NHL Prospect Notebook: Could No. 2-ranked Lambert go to the WHL?

Sportsnet's Junior Hockey Insider Sam Cosentino breaks down Sportsnet's 2022 NHL Draft rankings and that centre Shane Wright tops the list.

NHL Central Scouting released its Preliminary Players to Watch List this week. This is an all-encompassing list that includes players from all over the world. It breaks down players into three categories with A list players projected as first round picks, B list players projected as second or third round picks, and C list players projected towards the final three rounds. With more viewings, expect the next release from NHL Central Scouting to include a numerical ranking divided into European and North American categories.

Typically, Central Scouting focuses on first-year draft eligibles, and this list reflects that. I thought we might see a higher number of re-entry players, but the first re-entry player on the list is Moose Jaw’s Eric Alarie, who checks in as a C-rated player.

There’s only one player on the list born in 2002 and that’s London goalie Brett Brochu, whose birthday is September 9, making him the oldest player on Central’s list. Dating back to December 29, 2019, Brochu has won 27 of 28 decisions.

Don’t Forget About Me

We made a point in this space last week about scouts essentially looking at two draft classes this season. With the OHL shutdown in 2020-21 due to the pandemic, there are several players in the Sept. 16, 2002 to Sept. 14, 2003 born window that look drastically different than they did the last time there was a full season of hockey at any level. Several players weren’t even in the OHL last time we had games, while those that were grew over the pandemic, or used the time to improve different facets of their game. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to the OHL, but definitely highlighted because no games were played at all in the league last season. Each week we will make mention of a CHL player who fits in that window.

This week, it’s Miguel Tourigny, no relation to Arizona head coach Andre. Tourigny (20 in February) is not completely foreign to NHL scouts as he was invited to Anaheim’s camp this past fall. He’s off to a brilliant start with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Through the Armada’s first eight games, Tourigny has 13 points, tied for second in the league. Size may be the stumbling block with this player who is listed as 5-foot-8, 172 pounds on the league website.

Stormy Days

One prospect making a lot of noise is Guelph defenceman Mike Buchinger. The 6-foot, 185-pound rearguard has six assists through Guelph’s first five games. Plenty of scouts were in attendance for his three-helper performance on Oct. 13 in a 7-3 win at Owen Sound. Buchinger has the added benefit of playing on a Storm team that has six players on Central Scouting's list, including right-shot centre Matthew Poitras, an A-listed player. The more prospects there are on one team, the more scouts come to watch them.

Top Prospects Game

Speaking of NHL Central Scouting, the typical CHL/NHL Top Prospects game is normally scheduled for some time in January, however that time frame may be pushed back by as much as a month. The pandemic, coupled with the presumption the NHL will participate in the Olympics are two reasons for the altered timeline.

Hey DJ

The London Knights have a budding star in Colton Smith. Smith is the son of Ottawa Senators head coach DJ. Taken in the second round of the 2020 OHL Priority selection, Smith put up his first career hat trick in a 5-4 OT win in Sarnia Saturday night. There’s irony in the fact that DJ spent six years as an associate coach in Windsor during their glory years. The Spitfires' most intense rival over that time was none other than Dale Hunter and the London Knights.

Patience Is a Virtue

In a conversation with a scout earlier this week, two things were enlightening: 1. discerning eyes should give players at least 20 games into the season before making steadfast decisions on talent, and 2. “the NHL is still a big man’s game.”

Look Ahead

Can’t help but think about the 2023 NHL Draft. It’s looking fantastic. One name popped up in a recent conversation with a scout, claiming Moose Jaw’s Brayden Yager looks a lot like Nathan MacKinnon at the same age.

Program Players

Less heralded than many of his USNTDP U-18 teammates is Cutter Gauthier, the son of former NHLer Sean. Cutter was born in Sweden while his dad played there for Skelleftea in the SHL. Cutter has size, likes to get involved in the play and moves around the ice with ease.

More Program

It is expected 2023 draft eligible Mike DeAngelo (Dubuque) and B-listed Brennan Ali (Avon Old Farms HS) will get a look with the USNTDP as it deals with injury issues.

Saskatchewan Bound

With just two points in 10 games and ice time hovering around 13 minutes per game, rumours are starting to swirl that Brad Lambert (No. 2 in my October draft rankings) is considering a move to the WHL. His rights are owned by the Saskatoon Blades. It would be a return home of sorts as that’s where Brad's dad, Ross, played during the 1982-83 campaign. Ross was born in Kindersley, Sask.

Meanwhile, Brad's teammate Joakim Kemell (No. 9 in the October rankings) continues to be at or near the top of league scoring, while playing over 17 minutes per game.

Mercer on Me

Super cool week for the Mercer family. Son Dawson put up his first NHL point in his first NHL game, an assist on New Jersey’s third goal in a 4-3 overtime win over Chicago. On that same night, brother Riley, a goalie for QMJHL Drummondville, notched his first QMJHL shutout, a 17-save effort in a 6-0 win over defending league champion Victoriaville. Then, with family still in attendance, Dawson scored his first NHL goal in a 4-2 win over Seattle on Tuesday. The Mercers are from Bay Roberts, Nfld., and have been the talk of the town since Mercer made the Devils out of camp. Devils reporter Amanda Stein has been all over it.

It Takes Time

I remember watching Nashville’s Alexandre Carrier during his time in Gatineau, thinking he would make for a third pairing NHL defenceman. He was selected by Nashville in the fourth round (115th overall) of the 2015 draft. After four full AHL seasons, Carrier got a chance to play 19 games with the Preds in 2020-21, and it looks like he’s finally made his way into the lineup full-time. Through three games Carrier has two helpers to start the season.

High Five

CoreFive Analytics is starting to make a name in hockey circles. The company's principals include owner and founder Allan Hamernick, former NHLer and player agent Tom Laidlaw, and Sports Psychologist Dr. Mark Hogue. The concept is extremely unique in that it’s centred around the measurement and development of character. Having worked with NHL teams, Olympians and other elite athletes, the company has also collaborated with the Erie Otters of the OHL to create the Route 66 Character Development program, which helps players through the maturation process, enabling them to become better decision makers both on and off the ice. Once the players understand the how and why of their actions, they become better decision makers enabling them to focus on their preparation, habits and routines needed to maximize their potential.

Great Opportunity

For anyone trying to get into our business, this job opportunity with the OHL would be great to look into.

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