Things in the scouting world are starting to look more like they did before the pandemic. Leagues are in full swing, players are doing their thing and scouts are scouring the globe looking for the next wave of NHL talent. Other than some additional paperwork and the added precautions that must be taken during travel, scouts are enjoying some normalcy.
Most scouts are giving a 15-20 game grace period to players based on the lack of development from the last season and a half. Having said that, there is a lot to be gleaned from views early in the season. Scouts can determine a baseline to get a sense of how quick a player’s progression is. Further, there’s ample opportunity to look less intently at this year’s first year draft eligibles and be open-minded enough to consider players from the 2003-born age group who may have been overlooked due to the pandemic.
As we move into the thick of the scouting calendar, there’s a few notable events taking place within the next couple of weeks. In Europe, league play gives way to an international break, giving federations the opportunity to bring national teams together in preparation for larger, more prominent international events later in the calendar. For example, several eyes will be on the U18 Five Nations event which will take place in Monthey, Switzerland from November 8-14. There’s also a U20 event and the Karjala Cup, which goes from November 11-14 and tends to feature some draft eligibles, but also a number of European pros who have some NHL potential.
Shortly thereafter, world U20 teams will gather for WJC training camps, and ultimately the world juniors will begin Dec. 26 in Edmonton. That event always features the cream of the crop of the current draft class in a setting that’s hard to replicate when it comes to player evaluations.
As we move toward that time and as players -- and play in general -- get back up to speed and looks more like typical regular season, here’s our latest draft rankings.
*denotes late 2003 birthday
1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): Don’t be concerned about point totals (eight points in eight games), focus on the details, and you see a first overall pick all day long.
2. Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omsk (VHL): Extremely strong and powerful skater who possesses a deadly shot and the know-how to get into position to use it.
3. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS Turku (Liiga): Has a number of weapons he can use to score, be it off the rush, with the one-timer or getting to the net front.
4. Joakim Kemell, LW, JYP (Liiga): Is on pace to put forth one of the best U18 seasons in the history of Finland’s top pro league.
5. Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP: Nice little six-game goal streak featured markers against both USHL and NCAA competition.
*6. David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Extraliiga): As a defenceman, he will have added value in this draft class that's full of high-end forwards.
7. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL): Even when not producing, can still impact the game by either playing physically or matching up against the opposition’s best.
8. Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL): There’s no denying the puck skills and amazing playmaking ability. The creativity is what will allow him to overcome any issues regarding size (5-foot-9, 178 pounds).
*9. Danila Yurov, RW, Magnitogorsk (KHL): A new-aged Russian player who competes hard all over the ice and doesn’t sacrifice offence to do so.
10. Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP: Has ability to find open ice to utilize his array of finishing skills.
*11. Brad Lambert, LW, JYP (Liiga): Looks like a classic case of the draft year blues. Being left off the Finnish roster for the upcoming U20 event in Europe is rather curious.
12. Simon Nemec, C, HK Nitra (Slovakia): A good skater with above average puck skills who makes plays to evade the forecheck and uses those same skills to be an effective producer.
13. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgarden (SWE U20): Is really adept manipulating the blade to deceive defenders and goalkeepers alike. Will release the puck from a number of angles, which aids in elite goal-scoring ability.
14. Frank Nazar, C, USNTDP: Uses dynamic skating ability to not only beat defenders, but to back track and strip pucks.
15. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): There’s massive upside in the potential of this player based on puck handling skills and the ability to make a good first pass. Getting completely back to game shape following a lower-body injury will be key in realizing this potential.
16. Elias Salomonsson, D, Skelleftea (SWE U20): Mobility is a key asset for the success of this player. Consistent effort is a work in progress.
17. Seamus Casey, D, USNTDP: Great intuition as to when to be part of or initiate the rush. Work in progress on the defensive side.
18. Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): His U18 experience is immeasurable in terms of developing an understanding of the importance of playing a complete game. Leadership qualities are in tact.
19. Filip Mesar, LW, HK Poprad (Slovakia): The type of player who makes you perk-up when the puck is on his stick.
20. Marco Kasper, C, Rogle (SHL): Does a great job making himself available by finding open ice. Puck seems to find him at the front of the net.
21. Cutter Gauthier, LW, USNTDP: A lesser name on a stacked program team, he’s a player who always catches your eye.
22. Ryan Chesley, D, USNTDP: Rocket of a shot from the point, but also effective with the one-timer. The challenge is to be elite every night.
23. Rutger McGroarty, LW, USNTDP: At his best when playing the traditional power forward game.
*24. Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): Looking to take his game to the next level as a go-to, consistent producer who faces the best of the opposition’s match-up every night.
*25. Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern (NCAA): Continuing to adjust to the speed, pace and size of the NCAA game.
26. David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Taking advantage of top line minutes. A hard worker whose game is in perpetual motion.
27. Liam Ohgren, LW, Djurgarden: Lauded for his work rate, he lit up the U20 league before earning a promotion to the SHL. Confidence can only grow after recently scoring his first career SHL goal.
28. Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL): Not typical that a player still looking for their first WHL goal makes this list. His mark has been made as a transitional defenceman with unrealized offensive potential.
29. Mattias Havelid, D, Linkoping (SWE U20): Poise, confidence and patience allow for effective decision making.
30. Otto Salin, D, HIFK (Liiga): Plays with patience and the awareness of when to take risks. Defends with good stick position and with some physicality.
31. Michael Buchinger, D, Guelph Storm (OHL): Has been the subject of all the early buzz in Ontario with seven assists in 11 games.
*32. Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL): Has settled in after a shaky start. Ideally he’d be in a situation where he doesn’t have to split time.