Scouting season is in its final weeks. The World U18 Championship will afford an additional opportunity for players who missed or have been eliminated from the playoffs to be viewed against high-level international competition.
For CHL players, viewings into the second round and beyond are extremely important as the competition gets stiffer, the games get tougher and the pressure mounts team-wise and personally. With the second round just underway, here’s a list of players who still have a chance to improve their draft status based on making it to Round 2 of the CHL playoffs.
10. Anderson MacDonald, Moncton Wildcats: At the start of scouting season MacDonald was thought to be a late-first to early-third round selection. He’s slipped considerably, but by playing in difficult games against tough competition he has a chance to move up again. His task in the second round against a defensively smothering Blainville-Boisbriand will have scouts watching closely. If he can break free and do what he does best, which is score goals, it will go a long way towards making scouts believe his skill is transferable to the next level. Over the past two seasons, MacDonald’s put up 56 goals in 108 regular season games with a shooting percentage of 18.1. MacDonald’s assist totals pale in comparison, making it essential he scores more than just the one goal he had in the opening round against Rimouski.
9. Calen Addison, Lethbridge Hurricanes: A sub-par showing at the Top Prospects Game didn’t help his cause, but Addison does represent the new-age defenceman. The fact he’s a right shot comes into play here as a guy who has a knack for getting pucks to the net. While it is not the be-all-and-end-all of stats, +/- rating is still a talking point amongst eye-test scouts, and that is a red-flag on an otherwise stellar stat line. A motivated player who knows his best assets and plays to them, there’s nothing to say his steady improvement won’t continue as he gains strength and adds experience to his resume. A real opportunity exists for Addison and his Hurricanes to play the dark horse role as they draw upset winner Brandon in Round 2.
8. Giovanni Vallati, Kitchener Rangers: Vallati can continue to prove to be the new-age shut-down defenceman by successfully retrieving pucks and moving them out of his own zone quickly and efficiently. There’s been little year-over-year improvement on the offensive side of the puck, though. He’s not a true shooter or massive point producer and his value is in using his size and skating ability to play solid defence in even strength situations. Offence may be something that develops later in his career as he gets older and is placed in more situations where he can produce. For now, Kitchener will lean on him for his experience as the Rangers back-end is youthful beyond the top pairing.
7. Akil Thomas, Niagara IceDogs: Thomas is another player scouts have had a difficult time pegging where he’ll fit at the next level. There is no doubt his tool box is full and plentiful, but there is the belief that the dynamic part of his game is inconsistent. There is upside to Thomas, though, and scouts would love to see him get outside of his comfortable little box of solid all-around play and take over games with his wide array of weapons. Round 2 against heavily favoured Hamilton presents Thomas with the chance to do just that against an older, bigger, structured team.
6. Jett Woo, Moose Jaw Warriors: Mostly due to injury and games missed, Woo is through the first round and is about to embark in a series that is tailor-made for his game against Swift Current. The Broncos present the challenge of being able to match Woo’s physicality and come at you in waves offensively, which should test Woo’s ability to defend. His status in the draft hasn’t changed much as scouts continuously try to project what he’ll be at the next level. His puck-moving ability and the fact he’s difficult to play against will be challenged, especially in the hostile Swift Current environment.
5. Sean Durzi, Owen Sound Attack: Durzi missed 28 games over the regular season dealing with a lower-body injury. Before getting hurt he made several good impressions as a dynamic and smooth-skating defenceman with goal scoring ability. His best impression was made in the CIBC Canada-Russia Series where he proved he could play with and against the best the Russians had to offer. His game did not change and he proved he could control the tempo and drive play. He’s back healthy and doing that again with points in four of Owen Sound’s five playoff games to date. The Attack are a good team without Durzi and a great team with him. He will be under pressure all series long against the CHL’s top team in Sault Ste. Marie. As a second-year draft eligible, he has to prove more than those in their first year.
4. Alexander Khovanov, Moncton Wildcats: Had he not been sick and missed more than half the season, he likely would’ve been cemented as a first-round pick, But Khovanov has not been on that path. He arrived in Moncton weak and out of hockey shape in January and really only started to find his stride towards the end of the season. Battling other nagging issues, Khovanov missed a few more games down the stretch, but when he was in the lineup, he produced points in 16 of his final 18 games. Point production was inconsistent in Round 1 against Rimouski and that challenge will get more difficult against the Armada. Second round viewings are particularly important for this player.
3. Nicolas Beaudin, Drummondville Voltigeurs: There is a groundswell of positivity surrounding Beaduin, who has spent the second half of the season in the shadows of exceptional player Joe Veleno. Beaudin has benefitted from Veleno’s point explosion as a Voltigeur, while scouts have had to confirm what was once lost on the Q’s only exceptional player. In double-checking their work on Veleno, Beaudin has been paid more attention to and he has delivered. He’s got old-school jam to his game, moves pucks well, and thinks the game at a high level. He put up over a point-per-game in the regular season and did so again in Round 1. The test will stiffen immensely as he draws the unenviable task of being matched up against Viitaly Abramov and Max Comtois of Victoriaville in Round 2.
2. Justin Almeida, Moose Jaw Warriors: Almeida was the most important piece returned to the Warriors in the deal that sent Nikita Popugaev to Prince George last season. His rise to prominence started slowly in the second half of 2016-17, but there were flashes. A 70-point improvement from a year ago is outstanding considering he’s had to fight for his minutes on a deep Moose Jaw team. He scored in all situations for the Warriors, most importantly at even strength where he put up 22 of his 43 goals. His shot is wicked accurate and his release is big-league. He scored 10 game-winning goals and was critical in Moose Jaw’s Round 1 win over upstart Prince Albert. Almeida is slightly below average size and he’s a second-year draft eligible, which are two factors working against him, but he’s a true goal-scorer and that will always be coveted at the next level.
1. Aidan Dudas, Owen Sound Attack: Dudas is not afraid to go to the tough areas on the ice, be it in the corner against much bigger opponents or in front of the net where the going is always tough. He opened several eyes with a massive performance as an injury fill-in at the Top Prospects Game. He continues to display the admirable traits of passion with a high compete level. He has great energy, is a rink-rat and has a motor that never quits. He’s remarkably durable for a smaller player, but a solid lower body allows him to keep a low centre of gravity and makes it difficult to detach him from pucks. Playing in a complementary role to Owen Sound’s top guns suits him just fine.