By now, people are familiar with what the 2020 NHL Draft has to offer.
Alexis Lafreniere has emerged as the top rated prospect, and barring anything unforeseen, he will be the first player off the board in Montreal in June. We’ve heard plenty about Sudbury’s Quinton Byfield, Erie’s Jamie Drysdale and of course the typical variety of European players beginning with Adler Mannheim’s Tim Stutzle.
It’s about this time of year when we have a good sense of what the CHL has to offer for the 2021 draft as well. More specifically, players born after Sept. 15, 2002 through Sept. 14, 2003.
Here’s a look at the top 16 year old players to date in the CHL this season. Maybe one exceptional player as well.
Shane Wright (Kingston Frontenacs)
36+26=62, -1, 178 shots, 20 PP PTS (32%)
Exceptional player status is not easily gained. Wright, who has seamlessly adjusted to OHL play, has been mentioned by an abundance of scouts despite not being draft eligible until 2022. With off-the-charts hockey sense and a maturity well beyond his years, Wright has stepped up a notch in the second half, due in-part to the addition of Martin Chromiak to his line.
Dylan Guenther (Edmonton Oil Kings)
25+31=56, +26, 154 shots 16 PP PTS (29%)
An amazing skater who shoots the puck with a deadly release and wicked accuracy, Guenther has been a driving force for Edmonton’s bench boss Brad Lauer. He has swagger to his game and is a star in the making. It’s not often a first-year player is a key contributor to a Memorial Cup contending team.
Isaac Belliveau (Rimouski Oceanic)
10+39=49, +8, 106 shots, 27 PP PTS (55%)
No question Belliveau is a power-play specialist. With the likes of Lafreniere, Cedric Pare, Dimitry Zavgorodniy and Zachary Bolduc (featured later), Belliveau has benefitted but definitely aided one of the CHL’s top power plays. He makes risky plays look easy and gets shots through. His high percentage of power-play points suggests he will need to work on defending moving forward.
Zachary L’Heureux (Moncton Wildcats)
18+30=48, +29, 128 shots, 7 PP PTS (15%)
Physically mature, L’Heureux plays a pro-style game. He foreshadowed his success with a gold medal winning performance for Team Quebec in the 2019 Canada Winter games, where he put up 13 points. Playing on a deep Moncton team, L’Heureux has benefitted from good match-ups and a championship contending supporting cast.
Cole Sillinger (Medicine Hat Tigers)
18+28=46, +13, 154 shots, 23 PP PTS (50%)
Bloodlines usually play, and dad Mike was a WHL star who went on to play more than 1,000 NHL games. Playing for ex-NHL coach Willie Desjardins in his first year back in the WHL, Sillinger has a six-point game already in the books.
Zachary Bolduc (Rimouski Oceanic)
28+18=46, +6, 139 shots 19 PP PTS (41%)
Bolduc has top-notched skill. He can make plays in tight, has good vision, and shoots it a ton. He’s been deadly on the power play and his skill set should allow him to mature into a 5-on-5 producer. He’s a one-trick pony right with plenty to learn about playing both sides of the puck.
Zachary Dean (Gatineau Olympiques)
17+36=43, -14, 89 shots 14 PP PTS (33%)
Dean also comes from a pro-hockey playing dad. He’s got some old-school grit to his game, and has potential to drive the play, which is a buzz-term in today’s scouting world. While he has put up good numbers in-part because he gets opportunity on a young team, Dean has done a good job being a responsible player when he doesn’t have the puck.
James Malatesta (Quebec Remparts)
23+19=42, -12, 210 shots 12 PP PTS (29%)
Another player who carries himself with swagger, Malatesta won’t ever be mistaken for the timid rookie who doesn’t shoot the puck. He’s well aware he’s the go-to player on an up and coming Quebec team, coached by Patrick Roy, who has always appreciated the offensive side of the game in the role of coach. Malatesta also played with L’Heureux on Quebec’s gold-medal winning team in the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
Mason McTavish (Peterborough Petes)
29+11=40, -7, 166 shots 8 PP PTS (20%)
It was once thought that he would not report to Peterborough, but the Petes are sure glad he did. The rookie sensation is a pure sniper, and besides the much younger Wright, should lead all 2021 CHL Draft eligibles in goals. McTavish has a bomb of a shot, and man strength already. If he applies himself through the playoffs and into the summer, sky’s the limit on this potential 50-goal getter.