Prospect Mailbag V1

About two weeks ago our Instagram page hit 18 thousand followers, and we decided to let you guys, the followers, ask us some questions on prospects that you wanted answered. We chose 25 questions that were either asked often or that we simply wanted to answer. Here are the ones we chose and the answers to some of your most pressing questions:

Q: Later round steals to watch for? (2019 Draft)

A: There were a lot of late round steals but some of the biggest ones were:
Patrik Puistola (CAR, 73), Pavel Dorofeyev (VGK, 79), Anttoni Honka (CAR, 83), Tuukka Tieksola (CAR, 121). Clearly, we believe Carolina had a great draft.

Q: Biggest steal in the 2019 draft?

A: The draft just happened and obviously it’s too early to tell but when I watch Anttoni Honka I really can’t believe that he fell all the way to the 3rd round to Carolina. Honka has a lot of upside as an effective puck-moving defenseman at the NHL level and if all goes right, we could be looking at the steal of the draft in a few years. 

Q: Does Lucas Raymond have a shot at stealing #1 from Lafreniere?

A: Not really unless he absolutely tears up the SHL this season. Raymond would need to have a record-breaking season playing against men in arguably the third-hardest league in the world to have a shot at stealing #1 from Lafreniere. I would also think Lafreniere would need to have a down year production wise in the QMJHL for Raymond to take the #1 spot which I don’t see happening.

Q: Why do you think Button had Holtz 9 and do you think it will change?

A: Draft rankings are very malleable, especially at this time of year. No regular season games in any league have been played. As a result, everything written about the 2020 NHL Draft at this point is still subject to much change. Button is somebody that seemingly puts a lot of stock into international play, and as events like the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the World Juniors, the U18’s, and various other tournaments happen throughout the year, his rankings will change a lot. It’s unlikely that Holtz will end the season ranked 9th. As for Button’s reasoning for currently having Holtz where he is, I’m honestly not too sure. Holtz has performed very well on the international stage as an underager, and dominated the junior ranks in Sweden. My best guess is that it’s more that he simply just likes other players more, and not that he has any sort of dislike for Alexander Holtz or his game. Button is a pretty approachable guy, and he would definitely be better suited to answer this question than we are, so I’d recommend just reaching out to him on Twitter. He’ll probably get back to you.

Q: Any big names for 2021 (other than Wallstedt)?

A: The 2021 draft is interesting because there are lots of high-end talent but no one prospect that has really stood out as a clear #1. However, some guys that could push for that #1 spot are: Aatu Raty, Brandt Clarke, and Dylan Guenther. Raty is an electrifying Finnish winger who we may see play against men this season in his D-1 year in the Liiga. Brandt Clarke is an elite puck-moving defenseman who had 113 points in 73 games in midget playing with Shane Wright on the Don-Mills Flyers in the GTHL. Clarke is the #1 defenseman for 2021 so far. Dylan Guenther is a big offensive winger with an exceptional release and a really nice set of hands. Guenther will be playing with Edmonton in the WHL this season after scoring over 2 PPG playing with Matthew Savoie in Canadian Prep School last year.

Q: What do you think Byfield’s potential is?

A: Byfield has the tools to become an elite number one center on a contending team. We’ve already written about him and all the reasons we think he’s a top 3 prospect in an amazing draft. That article can be found here.

Q: Top 2020 American?

A: It’s a weaker year for the Americans. I would say Antonio Stranges is the top 2020 American. Ty Smilanic and Dylan Peterson are some other names to keep an eye on.

Q: Best defenceman eligible for the 2020 draft?

A: At this point probably Jamie Drysdale from Erie in the OHL. Some other names to look out for are: Jeremie Poirier, Justin Barron and Braden Schneider. The 2020 draft is similar to the 2019 draft in that there are a lot of high-end forward prospects but not a lot of top defenseman. We may only see 1 or 2 defenseman taken in the top 10 again this year.

Q: Most underrated 2020 prospect?

A: Being a year away it’s tough to already know who’s underrated but Hayden Fowler is certainly one to keep an eye on. He had 18 points in 25 games this season and is a terrific playmaker. Considering he wasn’t in FCHockey’s top 100, I’d say that’s underrated.

Q: Will Trevor Zegras one day be considered elite?

A: Zegras has that type of potential. He finished 7th on our board and we thought Anaheim grabbing him at 9th was one of the best value selections in the 2019 NHL Draft. Zegras’ game screams upside. He is arguably the most creative forward drafted in 2019, and that’s saying a lot. He’ll hit you with crazy no-look, behind the back, spin-o-rama passes a couple times a game. His vision is outstanding. He has a really nice shot when he uses it. His hands are high-end. If he can improve his skating and get a step faster, I think that he could become a first line scorer at the NHL level, although you must remember that speaking with certainty regarding prospects is often a fool's errand. We are high enough on Zegras to the point where we think it’s a real possibility, though.

Q: Who has the biggest ceiling for 2nd rd dmen

A: Honestly, I believe the defencemen chosen in the third round will outperform the ones in the second round in the long run, however Jayden Struble probably has the highest ceiling. He was an under the radar guy because he played USHS, however he’s a great skater and moves the puck effectively.

Q: Montreal Canadiens 2019 draft rating?

A: I wasn’t thrilled with Montreal’s day two at the 2019 NHL Draft. They made one of the best value selections in the first round, nabbing American goal-scoring machine Cole Caufield 15th overall, but their approach on day two was a little odd. They went after some bigger defenseman with “edge” when there were more skilled forwards available, they picked a goalie that we admittedly had never even heard of before draft day in Nissen-Dichow, and they used a pick on a low-scoring midget AAA player. Norlinder was a decent value pick, but I feel like Montreal could’ve taken a better approach going into day two, adding more skill. Full marks to them on the Rhett Pitlick pick though, he fits the mold of what we wished they targeted all draft long. Swings on skill, creativity and upside. Struble was a nice pick too.

Q: Thoughts on Nolan Foote in the WJSS?

A: Nolan Foote has been one of the better Canadian forwards throughout the WJSS. I still have some concerns about his skating and I’m not sure if he was the best pick at #30 for Tampa Bay but he definitely scores a lot of goals and looks like a real interesting option on the power-play. If he can grow into his frame some more and work on that skating I can see him being a decent power-forward at the next level. I expect him to dominate the WHL this year and be one of Canada’s better forwards at the WJC in December.

Q: Was Dach actually the 3rd best player available in the 2019 draft? What is his potential?

A: In our opinion, no. We had him ranked 8th, so we personally believe that he was the 8th best player available. With that being said, Dach is a big centreman with a ton of upside. That’s not exactly the worst type of player in the world to take a swing on. While we don’t think that we would’ve made that selection, Dach is still a phenomenal prospect. He can take over games when he’s on, he is a brilliant passer, his hands are fantastic, and he’s a takeaway machine. Based off of what I caught of him at the World Junior Summer Showcase, his speed is starting to improve, too. There are consistently issues there (he’ll go long stretches without scoring, but absolutely light it up for long stretches sometimes), but as Dach matures and continues to develop this should improve, at least a bit. There is a lot to like about this player, though, and Chicago fans should be excited about him. He has first line upside.

Q: Who’s the #1 projected Goalie in the 2020 draft?

A: Yaroslav Askarov has been getting top-10 praise from tons of different scouting agencies. He is the clear cut number one goalie in the 2020 draft, and it looks like he’s already ran away with it.

Q: What can we expect from Antonio Stranges this season?

A: Stranges should be given lots of minutes next season, along with power play time. I expect him to put up over a point per game in an increased role and solidify himself as a player deserving of a top 15 spot.

Q: Who will go top 3, because there are a lot of different predictions.

A: As it stands we believe Lafrenière has separated himself from the pack and Raymond should fight it out with Byfield to fill out the 2nd and 3rd slots.

Q: Where do you think Dawson Mercer will go in the 2020 Draft?

A: If he takes advantage of a heightened role, I believe Mercer could go in the early 20’s or even push for a spot in the late teens. I didn’t get to watch him a ton but I liked what I saw in the limited time I did.

Q: Will teams regret letting Kaliyev slip by?

A: We 100% think they will. Kaliyev was a definite first rounder for us and many others. While he may not be the best off the puck, Kaliyev is an elite scorer in his age group, and a very good playmaker too. The bottom line is, you need to score goals to win games, and Kaliyev certainly helps you scores lot of goals.

Q: Cole Caufield’s potential?

A: It seems crazy to say this about a player two months after he was drafted in the mid first round, but Caufield has the potential to score over 0.5 Goals per game with his shot. The thing is he’s going to need a very good playmaker on his line to do so. If Montreal finds a player Caufield clicks with, he can certainly put up 40+ goals a season.

Q: Thoughts on Marco Rossi, why is he not top 5 in the 2020 Draft?

A: I’m a huge fan of Rossi’s game. He isn’t given enough credit for the role he played centering the 67’s top line, and I think he’s a top 10 prospect eligible for the upcoming draft as it stands. Him not being top 5 has nothing to do with him but more the fact that 2020 is not only deep but also loaded with tons of top end talent and that pushes Rossi to the back end of the top 10.

Q: Do you think taking Seider that high was the right move?

A: I don’t think so. Seider was our fifth highest ranked defenceman, and our 20th prospect overall. I think he has the potential to become a good second pairing guy, but he’s more of a safe guy that doesn’t have sky high upside, which you should probably look for in a 6th overall pick. If they really wanted Seider, I’d assume they could have traded down, although we obviously don’t know how trade conversations went down on the draft floor.

Q: Who do you think is way too high or too low on NHL Network’s top prospects list?

A: I think Tolvanen, Texier and Veleno were all being underrated on that list, and on the flip side, I’d say Poehling was too high. I see Poehling as more of a middle sixer while the first three guys all have the potential to become very good second liners at least.

Q: Why is the QMJHL going to have a good showing in the 2020 draft other than Lafrenière?

A: There is so much talent outside of Alexis Lafrenière in the QMJHL for the 2020 draft. Jérémie Poirier is one of the top ranked defenseman eligible for the 2020 draft. He will be playing in Saint John next year with fellow draft eligible defenseman William Villeneuve and Charlie Desroches, both who are high ranked blue-liners. Other notable blue-liners in the QMJHL crop are: Lukas Cormier, Justin Barron, and Noah Delemont. There is still high-end talent at the forward position with guys like Hendrix Lapierre, Theo Rochette, Mavrik Bourque, and Dawson Mercer. Russian forward Vasili Ponomaryov also just committed to Shawinigan and he projects as a mid first rounder in 2020. The QMJHL is going to be a league to watch for draft eligibles this year.

Q: Underrated 2020 guys who could make a big jump?

A: Hayden Fowler is a player who’s strongly overlooked. He didn’t make FCHockey’s top 100 but he got 18 points in 25 games, and he’s a tremendous playmaker with a nice shot and he’s very smart. If it weren’t for his broken clavicle I believe he would be in the first round talk right now. Vasili Ponomaryov is getting talked about in the mid-late first round but I believe he could push for a spot in the early teens now that he’s playing in Canada and not a league that scouts seem to trust less in the MHL.

We had lots of fun choosing and answering these questions, and if you have anything else you desperately want answered, we try and answer as many DMs as we can. We'll definitely do more of these in the future, whether it be in article form or maybe as a podcast. Thank you guys again for all the support on instagram, every milestone is huge to us and we certainly didn't expect to get this big on social media in just over a year, it's greatly appreciated.