Welcome back to the Prospects Report and once again we turn our attention to the biggest event on the prospect calendar this year after the World Juniors. McKeen’s team member Will Scouch provides a look at the 2021 NHL Draft eligible players at the tournament that have caught his eye and are improving their draft stock in ’Prospects in the News’. He also takes a look at the remarkable performances of the 15-and-16-year-olds eligible in 2022 and 2023 including the phenomenal Matvei Michkov, Connor Bedard and Shane Wright among others.
Will brings an approach that includes tracking advanced stats combined with video analysis in his popular Scouching videos that can be found on YouTube. His detailed columns for McKeen’s covers the top prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft with video illustration. The most recent focused on Fabian Lysell, who is starring in the tournament for Sweden and subscribers can find it here.
Speaking of Lysell, he also happens to be the next 2021 NHL Draft Prospect we introduce in this space. Mikael Holm, McKeen’s scout/analyst based in Sweden, takes you through the path Lysell has taken this season in Sweden through to his role in a defining IIHF U18 World Championship tournament to date. His profile is followed by profiles of previous draft eligible prospects we have covered to date.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
Prospects in the News: Surprises, Dominant Performances and an Exciting Glimpse at the Future of Hockey
By Will Scouch
With the IIHF Under-18 Championship well underway, there has been absolutely no shortage of excellent performances to get excited about. While many teams may have brought a bit of an underwhelming performance at times, many individual games have been hard fought, desperate battles leaving you gripping the edge of your seat. The Russians clawing back from a 5-1 deficit to defeat the United States 7-6 in overtime, Finland storming back from 5-3 in the last 10 minutes to beat the Czechs 6-5, and most recently, a tight and gutsy quarterfinal where the Swedes finally seemed to find their groove and eliminated the United States 5-2, moving on to play Canada in Wednesday’s semifinal. Between these two rounds of playoffs, it’s probably a good time to take a quick look back at some of the more notable performances in my eyes from multiple teams, both those eliminated and those still aiming for a medal finish.
The Belarusian team came in with the advantage of having largely been a group of players that do or have played together in club play for multiple years in Belarus. The U17 and U18 programs play in Belarusian minor hockey leagues, with many players going onto professional programs in the country to play in the top division. The team came to play this year, and I think kept up extremely well at even strength with teams much better on paper. One of those players is defenseman Dmitri Kuzmin, who joined Dinamo-Molodechno and immediately jumped into a top two pair role. The 5’8” defender has been on my radar since October with his skill, shiftiness with his feet, and the fact that he has scored lacrosse goals this season not once, not twice, but now thrice after a display early in this tournament.
As the tournament goes on, I’ve got a video report in production on Dmitri Kuzmin, and size be darned, this guy is some kind of fun to watch. His physical presence is negligible, but his quickness to explode in different directions with his feet, combined with his skill and vision with the puck make him an intriguing player who has shined brightly for a relatively strong Belarusian team. He’s a project, and definitely a longshot, but I’m a believer. Seeing him outside his typical environment in Belarus playing against some of the top junior talent in the world and in my view, not looking out of place, is a great note on his resume, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for his name to be called in the 2021 Draft in July by a team unafraid of his shortcomings, and willing to let him develop overseas for a few years.
The United States were unfortunately eliminated by a Swedish team that found their stride when it mattered on Monday night, and while I felt their team lacked the projectable firepower that some other teams had, I was pleasantly surprised to see the play of Dylan Duke this season. His tenacity, intensity on and off the puck, willingness to attack the net, and his ability to both make and finish plays in high danger areas were all on display. I’ve liked Duke as a potential energy forward in the NHL who can sneak into the middle of the ice with pace and speed, snagging points more often than you’d think. He’s a high motor player who excels through his work rate, pressuring opponents off the puck and attacking the offensive zone with talents that I believe are projectable to the NHL. Duke is a bit small, but he’s not one to hide from opponents, and all of these traits were on display. The States had trouble countering Sweden’s pace and counterattack at times, but Duke was one of the players that I thought showed why he could be considered as a late first round pick to early second round pick this summer with a projectable future to the NHL.
If we’re giving out an award for the most improved player in this short tournament so far, I can’t not give it to Simon Edvinsson (currently ranked #5 at McKeens). He was dominant at times on Monday against the States after being… let’s say up-and-down in prior games. He’s a player who can give you plenty, but also take plenty, and he gave a lot on Monday. Yes, Edvinsson has size, but beyond that, he excels with his reach to break up plays, swipe pucks off opponents, physically impose himself intelligently without overcommitting positionally, and has nice flashes of skill and creativity moving pucks up the ice. He was not only a defensive rock for the Swedes on Monday but had multiple offensive possessions that showcased hints of the playmaking and aggression in the offensive zone that he has been known to show in Swedish professional hockey this year. He isn’t perfect, but I think detractors are missing just how much headroom there could be with Simon Edvinsson once he fills out his 6’5” frame a bit and continues to work on refining his fluidity and power generation on his feet.
The only Swedes that I’ve felt really brought their A-game this year have been Isak Rosen (currently ranked #22 at McKeens) and Fabian Lysell (McKeens ranked #9). For the purposes of this piece (and Mikael Holm’s profile below), I’ll focus on Rosen. I’ve been a huge fan of this player all season, as he’s one of the most remarkable shooting threats I’ve ever tracked with his positioning, willingness to attack the middle of the ice, and pace with the puck, using the perimeter to find seams in the offensive zone. He can skate, he can shoot, he has a bit of a playmaking side that comes out from time to time, and he’s one of these players who I think is only limited by their ability to bring their brand with the puck to their brand off the puck. There are times where you’re wondering what Rosen is thinking with extended puck possession, and projectable defense isn’t quite there right now, but he’s shown pace, skill, and shooting talent that has helped him be one of the best possession players for the Swedish team this year. I’m higher on Rosen than many, but I’m a huge believer in this guy.
The Russians are always a bit of a perplexing group, often weak on defense, but strong in net with some tremendous firepower. A player who has brought a nice balance of both defense and offense who I’ve been a huge fan of this season is Fyodor Svechkov. Playing against junior competition with more talented linemates than his VHL brethren has allowed Svechkov to unlock his offensive tools much more, and we’re all better for it. He’s got smart and incisive defensive instincts that can separate pucks and turn play around quickly, he’s got skill under pressure that allows him to escape defenders and find space, and he can both make plays, or shoot the puck himself. There’s so much to like with Svechkov, even if none of it is truly sublime to the point of making him a game-breaking talent, but he certainly came to play at this tournament and should hear his name called in the first round this summer. If not, a lottery team is going to be adding another projectable, rock solid player early in the 2nd (currently ranked #41 on McKeens).
Aleksi Heimosalmi was what I call a “glitter player” for me back in 2020. Glitter players are names that catch my eye while watching and tracking other players on the ice and do so multiple times. Heimosalmi is one of those defenders that you draft strictly off of some very high-end tools that certainly help in the NHL: skating, and skill. He isn’t the most physically intimidating defender whatsoever, and his defensive play beyond gap management and stick checks are a bit questionable, but his puck skill and mobility have certainly been on display in this tournament. His lateral mobility using crossovers, his skill to open up the ice and move pucks, and his pace executing play are all a ton of fun to watch. Heimosalmi worked his way into my late 2nd round pick, expecting you could land him a bit later in the draft as a project pick, but his performance with Finland has surprised even myself. It’s hard to imagine at this point him being a player still flying under NHL scouts’ radars with his play in Texas, and seeing his name be one of the first 64 off the board doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Another player who isn’t perfect, and has work to do, but the fundamentals are there, and he’s certainly showing them off so far.
The Canadians have brought some absolutely insane talent to the tournament this season, especially in the offensive department. It’s really hard to pick specific players who have impressed me the most of all of them, but Brandt Clarke may be putting on one of the best performances of all 2021 eligible players in this tournament. He’s showing his vision and skill in the offensive zone, he’s calculated and refined defensively, if not the most imposing player, and his ability to move pucks up ice on small ice is a welcome change from what was a bit of a worrying trend in Slovakia turning pucks over through the neutral zone through hasty and inaccurate passing. He’s been dominant in many games to this point, and he’s solidifying his position well inside my personal Top-10 for the draft this year (He is currently #8 at McKeens). He’s a gunslinger with the puck, quick, precise and creative, with plenty of upside on both offense and potentially defense in the NHL.
The other Canadian who I’ve felt has been an extremely pleasant view for me has been Logan Stankoven. To put it simply, he is an absolutely ridiculous hockey player who I just love to watch play. He’s got skill, he can shoot, he’s an underrated playmaker, and above all, he’s a hard worker along the boards who has been playing on Canada’s penalty kill this tournament. He’s small, but rambunctious with offensive talent coming out of his ears, and it’s always blown my mind that more people don’t view him as not only a first round talent, but potentially one of the 20 best players available (McKeens ranks him #18). Stankoven’s game is so well-rounded with great talent and has all the hallmarks of a player that I believe can overcome their size limitations. His tracked data so far has been some of the best I’ve ever tracked over multiple games, and I’d be absolutely thrilled to bring him to my NHL program, especially if he does slip through the first round somehow.
The last section is more nebulous, because I do think this is the biggest takeaway for me so far. The players eligible in 2022 and 2023 have largely been awesome. Brad Lambert, Lane Hutson, Charlie Stramel, David Jiricek, Elias Salomonsson, the list goes on. All these players are being challenged here and show great flashes of what’s to come. As mentioned before, the Russians brought firepower, but the 2022’s and 2023’s are the ones often responsible. Three of their top five scorers aren’t eligible this year, they’re all over a point per game, and only Danila Yurov is ineligible to return next year.
Ivan Miroshnichenko has been excellent playing with Avangard Omsk’s junior team, and his all-around offensive talent has been apparent in this tournament. He’s skilled, attacks the middle of the ice, and has an excellent shot that has feasted on weak goaltending in this tournament.
The real star of the show has been Matvei Michkov. While many eyes are rightfully on the Canadians, Michkov is arguably as much a part of the 2023 draft as Connor Bedard is. Michkov brings skill, precision, and quickness to his shooting game that echoes another elite goal scorer recently drafted in Cole Caufield. Michkov has unbelievable scoring instincts, able to simply just… shoot the puck into open holes on goaltenders. It sounds obvious, but he’s really really good at it. He’s a monster around the net, dangerous from the perimeter, and scored 38 goals this year to lead the Russian junior league in scoring at 16 years old. He’s almost certainly going to be a member of SKA St. Petersburg’s KHL team next year, with another year in the KHL after that before being drafted. He’s so, so talented and the world got to see what many of us prospect nerds have seen all season in the MHL.
What about Canada? Shane Wright and Connor Bedard are, simply put, awesome. Wright is a devastating offensive threat marked by an outstanding shot and goal scorer’s instinct. He hasn’t been able to play in every game this tournament, but he’s been a wonderful transition center with enormous offensive tools and adaptive skill that just strike me as “really good at hockey”. That may not be super deep analysis, but there isn’t much Shane Wright doesn’t do very well, and the things he’s really good at are numerous, marked by his offensive potential.
With Shane Wright out of the way, it leaves us with Connor Bedard. Bedard is an absolutely gobsmacking hockey talent. He’s 15, but certainly isn’t playing like it. One of the most brilliant hockey minds I’ve seen for his age, able to adapt to pretty much any scenario he gets himself into with simple, effective passing and awareness of linemates. He’s a tremendous conduit through which the game flows, overcoming size concerns without issue. Bedard has transformed the Regina Pats already, and he’s a vital member of the Canadian offense, with a remarkable five-point performance in their quarterfinal against the Czechs. He may not be back at this tournament in the future if he’s busy taking Regina to Memorial Cups, but if he is, you’re going to have eyes on him. He and Michkov are already looking like tremendous talents for 2023, and while that’s quite a ways away, the signs are bright.
This tournament has been a ton of fun so far. It’s usually a nice barometer for lesser known guys to play against great competition, or pro players who are back playing big minutes against more comparable competition. I don’t let it affect my rankings a tremendous amount, but some guys I was cautious on for positive and negative factors have reinforced hunches of mine and are more accurately listed. Names like Heimosalmi, Stankoven, Svechkov and Rosen have all shown what I’ve needed to see. The top end talent for 2021 may not be spectacular, but there are some legitimately interesting and exciting players that could boost many NHL programs that are on display if you dig a little beneath the surface.
Above all else, the names eligible in 2022 and 2023 have burst onto the scene and in some cases outperformed their older teammates. I do the work I do because the sport excites me and seeing the direction the sport is going excites me more. These players are out there under difficult circumstances chasing a dream of theirs, and we have benefited greatly from it. If the remaining games are anything like the tournament to this point, I have no idea what to expect. There have been blowouts, massive comebacks, and tight, high pace transition hockey across the board, and I’ll be glued to my computer to see what the names in this piece can finish this tournament with.
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2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Lysell breaks out at U18 World Tournament
By Mikael Holm
Frölunda HC J20, J20 Nationell 11GP-3G-10A-13PTS
Luleå HF, SHL 26GP-2G-1A-3PTS
Sweden U18, WJC-18 5GP-3G-4A-7PTS
When you look at his stats Fabian Lysell doesn’t stand out as a top forward prospect. Two goals and one assist in 26 games for Luleå in the SHL might sound a bit unimpressive but the way Lysell plays the game is nothing but impressive. He plays at the highest gear every shift and he does it the entire shift. If he has the puck, he’ll carry the puck into the offensive zone with ease and if he doesn’t have the puck, he’ll make sure he wins it back before his shift is over. He does all this at a pace that is incredibly high, and a candidate to be a future winner at the fastest skater competition at the NHL All Stars Skills Competition.
Lysell began his year with Frölunda’s junior team in J20 Nationell, the Swedish junior hockey league. Against players his own age he looked dominant, but he wasn’t playing a lot of minutes, which was odd considering he was their best forward. In November it became news that Lysell had demanded a move from Frölunda because he wanted to play in the SHL, something he thought he was capable of doing. An opportunity he received when he got his move to Luleå. It’s a big move for a 17-year-old kid, away from his hometown, his hometown team and his family. To add to that he moved across the country, from Gothenburg in the southwestern part of Sweden to Luleå, which is a town in the northeastern part of the country. He moved 1200 kilometers (745 miles), away from his family and the security of his home, to get a better opportunity at playing in the SHL and increasing his value before the draft.
Lysell’s season with Luleå was tough. He did get to play in the SHL, but the minutes were limited and he was mostly confined to a role on the fourth line or as an extra forward. But Lysell did well in his limited role, showing off the hard-working part of his game. He forechecked like his life depended on it and he was very successful. He got a few opportunities playing on the top line for Luleå and everyone who was looking from the outside were impressed and it seemed like he was working towards a larger role on the team, but he was demoted back down to the fourth line and sometimes not even playing. This is something that’s more on Luleå than Lysell. They were fighting to make the playoffs and we have to remember that SHL teams are looking for championships, not developing young players for the NHL. So, when teams have to give someone less minutes, it’s easier to reduce the minutes of the 17-year-old rookie rather than their older players.
When the season went as it did for Lysell in the SHL, the eyes were turned to the U18 World Championships where he would be the leading forward on the Swedish team who are the reigning champions. So far, he has been as dominant as some expected him to be. He started the tournament off with scoring a highlight reel goal against Belarus and outside of that goal he has been one of the few bright spots on a Swedish team that has struggled the entire tournament. After an unexpected and embarrassing 12-1 loss against Canada, Sweden and Lysell bounced back with two victories versus Switzerland and Latvia. He continued his excellent tournament with two goals as Sweden stunned the favored United States in the Quarterfinal. At this level, playing against players in his own age, Lysell is showing he is one of the most dynamic and dominant players in the world.
Lysell’s future is bright, and he might even be the player in this draft with the highest ceiling. There isn’t a player in this draft that can play at the pace that he does, with the skill that he has and with the hard-working mindset he goes into every single game with. He is unique and if he can become stronger and learn how to use his pace in different ways, he will become a force in the NHL.
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PAST NBC EDGE MCKEEN’S 2021 NHL DRAFT PROSPECT REPORTS – In this weekly column we cover an NHL Draft prospect. Check out what we have written to date here listed by our most recent ranking.
#1 - Matthew Beniers C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 175 lbs
#2 – Owen Power, D, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’6” 215 lbs
#3 – Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP U18, D, 6’2” 175 lbs
#4 - Jesper Wallstedt G, Lulea, Sweden, G, 6’3” 200lbs
#5 – Simon Edvinsson, D, Vasteras, Allvenskan, 6’5”, 200lbs
#7 – Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton, WHL, 6’0” 170lbs
#8 - Brandt Clarke, D, Nove Zamky, Slovakia, D, 6’1” 180lbs
#9 – Fabian Lysell, RW, Luleå HF, Sweden, 5’ 10” 175 lbs
#10 – William Eklund, LW-C, Djurgårdens IF,SHL, Sweden, 5’10, 175lbs
#11 - Kent Johnston, C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 170lbs
#12 – Aatu Raty, D, Kärpät, Liiga, Finland, 6’2” 185lbs
#32- Brennan Othmann, LW, EHC Olten, SL 34GP-7G-9A-16PTS
#37 – Carson Lambos, D, JYP, Finland, 6’0, 200lbs