Scouting for the UFHL is about to get real!
UFF Sports and the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League are revealing the prospects that will be available in the upcoming auctions — Futures, from Aug. 15-21 for scouts only, and Already Drafted, from Aug. 22-28 for scouts and franchise owners. The Entry Auction, for owners only and featuring the top 62 prospects from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, is scheduled for October 10.
The two August auctions will feature 20 prospects per day over two weeks for a total of 280. The Futures Auction is loaded with talent from the next three NHL draft classes — including 95 prospects from 2021, 25 from 2022 and 20 from 2023. The Already Drafted Auction is comprised of top prospects from recent NHL draft classes — including 80 forwards, 40 defencemen and 20 goaltenders, many of whom were first-round picks.
Following those auctions, scouts will be able to register individual prospects on the open market for a flat rate starting September 1st. That rate is 1,000 score tokens (SCO), which is equivalent to $20 USD.
For the three upcoming auctions (Futures, Already Drafted and Entry), bidding will start at $25 USD (1,250 SCO) with $5 increments. The Futures and Already Drafted will likely take place in a silent auction format over a 24-hour period on the Air Auctioneer website, while the Entry Auction will be a live event and somewhat similar to the recent UFHL Redraft as well as the upcoming UFHL Playoff Draft on August 10. Those plans are subject to change, with the potential to make the Futures and Already Drafted more interactive too.
Regardless, the prospect lists will remain the same. So, without further ado, here is a look at the 20 prospects that will be available for each of those dates.
Opening day is highlighted by Aatu Raty and Shane Wright as the projected first overall picks for 2021 and 2022, respectively. The perceived favourites, anyway. Raty has long been the frontrunner for 2021 and Wright has a leg up for 2022 after living up to his exceptional player status with a dominant debut in the OHL.
The other name that jumps out is Jack Hughes — no, that isn’t a typo, there is a second coming for 2022. Hughes 2.0 may not be as touted as the first overall pick from 2019, but he is still looking like a legitimate first-round talent. Imagine if the Devils drafted him too?!?! For the record, they are not related — at least not to my knowledge.
There are, however, some interesting bloodlines among this batch of prospects. Ryder Korczak is the younger brother of Vegas defence prospect Kaedan Korczak, while Kalan Lind is the younger brother of Vancouver forward prospect Kole Lind. Their elder siblings were both second-rounders in recent years, but these two could go even higher with Kalan outscoring Kole at every level thus far, while Ryder is a much different player than Kaedan as a forward and a real offensive catalyst for WHL Moose Jaw.
The QMJHL is well represented with Zach L’Heureux and Isaac Belliveau as potential top-20 picks for 2021. Scott Morrow is another stellar defender who could go ahead of Belliveau.
Fyodor Svechkov could be coming to the QMJHL for his draft year — the rich would be getting richer if he reports to Saint John — but the scoring forward might be staying in Russia, at least for now. Svechkov is no Andrei Svechnikov as much as their names sound alike, but Svechkov could become a bigger name for 2021.
Ben Gaudreau is getting decent hype as one of the top goaltenders for 2021 — drawing some comparisons to Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray — while Artyom Grushnikov is arguably Russia’s top defenceman for 2021 as a rugged rearguard.
Yusaku Ando is a neat story as the hottest prospect to come out of Japan. Ironically, he developed in Kelowna at the Pursuit of Excellence academy before impressing as a USHL rookie, while Trevor Wong, who is of Chinese descent, is coming off an underachieving rookie season for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets with the potential to explode as a sophomore in his draft year. Both these Asian prospects are small in stature but big in skill.
Slovakia is expected to enjoy a resurgence in the coming years and 2023 eligible Ondrej Molnar is among the promising prospects on the rise for that nation. David Jiricek, who doesn’t turn 17 until November and thus is 2022 eligible, is already getting auditions at the under-20 level for the Czech Republic.
Brett Harrison and Jack Matier could make waves in the OHL during their draft year, while Slovakian import Oleksii Myklukha will be trying to make more noise in his first full season with QMJHL Rouyn-Noranda.
Dylan Duke is destined for NCAA Michigan and should continue to light it up for The Program during his draft year as one of the more talented American forwards for 2021.
Russian defender Mikhail Gulyayev also comes highly regarded for 2023 but isn’t well known in North American scouting circles as of yet.
Day 2 has impressive forwards from all three draft classes but none more so than Matvei Michkov, who is a serious contender for first overall in 2023 as of today. He is a Russian scoring machine — reminiscent of Ilya Kovalchuk in his draft year. Some are even comparing Michkov to Alex Ovechkin as the next big thing to come out of Russia.
Kent Johnson is in the mix to be No. 1 in 2021 after torching tier-II junior in Canada with plenty of momentum heading into Michigan as an NCAA freshman for his draft year. Johnson is a better prospect than Dylan Holloway was when he departed for Wisconsin as a potential top-10 pick for 2020.
Rutger McGroarty has a wicked name and a wicked game to go with it, racking up 82 goals and 160 points in 63 games last season. That would normally put a prospect in the No. 1 conversation, but 2022 is not a normal draft year by any means. It is a special class, but McGroarty has certainly emerged as a top-five contender.
Conor Geekie is no slouch for that draft class either — despite being overshadowed by his WHL Winnipeg teammate Matthew Savoie since they went 1-2 in last year’s bantam draft. Geekie, the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes late-bloomer Morgan Geekie, is developing ahead of the curve and has to be considered a top-10 candidate for 2022.
Nick Pierre in 2022 and Dominik Petr in 2023 are two more high-upside forwards that could play their way into the top 10 for their respective drafts. Pierre, in particular, is fun to watch — though I admittedly haven’t seen as much of Petr.
The QMJHL has a ton of talent for 2021, with Zach Bolduc and James Malatesta among the first-round candidates from that league. Look out for the Belarusian Danila Klimovich as a sleeper should he report to Rouyn-Noranda.
Samu Tuomaala is one of Finland’s top prospects for 2021 and Oskar Olausson showed flashes as an underager for Sweden at last year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Tuomaala is often in the top 20 among preseason rankings for 2021.
So is Aidan Hreschuk as a flashy puck-moving defender from The Program, which has plenty of stud prospects for 2021. Jeremy Wilmer might be flying a bit under the radar there too.
Chase Stillman is the son of former NHLer Cory Stillman and much like his dad, Chase is more effective than flashy but consistently shows up on the scoresheet for OHL Sudbury. Stillman seems to be underrated for 2021 and could play his way into the first round.
Conner Roulette already had a prominent role for WHL Seattle as a 16-year-old and is the best prospect to come out of there since Matt Barzal. Roulette can dazzle offensively and should also be in the mix for the first round in 2021.
Tristan Lennox emerged as Canada’s starter as an underager at last year’s Hlinka tournament, playing ahead of 2020 eligible Dylan Garand. Lennox is a top-five goaltending prospect for 2021.
Martin Rysavy is a power forward from the Czech Republic who is committed to WHL Moose Jaw as an import for next season. He’ll be an intriguing prospect to follow for 2021 since his playing style appears better suited to North America.
Nolan Allan was the third overall pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft and could take a step similar to Prince Albert teammate Kaiden Guhle during his draft year. Guhle was the first overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft and offers a bit more offence, but Allan is a well-rounded defender that projects as a quality pro in the years to come.
Last but not necessarily least are two Russian defenders, with 2021 eligible Kirill Kirsanov more offensive-minded than the aforementioned Grushnikov — thus potentially more of a fantasy contributor — while 2022 eligible Pavel Mintyukov will look to showcase his skill with OHL Saginaw next season.
Day 3 is very deep and balanced — even if it lacks the real big name as a signature prospect. In saying that, Owen Power has a lot of Chris Pronger in his game and could make an immediate impact for NCAA Michigan after dominating with USHL Chicago for the past two seasons. Raty might be the frontrunner for 2021 but Power is among at least a handful of prospects that could challenge for first overall.
Jimi Suomi, aka Jimmy Finland, will be trying to fill some of that void on USHL Chicago’s blue line as another promising defence prospect for 2021. If the Finn fits in and thrives there, he could climb into the first round.
Looking ahead to 2022 and 2023, Ivan Miroshnichenko and Brayden Yager are both just behind the Big Three forwards for those outstanding draft classes.
Miroshnichenko is coming over to star for USHL Muskegon, following in the footsteps of fellow Russian Andrei Svechnikov. There are also some similarities in their playing styles and Miroshnichenko could still force his way into the top three for 2022 — or turn that into a Big Four — over the next couple seasons. If the aforementioned Michkov is the next big thing to come out of Russia, Miroshnichenko is a fairly close second.
Yager applied for exceptional player status in the WHL and though not granted, he was selected third overall by Moose Jaw in 2020 and would have likely went first overall in other years. He is a high-end offensive driver that may rank top five overall for 2023 as of today.
Maddox Fleming might be in the top-five conversation for 2022 as well — certainly in the top 10. He is another gifted forward with plenty of flair in his game.
Matt Beniers is weighing his options and may be decommitting from Harvard after leading The Program in goal scoring as an underager. That team was offensively challenged — a down year for The Program in 2020 — but Beniers stepped up and should be a top-20 pick for 2021, with the potential to crack the top 10 with a strong showing wherever he winds up.
Prokhor Poltapov is one of the top Russians for 2021, another forward with flash and finish.
Francesco Pinelli has also proven capable of filling the net for OHL Kitchener and should be a first-rounder for 2021 providing he builds on that 18-goal rookie campaign.
The two high school Lukes are highly touted as well, with Luke Levandowski a scoring forward and Luke Mittelstadt an all-around defenceman. Mittelstadt is the younger brother of Buffalo first-rounder and forward Casey Mittelstadt.
Sebastian Cossa is a stud goaltender for WHL Edmonton and could challenge Jesper Wallstedt as the top netminder for 2021. Both of them could be first-rounders. Yes, there is potential for two goalies to be taken in the first round in 2021, which has been unheard of in recent years.
There is another handful of quality forwards from the CHL in 2021 eligibles Xavier Bourgault (QMJHL Shawinigan), Connor Lockhart (OHL Erie), Colton Dach (WHL Saskatoon) and Sean Tschigerl (WHL Calgary), plus 2022 eligible Paul Ludwinski (OHL Kingston).
The QMJHL also has a couple more defencemen of note on Day 3 in 2021 eligible Oscar Plandowski, a righty from Charlottetown, and 2023 eligible Etienne Morin, who hails from Quebec and projects as a top pick in next year’s QMJHL draft. Worth noting, the WHL drafts their prospects one year younger than the QMJHL and the OHL.
That leaves a couple European forwards in Sweden’s Liam Dower Nilsson for 2021 and 2023 eligible Slovakian Daniel Alexander Jencko, whose surname reminds me of the movie Django Unchained. Both are talented enough to warrant taking in this auction.
Day 4’s biggest name is Brad Lambert, who sounds Canadian but has grown up in Finland for the most part and could give Finland consecutive first overall picks in 2022 if Raty does indeed go first overall in 2021. Lambert is Shane Wright’s biggest challenger in the present, with WHLer Matthew Savoie rounding out that Big Three. Lambert was selected by WHL Saskatoon in last month’s CHL Import Draft but is expected to continue developing in Finland’s top pro league (Liiga).
Speaking of this year’s CHL Import Draft, Matvei Petrov was the first overall pick for OHL North Bay as a dynamic right-winger from Russia. He is also available on Day 4.
Brandt Clarke is another big-time prospect for 2021 — another potential challenger to Raty for first overall as a slick right-handed defender from OHL Barrie.
Logan Stankoven might also enter that conversation — or certainly the top-10 convo for 2021 — as a scoring forward from WHL Kamloops who plays a lot like 2020 eligible Marco Rossi. Both have been compared to Sidney Crosby in terms of their playing style and workmanlike approach to producing offence.
Riley Heidt is also a hard-worker first and foremost as the second overall pick for Prince George in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft — ahead of his aforementioned teammate Brayden Yager, who brings more finesse. Like Yager, Heidt applied for exceptional status and was denied but should be considered a top-10 overall prospect for 2023. Those two will continue to be a dynamic duo for the Saskatoon Contacts in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League, with Kalan Lind slated to join them next season. What a trio that will be — making the Contacts favourites for the Telus Cup!
Simon Nemec is a workhorse defenceman for Slovakia, who will be logging big minutes for his country at the under-18 and potentially under-20 levels as a 16-year-old. Not eligible until 2022, Nemec will be a household name internationally long before his draft.
Czech defender Stanislav Svozil is no secret in the scouting community as a potential top-20 pick for 2021. He is a bit more offensive-minded than Nemec thus far. Svozil was drafted by WHL Regina and it’ll be interesting to see whether he reports for a chance to shine in North America during his NHL draft year, though he already has a full pro season under his belt back home.
Sasha Pastujov and Justin Janicke are two more of the many names to watch for The Program this coming season. They should rack up their share of points as forwards for the under-18 squad.
Simon Robertsson is another Swedish forward getting some top-20 love for 2021, while Viljami Marjala is a Finnish forward who plays with an edge and could enjoy success in North America as an import for QMJHL Quebec.
Joshua Roy is going to be a big part of that Saint John juggernaut. That team, the Sea Dogs, are going to light it up next season and for years to come!
Justin Robidas, with QMJHL Val-d’Or, and Zacharie Giroux, with OHL Flint, round out the CHL forwards on Day 4. Don’t sleep on either of them!
Graham Sward is primed for a starring role with WHL Spokane next season after learning the ropes from Ty Smith in getting his feet wet as a 16-year-old rookie. Sward is one of the youngest prospects for that 2021 draft class, with a Sept. 12 birthdate, but he is already 6-foot-2 and growing into a pretty special defender.
Zakary Kennett led the entire Minnesota high school league in scoring as an underager — with a whopping 98 points, including 42 goals, in just 25 games — but it should be noted that he played against inferior competition for the most part, thus inflating his stat-line. Still, any prospect averaging close to four points per game should get your attention!
Ty Gallagher is a toolsy right-handed defenceman for The Program that might be under the radar right now for 2021, while Jack Devine flirted with point-per-game status as a forward for The Program’s under-17 team (44 points in 49 games) and will have a fairly prominent role for the under-18 team this season. Devine isn’t eligible until 2022 as a late birthday (October 2003).
Looking further ahead to 2023, Quentin Musty and Calum Ritchie are two forwards already turning heads as potential first-rounders for that draft year. Taking a swing on one or both of them could be quite rewarding in the long run if they continue to trend up.
Day 5 has a little bit of everything — a little something for everyone.
Adam Fantilli is the most prominent name as one of the Big Three for 2023. Fantilli is going the USHL route but would have been the first overall pick in this year’s OHL draft and perhaps granted exceptional status into that league for next season. Fantilli isn’t quite on Shane Wright’s level of phenom, but he’s not far off and is already 6-foot-2 at 15 years old. Some scouts see shades of John Tavares in both Wright and Fantilli, who is sure to make an impact for Ryan Hardy’s powerhouse program in Chicago.
Day 5 also features a couple top-10 candidates for 2022 in right-handed defenceman Tristan Luneau, the first overall pick in this year’s QMJHL draft for Gatineau, and Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky, who made the cut for their under-20 national team as a 16-year-old this summer. Both those prospects are trending towards the top 10 for 2022 thanks to their recent feats and accolades.
Frank Nazar is another name to watch for 2022. His stat-line from last season has the “wow” factor — with 127 points, including 49 goals, over 55 games — and Nazar will now be trying to translate that production to The Program as one of the top American forwards in that draft class.
Dylan Guenther is a top-10 contender for 2021 and in contention to be the top WHL forward, along with the aforementioned Stankoven. Guenther outshone potential 2020 first-rounder Jake Neighbours as linemates on a lot of nights this past season. Guenther is the more dynamic offensive force between those two.
Fabian Lysell might land in the WHL for his draft year too — a talented Swede taken by the Vancouver Giants, to some surprise, in last month’s CHL Import Draft. Lysell may have seen the limited role for 2020 top prospect Lucas Raymond as a sign that he should explore playing overseas to raise his profile for 2021 rather than toiling with Frolunda like Raymond.
Sean Behrens, Corson Ceulemans and Anton Olsson are skilled defenders with a legit shot at cracking the top 20 for 2021. Some even have Behrens in the top 10 or as high as the top five, though that seems like a stretch in the present. Those three do have the potential to trend up during their draft year.
Daniil Lazutin is one of Russia’s top forwards for 2021 — another first-round candidate with good fantasy potential — and Maxim Motorygin is the top Russian goaltender for next year’s draft. Russia has been producing a steady stream of stellar netminders, though Motorygin isn’t as touted as 2020 eligible Yaroslav Askarov, who could be a top-10 pick, or the likes of Ilya Samsonov and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who were both first-rounders. But Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin were mid-round picks, so don’t sleep on Motorygin.
Finland’s Jeremi Tammela and Verner Miettinen both have big upside as offensive forwards. Miettinen is the younger brother of high-scoring 2020 eligible Veeti Miettinen. Verner put up nice numbers on the same team and is already taller than Veeti, who led that junior league in scoring and is planning to play for NCAA St. Cloud State this season. It’ll be interesting to see if Verner also goes the college route.
Matthew Samoskevich is yet another Michigan commit coming from USHL Chicago, having been teammates with the aforementioned Owen Power and with potential 2020 first-rounder Brendan Brisson — both of whom are also bound for Michigan. That is an all-time recruiting class, with Samoskevich getting overshadowed among his peers there, but he could rise into the first round for 2021 with a successful start to his collegiate career.
Peter Reynolds was a standout for BCHL Chilliwack this past season but changed course from the college path by returning to the Maritimes and joining that stacked Saint John squad. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of role Reynolds is able to carve out there in his draft year, but he could also play his way into the first round for 2021.
Marcus Almquist is a tiny Dane destined for WHL Victoria — listed at 5-foot-5 and 154 pounds — but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and determination. Almquist has impressive drive — almost reminiscent of former Victoria star Matthew Phillips — and thus shouldn’t be written off as too small to make the big league. Almquist already has his legion of fans — it’s fun and easy to root for the little guy — but he’ll win over a lot more people once he transitions to North America.
Koehn Ziemmer will also be a WHL rookie in the B.C. Division with Prince George, becoming a big part of that franchise’s future as a potential first-rounder for 2023. Ziemmer has produced at every level thus far and should provide a spark for P.G.’s forward group as a 16-year-old.
Noah Meier is one of the better defenders to come out of Switzerland in recent years. He’s no Roman Josi or Mark Streit, but he could certainly be a Luca Sbisa or Jonas Siegenthaler type of blueliner. That could be worth a second-round pick in 2021.
Alexander Lazarev could be a quality addition for QMJHL Rimouski as a first-round pick from this year’s CHL Import Draft. Lazarev is a high-scoring Russian forward and a late-2003 birthdate that isn’t eligible until 2022.
Rounding out Day 5 is 2023 forward Cam Squires, the pride of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, who put up 85 points, including 40 goals, in 26 games as a 14-year-old this past season to put himself on the radar for NHL scouts.
Day 6 is highlighted by Matthew Savoie as the third member of that Big Three for 2022, along with the aforementioned Shane Wright and Brad Lambert. Savoie didn’t take the WHL by storm the way Wright did in the OHL — Savoie only registered seven assists, without any goals, over 22 games and suffered a bad concussion on a big hit — but getting that experience at 15 and 16 years old should bode well for his first full WHL season. Savoie was denied exceptional status despite many feeling he was worthy but expect him to look exceptional in the years to come.
Luke Hughes is the younger brother of Calder finalist Quinn and first overall Jack. Luke is a defender like Quinn and plays much the same game, so don’t expect him to last long in the 2021 draft. Based on bloodlines alone, Luke Hughes could be a lock for the top 10, but he is a good bet to go that high based strictly on skill and he might merit going in the top five. Guess where he is going after The Program? Michigan in 2021.
Jesper Wallstedt is still the consensus top goaltender for 2021 — ahead of Cossa, Gaudreau, Lennox and Motorygin among the top five. Wallstedt has been hyped for years as the next star netminder from Sweden — getting his name mentioned in the same breath as Yaroslav Askarov, who could crack the top 10 in 2020, and Spencer Knight, who was selected 13th overall by Florida in 2019. If Wallstedt performs well in his draft year, he might warrant a top-15 pick too.
Cole Sillinger, the son of former NHLer Mike Sillinger, is more of a natural goal-scorer than his father and a real finisher for WHL Medicine Hat. Sillinger isn’t far behind Guenther and Stankoven among the top WHL forwards for 2021.
Mason McTavish, the son of Dale McTavish who got into nine games for the Calgary Flames in the mid-90s but no relation to former Oiler Craig MacTavish (note the spelling discrepancy), is another 2021 eligible with a nose for the net. McTavish knows how to score and there is always value in goals — both in real life and in fantasy. McTavish lit the lamp 29 times as a rookie for OHL Peterborough.
Lorenzo Canonica has been shining in summer showcases for Switzerland — yes, there is already live hockey being played overseas — and he could become quite the sensation for QMJHL Shawinigan. He is committed to crossing the pond and Canonica is gaining momentum towards becoming a first-rounder in 2021.
Nikita Chibrikov was also selected in this year’s CHL Import Draft — taken by WHL Lethbridge — but he won’t be reporting, with no plans of leaving Russia. That is Lethbridge’s loss because Chibrikov could have been a home-run pick as a slick and speedy forward. Some would say he possesses first-round skill for 2021.
Daniil Chayka is a defenceman for OHL Guelph who has been progressing nicely since arriving in North America back in 2017. The Russian import has settled in much the same as Dmitri Samorukov, who also developed in Guelph en route to becoming a third-rounder for the Edmonton Oilers. There are similarities between Chayka and Samorukov in terms of playing style. It probably goes without saying, but Chayka is not related to John Chayka, the now former Arizona general manager who hails from Ontario and likely doesn’t speak a lick of Russian.
Sweden’s Isak Rosen and Finland’s Samu Salminen both produced near a point-per-game pace at the under-20 level as 16 year olds this past season. That has the Nordic forwards garnering first-round consideration for 2021.
Shifting the focus to 2023, Jayson Shaugabay was already a standout at the Minnesota state championships — one of the absolute best American high-schoolers in his age group — while Nate Danielson also projects as an impact forward down the road as the fifth overall pick in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft for Brandon.
Seamus Casey, as a right-handed defenceman, and Brady Berard, as the younger-but-bigger brother of 2020 eligible Brett Berard, should make strong cases to be first-rounders in 2022 by continuing to shine at their respective positions upon joining The Program. Berard being a forward that frequently shows up on the scoresheet like his littler-but-older brother did for The Program during his draft year. Casey is the bigger name between them and another Michigan commit.
David Goyette is a top prospect for OHL Sudbury and another potential first-round pick for 2022 — fresh off a 153-point season that included 49 goals in 65 games for the Selects Academy. Those numbers speak to his fantasy upside as a high-scoring forward.
Circling back to 2021, that draft class has no shortage of cool names, including a couple from QMJHL Halifax in defenceman Cam Whynot and forward Robert Orr. Yes, there is another Bobby Orr making his way up the ranks.
Red Savage is the son of former NHLer Brian Savage and his game is as good as his name — a chip off the old block by all accounts. Red was more of a playmaker for The Program this past season but will be hoping to turn on the red light with more regularity during his draft year.
Zack Stringer is a budding power forward who should take another step for WHL Lethbridge.
Lastly, Luke Misa is another intriguing forward from the Greater Toronto Area for 2023. His name should start making the rounds this coming season as a top prospect for next year’s OHL draft.
Day 7 boasts Connor Bedard as the third member of the Big Three for 2023, along with the aforementioned Matvei Michkov and Adam Fantilli. Bedard became the first-ever player to be granted exceptional status in the WHL and went first overall to Regina in this year’s bantam draft. Bedard is a special talent — some might say generational, though I don’t use that term liberally. Exceptional works for me, but Bedard has drawn loose comparisons to Connor McDavid with a skill-set that includes incredible skating ability. It’s possible that we’ve saved the best for last — with Bedard being auctioned on the seventh and final day for Futures.
Ty Nelson, an offensive-minded right-handed defenceman, became the first overall pick in this year’s OHL draft for North Bay — once Fantilli committed to USHL Chicago. Nelson may not be that level of prospect, but he is a legitimate top-10 candidate for 2022.
Carson Lambos of WHL Winnipeg is another stud defender for 2021 — that is the year of the defencemen, at least in comparison to 2020, 2022 and 2023, which are all shaping up to be forward heavy in the top 10 or at least the top five. Lambos could emerge as another challenger for first overall in next year’s draft. He’s an impact player from the back end — somewhat similar to Bowen Byram at the same age.
Simon Edvinsson is looking like the top Swedish defender for 2021 — coming from the Frolunda factory that produced Erik Karlsson, among others. Edvinsson plays with offensive flair as a projected top-20 pick.
William Eklund is looking like the top Swedish forward for 2021, though he’ll have a few challengers for that title throughout his draft year. Eklund established himself as the frontrunner among Swedes by standing out for his country — and tying for the team lead in scoring — as an underager at last summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He’d be a top-20 pick if that draft was held tomorrow — perhaps closer to the top 10.
That brings us to the Lucius brothers — Chaz for 2021 and Cruz for 2022. Both are forwards for The Program. Both can snipe with the best of them — being among the best goal-scorers in their respective draft classes. Chaz, in particular, is known for his shot and his finishing ability, but there is a flashiness to both of their games as well. A flashiness that goes well with their names.
There are so many fun prospects on this final day. Zach Dean is the third and final Zach from the QMHL for 2021 — following L’Heureux and Bolduc. Believe it or not, all three Zachs could crack the first round in next year’s draft. Dean will be a driver and a go-to guy for Gatineau this coming season after debuting with 46 points in 57 games.
Gatineau could be getting another gamebreaker in Russian forward Alexei Prokopenko — their first-round pick (eighth overall) in this year’s CHL Import Draft. Prokopenko would bring plenty of flash and dash!
Maxim Barbashev, a 2022 forward prospect from Russia, will be reporting to QMJHL Moncton — following in the footsteps of his older brother, St. Louis Blues forward Ivan Barbashev, who was drafted in the second round (33rd overall) from Moncton back in 2014 after two stellar seasons there. Maxim will also be getting two seasons with the Wildcats before his draft.
Cam MacDonald is another forward prospect to watch with QMJHL Saint John. Between the 2020 and 2021 drafts, half the Sea Dogs’ roster could be selected over those two years. MacDonald is coming from USHL Sioux Falls and will be trying to find his place in Saint John’s lineup while making his mark during his draft year — much like the aforementioned Peter Reynolds.
Brennan Othmann, from Flint, and Ty Voit, from Sarnia, are two more OHL forwards with first-round potential for 2021. Othmann is well ahead of Voit in most preseason rankings, but Voit is talented enough to close that gap and perhaps become the better pro. Voit is on the smaller side but super skilled with a ton of upside.
Matthew Coronato rounds out the USHL Chicago contingent for this Futures Auction as a forward who found a way to contribute 40 points in 45 games despite being overshadowed by his higher-profile teammates this past season. Coronato will step into a starring role for the Steel next season and could turn that opportunity into a first-round selection in 2021.
Carter Schade is a defender from USHL Lincoln that has been linked to the 2021 first round after debuting there with two goals and three points in just five games. He was also a point-per-game player — 50 points in 50 games, including 23 goals — for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ under-16 elite program last season.
Samuel Helenius, a 6-foot-6 Finnish centre, and Yeremei Shumilin, a shifty Russian forward with finishing ability, could be sleepers for 2021.
Two of the top European forwards for 2023 appear to be Jesse Nurmi — the top Finn as of today — and Samuel Sisik as another Slovak who happens to be developing in Finland. Sisik will be part of that resurgence for Slovakia with the aforementioned Juraj Slafkovsky (2022), Ondrej Molnar (2023) and Daniel Alexander Jencko (2023) as forwards, plus Simon Nemec (2022) on defence.
The final prospect here is Isaac Howard, another forward from The Program for 2022. Howard has been developing at Shattuck St. Mary’s the past two seasons, producing 64 points (31 goals, 33 assists) in 38 games for the under-16 program after recording 78 points (49 goals, 29 assists) in 53 games for the under-14 program. Howard is clearly a goal-scorer and we’ll see whether he can continue to fill the net for The Program over the next couple seasons.
Day 1 of the Already Drafted Auction is highlighted by a couple of top-10 picks from the WHL in Bowen Byram and Dylan Cozens. Byram, a dynamic defenceman with explosiveness, was taken fourth overall by Colorado in 2019 and Cozens, a hard-charging and clutch forward with a wicked shot, went three picks later to Buffalo at seventh. They could both be in the NHL next season as potential Calder candidates.
Cole Caufield, a top-10 talent who slid to Montreal at 15th in last year’s first round, is only 5-foot-7 but is one of the best snipers in all of hockey. His nickname is Goal Caulfield! He’ll be spending another season in college before he starts filling NHL nets.
Montreal will be getting Alexander Romanov next season as a highly touted Russian blueliner who has been a standout at the last two World Juniors.
Ville Heinola made Winnipeg’s roster out of camp this season and should be a regular on the Jets’ blue line next season. He is a very steady defender, poised beyond his years as another first-round pick from 2019.
Day 1 also features two of the top goaltending prospects in hockey, with Spencer Knight the 13th overall pick for Florida last year and Joel Hofer having backstopped Canada to gold at this year’s World Juniors. Hofer could be pushing Jordan Binnington as St. Louis’ starter in a couple years.
There are lots of bloodlines, starting with Ryan Suzuki as the younger brother of Montreal’s Nick Suzuki — both are skilled forwards and first-round picks, Ryan for Carolina in 2019.
Then there are the older brothers Kaedan Korczak and Kole Lind, whose younger siblings Ryder and Kalan are slated for Day 1 of the Futures. Yes, that was intentional. Kaedan Korczak is a budding blueliner as a second-round pick for Vegas who will likely captain WHL Kelowna this coming season and could pair with Byram at the World Juniors if Byram doesn’t stick in Colorado. Byram and Korczak were partners when Canada won the Hlinka Gretzky Cup two summers ago. Kole Lind also played junior for WHL Kelowna, becoming a second-round pick for Vancouver and being named AHL Utica’s most improved player this season.
There are a couple breakout sensations in Adam Beckman, who led the WHL in scoring this season as a third-round pick for Minnesota, and Jack Dugan, who recently signed with Vegas as a fifth-round pick after leading the NCAA in scoring this season.
Josh Norris and Kirill Marchenko also saw their stock shoot up, while fellow Russian forwards Semyon Der-Arguchintsov and Arseni Gritsyuk are still sleepers to some degree.
Marchenko is staying in Russia, extending his contract there, but he projects as a big part of Columbus’ future and another much-needed scorer for the Blue Jackets.
Norris, a 2017 first-rounder for San Jose who was a key piece in the return for Erik Karlsson, has already debuted for Ottawa and tied for third in the AHL scoring race as a rookie pro with 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games.
Der-Arguchintsov is a playmaker first and foremost who popped at Toronto’s training camp last fall, while Gritsyuk is a real go-getter with a great motor and good wheels that could take him all the way to New Jersey. Those two can be labelled longer shots, but they are both trending up.
Tyler Benson and Matthew Phillips round out the forwards — both established AHL producers who will be trying to make the jump to the NHL next season. They could become players in the Battle of Alberta and for their hometown teams no less, with Benson from Edmonton and Phillips from Calgary. How cool would that be?
Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jack Rathbone round out the defencemen — both also belonging to Canadian teams, with Bernard-Docker a first-round pick for Ottawa and Rathbone recently signing with Vancouver. Both have been standouts at the NCAA level.
Day 2 features two of the best danglers among forward prospects, with Trevor Zegras’ spinning passes and Nils Hoglander’s lacrosse goals. They are both signed for next season and will be starring for Anaheim and Vancouver, respectively, soon enough. That Pacific Division is only going to get more fun and both should be prized fantasy assets.
Day 2 also has bloodlines with the Foote brothers, who would have been teammates in Tampa Bay before Nolan was traded to New Jersey. Both were first-rounders for Tampa and Cal isn’t far away from cracking the Lightning blue line, while Nolan will get a shot with the Devils in the not-too-distant future as a scoring forward. The sons of former NHLer Adam Foote are total pros and should carve out lengthy careers.
Evan Bouchard and Olli Juolevi were top-10 picks as defencemen and both could be in the NHL next season with Edmonton and Vancouver, respectively. Bouchard has drawn comparisons to John Carlson in his playing style, while Juolevi has battled injuries but still has nice upside.
Ilya Sorokin recently signed with the Islanders and has been considered one of the best goaltenders outside the NHL for a few years now. He might platoon with fellow Russian Semyon Varlamov next season and could make a splash similar to Igor Shesterkin with the Rangers.
Justus Annunen isn’t quite on that level, but he’s another Grade-A goaltending prospect that could be Colorado’s future starter. Annunen shone as Finland’s starter at this year’s World Juniors.
Connor Ingram made a great first impression with Nashville after his falling out with Tampa Bay, so he could be in the Predators’ future plans when Pekka Rinne retires. Ingram is still an underrated goaltending prospect among the masses as a third-round pick from 2016.
Back on defence, Calen Addison is going to get an opportunity in Minnesota — Bill Guerin knows him from Pittsburgh and targeted him as part of the return for Jason Zucker — while Josh Brook will be in the mix for Montreal’s blue line in the years to come after a solid pro debut. Addison and Brook were both standouts during their WHL days, but Addison might bring more offence or be cast in more of an offensive role as a pro. He could wind up quarterbacking the Wild power play.
Up front, Klim Kostin and Samuel Poulin are first-round picks with the potential to be scoring forwards for St. Louis and Pittsburgh, respectively. They both play with a bit of jam too.
Alex Formenton is a speedster who could stick in Ottawa this coming season, while Jesse Ylonen has signed with Montreal and will be making his North American debut.
Jan Jenik ripped up the OHL and his stock is soaring for Arizona as a third-rounder from 2018. Worth noting, Jenik was the youngest prospect in that draft class — born on the Sept. 15 cutoff date.
Sasha Chmelevski showed flashes in the AHL as a rookie pro and has significant upside for San Jose.
Finland’s Patrik Puistola (Carolina) and Russia’s Pavel Dorofeyev (Vegas) are promising European forwards who surprisingly slipped to the third round in last year’s draft despite possessing first-round talent. They are both looking like steals already.
Speaking of steals, Mathias Emilio Pettersen has signed with Calgary as a sixth-round pick from 2018 following two stellar seasons with NCAA Denver. Hailing from Norway, Pettersen has come a long way since being a pre-teen YouTube sensation.
Day 3 features arguably the best player outside the NHL in Kirill Kaprizov, who has finally signed with Minnesota and will debut next season at the age of 23. The Russian forward has been a KHL star for four seasons already and scored the golden goal in overtime at the 2018 Olympics. Kaprizov could take the NHL by storm much like Artemi Panarin at the same age.
Grigori Denisenko is another dangerous Russian forward as a first-rounder from 2018 who recently signed with Florida. He could make an immediate impact for the Panthers next season and they could have a couple opportunities in their top six if they don’t extend Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.
Sticking with forwards whose last names end with the letter “o”, Philip Tomasino (Nashville), Joe Veleno (Detroit) and Samuel Fagemo (Los Angeles) are all trending towards being NHL impact players. Tomasino has the speed, Veleno has the smarts, and Fagemo has the shot — those are their calling cards.
Raphael Lavoie can really shoot the pill too — he’s a volume shooter, which will be welcome among Edmonton’s forward group. Lavoie will be in the AHL to start next season, but if his scoring translates from junior to pro, he could help the Oilers fairly soon.
Day 3 boasts a loaded defence group, led by first-rounders Thomas Harley and Ryan Merkley, who nearly made Dallas and San Jose out of camp last fall. Both need refining defensively, but their offensive abilities are going to make them key fantasy players as point-producing blueliners.
Scott Perunovich won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA MVP this past season and has since signed with St. Louis. He’s a terrific puck-mover and could hit the ground running in the NHL at 22 years old — much like Adam Fox.
Reilly Walsh is a similar player, albeit less heralded, as a New Jersey third-rounder from 2017 developing at NCAA Harvard. He is 21 and could turn pro for next season but remains unsigned in the present. Walsh could be another Will Butcher type for the Devils’ back end.
K’Andre Miller has signed with the Rangers after two strong seasons with NCAA Wisconsin. He’s got good size and skill as a first-round pick from 2018 — a big blueliner, at 6-foot-4, with impressive mobility.
Brogan Rafferty is another NCAA alum who exceeded all expectations as an AHL rookie — racking up 45 points in 57 games as a defenceman — and is now looking like Chris Tanev’s replacement in Vancouver. Tanev is a pending free agent and the Canucks are already a cap team, so the 25-year-old Rafferty appears to be an internal fit that will come much cheaper and provide more offence.
Sticking with college standouts but shifting to forwards, John Leonard signed with San Jose after being a Hobey Baker finalist as an overachieving sixth-rounder from 2018, while fellow Hobey Baker finalist Marc Michaelis signed with Vancouver as an undrafted German who is turning 25 this week. Both will be dark horses to make the NHL next season.
Matias Maccelli was also exploring the college route while developing with USHL Dubuque but decided to return home to Finland and turn pro, which turned into a contract with Arizona as a fourth-rounder from 2019. Like the aforementioned Jenik, Maccelli’s stock is really on the rise.
To the contrary, fellow Finnish forward Kristian Vesalainen’s stock seems to be slipping — at least slightly — as a first-rounder from 2017. Vesalainen was a surprising omission from Winnipeg’s return-to-play camp roster, considering he suited up for five games with the Jets last season and managed 30 points in 60 AHL games this season as a 20-year-old.
Last but not necessarily least among the forwards is Philipp Kurashev, who had his coming-out party at last year’s World Juniors in Vancouver as Switzerland’s go-to guy. Kurashev can score and could be a fourth-round steal for Chicago.
Speaking of standouts from that World Juniors in Vancouver, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen backstopped Finland to gold there before undergoing hip surgery, which sidelined him for much of his rookie pro season. But UPL, as he’s known, is still the leading candidate to be Buffalo’s goaltender of the future.
All three of the Day 3 goalies were starters at that WJC tournament. Lukas Dostal (Anaheim) was stellar for the Czech Republic and Michael DiPietro (Vancouver) had his shining moments for Canada in his future NHL home.
Day 4 also has a couple high-profile Russian forwards in top-10 picks Vasily Podkolzin (Vancouver) and Vitali Kravtsov (New York Rangers). They are different players, with Podkolzin being a real driver and clutch scorer, while Kravtsov is more of a playmaker and prefers the perimeter.
Arthur Kaliyev is American — though his name sounds Russian — and he could become a lethal scorer for Los Angeles. Kaliyev netted 51 goals in the OHL during his draft year but still slipped to the second round (33rd overall) because he is a bit of a one-trick pony and there are some concerns over whether that trick will translate to the NHL.
Owen Tippett also flirted with 50 goals in the OHL during his junior days and Florida will be hoping he turns into a scoring forward as the 10th overall pick from 2017. He’s played seven games for the Panthers thus far and could fill that other hole in their top six that was referenced in regards to Denisenko.
Liam Foudy isn’t as much of a scorer — he’s more of a speedster — but he got into two games with Columbus as an emergency call-up and could be in the Blue Jackets’ lineup for their play-in series against Toronto. That would be a thrill for Foudy, who hails from Toronto and captained OHL London this past season as a first-rounder from 2018.
Philip Broberg has made Edmonton’s play-in roster but is unlikely to suit up against Chicago. That is still quite the accomplishment for the Swedish blueliner who is brand new to North America as the eighth overall pick from last year’s draft. Broberg could become a better version of Oscar Klefbom for the Oilers.
Ty Smith is a talented defender from the 2018 first round — taken 17th by New Jersey. He has nothing left to prove in junior, so expect Smith to be donning a Devils’ uniform as early as next season.
Simon Holmstrom played in the AHL as an 18-year-old this season after being selected 23rd overall by the New York Islanders in last year’s draft. That was an interesting development decision for the Swedish forward who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. Holmstrom is proving injury prone but has that first-round talent.
Day 4 features four college forwards in first-rounder John Beecher (Boston), second-rounders Bobby Brink (Philadelphia) and Robert Mastrosimone (Detroit), and 2017 third-rounder Evan Barratt, who signed with Chicago in April following the COVID shutdown and will turn pro next season. The other three were drafted last year and will need some more seasoning but have higher ceilings than Barratt. Brink, in particular, could be a fantasy player and a fan favourite — his middle name is Orr, as in Bobby Orr Brink. Beecher is more of a two-way centre, while Mastrosimone could turn into a middle-six offensive contributor.
The final forward is Dmitry Zavgorodny, another potential steal for Calgary as a seventh-rounder from 2018 who has been developing alongside Alexis Lafreniere — the consensus top prospect and projected first overall pick for 2020 — as a Russian import with QMJHL Rimouski over the past three seasons. Like the aforementioned Pettersen, Zavgorodny is undersized but possesses big-league skill. Both of them are signed and will be turning pro in the Flames’ system next season.
Back on defence, Anttoni Honka (Carolina) and Egor Zamula (Philadelphia) have been standouts on the international stage, while Jordan Spence (Los Angeles) and David Farrance (Nashville) were stellar in their respective leagues this past season. None of them were drafted overly high, with Honka dropping to the third round last year, Zamula getting signed as an undrafted free agent, Spence falling to the fourth round last year, and Farrance being a late third-rounder from 2017. They are all well on their way to outperforming those draft positions.
Honka is the younger brother of Dallas first-rounder Julius Honka, who hasn’t panned out thus far, but Anttoni has turned heads whenever he represents Finland. Zamula starred for Russia at this year’s World Juniors but suffered a back injury there that required season-ending surgery and prevented him from bringing that momentum back to WHL Calgary.
Spence was named the QMJHL’s defenceman of the year after producing 52 points (nine goals, 43 assists) over 60 games for Moncton, while Farrance was a Hober Baker finalist with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) over 34 games for Boston University.
Day 4’s goaltenders aren’t the biggest names either, but all three have starter potential and appear to be their franchise’s best bets going forward.
Ivan Prosvetov (Arizona) has a bit of Ilya Bryzgalov in his personality — and a real swagger on the ice — but he made an impressive transition to pro, enjoying a tremendous first half in the AHL.
Jeremy Swayman signed with Boston after posting a .939 save percentage for NCAA Maine, which had him in the top three for the Hober Baker.
Filip Larsson (Detroit) endured his struggles as a rookie pro but was stellar the previous two seasons with USHL Tri-City (.941 over 30 games) and NCAA Denver (.932 over 22 games). He only turns 22 in August, so Larsson has a lot of runway left in his development.
As for their draft status, Prosvetov was a fourth-rounder (114th overall) in 2018, Swayman was a fourth-rounder (111th) in 2017, and Larsson was a sixth-rounder (167th) in 2016.
Day 5 features a couple forwards from the 2020 draft that are sure to spark bidding wars. Those being Peyton Krebs, a first-rounder for Vegas, and Nick Robertson, a second-rounder for Toronto who would go closer to the top 10 in a redraft after scoring 55 goals in 46 OHL games this season. They both have big-time fantasy potential.
Jason Robertson is Nick’s older brother and although he never had the same hype, Jason has got into three games with Dallas and could develop into a scoring forward for the Stars. Both the Robertson brothers were second-rounders — Jason went 39th in 2017 and Nick landed in the Leafs’ lap at 53rd in 2019.
Ty Dellandrea, a first-rounder for Dallas in 2018, and Jack Studnicka, a second-rounder for Boston in 2017, are both two-way centres that can score. Studnicka has already played two games for the Bruins after earning a call-up from AHL Providence as a rookie pro, while Dellandrea is turning pro next season and might skip the AHL altogether.
Tyler Madden is also turning pro after two terrific NCAA seasons. He was traded from Vancouver to Los Angeles for Tyler Toffoli, but Madden should be a good fit for the Kings’ rebuild. He is the son of former NHLer John Madden but is more offensive-minded than his Selke-winning father.
The Big Three on defence are Cam York, a first-rounder (14th overall) for Philadelphia in 2019 who should have a prominent role for NCAA Michigan next season; Kale Clague, a 2016 second-rounder who got into four games with L.A. as an AHL all-star this season; and Ian Mitchell, a 2017 second-rounder who signed with Chicago after showing shades of Duncan Keith in captaining NCAA Denver.
The other three defenders could surprise as pros after their NCAA stints. Max Gildon has signed with Florida as a 2017 third-rounder following three quality seasons with New Hampshire. He could be next season’s John Marino — Gildon is that type of cerebral defender.
Jordan Harris, a 2018 third-rounder for Montreal, will be entering his third season with Northeastern and could be on the verge of a big offensive breakout at the college level.
Antti Tuomisto, a 2019 second-rounder for Detroit, is coming over from Finland to continue his development at Denver. Tuomisto is a 6-foot-4 righty with nice offensive tools — as evidenced by producing more than a point per game in the Finnish junior league this past season, with 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists) in 48 games.
There are also a few more forwards with NCAA ties. Tyce Thompson, a 2019 fourth-rounder for New Jersey, had a tremendous sophomore season with Providence and is the younger brother of 2016 first-rounder Tage Thompson, who was drafted by St. Louis but traded to Buffalo in the Ryan O’Reilly blockbuster.
Morgan Barron, a 2017 sixth-rounder for the Rangers, has blown up since being drafted and is currently serving as Cornell’s captain. Barron was another Hobey Baker finalist this past season and is the older brother of Justin Barron — a potential 2020 first-rounder as a defence prospect.
Ruslan Iskhakov, a very intriguing Russian and 2018 second-rounder for the Islanders, is leaving college to turn pro in Finland after two seasons with identical stat-lines for Connecticut.
Jonatan Berggren, a 2018 second-rounder for Detroit, is another tantalizingly talented European forward. Berggren, from Sweden, and Iskhakov are both boom-or-bust types, but if they boom, they could be fantasy contributors as offensive catalysts.
Last but not least among the forwards is AHL standout Alex Barre-Boulet, an undrafted 23-year-old who is proving to be another find for Tampa Bay. He could be the next Jonathan Marchessault or Yanni Gourde, who were both developed by Tampa as undrafted prospects. Barre-Boulet has yet to debut for the Lightning, who are obviously deep up front, but that should only be a matter of time if he continues to be among the AHL’s best players — he has finished fifth and sixth in the AHL scoring race over the past two seasons.
That leaves the three goaltenders in Jake Oettinger, a 2017 first-rounder for Dallas who posted a .917 save percentage over 38 AHL appearances as a rookie pro; Pyotr Kochetkov, a 2019 second-rounder for Carolina who emerged as an overager in backstopping Russia to bronze at last year’s World Juniors in Vancouver; and Kaapo Kahkonen, a 2014 fourth-rounder for Minnesota who turns 24 in August and appears to be Devan Dubnyk’s successor after being named the AHL’s goaltender of the year. Kahkonen had a .927 save percentage over 34 AHL appearances and also performed well in his first NHL action with a .913 save percentage in five appearances for the Wild during his second season in North America.
Day 6 has three first-round forwards from last year’s draft in Alex Newhook, who went 16th to Colorado but could go down as a top-10 player from that class and is already trending up as the NCAA’s rookie of the year; Connor McMichael, who went 25th to Washington but is also outperforming his draft position with 102 points (47 goals, 55 assists) for OHL powerhouse London; and Brayden Tracey, who went 29th to Anaheim with promising offensive potential but had to adapt after being traded from WHL Moose Jaw to Victoria this past season. That move should prove beneficial for Tracey as his development continues in the Dub.
The real strength of Day 6 is on defence with five near NHL-ready prospects in Nils Lundkvist, a 2018 first-rounder for the Rangers who turned 20 today and was already one of the best blueliners in Sweden’s pro league as a teenager; Jake Bean, a 2016 first-rounder for Carolina who was named the AHL’s defenceman of the year after leading all defenders in scoring with 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) in 59 games and should be advancing beyond that level next season; Tobias Bjornfot, a 2019 first-rounder for Los Angeles who made the Kings’ roster out of camp and paired with Drew Doughty for a few games before continuing his adjustment to North America in the AHL (six goals, 19 points in 44 games); Conor Timmins, a 2017 second-rounder (32nd overall) for Colorado who overcame a severe concussion to get his career back on track and could be in the Avs’ lineup for the upcoming playoffs; and Nicolas Beaudin, a 2018 first-rounder for Chicago who made his NHL debut with a single appearance this season while looking good as a rookie pro with AHL Rockford (three goals, 15 points in 59 games).
The other defender on Day 6 is Oskari Laaksonen, a 2017 third-rounder who has signed with Buffalo after three pro seasons back home in Finland. He could make his way to the AHL this coming season as a lesser-known prospect with nice offensive tools and a fairly high ceiling.
Lauri Pajuniemi is also flying under the radar as a Finnish forward and 2018 fifth-rounder for the Rangers who broke out for 40 points (26 goals, 14 assists) in 49 games during his third pro season in the Liiga. Pajuniemi turns 21 in September and possesses legit NHL upside.
Rasmus Kupari, a 2018 first-rounder for Los Angeles, is more of a household name among Finnish forwards, but he had a tough start to his North American career with only eight points (six goals, two assists) in 27 AHL games before suffering a season-ending knee injury on the opening day of the World Juniors. That was a season to forget for Kupari, but the potential remains for him to be a key player in the Kings’ rebuild.
Nick Abruzzese, a 2019 fourth-rounder for Toronto, and Alexander Khovanov, a 2018 third-rounder for Minnesota, enjoyed excellent seasons and really raised their stock.
Abruzzese produced 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) in 31 games as an NCAA freshman for Harvard — getting named the Ivy League’s rookie of the year and getting the Leafs’ fan base all riled up.
Khovanov nearly notched 100 points for QMJHL Moncton — racking up 99 points (32 goals, 67 assists) in 51 games, averaging almost two points per game — so he’s looking like a candidate to centre fellow Russian Kaprizov in the future for the Wild.
Isaac Ratcliffe, a 2017 second-rounder for Philadelphia, had a decent pro debut with 15 points and 40 penalty minutes in 53 AHL games after netting 50 goals as a man among boys in the OHL the previous season. Ratcliffe is a 6-foot-6 power forward who will fit right in with the Broad Street Bullies, replacing Wayne Simmonds’ physical presence and possibly James van Riemsdyk’s goals in the future for the Flyers.
Jamieson Rees, a 2019 second-rounder for Carolina, had one of the better motors in his draft class and should be able to carve out an NHL career with that kind of drive. He’s not lacking in offensive skills either and could turn into an Andrew Cogliano-type forward as a pro.
The final two forwards are WHL alums whose careers are trending stride for stride in Glenn Gawdin, who was originally a fourth-round pick for St. Louis in 2015 but went unsigned before inking a free-agent contract with Calgary, and Jayden Halbgewachs, who went undrafted but signed with San Jose after winning the WHL scoring title three seasons ago.
Halbgewachs scored 70 goals that year and finished with 129 points — four more than runner-up Gawdin, who wound up with 56 goals and 125 points but went on to be named playoff MVP in leading the Swift Current Broncos to a championship. They were huge rivals that season, with Gawdin and the Broncos beating out Halbgewachs and the Moose Jaw Warriors in seven games during their first-round series.
From there, they both signed pro deals with Pacific Division rivals and have been calling California home for the past two AHL seasons. As rookie pros, Gawdin netted 11 goals and 38 points in 64 games for Stockton, while Halbgewachs had 13 goals and 35 points in 64 games for San Jose. As sophomores, Gawdin put up 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 53 games, while Halbgewachs tallied 19 goals and 35 points again in 55 games. It’ll be interesting to see which one of those two makes their NHL debut first!
We can’t forget the goaltenders for Day 6, with Hugo Alnefelt, a 2019 third-rounder for Tampa Bay who backstopped Sweden to bronze at this year’s World Juniors; Mads Sogaard, a 2019 second-rounder for Ottawa as a 6-foot-7 Dane developing with WHL Medicine Hat; and Mikhail Berdin, a 2016 sixth-rounder for Winnipeg who continues to trend up and could emerge as Connor Hellebuyck’s backup or get a better opportunity elsewhere.
The seventh and final day of the Already Drafted Auction features four first-rounders from 2019 in forwards Alex Turcotte (fifth overall for Los Angeles), Matthew Boldy (12th for Minnesota), and Jakob Pelletier (26th for Calgary), plus defenceman Victor Soderstrom (11th for Arizona). That was a very strong draft class and all four are trending well a year later.
Boldy had a slow start in college but surged in the second half, Turcotte was consistent throughout and has already signed with the Kings (thus one-and-done in college and turning pro), Pelletier had a similar season statistically for QMJHL Moncton but continued to round out his game with a real in-your-face style that Matthew Tkachuk and Brad Marchand could appreciate, and Soderstrom produced an impressive stat-line among men as a sophomore in Sweden’s pro league. Soderstrom is signed and expected to challenge for a role on the Coyotes’ blue line next season.
Shane Pinto was the first pick of the second round (32nd for Ottawa) — to some surprise, considering the options that slipped out of the first round — and he is living up to that draft spot by being named the NCAA’s rookie of the year with North Dakota and shining on the international stage as the leading goal-scorer for Team USA at this year’s World Juniors. Pinto opened a lot of eyes to his potential during that tournament — he plays a heavy game with a heavy shot.
Eeli Tolvanen, a 2017 first-rounder for Nashville, netted 21 goals in the AHL — up from 15 the previous season — and projects as a scoring forward for the Predators. He could make that jump to the NHL next season with a strong showing in training camp under new coach John Hynes.
The rest of the forwards — the other six — are relatively under the radar but could all emerge as NHLers and fantasy players in the years to come. They are all boom-or-bust types but are trending up and could be targeted as sleepers.
Lucas Elvenes, a 2017 fifth-rounder for Vegas, took the AHL by storm in his North American debut and was leading the league in scoring for a while before finishing tied for 15th with 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists) in 59 games.
Maxim Cajkovic, a 2019 third-rounder for Tampa Bay, possesses an NHL-calibre shot with a wicked release and will now be teammates with Pelletier for QMJHL Val-d’Or next season — both were traded there in recent months.
Mikhail Abramov, a 2019 fourth-rounder for Toronto, was a one-man show with QMJHL Victoriaville — racking up 76 points (35 goals, 41 assists) in 63 games, which was 35 points more than his nearest teammate.
Nikola Pasic, a 2019 seventh-rounder for New Jersey, shone in Sweden’s second division, the Allsvenskan, and should continue to be an offensive catalyst as he moves up the ranks. Pasic is a project but could be a steal similar to fellow Swede Jesper Bratt, who was a 2016 sixth-rounder for the Devils.
Logan Hutsko, a 2018 third-rounder for Florida, produced over a point per game with Boston College and could be a Hobey Baker candidate next season as one of the NCAA’s leading scorers.
Jakub Lauko, a 2018 third-rounder for Boston, showed flashes as a rookie pro and could have been a revelation at the World Juniors if not for a serious knee injury on the opening day. Lauko recovered and returned before the end of the AHL season, showing more flashes as a potential offensive weapon for the Bruins in the future.
The rest of the defencemen — the remaining five — are also a little underappreciated in the present.
Mikey Anderson, a 2017 fourth-rounder for Los Angeles, has already played a half-dozen games for the Kings — more than the aforementioned Clague and Bjornfot — and is a real character guy who captained Team USA at last year’s World Juniors in Vancouver.
Zachary Jones, a 2019 third-rounder for the Rangers, had a splendid NCAA debut in getting named to the All-Rookie Team with 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 32 games. Jones could be another Adam Fox in the making.
Dominick Fensore, a 2019 third-rounder for Carolina, produced 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) over 34 games in his NCAA debut. He’ll be boom or bust but has a big following as a 5-foot-7 defender. Everyone likes to root for the little guy!
Bode Wilde, a 2018 second-rounder for the Islanders, has had some off-ice issues but has a high ceiling as a 6-foot-3 right-handed blueliner with offensive tools. He’s reminiscent of Zach Bogosian back when he was a promising prospect as the third overall pick from 2008 behind Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty and just ahead of Alex Pietrangelo. If Wilde can focus on hockey and keep his head in the game, he could really blow up as he matures.
Dmitri Samorukov, a 2017 third-rounder for Edmonton, didn’t put up numbers as a rookie pro — with only 10 points (two goals, eight assists) over 47 games for AHL Bakersfield — but he passes the eye test as a big two-way defender. Samorukov is on loan to the KHL for the upcoming season but is still very much in the Oilers’ future plans on defence.
Three award-winning goaltenders close it all out, with Dustin Wolf, a 2019 seventh-rounder who has already been signed by Calgary; Erik Portillo, a 2019 third-rounder for Buffalo who is now bound for NCAA Michigan; and Ian Scott, a 2017 fourth-rounder for Toronto who has been sidelined by hip surgery since backstopping WHL Prince Albert to a championship.
Scott, who stands 6-foot-4, didn’t suit up this past season but was the WHL’s playoff MVP and the CHL’s goaltender of the year when he last strapped on the pads. He even scored a goal during that storybook season. Scott should be back in action this coming season, making his pro debut with the AHL Marlies.
Wolf was this season’s CHL goaltender of the year and has posted the WHL’s best save percentage for two years in a row — .936 and .935 over 107 combined regular-season appearances as Carter Hart’s successor with Everett. The WHL has now produced three straight CHL goaltender of the year winners in Hart (2018), Scott (2019) and Wolf (2020). The knock on Wolf and why he was a seventh-rounder despite those sensational stats is his height — generously listed as six-feet tall — but he can evidently stop the puck.
Portillo, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-6 Swede who could challenge the 6-foot-4 Finn Luukkonen for the Sabres’ net, but Buffalo has no need to rush Portillo, who made his North American debut as the USHL’s goaltender of the year. Portillo could backstop Michigan to a championship or two over the next few campaigns before turning pro.
That’s it — that’s the list — so who wants to get their hands on the future of hockey? Register as a scout — between now and August 15 — and get in on the bidding!
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