Josh
Bell
November 17, 2020

Bell’s 10 Takes: Early scouting in the 2020-21 season

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 hockey season is underway. Sort of.

Hockey leagues across the globe have started at this point, with many seeing delayed starts and others yet to even drop the puck.

The start of the season has seen its hiccups across these leagues but through video scouting, I have been able to catch some action from around the globe.

Here are my 10 takes for the 2020-21 season:

1) Scouting in a virtual world

This is my first full season with FCHockey and it’s safe to say this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. By now, I was expecting to be getting live views of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. But alas, the global pandemic has had different plans. So instead, I’ve been in front of a computer for hours upon hours, getting views on prospects around the world. It’s definitely not the same as being in a rink, but I’m just happy to be watching prospects at all.

2) Planning ahead for scouting is out the window

I’m definitely a planner. I like to know what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. I’ve treated scouting the same way, planning out the games I watch. Well, that’s partly been out the window this season with games getting cancelled and postponed, and entire tournaments getting cancelled. I was really looking forward to the Finland versus Sweden U18 and U20 games that were supposed to happen early this month, but they joined the 2020 Hlinka Gretzky and World Junior A Hockey Challenge on the ever-growing list of events that have been cancelled in 2020.

3) Players looking for ice time across the globe

While we still wait for leagues some leagues to drop the puck, namely the OHL and WHL, some of their players are keeping busy as they wait. Players have started heading overseas to European leagues to try and get playing time in. Winnipeg Ice defender and top 2021 NHL Draft-eligible prospect Carson Lambos is one of the top players to do so, heading to Finland’s U20 SM-sarja with JYP U20. There are definitely some concerns about the regulars of these teams not getting their playing time, but watching players like Lambos and 2023-eligible Connor Bedard impressing in Europe is very exciting.

4) Swedish draft class is very exciting

Looking at some of my early favourites in this draft class, the number of Swedish prospects joining that list is growing and growing. Top forwards Fabian Lysell and William Eklund have been standing out early on, as has defender Simon Edvinsson. Anton Olsson, Oskar Olausson, and Simon Robertsson are just a few more names that have been impressing early on. Then, of course, goaltender Jesper Wallstedt could be not just in top-10 conversation but top five. As of right now, I’d say there are at least four Swedish players in the top-10 conversation.

5) Peter Reynolds emerging in the QMJHL

He hasn’t received a whole lot of praise just yet, but Peter Reynolds is going to steal the heart of some draft enthusiasts out there this year. The Saint John Sea Dogs centreman might just be one of the best two-way players in this draft class. From my recent report on his game:

“The combination of instinct, awareness, and positioning make Reynolds a very dangerous player. He knows where to be, where the puck is going, when to take off, and when to hang back. He constantly scans the ice and knows what’s going to happen next. This stacking of skills will translate extremely well to the next level.”

6) QMJHL’s “Protected environment”

The QMJHL has been off to a rough start, ending up shutting down the Quebec-based teams in October. In order to get these players back on the ice, they’re introducing what they’re calling a “protected environment” in Quebec City. Seven teams will play games between Nov. 17 to 27, getting these teams a chance to get back on the ice. If successful, this could be an interesting idea for the OHL and WHL, who have yet to start their seasons. With COVID numbers on the rise across Canada, the seasons for the three CHL leagues are in question. You can bet the OHL and WHL will be watching how this plays out very closely.

7) Owen Power won’t be released for Canada’s World Junior Camp

Some fairly big news recently, Hockey Canada announced that top 2021 NHL Draft-eligible Owen Power will not be released by the University of Michigan for the month-long World Junior Selection Camp. With the NCAA kicking off just days before the Canadian camp does, this decision isn’t entirely surprising. Missing the first month of the season (51 days if he were to make the team) on top of classes is a lot for a freshman and Michigan puts a high value on the education they provide. With the number of defenders available for the World Juniors, Power wasn’t a lock for the lineup but the camp would have been a great experience for him.

8) Zachary L’Heureux suspended four games

A top prospect out of the QMJHL, Zachary L’Heureux was suspended for four games after removing another player’s helmet and unsportsmanlike conduct (spitting). This is definitely not a great look for the potential first rounder but he definitely has some physicality and a mean streak to his game. Of course, there could very well be some NHL team’s attracted to that edge. He will need to learn how to keep it in check and utilize it in the right ways.

More on L’Heureux: Prospect Spotlight: Zachary L’Heureux

9) Is Stanislav Svozil’s development impacted in the Czech League?

Stanislav Svozil comes into the 2020-21 season as the undisputed top-Czech player in this class. There’s been talk about him for a couple of years now, as he often plays above his age and impresses. In the recent Karjala Cup, the young defender did seem to struggle against the dominant Russian U20 squad. It does make me wonder if his time in the Czech league has slowed his development compared to his peers in stronger leagues. This will be something to keep an eye on. From my report of Svozil:

“Quite often in this game, he couldn’t match their speed on the rush and by the time he began to pivot to keep up, they were past him. From his backward’s speed to his ability to change direction, there will need to be some big improvements to Svozil’s footwork.”

10) Matvei Michkov looks to be the real deal – two and a half years out

Alright, he may not be a 2021 NHL Draft-eligible but I have to mention Matvei Michkov. The top 2023 NHL Draft-eligible prospect is playing in the MHL and has dressed for both SKA-1946 St. Petersburg and SKA-Varyagi. Through his 16 games with St. Petersburg, he’s collected 11 goals, eight assists, and 19 points, adding another three goals and an assist in six games with SKA-Varyagi. His 23 points have already set the record for the most points by a draft-2 player. Keep an eye on this young player moving forward.

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