In my experience as a scout during the NHL Draft, we always looked for the best player available in the mid-to-late rounds. However, there are times when teams will draft for organizational need — for example: a right-shot defenceman, or a goalie, or centre.
Some of our selections would be heading back to major junior while others would return to their club teams in Europe. Some of our prospects would be heading off to college after the draft, to begin summer courses and their NCAA journey.
Development camps take place immediately following the draft. Teams assemble their prospects at their facilities for, generally, a week of team building, off-ice workouts and on-ice skill sessions.
(Note: It is my belief that, immediately following the drafting of a player, the amateur scouting staff steps away from the development process. Scouts scout players and player development should direct the prospects as they mature. Scouts should not get involved in the development process.)
Rutger McGroarty (Forward)
Team: Michigan (Big Ten / NCAA / Freshman)
Drafted: 14th overall in 2022
6-foot-1 / 200 lbs / Shoots: L
McGroarty is off to a solid start in his NCAA career. He is currently third in team scoring with eight goals and 10 assists, with three of those goals coming on the power-play. Michigan has been using McGroarty in all situations, with him averaging over 18:00 TOI per game. His goals on the power-play have come off back-door feeds to his strong side. He has shown he can beat college goalies from distance, as well as in tight around the crease. He has also been efficient on the penalty kill by getting in shooting lanes and sacrificing his body to block shots.
He will have to continue to work on his skating as he matures. There are some nights he reminds me a lot of Zach Hyman during his development. Hyman was a slightly above average skater when he first arrived at Michigan. By the time Hyman was a senior, he had found another gear — although his stride has never been pretty to watch. McGroarty is a character kid who will no doubt put the work in as he develops further.
Jared Moe (Goalie)
Team: Wisconsin (Big Ten / NCAA / Senior)
Drafted: 184th overall in 2018
6-foot-4 / 220 lbs / Catches: R
Moe started his NCAA career at Minnesota before transferring to Wisconsin for his senior season. He’s a “south paw” goalie who gives opponents a different look. His size is a definite plus as his his stature takes away options when he’s square to the shooter. After an inconsistent three seasons at Minnesota, Moe has been mostly solid for Wisconsin. He has won four of his last five starts, currently sitting at a 2.79 GAA and.915 save percentage.
My biggest concern watching Moe is his lack of push moving to his stick side (left). He is much slower tracking to his left and shooters at the college level have taken notice. The majority of his goals against have come on his stick side.
Moe is a senior who is looking to earn a contract at the end of the season. At this stage, I see him as more of a “PTO” (pro tryout) when his year concludes at Wisconsin, to see if he can earn an AHL deal for next season.
Elias Salomonsson (Defenceman)
Team: Skelleftea AIK 1 (SHL / Sweden)
Drafted: 55th overall in 2022
6-foot-1 / 183 lbs / Shoots: R
Salomonsson is developing in Sweden’s top league the SHL. His last 10-game segment has been very encouraging. Over that span, he has scored three even-strength goals and chipped in with an additional two assists. He’s also attempted 34 shots on goal, hitting the target on 20. Salomonsson is showing he could possibly provide some secondary scoring when he arrives in Winnipeg. His skating is elite. He’s quick out of the gate, and fast tracking up and down the ice in open space. His defending has been mostly sound as well. He is not, however, being deployed on the penalty kill at Skelleftea. Overall, for a young defenceman playing pro against men, he is making strides. He could end up being a top-four defender in the NHL in time.
When scouting young prospects, I’m watching their detail and awareness defensively, especially away from the puck. Here is an example of Salomonsson being a bit out of position down low in his zone before reading an opportunity to join the rush offensively — in this case, beating opponents up ice and eventually scoring a goal:
Editor’s Note: Salmonsson will miss the 2023 World Juniors with an injury.
Dmitri Rashevsky (Forward)
Team: HC Dynamo Moscow (KHL / Russia)
Drafted: 146th overall in 2021
6-foot-1 / 176 lbs / Shoots: L
A prospect I believe could have NHL star potential is Rashevsky. He’s skating in the KHL with Dynamo Moscow and producing offence. On the season, he has scored 15 goals and added 11 assists through 38 games. More impressive is the fact only one of his goals has come on the power-play. He’s getting pucks to the net off the rush and working off the boards in the offensive zone. I appreciate the detail he brings as he’s not simply offence, tracking back the full 200 feet. It is somewhat surprising he doesn’t see time on the penalty kill as I believe he is very capable of the role. Rashevsky is averaging just shy of 16:00 TOI in the KHL.
It’s worth highlighting that Rashevsky is not a perimeter goal scorer. He gets to the middle of the ice to produce offence. Here are the heat maps indicating where he generates chances and ends up scoring the majority of his goals:
UPDATE ON: Kristian Vesalainen (Forward)
Team: HIFK (Liiga / Finland)
Drafted: 24th overall in 2017
6-foot-3 / 207 lbs / Shoots: L
Winnipeg’s first-round pick in 2017 had a difficult time in North America at the AHL and NHL levels. He’s currently an RFA who is skating this year in Europe. His time has been split between Malmo Redhawks in the SHL (Sweden) and HIFK in Liiga (Finland). I had time for this player in his draft year, so I must admit he teased me as well. But his game and overall impact statistically has not improved to the level I can see him in the NHL next season. Vesalainen scored one goal and two assists in 15 games playing for Malmo and was a minus-6 over that span. At HIFK, he has shown some signs of improvement with one goal and three assists in seven games, but his minus-7 rating is alarming. In short, his effort and enthusiasm need to improve at least another 30 per cent.
Filip Johansson (Defenceman)
Team: Frolunda HC (SHL – Sweden)
Drafted 24th overall in 2018 (by Minnesota)
6-foot-1 / 176 lbs / Shoots: R
The Canucks did well by signing Johansson, a former first-round pick, this past summer as a free agent. I have always appreciated this player. He moves very well and can transport the puck on his own or outlet and join as an extra layer. His offensive production is on the rise this season. He has registered three goals and 10 assists through the first 23 games. What I’m really excited about is the amount of ice time he is being trusted with in the SHL. Johansson is skating over 20:00 per night and being deployed in all situations. Overall, he’s tracking very positively. I envision Johansson pushing for a job on the Canucks roster in 2023-24.
Here is an example of what Johansson (No. 5) can provide off the rush. He backs the opponent off with his speed and starts the offensive zone sequence that eventually leads to a goal:
Aidan McDonough (Forward)
Team: Northeastern (Hockey East / NCAA / Senior)
Drafted: 195th overall in 2019
6-foot-2 / 201 lbs / Shoots: L
Things might come down to the wire with McDonough and the Canucks. The senior forward controls his future in terms of where he signs his first pro contract. A graduating NCAA player has a choice to sign with the team that originally selected him in the draft, or wait until Aug. 15th of the same year to become a free agent and sign with any team in the league. Generally, the NHL team holding the players rights will have an understanding of what the player would like to do and could end up trading his rights to a team who believes they can sign the prospect. The Canucks’ scouting staff deserve credit for identifying McDonough as a prospect and selecting him in 2019. At the very least, he has become an asset.
McDonough continues to play to his identity. He’s a goal scorer who thrives on the power-play — half of his goals have come with the man advantage. He prefers making plays from the weakside flank where he can open up on his forehand and get pucks to the net. McDonough leads the Huskies with 10 goals and 12 assists through 15 games so far this season.
The majority of McDonough’s TOI comes at even strength and the power-play. He very rarely sees time on the penalty kill. His average TOI hovers around 19:00 a night.
My biggest concern with Aidan is his skating. On straight lines, he projects to be an average-plus NHL skater. His first three steps and his edges/agility will need to go to another level to have success in the NHL.
Jacob Truscott (Defenceman)
Team: Michigan (Big Ten / NCAA / Junior)
Drafted: 144th overall in 2020
6-foot-1 / 185 lbs / Shoots: L
Truscott has been logging more minutes in all situations so far this season at Michigan. He’s a very good skater who has no issues playing the game quick and fast. He’s agile on his edges and pivots efficiently to get to areas ahead of opponents. There isn’t much bump to his game, so he’s not a physical defender. Offensively, Truscott is seeing time on the power-play. He is more of a distributor than a shooter. Through 17 games, he has scored one goal and added nine assists. He’s skating over 20:00 TOI per game and has a tidy plus-7 rating.
Although he is making strides, I believe Jacob requires another year at the college level to continue to get stronger. His offence should continue to improve, but more importantly he needs to build up his core strength and continue to improve his defending in the hard areas when the game slows down.
Joni Jurmo (Defenceman)
Team: Jukurit (Liiga / Finland)
Drafted: 82nd overall in 2020
6-foot-4 / 198 lbs / Shoots: L
The first thing that stands out about Jurmo is his size. At his height, he has length to his defending game and uses his reach as an asset. Jurmo is also capable with the puck, but he doesn’t have a ton of deception and he is not likely to lead the rush as a pro in North America. In Liiga, he is skating 16:30 per night on average and being deployed at even strength with some power-play minutes scattered here and there. I trust his hockey IQ and recognize his ability to make responsible outlets. His small area defending will need to improve for the NHL, but he is a prospect with a foundation to build upon.
Stay tuned for prospect reports on Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto in the coming days.