about each player.

***Standings as of Jan. 27th, 2020 based off points percentage

Logo courtesy of sportslogos.net

1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G: 24  A: 60  P: 84

Born: 10/11/01, Saint-Eustache, QC

SOH Rank: 1st

There is no other choice at this point.  Others have been intriguing, but Lafrenière is the pick for whoever wins this pick.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 29  A: 41  P: 70

Born: 08/19/02, Newmarket, ON

SOH Rank: 2nd

This pick isn’t the slam dunk that Lafrenière is.  The Kings don’t have much in the system on the blueline and took Alex Turcotte last spring, so Jamie Drysdale would get a long look at this point.  Still, I believe if the draft happened today, Byfield would be the pick as that potential is going to be too tough for NHL teams to pass up.

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3. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 7  A: 31  P: 38

Born: 04/08/02, Toronto, ON

SOH Rank: 3rd

This team badly needs to build up their blueline.  Ty Smith is about it.  I know they got Kevin Bahl as well, but I’m not sold on Bahl being a guy to get too excited about.  Drysdale is going to be a stud, you can’t pass him up if you’re the Devils.

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4. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 37  G: 28  A: 53  P: 81

Born: 09/23/01, Feldkirch, AUT

SOH Rank: 4th

Not the guy I’m sure they’ll truly desire, but you aren’t going to be upset about getting a high end centre who is already in the market.

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5. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 21  G: 4  A: 4  P: 8

Born: 03/28/02, Göteborg, SWE

SOH Rank: 5th

This is maybe the biggest need for the Ducks right now, skill up front.  They have some very good young pieces, but more skill is needed and Raymond brings a ton of that.

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6. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G: 6  A: 22  P: 28

Born: 01/15/02, Viersen, GER

SOH Rank: 6th

Originally San Jose’s pick, sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  Again, they will badly want Drysdale in my opinion (outside of Lafrenière), but there is no other D worth taking here (at this point).  The Sens aren’t going to be too upset with a Friday night haul of Rossi and Stützle.

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7. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 46  G: 28  A: 54  P: 82

Born: 01/01/02, Whitby, ON

SOH Rank: 11th

There are others who I would pick if I were the Habs in this position.  But the Habs have a knack for being poor team builders.  I really like Perfetti, but he wouldn’t be my pick in this spot and for this squad.  This is 100% a gut feeling as to what they’d here.

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8. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 163  Glove: R

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G.A.A.: 2.36  Sv%: .923

Born: 06/16/02, Omsk, RUS

SOH Rank: 9th

A perfect pick for a team that has admitted they need to rebuild yet, but will be forced to soon.  When they do, it’ll be a big help to have it started with a stud between the pipes.

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9. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 27  G: 6  A: 13  P: 19

Born: 10/03/01, Espoo, FIN

SOH Rank: 7th

Casey Mittlestadt already looks like a miss (I know it’s super early, I’m not counting him out but it’s how they have to look at it), and they don’t have that guy right now who can help Eichel out with the heavy lifting.  Lundell could fill those shoes.

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10. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 3  A: 5  P: 8

Born: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

SOH Rank: 10th

This team really needs to upgrade down the middle, but the question here would be whether or not they’d see Holloway as a centre?  They’d get to see him a lot this season though being the teammate of 2018 1st rounder K’Andre Miller.

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11. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 25  G: 7  A: 5  P: 12

Born: 01/23/02, Saltsjö-Boo, SWE

SOH Rank: 8th

The Jets big need is on D, but Holtz would be too big of a talent to pass on.  Add to that, the Jets would then be able to afford shipping out a guy like Ehlers or Connor for the D-man they so badly need.

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12. Noel Gunler 

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 34  G: 2  A: 7  P: 9

Born: 10/07/01, Luleå, SWE

SOH Rank: 12th

They’re all about just taking what they view as the most skilled guy on the board.  It seems in the last few years they’ve gone all in on that philosophy, so Gunler fits them perfectly.

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13. William Wallinder

Team: MODO J-20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 29  G: 5  A: 16  P: 21

Born: 07/28/02, Sollefteå, SWE

SOH Rank: 13th

Their blueline is now getting old.  They aren’t old yet, but by the time the 13th pick arrives no matter who it would be, they’ll be pretty hard up for someone to emerge and they don’t have a sure thing in the system at the moment.

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14. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 5  A: 25  P: 30

Born: 09/20/01, Prince Albert, SK

SOH Rank: 31st

Not a doubt in my mind here.  Kelly McCrimmon will know Schneider better than most and there is a massive hole in the Golden Knights organization at the moment on the right side of the blueline.

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15. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 47  G: 8  A: 20  P: 28

Born: 01/18/02, Sherwood Park, AB

SOH Rank: 14th

Originally Arizona’s pick sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade.  I’m a massive fan of Guhle’s and can’t wait for others to catch up.  If the Devils walk out of this draft with Dyrsdale and Guhle to join Ty Smith in the system, there we go.  Now the Devils rebuild would be going somewhere.

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16. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 26  A: 37  P: 63

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

SOH Rank: 15th

At the moment, they really crave talent on the right side.  I might look to the blueline here as they don’t have anyone coming, two UFA’s, an ageing star, and then Valimaki’s injuries are concerning too.  But, they seem hell-bent on addressing the right side up front and Jarvis would do that.

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17. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 6  A: 4  P: 10

Born: 01/14/02, München, GER

SOH Rank: 19th

Originally Toronto’s pick sent to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade.  Much like the Blackhawks, the Canes just love to go after skill and Peterka fits the bill here.

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18. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 40  G: 28  A: 31  P: 59

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

SOH Rank: 26th

It’s maybe not the centre out of the dub who I would select here (at this time), but I have Zary right behind Finley and would have no issue with the pick.  The Oilers badly need to address the middle in their system, which is what I’ve been screaming for them to do for a few years now.  It’s enhanced now with RNH going into the final year of his deal next season.

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19. Jake Sanderson

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 49  G: 6  A: 22  P: 28

Born: 07/08/02, Whitefish, MT

SOH Rank: 23rd

From 2013-15 they aggressively looked to address their blueline.  Last year, they went back to that and I don’t believe they should be done or will be done.  He was only there for one season, but Jake’s dad Geoff did spend a season in Philly.

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20. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 18  A: 29  P: 47

Born: 10/27/01, Bay Roberts, NL

SOH Rank: 17th

A lot of different ways the Stars could go with their 1st rounder, but the big thing I wonder is if they’ll own it come February 25th.  I doubt it.  But if they do, I’d just take the top skill on the board which I believe Mercer would be.

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21. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 10  A: 26  P: 36

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

SOH Ranking: 25th

They drafted Ryan Johansen, and the more this season rolls on the more Finley’s draft year reminds me of Johansen’s.  The size, the skating, the ascension, the production, and I just wonder if their scouts would see it the same way.

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22. Vasili Ponomaryov 

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G: 15  A: 22  P: 37

Born: 03/13/02, Zelenograd, RUS

SOH Ranking: 20th

Again, the Hurricanes love to take skill and Ponomaryov has a lot of skill, but also has a lot of the intangibles too.  Feels to me like the Canes wouldn’t pass on him.

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23. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 26  A: 30  P: 56

Born: 01/18/02, Alliston, ON

SOH Ranking: 21st

This organization loves their skilled size, and they have gone heavy on OHL kids over the years.  So Foerster really fits the bill nicely for the Panthers.

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24. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 28  A: 27  P: 55

Born: 04/15/02, Montreal, QC

SOH Ranking: 18th

The Avs are in a great spot.  That blueline is loaded moving forward, they are great up front, I’d probably look to stockpile forwards for the next few drafts.  Jacob Perreault is a forward, so take him!

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25. Justin Barron

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 27  G: 4  A: 13  P: 17

Born: 11/15/01, Halifax, NS

SOH Ranking: 28th

They took a right shot D out of the Q in 2018, and I could see them going back to that well here.  Barron has had a tough season, but he could end up being a steal for someone because of it.

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26. Rodion Amirov

Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa  League: KHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 21  G: 0  A: 2  P: 2

Born: 10/02/01, Salavat, RUS

SOH Ranking: 32nd

With no Foote children on the board, the Lightning go back to the Russian well that has served them well over the years.

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27. Brendan Brisson

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G: 17  A: 19  P: 36

Born: 10/22/01, Manhattan Beach, CA

SOH Ranking: 27th

If you’re thinking to yourself “Soups, you’re just saying this because his dad is Crosby’s agent”…you are correct.  Well, that’s not the only reason, the Pens need to put as much talent in the bank as they can, but there is no doubt that this would make a ton of sense because of the Crosby-Brisson connection.  Having said this…I would guess the Pens won’t own this pick come late June.

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28. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 8  A: 49  P: 57

Born: 01/05/02, St. Albert, AB

SOH Ranking: 24th

Originally Vancouver’s pick sent to Tampa Bay in the J.T. Miller trade.  Some might be asking why the Canucks pick would be 28th rather than 19th?  Because the four division champs (in the playoffs) will have the final four picks.  Since I’m not doing this based off my own projections, this is where they land.  I truly believe Benning is going in the 1st round, and the Lightning have had a strong presence in the West of late.

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29. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 19  G: 2  A: 15  P: 17

Born: 02/09/02, Gatineau, QC

SOH Ranking: 16th

I’ve said for years that the Bruins need to get ready for the decline of Bergeron and Krejci, and while they’ve somewhat looked to address it, they need to stockpile guys in my opinion until it looks as though a few of them may pop.  Lapierre has a ton of Bergeron in his game and only would fall to this point because of his injury issues.

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30. Jake Neighbours 

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 49  G: 16  A: 35  P: 51

Born: 03/29/02, Airdrie, AB

SOH Ranking: NR

They’ve had a lot of success with skilled size, and while every team is going to be big on IQ, they seem to perhaps value it more than most do with the kids they take.  Neighbours fits both bills.

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31. Antonio Stranges

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 44  G: 17  A: 18  P: 35

Born: 02/05/02, Plymouth, MI

SOH Ranking: NR

They’ll know him very well.  Dale Hunter is still close with a lot of people in the Caps organization, plus they already have Connor McMichael there who they’ll be watching closely.  Stranges isn’t knocking it out of the park this season, but the skill is ridiculous with this kid.

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 32 Prospects (January, 2020)

I did it!  A top 32 list during the season!  Last year, I never got around to doing this, and only ended up having time to do a top 32 list right after the 2018 draft was done, and a top 62 list right before the draft occurred.  I’d say this is at least a sign that I might get 4 or 5 updated lists done by the time the draft rolls around in June.

As I always say around this point, I’m not a scout.  These rankings are much more like Bob McKenzie’s in that I’m not getting to see these kids as much as I need to declare myself a scout.  What I do is look through every quality and trusted write up I can find on these kids, every piece of video I can find, and then form my own opinion from there.  So I rely heavily on guys like Mark Edwards and Hockey Prospect (specifically the Black Book, if you’re a draft fan it is a MUST get, amazing every year), Future Considerations, even though I don’t normally agree with how he ranks his players I read and have big-time respect for the work Corey Pronman does, same goes for Steve Kournianous (who also does a good podcast that’s a great listen), specifically with the OHL kids a couple of great guys to follow are Brock Otten and my buddy Sean Patrick Ryan do great work and have great insight.  I couldn’t do my own rankings without these guys doing far better work than what I do.  But I will say I don’t simply take the averages of where these guys rank players and call it a day.  I have my own insights on what I’m looking for, so I take their reports more so than their rankings or opinions, couple it with what I’ve been able to see and create a list of my own (and as you’ll see, I definitely do MY OWN rankings).

What do I look for?  A lot.  First and foremost skating is most vital.  Skill is obviously extremely important.  IQ is huge though you won’t see me use “hockey sense” very much as I believe in IQ in general over “hockey sense” (theory being that sometimes players are so talented they might not have to think the game coming up, but if they have a high IQ that it will come).  I MUCH prefer playmakers to snipers.  Playmakers are often more intelligent players, and playmakers can play with other playmakers while it’s extremely rare that snipers work well with each other.  I’m not near the “sizest” that I once was, but still am likely more of a size guy than most seem to be.  One thing I will now value a bit more moving forward is players being NHL ready.  The reason being with ELC’s only being three years, a team shouldn’t be wasting the majority of the contract on developing a player, so I won’t be as hot as I’ve been in years past on a player who is much more of a project.  When I dig into the numbers, I want to know who the damage was done against, who were they playing with, and what the situation was (ES?  PP?  SH?).  Something I’m not as high on as most is “dynamic”.  I get why scouts love it, and I don’t disregard it, but you don’t get style points in hockey.  If you can toe drag a junior defenceman, it really doesn’t mean much because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do that in the pros.

Is that enough for you?  Well, that is just what I like in my players.  After all that, I then look for five big things: Current production, ceiling/upside, downside, how the players game will translate, and acquireability (I’m making this a word).  I guess the most simple way to put it for “acquireability” is I put a higher value on assets or player types which are tougher to acquire mostly due to how difficult it is to make a trade in today’s landscape and how crippling UFA can be.  I don’t disregard wingers nearly as bad as I used to (2015, put Mitch Marner 7th in my rankings…OOPS…) but centres and defencemen are more difficult and more valuable pieces to land, so they get preferential treatment in my rankings.

Finally, normally I do tiering.  More people do it now thankfully, and I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t quite frankly.  Do some scouts truly believe there is a definitive gap between every prospect?  There are so many cases where kids are so indistinguishable as prospects, that a team is bound to go with the biggest need within a tiering.  You don’t pick need over the best player available (BPA).  But you also can’t ignore team building, especially in a league where it is increasingly more difficult to make trades.  So you shouldn’t disregard which tier I have players in.  That is more vital in my mind then whichever number a guy is overall.  Having said all this, being this far away from the draft I decided not to do it at this time as once we’re past about the 12th prospect, I could have a tier from 13 all the way to 35!

One more thing before I get going, I don’t go in-depth on my prospects this time around as I’m hoping to do a podcast that will accompany this piece, so be sure to subscribe to my podcast feed and watch for that very soon!  Also, I’m putting this piece out simultaneously as my first mock draft of the season, so be sure to give that a look as well!

 

1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G: 24  A: 60  P: 84

Born: 10/11/01, Saint-Eustache, QC

I’m ashamed to say I had thought about putting him as low as 4th about a month ago.  Nothing at all he was doing wrong, I was just simply falling too far in love with others.  Then the World Juniors screwed my head back on straight.  One thing you’ll notice, I list him as a centre because I would draft him to be one.  Sid lined up on the wing his entire junior career too, so it’s not as though this is unheard of.

 

2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 29  A: 41  P: 70

Born: 08/19/02, Newmarket, ON

He continues to disappoint at big events (Hlinka/Gretzky, WJC, prospects game, etc.) but this kid is knocking it out of the park in Sudbury this season, and the combination of size, skating and skill is going to be damn near impossible for a team to pass up outside of the top pick.

 

3. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 7  A: 31  P: 38

Born: 04/08/02, Toronto, ON

I’ll keep it short and sweet, I see him as a franchise defenceman.  He has every tool to become a legitimate number one guy, which is damn near impossible to find.

 

4. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 37  G: 28  A: 53  P: 81

Born: 09/23/01, Feldkirch, AUT

I didn’t do comps again, but mine for Rossi is Sebastian Aho.  He is very small for a centre, but he’s a centre.  He plays a pro game, which I just LOVE.

 

5. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 21  G: 4  A: 4  P: 8

Born: 03/28/02, Göteborg, SWE

As I said back in the summer, the guy Raymond reminds me so much of is Paul Kariya.  So much speed and so much skill.

 

6. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G: 6  A: 22  P: 28

Born: 01/15/02, Viersen, GER

Much like Lafrenière, he’s playing the wing but I see him playing the middle in the pro’s, just because I feel you will max out his capabilities by doing so.  Phenomenal talent and solid away from the puck too.

 

7. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 27  G: 6  A: 13  P: 19

Born: 10/03/01, Espoo, FIN

Complete 200-foot centres aren’t the sexiest picks, but they’ll always have a higher spot on my lists than most others.  I’m a big fan of Lundell’s complete game.

 

8. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 25  G: 7  A: 5  P: 12

Born: 01/23/02, Saltsjö-Boo, SWE

We’ll see if a pure sniper like Holtz can stay this high in my rankings as I’m never too high on pure snipers, but Holtz also has big time wheels and I’m a big proponent of that.

 

9. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 163  Glove: R

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G.A.A.: 2.36  Sv%: .923

Born: 06/16/02, Omsk, RUS

Man, I’m tempted to have him much higher than this.  I was tempted by Samsonov in 2015 and wouldn’t have cried had the Oilers kept their 16th pick and taken him.  Should have.  I know the fear with goaltenders high in the draft, but you also have to recognize when the exception to the rule comes around and Askarov might be that.

 

10. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 3  A: 5  P: 8

Born: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

Again, if I had done comparisons this time around, I loved mine for Holloway which was Dylan Larkin.  Love his speed.  Stats in his first season at Wisconsin aren’t flattering, but he’s in tough to get quality ice time with the Badgers.

 

11. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 46  G: 28  A: 54  P: 82

Born: 01/01/02, Whitby, ON

He is tearing up the OHL right now.  I find myself being torn on him.  I like the production, and I like the fact that he’s doing it as a centre given that I see him playing the wing down the road, but the skating isn’t great.

 

12. Noel Gunler

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 34  G: 2  A: 7  P: 9

Born: 10/07/01, Luleå, SWE

Another kid like Holtz and like Perfetti who I find myself saying “I wonder how much I’m going to like him as this process goes on” because it’s not like I have all the information yet just like everyone else!  For now, I’m ok having him here.

 

13. William Wallinder

Team: MODO J-20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 29  G: 5  A: 16  P: 21

Born: 07/28/02, Sollefteå, SWE

As you can see, this is a big kid.  But he is a terrific skater for his size which is why I’m a huge fan.  Isn’t going to impress you with his offensive game, but he is terrific in his own zone and moves it very well.

 

14. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 47  G: 8  A: 20  P: 28

Born: 01/18/02, Sherwood Park, AB

Ironically, Guhle is extremely similar to Wallinder, which really makes me scratch my head as to why so many people love Wallinder and don’t give Guhle more love.  If you want a more in-depth look at Guhle, check out my upcoming WHL rankings.

 

15. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 26  A: 37  P: 63

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

He’s definitely the most exciting prospect coming out of the WHL this season.  Jarvis isn’t too big, but he’s highly skilled and plays bigger than his size.

 

16. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 19  G: 2  A: 15  P: 17

Born: 02/09/02, Gatineau, QC

He was so good at the Hlinka/Gretzky that I just can’t forget it.  Obviously he has missed most of the season, but that performance was just too good and while Cole Perfetti stole the headlines, I felt it was Lapierre who was the MVP of that Canadian team.

 

17. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 18  A: 29  P: 47

Born: 10/27/01, Bay Roberts, NL

He has been so good this season.  I like that he seems to be able to produce in every way.  The skill to find guys and snipe, and the willingness to go wherever he needs to on the ice to get the job done.

 

18. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 28  A: 27  P: 55

Born: 04/15/02, Montreal, QC

Playing the middle in Sarnia, but I love him as a winger in the pros.  Less responsibility and a chance to utilize that big shot of his much more.

 

19. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 6  A: 4  P: 10

Born: 01/14/02, München, GER

I really like this kids wheels.  He’s a safe pick based on that, but he has a lot of skill to go with that skating ability.

 

20. Vasili Ponomaryov 

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G: 15  A: 22  P: 37

Born: 03/13/02, Zelenograd, RUS

It isn’t often with Russian kids that one of the big things which stands out is the motor and the compete.  But last year that was what I liked about Podkolzin, and again this year with Ponomaryov.  Not crushing it in the Q as some may have expected him to this season, but I’m still a fan.

 

21. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 26  A: 30  P: 56

Born: 01/18/02, Alliston, ON

Much like Perreault, playing the middle in Barrie but I like him a lot more as a winger in the pros.  My buddy SPR compares him to James Neal and even though I don’t know the OHL near as well as he does, I definitely agree with what I’ve seen of Foerster.

 

22. Jan Mysak

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 9  A: 4  P: 13

Born: 06/24/02, Litvinov, CZE

Those stats are a combination of what he’s done all season as he has freshly moved to North America and to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.  So far so good with 3 goals in 4 games, but this will give everyone a much better chance to grade Mysak.  A lot of people like him but hadn’t seen him a ton, but now we all have our chance.

 

23. Jake Sanderson

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 49  G: 6  A: 22  P: 28

Born: 07/08/02, Whitefish, MT

Stats are a combination of his season.  Great skater just like his old man was.  Not following in the family footsteps in terms of position however.  A ton of raw talent with Sanderson.  It’ll be interesting to see where he plays next season.  Committed to North Dakota, but for the 21-22 season.  BCHL?  AJHL?

 

24. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 8  A: 49  P: 57

Born: 01/05/02, St. Albert, AB

Keeping with the D-men, keeping with the bloodlines, keeping with kids going the college route.  I talk a ton about Benning both on Twitter and in my WHL write-up’s (where I also talk a lot about the AJHL kids), but the bottom line I keep coming back to is that so many people are missing that this kid is simply a 1st round pick.  He has the skating, the skill, the size is good enough, and the one I keep pointing out is his PPG numbers have been better than Cale Makar’s were in his draft year until this past weekend (which that was Makar’s 18 year old season, this is Benning’s 17 year old season).

 

25. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 10  A: 26  P: 36

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

He is being slept on at the moment.  He is a full year younger than Connor Zary, and he’s producing near the same even strength numbers as Zary despite seeing tough matchups, where Zary is on the top line in the WHL.  The more people dig in on Finley, the more I expect him to rocket up draft boards assuming the production levels stay the same.

 

26. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 40  G: 28  A: 31  P: 59

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

Well I just got done trashing Zary, now let me build him back up…not trashing the kid at all, I’m a big fan of his.  I just simply can’t find much reason to have him ahead of Finley.  The wheels aren’t great, but should be good enough, and the kid is a coaches dream in that he can thrive in any situation.

 

27. Brendan Brisson

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G: 17  A: 19  P: 36

Born: 10/22/01, Manhattan Beach, CA

The son of super agent Pat Brisson, the younger Brisson has very good wheels and is very skilled.  He’s always making something happen on the ice.

 

28. Justin Barron

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 27  G: 4  A: 13  P: 17

Born: 11/15/01, Halifax, NS

This kid has had one rough season with inconsistency and injuries.  But I’m still finding myself to be pretty high on him.  What might work to his advantage too is that this draft isn’t deep on the blueline, and even more thin in terms of offensively skilled blueliners.

 

29. Ty Smilanic

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 29  G: 9  A: 16  P: 25

Born: 01/20/02, Denver, CO

Like with Sanderson, stats are a combination of his season.  I love this kid’s motor.  He plays with a ton of energy and a ton of passion for the game.  His game reminds me a bit of Liam Foudy’s at this point where I’m not sure where he’ll end up fitting, I just think he’s a pretty safe pick for someone.

 

30. Ryan O’Rourke

Team: Sault Ste. Marie  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 6  A: 20  P: 26

Born: 05/16/02, Pickering, ON

O’Rourke is a kid who I might continue to win me over more and more as we go on here.  Again, not the undersized puck mover on the blueline we’ve seen so much of the last few drafts.  He’s terrific in his own zone, but he also has a bomb of a shot.  A lot to like here.

 

31. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 5  A: 25  P: 30

Born: 09/20/01, Prince Albert, SK

I’ve been much lower on him than most, but now I’m just a bit lower on him than most because I was too hard on his upside and ignoring the fact that he’s such a safe pick.  He’ll play in the league, it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be a Matt Benning type, or a Travis Hamonic type.

 

32. Rodion Amirov

Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa  League: KHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 21  G: 0  A: 2  P: 2

Born: 10/02/01, Salavat, RUS

Stats are misleading, as he’s had 19 points in 19 games combined VHL and MHL.  Another kid like Ponomaryov who isn’t the “prototypical” Russian forward.  Amirov has good speed and skill, but plays a very responsible game.

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Storm Surge: Grand Prairie Rides a Strong 10 Minutes to Victory Over Bobcats

The Lloydminster Bobcats were looking to build off of perhaps their most impressive weekend of the season on Wednesday evening against the Grand Prairie Storm.  A 1-1 weekend may not look like much of an accomplishment, but given the two games were against the top-ranked team in the CJHL in the Brooks Bandits, and the (at the time) 6th ranked Okotoks Oilers.  A 4-3 win and a hard fought 5-3 loss is a weekend any team in the AJHL would gladly take facing those two clubs.  However, despite another very good effort, the puck luck simply wasn’t there and the Cats came out on the short end of the stick by a score of 3-2.

 

The Cats had a lot of good jump early on and just 2:20 in it was Brendan Morrow taking the pass from Chad MacLean in the slot and finding the back of the net to make it 1-0.  MacLean then had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 as he came off the bench while the Cats controlled the puck in the Storm zone.  As MacLean got in the play the puck rolled to him in the high slot which he was able to skate into and get everything behind a wrist shot.  Unfortunately for MacLean and the Cats, the puck went off the crossbar.  This may have been the turning point in the game, as the Storm seemed to get a lift from that break.  Juliano Santalucia would tie the game for the Storm as he beat Bobcats starter Josh Dias with a good wrist shot at 10:01 of the period.  Then after killing off the only man advantage of the period, the Storm would take the lead at 14:18 as the puck found the stick of Cade Mason who sent a rocket passed Dias.  Ethan Strang would make it 3-1 for the Storm before the period was through and the Cats were reeling after a period of play.

 

Josh Dias held the fort for the Cats in the 2nd period as the Storm were throwing everything they possibly could on goal, but Dias held strong.  Unfortunately for the Cats, the Storm’s starting netminder Kaeden Lane was just as good in this contest and he wasn’t going to make life easy for the Bobcats, including stopping Cam Aucoin who got in all alone short-handed in the frame.  Neither goaltender was beaten in the period and it remained 3-1 heading into the 3rd.

 

The Cats made a strong push in the 3rd period as they looked to cut the lead to 1.  A Jack Zayat cross checking penalty put the Storm down 5 on 3 for 49 seconds with 9:07 remaining in the 3rd.  Off the face off one of the Storm penalty killers would break his stick, essentially putting them down 5 on 2.  However “fortunately” for Lane…the net would be knocked off before the Bobcats could capitalize, and the Storm would be able to regroup and subsequently win the next face-off, clear the zone, and kill the rest of the 5 on 3.  The Cats would finally break through late in the 5 on 4 power play however as a Gunner Kinniburgh point shot found it’s way to the back of the net.  It appeared as though the shot was tipped in front by Nolen Coventry, but nevertheless the Cats were within 1 with 6:19 remaining.  In the dying seconds the Cats made a very hard push, but once again as the Cats looked like they may be ready to tie the game, Lane once again “caught a break” with the net coming off its moorings to stop play.  Credit where it’s due however, as Lane played a great game stopping 33 of 35 shots and made some big saves late in the game.  The Cats were unable to capitalize with the 6th attacker on the ice, the Storm held on for the 3-2 win.

 

 

I caught up with Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube after the game who had these thoughts.  “I thought we came out with a good start, we did some really good things early on, but then we got away from the hard work.  They put their work boots on, and it wasn’t pretty but it started ending up in the back of our net and we simply got outworked.  But we came back good and out chanced them in the 2nd, and then in the 3rd it was a nail biter right til the end.  I thought we fully controlled play in the 3rd and just didn’t come up with enough.  But when you don’t have your work boots on for a full 60, and we learned that the hard way tonight.”  I asked the coach what he thought of Storm starter Kaeden Lane knocking his net off its moorings going uncalled late in the game and Dube simply said: “We thought they should have been called, but they weren’t and we just have to move on.”

 

The Bobcats are on the road this weekend with two games in Drayton Valley and one in Whitecourt sandwiched between those two games.  All three games this weekend can be found on Hockey TV, puck drop for Friday’s tilt in Drayton Valley is 7 PM.  The Cats next home game will be Friday, January 31st as they’ll host of the Whitecourt Wolverines.  As always, if you can’t make it down to the rink, Shane Tomayer (though NOT myself as I will be out of town, much to the delight of our viewers I’m sure!) will have the call for you on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!

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