March 23, 2021

Bell’s 10 Takes: Cossa, Dean, Morrow & More

Bell’s 10 Takes is a monthly column from FCHockey’s crossover scout Josh Bell. This column will highlight Bell’s analysis of 2021 NHL Draft-eligible prospects and reaction news in the prospect world.

We have a confirmed date and the 2021 NHL Draft is now quickly approaching.

At FCHockey, we’re rolling with the scouting reports, getting views on top prospects down to the fringe seventh-rounders.

As the views continue, the individual boards of scouts start to get more clear and the players that you’re willing to speak up for become more and more prominent. I’m very close to having a first-round rank set, with just a few more views before I’m willing to share it publicly.

Until then, here are my 10 Takes for March, giving a bit of a glimpse at some of the players in the rankings and thoughts on some of the news and achievements over the past month.

2021 NHL Draft not moving

The biggest draft news of the past month, the 2021 NHL Draft isn’t moving. The dates are set and now confirmed for July 23-24, 2021. While there was a lot of talk about pushing the draft, and some big names in hockey were behind that push. But with a number of issues with the options floated around, the NHL decided to stand pat and hold the draft in July to maintain some normalcy and hopefully start to return to a normal hockey calendar. Mark your calendars, readers.

NHL confirms Draft Lottery changes

More news from the NHL, they’ve made some changes to the NHL Draft Lottery. The three main changes are:

  • Teams will be limited to no more than two lottery wins in a five-year period
  • Teams will only be allowed to jump 10 spots with a lottery win
  • The number of picks decided by the lottery will be lowered from three to two

The first two items will come into play in the 2022 NHL Draft, with the third starting in 2021.

Is Morrow the most polarizing prospect of the draft?

Scott Morrow is a very intriguing player in the 2021 NHL Draft. On one hand, his offensive skill and transition game are practically off the charts. He handles the puck so well, his footwork is incredible, and his vision is elite. On the other hand, his play in his own end is a serious liability for his team. His decision-making is lacking and his defending is less than ideal. His pros should still see him selected in the top-two rounds, but the cons may just keep him out of the first. From my report on Morrow:

“Morrow’s footwork is exceptional. He might be one of the best skaters in the class, at least amongst defensemen. It all stems from his posture, strong ankle flex, good knee bend, lets his shoulders roll, but keeps his chest and head up. He can explode in all four directions. He also utilizes crossovers very often, constantly changing direction up the ice as he leads breakouts and entries…

“There’s a lack of both urgency and awareness in his own end, resulting in missed assignments, missed pucks, and numerous turnovers. Much of this can be associated to a lack of scanning the zone. He tends to get too focused on the puck or what is in front of him and loses where the opponents are.”

Guenther playing into first-overall conversation?

The WHL is finally rolling and the player of the league so far looks to be Dylan Guenther. The Edmonton Oil King’s alternate captain is second in the league with 15 points in just six games and is leading the league in points and points-per-game with 2.50. The left winger has looked to take a high step forward this year, and while he was a bit of a dark horse for first overall, it looks like he’s knocking the door down now. He’s very much in the conversation and if he continues this run through the season, he could emerge as the clear-cut number one.

Cossa showing he deserves first-round discussion

Another WHL player, another Oil King, another prospect who has been absolutely stellar to start his 2020-21 season. Goaltender Sebastian Cossa has been dominant. He’s undefeated at 6-0, with one shutout. Along with this, he has a .956 save percentage and a 1.17 goals against average. There’s been discussion about whether he or Benjamin Gaudreau is the second-best netminder in this class, but with Gaudreau waiting for an OHL season and Cossa on fire, it looks like the decision of which to pick first is being made for teams.

Speaking of first-round discussion, don’t forget about Dean

On the other side of Canada, Zach Dean missed a large portion of the season due to injury and the QMJHL’s COVID delays, but he’s rolling now and looking extremely strong. The Gatineau Olympiques’ alternate captain has 20 points in 21 games and is looking very strong in his play. From my recent report on Dean:

“Dean looks absolutely dominant on the ice, like a man among boys. He’s absolutely fearless in his play. He’ll head into traffic/battles with or without the puck and more often than not, he comes out with it. His playmaking may be among the best in class, from his quick, short passes to maneuver traffic, to long stretch passes to open up ice…

“…Overall, I get Tim Stutzle vibes from Dean. Maybe not quite at the same level, but that style of play. Expect a big finish in his season as it seems like he’s really found his game.”

And one more – Pastujov

One more player that deserves more first-round conversation than he’s been getting, Sasha Pastujov is an extremely poised player that has the ability to completely slow the game down and play at the pace he wants to. In his 42 games this season (between the USHL and USDP), he has 27 goals, 43 assists, and 70 points. Yeah, he’s good. From my recent scouting report:

“He might be the calmest, most poised player in this class. He makes the game look so simple as he maneuvers traffic and makes plays. He plays an effortless-looking game. Through this, he really excels in his deception on the ice, using his head, eyes, feet, change of direction, and change of pace to throw defenders off his path…

“The way he plays the game so smoothly, so simply, makes me think that he’s ready to explode at the next level. He’s very much a player that we could be looking back at the draft in three or four years and thinking ‘how did he go so low?’

Power has strong showing in B1G annual awards

One of the leading contenders for first overall, Owen Power earned some big recognition from the NCAA’s Big Ten conference annual awards. Power was named to the second All-Big Ten and the All-Freshman teams, plus was a finalist for Freshman of the Year. He collected three goals and 13 assists for 16 points through 26 games, leading all rookie defenders in the league.

His total is also good for third among all Big Ten defenders, an impressive feat for the rearguard. In a few short months, he could be adding first-overall pick in the NHL Draft to his already impressive resume.

Kisakov finishes big 2020-21 season second in league in points

He might not be a first-round pick, but Alexander Kiskakov has turned heads this year. The Russian forward exploded this season for 36 goals, 37 assists, and 73 points in 61 games. That total finished second in the league in points, leading all draft eligibles. He’s kept it rolling in the playoffs, with five points in three games. He’s one to watch come draft day.

Top 2023s are capturing attention

The two frontrunners for the 2023 NHL Draft are turning heads. Matvei Michkov has wrapped up his first MHL season in Russia, leading the league in goals with 38 in 56 games, adding 18 assists to finish a point per game. His total edges out Nikita Kucherov for the U17 points record. Keep a very, very close eye on him because he’s going to continue to impress.

Now, Connor Bedard has hit the ice in the WHL, after four J20 Nationell games (collecting four points) and one J18 Region (adding another two points) in Sweden. His start in the WHL with the Regina Pats is showing why he’s right there with Michkov and his point totals are showing it too. In just five games, the 15-year-old has five goals, four assists, and nine points. WHL Rookie of the Year? I’d put money on it.

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