Scouting Report: Jonathan Lekkerimäki

Photo Credit: Otto Marand / Djurgården

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Jonathan Lekkerimäki is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the Djurgården system. Lekkerimäki grew up in the Stockholm suburb of Huddinge and played youth hockey for the local club, Flemingsbergs IK. After playing for the local club, he ended up playing U16 hockey for Södertälje SK alongside his current Djurgården teammates, Calle Odelius and Noah Östlund. After his 2018-2019 campaign with Södertälje, he made the move to the Djurgården U16 club. Since joining Djurgården, he has played for them at the U16, J18, J20 and SHL levels. 

This season, he made his SHL debut and split his time between the SHL club and J20 club. Lekkerimäki managed to produce very nicely at 5v5 at the SHL and J20 levels. More than half of his points in the SHL were at 5v5 and same can be said for his J20 points. 

Not only did he suit up for Djurgården this season, but he also played for Sweden at the international level in multiple tournaments including the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the IIHF U18 World Championships (which Sweden won). At the U18s, he recorded the most assists and points. Lekkerimäki was also named to the U18 WJC All-Star Team alongside fellow 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospects Jiri Kulich, Logan Cooley, Lane Hutson, Tomas Hamara and Hugo Hävelid. 

Lekkerimäki recently signed a two year extension with Djurgården and will more than likely suit up for them in the Allsvenskan next season. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – July 24, 2004
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’11″
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Right Wing
Handedness – Right

Lekkerimäki’s Style Of Play

Offense

In the offensive zone, Lekkerimäki is very good at finding open space for himself down low in front of the goaltender. He scans the ice and can quickly identify the areas that are not manned. When he gets into position in the slot and has an open passing lane for his teammate with the puck to exploit, Lekkerimäki is vocal and communicates by tapping his stick on the ice multiple times to get the attention of his teammate. Should his position no longer become a viable option for his teammate to exploit with a pass, he rotates his positioning quickly and stays on his toes looking for a new passing lane for his teammate to use.

But, what I really like about Lekkerimäki’s ability to find open ice is that he does a good job of identifying attackers who are puck watching and knows that they are vulnerable to keeping pace with him should he activate and skate from the half-wall to the slot to generate a passing lane. Lekkerimäki takes advantage of the defensive mistake and provides his teammate behind the net with a quality a lane to exploit. Check out the clip below in which he does just that, but later on in the shift he also identifies just how close the pressure is to him along the half-wall when has possession of the puck and managed to navigate out of danger by pushing the puck underneath the attacker’s stick blade.

He can be slippery and deceptive with his puck control when facing pressure. When he encounters traffic, he can be deceptive and quick by identifying teammates that are coming from behind him and then completing a quick drop pass. The goal is to get the puck into the hands of a teammate who is open and skating in his lane so the change in possession is seamless. Take a look at the below clip in which Lekkerimäki encounters traffic as he skates towards the slot and completes deceptive drop pass to Liam Öhgren to get the puck to a teammate who isn’t facing tight pressure. It leads to a Liam Öhgren backhand pass to the slot to find Noah Östlund.

On the subject of generating space from an attacker, when he gets to the boards with possession of the puck and he spots the back check, he positions his body as if he is going to go left towards the blue line, but pivots out quickly to go right towards the corner. Not only does he net separation by confusing the attacker into thinking that he was going to go in certain direction and then goes towards the opposite direction, but he keeps the puck on his stick when pivoting out and doesn’t bobble possession. 

He is an underrated forechecker. When most people talk about Lekkerimäki, they immediately rave about his shot and his stick-handling and his forechecking doesn’t get enough attention. He can generate good stride extension length to skate hard after loose pucks. If he sees that his teammate is slightly out of position and an attacker picks up possession and looks to skate into the neutral zone, Lekkerimäki shifts over and uses quality stride extensions to catch up to the attacker. In the corners, you can expect him to get physical. He will hip check in the corner when he sees an attacker controlling the puck who is vulnerable as his back is turned.

Next up, let’s talk about Lekkerimäki’s shot. He has quality mechanics. Good weight transfer. Quick release. Open stick blade. Everything that I look for. But, what makes Lekkerimäki dynamic is his ability to deliver a quick release shot on the rush and gets height on the shot. His shot off the rush is quite good, but he does need to address his accuracy. Lekkerimäki seems to be very in-consistent with his accuracy off the rush. While that might sound like a negative, you shouldn’t take it as one. The fact that he is able to get pucks on net off of the rush and pick corners has been a joy. His accuracy will improve over time and most of the time it has to do with how far the puck is away from Lekkerimäki’s body. But, I just love that he is trying to shoot off the rush especially since he possesses such a quick release. In addition to his quick release and shot off the rush, his stick-handling ability will prove it’s worth in the NHL when he is trying to generate space for himself to shoot. With that said, I do want to see him use stick-handling more and more before attempting shots from distance with an attacker right on him. For instance, there are shifts in which Lekkerimäki felt that he didn’t have any options with an attacker closing in on him, so he took a shot and hoped to get it on net. I just want to see him use his stick-handling with his outstanding vision to identify how much space he has in front of him with the attacker closing in on him and choosing the best moment to pivot out instead of taking a shot. Even though he does need to work on shot selection, if he has an open shooting lane and he is at the border between medium / low danger, but he still has a teammate in the slot at the backdoor, he will look to pass the puck to net front.

In terms of goal production and upside, Lekkerimäki has shown that he score goals in multiple fashions. He can score one-timers in the slot. But, he will also identify teammates struggling to get a shot off down low and who are facing tight pressure quickly, skate towards them and bail them out. Once he identifies them, he has the straight line speed with his skate extensions to get to the doorstep fast. It allows him to get quality tip-in goals. His stick-handling also gives him the ability to draw goaltenders to one side, quickly move the puck to the other side and then score. Also, he has done a great job of getting open ice in the neutral zone at the blue line, netting possession of the puck off of an outlet pass and then score on a breakaway and/or 2 – on – 1s. 

He doesn’t produce a lot of primary assists, but he has had some nifty ones this season. When he skates near the net, in medium danger and facing tight traffic, he won’t force a shot. Instead, he looks for a tight gap to exploit. Additionally, if he can’t find a passing lane, he will wrap around the net with the puck and try to see if he can net separation to get a passing lane. 

Defense

Lekkerimäki keeps good pace on the back-check at the SHL level. His ability to generate quality straight line extensions allows him to muster up enough speed to get vest to vest with the attacker and that has allowed him to shut down attackers in J20 play. But, in the SHL, he will appear to be slightly slower on the back-check. He gets in range of the puck carrying attacker, but is still one step away from putting enough pressure to stop the attacker from moving closer to the net.  

Lekkerimäki does implement good pressure along the blue line when defending the point, good active stick, extends his stick blade towards the puck, doesn’t force a change in possession but it is annoying. He can be very mobile. Lekkerimäki can swivel his hips and activate into stride quickly. He will lower and widen himself at the point to take up more space in an effort to force the attacker to dump the puck. In certain situations, Lekkerimäki will position his the shaft of his stick on the ice to take away passing lanes at the point. 

While he does do a good job of using his stick to take away opportunities for the attack, he doesn’t have a lot of reach with his stick. With that said, when defending at centered ice in the slot, he will extend out his stick at the perimeter, but he doesn’t take away enough space to keep the attacker out of the slot. Thankfully, Lekkerimäki’s speed and pivots allow him to stay close to the attacker, but if the attacker has the upper body strength to push past him, he doesn’t have to reach to poke-check from a slight distance as a plan B. 

He tracks the puck well. Lekkerimäki identifies when attackers are trying to complete passes and he can assess based on the trajectory if he is in range to intercept it. If he spots a pass that he can get his hands on, he does a good job at determining the right moment to skate into the pass in order to disrupt the pass / intercept it.

When looking to get involved in the rush, you can usually find Lekkerimäki in the neutral zone looking for open space at the offensive zone blue line to net so that his teammates can find outlet passes to him. But, if he does net possession of the puck in the defensive zone, in most situations he will collect possession of the puck when he drops to the hashmarks in the face-off circle. He moves to the hashmarks to net possession of pucks when they become loose along the half-wall. When he is in control of the puck, he can struggle with puck security when facing tough pressure as he doesn’t have the necessary reach to navigate the puck around the tight pressure. Lekkerimäki will need to acquire the upper body strength and continue to grow in order to develop his stick-handling reach. In situations in which he has enough open space to work, he can complete long range passes to teammates at center ice including saucer feeds.

Transitional Play

Lekkerimäki can be rather reliable in the neutral zone when facing the rush. When at the boards and working against an attacker with a similar frame, Lekkerimäki is able to sandwich the puck carrying attacker. At open ice, Lekkerimäki will implement vest to vest pressure at open ice while the attackers are skating up ice with the puck. But, as we discusses earlier, he doesn’t have the upper body strength in SHL play to contend for bobbled pucks in a tight battle. If he is facing an attacker of bigger size, he will struggle to secure possession of the puck as the attacker’s can leverage their upper body strength to push Lekkerimäki away from the puck. 

Earlier I mentioned that Lekkerimäki will look to grab open ice at the offensive blue line to create outlet pass lanes for his defensemen to use and I felt compelled to bring it up again. His ability to create quality stretch pass lanes has been fruitful in creating plenty of scoring chances. His determination to establish open ice in the neutral zone shift-in and shift-out has led to breakaways and quality 2 – on – 1 s.

In situations where he is in control of the puck and not looking to establish open ice for an outlet feed, he has shown that the can stick-handle through rather tight pressure. Lekkerimäki will look to cradle the puck underneath the attacker’s stick (triangle), so that Lekkerimäki can cut around the defender even when there isn’t much room to breath. He will sometimes bobble control of the puck, but I love that in situations where he can’t get any open space that he tries to go underneath the triangle. Even if he bobbles the puck, I like he is using his stick-handling resources to try to navigate around pressure and get into the offensive zone.  

Skating

Lekkerimäki has excellent ankle flexion as his knee cap is consistently aligned with the toe of his skate. His ankle flexion and his lowered posture (knees bent) allows him to generate quality straight line speed. When he looks to go into stride, he starts off his stride with a crossover. After the initial few lengthy crossovers, he deploys a shortened skate extension, but over time he lengthens his extension. With his excellent skating mechanics, he has shown that he can generate and maintain quality speed through crossovers and straight line speed to ensure that he has the necessary speed to get back into the neutral zone towards the defensive zone blue line when an attacker has the puck on his stick and Lekkerimäki is behind the rush. In tight battles for loose pucks, he can rely on his crossovers to give him some edge if he slightly further back from the attacker (like a DRS boost for those F1 fans). When making turns, he does a good job of leaning on his edges to retain the speed that the had prior to making the turn and he can also add to the speed after completing turn by utilizing quality crossovers and lengthy skate extensions to get into gear.

Projection

Given Lekkerimäki’s ability to find open ice in the slot and in the neutral zone to key up passing lanes, he constantly puts himself in the position to succeed offensively. His shot off the rush and shot in a standstill position allows him to capitalize when he has the puck on his stick. There is a lot to like about Lekkerimäki’s offensive game and the fact that he can use utilize quality stick-handling to get out of sticky situations only increases his value.

From a defensive perspective, there are areas that he needs to work on especially with upper body strength to increase his reach and fend off bigger competitors. But, he has the speed to get to loose pucks before his competitors do even in situations where he doesn’t seem to have the upper hand. All-in-all, I feel confident that the NHL team who drafts Lekkerimäki is netting a top six forward, who will be defensively responsible and at the same time generate top six point totals.

After publishing this report, I had been asked by a few people on whether or not I would potentially line Lekkerimäki at center at the next level. I get why teams would try to experiment with him at center, but I have a few issues that I think would prevent him from being a center. His reach. Until he can acquire quality off-puck reach, he will face challenges defending in the slot. Same issue behind the red line. Also, I don’t think his playmaking ability is consistent enough in which I’d feel entirely comfortable with him at center at the NHL level. If he can grow into his size and be a bit more consistent with his playmaking, you could potentially put him at center. But, until we see Lekkerimäki address what I had mentioned above, I would leave him at wing. 

Latest Update

May 7, 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: Noah Östlund

Photo Credit: Otto Marand / Djurgården

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Noah Östlund is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the Djurgården system. He grew up slightly west of Stockholm, but still in Stockholm County. The municipality that he grew up in is Nykvarn and is quite close to Södertälje. Östlund played youth hockey for Södertälje SK before making his Djurgården debut in 2019-2020. Since joining Djurgården, he has suited up for the club at the U16, J18, J20 and the SHL levels. 

This past season, Östlund played for Djurgården at the J18, J20 and the SHL levels. He also suited up for Sweden at the Hlinka Gretzky and at the U18s in Germany. 

Djurgården had a rough season and one in which they lost their spot in the SHL. Even though Djurgården was relegated to the Allsvenskan from the SHL, but they did manage to retain Östlund, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Liam Öhgren, Calle Odelius and Wiktor Nilsson. Per the Djurgården site, they all signed two year contracts. Östlund will more than likely spend a decent amount of time in the Allsvenskan next season.

Player Profile

D.O.B – March 11, 2004
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’11″
Weight –163 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left

Östlund’s Style Of Play

Offense

When facing tight pressure in the offensive zone, that is when Östlund truly shows what he can bring to the table. Östlund can be very relentless with his pursuit to find tight passing lanes to exploit when he is facing tough vest to vest pressure. While he can be relentless with his pursuit, he doesn’t get frustrated and give up when he can’t find a lane. He doesn’t fire a shot when running out of options unless he absolutely has to. But, when he does find lanes he takes advantage of them right away. Östlund has managed to complete quick tight seam passes to his regular linemates, Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Liam Öhgren. Not only does he complete seam passes through tight quarters, but has also shown that he can wire accurate trajectory / route passes when he runs out of space along the half-wall and identifies a teammate skating hard to the slot. There is also quite a bit of William Eklund in Östlund, especially with how he handles pressure with deception. If he is facing traffic while running the cycle and looks to skate behind the net to shake off the pressure, he skates right next to the net behind the red line and can shift the puck from backhand to forehand and pass the puck to the doorstep. By skating behind the net, he is hoping that the attacker splits away from him and skates closer to net front. That allows Östlund to find just the amount of separation that he needs to wire the pass to the doorstep. In addition, like Eklund, Östlund is very good at identifying the best moment in which he can deliver the perfect drop pass when facing intimidating pressure. He will notice the exact moment in which his teammate comes into range and he will place down the puck to try get some separation for the teammate coming behind him who isn’t facing much pressure himself.

Östlund has excellent stick-handling and possesses outstanding reach given his frame. When scouting, you don’t often notice 5’11” / ~165 lbs skaters who have the ability to extend the puck out as far out as Östlund does very often. His reach allows him to take up more space and that can be very beneficial when trying to get separation in situations where he is facing tight defensive pressure. Östlund has shown that he can utilize quick and soft windmill stick-handling to get by defenders, get to net-front and score top shelf backhand goals. The Djurgården prospect can also be very creative when looking to approach the net. In the clip below from the U18 World Championship game against Team USA, you can watch Östlund flip the puck above the two attackers, push past them and then bat the puck in for a goal. 

When Östlund doesn’t have possession of the puck, he stays on his toes and follows his teammate to give his teammate a quality passing lane should his teammate run into a pressure filled situation. Östlund tracks his teammates quite well and maintains similar speed to ensure that he stays well-aligned to his teammates. He does a great job of going to net-front to offer a backdoor passing lane off the rush and when his teammates are cycling the puck. Östlund desire for open ice at net-front has paid off quite well this season for Djurgården at the J20 level. He managed to score multiple backdoor goals after hunting for open high danger passing lanes for his teammates to utilize.

At the beginning of the year in November, when he was at the SHL level, he was still trying to get adjusted to the changes in speed, so he was often slow to loose pucks. But, it just seemed like Östlund was still getting used to the speed of the SHL and thus truly needed the additional time at the J20 level (which he was given). At the J20 level, Östlund’s forechecking was significantly stronger. While he isn’t the most aggressive forechecker, he is usually paired with Liam Öhgren and Öhgren is far stronger at using his body to shut down oppositional puck movement. But, that doesn’t mean that Östlund can’t be impactful on the forecheck. He does a good job of trapping of attacker, lowering his body and extends his stick out to take away space for the attacker to use. That has led to Öhgren and Östlund trapping attackers in the corner as Öhgren will be well-aligned with him but just on the other side of the attacker. Östlund can be quite strong with his stick when hunting and engaging on puck battles. He can be highly disruptive when stick lifting to knock the attacker off the puck when Östlund is slightly behind the attacker. He also shown that he can be an effective poke checker, use his reach and steal possession of pucks when putting pressure attackers along the boards. Östlund’s active stick and poke checking ability has led to situations like the one below in which he stole possession, completed a drop pass to Adam Björklund when the two of them were close in proximity, Östlund skates away to grab an open passing lane and then scores a snap shot when Björklund completes the give and go.

Östlund is not the goal scorer that Lekkerimäki is, but he can get a lot of power on his shot. When he lower his body and utilizes quality weight transfer by pushing his upper body towards his knee, he can get the power he needs to get pucks past goaltenders. Östlund does a good job of skating into pucks and firing medium danger shots for goals. For instance, he netted a goal against Rögle J20 in the semifinals, in which he he skated into the pass, lowered his body to gain maximum power and went top shelf. 

While he does have a solid shot and has produced quality goals at the J20 level with his shot, he does need to cautious about having his skates too wide apart when trying shots from range. In those situations, he loses his mobility and plays the puck further out from his body. By positioning the puck further out from his body, that hurts his accuracy and power. It allows the goaltender to make an easy stop. 

Defense

Östlund is defensively responsible and that is evident on almost every single shift. He does a good job of dropping back and defending the slot when the slot is open and he sees his defender marking up. When his defenders get involved in puck battles along the half-wall or in the corner, he drops back for them incase they lose control of the puck and can’t react to oppositional puck movement in time. But, regardless of his defensemen and where they are in the zone, he generally drops back to the slot and looks for open attackers to backcheck against. He will also to drop down the corners if the attack has possession of the puck in the corners and no one exerting much pressure on them. When he gets neck and neck with the attacker, he will look to complete a shoulder check and knock them off of the puck.

Even when Östlund loses out on an initial loose puck battle, he is still hungry for possession of the puck. He will look to leverage his upper body strength to push past the attacker to capture the puck. Once he gets control of the puck, he has shown to be very effective from a transitional perspective and usually can complete a quality stretch pass to a teammate in the neutral zone like the one in the clip below.

In the offensive section, I talked about how Östlund can rely on stick lifting if he is slightly behind the puck carrying attacker and it also pays off in the defensive zone. For instance, if a puck carrying attacker is skating away from the corner and going towards the blue line and Östlund is skating behind him, he will extend his stick out towards the attacker’s stick blade to try to shake him off the puck. As long as Östlund is in close proximity to the attacker, he can leverage his stick lifting to truly cause puck disruption.

Earlier in the defensive section, I talked about how Östlund will be present in the corners when he looks to pressure on puck carrying attackers who are looking to cycle in the corners, but he will also skate to the corner if he sees his teammates dealing with pressure and they need an outlet lane for a pass. He does an excellent job of always following the puck and Östlund is always an ear shot away to provide a passing option.

When in control of the puck and facing heavy congestion, he can be extremely deceptive. If he is trapped before the defensive zone blue line as he intends to skate into the neutral zone, he will deceptively execute a drop pass for his defenseman. Östlund has also shown the he can uses his pivots well at open ice if he sees that attackers are taking away passing lanes and he wants to look elsewhere in the zone. By pivoting he can either generate enough separation to net a passing lane or he can get enough space to complete a controlled zone exit. It ultimately depends on the speed of the attacker and how much space he can net by pivoting. If the attacker stays on him, but a small gap opens up, Östlund will exploit it. But, he doesn’t just pivot out to get space, he will also double back if he is facing too much pressure, button hook and then identify a new lane to utilize when trying to net a zone exit. Ultimately, Östlund is very smart with the puck on his stick and won’t force puck movement if he simply doesn’t have the space. 

Even when he does he open skating lanes in front of him, he will still analyze all of the options that he has at his disposal  for moving the puck up the ice. When he gets to the blue line, if he can spot a teammate who is open and further up the ice, he will look to complete a pass to that teammate to try to get the puck up the ice at a faster rate.

Transitional Play

In the neutral zone, Östlund is always thinking on his feet and analyzing pressure. If he sees that he is drawing multiple attacker, he will leverage his mobility, shiftiness and pivoting to pivot out on a dime to open up space for himself to complete a pass. Given his deceptive style, he can constantly use these maneuvers to throw off attackers and get enough space to key up passing lanes to get the puck into the offensive zone safely. 

Östlund does a good job of looking for open ice in the neutral zone near the offensive zone blue line to create stretch pass lanes for his defensemen to utilize. That has paved the way for quite a few breakaway opportunities and two-on-one opportunities. Östlund will communicate with his defensemen to let them know that he has an open passing lane for them to exploit by banging his stick blade on the ice.

When you look at his defensive play, but at the SHL level, I did notice that Östlund struggled a bit with speed in the neutral zone when defending and couldn’t always close the gap to prevent the rush from moving forward. Since he couldn’t completely close the gap, attackers could force their way past Östlund with ease. In addition, he didn’t have the upper body strength to cut off attackers in the neutral zone and that isn’t too surprising given the competition level in the SHL. Over time, he will gain the upper body strength to compete with more physically intimidating opponents.

In J20 play, his defensive measures in the neutral zone were far more effective and he was able to maintain good alignment with the rush. Even in situations where he was slightly behind the rush, he would stick lift and use the same strategies that he has adopted in the offensive and defensive zone to force puck disruption.

Skating

Östlund has quite a bit of speed and lot of that can be credited to his crossover usage. When he blends his crossovers and stride extensions, he can garner the necessary acceleration to chase through the neutral zone, catch up to an attacker in the slot and play man on man. His speed when going north – south makes him a handful because it can be a challenge to get enough separation away from Östlund when the attacker. But, his speed doesn’t just help him defensively. He will also leverage crossovers and stride extensions to keep himself aligned with his puck carrying teammates when they are skating up the ice. 

He has good posture and keeps himself lowered with his knees bent. Östlund has quality ankle flexion and his knees align with the toe of his skate. With his quality ankle flexion and lowered posture, it allows him to generate maximum speed on his crossovers and stride extensions. 

Aside from his crossover and stride extensions, he leans on his edges to maintain the speed that the had before the turn and generally retains his speed well. But, what I really like about Östlund is his ability to activate additional speed quickly immediately after he completes the turn. Immediately, you will see him leverage his crossovers right after the turn to acquire additional acceleration before he goes into full stride. The amount of speed that the can gain off of those crossovers can make him lethal, especially when you think about how deceptive Östlund is. The fact that he can on a dime, complete a turn, retain speed and add to his speed makes him very dangerous in situations where he is down low in tight and navigating around intense congestion.

Projection

There is a lot to like about Östlund. His speed, playmaking and mobility makes him dangerous. Even when he doesn’t have the speed to get around attackers when defending, he has still found ways to cause plenty of disruption and kill rush attempts. But, the one area that I love is how deceptive he can be with his playmaking ability and his ability to make use of extremely tight passing lanes. He has a hunger for the puck and knows that he needs to get the puck to high danger areas to win. I’m confident that he will be a top six forward at the NHL level and the path to get there isn’t a very long one for Östlund given his skill-set. 

Latest Update

May 2, 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: Reid Schaefer

Photo Credit: Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds

Scouting Report written by Matthew Somma

Reid Schaefer has been a steady riser over the course of the season and has creeped into some people’s top 100. He scored 32 goals and had 58 points in 66 games this season after recording just two assists in 18 games last season. That sort of jump in production will put you on more people’s radars, but is it warranted? Over the course of the season, I’ve watched Schaefer develop and benefit from a full WHL season. Sometimes, there will be a lot to like, while other times, I barely notice him. With Schaefer, no two shifts are the same and it has taken more viewings than usual to get a good read on him as a player.

As I’ve watched Schaefer, I’ve been able to see glimpses of his full potential. I see a player that, if developed properly, could be a nice complementary winger for a team. He has the size and strength to be a power forward at the NHL level, after all. His skill set at present is very raw, however, so he’ll be a long-term project for whichever team drafts him. The question I keep coming back to is “will Schaefer be a consistent threat at the NHL level?” In this profile, I’ll be breaking down Schaefer’s game to paint a picture of the player that he is and the player that he could be.

Player Profile

D.O.B –September 21, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’3″
Weight –214 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left

Schaefer’s Style of Play

Schaefer is built like a power forward and uses his size and strength to gain separation from defenders in the offensive zone. He was made for board battles and can keep the flow of the play moving if the puck gets trapped along the boards. A lot of the players that I’ve profiled so far this year have been smaller forwards that can turn the puck over. Schaefer is one of the few players that can set the tone physically and create space with strength as opposed to puck skills or skating.

Schaefer’s skating is above average for a player his size but not elite in any sense. He possesses the ability to get to top speed relatively quickly and his straight line speed is good enough to gain separation from defenders. I wouldn’t call him a quick skater, though. HIs top speed is fairly average, perhaps even below average, but he can cover more distance due to his size and leg strength.

Part of what can make Schaefer so dangerous is that he’s a powerful skater with the strength to shrug off any sort of pressure or check that comes his way. He can maintain puck possession in order to create offense, which is why I’d lean towards labeling him as a power forward. Schaefer gets pucks down low and can work from below the goal line to try and get the goaltender and defense to have blind spots. If he’s under pressure along the boards, he has the vision to get the puck to a teammate in order to continue the rush. Schaefer’s forechecking can be hit or miss, to me. There are times when he can drift and be a bit directionless in the offensive zone. He’ll wait for the play to come to him or hover around the middle of the ice without doing a whole lot to prevent a breakout. When he wants to get involved in the forecheck or a board battle, however, I see strength. He’s quick on the forecheck and can utilize his above average foot speed as well as his strength to knock players off of the puck and maintain possession for his team. Schaefer is at his best when he’s shooting the puck or utilizing his strength, after all. At 214 pounds, Schaefer is already stronger than most of the competition in the WHL. For him to take the next step, I’d like to see him be dominant along the boards. I’m starting to see that, but it needs to be consistent.

Schaefer’s biggest tool in the offensive zone, however, is his shot. He has a grade-A shot release that can beat any goaltender in the WHL. His shot is the complete package, too. It’s quick, accurate and powerful with a lightning fast release.

I mean, his shot is absurd. You don’t score 32 goals in your first full season in the WHL unless you can shoot incredibly well, and Schaefer can. With this shot, Schaefer can be absolutely lethal from the slot and is a player that can command attention in the offensive zone. Players will gravitate towards him in order to prevent him from scoring, and he has the hockey sense and vision to know the right time to either shoot or pass to an opponent. Offensively, Schaefer makes an impact and is an imposing presence. He’s a true power forward and a gifted scorer, and players like that usually command more attention due to how much space they can create in the offensive zone. There’s a real debate to be made that Schaefer is more of a sniper than a power forward. I’d entertain that argument since his shot is so quick and accurate, but I believe that the power in his game is going to allow for him to shine. He’s a scoring threat from anywhere, too. Take a look at this next clip, where he takes a slap shot from the point.

Finally, here’s an example of how Schaefer’s shot doesn’t drop off when he shoots from a distance.

Schaefer is also relied upon fairly heavily on the penalty kill, largely due to his reach and defensive awareness. It’s difficult to work around him due to how aggressive he is, and plays like this make him an annoyance on the penalty kill.

He’s in position and can disrupt plays along the boards, negating the attack for a lot of teams. Schaefer isn’t perfect in the defensive zone, but he’s one of the more responsible defensive forwards that I’ve watched this season. I would like to see him anticipate plays more often. He can get caught standing around or drifting aimlessly in the defensive zone on occasion, and that weakness will get exposed at higher levels of play. Defensively, Schaefer can play a gritty game that will wear down opposing forwards and make it difficult for offensive creation. It works at preventing plays along the boards as well. Teams are noticeably more cautious when Schaefer is on the ice because they know that they’ll have a 6’3″, 214-pound freight train coming at them if they take one step near the boards.

Where I start to doubt Schaefer’s true upside is when I watch him in the neutral zone and in transition. It’s not that he can’t keep up with his teammates, it’s that he’s constantly parallel to the puck. There’s nothing stopping a defender from taking the puck in those scenarios. He struggles with zone exits and rarely carries the puck into the offensive zone, which makes me doubt his effectiveness in the modern NHL. Back in 2006, we’d be talking about Schaefer as one of the top players in the draft, but in a game built on speed and transition play, I feel that Schaefer can get left behind. He won’t trail behind the play and make himself a drop pass option and he won’t move ahead of the play to try and push the puck into the offensive zone. Teams can pick up on a pass to him with relative ease since they won’t have any doubts as to where Schaefer will be.

Schaefer’s other glaring weak point is his play with the puck on his stick. Typically, Schaefer is at his best when he’s firing off a one-timer or looking to get pucks towards the net. When he looks to carry the puck in transition or make a pass to a teammate, his puck skills can falter. Schaefer can grip the stick a little too hard and bobble the puck when trying to carry it up ice, usually resulting in a turnover or a lengthy board battle that stalls momentum. When attempting passes to teammates, Schaefer’s timing can be off and his passes are typically inaccurate. Often, I’ll see Schaefer receive the puck and scan for his options, notice an opening and then hold onto the puck too long, turning it over in the process. He’ll have to make quicker decisions because he’ll only have less time to do so as the competition intensifies. Schaefer can occasionally show glimpses of elite puck skills and he has some creative dekes and dangles in his repertoire. The problem is that he is unable to execute on a consistent basis and usually winds up turning the puck over. That could improve over time, but his one on one battles are a giant toss up at the present.

The thing I struggle with Schaefer is that he knows what to do with the puck on his stick, but his execution is off. He sees players in high danger areas, and his hockey sense is above average, but when he goes to make the pass, it fizzles out. Again, this is something that can be worked on over time, but right now, I don’t see Schaefer as a playmaking threat. He has the first step down, which is the recognition of an open patch of ice to make a play to. If he can get the execution down, I’d be more certain of his NHL upside. Here’s an example of when Schaefer’s passing can be good. When I see plays like this, I’m more confident in his abilities.

Projection

Schaefer seems like a project that could yield some solid upside. Right now, I would say that his ceiling is that of a third line winger, while his floor is somewhere at the AHL level. He has the size, strength and goal scoring ability to find success in the pros, but his game is incredibly raw otherwise. His potential is intriguing, especially since he’s a good enough shooter to net at least 20 goals at the NHL level. What I keep coming back to is his neutral zone play, though. I feel that a lot of offense in the modern NHL comes from transition, and Schaefer lacks a dynamic element in the neutral zone. His puck carrying can, and likely will, improve, but until he becomes a threat in transition, those doubts will remain. Most teams will see Schaefer’s size and skill as something they can build on, and they’re right. Most, if not all, of the flaws in his game are teachable and can be developed over time. With the right development staff, Schaefer could grow into an NHL player.

Now, where would I rank Schaefer? Right now, I’d put him around the 3rd-4th round range. There are other players that I like more than him and that I feel more certain of, but I could see teams going with a “safer” pick in Schaefer. For me, it boils down to the fact that Schaefer was six days removed from being eligible for last year’s draft and the fact that he’s very raw. I’m looking at his development path in a similar way to Carolina Hurricanes prospect Blake Murray. Schaefer plays a bit more of a heavier game than Murray, but both are natural goal scorers with a gritty side. Murray’s path obviously involved an interruption and a very limited schedule, just as Schaefer’s did, so they’re both a little more raw than they normally would be. Murray spent this past season in the ECHL and will likely transition to the AHL next season, and I could see Schaefer taking a similar path. Schaefer has, in my eyes, a five year timeline. He needs to finish his CHL career and spend, at minimum, three seasons in the minors before he becomes a full time NHL player. At the end of that timeline, I could see Schaefer stepping into a third line role and becoming a strong goal scoring power forward.

Overall, I see Schaefer’s potential. He’s not the type of player that I’d bang the table for on draft day, but he’s a player that I would probably like to draft in the middle rounds. At that point in the draft, the amount of players with his potential thins out, and you’re left with the task of determining which players are more likely to reach that potential. With Schaefer’s size, strength, shot and defensive play, it’s likely that he plays NHL games. Plus, there’s the fact that a lot of his flaws are teachable. It’s nearly impossible to teach a player’s hockey sense or vision, but it’s easier to improve their execution on passes and skating.

Latest Update

April 30, 2022


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Matthew Somma. If you would like to follow Josh 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: Vladimir Grudinin

Photo Credit: CSKA Moskva/@HCCSKA

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Vladimir Grudinin is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the CSKA Moscow (Moskva) system. Grudinin grew up in Angarsk, Russia and played U16 hockey for Yermak Angarsk before make the trip across the country from Siberia / Irkutsk Oblast to Moscow. Since moving to Moscow, Grudinin has played U16, U17, U18, MHL, VHL and KHL hockey for CSKA Moscow. This season, he has played alongside several 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospects including Artyom Duda and Kirill Dolzhenkov. During his stint in the MHL this season, Grudinin had been one of the top points per game defenders with 0.72 PPG. 

Grudinin has not been selected in any previous CHL Import Drafts, so no one owns his CHL rights.

He is represented by Dan Milstein and Gold Star Hockey.

Player Profile

D.O.B – December 9, 2003
Nationality – Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’10″
Weight –159 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left

Grudinin’s Style Of Play

Offense

Grudinin has excellent lateral crossovers and it allows him to go east – west along the blue line at a good speed. When using those crossovers to garner quality acceleration along the blue line, it allows him to look for open shooting and passing lanes. The speed can also allow him to create lanes should Grudinin net enough to speed to out-match the attacker who is trying to put pressure on him. Grudinin will lure attackers with him when he spots a winger along the boards who the attacker has prevented Grudinin from passing to that winger. By skating to a centered position, he opens up a quality passing lane and a quality medium danger shooting lane for his winger.

With Grudinin’s love to lure attackers in, he uses it constantly to buy open ice. He will see an attacker coming for him, so he slows down his movements and keeps the puck out in front of him. Once the attacker gets to him, Grudinin shifts the puck underneath the attacker’s stick and nets open ice. In the clip below, you will see him pull that off and then fire a saucer pass to his defensive partner at the opposite half-wall.

One of the areas that Grudinin does struggle with is capturing possession of loose pucks. There are instances in which he had a loose puck that had ricocheted off the boards that came to him, but he wasn’t able to trap the puck and the puck vacated the offensive zone. He won’t just struggle with cleanly netting possession of loose pucks, he also struggles with capturing possession of passes from time-to-time and that is an issue in all three zones.

Grudinin will pinch up and get involved in the cycle down low. He pinches up past the perimeter when his teammates are engaged in puck battles or cycling the puck down low behind the red line. When he is in control of the puck, he has found a decent amount of success pinching up. He does a good job of securing possession of the puck, by positioning the puck along the boards and not exposing the puck to attackers coming towards him from open ice. Grudinin will pinch up and wire seam passes to his teammates in medium danger. If he runs out of real estate due to pressure, he has proven that quickly complete a pass to a teammate along the boards to ensure that the cycle remains alive. He can also pivot out of danger and lay down drop passes with ease. In situations in which he looks to want to bring the puck to the slot and the attacker takes away the skating lane to the slot by extending his stick blade out, Grudinin reacts quickly and finds a backup passing option. When he pinches up for a loose puck, he needs to be quicker to those pucks, so he doesn’t put his defensive partner in a situation where the attacker gains possession of the puck and quickly delivers a pass to a fellow attacker in the slot and Grudinin’s defensive partner has to shift over and defend against the puck carrier. If he can be a step or two quicker, he can pick up those loose pucks at the edge of the perimeter and keep the puck in the zone. 

When it comes to his shot, he has tallied three goals during the season and one came on the power play. Unfortunately, the majority of the points came at the start of the season and he hasn’t scored a 5v5 goal since October 1, 2021. In a matchup against HC Almaz Cherepovets on September 28, 2021, he was been able to score a slap shot goal off of a face-off draw. Immediately after netting possession of the puck. His last 5v5 goal of the year came against HC Loko Yaroslavl on October 1, 2021. Grudinin has identified open ice at the perimeter, skated into the lane, captures possession of the puck off of a pass and quickly fires a shot from medium danger. Bar down goal. The clip of the goal can be found below.

When you look at his shot underneath the figurative microscope, you will notice that he has a quick release, but when shooting from further out beyond the perimeter, his accuracy isn’t as good as when he has found himself in situations in which he much closer to the net. The majority of his 5v5 shots come from the point and InStat indicated that only 43% of his shots from the point made it on net (data is from his 2021-2022 regular season play). Even though he takes a lot of shots from the point, he does look for higher percentage shooting lanes by entering into the slot and identifying open ice to key up passing lanes. That has led to quality shooting opportunities in which he tries to catch the goaltender off guard by going with a backdoor shot attempt right after capturing possession of the puck off of a pass.

A lot of his primary assists have come off of deflections in the slot, but there a few assists in which he carried the puck towards the face-off inner hashmarks and completed a seam pass to key up a goal for Krasnaya Armiya. He has the ability with his skating to create quality passing lanes by netting separation past attackers and getting himself into dangerous areas to key up those goals, but he doesn’t do it consistently. With that said, when you watch Russian junior hockey and hockey at the KHL level, it’s evident that defensemen have been told to play conservative and not pinch up. For instance, look at Vegas Golden Knights defensive prospect Daniil Chayka. His game completely changed when he played in Russia last season. He wasn’t trying to create opportunities down low and was relying on his shot from the point. So, while Grudinin hasn’t been as consistent with generating dangers down low, he has shown that he has a desire to pinch up and get more far more involved beyond the perimeter. Also, his passing is soft and crisp. With the combination of soft passing and a drive to pinch up, I do think the primary assists will come when he comes to North America.

Defense

Grudinin is excellent in his own zone. When defending against the rush, he is efficient at preventative defensive measures. When defending the F2 and he sees that the F1 has dumped the puck, he will use good upper body pressure by leaning towards the F2’s chest to slow him down when he is looking to skate for the retrieval. 

In general, Grudinin deploys great tight gap control along the half-wall boards and stays well-aligned with the puck carrying attacker. If the attacker tries to deceptively deviate by pivoting, Grudinin still stays well aligned and pivots right away. When defending a puck carrying attacker, who seems to have the edge in terms of speed, he will cut in, use his shoulder to separate the attacker from the puck. Grudinin stays on his toes and when he notices that his defensive partner is tied up in a puck battle in the opposite corner, he will skate to the net. Should the attacker break free, he he has shown that he is effective at trapping the attacker with an active stick and then leaned in with his shoulder to complete a shoulder check. That allows Grudinin to separate the puck from the attacker. His active stick allows him to trap you and frustrate you. It allows him to put you in low danger and give you no way out. When you are struggling to break free, Grudinin steals the puck with a poke check. When he is at open ice defending against a forward who is trying to sneak past Grudinin on the way to the net, Grudinin manages to keep his stick blade aligned with the attacker’s stick-blade to ensure that the attacker doesn’t have a passing lane to utilize when he runs low on real estate. His active stick has also allowed him to knock players off of the puck when they are both going for a loose puck. In situations where he didn’t have the speed to get to the puck, his active stick has proven to be a good plan B as he extends the blade right on the attacker’s blade to cause disruption. 

But, there are areas in his defensive game that need a bit more refinement. I went back and watched some of his goals against closely and I noticed that sometimes he struggled with decision making in 2 on 2 situations down low. One of the issues that I noticed is that he and his defensive partner both chose to cover the same puck carrying attacker and left the attacker without the puck open with a clear passing lane. Grudinin needs to improve his communication so that he and his defensive partners are aware of whom to cover. If his defensive partner is out of position and Grudinin is alone to defend two attackers, he needs to do a better job targeting the attacker with the puck when defending at net front, but keep himself centered so that he can take away any backdoor passing lanes as well.  

In his gameplay at the KHL level, I noticed that he wasn’t very assertive at defending the slot. I’m confident that he will get to the point in which he will be more assertive with his stick to truly keep attackers out of the slow. But, there were situations in which he gave the attacker a little too much space in the outer edge of the slot and it lead to medium danger goals against. While I noticed this, this can be improved upon, it could just be Grudinin needing a little bit more time getting used to KHL gameplay and how assertive he truly needs to be.

In general, Grudinin has proven that he is very quick to puck movement, especially when he is looking to give his teammates an outlet passing option as he is constantly on his toes and keeps adjusting where he is to keep an open lane alive, but his speed to loose puck defensive recoveries doesn’t match up. He is usually one or two skate extensions too slow and leads to a lot of contested defensive recoveries. He has the pivoting to break loose, but if he is slightly faster to the puck then he doesn’t have to work around threats as soon as he picks up possession.

Like I mentioned earlier on, he does struggle with trapping possession of passes, but if he does capture the puck cleanly, he is usually very efficient at creating the rush. When he does have control of the puck and encounters an aggressive forecheck, he will use body language to be deceptive. For instance, he will shake his knees before turning in one direction to get the attacker guessing the direction that he intends to go with. That allows him to open up ice for himself and then complete a zone exit pass. 

Not only does he have the deception to manipulate and create open lanes, but he is a very effective outlet passer. He will deliver crisp soft passes that are easy to corral and his delivery can be very quick especially when he pivots away from a threat to open up and use a tight passing lane to generate a zone exit. Grudinin has shown shift-in, shift-out, that he can be a reliable passer even when on the move. There is a lot to like about Grudinin’s ability to key up a rush and a lot of tricks in his tool-belt that he will use to secure a successful zone exit.

Transitional Play

Grudinin engages the rush defensively right before his defensive zone blue line and swallows the attack against the boards. He will lowers and widen himself closer at the defensive zone blue line to take away a lot of space for the puck carrier so he makes a rushed pass or dump. 

If Grudinin isn’t facing the puck carrying attacker, that doesn’t mean that he can’t quickly get in position to do so. His forward skate extensions allow him to find the necessary acceleration to trap the attacker before the attacker can get into the offensive zone. There are situations in which it doesn’t truly stop the attacker from entering into the zone, but as mentioned in his defensive play, he does have an excellent active stick that he can leverage to trap attackers. 

In his KHL play, I noticed that he struggled to truly shut down larger opponents with more upper body strength than he was used to defending at the MHL level. The attack managed to get around his shoulder check attempt along the boards and keep possession of the puck, but Grudinin hangs in there and defends the attacker well by positioning himself right at the attacker. Even though the attacker might stay in motion, his gap control allows Grudinin to keep the attacker glued to the boards.  

When Grudinin is in control of the puck in the neutral zone, he can utilize his stick-handling to move the puck with ease around attackers who are extending out their stick to try to take away lanes for Grudinin to exploit. Not only can he be shifty with the puck on his stick, but he also has excellent puck protection. He will positions the puck towards the boards with his backhand which allows him to secure the puck away from the attacker putting pressure on him. Grudinin also won’t shy away from using his back to push the attacker slightly away from him when Grudinin is in control of the puck and has his back turned to the attacker. 

If he runs into traffic at open ice, Grudinin will double back, turn and then completed a cross ice pass to a teammate with plenty of open ice. Should he get into a traffic jam at the offensive zone blue line, he dumps the puck quickly to key up a dump and chase. He isn’t someone who will force the puck into sticky situations.

Skating

Grudinin’s crossovers are truly impressive and are a joy to watch. He will deploy great crossovers when skating backwards in transition to give him the necessary acceleration to keep pace with the rush. Grudinin nets good speed with his lateral crossovers that allows him to trap attackers when defending in the neutral zone at the Krasnaya Armiya blue line. His crossovers allow him to move over to the forward skating along the boards quickly if he is slightly out of position. When he wants to transition from backward skating to forward skating and build up acceleration, he will use quality lateral crossovers to build up the speed before using a forward stride extension.

Grudinin has great posture. Keeps his knees bent and his chest lowered. When utilizing his edges, he continues to keep his knees bent and retain the speed that he built up before initiating a turn. Not only is he a really good with his edges and posture, but he is extremely good at shifting his hips, pivoting, shifting his edges and gets a quality hop off of his edges to react to puck movement quickly in the neutral zone. His pivoting also allows him to buy himself open ice when facing tight pressure and it allows him to react accordingly to the puck carrying opposition when they pivot in front of him.

As explained a few times, he has good speed to loose pucks, but he slows down his stride extensions / crossovers too early and that leads to more contested defensive recoveries. However, he does possess an excellent forward stride with quality ankle flexion. His forward stride can bail him out if he is out of position and needs to come back to the defensive zone in a hurry. Grudinin has the straight line speed to get back in position, maintain quality pressure as he can stay toe to toe with attackers and it allows him to be dangerous at getting separation away from pressure when he has the puck on his stick.

Projection

Vladimir Grudinin is a reliable two-way defender, who will need to continue to build up upper body muscle to contend against tougher opponents in the VHL and KHL. He will also need to work on being more assertive and quicker to pucks, but he has shown at the KHL level that he can be a pain to get around. Grudinin will also need to work on developing a stronger inside game, but that might only come when he comes to North America. Even though there are areas which need continued development, I think there is a really good defensive prospect here in Grudinin. There is a smart (sorry… “Smaht”) defenseman in Grudinin who can use excellent skating and mobility to get open ice to facilitate puck movement and key up scoring chances. If things go right with his development, he should be a solid second pairing defenseman at the NHL level.

Latest Update

April 28, 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: Cole Knuble

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett

Sometimes when you’re scouting a player there is another player on the opposing team that catches your eye out of your peripherals and you make a note to check on them later. When watching a late September USNTDP game against the Fargo Force I came away impressed with the opposing center who seemed to always be the facilitator for anything good Fargo was doing. That player was Cole Knuble.

Cole Knuble spent the last five years primarily playing for the Fox Motors AAA organization out of Byron Center, Michigan. Last year he played a few games with the NTDP U17 program and one game with the U18 program as well. Knuble was selected to the USHL with the 57th pick in the Phase I 2020 draft. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – July 1, 2004
Nationality – USA
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’10″
Weight –175 lbs
Position –Center/Right Wing
Handedness – Right

Knuble’s Style Of Play

Offense

I would say the strength of Knuble’s game is that he is the engine of everything that happens for Fargo at even strength. It is not shocking to me that of players that have scored more than 25 points according to pick224 he sits 5th in the USHL in the percentage of points scored as primary points. He’s ahead of such names as: Logan Cooley, Rutger McGroarty, Adam Ingram, and others in this department. 

The strength of Knuble is the way he processes the game. He’s quick to identify teammates in the offensive zone, knows both his strengths and his weaknesses, and moves to dangerous areas of the ice when he doesn’t have the puck. He is quick to read when he needs to support his teammates along the wall to relieve pressure, finding soft spots within the defensive structure to receive a pass, or move into dangerous areas of the ice for his wrist shot. 

The same can be said is his strength in transition. He’s at his best identifying line-mates at the blue line to spring them for rushes or make sure his team maintains control of the entry into the zone.

As the center he acts very much as a puck transporter in exits, although he can struggle to maintain control through the neutral zone on a blue line to blue line rush. He is very good at finding passing lanes through the neutral zone, but lacks the separation speed and puck skill to be able to maneuver his way through the defense. However, when he does get through, you can see how he springs his forwards again for a rush.

At the USHL level he’s slightly above average in my data set for overall controlled transitions at 67%. The majority of his successful exits are as a pass receiver at the blue line or near the blue to carry out. A lot of his struggles come from when he tries to transition the puck out of the zone on his own as his separation speed and agility isn’t very good at the USHL level. Similarly, his entries don’t go very deep into the offensive zone when he’s carrying the puck for the same reasons. Opponents are able to get on top of him very easily and he’s forced to give up the puck, or Gretzky-turn to relieve pressure and pass back to the point. 

However, given the limitations that his skating presents, it’s almost remarkable how he’s able to work around it to be a productive USHL player. He’s in the top 10 for shots per game for draft eligible players in the USHL, and in my data set, 67% of his shots were coming from dangerous parts of the ice at even strength. He’s also connecting on 66.67% of his dangerous pass attempts. The brain to be able to make productive plays is there even if his skating is holding him back.

He is a constant scanner of the ice. He processes his surrounding areas very well and is quick to move the puck and see passing lanes. While his puck skill isn’t high-end, a lot of that is due to his inability to separate. In small area situations he’s able to protect the puck and then move it to a position to maintain possession and then quickly find outlets to relieve pressure. I’d like to see an ability to escape pressure situations more often with the puck on his stick, however he does find ways to keep plays alive and the puck moving. 

Skating

I don’t often address skating as its own section in scouting reports because the nuances of skating are plentiful, and as long as the player can move about the ice at NHL pace then I only address what is high-end or deficient with their skating mechanics.

With Knuble I’m making an exception because it is, by far, the one thing holding him back in this draft process. 

There’s a lot to unpack with Knuble’s skating and I believe with proper development could be overcome. The most obvious skating technique that has to be fixed is his posture within his stride and and the length of his stride. He can either be standing upright trying to break into his three-step agility skating or he’ll bend over at the waist to try to make up for his poor start off the blocks. By not having proper knee bending and posture he shortens his stride and loses power, as well as by hunching over reduces the amount of blade that makes contact to the ice. These two compounding factors greatly reduce the energy needed to make an efficient skater.

His crossovers aren’t clean and do not generate power coming through the completion of each crossover. Instead it can look like he’s about to lose his balance (and does more times than I’d like to see) when trying to do so at a high pace. He lacks balance on his edges and gets knocked around far too much on the ice.

As fellow Smaht Scout Josh Tessler also made me aware of: this impacts his decision making on loose pucks. Often realizing that he lacks the foot speed or lateral mobility to maneuver if he were to win the puck battle; Knuble will oftentimes slow up and play defense as opposed to being hard on the puck. 

Defense

One of the traits I love about Knuble’s defensive zone play is that he is always scanning the ice as a center. When pucks go into the corners he will look before engaging to know where players are on the ice and move himself into positions if the puck battle is lost to mitigate any odd-man situation that could develop from the play.

He often plays as the high F3 on the forecheck and his scanning and awareness allow him to be able to put pressure on outlet passes as well as break up zone exit attempts. While his size along the boards (as well as balance issues talked about above) keep him being a truly impactful player there; he does a good job of pressuring play at those junctures before most forwards have the opportunity to scan and read where the next pass should go.

Like his father he doesn’t shy away from the physicality of playing in front of the net, and battles hard to move players out from rebound areas. He is always in puck support in the defensive zone, and thus earning a prominent role on the penalty kill as well where he’s able to use all of his strengths of reading plays, scanning passing options, and admirable tenaciousness to clear pucks.

Projection

I can see a world where Cole Knuble is seen as a late-2nd to 3rd round pick, and I also can see a world where he’s a 6th or 7th round pick. His skating is going to be the biggest talking point when NHL General Managers and their scouting departments get together to assess his draft position.

My own biases love the game Knuble plays. He thinks the game so well off the puck, he processes under pressure very well with the puck, and gets to areas of the ice where goals are scored. He is the catalyst of everything good that happens on his line in Fargo. He’s able to jumpstart transitions, thread passes to open teammates, and make a quick small area move to free up a passing lane. Like I said earlier: even through four games and the ancillary viewing of an NTDP game he’s still the one making everything happen. Despite the skating limitations.

I’ve landed on that he’s a project I’d be willing to bet on. He’ll play in the USHL for another year before going to the NCAA (currently committed to Notre Dame for the 2023-24 season). He’s a July birthday, and a lot of the aspects to his game that he needs to work on are mechanical.  I hesitate to label him as a center given his skating issues, but if they improve drastically he could play there in college and in the pros. I’d label him more as a right wing as of now, and ideally I’d like him to be the fourth player coming off my board if I were an NHL team, but could see myself swinging on him in the late third depending on the quality of my team and/or prospect pool.


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: Beau Jelsma

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Beau Jelsma is 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays for the OHL’s Barrie Colts. He grew up in Brownsville, Ontario. If you aren’t familiar with Brownsville, it’s southeast of London, Ontario and not far from the Highway 19 and Highway 3 interchange/roundabout. 

Jelsma played 14U AAA and 15U AAA hockey for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres and had a stint with the Brantford 99ers U16 AAA. During his time with Buffalo and Brantford, he played alongside a few 2022 NHL Draft eligibles including Owen Mehlenbacher (Muskegon Lumberjacks) and Gavin Bryant (Owen Sound Attack).

Jelsma was selected in the third round of the 2020 OHL Priority Selection Draft at 55th Overall by Barrie. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, he didn’t get his DY-1 (draft year minus one) season, but he has had an excellent OHL rookie campaign this season.

Player Profile

D.O.B – April 28, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’10″
Weight –174 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left

Jelsma’s Style Of Play

Offense

Jelsma does an excellent of job of creating space for himself. Jelsma constantly looks to go to the low slot and provide passing options at net front. If a teammate is behind the net with possession of the puck, he goes to the low slot to offer a one-timer passing option. When his teammate is working the cycle around the boards and the opposition is puck watching, that is when Jelsma sneaks past them to the low slot. By the time the attackers notice, it’s too late.

Since Jelsma is always looking to create passing lanes most of the time, he usually doesn’t opt to carry the puck into the slot himself. Instead, if he is control of the puck beyond the perimeter, he will opt to complete a deceptive drop pass to a teammate behind him and then skates into the slot to give that teammate a passing option.

Occasionally Jelsma will make the extra pass when he has a lot of open ice in front of him, but generally speaking, he is an underrated playmaker in this class. He will attempt to complete passes to the slot if he can spot a usable lane. Sometimes he will miss target especially when he is in the corner facing tight pressure. But, for the most part, Jelsma has proven that he can wire quality passes to the slot. He doesn’t just look to complete passes to the slot, he looks to complete passes to teammates at the backdoor. Jelsma is trying to catch the goaltender off his rhythm but feathering a quick pass to his teammate at the backdoor and hoping that his teammate can get a clean one touch or one-timer shot off before the goaltender can shift over to his teammate. When attempting that pass and he has pressure on him, you can expect Jelsma to pass underneath the stick or over the stick if he can’t use his reach to open up a passing lane. 

Jelsma has good upper body strength to push past attackers while on the forecheck and has the speed to stay active and aggressive when staying aligned with oppositional puck carriers. His upper body strength allows him to cut inside when going for a loose puck on the forecheck. By using his upper body to push past the attacker, he is able to beat the attacker to the loose puck.

While Jelsma is very good in loose puck battles, he is slightly more inconsistent when looking to put pressure on puck carriers who are along the boards. He won’t shy away from hunting on the forecheck in the corner against someone who is not in his weight class by a long shot. But, he struggles with applying enough pressure to truly shut down the oppositional puck movement. I’d like to see him truly use his upper body strength to sandwich attackers into the boards.

He also needs to work on using his back to push traffic off of him while working the cycle / controlling the puck along the boards when facing rather tight pressure. Sometimes, he can be rather shifty and he will pivot to shake off an attacker. But, he struggles to do that consistently. 

When he is at open ice, sometimes he won’t have the stick-handling reach that he needs in tight gap control situations to turn around the defender and cut to the net. But, when defenders match up well with him, he won’t try to force the puck in. Instead, he looks for an open teammate to pass to. 

When you look at his shot, Jelsma needs to work on shot release when on the move. He has got slightly too much of a cradle and that can give away that you intend to shoot while on the move. But, he has done well with one touch shots from medium danger at the inner hashmarks going top shelf far side. However, the bulk of his scoring success has come down low backdoor. He grabs a spot in the low slot, nets a passing lane and quickly scores immediately after capturing possession off of a pass.

One of the things that I really like about Jelsma is he has the capability of utilizing quality crossovers and has good puck protection at the same time on the rush. When deploying both together, it makes him tough to handle for the opposition. He can utilize his crossovers to net good acceleration to get past slower attackers and will secure the puck nicely with his backhand as he turns around the attacker. Once he gets to net front and slightly past the goaltender, he finds a gap and uses his forehand to get the puck in the back of the net.  

Defense

Generally speaking, Jelsma deploys quality defense in his own zone. He is a responsible defender. He will drop down low to support his teammates who are trapped in puck battles behind the red line and he will play a support / insurance role when his teammates are engaged in puck battles on the side boards. Jelsma has good defensive positioning when the puck is along the opposite half-wall as he will skate over to centered ice to defend the slot. 

Jelsma will also look to bail his teammates out. If he sees that one of his defensemen are struggling in a tight puck battle along the boards, he’ll skate to them to give them an opportunity to complete a drop pass to him and the get the puck away from danger.

In addition, he will go defend net front if one his defensemen is looking to put pressure on an attacker coming out of the corner and plenty of open ice opens up at net-front. When he sees an open attacker with the puck headed to the net and no defender in sight, he quickly follows in pursuit. Jelsma will attempt to throw his weight to silence puck movement, but given his frame, that only works against attackers of similar size. He is constantly scanning the defensive zone and making sure that he is in the best spot to defend against oppositional puck movement. 

When defending against the puck carrying attacker at the point, he lowers and widens himself to take up a lot of space and forces ill-advised non dangerous shot from the point. But, there are instances in which he will look to use an active stick when defending at the point, but he needs slightly more reach to truly disrupt puck movement. If you are a shifty defender, you should be able to navigate around Jelsma’s active stick. 

Aside from working on his active stick, I would like to see his reaction timing to moving pucks improve. There have been instances in which he had the opposition pass the puck in front of him, he easily could have intercepted it, but the puck went right by him to an attacker in the slot. If he was quicker when reading the route of the puck, he might have been able to snag the puck and neutralize the threat.

In those situations in which he is in control of the puck, he has shown that he can move the puck even in situations in which he doesn’t have a ton of breathing room. When he doesn’t have a skating lane and he’s skating north / south along the boards and he has an attacker in front of him, you can expect him to go backhand to forehand with the puck quickly to catch the attacker puck watching and that allows him to pass the puck down the boards to a teammate closer to the blue line.

Transitional Play

When Jelsma is being paired with San Jose Sharks prospect Ethan Cardwell, Cardwell usually is the one carrying the puck from zone to zone. But, we do see instances in which Jelsma is effective at moving the puck up the ice. Instead of looking to navigate around traffic obstacles in the neutral zone with shifty pivots, instead he will look to manufacture quality passes for zone entries. There have been shifts in which he will complete a backhand bounce pass to his teammate when he was skating up centered ice. He noticed that his teammate was much closer to the blue line and Jelsma then flipped him the pass. The only instances where Jelsma has difficulty netting a zone entry pass is when he attempts long range diagonal feeds.

When he does have possession of the puck, he is keeping a keen eye on the attackers in front of him and watching their stick movements. Jelsma will watch for the moment that the attacker looks to trap him and at that moment he cradles the puck to the right to escape the pressure. He can be very quick to react with the puck on his stick. It’s when he doesn’t have the puck on his stick and he is tracking from further out is when he has some challenges with reaction time.

When defending, he is most often behind the rush. If he is slightly further back from the puck carrying attacker yet still in range, he ill extend his stick out towards the puck with one hand to try to force puck disruption. It doesn’t lead to a turnover in most situations, but at least he can slow them down along the boards and that might mean that his defenders can then trap the attacker somewhere in the defensive zone along the boards. 

In situations in which he is facing the rush, if he notices an attacker who is wide open and skating through the neutral zone, he will skate after him. When closing in on him, he lowers his body to take away as much space as possible. But, he does struggle to defend against shifty and mobile puck carriers. When the puck carrying attacker pivots, he is slightly delayed and it opens up enough time / open ice for the attacker to utilize to continue on the rush. 

Skating

When you look at Jelsma’s skating underneath the microscope, there is a lot to unpack and a lot to like. His forward stride is in great shape. Jelsma has good activation when in a stand still position and that allows him to be dangerous on the forecheck. It allows him to kick off the rush and get to top speed pretty quickly when in transition. Jelsma deploys lengthy skate extensions and has quality ankle flexion that allows him to keep quality pace with his teammates when they are moving the puck up through the neutral zone into the offensive zone. 

Not only does he have an excellent forward stride extension that allows him to push up the ice with speed, he also has excellent crossovers that allows him to get up the ice with quality speed. He gains so much acceleration with his crossovers and it allows him to keep quality pace with the puck carrier. When looking to acquire necessary acceleration to keep pace with his puck carrying teammate on the rush, he uses multiple crossovers to get his feet moving and then launches into stride. It allows him to make up ground if he slightly further away from the puck carrier initially. He will also use good backward crossovers in order to drive speedy lateral movement. Jelsma will look to utilize those backward crossovers when he is trying to find open ice in the offensive zone without the puck. Also his crossovers allow him to activate quality speed / acceleration to win loose pucks and that has led to goals like this one, which he scored against Peterborough in November.

His edge work is the only portion of his skating that can be inconsistent. When pivoting out without the puck, he will struggle to maintain balance. Jelsma needs to work on his inside edge and outside edge stability when turning out of pivots. One of the biggest issues with his edges and pivoting is how far his skates are from each other. When his skates are wider than the torso and he deploys his edges, he ends up falling forward. He needs to be cautious about skate placement as that will hurt his mobility and balance. Sometimes he will need to apply his hand on the ice to maintain balance on a turn. In tighter situations like behind the red line, his edges have been of quality and he can stay neck and neck on the forecheck, but when he has a lot of open ice he then tends to extend his skates further out wide.

Projection

Jelsma is someone who I believe will provide solid secondary scoring at the NHL level. He is going to be an effective forward, who can alternate between wing and center and still maintain the same forechecking pressure and defensive play that you have come accustomed to seeing from him on the wing. He is going to hunt for open ice in the slot and open up vulnerable passing lanes for the opposing goaltender. I believe he can be an effective third liner in the NHL with second line upside.

Latest Update

April 17, 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: Luca Del Bel Belluz

Photo Credit: Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images

Scouting Report written by Paul Zuk

Arguably the clubhouse leader in terms of amazing 2022 NHL Draft prospect names, Mississauga Steelheads center Luca Del Bel Belluz is one of the more intriguing prospects currently playing in the OHL this season. Like most draft eligible CHL players, he unfortunately missed a very crucial development season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Del Bel Belluz was able to benefit from the missed season and worked on some of the imperfections in his game, as well as working on his overall physique, as he’s added roughly 30 pounds on his frame since his OHL rookie season in 2019/20.

Del Bel Belluz was born in Woodbridge, Ontario, and grew up playing his minor hockey within one of Ontario’s best leagues, the GTHL. He was drafted by the Steelheads with the 51st pick of the 2019 OHL Draft, after quite an impressive U16 season. One which saw him put up 53 goals and 48 assists for 101 points in 101 games across all competitions for the Toronto Red Wings. While many view the 2018/19 Don Mills Flyers as a powerhouse team, having Shane Wright, Brennan Othmann and Brandt Clarke, the Red Wings also fielded a solid amount of talent in the 2018/19 season. Joining Del Bel Belluz for the Red Wings that season was Francesco Pinelli, Adam Fantilli, and Ryan Gillespie.

As play resumed in the OHL for the 2021/22 season, Del Bel Belluz has shown the work he’s put in on almost every occasion possible. Not only has he exploded offensively while playing with line-mates James Hardie and Ty Collins most of the season, but Steelheads Head Coach James Richmond can trust him in all areas of the ice, regardless of the situation.

Player Profile

D.O.B – November 10, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’1″
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left

Del Bel Belluz’ Style of Play

Mississauga Steelheads Centre Luca Del Bel Belluz is an offensive-minded player who excels at just about everything in the offensive third of the ice. That’s not a knock on his abilities in the other two thirds, as he’s just as capable there as well.

Let’s take a deeper look into the facets of Del Bel Belluz’ game:

Skating

There’s a lot of aspects to Del Bel Belluz’ game which are extremely close to being ready for the professional game, however right now, skating isn’t one. Luckily, it seems to be more of a mechanical issue rather than an issue of skill or talent.

While watching Del Bel Belluz both on tape and in person, it’s noticeable that his skating stride seems to be stiff, upright, and relatively choppy and short. With a shorter, more vertical stride, it makes it hard to consistently beat defenders with speed due to the excess amount of energy and strides needed to work around them. This trait won’t hinder Del Bel Belluz too much at the OHL level, but as he progresses through his career, he will most likely look to gain a little more flexion in his ankles and knees, as well as work on lengthening his stride to fully maximize his potential of working around defenders.

In the clip above, Del Bel Belluz demonstrates he’s capable of lengthening his stride and being a little more explosive, and it pays off in an end-to-end goal for him. If he can do this on a more consistent basis, it will do wonders for his game.

Another area Del Bel Belluz seems to struggle a little bit with is his top-end speed. In watching both film of his and catching multiple live games of his, it’s noticeable that he doesn’t seem to have that extra gear to shift into when in transition or if presented with an odd-man rush opportunity. To simplify, his line usually icing James Hardie and Ty Collins generates quite a bit of offense and odd-man rushes. When Del Bel Belluz is carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, he’s more apt to pump the brakes and look for a teammate to pass to, as opposed to turning on the jets and beating an opponent with his speed. While that’s not a bad decision to make, he could diversify his game in all areas of the ice by working on his explosiveness and top-end speed, to make himself even more dynamic.

If Del Bel Belluz is looking to become the top 9 forward with incredible offensive skill in the NHL like he’s projecting to be, he’ll need to address the kinks in his skating mechanics, as they could potentially hold him back from being as effective of a player as his skillset allows him to be. Thankfully, the issues mentioned above are certainly fixable, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Del Bel Belluz can shore them up rather quickly.

Offense

Del Bel Belluz absolutely thrives in the offensive zone. His exponential improvement over his rookie season in the OHL has been an absolute joy to follow. He has played much of this season with veteran sniper James Hardie, and the two have formed quite the offensive threat for the Steelheads.

There are many aspects to his offensive game that makes him dangerous with the puck on his stick. Not only can he pick the smallest windows on goal to exploit with above average success, but he’s also arguably an even better puck distributor. There are not many passes which Del Bel Belluz won’t attempt to make and is often successful at them. He can enter the offensive zone with pace and hit a teammate breaking towards the net, or he can cross the blue-line, wait for his line-mates to set up, and deliver a clean pass on the tape.

As mentioned above, Del Bel Belluz has one lethal shot. He’s not afraid to shoot from distance and absurd angles and has been able to pull off some ridiculous goals. However, there are moments in the offensive zone where he is overly passive, and opts to dish the puck off to a teammate rather than utilize his shot. With his ability to pick corners from tight angles little space, he may find even more offensive success taking a shot on net as opposed to passing. Whether it’s chalked up to feeling his teammate has a better angle on net, confidence, or another factor, Del Bel Belluz could really benefit by putting his wrist shot to work more often.

In the clip above, Del Bel Belluz is able to recover a failed pass attempt, pivot, and rush towards the net. He spots the short side top corner slightly open, and roofs it for the goal. His wrist shot is so powerful and accurate most of the time, and it’s reasonable to think his goal total would increase if he chose to shoot the puck more often.

One aspect of his game that is due for some credit, is how excellent of a forechecker he is. Del Bel Belluz can put a large amount of pressure on defenders, forcing them to make turnovers in the defensive zone multiple times per game. More forced turnovers by the opponent certainly leads to more chances offensively for him and his line-mates, and with such skill on the ice for the Steelheads, can result in a high danger chance or even a goal.

A few little things that make a big difference when it comes to being a force offensively, is his ability to be a real pain to defend against. When opponents are retrieving a puck from the corner and looking to break out of their zone, Del Bel Belluz leaves them little time and space to work with. This makes defenders rush, and this coupled with his active stick which allows him to block passing lanes can frustrate even the most stable player. Del Bel Belluz can also tie up the opposing centerman on the draw if he’s lost it, allowing for teammates to attempt retrieving the puck. It’s a minute thing, but it could pay dividends at the next level, as face-offs become harder and harder to win.

Defense

When you look back on Del Bel Belluz’ rookie season in the OHL (2019-20), it was clear he needed to add quite a bit of size in order to make his presence truly felt on ice. So far this season, he’s done just that. When drafted in 2019, he was 5’11” and 155 lbs. Playing against much older and much more physically developed players, he struggled a little bit to find his footing. However, he’s made his presence known to just about everyone in Ontario in his draft-eligible year.

Del Bel Belluz has really improved a lot on his defensive game over his OHL career, as he’s now trusted in all situations, especially on the penalty kill. Steelheads coach James Richmond clearly relies on him, and as of April 10th, he’s seeing just under 2 minutes of PK time per game. The same can be said of the power-play, as he’s usually found somewhere between the top of the hashmarks and the blue-line, ready to make a play.

His ability to utilize his active stick as well as sacrificing his body to block shots and disrupt passing lanes is a trait which will bode well for him wherever he goes. There are not many teams out there in all leagues who wouldn’t have use for a player like that. In a game against Hamilton earlier this season, Del Bel Belluz was on the penalty kill late in the third period, while up three goals in the game, still laying down to block shots.

Positionally, Del Bel Belluz is quite sound, often being able to assist his defensemen when under pressure in the defensive zone. He’s able to cover for them when they make rushes up the ice and is regularly the first forward back-checking to defend the counterattack. When attempting to win the puck back along the boards, he can use his new-found size to aid in muscling attackers off the puck, with a decent success rate. He may look to work on his balance a little bit though, as he can be knocked off it at times.

Improvements

Del Bel Belluz sometimes finds himself in situations where he looks to pass although he has a much better attempt to shoot. He may look to simplify things in the offensive zone as well as the neutral zone when it comes to creating chances.

Del Bel Belluz would also benefit quite a bit by focusing on his game-by-game consistency. There’s been times throughout this season where he’s looked terrific for a stretch, but soon after may go on a little bit of a slump where he may not be as engaged as games previous. While it could be a myriad of factors leading to this, Del Bel Belluz may look to work on this as he progresses.

Lastly, as mentioned above, Del Bel Belluz may look to improve on his skating mechanics as he progresses to the next level. The lost 2020-21 season took a toll on all draft eligible players, by not being able to develop themselves during actual game scenarios. Del Bel Belluz is no exception to this. However, fixing a few kinks with his mechanics is something a lot of players with his talents have been able to correct and carry on their development. I have all the faith in the world he’ll be able to work on this over the next couple of seasons and develop into a 2022 NHL Draft steal.

Overall Outlook

Luca Del Bel Belluz is one of the more intriguing prospects slated to go in the top 100 selections at this summer’s NHL Draft in Montreal. There’s just so many aspects of his overall game that are incredibly talented. He’s been viewed up and down many scouts ranking lists, finding himself anywhere from a late first round pick, to an early third round pick.

Personally, I think there’s a lot to love about his game. First, offensively he is one of the most talented passers and stick-handlers in the entire draft. His ability to take on multiple opponents alone when his teammates are changing and often come out successfully with the puck is impressive.

Arguably one of my favourite clips of his, Del Bel Belluz picks up the puck in the corner and works his way to the right circle. He absolutely walks Shane Wright, eludes Matthew Soto, and puts a beautiful pass on the tape of Evan Brand for the first goal of the game. Del Bel Belluz’ hockey IQ is on full display there, as he’s able to turn a loose puck from the corner into a highlight reel play, solely based off how well he’s able to think the game, and execute.

Not only that, but he’s able to create a fair amount of time and space in the offensive zone several times per game by eluding the defender with a beautiful deke. This trait allows him to put the other highly regarded aspects of his offensive game to work, by shooting or passing to a teammate for a chance on net.

Defensively, it’s a thing of beauty to see the progress he’s made in such a short time being able to play in all situations and be relied upon to be as effective in the defensive zone as he is in the offensive zone. It’s evident he’s working on becoming a 200ft player as he’s able to get up the ice to attack and back-check to defend at the same rate of speed and urgency.

It’s hard to pinpoint just exactly where Del Bel Belluz will be selected when the NHL Draft rolls around, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see a team with multiple first round picks take a swing at him with their later selection(s). Also, if there’s a specific team out there without multiple first round selections, it’s just as likely to see him be selected within the first half of the second round.

Latest Update

April 16, 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!

Scouting Report: Pavel Mintyukov

Photo Credit: Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett

Pavel Mintyukov is currently sitting atop the OHL in points per game for first-time, draft eligible defensemen (tied with Christian Kyrou) and second in overall points. He’s currently fifth overall in points in the OHL for defensemen and tied for fourth in points per game. The 2022 draft eligible player is playing almost 15 minutes a night at even strength and 6 minutes and 20 seconds on the power play through four games tracked this year.

The Moskva, Russian native played junior hockey in Russia up until last season when the OHL season was canceled. He last played in the MHL for the majority of DY-2 season where he had 3 points in 33 games for MHK Dynamo Moskva. 

Mintyukov plays for the currently last place Saginaw Spirit in the OHL where he has been partnered with un-drafted overager Roberto Mancini for all of my viewings of him. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – November 25, 2003
Nationality – Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’1″
Weight –192 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left

Mintyukov’s Style of Play

Offense

Pavel Mintyukov is one of the bigger conundrums for me in the 2022 draft. He started off this year as a firecracker in all facets of the game. He was hyper-aggressive in the offensive zone, showcased fantastic puck skill, and moved into areas of the ice and used activation strategies that aren’t conventional even for offensive-leaning defensemen. However, he was also wreck-less in his activation into zone exits, would misread controlled possessions and be out of position, would end up deep in the offensive zone with no purpose, and was prone to the occasional turnover in the neutral zone that could go the other way in an odd-man rush.

As the year has gone on Mintyukov has become a lot more conservative in his offensive approach to the game at even strength. He started the year heavily involved in exits/entries as he was a part of about 40% of the controlled transitions for his team during the first two games tracked (the only other defensemen as high in North America is Denton Mateychuk). The last two games I tracked though he was involved in only 24% of his team’s transitions. Oftentimes going D-to-D with Roberto Mancini instead of carrying the puck or passing out of/into the zone himself. Instead of controlled transitions of  >53% of the time with Mintyukov on the ice; Saginaw was only exiting/entering the zone with control about 43% of the time in the second half of the season.

However, the hallmarks of Mintyukov’s game have remained unchanged throughout the year. He still possesses high-end, four way agility in the offensive zone that allows him to manipulate pressure at the blue line and drive down along the wall or into the dangerous parts of the ice.

His activation from the blue line is where he becomes an absolute menace. There are two main variations of his deployment strategy. As the puck moves towards the center of the ice he will move down the left wing boards to receive a pass. If that pass becomes available and he receives it cleanly: it’s where Mintyukov makes his presence known. He’s able to precision pass high-danger opportunities, stick-handle into the middle of the ice, and his shot is very good from the dangerous parts of the ice as well.

If he doesn’t receive the pass on the half wall then Mintyukov will usually curl into the center of the ice and act like a power forward and plant himself in front of the net hoping for a tip, or to screen a point shot. It’s this part of his game where if the shot comes he is often able to act like a fourth forward on the ice in the puck retrieval or in the scrum out front to try to bang home a loose puck.

While the conservative style of play in transition has limited Mintyukov’s direct impact in the controlled exits/entries part of Saginaw’s offense; it has opened up a part of Mintyukov’s game that wasn’t there at the beginning of the year. He has become very good as of late at resetting a transition and not forcing passes or carry-outs in defensive zone exits and it has greatly diminished the number of egregious mistakes he was making. His ability to use his small-area puck skill to pull a puck back out of pressure and hit a teammate has been an added tool in his arsenal. 

Through the four games Mintyukov has completed 82% of his passes at even strength, but only 5% of them being to dangerous parts of the ice. Adding to that, 75% of his dangerous passing attempts happened in the first two games and ~90% of the completed passes happened during that time. His passing is precise, but conservative. With his skill-set and Saginaw’s lack of offensive talent I would expect him to be a lot more aggressive with his passing decisions. 

As stated in the opening part of this report: Mintyukov gets a lot of power play time. On the power play Mintyukov eats up open space so well. He moves into the open ice to force defenders to come to play him where he will either unleash a medium-danger wrist shot or hit one of his forwards on a cross-ice one-timer. 

He is at his best when he’s bearing down on a defense from the blue line. He’s able to get his shot through from moving up from the blue line and has a lot of point production from his shot assists. 

Defense

From a microstat perspective it would seem Pavel Mintyukov is one of the better defenders in the draft class. He allows controlled transitions on only 29% of opportunities, his team is at at a 59.5% Corsi through four games including two 6-3 losses, and they have 60% of the high/medium danger shot attempts in those four games. However, Mintyukov has some glaring issues in his defensive game that need to be addressed.

On the positive end: Mintyukov suffocates space very well. He does not give puck carriers space and puts constant pressure on the puck to force turnovers or to stop rushes from entering the zone. Saginaw deploys an aggressive approach in the neutral zone where their defensemen are high near center ice to deter any stretch passes, and Mintyukov is great at breaking up any pass coming his way off an attempted zone exit. He keeps a tight gap, and while his backward mobility isn’t high end, he’s able to dictate players to spaces where he can separate them from the puck. 

However, Mintyukov’s biggest individual weakness is his propensity for putting himself out of position in order to chase a big hit. In basketball we’d call it ‘circling the trap’, and in hockey it’s putting the puck where the defender used to be. Too often Mintyukov is the aggressor along the wall. He makes the first move to try to put an oncoming opponent through the glass and the opponent is able to either chip it past him and avoid the hit, or teams are smart enough to know his tendencies and an oncoming opponent will fill a rush lane exactly where Mintyukov was to receive a pass and generate an odd-man rush.

While his physicality in front of the net can be a positive feature; in the neutral zone and defending the blue line he almost never plays the puck when going for the hit. He often lacks the situational awareness of the importance of his positioning, and in doing so leaves his teammates out to dry.

Saginaw deploys a lot of man-to-man defensive zone strategies. It requires players to be able to adapt to opponents’ weaves and shifts within the zone, and also requires defensemen to be able to switch off opponents so not to be put in dangerous situations. When plays break down: Mintyukov is a fish out of water. When one of his teammates gets beat he won’t recognize the odd-man situation and will instead look to overcompensate by filling his teammates role and leave his man/area completely unattended. He can be caught puck-watching and then realize too late that he has overloaded an area and left a man wide open. 

Projection

With Pavel Mintyukov’s size, raw tools (including puck skill and passing ability), four-way agility, and deceptive maneuvering around the blue line: it’s hard not to see a lottery selection on that assessment alone. There are not many players in this draft class that have the ability to operate in the offensive zone from the backend like Mintyukov can. Add in his ability to suffocate space and his mobility to keep a tight gap: he’s an attractive asset in the 2022 draft.

As a life-long Buffalo Sabres fan, where I tend to get really hesitant with Mintyukov is his defensive zone awareness and propensity for chasing highlight reel hits rather than mitigating dangerous chances. It is all to reminiscent to watching Rasmus Ristolainen in a Sabres uniform. The tools are there, he’s a physical specimen, but too often I’m watching film of Mintyukov and trying to piece together the thought process behind some of his defensive reads. Some of these issues lie within the structure of Saginaw’s neutral and defensive zone set-up and Mintyukov’s skill set. However, a lot of it is individual reads that require if/then decisions that Mintyukov will too often not make correctly.

If I’m drafting Mintyukov I’m leaning in heavily on his offensive ability and his ability to create space with his edges and skill. I think he can excel in a defensive system that doesn’t lean so heavily on man-to-man defensive zone play. I would also spend a significant time in the film room showing how chasing hits in the neutral zone and at the defensive blue line has allowed teams to use it against him.

If Mintyukov can make those adjustments I think he could end up being one of the better defenders to come out of the 2022 NHL draft.


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

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

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Scouting Report: Marcus Nguyen

Photo Credit: Keith Dwiggins / Portland Winterhawks

Scouting Report written by Matthew Somma

The Portland Winterhawks have established themselves as one of the top franchises in junior hockey at producing NHL talent. Their 2022 crop of prospects doesn’t have a big name or a must-see prospect, but it does have one of my absolute favorite players for this draft class: Marcus Nguyen. He’s a player that hasn’t gotten much love in the public sphere this season, and I’m here to change that. Nguyen plays an NHL game and while he may be a raw project, there’s legitimate NHL upside. Through this profile, I’m going to show why Nguyen could be a fantastic mid to late round pick for a team willing to develop him slowly over four or five years.

Nguyen is one of those players that has had a depth role on a deep team, so I feel that the best is yet to come for him. He can fly under the radar but will dazzle with his puck skills and speed, usually resulting in the puck finding the back of the net. Nguyen is a great transition attacker and a takeaway machine, both of which make me confident in his NHL upside. Nguyen has risen up my draft board all season long and will continue to do so given the way he plays. He has the right tools for success in his development, he just needs the opportunity.

Player Profile

D.O.B – August 2, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –5’10″
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Right Wing
Handedness – Right

Nguyen’s Style of Play

I’ve described Nguyen as a transition attacker, which is to say that he’s able to create offense in transition as well as dictate the pace of play while moving through the neutral zone. The theme of his game is speed. Nguyen is constantly moving his feet and playing at a high pace. He is able to get up to his top speed quickly and his straight line speed is up there with the best players I’ve watched this season. As a smaller forward, he has to work hard to create space for himself and not get pushed around, so he’ll dart in and out of coverage in the neutral and offensive zones, creating space on his own and dishing the puck to a teammate if things get too dicey. The following clip showcases Nguyen’s speed in transition.

I love this play for a few reasons. One, he’s able to get up to speed quickly after collecting the puck. Two, he takes the defender on a walk and shoots to create a rebound that nearly goes in. It’s a play that started off as nothing and turned into a scoring chance, something I’ve seen a lot of from Nguyen this season.

Nguyen is smart and knows when to attack in order to create a turnover and take it the other way. I don’t see him strip players of the puck often. Instead, I see him getting in the passing lanes at the right time, breaking up the play and moving before the opponents have any time to react.

Tough luck on the breakaway, but it’s still a great chance that highlights Nguyen’s speed and skill. Nguyen’s awareness on the ice is what makes him so dangerous. He’s able to think ahead of the opposition and act on it, resulting in a large amount of odd man rushes, breakaways, and extended zone time. Nguyen is the type of player that you want on the ice if you need a spark because you just know he’ll be the one to light the fuse. Take a look at this play, where Nguyen freezes the defender and manipulates the goaltender into committing to the shot.

Korchinski didn’t play this particularly well, but Nguyen’s receipt of the pass and burst of speed didn’t make things better for poor Kevin. Then, there’s the patience from Nguyen to wait until the last second to change his angle and body position for the pass. The Seattle goalie was fully committed to a shot and the puck winds up in the back of the net.

Nguyen knows when a defenseman has made a mistake and he is quick to act on it before the defenseman has a chance to make a correction. This next clip highlights that characteristic of his game very well. The defender makes a poor choice with the puck and Nguyen strikes immediately.

Nguyen’s speed is a real problem for opponents, too. Mix that with his ability to create turnovers and you’ve got a player that can be an absolute pain to play against.

I could talk all day about Nguyen’s ability to recognize lapses in coverage, and at this rate, I just might. Here’s another play that I’ve enjoyed.

Nguyen possesses a patience with the puck that allows for additional creativity in close. I’ve spoken about his ability to manipulate the goaltender, and I believe he’s able to do the same to a defense. The following clip is a good example of that.

I love this play so much. Nguyen is able to outwait defenders and still manage to thread the needle to get passes off, as shown in this clip. Offense doesn’t come easy at any level but it helps if you’re able to do what he can do with the puck on his stick. Give him even the slightest amount of space and he’ll find a way to create something out of it. Nguyen is a great playmaker due to this amount of patience. Given his quickness and ability to generate offense in transition, he’s able to create a lot of odd man rushes and make plays like this.

Nguyen’s skill with the puck has the potential to dazzle. Put together with his hockey sense, patience and skating ability, you get a player that is able to work some magic with the puck.

It’s not hard to see why I believe that Nguyen has what it takes. There’s legitimate upside and the way he plays can work at the NHL level. It’s not all perfect, however, and I do have my concerns about his game. First and foremost, his defensive play leaves much to be desired. Yes, he can take the puck away with his stick, but for the most part, his defensive positioning can be a little passive and he can lose his coverage a little too easily for my liking. I feel that he relies on his teammates a little too heavily in the defensive zone and it leads to him chasing the puck or being a little aimless with his positioning. Both can be detrimental depending on the matchups. Sometimes, he’ll make the wrong decision to attack a puck carrier, leaving a player wide open for a pass. Other times, I’ve seen Nguyen drift in the middle of the ice without any real purpose, leaving passing and shooting lanes wide open. I love Nguyen, but these moments can be frustrating because it usually leads to a Grade-A scoring chance. He’ll need to tighten up his gaps and make better plays in the defensive zone. Part of his maturing as a player will be realizing that he doesn’t have to chase the puck. As long as he blocks the passing and shooting lanes, the puck will come to him and he’ll be able to work his magic.

Nguyen’s play with the puck on his stick is impressive, but he struggles along the boards and hesitates to play physically due to his smaller frame. He’s only 5’10” and 172 pounds, so he’ll need to add some muscle if he wants to win puck battles. Right now, if he gets pushed to the perimeter, he can struggle to create offense. Physical play can be a barrier to the NHL for some teams, but I don’t see it being one for Nguyen. He’s too good with the puck on his stick for a team to pass him up, and it’s not like he’s a player that relies on individual skill rather than his teammates. The final concern that I have with Nguyen is that while the majority of his offensive game comes from transition, he is less effective on an extended shift in the offensive zone. Nguyen is still figuring out how to create space for himself in the offensive zone, and as a result, it can lead to him disappearing for a little while during a shift. Nguyen will need to work on establishing a presence in the offensive zone.

Projection

As I stated in the beginning, Nguyen has risen up my board all season long and will likely continue to do so as the season reaches its end. There’s too much skill in his game for him to be lower than the third or fourth round on anyone’s draft boards, in my opinion. Nguyen plays like an NHL player and has enough skill to play in a team’s middle six someday, and I’ll stand by that statement. And when I’ve watched other undersized forwards from the WHL this season, they’ve all played worse than Nguyen in my eyes. Jordan Gustafson is a great goal scorer but I feel that his game is fairly one-dimensional and his skating is going to limit his effectiveness at the NHL level. Mathew Ward, a player who I’m hoping to write about soon, can play with a lot of pace but has yet to impress me all that much. Nguyen has been consistently good, even when he isn’t putting up points. It’s only going to get better for him, too. Nguyen doesn’t see a ton of power play ice time and has been on Portland’s third line for the majority of the season. Once he gets more ice time, his skill will be on full display. I believe that Nguyen is close to being able to dominate a shift in the WHL. He has the right tools to do so, he just needs the opportunity to grow. A projection of middle six upside may be high, but when I look at Nguyen play, I see a player that can flip the game on its head and create something out of nothing. He’s exactly the type of player that you put out there when your team needs a spark or a quick goal. He’s a player that was built for Portland’s system, too. Nguyen has been able to thrive in a Portland system that closely mimics that of an NHL team.

Ultimately, the biggest questions with Nguyen will be his strength, defensive play, and if he can make more of an impact during an o-zone shift. Most coaches won’t settle for Nguyen’s defensive play and he’ll need to add muscle in order to compete against NHL players. My biggest question is if Nguyen can find a way to be more creative during an offensive zone shift. He has the one on one skill that has made him a dominant player in transition, but he lacks that same skill when the play is already established. I don’t see these concerns turning teams away from Nguyen, either. Sure, it might mean that he’ll take a little longer to develop, but when the reward is as high as it can be, why wouldn’t you take that risk?

When we conduct our meetings for our final draft rankings, I’m sticking my neck out for Nguyen. There’s too much talent there for him to be left off of our board. It may be higher than most, but this is a player that I’ve been excited about all season long. I expect him to be in the top 100 of our rankings, and I’ll fight tooth and nail to make that happen.

Latest Update

April 6, 2022


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

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

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Scouting Report: Ryan Chesley

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler

Ryan Chesley is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He is a right handed defenseman and plays for the USNTDP U18 squad. 

Before joining the USNTDP in 2020, he played for 14U AAA and 16U AAA hockey for Shattuck St. Mary’s and 15U AAA hockey for the Minnesota Kings. Throughout his time playing 14U-16U hockey, he played alongside his USNTDP teammate Isaac Howard and a few NHL drafted prospects including Andre Gasseau (Boston Bruins), Liam Gilmartin (San Jose Sharks) and Shai Buium (Detroit Red Wings).

Chesley is a University of Minnesota commit and is scheduled to join the Minnesota Golden Gophers next season (2022-2023). He will be alongside several current USNTDP players including Logan Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud, Cruz Lucius and Oliver Moore. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – February 27, 2004
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’0″
Weight –194 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right

Chesley’s Style Of Play

Offense

Chesley needs to work on shot selection. He will struggle at identifying quality opportunities to shoot. One of the issues with his shot selection is that he can be too quick at times.

He will collect a pass at the perimeter, immediately try to shoot, but he wasn’t observant of where the puck was in proximity to him. He will hold the puck too far out from his body once receiving the puck and his shot will go wide. He needs to work on keeping his stick blade closer towards him when acquiring possession of passes in the offensive zone if he wants to be more consistent with his one-timer opportunities.

Not only will he struggle with one-timer shooting accuracy, but he will struggle with his backhand shooting as well. When attempting shots from low danger with his backhand on the move, he will not get pucks on net and they end up wide right / left. The issue is that he doesn’t have the power in the release to get the puck on net. It’s a light release.

It’s not just being too quick, it’s also about thinking that he has run out of options and then firing a shot from the point. Chesley needs to work on pin-pointing open passing lanes to exploit. 

Most of his shots from the point don’t test the goaltender. He ends up shooting at the chest and it allows the goaltender to trap the shot easily. If he is looking to generate high danger rebounds up front or deflections, he needs to work on getting his shots slightly closer to the posts. The goal needs to be get the puck high enough, in which he can either beat the goaltender glove/blocker side or get the puck in the general direction of the glove/blocker so that way a teammate in the slot can re-direct the puck in.

If he has open skating lanes and his teammates are skating up further into the offensive zone, he will pinch up and provide teammates a passing option in medium danger. On the rush, when not all of the forwards are able to get down low fast enough, Chesley will skate to the slot to offer a passing option in high danger.

When controlling the puck, pinching in and facing pressure, he can leverage his upper body strength to push past attackers. He has a big frame and he can use it well to net separation. 

When he doesn’t have the puck and is looking to cause disruption, he will pinch up and blind side an attacker when the attacker is along the boards waiting for a pass and staring at the puck carrying teammate. Chesley closes in on him, doesn’t have the speed to make contact but he forces the attacker to dump the puck. In addition, he will try to engage an attacker with the puck when the attacker is close to vacating his own zone. But, he needs to be mindful of his positioning when the attacker is coming towards the blue line with the puck. Once the attacker gets to the perimeter, he needs to fall back into the neutral zone and let his forward group implement pressure. Often he will sit in the offensive zone a bit too long and that leads to odd man rush opportunities for the attack should the attack manage to get the puck out of their own zone.

When it comes to Chesley’s puck control, he has shown that he can be reliable puck carrier. He will do a good job cradling when he is along the half-wall boards and an attacker is coming up from behind him. Chesley will opt to play the puck out in front of him and secure the puck. When Chesley gets clear of the attacker just enough, he will then switch to cradling the puck on the opposite side of the attacker. That comes in handy if he is facing a tight backcheck in the slot and he is aiming to skate to the doorstep.

There are also instances in which he will take a risk and cradle the puck underneath the attacker’s triangle when he has simply ran out of options. That has worked out for him. 

When he is moving the puck from side to side, I have noticed some puck security issues that will need to be addressed. When he is going from forehand to backhand to forehand with the puck, he will struggle to cradle the puck cleanly from side to side and that has led to bobbled pucks. 

Similarly to his shot, Chesley will put slightly too much power in his passing release. There have been instance in which he complete a zone entry and he will complete a pass off the rush to a forward teammate who is slightly more centered, but the pass has too much power behind it for the receiver to pick it up cleanly. When you look back at my description on his shot, you will also notice that at times Chesley didn’t have enough power in his release and it’s the same situation with his passing ability. There have been occurrences in which his release is too light and thus it doesn’t make its way to the intended target.

Defense

In the defensive zone, his positioning is solid. He will alternate with his USTNDP defensive partner Lane Hutson (in most situations it is Lane), who works behind the red for the loose puck while Chesley sits slightly past the red line to provide an outlet. Chesley maintains good presence in the slot when oppositional puck movement is along the opposite boards. He also implements quality defensive support when his defensive partner loses pace with the puck carrier. Chesley shifts over to help trap the puck carrier in the corner.

When implementing pressure on the puck carrier, Chesley has excellent gap control to force the attacker to stay in low danger. On occasion, he tries to initiate contact when his slightly too far away from the puck carrying attacker. It slows him down and can open up sizable gaps for the attacker to exploit. But, in general if Chesley is defending against you in the corner, he doesn’t give you much room to use.

He also does a good job of keeping attackers at bay in the slot. He uses his frame to remove lanes to the net. His frame helps to take away lanes just from his stature alone, but his reach also allows him to extend his stick blade further out from his body to poke check and disrupt the rush. When defending against the puck carrier in his own zone and they are skating towards the perimeter, Chesley will extend his stick blade out and attempt to poke check. That will force the puck carrier to take an ill-advised shot. After using his reach to cause puck disruption, he will quickly cut inside and grab a hold of the puck when covering the man initially along the boards in the corner. 

Chesley isn’t the fastest skater on the ice and it is the most evident when he is skating after defensive recoveries / puck retrievals. He knows that he doesn’t have the speed to beat the attacker, so instead he likes to use his back to bump into attackers when they are vying for the puck. By bumping into attackers when they are aiming to pick up possession, he hopes that the subtle bump deter them and push them forward. If he can push them forward, he can force the attacker to lose control right away. In situations in which he can get solid pace, he will use his upper body strength to push past the attacker to the puck.

When Chesley is in possession of the puck, he does a good job of identifying a passing lane in between two forecheckers who aren’t trying to use their stick blades to limit the amount of space. Those tight passing lanes allow him to evade pressure and feather stretch zone exit pass to teammates in the neutral zone. He does an excellent job of completing tape to tape zone exit feeds to teammates in the neutral zone and the occasional saucer pass above an attacker’s stick to a teammate towards the blue line. In addition, he will at times be deceptive with his puck control. He will use a backhand pass fake to buy him enough separation to get him away from danger and allow him to skate into the neutral zone with possession.

While he does do a good job of finding tight passing lanes to exploit, when he is on the move and turning from behind the net, he can struggle with  breakout pass completion. You will notice that when he is on the move that his passes have a tendency to go far wide of the intended target. 

Transitional Play

In the neutral zone, I love his lateral movements. Chesley has quick hips that allow him to turn in place, quickly grab a hold of a loose puck and dump it back into the offensive zone. In situations in which his defensive partner isn’t covering the defensive zone blue line and Chesley is slightly out of position to defend against the rush, he will use a lateral crossover to get enough acceleration to shift over enough to defend the rush head on. 

When defending in the neutral zone, he doesn’t have the power stride to contend with speedy attackers on the rush in the neutral zone. But, he does do a good job of closing the rush off when they get close to the USNTDP defensive zone blue line. He will skate closer and closer towards the boards when the attacker is coming towards the offensive zone. That allows him to quickly cut the attacker off before the perimeter. In situations in which he is facing the puck carrying attacker skate from centered ice to the left side, Chesley lowers his body and sticks out his stick to take away the skating lane. It allows Chesley to trap the attacker and not give him any more room.

When it comes to puck movement in the neutral zone, he usually isn’t the one driving the rush. Generally speaking, you can expect Chesley to complete an outlet pass in his own zone and have his forwards to drive the puck up the ice. In those rare situations where Chesley is carrying the puck from zone to zone, he is efficient at pushing the puck underneath his attacker’s stick when facing pressure and he doesn’t have another skating lane. Chesley will position the puck out in front of him when facing tight pressure, but should he be in situations in the future where he has to carry the rush, I would like him to be slightly more manipulative with his puck control. He should try to use the puck to draw attackers to one side and then quickly cut to the other. 

Skating

Chesley does a good job with pivoting and deploying his inside and outside edges when staying aligned with a shifty puck carrying attacker along the boards (especially in the corner). If he doesn’t have the speed to skate past an attacker in the defensive zone and runs out of open ice, he will pivot out and complete a pass to his defensive partner.  When shifting from side to side along the blue line, he does a good job of leaning on his inside edges to push off and move left. 

While he does do a good job pushing off of his edges, I have noticed that he will struggle with stride activation after utilizing his edges. You will lose him traction or not generate enough acceleration off of the turn to keep pace. Ideally, I would like to see him work on going from his edges to crossovers to drive up his speed. Chesley can deploy good crossovers to generate speed, but his stride extensions don’t generate the same level of speed. If he can deploy a few crossovers before going into stride, that will generate far more acceleration since he doesn’t have a lengthy extension. In the clip below, you can check out the speed that Chesley can manufacture on well-timed crossovers. More crossovers and more crossovers with good posture will only improve his acceleration.

Speaking of crossovers, Chesley deploys good lateral crossovers to generate separation from an approaching attacker, dodge traffic and skate into open ice with the puck. It helps in situations where Chesley is driving the rush and pushing the puck up the ice. In the offensive zone, he deploys good lateral crossovers along the blue line to gain separation on the attacker covering him. His crossovers allow to him to net separation and open up lanes.

His straight line skating needs further development. Chesley’s ankle flexion isn’t in the desired spot. He needs to lower his posture and push his knees to the toe of his skates to get the maximum speed in his extensions. As we mentioned before, he doesn’t have the foot speed to beat out attackers to loose pucks. Chesley also needs to further round out his speed when skating backwards. When facing a speedy rush and utilizing his backward skating, he doesn’t have enough acceleration to face the rush. At a point, he has to switch to forward skating to attempt to counter-attack. But, in situations in which the attack is too fast, he isn’t in position to counter.

Projection

Chesley and Lane Hutson are an interesting dynamic. Hutson is very creative and mobile. He has good body language and can shift his body to a new lane on a dime. Chesley isn’t as nimble and mobile. That just isn’t his game. Chesley does have the same drive to create high and medium danger chances in the slot, but he is more likely to pinch up the boards with the puck than go into open ice and battle it out against attackers at the perimeter. The good thing is that Chesley seems to have the support of the USNTDP coaching staff to let him play his game. Chesley knows that he has to be somewhat conservative given that Hutson can be far more out-going in the offensive zone. I do think will Chesley will be a solid two-way defender in the NHL level. If he can be slightly more consistent with his drive to create high danger chances, he could be provide nice defensive depth in a second or third pairing role. Chesley will also need to address his acceleration / skating as oppositional speed will only get more and more daunting at the NHL level.

Latest Update

April 6, 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!