Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Review

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s draft may have been solid for some, including myself, but not so much for other fans. I’m here to either push you one way, or pull you even further away from whichever side you are currently on. So let’s get into a full draft review.

Round 1, Pick 27: Tampa Bay Lightning select Nolan Foote, F, Kelowna Rockets

This is the pick that was cause for debate, as Foote was expected to go in the middle to late stages of the second round, and potentially even the third round. However, the Lightning reached for the brother of their top defensive prospect, Cal Foote, with this pick. I did a scouting report on Foote shortly after day 1 of the draft was completed, but I’ll give you a quick run down. He isn’t a very good skater, but outside of that, possesses a well-balanced, two-way skill-set. If he can hone in on his skating skills, I could easily see him as a second line winger in the future. But again, this was a reach at 27th overall, and there were better options (as it stands today) at that spot.

Draft Pick Grade: C+. Would be a B if he wasn’t such a big reach however.

Round 3, Pick 71: Tampa Bay Lightning select Hugo Alnefelt, G, HV71 J20

The Lightning acquired the 71st overall selection as a part of the JT Miller trade with the Vancouver Canucks at the draft. I also did a scouting report on Alnefelt a few days ago, and I was very impressed with his skills. In short, he is very fluid with his movements in all directions, and is very, very poised in net. He can make clutch saves when needed, and he tracks the puck with such precision, it’s like he’s a programmed machine made to stop a puck. He also has advanced rebound control for his age, and I genuinely believe he could cross over to the AHL as soon as next season to play for the Syracuse Crunch in a backup role. I’m very happy with this pick.

Draft Pick Grade: B+. Would be an A- but we have Andrei Vasilevskiy for the foreseeable future.

Round 3, Pick 89: Tampa Bay Lightning select Maxim Cajkovic, F, St John Sea Dogs

This is my favorite pick, hands down. I did a scouting report on him as well, but this is the last player I scouted, at least for the Lightning’s picks. He’s a Marchand type of player, who plays with an edge and a bit dirty too. He does have a good offensive touch and plays well in the defensive zone. In short, he’s a great pick, but needs to be more disciplined at the next level. I can see him as a middle 6 forward in the future.

Draft Pick Grade: A

Round 4, Pick 120: Tampa Bay Lightning select Maxwell Crozier, D, Sioux Falls

Crozier is an overager at 19 years old, but is coming off of a solid season with Sioux, posting 43 points in 60 games. 20 of those 43 points were primary (goal, primary assists), which is solid, especially for a defenseman. These are his statistics, according to prospect-stats.

As shown above, he ranks on the higher end of the scale in almost every stat, except for expected goals per 60 minutes (eG/60). He has good size, standing at 6’2, 190 pounds, and that’s a pattern you’ll see. Taller or heavier players were coming off the board when Tampa had to make their pick. I do like this selection from an analytical standpoint, but I had no film and can’t make a true assessment on him.

Draft Pick Grade: B-

Round 6, Pick 182: Tampa Bay Lightning select Quinn Schmeimann, D, Kamloops Blazers

Another tall, stocky defenseman, Schmeimann played in the Western Hockey League for Kamloops and did alright. At 17 years old, nearly 18, he scored 5 goals and assisted on 23 more for 28 total points, with 14 points being primary. Here’s more from prospect-shifts.

Again, Schmeimann does well analytically, outside of two metrics: eA1/60 (expected primary assists in 60 minutes) and eG/60 (expected goals in 60 minutes). I like the selection, but there was no film on him, and I cannot give him the good ol’ eye test. I will be keeping a close eye on his development into next season.

Draft Pick Grade: C+

Round 7, Pick 198: Tampa Bay Lightning select Mikhail Shalagin, F, Spartak Moskva

Shalagin is a tall kid, standing at 6’4, but is an unhealthy 168 pounds. However, despite his very lanky stature, he managed to dominate the MHL (second tier Russian league). The Russian hockey player is 19, turning 20 in September of this year, which makes him 2 years older than some of the other prospects in this draft. However, he scored 48 goals and 27 assists (75 points) in 45 games played. 45 games played is not a typo, he was just that good. Sure, there’s the Russia factor, and sure, he is an overager, but I still feel very happy with this selection. There’s no Prospect-Stats page for him, and also no film, but he looks like a very intriguing prospect to keep an eye on. Potential late bloomer, similar to that of Nikita Gusev.

Draft Pick Grade: B

Round 7, Pick 213: Tampa Bay Lightning select McKade Webster, F, Green Bay Gamblers

The Lightning’s final selection was an undersized left winger in Webster (5’10, 159 pounds), who posted 11 goals and 19 assists for 30 points in 58 games played in the season prior. However, he only played 6 games this past season, with 2 assists. He is committed to the University of Denver next season, and if he can remain healthy and produce at a good level in college, than this could be another solid selection.

Webster didn’t place too well in the games he did wind up playing last season. Currently, it was just a casual 7th round selection, nothing very special and likely won’t play an NHL game. However, that could all change with a good NCAA season or two.

Draft Pick Grade: C

In Conclusion

The Lightning drafted well, in my opinion. Nolan Foote may have been a reach, but he’s still a good prospect. Maxim Cajkovic and Hugo Alnefelt were fantastic third round selections. Outside of the first three picks, they took fliers on some potentially solid bottom 6 forwards. All in all, I’d give their draft a B- grade. It wasn’t anything great, but it wasn’t awful either. Only time will tell which way this draft leans towards more: Good or Bad.

All stats via Prospect-Stats and eliteprospects

Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Draft Recap and Analysis

The Colorado Avalanche were able to come away from the draft weekend as the big winners. Thanks to a complete lack of self realization and foresight by Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, the Avalanche were armed with the fourth overall pick as well as their own pick at 16.

The Picks

Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 1, 4th Overall

The Colorado Avalanche were able to land themselves the consensus top-ranked defender in the 2019 NHL Draft. A silky, smooth skater who led the WHL playoffs in scoring from the back end, Byram was an offensive catalyst. The Vancouver Giants blue liner was able to affect that game in every facet.

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The young Canadian showed outstanding potential offensively. Byram proved able to make any pass he’s asked whether it be transitioning out of the defensive zone with a long pass through the neutral zone or a short pass to alleviate pressure along the boards. In the offensive zone he is a facilitator from the point. He threads passes through the zone finding open lanes through the slot to create high danger scoring chances. He also skates extremely well with the puck on his stick, understanding when the opportunity arises to make a move and get himself into scoring position.

Defensively, Byram was consistently improving throughout the year. His gal control was excellent due to his outstanding skating and edge work. He was able to pivot and keep oncoming attackers to the outside preventing dangerous chances. His board play was impressive as he was able to win battles in the corners and along the side walls with consistency. The future Avs defender was a presence in the net front, clearing the crease with proficiency. Overall, the top defender I the draft will be a luxury for a team who’s defensive pipeline already includes Connor Timmins, Sam Girard and Cale Makar which could lead to the Colorado Avalanche having once of the best blue lines in hockey within a few short seasons.

Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL), Round 1, 16th Overall

Despite playing a level below major junior, the BCHL star proved that he was a first round talent. Alex Newhook battled through a slow start and not making the Canadian Hlinka-Gretzky squad. Often times players are unable to perform at their top speed but the young Grizzlies star has speed to burn and can play the game at full speed. His skating is elite among NHL talent already and his hockey IQ is top level. Often ranked among the top-10 prior to the draft, Colorado’s ability to land a top flight center to pair with the best defender in the draft class helps solidify the Avalanche as the big winners of the draft.

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Using his high-level burst and edge work, he does an excellent job of tracking opposing players into the defensive zone. He uses a quick, high-skill stick work to separate player from puck. Once the puck is turned over, Newhook is able to take a couple of strides pulling away from his adversaries with ease. The east coast native is a neutral zone wizard when it comes to the translation game. Whether it be using his crisp, accurate passing or his high-octane speed, Newhook gets through the zone efficiently and at a high rate of speed.

Once into the offensive zone, he creates space with his ability to drive defenders back with his speed before stopping on a dime. His edge work and quick first step allow him to create separation in tight spaces and get into tight areas with the puck. Newhook has a solid frame, able to handle being leaned on in the corners and still coming out with the puck more often than not. His vision and hockey sense are constantly on display as he finds and sets up his teammates. His shot is NHL ready, especially off the rush or on a one time opportunity. He is able to change the angle on his shot with excellent stick handling off the rush, which becomes nearly unstoppable at times when you combine it with his exceptional speed.

Drew Helleson, RHD, USNTDP (USHL), Round 2, 47th Overall

Helleson is a solid defensive blue liner who is a very fluid skater. He makes efficient plays with the puck on his stick and he is able to skate confidently with the puck when needed. Offensively he has a decent shot from the point that relies on accuracy to get it through more than power. He makes simple passes to the forwards, allowing the high skilled players to make plays and facilitating when needed.

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He is patient and poised with the puck in his own zone, rarely making a mistake. He moves well forwards and backwards, able to gain speed and keep pace with attacking forwards. He could stand to improve his lateral quickness as he can be turned around at times when being driven back with high-level speed. He provides a physical presence but doesn’t rely on the bone crushing hit that can often take a player out of the play. He uses his large frame with a purpose and engages at the appropriate time. He is with attend Boston College in the fall, along with fellow Avs draft choice Alex Newhook, where he is likely to continue his development for at least two seasons before making the jump to the professional ranks.

Matthew Stienburg, C/RW, St. Andrews College (CAHS), Round 3, 63rd Overall

This was the first pick that Joe Sakic and the Avalanche management team may have reached on. Due to being diagnosed with Osteomyelitis, an infection in the shoulder that was eating away at the muscle tissue and bone, the CHL route was taken away because he only played in 15 games in his CHL draft eligible year. Electing to go through multiple surgeries in an attempt to return his a to fill mobility, he dealt with adversity at a young age. He opened up to the prep school-NCAA route and is committed to Cornell next year.

While Stienburg showed skills, his physical presence is his calling card. Often compared to Tom Wilson, the young Canadian is a bit of a throwback type player. He fought in a call up to Sioux City of the USHL, racking up 15 PIM. He possesses pro-ready size at 6’1″, 185lbs. His offensive game is well rounded as he was able to produce 33 goals and 42 assists in just 56 games proving that he isn’t just a goon despite in 98 PIMs on the season. Certainly a project, Stienburg will attend Cornell for at least a couple of years and continue to develop and hone his raw skill set. With his plus hockey IQ, he may be able to turn himself into a solid middle-six forward at the professional level.

Alex Beaucage, RW/LW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), Round 3, 78th Overall

The 2019 Memorial Cup champion was the Avalanche’s second pick in the third round. Alex Beaucage is one of the youngest players in the draft and he put up impressive offensive numbers as the fifth highest scoring first year draft eligible players in the QMJHL. Beaucage was an offensive producer with 79 points in just 68 games, he played with older, more experienced players and was often the beneficiary of their solid play.

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He wasn’t strictly as passenger as he possesses solid traits such as a good shot and vision. He is able to get the puck off his stick quickly and efficiently whether it be a shot or a pass. Next season will provide a lot of answers for Beaucage as he will likely be asked to lead a line of his own rather than ride shotgun with some veteran players. It was a puck worth taking the risk on as he could grow into a lead-dog role with the Huskies next season.

Lottery Tickets: Round 4 and Beyond

Sasha Mutala, RW, Tri-City Americans (WHL), Round 5, 140th Overall

Mutala is a good skater with quick acceleration. He is a high-motor player who is an active forechecker creating chances from the dirty areas of the ice. Mutala has a heavy shot and decent vision. Projects as a third-line winger.

Luka Burzan, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Round 6, 171st Overall

Originally eligible for the draft last year, Burzan thrust himself in the scene with a 40 goal, 78 point campaign following a year where he had 9 goals and 21 points. Burzan is a project player who could continue to grow offensively.

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Trent Minor, G, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 7, 202nd Overall

Trent Minor led the Vancouver Giants to the WHL final where they fell to the Prince Albert Raiders in seven games. A sub-2.00 goals against average and a .924 save percentage which were aided by playing on an outstanding team. A teammate of Byram, the Avalanche 4th overall pick, Miner is slightly undersized but shows promise in net.

Draft Recap

The Colorado Avalanche were able to take advantage of the poor situation that Matt Duchene our them in by getting the Ottawa Senators first round pick. That gave Colorado the opportunity to use the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to bolster their depth all over the ice despite experiencing some on-ice success. Having the 4th and 16th pick in the first round was an advantageous spot to be put in. After selecting Byram with the fourth pick they were fortunate to have Alex Newhook, a player often ranked in the top-10, with the 16th pick. Those two players will bolster this team in areas of need and they were also the best players available. Byram adds to the defensive prospect pipeline making it the best blue line group of prospects in the NHL. Newhook will likely solidify the second line center spot behind Nathan MacKinnon where he will be able to follow MacKinnon’s speed with a second wave of breath taking speed.

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After the first round Colorado continued to make good decisions, going with a mix of safe picks such as Helleson and riskier picks like Stienburg. Adding a defensive defender who can skate and make a solid first pass the way Helleson does in the second round was a smart choice and then they took risks as the puck certainty decreased. Balancing the risk of drafting Stienburg with a bit of a safer pick in the offensively gifted Beaucage was a strategy that could pay off in time. Mutala and Burzan are good upside picks where Colorado took a bit of a risk later in the draft as they should. Trent Miner is a goalie who has some winning pedigree and good statistics. He has some good tools and grabbing him in the 7th round may end up being a steal.

Overall, the Colorado Avalanche May be the team that won the draft as early on as day one. Acquiring two top-10 talents, one of which being the clear-cut best defender in the draft, means that they more than took advantage of the opportunity that they were presented with. Colorado had success on the ice this year, making it to the second round and pushing San Jose to a controversial game seven. Now, after pulling in the draft class that they did, they are starting the offseason with some success off the ice.

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats.

Florida Panthers: Evaluating Their 2019 Draft

The Florida Panthers went into the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft in Vancouver with the 13th overall pick and came out with nine new names in their depth chart. 

 

Overall, the best word to describe the Panthers’ performance in Vancouver is: okay. Just okay.  Nothing phenomenal, nothing crippling.  Just… okay.  Personally, I am a big proponent of drafting the best available talent, but General Manager Dale Tallon and co. clearly went into the draft with team needs on their minds.  A team that struggled defensively and in net invested heavily in their own end with this draft; the Panthers only used one of their first five picks on a forward but tried to stock the cabinets in the later rounds.  So how did they do with each pick?

 

Round 1, Pick 13: Spencer Knight, G (US National U18 Team)

 

Spencer Knight was not just the top goalie prospect in this year’s draft, but one of the best goalie prospects the NHL has seen in a long time.  That said, drafting goalies is a very tricky business, as goalies are much harder to evaluate and generally take longer to develop. 

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The Panthers clearly wanted a defenseman with their first-round pick, but by the time they stepped up to the podium, Victor Soderstrom, Philip Broberg, and Moritz Seider were all off the board.  Tallon allegedly had some discussions with other GMs about trading down, but they proved fruitless and the Panthers ultimately used their given pick on Knight.  With the big-three defensemen off the board, I understand and am generally okay with the Panthers reaching a little bit for Knight.  Hopefully, he turns into every bit the franchise goalie that the analysts are projecting and the Panthers don’t regret passing on the likes of Cole Caufield and Peyton Krebs.

 

Pick feel: fine, given the circumstances

I would’ve picked: Cole Caufield

 

Round 2, Pick 52: Vladislav Kolyachonok, D (Flint Firebirds, OHL)

 

Drafted by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and traded to the Flint Firebirds, Kolyachonok had 30 points in 54 games as a rookie defenseman in the OHL, in addition to scoring five points in five games as Belarus’ captian at the World U18 Championship.  The Panthers may have lost out on Broberg, Seider, and Soderstrom, but Kolyachonok, described as a responsible, two-way defenseman who excels at moving the puck and moving himself, immediately becomes the best defensive prospect in their system.

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Pick feel: great

I would’ve picked: Mikko Kokkonen

 

Round 3, Pick 69: John Ludvig, D (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)

 

Undrafted in 2018, John Ludvig’s second Western Hockey League season, while an improvement on his first, still left much to be desired.  The 6’1” defenseman is known more for fighting than scoring, having recorded more penalty minutes than points in each of his seasons with Portland so far.  Many mocks had him going in the seventh round, if at all, and nothing I have seen in any stat sheet or highlight reel justifies this pick to me either.  This was easily the worst pick the Panthers made in Vancouver and possibly one of the worst overall picks of the entire draft.

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Pick feel: not nice

I would’ve picked: nearly anyone else, but especially Mikko Kokkonen, who was STILL on the board.

 

Round 3, Pick 81: Cole Schwindt, W (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)

 

The Panthers followed up their worst pick in the draft by making one of their better picks in the draft. The 17-year-old 6’2” forward Schwindt might not have lit the OHL up himself, but he is a very effective play driver at five-on-five.  In significant minutes, Schwindt had a massively positive impact on his teammates’ (including fellow Panthers prospect Owen Tippett) possession stats, which is a very good sign moving forward.

 

Pick feel: much better than the last one

I would’ve picked: STILL MIKKO KOKKONEN

 

Round 4, Pick 106: Carter Berger, D (Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL)

 

The last of the defensemen with whom Florida left Vancouver, Berger is a skilled, though over-aged, defenseman.  He notched 27 goals and 36 assists (63 points) in his second draft-eligible season and is set to move up to the NCAA and play for UCONN this coming season.

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Pick feel: no strong feelings one way or the other

I would’ve picked: Antti Saarela

 

Round 5, Pick 136: Henrik Rybinski, W (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)

 

If any of the Panthers’ draft picks is eventually described as a diamond in the rough, it will be Hank Rybinski.  Rybinski began this season very slowly with the Medicine Hat Tigers, but exploded onto the scene after a trade to the Seattle Thunderbirds.  The 17-year-old finished his WHL season with 40 points in 47 games, but was a point-per-game player for Seattle.  Rybinski is strong on the puck, but is certainly more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer himself.  If Seattle continues to use him in more significant ice time, his development could be a pleasant surprise.

 

Pick feel: unreasonably excited for a fifth-rounder

I would’ve picked: Henrik Rybinski too.  Good job, team.

 

Round 5, Pick 137: Owen Lindmark, C (US National U18 Team)

 

The second American-born player that the Panthers drafted over the weekend will follow up a 14-point USHL and 25-point USDP campaign by playing at the University of Wisconsin this coming season. A reasonably sound winger, Lindmark did not particularly wow anybody in any facet of the game, but he didn’t cause much disruption either.

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Pick feel: good enough, he just seems happy to be involved

I would’ve picked: Mason Primeau if you really twisted my arm about it.

 

Round 6, Pick 168: Greg Meireles, C (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)/Round 7, Pick 199: Matthew Wedman, C (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)

 

I am going to lump Meireles and Wedman in with each other because the things I have to say about both are strikingly similar.  Both Meireles and Wedman are 20 years old and just completed their third season of draft eligibility.  Both outperformed their previous career highs by significant margins.  Meireles finished 10th in points in the OHL and Wedman 20th in the WHL, but that should be expected, given their age, development, and experience.  I certainly don’t hate taking a flyer on a pair of potential late-bloomers in the sixth/seventh round.

 

Pick feel: *shrug emoji*

I would’ve picked: Michael Gildon both times

Statistics provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Who Is Nolan Foote?

The Tampa Bay Lightning choose Nolan Foote with the 27th selection at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. What do the Bolts need to know about the draftee.

The Options.

In the first round of the 2019 NHL entry draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning had 1 pick, at 27th overall. At the time of their pick, they had a real good batch of players to choose from, as they had dropped far down the ranks. That crop included, but not limited to, Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink, Pavel Dorofeyev, Raphael Lavoie, Nils Hoglander and Sam Fagemo. All of them would have been real good picks at 27, but instead the Lightning went way off the board and reached. They selected a guy who was ranked 30 or so picks later, in Nolan Foote. Obviously, not a good choice considering all other candidates, and Julien BriseBois continues to have a just awful offseason. So unimpressive since taking over as GM, and it has gotten worse and worse with each decision. But, there’s no going back now, so let’s break down Nolan Foote’s game.

The Basics

Nolan Foote, for those who don’t know, is the brother of Callan Foote, who is a prospect for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was ranked as early as 38th and as late as 87th by experts, which is not a very good look on the surface. Playing on the left wing for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, he managed to put up 36 goals and 27 assists (63 points) in 66 games. He was given the assistant captaincy duties after his older brother Cal left for the AHL. He stands at 6’3, and 190 pounds, giving him good size, which addresses a need for Tampa. However, Raphael Lavoie did the same, and is much better. Even John Beecher, selected at 30 by the Bruins, would have been a better option. But maybe I am missing something…

Scouting Report

After this pick, I was so baffled that I watched 2 hours worth of film to try and figure out what Tampa saw, and why they valued him above other, better, players. Let’s begin.

Nolan Foote isn’t a good skater, and it’s safe to say he is the worst skater taken in the first round. He isn’t particularly slow, as he keeps up with the game, but he struggles stopping and taking tight turns, which will be a huge problem if not fixed. He also doesn’t have good balance despite his size, going down too easy. Luckily, Barb Underhill is a great skating coach, and could get him past those hurdles. He shows very good puck control and uses his frame fully to protect the puck. He likes to be creative offensively, but there are too many times where he tries to be too cute with the puck and turns it over, and he just looks silly doing it. He also tries forcing passes into traffic at times, and either waits too long to make a pass or doesn’t wait long enough for a lane to develop. But at times, he shows good vision, and makes the easy pass if it’s there, but he is still too streaky there to really know where he stands with his playmaking game. He loves getting to the dirty areas, battling along the boards and in the corners. He also tends to park himself right in front of the opposing goalie as a screen, looking for tips and rebounds. He played on the powerplay for Kelowna last year, starting the year as the net-front presence. But, when his older brother Cal left, he played at the half-wall and at the point on the powerplay, and that’s when he began to really display his shooting abilities. He has a very hard wrist shot, and a knack for putting pucks on net. He also has a lethal one-timer, off his slap shot. But, the move from net-front to the half-wall on the powerplay allowed him to show his game as a facilitator on the powerplay. He did exceptionally well moving the puck on the man advantage, with quick, crisp passes to the wingers down low. Without the puck, he does a nice job finding soft areas in coverage to get open for a pass from a teammate. However, there are times where he can’t handle a hard pass, even if it’s tape to tape. That’s something that can be coached, as the technique of receiving passes are easy to learn and adjust to. When there is a board battle on the far side wing, he tends to puck watch and get sucked into the play. He doesn’t realize himself getting pulled into the scrum until the puck is taken out and he is in the way of a teammate. But again, that’s something that can be ironed out with maturity and coaching. He is a lazy forechecker, often not getting engaged, but he has a good active stick and hand eye coordination that he pairs with good anticipation, which allows him to intercept passes on the opponents break out. He backchecks hard, but he isn’t a good enough skater yet to really make an impact on the backcheck. Defensively, he is positionally sound, as he doesn’t chase the puck around the zone, or get caught puck watching defensively. He gets involved down low, supporting the defense, and isn’t afraid to play the body if necessary, or battle for the puck along the boards. He is unafraid of blocking shots if he needs to, which is why I see him as an effective penalty killer.

Future Role:

Skating is obviously the biggest need for him in his development, because if he doesn’t get better on his edges to enable him to stop and start with the puck, then he will never make the NHL. But if he works on it, and gets considerably better, while fine tuning his already established two-way game, he projects as a middle 6 winger, with PK time, and maybe even PP time if needed by the team. He is still 3 to 4 years out from making an NHL impact, at least at the moment, but he does show some promise.

Stats via eliteprospects

Featured Image Credit: Justin Miner

Is Juuso Parssinen a Late Round Steal?

The NHL draft is today, featuring the first 31 picks. What happens today with selections could change the direction of a franchise for the next 10 years. But no one shows love to the day two draft picks, which is rounds 2 through 7. Nikita Kucherov, Jamie Benn and Pavel Datsyuk were day 2 selections, just to name a few. So who’s a prospect that could turn out to be much better than where they were selected in the draft? My bet is on Juuso Parssinen.

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Background

Parssinen is a Finnish prospect, who played almost all of last season on TPS U20, in the Jr. SM Liiga. There, he put up 13 goals and 9 assists for 22 points in 36 games. He also played on team Finland for the U18 World Junior Championships, but played a minor role, with just 1 goal and 1 assist in 5 games. He was ranked 156th by Future Considerations and 145th by McKeens Hockey, which places him anywhere from the late stages of round four to the early parts of round 5. But what makes him stand out?

After Watching Film

I watched the only 2 available games, thanks to Prospect Shifts (a subscription based site), on Parssinen, and what I found is a very underrated player. His value is lowered by the fact that he plays in the U20 leagues rather than up against men in Liiga. But that is completely undeserving.

The Good: He is a decent skater. He has great balance and can fight through checks and get to the dirty areas. He also has fantastic puck control and is great at using his 6’2, 203 pound frame to protect the puck. His stick handling allows him to make a move on a defenseman to open up a passing or shooting lane. He’s also good at changing his stick position to make a pass through tight coverage and while being under pressure. He has fast and crisp passes that never seem to miss his target and is very hard to break up. He has a knack for scoring in tight to the goalie, and has an accurate shot. He likes to crash the net for rebounds, and with his good hand eye and vision, he does, at times, fish the puck out and get a scoring chance. On the forecheck, he shows an active stick, making it difficult for defenders to put the puck past him. He doesn’t hit often, but when he sees your head down he is not afraid to initiate contact. He supports the defense down low, and his active stick translates from the forecheck to the defensive zone. He played in all situations last season for the U18 team, where he worked the top of the diamond on the penalty kill, and played mostly on the half-wall, facilitating the play to the point, or hitting cross ice passes for one timers.

The Bad: He isn’t necessarily a bad skater but he is slow and can, at times, fall behind the play. In the offensive zone, he didn’t struggle to get open without the puck against his age group, but in his one and only game in the top league, Liiga, he struggled to find room due to the lack of movement he had. He has to be moving more without the puck, and that comes with confidence down the road. His shot is accurate, as I touched on, but doesn’t have enough power behind it. On the forecheck, he shows an active stick, but isn’t aggressive enough. He gives the defenseman too much space to reconsider, and think out plays, to get past his active stick. He also doesn’t stop and start with the play, often taking wide turns to get back. That is due to his very below average edge work, and he will need to really work on his turns and stops to even begin to translate to the NHL level. In the defensive zone is where he really begins to struggle. Despite playing on the penalty kill, Parssinen chases the puck carrier all over the ice, with no positional awareness. When he isn’t chasing the play, he often finds himself watching the puck, and getting sucked in towards it slowly, opening up whoever he was supposed to cover and, in turn, knocking him out of position.

What is needed to reach NHL level

Parssinen has the skill set, with the puck on his stick to arguably be second round talent. His bad edgework along with his below average speed knock him back a bit, not to mention his lack of defensive awareness. Without the puck he is not mobile enough and does not find soft areas of coverage to get open for a teammate at a consistent enough level. However, if he works on his skating and gains even a little bit of positional awareness in both offensive and defensive zones without the puck, he could crack an NHL roster. If he continues developing his already solid offensive skills along with his skating, he projects to be a solid third line scoring winger. He could be a low-risk, high-reward player, but development and patience is key in his growth.

All stats via Elite Prospects 

Feature image courtesy of Nikos Michals