NHL Prospect Notebook: Can Olympic star Slafkovsky challenge Shane Wright?

Sam Cosentino breaks down his February edition of 2022 NHL Draft prospect rankings, as Shane Wright takes the top spot for the fifth straight month.

With the February release of several draft prognosticator’s rankings, just about everyone had mentioned how the gap is closing on Shane Wright as the projected first overall pick in the 2022 draft. The most prominent name mentioned as a challenger was Logan Cooley of the US U18 team. Some have considered Finns Joakim Kemell and Brad Lambert, while others have discussed Russians Ivan Miroshnichenko or Danila Yurov.

Our No. 4 ranked prospect from the most rcent rankings is now part of the conversation: Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky.

The 17-year-old winger leads the Olympics with five goals in five games. He scored the only two Slovakian goals in a tournament-opening 6-2 loss to Finland. He potted the Slovak's lone goal in a 4-1 loss to Sweden, and the game-winner in a 5-2 win over Latvia in preliminary play. He added his fifth of the tourney in a 3-2 upset win over the Americans in the quarters.

Slafkovsky has been projected as a top 10 pick despite his inability to put up numbers in Finland’s Liiga. Several current NHLers who played in the Liiga during their NHL draft year had decent numbers (think Aleksander Barkov, Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine, Kaapo Kakko, Jesperi Kotkianiemi), which has given some scouts pause for thought. Before leaving for the Olympics, Slafkovsky had just one goal and three assists in 21 games with TPS, while playing an average of 13:07 per game. In the Olympics, he’s played 14:43 per game.

While another Slovak draft prospect, Simon Nemec, hasn’t played nearly as much (7:50 per game), the just-turned 18-year-old defenceman has also contributed to the Slovak's run into the semis with one assist to date.

Everyone to the Kitchen(er)

The CHL announced 40 players to take part in the Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects game on March 23 in Kitchener. Nearby, midwest rival Guelph leads all CHL teams with four players selected to participate (forwards Matthew Poistras, Jake Karabela, Danny Zhilkin along with defenceman Michael Buchinger). Gatineau leads all QMJHL teams with three nominees in defencemen Tristan Luneau and Noah Warren along with forward Antonin Verreault.

Three teams from the WHL have three reps apiece. Seattle is led by defenceman Kevin Korchinski, and forwards Reid Schaefer and Jordan Gustafson. The Swift Current Broncos have goalie Reid Dyck along with fast-rising defenceman Owen Pickering and forward Josh Filmon. As for the Kamloops Blazers, forwards Fraser Minten and Matthew Seminoff join defenceman Mats Lindgren. The roster has yet to be split.

Ode to the Aud

For the second straight season, the Kitchener Rangers will host a Women in Hockey Conference on March 7. The conference will help educate and empower young women thinking about a career in hockey.

You can click this link to register.

Spin Those Records

New York Islanders prospect William Dufour is on pace to break the Saint John Sea Dogs all-time single season points record, currently held by Jonathan Huberdeau who had 105 points during their Memorial Cup-winning 2010-11 season. Dufour’s current points per game extrapolate an additional 61 points through the rest of the season for a total of 119 points.

Vegas Golden Knights prospect Lukas Cormier is on pace to set the Charlottetown Islanders franchise record for points by a defenceman in a single season. He currently sits at 17 goals and 42 points with 38 games remaining on the Islanders’ schedule. Marc-Andre Gragnani’s 71 points in the 2005-06 season is the mark to beat.

Montreal Canadiens prospect Josh Roy has benefitted from the change of scenery. Roy has 21 goals for 59 points through 31 of Sherbrooke’s 32 games. That puts him on pace to put up 123 points should he play the remaining 34 games for the Phoenix. The single season points record is held by Felix Robert, who put up 92 points in the 2019-20 season.

From Haiti to Regina

As you may or may not know, I do work with the Hockey Gives Blood program. This is the second year of the Difference Makers program, where I go on Instagram Live to tell the stories of different HGB Ambassadors. This week, I had the absolute pleasure of working with Zack Stringer of the Regina Pats. If you don’t know his story, you can read about it from the Leader-Post’s Rob Vanstone.

The IG Live can be found on my Instagram feed @sammycoz4.

Combined with the Cup

With pandemic restrictions being relaxed in Ontario, it’s looking more and more like the 2022 NHL Draft Combine will take place in Buffalo. There are an abundance of scouts that live in Ontario, and several more who can make it from just about anywhere in one flight, then do the short drive to Buffalo.

The annual event has been cancelled in each of the past two seasons, and is a valuable component to the draft process. This year, it is scheduled from May 29-June 4, and is typically held right after the completion of the Memorial Cup. However……see below…..

Cup Adjustment
The CHL announced an adjustment to the Memorial Cup start date Tuesday. The Cup will now begin on Monday, June 20 and finish with the championship game on Wednesday, June 29.

As a result of the Memorial Cup change, a subsequent move was made by the QMJHL for its annual draft. It will now take place July 4-5 to avoid any conflicts with the Memorial Cup. If you haven’t seen a Q draft, put it on your calendar, it’s a big time event.

2003 Prospect

Eric Alarie of the Moose Jaw Warriors opened a lot of eyes as a 16-year-old when he scored twice and added four assists in the first six games of the 2019-20 season. During the Covid-19 ridden 2020-21 season, Alarie put up 10 goals and 10 helpers for 20 points in 19 games. This year, he’s back and producing at a moderate rate of 13 goals and 26 helpers for 39 points in 50 games. No doubt, with highly rated 2004 born Jagger Firkus, Alarie will benefit by having additional eyes on him.

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