NHL Draft Profile: Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is the top goalie among most draft aficionados. He was the unheralded backbone of one of the best USNTDP of all-time. His ability to stay calm, cool and collected paired with maybe the best athleticism for any player in the draft combine to make Knight a top prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Name: Spencer Knight

Date of Birth: April 19, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Darien, CT, USA)

Hieght: 6’3″

Weight: 198lbs

Catches: Left

Position: G

Rankings

Ranked #12 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The top goaltender in the draft has been outstanding all year. He has shown all the tools that talent evaluators look for in a young goaltender. His mental make-up is strong and he does an excellent job staying poised. He doesn’t panic or get flustered after allowing a weak goal. He stays focused and is able to see around screens because he shows great awareness of the play. The American goaltender does an excellent job at keeping his back upright and keeping a solid base to ensure that he’s using his entire 6’3″ frame in the net. In the video below, you can see Knight hold his ground despite the Finnish players best attempt at poking the puck free.  

Throughput the year, Knight showed that his maturity was well beyond his years. Often times with young goalies, sustained pressure from the opposition can lead to a break down in positioning and cause the young netminder to allow a goal that he would normally save. This isn’t often the case for Knight. He is able to harness his poise and focus in on tracking the puck while staying in good position. His eyes stay locked in on the puck and he is able to make multiple saves by kicking his pads out and closing down on the puck despite good movement from the opposing team. The video below if a perfect example of Knights ability to keep focused and dialed in on the puck. 

 

At the draft combine, many came away with the realization that Knight was among the best athletes in the draft. Knight shows his impressive athleticism with his ability to move laterally with precision and recover on plays that become a scramble in front of him. His lateral movement is extremely crisp and he rarely overshoots his positioning. He comes across the crease with a strong push. His ability to keep his upper body high while sliding over helps him stay big and cover the net as he transitions. Below you can see Knight unable to corral the loose puck in front of him but quickly recovers and uses his athleticism to make an outstanding save. 

Lower body strength and stability is an asset that goalies need and Spencer Knight has both. The future franchise netminder has the strength to keep his pad down and pinned to either post while still being able to stay upright and actively following the puck. The lower body strength aids in his push off from post-to-post and allows him to kick out his pads during a slide. As you can see below, Knight is able to use the aforementioned lower body strength to push off the right post and explode towards the recipient of the pass. His strong core allows him to stay upright long enough to make the marvelous save. 

When it comes to positioning, Knight is consistently stable. He plays a mature game which makes him far ahead of the curve for draft eligible goaltenders. The goalkeeper does a good job at absorbing the puck into his chest and not allowing egregious rebound more often than not. His reflexes have developed further throughout the year and he’s been able to track and catch shots quite well. When the puck is shot to his blocker side, he often deflects the puck into the corner or up into the net depending on the situation. Knight is able to track a pass through the middle of the ice and not over commit on a slide. He stops in perfect position and is able to make the save with ease as you can see in the video below.  

What the Detractors Say

While no 18-year-old goaltender is perfect, Spencer Knight does everything you’d like a goaltender to do. One of the few aspects of Knight’s game that scouts have picked on is his tendency to play fairly deep in his net at times. While he comes out to challenge shooters in one-on-one scenarios, he has sunken into his net at times during sustained pressure. While this hasn’t been an issue at junior level, it could become an issue at the next level as the athletic goalie moves forward. His athleticism helps him make up for the depth in which he plays at but he could stand to play a little higher in his crease.

Preseason Outlook

Having played in 14 games with the USNTDP U18 team a year early, many expected Knight to put on a show for the 2018-19 season. His positioning and athleticism allowed him to play up a level with success. Coming into the year, the young goaltender was considered the top goalie and he did nothing to change that fact.

Video courtesy of Justy Power YouTube

USNTDP Success

The top-tier prospect in net was outstanding this year on a stacked USNTDP team. With the high-powered offence, Knight certainly received his fair share of goal support but there was a number of times where Knight would put on a goaltending clinic. Early in the season Knight put together a masterful performance against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked third in the NCAA at the time. Showing off all of his tools, this game signified his dominance and showed that he can read a play and play good positional hockey at a young age. In the video below, Knight makes an outstanding save on a slap shot from the circle. He shows excellent reflexes with the glove stage. 

Knight continued to put together good performances against both USHL and NCAA competition. He finished the year with a save percentage of .903 against USHL opponents but a .913 overall if you include the tougher NCAA schedule as well. This showed that he was able to play up to the competition and he benefitted from facing more steady work rather than the games in the USHL where his team often outshot the opposition by a wide margin.

Strong U18 World Championships

The world stage was where Knight shone brightest this year. At the U18 World Championships this year, Knight was able to dominate his peers. In his six games at the tournament, he allowed just 1.51 goals against average and had a sparkling .936 save percentage. However it was the save that he made that showed he would be an NHL goaltender sooner than many thought coming into the year.

Spencer Knight will be taken…

Somewhere in the 15-25 range most likely but there’s a chance he goes slightly earlier. Goalies are seldom drafted in the first round anymore but Knight is destined to be the exception. He’s one of the best American goaltending prospects in years and projects extremely well. His athleticism and mental fortitude will serve him well as he hopes to take the next step at Boston College next year. He is likely to step into a prominent role in the program despite being a freshman. His first task will be taking full control of the net and continuing to develop with the help of his Boston College athletic staff. The future franchise goaltender should, and likely will, be selected in the middle of the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

Sweden

NHL Entry Draft: Top Swedish Draft Eligible Prospects

The biggest exporter of National Hockey League players from Europe is once again very notable, as the young Swedish prospects prepare to take on the next hurdle before the NHL.

Just 24 hours is all thats left before the National Hockey League Entry Draft starts in Vancouver and already its very clear that the Swedes are going to be dominating the European scene by the end of it. There is a lot of high-end talent, and its likely we’ll see at least seven or eight drafted before the second round is finished. And for that reason, I was struggling to narrow this list down to four. And the fact that players like Simon Holmström and Tobias Björnfot didn’t make this list should be all the proof that is needed to showcase just how deep and strong this Swedish draft class is.

Philip Broberg – AIK – Defender

He might be one of the most talked about prospects at the draft, and the feels are very mixed on him. When you look at his stats for the year, its not something that looks like a top-10 pick. Whereas many of the other top Europeans plays in the top division and dominate, Broberg has struggled to really find the production in the second tier of Swedish hockey.

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Only nine points in 42 games for a defender that has a lot of offensive strengths isn’t something that’s going to wow people. However, he is only 17 and is one of the youngest in the draft class (he turns 18 on June 25), and his size is already were it needs to be at 6’3″ and 200 lbs. And internationally he has been great against competition the same age with almost a point a game.

His major strength is his speed. One of the best skaters on the blue line that you will ever see and his ability to keep calm as he moves the puck up ice is amazing. Especially for someone his size. Where he needs to develop his game is in the defensive department, where despite a good frame, can get beaten and his lack of awareness has let him down on a few occasions this season. But if those problems can be ironed out he has all the tools to be a genuine top player in the league. And that potential is why I see him going within the first 10 picks. While it might change on a dime before tomorrow I would look for him to go to the Edmonton Oilers with the eighth selection. 

Nils Höglander – Rögle BK – Winger

His first full year in the SHL and while it wasn’t great on a team level or even production level, Höglander did gain a lot from the year, especially in terms of experience. Playing 50 games for Rögle is fantastic for a youngster and he managed to get some solid minutes as well. With 14 points to show for it and the chance to showcase his creative nature was something that he took full advantage of. With the Juniors team he had a nice showing with seven points in eight games, despite not being a part of the team that went to Vancouver.

One of the things that impressed me the most as a watched some games with him, was his sheer tenacity and grit despite not being the tallest guy on the ice. He plays a much bigger game than what his body type would have you believe and while his hands are silky smooth, he works harder than most on the backcheck and defensive zone. And if someone was in the middle of scrums or in the net front battles for Rögle it was typically Höglander who was a key part of it. He is like a terrier that will fight for everything, and that is something I could see taking him far in today’s game, when combined with his hands and creative and fast playing style.

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His downside is that despite his hands and offensive talents, he lacks something to make him a true force to be playing against. He doesn’t have the greatest shot, nor the best vision and he is sometimes lacking that last bit of power and physicality in his net battles to really get the right position. However, if he can get something like that, he is someone that could easily become a great player and valuable piece to any franchise and is no doubt going in the first round.

Victor Söderström – Brynäs IF – Defender

The second defender from Sweden that is no doubt going in the first round and it’s very likely that he is the best of the two. A great two-way player who has so much awareness and calm to his game. And where Broberg played in the second tier, Söderström played 40 games in the SHL. He had seven points for Brynäs in those games and while those stats aren’t overly great, it’s not smart to be fooled by them.

What Söderström brings isn’t points but reliability. He will always find the right pass, and breakout and his understanding of the game in terms of pure hockey IQ is potentially the best in the entire class. And if the other team has the puck he uses his skills and knowledge to get into the right areas to block a shot or find a way to win the puck battle despite his lacking size.

His weakness is his shot, and while its not awful by any means, he again tends to use his knowledge to get the puck through and to the net. But despite a lot of time on the power play, he never really got the points rolling, like his vision should allow him too.

While he is a two-way player, he is better on the defensive end and his lack of speed does mean he is more than likely relying on reading the play well and find the open pass, rather than bring the puck up ice himself. However, despite that his understanding of the game and fantastic vision combined with defensive abilities more than makes up for it and he is a sure top-20 in my eyes.

Samuel Fagemo – Frölunda HC – Winger

Champion of Europe and Sweden at the age of 18. Not too shabby for the Swedish forward who had an excellent year for the Swedish champions. He was fantastic in scoring 25 points in 42 regular season games, 10 points in 11 CHL games and 10 playoff points on Frölundas path to glory. No matter how you look at it, he was a star this season and while he might be one of the older players at the draft, he has shown all his talents this year to all of Sweden and Europe. But, he failed to really showcase it at the juniors where he was one of the bigger letdowns for a disappointing year for the Swedes. He was expected to be their goal scorer and he failed, and it clearly hurt his draft stock.

I was fortunate enough to get to see him live as Frölunda took on Aalborg Pirates in the CHL and I was left speechless by his game. Fast, strong on the puck and with one of the best shots I have seen live. His release and wrist shot is upper-class and he was sensational. He didn’t score in that game, but I’m pretty sure the crossbar will never be the same, as he hit it at least twice with unrivaled power.

He is a pure goal scorer but sadly it means that his weakness is his backchecking and defensive abilities. In that area he lacks a lot and if he is having an off day offensively, he won’t be amazing defensively. If he can get that little bit better in that end of the ice, he might be a steal for someone who seems to drop much further than his talents should allow him to.

Statistics provided by EliteProspects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

NHL Draft: Top Finnish Draft Eligible Prospects

Kaapo Kakko leads the line for the Finish league prospects heading into the 2019 NHL draft, but he is far from alone.

Finland had an amazing year at the world scene, where both the World juniors and Men’s worlds resulted in celebration as they went on to win the gold. Both came with the help of future superstar Kaapo Kakko, who has been at the front of European prospects for the last year. But, Finland has a few more names that you should keep track of.

Here are the four best Finnish draft prospects.

Kaapo Kakko – TPS Turku – Winger

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What is left to say about Kaapo Kakko at this point. The Finnish sensation has had an incredible year and that’s putting it lightly. The only thing he hasn’t won this year was the Finnish Domestic league, Liiga. And that certainly wasn’t Kakko’s fault. He had a solid season with TPS Turku, where he scored 22 goals and had 16 assists in only 45 games. Those are numbers that are better than the ones that Patrik Laine produced in his draft year. Keep in mind that this was while Kakko was 17 years of age. He was a teenager playing against men in their prime or former NHLers. The Liiga is a strong league and Kakko didn’t just hang around in it, he was one of the best in it. Sadly, Turku was knocked out of the playoffs pretty quickly and that put an end to his hopes of a perfect departure from Liiga.

However, that was the only sore note on his season. Internationally, he is one of a very select few who has managed to win a gold medal in the under 18 worlds, under 20 worlds (Juniors), and Men’s worlds before turning 20. At the Juniors, he was stunning and in the final as the puck found its way onto his stick with 1 and a half minute left, he made no mistake and made it 3-2 over USA to send the gold back to the land of a thousand lakes. But the true highlight was his ending to the season, where he got a chance to play for the Finnish national team at the Worlds. Without NHL stars, Kakko was allowed to play a key role and he took full advantage, as he helped Finland to one of the greatest and unlikeliest of championships ever seen. This time against teams like Canada, Russia and USA, who had NHL caliber teams. But, they all failed against the Finns and the teenage senaation from Turku.

Therefore, I have Kakko as the most NHL ready player there is in the draft. Many will have Jack Hughes as the number one at the draft, and it’s more than likely also the case on Friday. However, I feel the showing at the Worlds, has proven that Kakko is used to the physicality that’s needed outside junior hockey. That’s something Hughes still need to get accustomed to. He absolutely will, but I believe that Kakko will do better in first and second season than Hughes.

Ville Heinola – Lukko – Defender

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The second Finish player that people are expecting to go in the first round is Ville Heinola. The defender has had a very strong first year in Liiga. He started out in the junior leagues, where he was a point a game in his nine games, before being called up to Lukko. Since then he hasn’t looked back, grabbing 14 points in 34 games.

Internationally, he was also a major part of the Juniors team that went to Vancouver and won the gold in January, where he played the first 5 games of the tournament before getting hurt in the quarterfinals against Canada. A sad ending to a very good tournament that saw 2 points in 5 games for the younger defender.

Those stats do reflect some of his skill set and an offensive defender with a nice vision and good puck movement. Despite not being a fast skater, his vision and eye for the game is stellar and that gives him a huge edge.

The only slight knock on Heinola is his frame. At only 5’11 and 178 lbs, it’s clear that he would benefit from gaining a little bit of muscle, in order to win the puck battles in front of the net or at the boards. If he can do so, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be able to become a nice top 4 defender in the NHL someday.

I predict that Heinola will go late in the first round or early in the second.

Anttoni Honka –Jukurit – Defender

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Last year, Anttoni Honka was tipped for greatness and a great spot in the draft. A year later and he has been sliding in the draft rankings. He now projects outside of the first and second round and that’s due to a very turbulent season for the Finn. Last year, he came into Liiga and was spectacular scoring 9 points in 20 games for JYP. However, he hasn’t been able to follow up on the success he had and he has spent time at three different clubs. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much success at any of those clubs. Overall, he posted 15 points in 38 games. That doesn’t sound awful and it by no means is, but almost half of those points came when he was playing in the second division of Finish hockey, Mestris. In the playoffs with KeuPa HT, Honka played very well and almost helped them to the championship, but sadly they were beaten at the last hurdle.

While the talent is very clear with Honka, he is a bit of an un-finshed product at the moment. Very fast, skilled on the puck and his offensive mindset is superb, but there are some speed bumps. Defensively he is lacking a lot, and with a small size, he will require a lot of work from the team that picks him. However, if his defensive game can be refined and adjusted, while he gains a few pounds of pure muscles, I could see him turn into a diamond in the rough in the third or fourth round.

Mikko Kokkonen – Mikkelin Jukurit – Defender

Another Finnish defenseman in the draft, who is more than worth keeping an eye on is Mikko Kokkonen. The Jukurit player has had a nice first full season in Liiga, where he played 56 games for the team and contributed with 19 points from the blue-line. Not bad at all for someone who turned 18 in 2019. Sadly, he missed out on the playoffs, but he’s playing in a strong league and developing at a rapid pace. I would expect Kokkonen to remain in Liiga for one year before taking the trip to North America to further his career growth.

One of the major strengths of Kokkonen is his versatility. He is a fantastic two-way player, who can do a job in almost all situations. He’s strong on the puck, smart and without a glaring weakness. Kokkonen is a coach’s dream player. However, this ability to be capable in all areas is also part of his weaknesses. He isn’t the greatest at any attribute and he won’t be the player who can create magic on the ice. He does what he is asked, and he does it to an acceptable level, without wowing the audience. While this isn’t great in terms of draft rating, that could be exactly why he becomes a nice top 4 defender in the NHL.  A player that’s reliable is key in the top 4 and Kokkonen could become the unsung hero on the teams blue-line, like Dan Girardi was at New York Rangers.

stats from eliteprospects.com

NHL Draft: German League Prospects For The Draft

Only seven days remain before the 2019 National Hockey League entry draft and prospects from all over the world will be gathered to see their fate. Among the prospects, there are a few of them that will be coming from Germany. 

The journey to the NHL is long and hard and while it’s still heavily dominated by the Canadian players, the Europeans are starting to gain more and more momentum. Over the next week or so, I will try to look at the players from the European leagues that could be stars in the NHL down the road and late round steals.

First up is Germany. We’ve seen quite a bit of top talent coming from Germany. Players like Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and Philip Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche have been stellar in the NHL. On the international scene, German hockey has created near miracles, something that Puck77’s Wally Mazurek also focused on in his article from earlier this week. But how do the Germans stack up ahead of the 2019 entry draft and what players from their leagues is worth keeping a small eye on during the draft?

Moritz Seider – Adler Mannheim – Defender

The next German star of the NHL is well within the cards for 18-year-old Moritz Seider. Talks have him to being taken mid-first round and for good reason. The Mannheim defender has had a dream season, where his first of many great achievements came when, at the age of 17, he  took the German Under-20 team back to the World Juniors top division as its captain. To be the captain at that age is something unique, but his young age didn’t show in the tournament. He was a star player for the Germans, getting seven points in  five games for the Germans.

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In the domestic league, he helped Adler Mannheim win their seventh league title. And once again the young defender was a key part of it, playing 43 games for the club. While his points production wasn’t as good as it was at the junior levels, he held his own and played in all the 14 playoff games.

To end the season, he also got to shine doing the IIHF Worlds Championships, where he was playing extremely well for Germany, with strong play on the blue line on both sides of the zone. He never looked out of place on the German team and for a teenager playing against men and NHLers, that’s one of the biggest compliments to receive. Sadly, his tournament ended on a sour note as he was taken out with a minor injury against Slovakia.

Seider is possibly one of the best mid-to-late first rounders in a few years and with his size and speed he can become a great pick and, in my opinion, would be one of the major steals of the draft if he were to drop outside the top 20. He has all the tools and skills to become one of the better defenders in the league if he continues his development.

Simon Gnyp – Kölner Haie – Defender

Last year was a fantastic year for German hockey. Not only due to the success in the Worlds and Under-20 team getting promoted back to the Worlds Juniors, but also due to the success of the Under-18 team.

Under the leadership of captain Simon Gnyp, they also gained promotion to the top of Under-18 hockey. Like Seider, he also showed a great ability to get points from the blueline during this tournament as he grabbed eight points in just five games. A huge part of the reason for the promotion and its very likely that he will be a part of the World Juniors next winter for the Germans.

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Gnyp has somewhat been overshadowed by Sieder in a lot of the German prospect talks, but Gnyp has played 14 games in the DEL against the best that Germany has to offer, and at only 17-years-old that is a monumental achievement. And while he wasn’t a regular in the Kölner line-up, he did manage to find a lot of success on the Under-20 level at Kölner EC U20, where he had 35 points in just 29 games. Being a point a game in any league is good. But when it’s done as a freshman in the junior league its worth taking note of.

His one weakness is his size. At only 5’11″ and 179 lbs., he is on the smaller side when it comes to the NHL build for a defenseman. However, as we seen with players like Jared Spurgeon and Samuel Girard, its more than possible to break into the NHL even with a smaller frame. I see him going in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he turns out to be one of those picks that people look back on with a lot of pride in a few years as he dons an NHL uniform.

Nino Kinder – Eisbären Berlin U20 – Center

The top scorer of the German Under-18 team and another part of the aforementioned team that gained promotion, Nino Kinder’s nine points was a key part in their success. Especially since he always found a way to score the key goals in the tournament, with very important tallies against Kazakhstan and Denmark.

Within Germany, he has mostly been apart of the Under-20 team in Berlin although he has had a small taste of Men’s hockey with five DEL games to his name. In the Under-20 league, he has been good and shown a lot of nice signs with a lot of offense. With 41 points in 33 games, and 17 goals to his name, its clear to see that he can find the back of the net at the junior level in Germany.

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The major question now is if it can be transferred to the big leagues. Next season will be a very important year for him where he more than likely will feature more heavily in DEL. This is yet to be confirmed and this could scare off a lot of teams from looking his way despite a fine international showing, at least in the early rounds. I see him as a late pick, potentially even seventh round that by a team hoping that his skills at the junior levels will be showing as he takes the next step in his career.

Jan-Luca Schumacher – Jungadler Mannheim U20 – Center/winger

While Jan-Luca Schumacher has never played a game in DEL, his stats in the juniors in Germany is astonishing. Well over a point and a half per game in over 30 games for Mannheim tells the story of his talent.  A great playmaker at the junior levels, he has all the tools to go quite far. At only 17, he has time to grow as well and he might have as he has a smaller frame.

Schumacher was a major part of the U18 German team who won the promotion, where he got six points. And like Kinder, he also made some key contributions along the way.

Schumacher and Kinder are very similar players and they both are going to have to show that they can break into the men’s league and transfer their fantastic play to the senior level. And that is a lot easier said then done, so his lack of senior level might hurt his draft stock, since the pure junior players that tend to be picked in the first couple of rounds are playing in the juniors in North America. Therefore, I feel he would be another late round pick from a team looking for a steal.

Statistics Provided By EliteProspects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals 

 

Puck 77 NHL Draft Scouting Reports

We’ve compiled all of the scouting reports done by the various members of the Puck77 team for the NHL Draft here in one easy location so you can jump right to the player you want!

Our Top-12

1. 🇺🇸 Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Jack Hughes by Tony Ferrari

2. 🇫🇮 Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga): Deep Dive Scouting Report of Kaapo Kakko by Tony Ferrari

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3. 🇺🇸 Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Alex Turcotte by Tony Ferrari

4. 🇨🇦 Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Bowen Byram by Tony Ferrari

5. 🇺🇸 Trevor Zegras, C/LW, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Trevor Zegras by Tony Ferrari

6. 🇨🇦 Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Dylan Cozens by Tony Ferrari

7. 🇺🇸 Cole Caufield, LW, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Cole Caufield by Tony Ferrari

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8. 🇨🇦 Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Kirby Dach by Tony Ferrari

9. 🇨🇦 Alex Newhook, C, Vancouver Grizzlies (BCHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Alex Newhook by Tony Ferrari

10. 🇨🇦 Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Peyton Krebs by Tony Ferrari

11. 🇺🇸 Matthew Boldy, RW, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Matthew Boldy by Tony Ferrari

12. 🇷🇺 Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Vasili Podkolzin by Tony Ferrari

Other Intriguing Prospects

2019 NHL Draft: What makes Philip Tomasino such an intriguing prospect? by Spencer Loane

2019 NHL Draft Deep Dive: Arthur Kaliyev by Spencer Teixeira

NHL Draft Profile: Nolan Foote by Spencer Teixeira

Come back for more profiles as they are updated and added! Thanks for stopping by!