Hlinka Gretzky – Europe Preview

The Smaht Scouting team has prepared scouting notes on several European prospects who will be playing for their country at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (July 31-August 6) in Red Deer, Alberta.

For the preview on American and Canadian prospects, please click here.

Josh TesslerJordan MaletteAustin GarretPaul Zuk and Matthew Somma contributed. Check out their notes below.

Slovakia

Ondrej Molnár

DOB: February 8, 2005

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 176 lbs

Position: Left Wing

Team: HK Nitra 

Hometown: Nitra, Slovakia

Draft Year: 2023

“Excellent speed and good skating extensions to foster quality acceleration. Good posture. Good ankle flexion. Quality turns and pivots and then getting quality speed off the turn as he leans on his edges. When skating up along the red line at the corner, he looks to pass pucks to the slot especially when he is facing heavy pressure. He constantly looks to pass pucks to high and medium danger, but struggles to connect with his line-mates as they are slower. When Molnár has a lot of pressure on him right after he drove up the ice, he has no choice but to pass to the slot and hope for the best. He can be a little too overconfident in his reach. His reach is solid, but when he extends the puck far out he needs to secure the puck a bit better when danger arises. While Molnár does need to address puck control through the course of his draft year, his speed allows him to be a constant threat and hopefully his fellow Slovaks at Hlinka can match his acceleration to give him quality passing options.” – Josh Tessler 

Samuel Sisik

DOB: March 17, 2005

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 150 lbs

Position: Left Wing

Team: SaiPa (Liiga / U20)

Hometown: Bratislava, Slovakia

Draft Year: 2023

“Likes to work the cycle in low danger areas before cutting in. Sisik usually will skate towards the corner before skating parallel to the red line. When he has the puck on the outside, past the perimeter, he doesn’t bring the puck in himself, instead he looks to complete passes to teammates in low danger who aren’t far from him. He does position himself nicely at net front for rebound collection. He can get around a defender putting pressure on his upper body to grab a hold of a rebound and put a quality follow-up shot on net. Ideally, I’d like him to develop a more assertive style of forechecking as he struggles to implement tight pressure and be slightly more assertive about attacking the middle of the ice.” – Josh Tessler

Jakub Chromiak

DOB: November 2, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 183 lbs

Position: Right Handed Defenseman

Team: HK Dukla Trencin

Hometown: Ilava, Slovakia

Draft Year: 2024

“Chromiak is a shifty skater with great crossovers and solid puck skills. He isn’t the biggest defender but will lead with the body in order to separate attacking players from the puck. Chromiak is a late 2005 birthday, meaning that he isn’t eligible until the 2024 draft, but I see some tools that you can mold into a capable NHL defender.” – Matthew Somma

Sweden

Theo Lindstein

DOB: January 5, 2005

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 176 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Brynäs IF (SHL and J20)

Hometown: Gävle, Sweden

Draft Year: 2023

“Very conservative and reliable defender. Not a ton of offensive upside. But, has solid positioning, stay well aligned to puck movement. Quality skater and has good speed to loose pucks. Pass first puck mover in transition. Doesn’t often carry the puck up the ice himself at least not at the SHL level. Need to work on defending zone a bit better when facing a puck carrier at the half wall and an opponent behind the red line. Needs to be slightly better at keeping his head on a swivel to track the opponent behind him / behind the red line. Good pressure and stayed well aligned to oppositional puck movement in the corner. Doesn’t really have the upper body strength to push attackers out of the slot. While he doesn’t have the ability to really push attackers out of the way with his upper body, Lindstein does maintain good alignment to the puck carrier looking to move the puck down the ice in the neutral zone, takes away space and forces the attacker to dump the puck.” – Josh Tessler

Otto Stenberg

DOB: May 29, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 176 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Frölunda (SHL and J20)

Hometown: Stenungsund, Sweden

Draft Year: 2023

“Quick. Always on his feet. Reacting well to oppositional puck movement. Good reach with the puck. Attacks the middle, but I’d like to see him drive inside more consistently. Opts to take a lot of shots from further out when he runs out of room instead of trying to work the cycle by passing the puck back to the point. Soft hands with his stick handling and can rely on his handling to push the puck away from pressure. Good presence at both ends of the ice. Has good tools, but needs to figure out how to use them to be consistently effective from shift to shift. ” – Josh Tessler

Noah Dower Nilsson

DOB: April 25, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 168 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Frölunda (SHL and J20)

Hometown: Strömstad, Sweden

Draft Year: 2023


“Doesn’t have the speed to be that assertive on the forecheck. Needs to use his reach to take away gaps when defending the rush in the neutral zone. Needs to be far more assertive and close out gaps when on the forecheck. He looks to take away space by extending his stick out, but it doesn’t really take away space as the attacker can get the puck to a teammate without dealing with the obstacle. Looks to find open gaps down low to exploit and open up passing lanes for his teammates to pepper pucks through. Keys up goals for himself down low. Since he distribute the puck quite nicely down low, he should be a key offensive producer at Hlinka.” – Josh Tessler

Kalle Carlsson

DOB: March 2, 2005

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 181 lbs

Position: Centre / Center

Team: Örebro HK (SHL and J20)

Hometown: Strömstad, Sweden

Draft Year: 2023

“Not really in your face defensively that much. Extends out his stick from a far. He gets into position to key up passing lanes but its clear that his line-mates don’t trust him at the U20 level. Looks to cut in from the corner to net front and use his stick-handling reach to push the puck away from attackers and then slip the puck in right before the goaltender can shift over in time. Good cross ice pass through tight spaces to a teammate rushing into the zone and Carlsson is gliding in comparison. With his dual threat combination of leveraging quality reach  stick-handling and excellent passing ability, he could put up a decent amount of points at Hlinka.” – Josh Tessler

Czechia

Adam Jecho

DOB: March 24, 2006

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 187 lbs

Position: Right Wing

Team: Tappara (U18)

Hometown: Zlin, Czechia

Draft Year: 2024

“The 16-year-old physical specimen hailing from Zlin, Czechia had an eye-opening 21/22 campaign, racking up 36 points in 43 games for Tappara U18’s in the U18 SM-sarja. He also represented Czechia at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky tournament, where he registered an assist in 4GP. Jecho has suited up for Czechia multiple times as a double-underager and has produced quite well in those situations. Jecho looks to be well on his way to becoming a first-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft, and his rare combination of size, strength and skating ability has given him the upper hand playing against his opponents. Jecho is a dual-threat in the offensive zone and can beat you with a shot or with a deke. It will be interesting to see if his ability to drive the net and muscle off defenders to garner a scoring chance continue at this tournament, as Jecho will be facing older, tougher and more skillfully developed players. Look for Adam Jecho to have himself a strong tournament.” – Paul Zuk

Eduard Sale

DOB: March 10, 2005

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 168 lbs

Position: Left Wing

Team: HC Kometa Brno

Hometown: Brno, Czechia

Draft Year: 2023

“I want to see Sale quicker to loose pucks and more aggressive on oppositional puck movement. When he has control of the puck in low danger with pressure in front of him, he ends up passing at the perimeter instead of using his weight to push in and cut to the inside. Good reach to secure possession of the puck in tight quarters as pressure was on him. The reach extension allowed him to push the puck just far enough and then went five hole. Good puck security when he has the puck on his stick. Well-aligned with his pivots and has good reach that can come in handy on the forecheck and backcheck. Can be very methodical with his approach in getting open ice down low at the net front. You will see him deliver a tap pass (give and go) when in a 2-on-1 situation. The defender then shifted over to Sale’s teammate and that allowed Sale to skate to the net, then the teammate ends up passing to Sale down low.” – Josh Tessler

Michael Hrabal

DOB: January 20, 2005

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 198 lbs

Position: Goaltender

Team: HC Sparta Praha (Czechia U20)

College Commitment: University of Massachusetts

Hometown: Praha, Czechia

Draft Year: 2023

“Takes up a lot of space in net with his frame. Controls rebounds well. Good glove on low danger shots. Shifts around traffic at net front to get a view of the oppositional puck carrier. Tracks cross zone puck movement well. Can control his rebounds nicely even on shots from high danger, pushes puck to the corner boards with his pads. When facing medium danger shots that he is squared up for, he has a good glove on them. Good job of using the blocker to push pucks to the corner and good usage of the stick to push the puck away in high danger. Hrabal has good side to side movement when facing side to side movement in the low slot. He can glove shots nicely after shifting to the side. Good reactionary up/down time on shots coming from low danger with traffic in front of him, Hrabal shifts his head over and identifies the exact second in which the attacker winds up and then he falls to the butterfly.” – Josh Tessler

Jan Šprynar

DOB: February 26, 2005

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 170 lbs

Position: Right Wing

Team: Rimouski (QMJHL)

Hometown: Zatec, Czechia

Draft Year: 2023 

“Šprynar’s best quality is his lethal shot. Jan doesn’t need too much time to rip a quick wrister into the top corner, giving the goaltender barely any chance to react. His ability to launch a one-timer makes him a threat on the powerplay and I would imagine he is used as a focal point for one of their units. He operates mostly in the F3 role where he can survey the zone and rotate into space for dangerous shots from the slot when the time is right.” – Jordan Malette

Jakub Dvořák

DOB: May 25, 2005

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 192 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Bili Tygri Liberec

Hometown: Liberec, Czechia

Draft Year: 2023 

“Big defender. Quick to loose pucks in his own zone. Will utilize the boards to move the puck to a teammate when he is in a jam with a forechecker right at him. Keeps really good pace with the furthest attacker in the neutral zone and the defensive zone. Good man on man presence. Has good reach that he can leverage in tight puck battles in his own zone. Boxes opponents out in his own slot. Shots going wide from medium danger. Really good reach that he can leverage should he be coming from behind oppositional puck movement, allows him to poke check and steal possession. He will sandwich you in the corners. Shovel zone exit passes when he is right at the blue line and a teammate is in close proximity. Excellent stretch passing. Will pinch up and try shots from medium danger, just beyond the perimeter.” – Josh Tessler  

Finland

Aron Kiviharju

DOB: January 25, 2006

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 157 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: TPS (Liiga and U20)

Hometown: Esbjerg, Denmark

Draft Year: 2024

“The best Finnish defensive prospect arguably since Miro Heiskanen in 2018, Aron Kiviharju is an incredibly talented blueliner in basically every facet of the game. Kiviharju was originally born in Denmark but represents Finland internationally and has played seemingly his entire career there. The 5’10”, 157lb defender is slated to play for TPS in Liiga to start next season, meaning he’ll be playing top level professional hockey at just 16 years old, an incredible feat. Kiviharju was an assistant captain for TPS’ U20 squad this past season, where he registered 30 points in 35 games, as a 15/16-year-old. A master in the defensive zone as well as in transition, Kiviharju can wow fans and scouts alike with his agility and skill handling the puck. He can fool opponents seemingly quite easy which allows for him to show off his talented puck distribution skills. His offensive zone work could use some polishing, which I’m sure he’ll look to work on this upcoming season in Liiga. That’s not to say he’s a stranger to offense, but his shot and overall instincts in the attacking third of the ice could use some improvement to fully round out his two-way game. All eyes will be on the projected first overall selection in the 2024 NHL Draft when the Hlinka Gretzky tournament starts on July 31st.” – Paul Zuk

Kasper Halttunen

DOB: June 7, 2005

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 192 lbs

Position: Left Wing

Team: HIFK (Liiga and U20)

Hometown: Helsinki, Finland

Draft Year: 2023 

“Halttunen is an agile skating, big forward who has the skill to be both a physical forward while also being a force in transition. His vision and ability to quickly identify plays lags behind his skating ability and off puck ability to be a goal scorer at the moment. His agility for his size is extremely impressive, however there were a few times in the games I watched where he was slow off the blocks and was caught from behind when I thought he had clear breakaways. His shot is sneaky but isn’t overpowering, and I like his motor in the defensive zone and the forecheck as he’s able to use an active stick to create turnovers. His production profile is intriguing, and if he can get a bit faster in his processing decisions (or better options post-scanning) he could really excel.” – Austin Garret

Emil Järventie

DOB: April 4, 2005

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 159 lbs

Position: Left Wing

Team: Ilves (Liiga and U20)

Hometown: Tampere, Finland

Draft Year: 2023 

“His reaction timing to puck movement is delayed and that doesn’t allow him to seal gaps and go to the puck. Solid transitional puck movement up the ice in transition and that can be credited to his excellent north-south speed. While he does have good straight line speed, he is a knocked knee skater and the knocked knee is hurting his mobility and that hurts his speed when moving east – west. Trouble with his edges. Will bobble possession in the neutral zone. Too long of a release on his shot. The pull back has to be shorter and ideally he shouldn’t be staring down the puck while he shoots. Back puck protection in close quarters down low. When skating up on the rush on a breakaway, he struggles to get the puck on net. When the goaltender was in the butterfly, he tried to go high post but missed wide.” – Josh Tessler

Germany

Leon Willerscheid

DOB: April 10, 2005

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 192 lbs

Position: Goaltender

Team: Kölner Haie (DEL)

Hometown: Brühl, Germany

Draft Year: 2023 

“Slight gap underneath the glove that opponents are exposing. Good push with his pads to move from side to side to defend against a cross slot pass and one-timer, pushes the puck to the corner with his pads. Overlaps the post with his stick. Will expose too much of his five hole. He does push a lot of rebounds to low danger with deflections off of his stick. He does needs to be careful with how far out of the crease he commits being too because it can make it a challenge to cover the back door should the puck end up with an opponent at the back door. Will give up a decent number of high danger rebounds off of low danger point shots, but he does have a solid glove on shots from low danger. ” – Josh Tessler

Linus Brandl

DOB: April 1, 2005

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 183 lbs

Position: Forward

Team: Jungalder Mannheim (DNL U20)

Hometown: Not Listed / Germany

Draft Year: 2023 

“Brandl plays the center position with a high intensity, two-way approach. His skating stride is a bit too hunched over but he is still able to generate good speed and has decent lateral agility. He can transport pucks through the center of the ice but doesn’t possess high-end puck skill or playmaking ability. He’s at his best when he’s making short, effective passes through the neutral zone and playing low-to-high in the offensive zone. Even though he’s listed at 6’0, 183 pounds he gets pushed around too much at the u20 level in Germany for my liking. He will get pushed off the puck too easily as well as bumped off of rush lanes off the puck. If he can get to the dangerous areas of the ice off puck in the Hlinka he could end up with a good tournament.” – Austin Garret

Lua Niehus

DOB: March 26, 2005

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 154 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Jungalder Mannheim (DNL U20)

Hometown: Utzendorf, Switzerland

Draft Year: 2023 

“Good reach in tight pressure to extend the puck away from the attacker when looking to shake free and pass to a teammate. Will look to try a backhand pass along the boards should he get into a tight puck battle along the boards and wants to try to get the puck to his teammate further up the boards and closer to the blue line. Looks to pinch up for a loose puck and then skates up to the red line to try a shot from the corner. Does have shifts where he skates up and wants to pass to the slot, but no one is there and he gets trapped in the corner by an attacker. I would like to see Niehus improving his positioning as there are moments in which he over commits to an attacker at the point with the puck, skates towards him and bends down to attempt to block the shot but the attacker shoots above the stick and gets the puck to high danger.” – Josh Tessler

Kevin Bicker

DOB: January 29, 2005

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 174 lbs

Position: Forward

Team: Jungalder Mannheim (DNL U20)

Hometown: Schwabach, Germany

Draft Year: 2023 


“Ancillary viewings of him through Brandl: just wanted to add his skill and skating popped off the screen more than a couple times watching Brandl. It wouldn’t shock me for him to be one of the more impressive forwards to come out of the Hlinka for Germany.” – Austin Garret

Switzerland

Valdemar William Hull

DOB: January 2, 2005

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 190 lbs

Position: Center / Left Wing

Team: Gottéron (U20)

Hometown: Fribourg, Switzerland

Draft Year: 2023 

“I appreciated his attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck. He is always supporting down low as the centreman ensuring play can’t develop towards the front of his net. Hull is constantly surveying for threats, tying up sticks and marking attackers to deny passing lanes. On the offensive, he is able to use his size to play through contact especially by winning space in front of the net where he will frequently score from.” – Jordan Malette

Leo Braillard

DOB: July 5, 2005

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 165 lbs

Position: Forward

Team: Biel-Bienne (U20)

Hometown: Not Listed / Switzerland

Draft Year: 2023 

“Braillard is a shooter, and shooters shoot. I see flashes of solid transitional play as well as strong skating mechanics, but I do worry about him being absent a lot of the time if he isn’t in a position to take a shot. Braillard is a natural goal scorer that can finish in a variety of ways, so he’s a player to keep an eye on for the Swiss team in this tournament.” – Matthew Somma

Hlinka Gretzky – USA & Canada Preview

The Smaht Scouting team has prepared scouting notes on several Canadian and American prospects who will be playing for their country at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (July 31-August 6) in Red Deer, Alberta.

For the preview on European prospects, please click here.

Josh Tessler, Jordan Malette, Austin Garret, Paul Zuk and Matthew Somma contributed. Check out their notes below.

United States

William Whitelaw 

DOB: February 5, 2005

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 165 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Youngstown (USHL)

College Commitment: University of Wisconsin

Hometown: Rosemount, Minnesota

Draft Year: 2023

“Whitelaw’s impact at Shattuck, the USHL, and the Hlinka development camp has been hard to ignore. Despite being an undersized forward he plays a very gritty, pest role with a lot of skill. He’s hard on pucks and physical along the boards. In the Hlinka camp I thought Whitelaw shined brightest compared to his peers. His skill radiated on every puck touch and oftentimes had the people in the stands making audible gasps with his deft passing or nifty puckhandling. He’s at his best when he’s the puck dominant player on the ice. He was one of the best prep school players as an underager due to his speed and ability to move pucks up and down the ice to dangerous areas. In the USHL it took some time to iron out some of his high school habits. He moved to wing in the USHL and his defensive responsibilities looked a bit shaky to begin as he was more puck watching than scanning the ice. By the end of his USHL season he was once again the puck dominant offensive player who thrived in setting teammates up for chain linked plays. He’s one of the top forwards on the USA in the Hlinka and they will lean on him heavily to generate a lot of the offensive opportunities for their team. I hope to see him stick down the middle at the Hlinka as I thought it fits his skillset a lot more, and be prepared to have Whitelaw make a few highlight reel plays throughout the tournament.” – Austin Garret

Lucas St. Louis

DOB: March 30, 2005

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 161 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Dubuque (USHL)

College Commitment: Harvard University

Hometown: Old Greenwich, Connecticut

Draft Year: 2023

“Lucas St. Louis is a highly mobile and intelligent defender that will surely play a major role at the Hlinka for Team USA. There is this aura of elegance that comes along with Lucas’ game. He never tries to do too much or make things overcomplicated, but every play is calculated, efficient, and executed near perfectly. He is incredibly confident under pressure and can escape oncoming pressure without giving the defender a smidge of chance in a successful takeaway. On the defensive side, Lucas uses his stick constantly to deny passing lanes and keep dangerous passes from penetrating.” – Jordan Malette 

Quentin Musty

DOB: July 6, 2005

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 203 lbs

Position: Left Wing

Team: Sudbury (OHL)

Hometown: Hamburg, New York

Draft Year: 2023

“Musty is a big, power forward who played on the top line for Sudbury in his DY-1 year. He’s a bit of a heavy skater who struggles to generate speed with a short stride and poor edge work in crossovers, however he has plenty of skill and shows a unique ability to be able to play both on the perimeter and in the dirty areas in the offensive zone. His transition game is predicated upon one-touch passes as his skating doesn’t lend itself to end-to-end rushes, but once he’s in the offensive zone he’s a lot of fun to watch with his vision and his ability to get to dangerous areas of the ice. He dominated the Hlinka camp with his size and skill. He should be a big factor for the US forward group.” – Austin Garret

Andrew Strathmann

DOB: February 27, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 174 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Tri City (USHL)

College Commitment: University of North Dakota

Hometown: Beach Park, Illinois

Draft Year: 2023

“Strathmann caught my eye at the Hlinka development camp, especially in the Blue/White scrimmages at the end of the camp that were used to decide the final cuts. The first thing that sticks out with Strathmann is his aggressive, risk-taking offensive game. He’s a player that isn’t afraid to jump into plays, and to put himself in 50/50 plays that could end up leading to odd-man rushes against if they don’t pan out. He has great puck skill and was great at the Hlinka camp at finding passing or rush lanes to maintain control in defensive exits. His USHL tape from last year wasn’t indicative of the player I watched over the summer as he was very conservative and deferred to his very offensive leaning partners to do the heavy lifting in transition and the offensive zone. Strathmann poses the potential to be one of the better defenders in this tournament, but also there is the possibility that his risk-taking backfires.” – Austin Garret

Tanner Adams

DOB: September 2, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 170 lbs

Position: Right Wing / Center 

Team: Tri City (USHL)

College Commitment: University of Wisconsin

Hometown: Northport, New York

Draft Year: 2023

“Tanner Adams put up surprisingly good transition numbers in his USHL tape that I watched. He was a more effective transporter of the puck than Gavin Brindley, and was a super efficient passer moving pucks around the zone and into/out of the defensive and offensive zone. His improvement in generating offensive from the mid-March to the end to the end of the year was super impressive. His last two games I tracked were over 5 shots on net 5-v-5 and was involved in over 60(!!)% of his team’s successful transitions. His ability to make high-end plays in the offensive zone under pressure isn’t there yet like it is with Gavin Brindley, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Tanner Adams become a household name after the Hlinka for the 2023 draft.” – Austin Garret

Canada

Cameron Allen

DOB: January 7, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 190 lbs

Position: Right Handed Defenseman

Team: Guelph (OHL)

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Draft Year: 2023

“The projected top 10 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Guelph Storm defenceman Cam Allen certainly turned heads in his rookie season in the OHL. The Toronto, Ontario product racked up an impressive 37 points in 65 games as a 16/17 year old, and even earned First-Team All Rookie honours, as well as winning the OHL rookie of the year award. Allen has been named the Captain for Team Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he’ll look to showcase his strong two-way game to anyone watching. Allen thrives in just about every zone on the ice, as he’s not overly phased under pressure and can use his outlets to avoid any possible turnovers. He’s also extremely capable of getting his body or his stick in passing lanes to disrupt opponent’s offensive zone time. Allen also has a high hockey IQ, and seems to be a step ahead of his opponent’s decision making most of the time, which he uses to his benefit. Allen’s also strong at distributing the puck to his teammates and can dish out some lethal passes giving teammates easy goals. Not to mention his slapshot and wrist shot, both of which are extremely powerful and accurate. His ability to be deceptive and hard to predict in the offensive zone allows him time and space to make proper decisions and best set his team up to score. Look for Cam Allen to have a stellar showing for Team Canada.” – Paul Zuk

Zachary Benson

DOB: February 5, 2005

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 150 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Winnipeg (WHL)

Hometown: Chilliwack, British Columbia

Draft Year: 2023

“Elite competitor with flashes of high end skill and upside. I felt that Benson was the best player on his line with Conor Geekie and Mikey Milne with Winnipeg this past season. Benson’s skating is smooth with elite edge work and pace. Benson has top line upside given what he can do with the puck. There’s a certain deceptiveness to Benson’s game, as if he has the puck on a string. He can lead defenses both with his eyes, body language and stick. Benson has a similar offensive skill set as Matthew Savoie, but I see more of a dynamic element to Benson’s game. Both players can take control of a shift and be the driving force on their lines, but with Benson, there isn’t a single shift where I don’t see that dynamic play driving forward.” – Matthew Somma

Brayden Yager

DOB: January 3, 2005

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 161 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Moose Jaw (WHL)

Hometown: Dundurn, Saskatchewan

Draft Year: 2023

“Yager is a pure goal scorer with one of the best shot releases in this tournament. The puck leaves his stick in a flash and he’s an elite sniper whose shot is a threat from just about anywhere on the ice. Yager’s skating is above average and he can be a dangerous threat on the rush. Yager’s puck skills give him the ability to beat defenders one on one, which gives him enough space to get a shot off. He’ll be relied upon as the trigger man on Canada’s power play in this tournament. I’d like to see Yager be more of a creator of offense in this tournament.” – Matthew Somma

Calum Ritchie

DOB: January 21, 2005

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 174 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Oshawa (OHL)

Hometown: Oakville, Ontario

Draft Year: 2023

“Calum was my favourite forward at the recent Team Canada Hlinka selection camp and was able to develop great chemistry with Matthew Wood & Zach Benson. Ritchie was at the forefront for a ton of offense normally using his body to protect the puck and dominate in the cycle game. He is incredibly difficult to disposses from the puck and while in possession is always scanning for high danger passing lanes which enables him to be an effective playmaker. In camp, he was part of an effective powerplay unit that will play a major role in Team Canada’s success in the tournament.” – Jordan Malette

Riley Heidt

DOB: March 25, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 179 lbs

Position: Center

Team: Prince George (WHL)

Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Draft Year: 2023

“Heidt profiles as a player with high end hockey sense and skating ability. He knows exactly where to position himself on the ice in order to contribute offensively and he constantly moves to keep himself in a position to create something. Heidt possesses a good shot, strong playmaking ability and soft hands, but where he’ll make his mark is on the mental side of the game. Few players can process the game as quickly as Heidt can, and even fewer are able to act on it.” – Matthew Somma

Tanner Molendyk

DOB: February 3, 2005

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 176 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Saskatoon (WHL)

Hometown: Kamloops, British Columbia

Draft Year: 2023 

“Molendyk is a bit of a loose cannon. He’s unpredictable in his own end and gets puck focused, but I do see flashes of high end skill in his game. There are no doubts about his skating, however. Molendyk is an elite skater with elite crossovers, acceleration, agility, and edge work. He’s a better skater than most of the defensemen that I tracked last season, and that included players such as Kevin Korchinski and Denton Mateychuk. Molendyk’s offensive game has been a bit inconsistent, but with the way he moves with the puck on his stick, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a dominant player for Saskatoon this year.” – Matthew Somma

Colby Barlow

DOB: February 14, 2005

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 190 lbs

Position: Right Wing

Team: Owen Sound (OHL)

Hometown: Vaughan, Ontario

Draft Year: 2023 

“Colby is a quality producer off of the rush. He will skate after loose pucks in the neutral zone, win possession and then look to find shooting lanes in the offensive zone to exploit. He has the makings of a quality puck transporter from zone to zone to zone. Barlow wants to be the one that push pace, but doesn’t have the power stride to get himself in gear to generate a lot of separation. Since he doesn’t always gain the necessary separation that he needs, he will engage in tight pressure in the neutral zone and offensive zone. In those situations, he ends up looking down and losing confidence in his handling of the puck. So, over the course of his draft year, the hope is that he will acquire both the handling and the power stride to gain separation and put quality shots on net off the rush.” – Josh Tessler

Caden Price

DOB: August 24, 2005

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 181 lbs

Position: Left Handed Defenseman

Team: Kelowna (WHL)

Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Draft Year: 2023 

“Price quickly made himself known at the Hlinka Selection camp and caught my eye in his first few shifts. While under control of the puck, he is highly confident and able to solve any problem or escape any pressure that comes his way making him extremely effective in successfully exiting the zone. He has the ability to shut down plays using both body positioning and stickwork to disposses the opposition and chain that disruption into a stretch pass up ice to a breaking teammate. He may not wrack up points or play a key powerplay role at the Hlinka, but at 5v5 he will be a big factor in ensuring the puck remains out of his defensive zone and into the attacking third.” – Jordan Malette

Scouting Report: Mattias Hävelid

Photo Credit: Linköping HC

Scouting Report written by Alex Appleyard

Defense is in Mattias Hävelid’s blood, literally. Both his father and his uncle played professional hockey, with uncle Magnus making it as high as the Swedish Allsvenskan, and father Niclas making it to the very pinnacle of the sport. Over a career that spanned more than 20 years Niclas Hävelid played over 600 games in the NHL, and picked up both an Olympic and World Championship gold medal. But Mattias cannot be mistaken for his father. The areas in which they excel are almost diametrically opposed.

Niclas made his name as a defense first player who played hard, block shots, was physical, was a go-to penalty-killer and shut-down defenseman. So far in his young career Mattias has made himself noticed more at the other end of the ice. His performance at the u-18 World Juniors, where he was second in tournament scoring with 12 points in just six games, made the hockey watching world sit up and take notice. For good reason too, given that no defenseman in the tournaments 23 year history had reached two points-per-game before Hävelid.

But bloodlines don’t always matter. And one tournament is just a small snapshot in time that says very little about a future career. More importantly, what are Hävelid’s skills and how does he project at the highest level?

Player Profile

D.O.B – January 1, 2004
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’10″
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right

Hävelid’s Style Of Play

Offense

The first thing that stands out about the man from the suburbs of Stockholm is his shot. It is not an exaggeration to say that he shoots like a scoring winger. He might not have the “biggest” shot, which is no surprise given his undersized frame, but he perfectly understands how to use what he has to cause havoc for goalies. His slap-shot is above average from the blue-line, and extremely accurate for a player of his age, with a great release that manages to combine accuracy with deception. It is a “good” slapshot, but nothing to really write home about. The way in which he unleashes wrist-shots though? Notable to say the least. He is the kind of player who seems to intuitively understand the movement of both the goalie and the opposition skaters, perceiving where they will be ahead of play and choosing the perfect moment to shoot through a screen, or to shoot as the goalie is slightly off balance. The result is that his shots can sail into the corner of the goal from all distances and all angles.


He combines this ability well with deceptive movement at the blue-line or on the rush, hiding the puck and changing blade position deftly, in turn he rarely ever “tips” the opposition to his shot, and the first they usually know of it is when it is already past their shins and on its way to goal. Furthermore, Hävelid is a defenseman who understands just how to use his team-mates to make his release even more deadly. A good screen is only as good as the shot that is dispatched towards it, and the young Swede seems to capitalise on that regularly. Very few of his shots are not in an area that is tippable or delfectable for a forward. He rarely gets under his shot and 95% of the efforts he directs towards goal are right between his team-mates calves and hips, where it easier to get a stick on. The combination of all this helps explain why Hävelid scores so much for a defenseman without an “express” shot, as few of his shots are blocked, most are on net, most are through traffic and many are awkward for a goalie to deal with.

There are some though who would argue that the Linköping defenseman is an even better passer than he is shooter. His passing ability is not just confined to the offensive zone as well, it starts on the breakout. He sees lanes that are only open for a second and dispatches pucks right to the tape of streaking forwards with regularity. When he is on ice, especially at the junior level, his team rarely spend too much time in the defensive zone as a result of his ability in this area, as clean break-outs are at times effortless for him. Against men at the SHL level he is not quite as efficient in this area, with less time and better opponents occasionally making him force passes that are not there, but still, even at 18 years old he outperforms the majority of his team-mates in that area.

He also effects neutral zone hand-offs with aplomb, choosing the right moment when streaking up ice to off-load a puck to a team-mate and in turn creating zone entries that are at high-speed, hard to defend, and often result in an overload down one side due to a winger getting caught flat footed trying to deal with the Swedish defenseman barrelling down the ice.

In the offensive zone his previously discussed penchant to continually move, hide the puck and realise lanes mean he can be devilish to defend in relation to exploiting passing lanes, especially on the cycle. His ability to read lanes and understand where both his team-mates and the opposition are going to be in the next few seconds can result in beautiful “alley-oop” back-doors plays right through the slot to the opposite circle and goal-line, as well as passes through to unmarked forwards in close that most defensemen would struggle to see, let alone execute.

His puck-skills themselves are not as high-end as his passing or his shot. But he certainly possesses a boat-load of confidence in his hands, even if it might at times get him into trouble. He is never scared to take on an opponent 1v1, no matter what the zone, and in turn he can effect some beautiful plays to leave the other team a man short in the areas where it matters. This can, however, result in some extremely ugly plays, especially at the SHL level. He has too often turned pucks over in areas that make it very difficult for him, or his defensive partner, to get back into the play, and going forward he will need to learn to pick his spots better with the puck on his stick to avoid the ire of team-mates, coaches, and fans.


As can be envisaged from the above, Hävelid is a terror on the power-play, and can dominate on the man-up in a myriad of ways. Alongside his shot, passing and deception, he walks the blue-line beautifully to create space for both himself and others. This is one area where he will need very little work going forward, and could be ready to quarter-back an NHL unit in the next few years, even if the rest of his game is not quite ready for the highest level at that venture.

Defense

With an offensive skill-set as described above, but not universally ranked inside the first round? Well, you can probably guess that some of the black marks against Hävelid are in relation to his play in his own zone.

But the overall picture is not one of neglect for his assignments, or a lack of understanding of tactics, structure or a willingness to work hard in the defensive zone. It is more just small issues in a number of areas that add up to negatively impact his ability to positively impact play at his own end.

First is to address the elephant in the room. A 5’10, European, offense first defenseman? Well, the stereotype would be a lack of physical game. But given who his father was, it should not really be a surprise that Hävelid the younger is not scared to get his hands dirty. Now, he will never be mistaken for a bruiser of any description, but he never shies away from the tough areas of the ice, and is more than happy to deliver the boom when necessary. That being said, he does struggle to win 1v1 battles against men. But that is really just a given at his age, size, in one of the best pro leagues on earth. His frame is certainly not “small” for his height. He has a solid build and can certainly, with age and maturity, at least hold his own in the corners and around the net.

His blue-line play could be described best as “inconsistent”. When he is at his best – often vs peers his own age – he maintains a consistent gap through the neutral zone, wages the angle well, and then pivots to cut off any legitimate path to danger areas, forcing forwards towards the boards or his active stick. The result is either the necessity of a dump play of a break-up that can send the puck the other way. However, at times the righty blueliner seems to err too much on the side of caution, pivoting early and simply trying to maintain his gap ad infinitum.  This can mean that before he knows it he is in a compromising position near his own circles with a forward who has more speed and an array of options at his disposal, I.E. walking himself into a trap of his own making by choosing to do nothing instead of risking losing a 1v1 battle. In theory his gap therefore often looks good to the naked eye, but is in practice ineffective. For a player who excels so much with the puck on his stick trying to make things happen, he needs to transpose some of that mentality to his game when he does not have the puck.

Overall though, the issues that Hävelid has at this venture are correctable. Some will arguably correct themselves simply with the passing of time as he gets bigger, stronger, and sees more hockey at a high level. He will likely never be a defensive stalwart, but he can certainly round out into a player who has a net positive impact at the highest level on his own side of the ice.

Skating

Any analysis of Hävelid’s skating has to be nuanced in nature. First, for the good, and there is a lot of good there. His edge-work can leave opposition players stranded in danger areas and his lateral movement is a beauty to behold, both at speed and at a slower pace when on the cycle. He excels when skating the puck up ice and is the type of player who almost seems faster when the puck is on his stick, partially as he perceives the ice in front of him to such a high level, and partially as when he is dictating play he exudes confidence and is deceptive to the point that few can second guess what he will do next.

As expected with a player who has high-end edge work, this ability extends to his first step, and in turn acceleration. He can change the pace of the play at will, speeding up and slowing down as he wishes and making opponents dance to his tune. He showcases this exceptionally well in the final few feet of the neutral zone when heading up ice, often beating a man clean near the red-line, before virtually stopping play at the perfect time as his team-mates join him over the blue-line as he enters the offensive zone, while the opposition player who he beat not second ago then over-commits getting back into the play and handcuffs themselves into to deep a position to give Hävelid the space to start effectively cycling the puck. So many chances for his team come in the early stages of such cycles due to his ability here. He also pivots beautifully, which can give him time in the defensive zone that many other defensemen cannot afford themselves, and means he is rarely on the wrong side of a play.

The area that the young defenseman needs to improve on though is top end speed. He is at very worst average in that area, but with slightly more speed to burn he would be a true terror to defend, especially on the cycle, and be able to rely less on his hands to beat people in stride. There is really nothing overly problematic with his stride, so there is certainly a hope that with more maturity this will come naturally.

Projection

With really only his size and a few smaller issues to clean up across the rest of his game, Hävelid has a good chance to be an NHL player down the line. Upside wise there will likely be very few defensemen, if any, potentially available after the end of the first round who have what it takes to be better than the young Swede. If everything goes well development wise he could round out into a good number three NHL defenseman who can quarterback a top power-play unit. Furthermore, even if he simply keeps developing at a solid pace he could maybe find a home in the NHL as a #4-5 defenseman who can drive play and pick up points.

Latest Update

July 6, 2022


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Alex Appleyard If you would like to follow Alex on Twitter, his handle is @avappleyard.

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Scouting Reports: The Rest of the WHL

Photo Credit: Rob Wallator/Calgary Hitmen (photo of Jace Weir)

Scouting Report written by Matthew Somma

We’ve nearly arrived at the NHL draft after what feels like a long season given how short the last season was. I’ve been honored to have the opportunity to scout the WHL this season and there are plenty of players that I have watched this season that I will be unable to profile in the coming days. That’s where this post comes in. Below, you’ll find brief scouting reports on most of the players that I kept track of this season. These will give you a brief understanding of the player and what I like or dislike about the player, as well as what some projectable tools are. I’ll be giving my take on each selection from the WHL on draft day, so be sure to follow along on Twitter for more. I’ll follow along with our final rankings and then go with players that I believe could be drafted at some point.

Jace Weir

Weir has potential as a fifth or sixth defenseman at the NHL level due to his size, physicality and strong passing ability. He’s a smart player that can get the puck out of the zone and initiate a breakout, allowing for his team to turn the other way and create offense. Weir’s skating is average at best and will need to improve in order to keep up with an NHL pace, but the other tools in his game make me believe he’s worth a flyer starting in the middle of the third round. Weir is a capable defender with very few weaknesses other than his skating, so I believe that he could be an NHL defender. His upside is my other question mark. I don’t see a lot of offense in his game beyond the occasional simple pass to a teammate in the offensive zone. He likes to carry the puck and isn’t afraid to shoot, but there’s no one area of his offensive game that makes him a true threat on the power play.

Brayden Schuurman

Schuurman is a player that I’ve liked more and more over the course of the season. After watching more of his games from this past season, I’d feel comfortable taking him in the third round or later. He’s a shifty skater that moves with a ton of pace through the neutral and offensive zones. Schuurman can be a dual threat in the offensive zone with his solid playmaking and goal scoring abilities, but what surprises me the most about him is how strong he is on the puck. A lot of undersized forwards struggle to win puck battles in their draft year, but not Schuurman. He’s a strong player that can hold his own against bigger players, giving him an edge along the boards and in the middle of the ice.

Hudson Thornton

Thornton scares me a bit. I don’t question his offensive game. In fact, I think he’s a great passer and a legitimate power play quarterback at this level. The issue that I have with Thornton is that he is very rough defensively. He struggles with decision making at times and it can lead to turnovers in his own end. There’s upside in Thornton’s game, but the risk with his poor defensive play will cause teams to shy away until the second half of the draft, in my opinion.

Josh Filmon

Filmon has real potential, especially considering the fact that he’s a 6’2″ forward that hasn’t filled out yet. Once he adds muscle, he could be a force in the WHL. I liked Filmon at times this season, particularly when it came to goal scoring. He’s a great shooter with solid hockey sense and can find open patches of ice with relative ease. I do find that he can be inconsistent, and his effort level can dip from time to time. I’m not as worried about his slight frame since he still has plenty of time to add muscle. Filmon has top nine upside, at least in my opinion. I don’t see the ability to truly take over a shift and dominate, but I do see enough offensive skill for Filmon to be a nice complementary piece down the road.

Grayden Siepmann

Siepmann and Weir fall into the same category, in my eyes. Both are defenders whose ceilings max out as fifth or sixth defensemen, but both have enough tools to have relatively high floors. Siepmann is a much better skater than Weir but lacks the physicality that makes Weir such a good defender. They’re both great passers and read the play exceptionally well. There’s more offensive potential in Siepmann’s game than we got to see this season. I think his hockey sense will make him a setup player in the offensive zone and that we’ll start to see him break out next season.

Mathew Ward

Ward is feisty. He’s a gritty player that can create turnovers and be a general pain to play against in the neutral zone. I find that I love how Ward plays in the neutral zone more than the offensive zone because that’s where he is able to be the most effective. In the offensive zone, his size can be a limitation and he isn’t able to gain separation as effectively. In the neutral zone, Ward can catch opponents napping and turn the puck the other way in a split second. He’s typically the setup player once he takes the puck from an opponent in the neutral zone.

Marek Alscher

I watched Portland a good bit this season, mostly for Marcus Nguyen, but I always came away impressed with Alscher. He’s a big, rangy defenseman that is great in all three zones, but I’m most impressed with his defensive play. He’ll knock players off of the puck, break up passes, sacrifice the body to block a shot, and more. Just an all around solid defender that can cover distances quickly. Alscher has some offensive potential in his game, and while I don’t believe that he’ll ever be a dominant offensive player, there’s potential in how he joins the rush and excels at keeping the puck in the zone. Alscher will be a sneaky good selection by some team in the middle rounds of the draft. After watching more film on Alscher in the past few months, I’ve been liking him more and more.

Mason Beaupit

Beaupit is a massive, six foot five goaltender that had a decent season on a middle of the road Spokane team. I see a project here. Obviously, he has his size working in his favor, but I don’t see a lot of strong NHL tools. He’s fairly slow and struggled to track the puck in a lot of my viewings. His rebound control was iffy, and while I do find that he stops a lot of high danger chances, he isn’t as great with ones from a medium danger area. Beaupit has potential as a backup at the NHL level. I don’t see the dynamic ability in his skill set to give him the ability to steal games for his team. I just see a reliable goalie that could play in the NHL.

Tyler Brennan

Brennan is so smart and knows exactly where the puck is going to be at any given time. He’s always square to the puck and makes it difficult for shooters to beat him because he’s already there to take away as much apace as he can. Brennan tracks the puck incredibly well and is arguably one of the smartest goalies in this entire draft. He’s one of the top goalies in the draft because of how smart he is and how easily he projects into an NHL role. I doubt he’s a starter in the NHL, but he’ll play games. The biggest concerns for me are Brennan’s recovery and his puck playing. He isn’t the quickest goalie, nor is he the most athletic, so if he gives up a rebound, opposing forwards can usually get a slam dunk goal. Cross ice passes are occasionally an issue, but he can also predict when a player will pass in order to get over, so he does have that going for him. The puck playing is frustrating. I’ve written down that I will order him bungie cords so he can stay in the net because he either turns the puck over to a player on the forecheck or he’ll throw the puck to an open area where it’ll result in a board battle. Like I said, he should play NHL games, but he’ll need work in those areas first.

Joshua Davies

Davies is one scrappy *redacted* and gives 100% every shift. I’m not sure about his long term NHL upside but he plays hard and his motor never gives out, which will draw the attention of NHL teams. That work ethic and energy could carry him further than it should. Other than that, I’m not sure what I see. He has a solid shot and some offensive skill, but nothing that blows me away. He’s likely a fourth line energy forward at the NHL level, so I wouldn’t draft him until the last round of the draft, personally.

Reid Dyck

Dyck had a fantastic showing at the CHL Top Prospects game, which put him on the radar for a lot of people. He played on a tough team this year, so his stats aren’t fantastic, but there’s real potential. He’s an athletic goalie with size and solid recovery time, which could carry him to the NHL. Out of the three “big” goalie names from the WHL this year, I’d put my money on Dyck having the highest upside. He may not pan out due to his erratic style, but if he does, he’s the only one of the three that I could see being more than just a backup at the NHL level.

Jeremy Hanzel

I didn’t really pay much attention to Hanzel during the regular season. I was much more occupied with watching Korchinski, Schaefer and Gustafson, so Hanzel wasn’t really on my radar since he was an overage skater. After watching Seattle’s playoff run, I decided to go back and watch Hanzel because I believed that he was one of Seattle’s best defensemen during their run to the WHL finals. He was everywhere. Physical, carrying the puck in transition, quarterbacking plays in the offensive zone, you name it. Hanzel showed legitimate NHL upside and competence in all three zones, and I can now say that I’m confident that he’ll hear his name called at the draft. I don’t see top four upside, but he fits the bill of an excellent third pairing defenseman with elite skating.

Yegor Sidorov

He’s a fantastic goal scorer and has one of the best shots out of the players that I’ve watched this year, but I don’t see much else in his game. There’s good skating, but he’s very one dimensional. Other goal scorers from the WHL in this class are able to impact the game in other ways, and I just don’t see that in Sidorov. Or I’m missing something.


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Matthew Somma. If you would like to follow Matthew on Twitter, his handle is @Mattsomma12.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Scouting Report: Jimmy Snuggerud

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

Scouting Report written by Paul Zuk

Next on the long list of talented, offensive-minded forwards for the NTDP is Jimmy Snuggerud. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his father Dave played parts of 4 seasons in the NHL for the Sabres, Sharks and Flyers. The younger Snuggerud, however, is poised for a much longer and more successful career and can be found in a WIDE range of rankings, anywhere from 8th overall to the middle of the second round.

Jimmy Snuggerud was born in Chaska, MN, and grew up playing his minor hockey in and around the Chaska area, even playing for Chaska High School in the prestigious Minnesota High School League. He enjoyed a fruitful sophomore season, one in which he racked up 34 points in 23 games, while adding an additional seven points in three playoff games. His strong season caught the attention of the USNTDP, and shortly after Snuggerud made the switch to the U17 team to begin the 2020/21 season.

Snuggerud’s U17 season in 20/21 was somewhat of a feeling out process, as he was adjusting to NCAA/USHL competition. He finished the campaign with 46 points in 74 games across all competitions, building a solid foundation heading into his draft year suiting up with the U18’s.

The 2021/22 campaign was really a breakout season for Snuggerud. He finished this past season tallying 89 points in 85 games across all competitions and shined like a diamond in the offensive zone. One of the main reasons for his high offensive production is his shot. It’s incredibly lethal, and he put it on full display in the BioSteel All-American Game, rifling home a laser beam into the top corner to secure Team Blue’s first goal of the game.

In the clip above from the All-American game, Team Blue is breaking out of their zone, and as Cutter Gauthier carries the puck through the neutral zone, Snuggerud is playing the trailing forward on the right side. Once Team blue crosses the blueline, Snuggerud drops back a step or two to give himself some time and space, while Gauthier feeds him the puck. Snuggerud then positions himself in the middle lane, uses the defender as a screen, and rips the puck home, freezing the goaltender in the process. Just a beautiful goal.

Like his grandfather and father before him, Snuggerud is headed to the University of Minnesota for the 22/23 season, alongside his NTDP teammates Logan Cooley and Ryan Chesley. Golden Gophers Head Coach Bob Motzko will be thrilled to be adding such elite talent to his squad for the upcoming season and will be counting on players like Snuggerud to carry the offensive load, with talented forwards Chaz Lucius departing and Matthew Knies’ future uncertain at this point.

Player Profile

D.O.B – June 1, 2004
Nationality – USA
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’2″
Weight –185 lbs
Position – Center/Right Wing
Handedness – Right

Snuggerud’s Style of Play

During his time with the NTDP, Snuggerud’s game has truly developed from being a little one-dimensional into a complete, 200-foot effort every night. His time in Plymouth, Michigan has done wonders not only for his overall play, but for the more in-depth traits, such as his skating. He can really dominate and be a thorn in the side of defenders in the offensive zone, his transitional game is fun to watch, and he can be counted upon in the defensive zone to ensure the puck is kept out of the danger areas.

Snuggerud’s also not afraid to utilize his size all over the ice, especially when defending in his own zone, and while on the forecheck. He has no problem being physical when on the forecheck, making opponents uncomfortable with the puck on their stick. When you look at players like Frank Nazar and Logan Cooley, they’re incredibly dynamic playmakers. Snuggerud isn’t necessarily the best playmaker, but he certainly makes up for it with his work ethic and other talents.

Let’s take a deeper look at the facets of Jimmy Snuggerud’s game:

Skating

One of the bigger knocks on Jimmy Snuggerud’s game, his skating ability has some work needed if he’s going to succeed at the next level in the NCAA/NHL. Granted, he’s put a lot of time and effort into it while playing with the NTDP, and it’s shown. He seems to have fine tuned some of his skating mechanics, like his first few steps and his crossovers.

His improvement on these has led to more overall speed and agility, making his ability to change directions and keep up with the pace of play a joy to watch. These skills have aided his ability to play a solid transitional game, as he’s able to gain speed quicker when weaving through the neutral zone and around defenders into the attacking third of the ice.

To generally touch on his skating, he’s quick and agile enough to elude defenders both in the offensive zone as well as in transition. His skating mechanics seem to be on par with the rest of his game, and he’ll only improve on that as he faces older, stronger competition at the University of Minnesota in the seasons to come.

Offense

Without a doubt, the offensive zone is where Jimmy Snuggerud will earn his paychecks once he finds himself in the NHL. There’s just so many aspects to his game in the attacking third of the ice which make him incredibly difficult to silence.

Snuggerud is extremely dangerous from the blueline in and isn’t afraid to use his shot to punish goaltenders. He has a unique ability to vary his shot release, as he can make it as quick or delayed as he wants, making him unpredictable and very hard to stop. Also, his one-timer can be released from just about anywhere with a high success rate.

The clip above shows just how lethal Snuggerud’s shot can be, as he’s able to complete the tic-tac-toe passing sequence with a beautiful wrist shot short side.

Snuggerud’s quick hands also make him quite difficult to contain. When carrying the puck in transition, he can use his new-found speed to power through the neutral zone, make a quick deke or head fake, and stickhandle his way around multiple people. Once he’s entered the offensive zone, his options become more plentiful. Snuggerud can either stop and wait for teammates to get set up, or charge towards the net hoping to either score or generate a dangerous rebound in tight.

As mentioned above, Snuggerud may not possess the same level of playmaking skills as some of his teammates, but that isn’t to say he can’t make elite level plays from time to time. He’s able to generate a large amount of offense from below the goal line and enjoys passing back up ice to his teammates for chances on net, something that usually ends up working out for the NTDP.

When on the ice for the man advantage, Snuggerud likes to hover around the middle of the left circle, trying to find time and space for his teammates to get him the puck.  Alternatively, when in possession of the puck in the left circle, Snuggerud does have a high level of vision and offensive awareness to seek out teammates with some impressive seam passes.

Defense

Aside from developing the offensive and transitional aspects of his game, Snuggerud has also spent the past couple of seasons crafting his two-way game, something the NTDP prides themselves on, and for good reason. Snuggerud’s neutral zone play, and defensive zone abilities have drastically improved over the past 24 months, and he’s been trusted by Coach Adam Nightingale to effectively use his ice time regardless of where he’s deployed out there.

In the clip above, Snuggerud is defending the point when the puck is shuffled back to the defenseman. He quickly works his way towards the defenseman, forcing him into moving the puck quicker than expected. It results in a poorly placed wrist shot, which is blocked by Snuggerud. He then shows off his improved stride, legging out the other defender, and rifling the puck home to get the U18’s back level in the game.

Snuggerud currently sits at 6’2, 185 lbs, and he knows how to use every inch and pound of his body to his advantage when battling for the puck. He can effectively pinch off attackers along the boards and in open ice to recover the puck, simply by using his frame to box them out from the puck. However, when he regains possession of the puck, his decision making could use some work. Snuggerud tends to carry the puck a little too long at times or puts the puck in dangerous situations where there was a much safer alternative.

Compared to his season spent with the U17’s, Snuggerud is seeing almost a third more of ice time on the penalty kill, and it’s certainly earned. He tends to play the high forward role on the PK and loves to pressure the puck carrier to force them into turning the puck over or making a poor pass. When the U18’s are hemmed in their zone for an extended period of time, Snuggerud also loves to help his defenders with puck battles along the boards, in an attempt to clear the puck. More times than not, he’s able to retrieve the puck, and either get it up and out for a change or hit a teammate with a breakout pass.

Improvements

Jimmy Snuggerud has endured quite a solid and successful two-year stint with the NTDP, and as he enters his first draft-eligible season, there are a couple of areas to his overall game he may look to improve as he heads off to the University of Minnesota next season.

As mentioned above, Snuggerud has made some impressive strides in working on his skating ability. In the upcoming season at Minnesota, it will be intriguing to see just how much work he has done, as he faces much tougher, older, and physically stronger competition.

Lastly, Snuggerud may just look to improve on his overall playmaking skills. He is quite capable of making plays from below the goal line, either while cycling the puck to a teammate or hitting a teammate in close with a seam pass. However, if he’s looking to continue his abilities at the next level to make himself even harder for opponents to stop, he may look to improve on his playmaking skills from the attacking blueline in.

At times, Snuggerud has the time and space to deliver a crisp pass to a teammate but may hesitate and miss his chance. While he does have the skill and the shot to make up for the missed opportunity, he may look to be a little more assertive in his playmaking decisions.  

Overall Outlook

While many still believe that Jimmy Snuggerud will be a mid-late first round selection at the 2022 NHL Draft, he offers the sort of laser-beam shot and offensive skillset that teams tend to select quite high. His improvement on his 200ft game over the past couple of seasons has surely caught the eye of several NHL front offices. Perhaps a team with multiple selections in the first round (Columbus, Buffalo, Montreal) will look to take a shot with him, knowing they’ve secured their top pick already, and are looking for a prospect with a high ceiling they can have develop even further in the NCAA.

With much uncertainty surrounding a lot of prospects in the 2022 Class, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see a team take a swing on Snuggerud a little higher than most have him going. When the 2022 NHL Draft rolls around on July 7th and 8th in Montreal, look for Jimmy Snuggerud to come off the board somewhere between picks #15 and #32.

Latest Update

July 2, 2022


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Paul Zuk. If you would like to follow Paul on Twitter, his handle is @paulzuk_81.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Smaht Talk: It’s Time For Another Mock

Smaht Scouting’s Matthew Somma and Austin Garrett complete a first round mock for the 2022 NHL Draft in the latest episode of Smaht Talk. Austin also shares some of his notes from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup camp in Buffalo, New York.

If you would like to listen to this episode, you can find an embedded link from SoundCloud below. Our podcast can also be found on iTunesSpotify and Google Podcasts.

Smaht Talk: Talking With Zach Bookman

Smaht Scouting’s Matthew Somma and Austin Garrett spoke with 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect Zach Bookman of the Brooks Bandits (AJHL). Bookman talked about playing hockey in New York State, coach Ryan Papaioannou allowing Bookman to be rather creative with the puck on his stick, going to Merrimack College in the fall and growing up a Bruins fan in Buffalo Sabres territory.

If you would like to listen to this episode, you can find an embedded link from SoundCloud below. Our podcast can also be found on iTunesSpotify and Google Podcasts.

Scouting Report: Tristan Luneau

Photo Credit: Dominic Charette | Olympiques de Gatineau

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Tristan Luneau is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect and he plays for the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. 

Luneau hails from Trois-Rivières, Quebec. For those unfamiliar with Quebec geography, Trois-Rivières is roughly the mid-point between Montréal and Québec City.

His father and brother both played junior hockey. Tristan’s father, Dominic played for Cowansville Patriotes (QJHL) in 1993-1994 and Tristan’s brother, Tommy Luneau played for the Princeville Titans (QJHL) and the Québec Remparts (QMJHL). Not only did Dominic play in the Québec junior ranks, but he also served as an assistant coach for several teams that Tristan and Tommy had played for including the Drummondville Jr. Voltigeurs (Tommy and Tristan played for Drummondville), Victoriaville Jr. Tigers (Tristan played for Victoriaville) and Bois-Francs Cascades Bantam AAA R (Tristan played for Bois-Francs).

Tristan had played bantam hockey for Bois-Francs and Mauricie Estacades Bantam AAA before moving to midget. He played two seasons of midget hockey for Trois-Rivières Estacades from 2018-2020. Following the conclusion of his final season with Trois-Rivières, he was selected number one overall in the 2020 QMJHL Entry Draft by Gatineau. He was also selected in the sixth round of the 2020 USHL Futures Draft by the Sioux Falls Stampede, but had decided against going the USHL route and preferred to play in the CHL. Initially he was set on going to play in the USHL and the NCAA. Per Todd Milweski of the Wisconsin State Journal in a June 2020 article, Luneau had orally committed to the University of Wisconsin, but roughly a year after his commitment, he decided that the QMJHL was the best path for his development. 

Luneau made his QMJHL debut in 2020-2021. His debut season was shortened due to COVID-19, but he did make an impact and was fifth in total points for Gatineau. 

This past season (2021-2022), he had the second highest point totals in the QMJHL for a 2022 NHL Draft eligible defenseman. He had 43 points in 63 games and was four points shy of tying Jérémy Langlois (Cape Breton) for total points by a draft year defenseman in the QMJHL. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – Janruary 12, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’2″
Weight –148 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right

Luneau’s Style Of Play

Offense

Tristan Luneau plays very much a conservative game throughout. In the offensive zone, he will pinch up for loose pucks, but doesn’t look to trap the puck and turn away from the attack. Instead, he pushes the puck back down along the boards to a teammate in the corner to keep the cycle alive. But, Luneau doesn’t pinch up into open ice past the perimeter that often from the point. If he pinches up, he typically plays the puck along the boards in low danger. Typically, he skates from the point to the corner and only if he can identify no one in the low slot will he carry the puck from the corner to the low slot to try his luck at net-front. When he does attack the low slot, he typically will struggle to manipulate the goaltender and net a gap to exploit.

Luneau does look to pinch up when he doesn’t have possession of the puck and will skate to medium danger to open up passing lanes to dangerous areas. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much success at 5v5 this year doing so, but I like that he is trying to tee up lanes down low for his teammates to use. 

When passing in the offensive zone, usually Luneau will look to move the puck across the blue line to his defensive partner. But, his lateral passes have a lot of power behind them and it can make it a challenge for his defensive partner to grab a hold of the puck cleanly. While he will struggle with how much power he puts into his passes, he can generate quality cross ice feeds from the point to teammates in low danger in the face-off circle. Luneau will also use saucer passes to get the puck over traffic and to a teammate just slightly behind the attacker. He does a good job of using whatever space the attacker gives him and thus you will see Luneau utilize tight passing lanes to get the puck to an open teammate by the red line. 

Given his conservative style of play, he doesn’t look to pass to high/medium danger areas from low danger very often. When Luneau passes the puck, he generally look to get the puck into the hands of a forward in low danger, who is closer to the corner. The idea is simple. Get the puck to that forward and either the forward walks the puck in or they feed a passing lane to high danger to use.

One of the areas that Luneau needs to work on is scanning. When Luneau carries the puck into the offensive zone, he walks into traps. He will have passing options to get out of the trap but Luneau plays a very conservative game and the passing options weren’t ones that a conservative puck carrier would take. So, when he walks into a trap, he just dumps the puck. 

Before shooting the puck, Luneau typically likes to keep the attack on their toes by moving the puck gently from forehand to backhand and then on a dime cutting in towards the left. By keeping them on their toes, it gives Luneau the advantage as he will push the attacker to focus on one side and then Luneau peels out on the other side. It allows him to gain a bit of separation and then takes a shot from the perimeter. 

When you look at his shot mechanics, he can be slightly inconsistent. Sometimes he will have good weight transfer on his shot and pushes his body weight towards his knees. But, sometimes, you don’t see him use the weight transfer to generate a lot of power. In addition, he needs to work on aligning his stick blade to the net. Occasionally, he will position the stick blade so it is aligned with the boards and not the net. When he positions the blade towards the boards, the shot goes to the boards and not to the net. Additionally, on some of his shots, he closes his stick blade instead of keeping it open and that impacts his ability to get height on his shot. 

Defense

While Luneau can generate solid speed for himself, he will be a tad slow on defensive recoveries. When he is slow on recoveries / loose pucks, he will struggle to net enough separation for himself after gaining the puck to complete an outlet pass. So, that leads to a lot of pass attempts that just don’t connect as he has to make a very quick pass to avoid the attack laying down a hit on him to trap him.

Luneau needs to work on using his stick-handling to open up lanes for him to use when facing tight pressure off of a defensive recovery. That is one of the fundamentals that he seems to struggle with. While he does do a good job of using whatever space is given to him and will complete saucer passes over the attacker’s stick blade when he sees a teammate just beyond the attack, he struggles with open up quality passing lanes, so he has to resort to riskier passing options. But, given that Luneau is more conservative with the puck, he doesn’t often look to make the risky passes and that leads to him passing up the boards and hoping that he can get the puck to a forward close to blue line. Unfortunately, when passing up the boards, he has far less control of where the puck will eventually end up and you will see a decent amount of his outlet passes fail to key up a rush because he has limited control of where the puck will end up. So, he needs to use stick-handling to manipulate the attack into skating to one side like he does in the offensive zone.

The other area that Luneau needs to work on with his passing is how much power he puts into his wind-up. Like I mentioned in the offensive zone, Luneau will put slightly too much power behind his lateral passes and that can make it a challenge for his teammate to capture possession of the puck cleanly off a pass. 

When aiming to move the puck up the ice and initiate the rush, sometimes his decision-making on choosing lanes can be hit or miss and he will take on an attacker dead on. Luneau will play the puck right to him and get checked. He needs to work on using his peripheral vision, scanning and then identifying attackers so he can move around them and continue driving the puck up.

When it comes to defending against the cycle, he needs to be far more selective on which attacker to pursue and which he shouldn’t. For instance, you will see him up pressure on an attacker who doesn’t have the puck, but do so too far up the boards. Ultimately, that forces his teammate to drop back for him when Luneau should be far closer to the red line. 

Luneau is effective at defending behind the red line, he does a good job of keeping pace and staying aligned to the puck carrying attacker. When defending in low danger along the boards, he does a solid job with his active stick to keep them along low danger, but his active stick isn’t working as a complete trap. His active stick doesn’t sandwich the attacker and force them into a situation in which they need to get rid of the puck on a dime to try to keep the offensive cycle alive. 

While he does use an active stick along the boards and is effective at keeping the attack in low danger, he doesn’t truly trap attackers and that also happens quite a bit at open ice. Luneau will extends his stick but doesn’t force puck movement. Attackers can move around the active stick at open ice and net separation. In order for Luneau to trap attackers at open ice, he needs to determine which direction he wants the attacker to utilize (ideally towards low danger) and extend his stick to the other side to force the attacker to use the lane that Luneau wants them to use. Afterwards, Luneau needs to be quick with his stick and pick the moment in which the attacker is most vulnerable to strike with a poke check. He needs to find the moment in which the attacker isn’t securing the puck. 

Luneau isn’t overly physical with his defending in the corners and in low danger, but he will lay down checks to cause puck disruption. In a loose puck battle along the boards, you can expect Luneau to use a hip check or should check to silence the cycle. In situations in which he is going for the puck from behind, he will use he will use his upper body strength to push into the attacker and stick lift to cause puck disruption to force a turnover. 

Defending against odd man rushes can be a challenge for Luneau. He will give slightly too much space on 2-on-1s by positioning himself slightly too close to the puck carrying attacker and changes his angling slowly. That opens up passing lanes for the opposition. 

When it comes to gap control on attackers who don’t have possession of the puck, Luneau does a decent job on the back check to put pressure on the attacker who is skating through centered ice to give his teammate along the boards a passing lane. Luneau stays glued to him to take him away as an option. By staying well-aligned to the attacker’s back, he takes away any opportunity for the attacker to move the puck once he captures possession. Luneau is right there for the picking. 

Transitional Play

When going back for loose pucks in the neutral zone, he will grab possession and drift towards his blue line to key up an opposition line change and catch the opponents off guard. Luneau does a good job of controlling the pace of play and manipulating the attackers to complete a change. The manipulation tactics open up ice for Luneau to exploit. 

Luneau doesn’t move the puck from zone to zone very often. Like I spoke about in the offensive section, Luneau will take the wrong approach when carrying the puck through the neutral zone and walk right into a trap with four attackers positioned against him. He needs to use his peripherals to see that the fifth attacker is disengaged and peel to the left as there is plenty of open ice. Instead, he gets trapped and has to dump the puck. It’s not the worst move since he would be forcing the attack to go chase after the puck instead of a potential turnover in the neutral zone, but he is still giving his attackers the opportunity to net a change in possession. By using his peripheral vision, he could enter into the offensive zone with control of the puck and create a scoring chance off the rush.

Similar to what I saw in the defensive zone, when Luneau has the puck on his stick and is looking to get the puck into the hands of a teammate closer to the blue line, he struggles with puck manipulation to dodge pressure and will then look to utilize the boards and complete a bounce pass. It does work, but he doesn’t have control over where the puck is going and if the attacker is tracking Luneau will, they could end up with possession of the puck instead of Luneau’s teammate netting possession. 

When defending in the neutral zone, his assertiveness can be inconsistent. There are shifts in which he doesn’t seem assertive in the neutral zone defensively and lets the rush come right into his own zone. He doesn’t use an active stick with his reach to take away space and isn’t aligned with his defensive partner. That provides the opposition with plenty of room and a variety of lanes to use to get the puck in the offensive zone. While there are quite of few oppositional rushes in which Luneau has taken more of a passive role, there are plenty of shifts in which he is well-aligned to his defensive partner and engaged from the moment in which the opposition moves the puck into the neutral zone from their own zone.

Skating

Last up, let’s quickly go over Luneau’s skating. 

He has excellent crossovers that allow him to garner acceleration. Luneau’s crossovers when going backwards allow him to keep pace with rush without losing ground. The crossovers keep him going and he doesn’t get into situations often in which he has to bail out and revert to skating forwards. 

Luneau does implement quality inside and outside edges when shifting lanes up the middle of the ice. But, he will struggle with his outside edges when he tries to shift from skating backwards to playing the loose puck along the boards. He doesn’t always lean on his edges and that hurts his ability to retain speed. When activating off of the turn, he has to gain all of the speed in which he had before the turn. That means that an attacker who skated forwards the entire way up the ice has the advantage versus Luneau who had been skating backwards and had to deviate as there were changes in puck movement. 

Lastly, his stride extensions have decent length, but he doesn’t have the desired ankle flexion and posture to go with it. His back can be hunched over at times and thus he isn’t able to get into a quality power stride. Luneau’s posture doesn’t allow for his knees to sit in tow with the toe of his skates when completing a stride recovery. He needs to push more weight over his knees to improve his ankle flexion, but that isn’t possible with a hunched over back. 

Projection

If Luneau works on his skating and keeps a conservative strategy when controlling the puck, I believe that his projection is a third pairing defenseman. But, if Luneau can adopt a more creative style to puck control, grow his scanning abilities and further develop his skating, his upside only trends upwards. I just want to see Luneau attack in the offensive zone with passes to medium and high danger. While Luneau does pass to medium and high danger, he doesn’t do it with much regularity. He needs to continue to grow his puck manipulation to open up space for himself and not revert to low danger shots. I’d like to see him grow more of an inside game and challenge more. If he does do so, then second pairing upside is possible. 

Latest Update

June 27, 2022


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Scouting Report: Dylan James

Photo Credit: Brianna Homan / Sioux City Musketeers

Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett

Dylan James was a part of the Clark Cup champion Sioux City Musketeers and is currently slated to join the University of North Dakota for the 2022-23 season.

James hails from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and spent the last three seasons playing in the AJHL (with the Okotoks Oilers) before moving over to the USHL this season. James rose to draft ranking consideration for me during Sioux City’s run for the Clark Cup where James excelled in the grinding, slower paced game of playoff hockey.

Player Profile

D.O.B – October 19, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’0″
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left

James’ Style Of Play

Offense

Dylan James came onto my radar watching a few games of Sioux City and their top line of Dylan James, Owen McLaughlin, and Bennet Schimek. While McLaughlin did a lot of the heavy lifting in transition; I was always impressed with the role James was able carve out within the Sioux City lineup and how effective he was working within their offensive structure.

However, James proved to be a mystifying enigma scouting and tracking him. He was full of statistical contradictions that were hard to really pin down the causation to them. For example, in the four games I tracked of James he had 6 even strength points including 3 goals and 2 primary assists. In those same four games he completed just 59% of his passes and was successful in his transitions 64% of the time. Most of his transitions were pass receptions or carry-ins/outs without significant defensive pressure. 

Take this play for example:

He takes a loose puck with speed into the offensive zone and shows that he has some puck skill doing so. However, as he beats the defender wide he doesn’t protect the puck and puts it into a position to be swatted away easily. The defender spins with a wild stick check and knocks the puck off James’ stick. I like his process here and the effort he used to get around the defender, but he is going to have to be better at the details 

Similarly with this play:

James comes in with speed on a drop pass and when he receives the pass at the seven second mark there are a multitude of options. He’s coming from behind the play so you’d hope he had scanned quickly to see what to do with puck. When his teammate turns to pass to him and the puck is on the way I see three options for him:

  1. Change pace and directions and either a quick pass to the cross ice player or 1-2 strides into a medium danger shot
  2. A quick move and a feed to the player out front
  3. Beat the defender oncoming to him and then a quick decision out front or to the safety valve on the wall

He chooses to go by the defender but loses the puck and there isn’t any urgency to recover. He ends up turning the puck over to his teammate on the half wall.

While the overall data and the fact that there were more clips representative of those two I just shared than the ones I’m about to talk about; it’s important to note that when James put it together there were flashes of a very good prospect. This play is perhaps my favorite play of the five games I watched of James:

When he takes the time to scan the ice and know where to go with it with confidence and conviction he’s a very good playmaker. While I never saw him dangle anyone out of their skates; he does attempt to make plays that are pretty high-end. The process of knowing where to go with a puck quickly is there, but James just has to work on the execution.

The bread and butter of James’ game is playing as a power forward and passenger in transition who will beat you with his shot. He shoots a lot for a player that doesn’t have the puck too often coming into the zone, and while he shoots more from low danger areas than I’d like for him, he is always trying to get to those areas.

To summarize James’ offensive game: he’s not going to be a player who carrys the puck in transition for your team, he thrives as power forward role in the offensive zone, he has some skill but execution was not great, but there are moments where he operates with a plan and he looks like a second-third round pick. The best clip I can summarize James with is this:

Defense

Dylan James is a fantastic F1 forechecker. He is the first forward on the puck on the forecheck and has a relentless motor to hound puck carriers.

He uses his body extremely well to separate players from the puck and has an active stick in passing lanes. He’s often used in the penalty kill with his ability to win a board battle and constant motor. 

As a winger I find him exceptionally versatile as a prospect. His offensive game is going to have to be refined, but I think he could easily play on a team’s fourth line in an energy role where he would be great at grinding out possessions in either zone.

The only real concern I had with him as a defender is that he could be caught puck watching more than I’d like. While there were more instances of it being a cross-ice option that he wasn’t aware was moving behind him: this play you can see the defender activate while James loses track of them.

Projection

This has been one of the harder projections to make of the reports I’ve written. There’s a definite need for James to improve his skating. He has heavy feet and his lateral mobility needs to improve as well. I think with a longer development plan going to the NCAA and the motor he possesses shift-to-shift he’ll be able to keep an NHL level pace by the time he transitions out of the University of North Dakota.

However, I don’t know if he’ll ever really develop the skill level to project more than a bottom six winger. I am more optimistic than some because the biggest thing I like about James compared to other players within his archetype is that James’ processing of plays is very good and he’s trying to make higher end plays. If he were just bailing out of situations by dumping pucks into the zone in transition or panic shooting at the net in the offensive zone I’d be more apt to put him as a late round pick.

At the time of the final ranking I would’ve said that James fit to me as a second round pick who I would gladly take in the third round for value. Right now I would say that Dylan James sits as a third round ranking and a 4th round value pick as an option for a team.

Before I saw a more definitive middle-six, transition passenger but with skill and scoring touch. Now I’m less sure about if he possesses the offensive acumen to have that ceiling, and in the third round I’d be happy to get an NHL player if he ends up just being a fourth liner, but also I think there’s a lot more that he could be if things can improve over the course of the next year or two.  In our rankings I’d probably move drop him 11 spots to 65.


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Austin Garrett. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Scouting Report: Christian Kyrou

Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Christian Kyrou is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect and he plays for the OHL’s Erie Otters. 

Kyrou hails from Komoka, Ontario. For those unfamiliar with Komoka, it’s a 20 minute drive west of London, Ontario. 

His brother is Jordan Kyrou of the St. Louis Blues. Jordan had played for the Sarnia Sting during his time in the OHL and was drafted by the Blues in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Christian played youth hockey for the Lambton Jr. Sting before joining the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs U16 AAA team. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection Draft at pick #84 by Erie and made his OHL debut the following season (2019-2020).

This past season (2021-2022), he was third in total points for all OHL defensemen. Hamilton’s Nathan Staios led the league with 66 points. Saginaw’s Pavel Mintyukov was second with 62 points and Kyrou was two points away from tying Mintyukov. But, Kyrou did have the edge on Mintyukov in goals and led all draft year defensemen (playing in the OHL) in goals with 18. Given how strong Kyrou’s offensive game is, it will be interesting to see how he progresses in his development. Let’s talk about his overall game and what is next for Kyrou to refine in his development.

Player Profile

D.O.B – September 16, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’11″
Weight –183 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right

Kyrou’s Style Of Play

Offense

Christian Kyrou is a solid offensive defenseman. He will pinch up and utilizes quality puck manipulation when looking to drive up in the zone. Kyrou does a good job of drawing attackers and then quickly moving the puck in the opposite direction. Once he has enough separation, he then attempts a pass to the slot. Usually, he has to make a quick pass and can’t hang onto the puck for too long because he has a short stride that prohibits him from getting a ton of separation. So, when he has just the amount of separation that he needs, he looks to capitalize there and then. 

When Kyrou has pinched up and is facing tight pressure in the corner, he will utilize good stick-handling reach when trying to get away from pressure. That allows him to net separation and then drive towards medium danger to attempt a shot or pass. But, he doesn’t just possess have good stick handling reach, he secures the puck nicely by playing the puck wide when looking to shift around pressure. Kyrou pushes the puck wide enough to ensure that the attacker can’t get his stick on the puck. 

When driving up the side of the ice and skating in medium danger, if he draws an attacker to him and he has a teammate skating in front of the attacker on the way to the low slot, he will use his reach to push the puck away from the attacker’s stick and then complete a shovel pass to his teammate. Kyrou does a good job of adapting to the situation at hand and finding a solution rather quickly. So, you will see Kyrou use a lot of tight passing lanes when looking to get the puck to dangerous areas and away from the attacker facing him head on. That has led to quite a bit of 5v5 primary assists. 

When trying to navigate around an attacker in the offensive zone who is implementing very tight pressure, he will try to cradle the puck underneath the attacker’s stick shaft. Given that Kyrou doesn’t have a lot of speed and his mobility needs more refinement, he will struggle with acceleration and that can make it a challenge for Kyrou to get the puck around the opposition without being deceptive with his stick handling. So, I love that he tries to push the puck underneath the stick shaft. He is working with the space that he has. Will it work every single time? No, but you can’t expect it to. Should he try it when pressure isn’t air tight? No, because that gives the opposition time to assess the situation and adapt. He has to do it when facing tight pressure. 

Kyrou will pinch up to grab a hold of loose pucks when they pop up along the boards at the perimeter and then he quickly looks to find a teammate along the perimeter that he can complete a lateral pass to.

Over the course of the last few paragraphs, you’ve read the words “pinch up” quite a bit. Kyrou loves to pinch up to place loose pucks and key up medium and high danger opportunities. While he loves to be engaged offensively, sometimes he will overcommit to puck battles. He just needs to be slightly cautious because if there is already two teammates in the vicinity, he could open up the risk of an oppositional odd man rush should they manage to capture the puck and escape Kyrou and his teammates. Given that he doesn’t have a lengthy stride extension, he can’t just bail out on a dime and get back in position to cover the rush.

When it comes to his shot, he loves to skate up to the perimeter and fire a wrist shot. Sometimes, he will look to shoot from medium danger but it comes to down to how much space he has in front of him. Since he isn’t the fastest skater on the ice, if the attack is defending against his stick-handling very nicely and not opening up gaps, he will struggle to get the puck to medium danger as he doesn’t have strong activation off of his edges to net the separation that he desires. Even though he will struggle to get a good shooting lane in medium danger consistently, he makes the best out of his shots from the perimeter. He has scored quite a few goals this season from the perimeter. While he has found a lot of success with his shot, he has a big wind-up and that can make him very predictable. Attackers will catch on quickly and understand that Kyrou is about to shoot. That allows the attackers to adapt and take away the shooting lane. It works in the OHL, but NHL opponents will catch on. Even though it makes him predictable if you have watched a lot of film on him and have a good read on his shot mechanics, he could utilize his big wind-up and be deceptive with it. Kyrou could fake out attackers and make them believe that he is looking to fire a wrist shot from the perimeter. Then he could cut in and take a shot from closer up. I’d love to see him use his wind-up to create opportunities like that and I think he could pull it off quite regularly too.

For an example of the lengthy wind-up, check out the clip below.

But, as you can see in the below clip, he use that lengthy wind-up to create separation and then drive closer in before shooting.

Defense

At the beginning of the season (2021-2022), his gap control was not preventing attackers from carrying the puck closer to net front. Kyrou wasn’t assertive enough. Over the course of the season, he started to be far more assertive. Unfortunately, his speed prohibits how effective he is when using assertive measures. Right now, Kyrou doesn’t have the foot speed nor the upper body strength to put up a fight against attackers coming to the low slot. He will try to lower his body and take up space when an attacker has the puck in medium danger, but he struggles with picking the right spot to defend from and he will give the attacker just enough room to get the puck past him.

The same positioning issue pop up when he defending along the boards as he doesn’t pick the best position to attack from. Since he struggles with gaining acceleration, he can’t use his lateral crossovers to get himself in place to complete a hip check. Instead, the attacker can skate around him before Kyrou delivers the hip check. By the time Kyrou is in position to deliver the hip check, the attacker is long gone and Kyrou ends up making contact with the boards. 

Not only does his speed hurt his ability to execute checks and hurts his gap control, but it also means that he struggles with puck retrievals / defensive recoveries. With his limited speed, he will struggle to get the inside track to the puck and more often than not he is on the outside. But, even in situations where he can get and keep the inside track, he usually isn’t fast enough to get the puck and the navigate out of pressure. Since he doesn’t have the speed to ensure a clean retrieval, sometimes he doesn’t go for loose pucks in the corner and I think it’s because he knows that he won’t be able to get the necessary speed to go north-south to collect the puck. So, he’d rather put pressure on the attacker who wins possession because he’d at least be in spot where he can trap the attacker if he uses his upper body to push them into the boards.

In addition to his skating speed, Kyrou also needs to work on reaction timing as he will struggle with poke checks and picking the precise moment to use his stick blade to steal possession of the puck. If he mistimes the poke check and the attacker has speed, the attacker can garner quality separation and get himself in possession to attack from more dangerous areas.  

When in possession of the puck and looking to avoid on-coming pressure, Kyrou generally is pretty quick at getting the puck away from danger. When he has an attacker approaching him at speed and he has an open teammate in the neutral zone, he will look to complete a quick bounce pass off the boards to get the puck away from the attacker and in the hands of his teammate. At open ice if pressure is closing on him and he has an open teammate not too far away, he will try shovel passes after pushing the puck far enough from the attacker’s stick blade to ensure that the attacker can’t get his hands on the puck. With his reach, he can also extend the puck far enough out from the attacker to gain separation, but since his speed is somewhat limited, he typically looks to complete a quick outlet feed after pushing the puck away from the attacker. Kyrou will also use puck manipulation to open up space for himself to complete outlet passes by luring the attacker to one side and then quickly cradling the puck to the other side. That allows Kyrou to open up passing lanes that he wouldn’t have had if he didn’t use manipulation tactics. 

Transitional Play

As I’ve mentioned throughout the report, Kyrou’s struggles with speed and mobility prohibits him from moving the puck effectively from zone to zone to zone if he intends to control possession throughout. When skating through the neutral zone and facilitating a controlled zone exit, he doesn’t have the straight line speed and the edges to swerve around on-coming pressure. Even though he does struggle with getting separation speed, he can rely on his stick-handling reach and his deception to get open ice for himself. He use similar tactics that he uses in the offensive zone. In tight pressure, he will look to push the puck underneath the triangle to get around the attacker. So after quickly netting the slightest amount of separation, he doesn’t hold onto the puck for long and looks to complete a pass to a forward near the offensive zone blue line.

When he doesn’t have possession of the puck and is defending against the rush, he ends up gliding quite a bit in the neutral zone and using short stride extensions. By gliding, he loses any speed that he had before gliding and thus he has to regain the acceleration to contend against oppositional puck movement. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the activation needed to gain enough speed after gliding to implement tight pressure. He will need to cut down on his gliding to keep himself well-aligned to puck movement. 

Like I mentioned in the offensive section, Kyrou will overcommit to puck carrying attackers from time to time and it is also prevalent in the neutral zone. He will overcommit to puck carrying attackers playing close to the offensive zone blue line, but due to his speed, he will struggle to get close enough to the puck carrier to implement pressure. So, his defensive partner has to cover for both of them when the attacker is able to find open ice to continue the rush.

When in close range of the attacker in the neutral zone and the attacker has control of the puck, but has secured the puck so that it isn’t exposed to Kyrou,  Kyrou will slap his stick blade at the attacker’s stick blade to try to force puck disruption for the attacker. But, this only works when Kyrou is in close proximity to the rush. As I mentioned in the defensive section, he will struggle with positioning himself properly to counter the oppositional puck movement and it’s the same situation in the neutral zone.

Skating

I’ve talked about his skating quite a bit throughout the report, so I’m going to keep this section rather short. 

He doesn’t have great skating posture and his stride extensions are short. That puts a limitation on how much speed he can gain when skating in a straight line. At the end of the year, I did notice that Kyrou was experimenting with longer stride extensions from time to time. He was gaining solid speed with those extensions, but he wasn’t using lengthy extensions on each shift. 

He can manufacture some speed off of his crossovers when looking to move laterally and when he looks to shift into straight line skating after a turn. But, he isn’t getting all of the speed that he needs. Kyrou really needs to work on speed activation off of turns to ensure that he can move the puck away from pressure at the NHL level. Unfortunately, he doesn’t crossovers consistently when looking to acquire acceleration off of turns and sometimes will go right into a shortened stride extension off of the turn. But, he doesn’t just need to work on using his crossovers more consistently after attempting turns. He also needs to work on leaning on his edges to retain speed that he had before attempting to turn. Without leaning on his edges, he loses the speed that he had before the turn and if he isn’t using crossovers to activate then he truly can’t net much separation after turning. The attacker will be able to adjust his positioning to keep themselves aligned with Kyrou when Kyrou has the puck on his stick. In addition to leaning on his edges, I would also like to see Kyrou cut down on gliding as it only makes it harder for him to develop speed when puck movement changes in direction. Without the activation needed, he will struggle to get himself well-aligned to the attacker.

Projection

If Kyrou can work on his skating, I do believe that he can be a bottom four defender at the NHL level. He has the offensive skill-set to be rather productive at the NHL level, but he needs the separation speed to truly have an impact. But, it isn’t just about acquiring the speed to be competitive in the offensive zone, he also needs the speed to counter oppositional puck movement. While the skating might sound concerning, it is addressable. There are plenty of draft eligible prospects that have issues with acceleration and with refinement they make an impact at the NHL level when it’s time to make the jump.

Latest Update

June 25, 2022


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Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

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