February 20, 2021

Bell’s 10 Takes: Grushnikov, McTavish, Peart & 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.

The 2020-21 season is trucking along, as uncertain as it’s been this year. There’s some hope on the horizon (I’m looking at you OHL and WHL), but there are also more questions looking (like how the 2021 NHL Draft will look).

No matter what happens, we’re still plugging away at views for FCHockey and staying on top of all things draft-eligibles.

Here are my 10 takes for February.

FCHockey drops Winter rankings for the 2021 NHL Draft

In case you missed it, we’ve got some new rankings at FCHockey, with the top-100 re-ranked. There were some pretty big changes, so if you see someone new really high or someone who was high no longer ranked – feel free to ask us about it.

This time around, I also provided a closer look at the top-32, with quick breakdowns on each player. Plus, for some explanations on the big movers, I questioned our team on some key risers and fallers. There’s lots of content, so make sure to dive in!

Players I vouched for in the Winter rankings

How it works at FCHockey is we all get our views, and then come together to discuss the rankings. These rankings are with the voice of all of our scouts, so obviously there’s some compromise and our personal rankings differ. For some transparency, here are a handful of players that I pushed to be bumped up the ranking or in the top-100.

Two that I didn’t have to push for too hard are two of the most obvious: Matthew Beniers and Matthew Coronato. I think they’re likely the biggest risers on most draft boards this year, so that’s not really saying much. Two prospects in Finland made big jumps up our rankings that made me extremely happy: Oliver Kapanen and Joona Korhonen. The two forwards are closer to NHL-ready than a number of prospects in this class in my opinion.

From the USHL, two smooth-skating, puck-moving defenders cracked the top-100 that weren’t there before in Jack Peart and David Gucciardi. These are two names I’ll be mentioning on every draft discussion call until the draft. And with them, I’ll be bringing up QMJHL players Robert Orr and Zach Biggar. Younger prospects in the Q, Orr’s motor and Biggar’s defensive game have really stood out to me. Gucciardi and Biggar didn’t crack the top-100 this time around, but I’ll keep bringing their names up!

I’ve written reports on all of these players, so I highly recommend clicking on their names above and checking out my thoughts on them. You’ll see why I wanted them to move up in our top-100.

Alternate NHL Draft rumours swirling

One of the biggest discussions in the NHL Draft world right now is how the 2021 NHL Draft is going to look. Currently scheduled for July, there’s been talk of pushing it to December, having the first round in July and the rest in 2022, combining the two drafts, or allowing players to opt-out of this draft and defer to 2022. This could drastically impact how the next two drafts look, but for players who haven’t stepped into game action this season, it could be worth it.

Keep an eye on FCHockey next week, as I’ll be diving into this topic a little more.

McTavish settling into Swiss League

Mason McTavish has joined his OHL peer Brennan Othmann with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, and it looks like the Peterborough Petes forward is getting settled. With just one assist in his first five games, he’s now scored in back-to-back games. Over that time, he’s seen his time on ice increase from 8:22 in his first game to over 18 and 19 minutes. He’s a player that could alter the top-10 of this draft if he gets going.

Peart has captured my attention

I mentioned him above, but let’s talk some more about Jack Peart. I watched the defenseman playing with the USHL’s Fargo Force (where he had 11 assists in 16 games), but he’s since moved to USHS’ Grand Rapids High (14 points in eight games). He’s committed to St. Cloud State University for 2021-22. From my report on Peart:

“He shows excellent full-ice vision in his passing. Is very good at getting the puck out of the zone, whether with his feet or a pass… Good form in his skating, shows the ability to really get going when he needs to… Really creative with the puck. The poise under pressure is really impressive. Very nice read on the play to drive the net, manipulates the defender with a pause, then another with a quick pivot. Sees the ice so well, finding the lane straight to the net.”

Player that hasn’t played this season spotlight: Grushnikov

Another player that I filed a report on recently, Artyom Grushnikov is a player that hasn’t been discussed a lot this season. That’s due to him not playing at all, as he was supposed to be reporting to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs after spending last season with the MHL’s Krasnaya Armiya. He’s not a guy that’s going to be putting up points but his defensive game could be enough to push him into first-round consideration. Think Braden Schneider.

From my report:

“He shows good patience, not rushing his decisions… Battles hard in his own end, knowing when to commit and chase a puck into the corner and when to hold back in his position… When attacking the puck carrier, he does well to get stick on stick, and then follow that up with his body. Not afraid to throw his body around and get in the carrier’s way. He’s very quick on his edges, with good movement in all four directions… In this game alone, he had 10 takeaways and only two giveaways. The defensive ceiling could be very high. I’m extremely interested to see how far he’s come in this new season.”

AHL picking up draft-eligibles

Well, this is interesting. There have been reports of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies picking up goaltender Tristan Lennox (which since looks like it’s been cancelled) and James Hardie (who does show on the Marlies’ roster currently). Lennox is a first-time eligible for the NHL Draft, but Hardie is an overager after being passed over in 2020. This might not be a regular occurrence moving forward, but is definitely something to keep an eye on. Especially if the OHL can’t get rolling.

WHL season moving forward

As discussed in my January 10 Takes, the WHL is pushing forward with a 2020-21 season. It will feature 24 games in hub cities. Regina has been approved and will see action starting on February 26 and the US division will kick off on March 19. The league is still awaiting word on the British Columbia division.

This is excellent news for many WHL draft-eligible prospects who have yet to hit the ice this season. While 24 games is a long way away from a regular campaign, it’s an excellent sample size for scouts.

OHL following suit?

And now, it looks like the OHL is following the WHL’s suit, according to The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler:

OHL Commissioner David Branch did respond to these rumours though, stating that the league has “not yet arrived at an approved Return to Play framework for the coming season.”

While this is still up in the air, the amount of information that Wheeler reported does seem promising. Finger’s crossed, Ontario.

This year more than ever, some drastic rankings changes could be coming

With the WHL and OHL hoping for puck drop in the coming months, draft rankings are going to face a bomb when two of the biggest pools for the NHL Draft get their players on the ice. While QMJHL, USHL, and European prospects have been rising up the ranks, WHL and OHL prospects have maintained their DY-1 quo, other than the handful that have gone overseas.

Every season, there are prospects that shoot up draft boards as the season goes on. With the two Canadian leagues eagerly awaiting games after a year to focus on development, big changes are coming on draft boards. This is gearing up to be a very exciting draft, even with the superstar(s) at the top of it.

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