Month: January 2019

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 5)

In round 5 you’ll take some gambles, but not like you do in the 6th and 7th. Here you’re looking for guys who slipped through the cracks of rounds 2-4. There’s going to be guys that you thought should go higher, but they didn’t. This is also a place to grab kids from outside the big 6 (USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic) hockey countries.

Kyen Sopa – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
9/30/2000 – Flawil, Switzerland
Current Team: Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
I have talked up Kyen Sopa alot because when I watch the Ice Dogs, he entertains me. He’s a little on the diminutive side at 5’9, but he’s got speed and flare and just plain looks good playing hockey. I was excited when he got an invite to the Swiss camp for the World Junior Championship this year, but was very disappointed when he didn’t make the final team. He was a point machine with Bern’s Under20 squad last season and has produced well enough for the Ice Dogs in more of a depth role for them. He keeps flying under the radar, but every time I’ve watched him I’ve been impressed. I feel like he’s one of those kids who in the years following his draft year he will absolutely go off and people will be asking, “How did we miss this kid?”

Oliver Okuliar – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
5/24/00 – Trencin, Slovakia
Current Team: Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Oliver was ranked #66 among European Skaters by central scouting for the 2018 draft. I couldn’t believe he didn’t go. He absolutely dominated the Slovak under 20 league. He was a dominant scoring force that the Under 18 World Junior championship last year also. Sherbrooke took him 25th overall in the import draft. He’s made the transition well. He still scores goals and creates opportunities for teammates even with the adjustment to North America. He’s got 12 goals and 20 assists making him the 4th leading point scorer for a very middle of the road Sherbrooke team. Those are not the kind of numbers that tend to catch the attention of scouts, but one has to take into account the adjustment to playing the North American game, and the quality of teammate he is playing with. He’s certainly worth taking a close look at.

Valeri Orekhov – Defender (Left-Handed)
7/17/99 – Kazakhstan
Current Team: Barys Astana (KHL)
If you watched the world juniors, you saw Defenseman Valeri Orekhov play. You saw him play really well, all things considered. The plucky Kazakhs became fan favorites as they valiantly battled insurmountable odds. Orekhov was one of their best players throughout the tournament. But, when the tournament was over, Orekhov went back to his role as a third pairing defender for Bars Astana of the KHL. Right now, this kid is playing professional hockey in arguably the second best league in the world. There’s no reason to believe he couldn’t do it in the NHL. There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t grow and get better and build on an already stalwart base. He skates well, he shoots well, he sets up his teammates and he keeps working hard no matter what the score is. He might be a longer term project and he might stay in the KHL for a few years, but it would be nice to have his rights.

Matej Blumel – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
5/31/00 – Tabor, Czech Republic
Current Team: Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Matej is a young Czech player who’s in his second USHL season. He didn’t really wow anyone with his 18 points in 50 games his first year. His second year has been quite a bit better with 23 goals, and 24 assists in 34 games for the Hawks. He’s committed to UConn for the 2019-2020 season.  UConn has been a decent school for NHL prospects to grow in.  Tage Thompson recently finished his stint there and there’s no doubt it helped his growth as a player.  Blumel will certainly benefit from a couple years of tuning in the NCAA for the NHL/AHL game, but I would expect him to come out of college as a strong candidate to make an NHL roster.  He has the right tools at his disposal to succeed.  Blumel had a brilliant 4 goal performance against the US in the 5 Nations tournament back in February of 2018. In his highlight films he exhibits excellent burst speed and slick hands.  He also has a strong, accurate snapshot that catches goalies off guard.  The young Czech is definitely a good future project.

Shane Pinto – Forward (Right-Handed)
11/12/00 – Franklin Square, NY, USA
Current Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)
The more I analyze Shane Pinto, the more I’m convinced that I’ve got him way too low being in the 5th round.  This draft could be a big one for the USHL and Pinto is definitely one of the shining stars.  It starts with his frame.  He’s 6’2, and 185 pounds.  When he’s suited up on the ice, he has that “look” of a hockey player.  I haven’t even gotten to what he does on the ice yet.  He’s probably the most complete draft eligible player in the USHL right now aside from Afanasyev.  He puts the puck in the net.  He sets his teammates up to put the puck in the net.  He’s responsible enough in his own end.  He’s got the speed and the hockey IQ to make things happen and turn nothing into something.  He’s North Dakota bound, and I give their scouting department the strongest vote of confidence.  If the collegiate scouting team at North Dakota is sure this kid is going to be good, that combined with what I’ve seen from him is enough for me.  There’s no way he’s in the 5th round still when my end of the regular season draft board comes out.

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 6)

Round 6 is a lot like Round 7.  You make your gambles here.  You go for the guys that one scout in your scouting department is adamant can make it at the next level even though everybody else in the room has barely even heard of the kid.  You’re hunting for a diamond in the rough, the next Jamie Benn or Jesper Bratt, but you can also afford to spend these picks on long term development projects and kids from “non-traditional” hockey countries.

Keighan Gerrie – Center (Right-Handed)
4/6/01 – Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Current Team: Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL)
The majority of people who read this will never have heard of the SIJHL.  It is the Superior International Junior Hockey League.  The “Superior” in the name is named for Lake Superior which all six teams that play in the league are reasonably proximal to.  It’s not a well known league by any stretch of the imagination, but this is where Thunder Bay native Keighan Gerrie is plying his trade.  Frankly, I’m not sure the reason he is there.  He was drafted by the London Knights of the OHL.  The Knights are an absolute NHL prospect factory, churning out top end prospects year after year.  NHL central scouting had this kid ranked 140th among North American skaters in their midseason rankings.  There’s good reason for this.  The SIJHL is predominantly made up of older players and there aren’t many draft eligible kids there.  Gerrie is near the top of the league in point production for this season and last season.  EVERYBODY who gets paid to know what they are talking about, who sees this kid, sees real potential.  In the footage that I can find, I have seen an aggressive puck hounding player who exhibits exceptional skill at taking the puck away from the opposition and then creating offense.  The people I have spoken to who see him more regularly than I do tell me he’s an on ice leader and a goal scorer.  I’m going to try to find more on him as the season progresses, but he has to be one of THE most interesting prospects in the upcoming draft at this point.

Alexander Peresunko – RW/LW (Right-Handed)
2/8/00 – Kharkov, Ukraine
Current Team: Boston Jr. Bruins (NCDC)
The Ukraine hasn’t really been a hotbed of producing NHL talent over the years and the NCDC isn’t exactly known for churning out NHL players.  HOWEVER, the National Collegiate Development Conference is certainly the best junior hockey league in the Northeastern United States.  Peresunko got passed over in his first draft eligible year and that’s not really a shock.  The 5’11 winger only had 14 points in 19 games and didn’t have a collegiate commitment yet.   While he still does not have a collegiate commitment, his point totals have skyrocketed and he performed well in the Division 1B World Junior Championship, representing the Ukraine.  In 31 games this season he’s managed 46 points.  It seems likely that by draft time there will be a college that has made the offer to allow him to play at the NCAA level.  It will be interesting to see which college that is.

Ben Kraws – Goaltender
8/2/00 – Cranbury, NJ, USA
Current Team: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Ben Kraws is ranked #25 among North American Goalies by Central Scouting.  His USHL stats are not overwhelming, but when you take a goalie in the late rounds, you are expecting a project.  Ben would be a good project for any NHL team to grab onto.  He’s 6’4 which is that sweet spot in size that teams are looking for.  He has carried the starting load for his USHL squad for this season and last season, and he’s been picked up by the Miami University of Ohio.  Miami U is in that big NCHC conference.  If Kraws can get himself the starting job at Miami, he’s going to play in-conference games against North Dakota, University of Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud St, Denver and Western Michigan.  This Conference turns out a lot of NHL players.  This type of seasoning could turn Ben Kraws into a real goaltender of the future.

Yegor Sokolov – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
7/7/00 – Yekaterinburg, Russia
Current Team: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
I could not believe Sokolov didn’t get picked his first time around.  I noticed him every time I was scouting other players as they played against Cape Breton.  He’s an absolute tank on the ice.  6’4, 231 pounds with a booming, accurate shot.  He doesn’t pad his overall point totals with a lot of assists, but the kid scores goals.  Not only that, but he scores them all the ways that matter.  He can take it himself on a breakaway and score, or he can use his size in a power forward role, and be big in front of the net for tips and tap-ins.  He’s not the greatest skater, and he’s not the best in his own end, but the puck goes off his stick and finds the net.  Who doesn’t want that?

Emil Martinsen Lilleberg – Defender (Left-Handed)
2/2/01 – Norway
Current Team: Sparta Sarpsborg (Norway)
EML is what I’m going to shorten this kid’s name to.  He’s currently a boy among men.  EML plays, not in Norwegian juniors, but in their men’s league, the GET-ligaen.  There’s a few former NCAA standouts over there right now.  Former St. Cloud standout Joey Benik is a top scorer in that league as are former AHL players Mario Lucia and Austin Cangelosi.  There’s a few other foreign league journeymen there who had good careers in North American juniors or other professional leagues.  So the Norwegian league is not just a throwaway.  What matters though, is that here is a 17 (soon to be 18) year old kid, who plays with men and doesn’t suck at it.  His coach raves about his physical attributes and his grasp of the game.  Norway doesn’t produce a lot of NHL players, but this kid could be the next one.  A team that drafts him might want to see him spend a year in the CHL similar to Liam Kirk from the UK (Drafted by Arizona in 2018).

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 7)

The 5th, 6th and 7th round players are going to be some of the hardest kids to get a lot of info on because I dug deep for them.  That’s where you find your gems.  You have to look under the rocks that other people aren’t looking under and in places that other guys gloss over.  If you’re drafting 18 year old kids from the big 3 CHL leagues, you’re probably doing it wrong.  These are going to be the kids from overseas leagues, overaged kids who got missed the first time around, and some USHL and US High School kids mixed in.  A solid bet though is to rely on the scouting of top NCAA programs.  The NCAA is a factory that churns out a lot of undrafted free agent talent and turns late round prospects into future franchise cornerstones.

Brandon Bussi – Goaltender
6/25/98: Sound Beach, NY, USA
Current team:  Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Bussi is an unorthodox right hand catching goaltender.  He got passed over the previous 2 years because he was playing in the NAHL and the NCDC respectively.  This season though, he’s playing outstanding hockey for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL.  As of writing this he has a 2.20 GAA and .924 sv% in 33 games.  Bussi has the size you want to see from a prospect goaltender.  He checks in at 6’3 and 214 pounds.  What’s most interesting about him, is that each year as his level of competition increases, so do his stats.  He’s committed to Western Michigan University for next season.  Western Michigan plays in the NCHC, one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA.  Bussi will get the opportunity to grow his game against top schools like North Dakota, St Cloud st, Denver and UMD.  From a 7th round goalie prospect this is the kind of thing you want to see.  A team that drafts him will have a big body goaltender in their system for at least 3 years playing against top level competition.  Even though he’s 20, goaltenders tend to take more time to make the jump.  This cuts off 2 years of the waiting, but gets his rights as he enters the NCAA.

Alexandros Aslanidis – Goaltender
1/20/01: Moorestown, NJ, USA
Current team: Avon Old Farms School (USHS)
Aslanidis is another goalie from the North East.  I don’t have a lot on the kid but here’s what I do know.  Central Scouting ranked him 20th among North American goalies available in the 2019 draft.  He’s huge.  He’s 6’5, 220 pounds at 17 years old.  He’s committed to Providence for the 2020-2021 season.  Providence is in Hockey East and they do not mess around.  If Providence has scouted this kid, with his tangible size attributes, he’s got a good chance of being an upper echelon NCAA goaltender in one of the tougher conferences.  As with Bussi, this is what you want from a goaltending prospect.  Time for them to grow in a highly competitive environment.

Cade Alami – Defender (Right Handed)
3/13/01: Bedford, NY, USA
Current Team: Berkshire School (USHS)
A high school kid from NY, Alami is a tall kid who plays defense.  By “tall” I mean he’s 6’7.  The NHL has gotten away from drafting size on the backend, but if this kid can hone his wheels in the NCAA, his size and reach will give him an advantage against many forwards.  He’s also committed to Providence for the 2020-2021 season.  Defenders tend to be a long term development prospect.  Size and speed are two things you cannot teach.  This kid has the size and will get time in college to show if he’s got the speed.  That’s worth a 7th round pick.

Elmer Soderblom – Forward (Left Handed)
7/5/01: Goteborg, Sweden
Current Team: Frolunda HC J20 (SuperElit)
Elmer Soderblom is like a 17 year old, Swedish, Brian Boyle.  He’s 6’7, 216 pounds and has surprisingly good hands for a kid his size.  He’s not a point scoring dynamo but the 7th round is where you take your moonshots.  This kid has the size to be annoying, if the rest comes together it’s a worthy investment.

Jeremie Bucheler – Defender (Right Handed)
3/31/00: St-Laurent, Quebec, Canada
Current Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Bucheler is a 6’4 194 pound right handed defender having a really solid year for the Grizzlies.  He has 36 points in 41 games.  His first draft year with the Chicago Steel he only managed 6 points in the entire 51 game season.  The Grizzlies are a powerhouse of the BCHL this season behind scoring phenom Alex Newhook.  The logical conclusion is that playing with better players has increased Bucheler’s point production.  That’s not necessarily a negative count against him.  There’s room in the NHL for defenders who can get the puck up to their forwards in such a way that it helps create scoring chances.  If Bucheler has discovered a puck moving aspect of his game, then he has strong potential value at the next level.

My 2019 Draft Board (Mid Season)

It’s going to start with a list and then in subsequent posts it will be expanded upon.
Here’s how it works.  I’m going to list 5 players that I would take in each round and then in subsequent posts expand upon each round.  Where the players are listed is going to be predominantly based on my own watching of the sport combined with player ratings from:
The Draft Analyst
Future Considerations

I’ll be using a loose range also, so if you see me list a player in the 3rd round, who’s ranked by others to go in the 4th or 5th, that’s my subjective assessment of where I think that player should go.  Also, in this draft the top 3 kids are the top 3 kids.  I’m going to assume that I am a team that is not picking in the top 3 as I make this list, because so much is going to be written about the 3 of them that I can probably contribute nothing new to the discussion.

Round 1:
Victor Soderstrom: RHD (Sweden)
Alex Newhook: C/W (Canada)
Arthur Kaliyev: C/W (USA)
Dylan Cozens: C/W (Canada)
Nils Hoglander: W (Sweden)

Round 2:
Brett Leason: RW/C (Canada)
Bobby Brink: RW (USA)
Graeme Clarke: RW (Canada)
Yegor Afanasyev: LW (Russia)
Judd Caulfield: RW (USA)

Round 3:
Nathan Legare: RW (Canada)
Harrison Blaisdell: C (Canada)
Nikita Alexandrov: C (Germany)
Jeremi Gerber: RW (Switzerland)
Nikita Okhotyuk: LHD (Russia)

Round 4:
Nathan Dunkley: LW (Canada)
Yannick Bruschweiler: LW (Switzerland)
Ryan Siedem: RHD (USA)
Adam Edstrom: C (Sweden)
Alex Beaucage: RW (Canada)

Round 5:
Valeri Orekhov LHD (Kazakhstan)
Shane Pinto: F (USA)
Matej Blumel: F (Czech Republic)
Kyan Sopa: F (Switzerland)
Oliver Okuliar: F (Slovakia)

Round 6:
Emil Martinsen Lilleberg: LHD (Norway)
Yegor Sokolov: RW (Russia)
Ben Kraws: G (USA)
Alexander Peresunko: F (Ukraine)
Keighan Gerrie: F (Canada)

Round 7:
Brandon Bussi: G (USA)
Jeremie Bucheler: RHD (Canada)
Alexandros Aslanidis: G (USA)
Elmer Soderblom: C/W (Sweden)
Cade Alami: RHD (USA)