For the Peterborough Petes, a pair of players have been drawing attention from NHL scouts this season, and for good reason.
In the midst of a push toward the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, both Hunter Jones and Nick Robertson have seen plenty of ice for the club in their second seasons with the club.
Jones, ranked among the top draft-eligible goaltenders in North America, has benefitted from playing with a young Petes team.
“He’s been really good for us all year,” Petes coach Rob Wilson said of Jones. “He’s played consistent for us all year and that’s why he gets the press he has. We’re a young team. We only have one 19-year-old in the lineup. He’s got to stand up big for us. He’s been doing that.”
A late birthdate, born after the Sept. 15 cutoff for the NHL draft, Jones served as a backup to Edmonton Oilers prospect Dylan Wells last season and appeared in 15 games.
His stats have shown a dramatic improvement one season later on a Petes team that is battling for playoff positioning in the OHL’s Eastern Conference.
Through the weekend, Jones has appeared in 41 of Peterborough’s 47 games, picking up 21 wins, a 3.36 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
Jones was also a member of Team Orr in the annual Top Prospects game last week, stopping 18 of the 20 shots he faced in a starting role.
Robertson, a highly-skilled forward, also had an impact on the annual game as he assisted on three goals for Team Cherry.
Robertson has already eclipsed his offensive numbers from his rookie season in Peterborough. Through 33 games, the sophomore forward has 17 goals and 34 points and has NHL scouts taking notice.
“Robbie has got so much offensive ability,” Wilson said. “He does such a good job. He can shoot the puck really well. He can make plays. There are a lot of things that Robbie does well.”
“Both of those guys (Jones and Robertson) are getting the credit they deserve.”
Jones and Robertson aren’t the only Petes who have NHL scouts and executives watching as the team has a number of NHL drafted players in the system, including defenceman Ryan Merkley, acquired earlier this season from the Guelph Storm.
A San Jose Sharks prospect, Merkley has been one of the OHL’s top-scoring defencemen and has been a good fit in Peterborough since the deal, which saw the Petes send Pavel Gogolev and drafts picks to Guelph.
“He’s such a smart offensive player,” Wilson said. “He’s trying to find his feet with us and doing really well with it. We’re really happy with his play.”
While Jones and Robertson have scouts taking notice in Peterborough, Nolan Foote has been doing the same with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets.
Foote, whose father Adam was a key member of the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds in the early-1990s and is currently the coach in Kelowna, was held off the scoresheet in the top prospects game last week, but that’s something that hasn’t happened much this season.
The third-year Rockets forward has 25 goals in 46 games this season. Putting his total further into perspective, in 102 WHL games prior to this season, Foote had 32 goals.
In addition to Foote, the WHL looks poised to have plenty of names called early in the NHL draft. The likes of Saskatoon Blades forward Kirby Dach, Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens and Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram have scouts excited.
In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie has scouts excited as he continues to have an impact for the host team of the 2019 Memorial Cup.
After scoring 30 goals and 63 points in his first full season in Halifax a year ago, Lavoie has continued to post solid numbers in his draft year.
A late-birthdate, Lavoie has 21 goals and 45 points in 45 games with the Mooseheads and has widely been looked at as the top prospect available in Quebec this season.