2021 NHL Draft: FCHockey’s under-the-radar players
With FCHockey releasing our preliminary rankings for the 2021 NHL Draft, we’ve consolidated our Under-the-Radar Players series in one, convenient article.
We’ve also added in our rankings for this edition, for easy reference.
JACK O’BRIEN, C, PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: 33
Jack O’Brien might be one of the most underrated forwards draft-eligible in 2021. The center for the Portland Winterhawks could see a considerable uptick in production when the season begins. O’Brien put up 14 goals, 16 assists, and 30 points in 55 games during the 2019-20 calendar as a rookie, which is no small feat. The then-16-year-old would routinely display flashes of skill playing behind an immensely deep group of forwards in Portland, including Carolina’s 13th selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, Seth Jarvis.
When the season came to an abrupt end, O’Brien was on a hot streak registering four goals and five points in his final three games. A potential graduation for a couple of Portland’s centers in 2020-21 would significantly increase O’Brien’s role during his sophomore season.
Unlike most prospects with this level of offensive instincts, O’Brien seemingly came out of nowhere. He was transferred to Portland from the Little Caesers 15U AAA team in November 2018, where he put up 86 points in 60 games. That year, O’Brien also managed to put up eight points in six games in the OHL Cup. The following season, he burst onto the scene in the WHL as a rookie. If he can maintain his pace of growth, it will be reflected in his offensive output.
Early scouting reports for the 2021 NHL Draft have O’Brien ranked anywhere from an early second to late third-round pick. Still, with a year under his belt in the WHL and an increased role in Portland upcoming, it is easy to picture him climbing up the rankings and break his way into the first round of the draft.
PETER REYNOLDS, C, SAINT JOHN SEA DOGS (QMJHL)
FCHockey Rank: 34
Coming through the ranks at the esteemed Shattuck St. Mary’s program, Peter Reynolds was initially committed to Boston College. Thus, he began his junior career in the BCHL, tallying 33 assists and 47 points in 53 games with the Chilliwack Chiefs.
This year, he arrived to the Q with a reputation. He was the third-ranked prospect in the 2019 QMJHL Draft and he represented Canada at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He also led Team New Brunswick with nine points in seven games at the Youth Winter Games.
Similar to Orr, Reynolds will have plenty of chances to impress scouts, since he plays with projected first-rounder, Joshua Roy.
CONNOR LOCKHART, C/RW, ERIE OTTERS (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: 39
The third overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority selection, Connor Lockhart experienced a similar fate to Arcuri in his rookie year. Just as skilled but more of a goalscorer, Lockhart also struggled to carry the puck and score consistently with the Otters, putting up a modest eight goals and 27 assists in 57 games in Erie.
However, he did fare well against his own age group. In the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, he had two goals and two assists in five games for Canada Red.
Playing on a line with Rolofs in Kanata, Lockhart finished tied with Mason McTavish in league scoring, with 30 goals and 49 points in 41 games. On an Erie Otters team that is trending upwards, he can produce those types of numbers should he iron out his game.
STUART ROLOFS, LW, LONDON KNIGHTS (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: 40
After tearing up the U18 Hockey Eastern Ontario AAA league, scoring 33 goals and 57 points in 39 games, Stuart Rolofs played very sheltered minutes in his first year with the London Knights. This is not uncommon for rookies playing under Dale Hunter. Rolofs’ teammates Connor McMichael and the aforementioned Evangelista were managed similarly in their first seasons in London.
The six-foot-two, 187-pound winger tallied three assists in 31 games before the season ended prematurely, playing short shifts as Hunter often ran three lines, two extra forwards and seven defensemen.
With the departures of Jonathan Gruden and captain Liam Foudy, Rolofs will definitely get more usage. Despite his sizable frame, he can really fly out there and is known for his wicked shot. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the next Knights’ player to fly up draft boards all year.
EETU LIUKAS, RW, TPS (U20 SM-sarja)
FCHockey Rank: 45
If you haven’t heard of Eetu Liukas, you will. The forward has started the 2020-21 season in the Liiga for TPS. He could be sent down to the U20 SM-sarja, but starting the season in Finland’s top league is very promising.
He actually first got a taste of the Liiga last year, with three games under his belt. The rest of the season he played in the Jr. A SM-liiga, collecting 12 goals, 14 assists, and 26 points in 47 games. He also played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
In 2018-19, Liukas was a point-per-game player in the U18 SM-sarja. Playing with TPS U18, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward potted 12 goals, 21 assists, and 33 points in 33 games.
Liukas has the size and knows how to use it, evident by his move up to the Liiga. Especially if he can improve his skating, this is a very intriguing prospect.
ANTON OLSSON, D, MALMO (SHL)
FCHockey Rank: 47
Now we get to someone whose name is starting to gain some traction. Malmo Redhawks’ Anton Olsson has spent time in both the J20 Nationell and the SHL this season and could see more time in the SHL as the season progresses. The two-way defender seems to be getting better and better with each game and has played himself into first-round discussion.
The SHL isn’t new for Olsson though, as he got his first taste in 2019-20, playing five games at the top level. For the rest of the season, he played in the J20 SuperElit for 26 games, collecting six goals, 11 assists, and 17 points. Building on his impressive season, he joined Myrenberg at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, adding two goals and an assist to his stat line in five games.
In 2018-19, Olsson spent his time split evenly between J18 Elit (five goals, three assists), J18 Allsvenskan (three goals, three assists), and the J20 SuperElit (two goals) with nine games in each league.
Olsson looks like he’s in consideration for the first round and if he continues the climb, could hear his name called in the top-20 of this draft.
SASHA PASTUJOV, LW, U.S. NATIONAL U18 TEAM (USHL)
FCHockey Rank: 48
Already committed to Notre Dame for 2021-22, Sasha Pastujov will get valuable development time, working on his skills in the Big Ten. With seven goals, four assists, and 11 points in seven games for the U.S. National U18 team. Pastujov’s early scouting reports mention his playmaking ability as his strongest asset. However, this year he is putting his scoring ability on display early in his 2020-21 campaign.
Throughout Pastujov’s young career, he has always been one of the most dominant scorers on his team. During his 2019-20 season, playing for the US National U17 team, Pastujov tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 goals, 36 assists, and 50 points in 49 games. At the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Pastujov helped lead Team USA to a silver medal, leading the tournament in assists with seven and adding one goal for eight points in six games.
Preliminary scouting reports have Pastujov already ranked to be a first-round talent, but his pace of play this year suggests he could very well be one of the first prospects selected out of the USDP.
OSCAR PLANDOWSKI, D, CHARLOTTETOWN ISLANDERS (QMJHL)
FCHockey Rank: 55
Following an unexceptional rookie season in which he tallied 12 assists in 60 games, the smooth-skating rearguard has started the year off well on the first-placed Charlottetown Islanders. Alongside fellow 2021-eligible William Trudeau on the second pair, Oscar Plandowski has four assists in nine games.
After making a splash in minor hockey, playing for prep schools in Edmonton and Connecticut, the hype surrounding Plandowski started to die down last season. Although he played well at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the defenseman was outshone by other rookies in the QMJHL.
Plandowski’s father is the newly-appointed Director of Amateur Scouting for the Arizona Coyotes and his mother teaches power-skating to prospects in Nova Scotia. The six-foot defender returned from an offseason of training with his mom faster and stronger, weighing in at 190 pounds.
Should the Islanders and Plandowski continue their hot start, it is only a matter of time before he begins to garner attention.
VINCENT IORIO, D, BRANDON WHEAT KINGS (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: 57
As a late 2002 birthday, Vincent Iorio holds several physical advantages over his peers. The defenseman stands at a towering six-foot-three and 195 pounds. During his 2019-20 campaign Iorio put up four goals, 17 assists, and 21 points in 59 games with Brandon Wheat Kings. Beyond the obvious physical tools, Iorio’s strength lies in his puckhandling and passing.
Iorio has always had offensive tools at his disposal. His defensive game is his best asset. Before his rookie season in Brandon, he played 52 games for the Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U AAA, Iorio put up four goals, 19 assists, and 23 points. After that campaign, Iorio played a key role for Team British Columbia as the second-highest scoring defenseman on the team with three assists in five games to capture the WHL Cup Gold Medal.
Entering the 2020-21 WHL season, Iorio has all the tools in his arsenal, where he could see a rise up the draft rankings from where he is currently seen as a late-round selection by scouts.
OSKAR OLAUSSON, W, HV71 (SHL)
FCHockey Rank: 59
Right there in the first-round discussion with Olsson is forward Oskar Olausson. The HV71 winger is also similar to Olsson in that he’s getting SHL action this season, on top of excelling in the J20 Nationell. He has done more than enough at this point to earn first-round consideration.
Last season, the offensive forward spent the majority of the season with the J20 SuperElit, playing 21 games and potting seven goals, nine assists, and 16 points. Being at the older end of the class, he also played in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, scoring once in the five games played. He won a bronze medal with the squad.
He split his time in 2018-19 between the J18 Elit (six goals, five assists in eight games), J18 Allsvenskan (11 goals, three assists in 11 games), and the J20 SuperElit (one goal, three assists in 11 games).
Olausson is oozing offensive talent and has put that on display early on in 2020-21. If it continues, he should cement his status as a first-round talent.
ATTE LEHIKOINEN, D, KALPA (U20 SM-sarja)
FCHockey Rank: 61
Moving to the backend of the lineup, Atte Lehikoinen is a defenseman that plays a very mature game, proven by receiving the “A” on the KalPa U20 team at just 17 years old. If he’s not on your radar to start the 2020-21 season, he needs to be there.
Last season, the defender played the entire season in the Jr. A SM-liiga for KalPa U20. In 49 games, he scored five goals, 11 assists, and 16 points. Considering he was just 16 years old through the season, that’s an extremely respectable campaign. He also played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, collecting a goal and an assist in five games.
The season prior, Lehikoinen spent the majority of the season as the alternate captain for Jokipojat U16 in both the U16 SM-sarja and U16 SM-sarja Q – putting up 31 points in each league. He was named the best defender of the U16 SM-sarja.
There’s a very good chance that Lehikoinen could see some time in the Liiga this season, further securing his impressive pre-draft resume.
COLE HUCKINS, C, ACADIE-BATHURST TITAN (QMJHL)
FCHockey Rank: 62
Acadie-Bathurst Titan forward Cole Huckins has been on fire to begin the season. He had nine assists and 15 points in the first 11 games of the season – including two four-point outings. This follows an excellent rookie season in which the big forward produced 25 assists and 38 points in 64 games.
Despite his impressive production, Huckins deters scouts with his sup-par movement. Standing at six-foot-4, 193-pounds, he possesses pro-ready size and excellent offensive ability. However, as the NHL continues to become smaller and quicker, a lot is riding on whether or not he can improve his skating.
TYLER BOUCHER, RW, U.S. NATIONAL U18 TEAM (USHL)
FCHockey Rank: 67
Son of former NHL goaltender Brian Boucher, Tyler Boucher, the New Jersey native is another U.S. National U18 Team winger that could see a rise in his draft stock ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft. Boucher is viewed as a chippy winger with high competitiveness and a developing scoring touch. His offensive production has taken a noticeable step forward this season. However, he still has lots of development time to refine his craft at Boston University, where he is committed for the 2021-22 season.
Boucher played his 2019-20 season with the U.S. National U17 Team in the USDP and then followed that up with 24 games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. On the US National U17 Team, Boucher scored nine goals, 17 assists, and 26 points in 43 games. He followed that up with four goals, seven assists, and 11 points playing the USHL. Boucher then contributed three assists and four points as a member of Team USA, collecting a silver medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Boucher’s game consists of many of the physical elements that scouts look for in a player. If his scoring stays consistent with the pace he began the 2020-21 season, Boucher will be a lock to rise in the draft.
AVERY HAYES, RW, HAMILTON BULLDOGS (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: 72
Avery Hayes began the 2019-20 season with high expectations after an impressive rookie campaign in which he recorded 18 points in 64 games. He managed to improve on his scoring totals this past season, with 29 points in 42 games. Hayes was on a hot streak in December before an upper-body injury derailed his campaign.
Avery, whose brother Gavin was a first-round pick to the Firebirds this summer, represented the USA at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, recording two points in four games.
With the addition of Russian defender Artyom Grushnikov and the likely return of both Jan Mysak and Arthur Kaliyev, the Hamilton Bulldogs could be a contender in what should prove to be a tough Eastern Conference. The Michigan native will likely play a big role this year due to his versatility, high work ethic and capability on both special teams.
ROMAN SCHMIDT, D, U.S. NATIONAL U18 TEAM (USHL)
FCHockey Rank: 74
Smooth-skating defenseman Roman Schmidt is a name to watch out for when the 2021 NHL Draft rolls around. Schmidt is a well rounded two-way defenseman, making his presence felt all over the ice. At six-foot-five, Schmidt already has a high-quality defensive game, strong transition game, and is surprisingly mobile for a man his stature. Schmidt will spend his 2021-22 season playing at Boston University.
In 2018-19, Schmidt spent time in the GTHL U16 with the Don Mills Flyers U16 AAA, where he put up an astounding 18 goals, 53 assist, and 71 points in 73 games. Schmidt won the GTHL Championship and went on to help lead his team to an OHL Cup Championship. The following season Schmidt was a member of Team USA at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Schmidt contributed one goal and two points in six games, helping bring home the silver medal.
As a defenseman with a noteworthy combination of traits that includes immense physical tools and puck skills, Schmidt will undoubtedly solidify himself as a first-round talent of the 2021 NHL Draft.
RYAN UFKO, D, CHICAGO STEEL (USHL)
FCHockey Rank: 76
The 2021-22 University of Massachusetts commit, Ryan Ufko is one of the most underrated defensemen eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. As a 16-year-old rookie in 2019-20, Ufko scored two goals, seven for nine points in 43 games for the USHL’s Chicago Steel. Scouts were significantly impressed with Ufko’s skating ability and how mobile he was getting up and down the ice. Going into 2020-21 a year older and more physically mature will significantly benefit the agile defenseman. Ufko will turn a lot of heads his way as the upcoming draft inches closer.
Prior to Ufko’s time with the Steel, he spent the 2018-19 season with the North Jersey Avalanche 16U AAA Team. Ufko racked up four goals and 19 points playing AYHL 16U. He managed to keep up his pace when his team graduated to T1EHL 16U, where Ufko added an additional two goals, 22 assists, and 24 points in 25 games.
Right now, scouts have pegged Ufko and a potential late-round pick. Although, we should expect to see much more from Ufko in terms of point production, which will inevitably lead to a profound increase in Ufko’s draft ranking.
FRANCESCO ARCURI, LW, KINGSTON FRONTENACS (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: 77
Francesco Arcuri was the linemate of Shane Wright and 2021-eligible Brennan Othmann on the dominant Don Mills Flyers team that won the GTHL 16 Championship and OHL Cup in 2019. He had 73 assists and 111 points in 79 games that year and was considered a steal at 27th overall when the Kingston Frontenacs picked him last year.
The nifty playmaker struggled to adjust to the speed and physicality of the OHL and spent the majority of the year separated from Wright. He wasn’t able to make the same plays he did and minor hockey and finished the year with 20 points in 60 games.
With an extended offseason, you would imagine Arcuri has been working on his physical skills. He already possesses tremendous puckhandling and hockey sense, from here it’s just a matter of him putting it all together.
ROBERT ORR, C, HALIFAX MOOSEHEADS (QMJHL)
FCHockey Rank: 79
Before you ask, he does go by Bobby! But not because of number four – he was named after his grandfather.
Robert Orr was originally drafted by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens but never signed. He arrived with the Halifax Mooseheads via trade after spending the season prior in midget with the Lac St. Louis Lions, the organization that produced Jonathan Drouin, Anthony Duclair and Alex Killorn. He led the team in scoring, notching 45 points in 42 games.
The five-foot-11, 168-pound forward has received plaudits for the defensive side of his game. However, he had eight points in his first 11 games. On a Mooseheads team brimming with talent, scouts will definitely take a long look at the new Bobby Orr.
ILYA NAZAROV, RW, LOKO YAROSLAVL (MHL)
FCHockey Rank: 81
Another lesser-known player, Ilya Nazarov has been catching the eyes of our scouts this season. The Russian winger for the MHL’s Loko Yaroslavl shows some promising tools in his game and is very much on our radar.
The draft-eligible prospect spent the majority of the 2019-20 season in the NMHL with Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl, putting up five goals, six assists, and 11 points in 29 games. He also played five MHL games, impressing with three goals and an assist.
The forward also played six games with the Russian U17 team, so he may continue to get looks on the National team. Either way, the prospect plays a very well-rounded game and should he find his offensive side, he’ll be a riser on draft boards.
VILLE KOIVUNEN, C/W, KARPAT (U20 SM-sarja)
FCHockey Rank: 92
The Ville Koivunen hype train is already starting to leave the station. The Karpat forward has been a standout for years in Finland, yet his name doesn’t get brought up nearly as much as possible. It will, though.
In 2018-19, the young forward played with Karpat’s U16 squad in the U16 SM-sarja. In 18 games, the forward collected 13 goals, 27 assists, and 40 points in 18 games. Then in seven playoff games, he racked up another six goals, 12 assists, and 18 points. He helped his team to the championship by leading the league in points and being named to the All-Star Team.
Last season, he kept his offensive ways going, this time in the U18 SM-sarja. He played 37 games, scoring a league-leading 27 goals, 44 assists, and 71 points – which also led the league. For his impressive season, he was named the Best Forward, Best Player, and was named to the First All-Star Team.
And yet, Koivunen still flies a bit under-the-radar in this class. Now in the U20 SM-sarja, the prospect is already playing at over a point-per-game pace and will be commanding your attention.
WILLIAM STROMGREN, LW, MODO (J20 Nationell)
FCHockey Rank: 94
Finally, we come to William Stromgren. The left winger for MODO has been playing mainly in the J20 Nationell, although he’s also seen time in the HockeyAllsvenskan and the J18 Region.
Last season, the winger dressed most of his campaign with the J18 squad in the J18 Elit. He played 22 games, impressing with 17 goals, 20 assists, and 37 points. His 37 points led the North Division. He also looked good in the J20 SuperElit, scoring three times, adding four assists in 10 games.
In 2018-19, Stromgren spent most of his season in the U16 Elit, scoring 25 goals, 12 assists, and 37 points in 22 games. Stromgren may be the least-known prospect on this list but he’s already catching the eye of our scouts. Moving forward, he’ll be an intriguing player to follow.
DMITRI ZUGAN, C, KRASNAYA ARMIYA (MHL)
FCHockey Rank: 100
Last but certainly not least, Dmitri Zugan could just be one to challenge Shumilin on this list to be the first one drafted in 2021. The Krasnaya Armiya forward is a dynamic player in all zones, making him an extremely intriguing prospect to watch this season.
In 2019-20, Zugan spent his rookie season with Krasnaya, playing 36 games, scoring four goals, adding six assists, and 10 points. He also joined Buruyanov and Shumilin at both the Hlinka and the Junior-A Hockey Challenge, collecting two assists in the Junior-A Challenge and coming away with a gold medal in the Hlinka.
The season prior, Zugan dressed for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, playing six games with no points, but helping the team to a gold medal victory. He also played in 22 games with CSKA Moskva U17 with eight goals, 11 assists, and 19 points in 22 games.
Zugan has a very intriguing toolkit that draws your eyes to him on the ice. By the time the 2021 NHL Draft rolls around, he could be in consideration for a first-round pick.
NIKITA BURUYANOV, RW, DYNAMO ST. PETERSBURG (MHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
A player that has been used regularly on the international stage and has shown promise in league play is Nikita Buruyanov. The Russian right winger is on the older side of this draft class, being an October 2, 2002 birthday, but is an extremely intriguing player to watch.
The forward is currently playing in the MHL for Dynamo St. Petersburg, his second year with the team. Last season as a rookie, he played 40 games with the team, scoring seven goals, seven assists, and 14 points in 40 games. He also dressed for Team Russia in two big tournaments, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (two goals in five games) and the World Junior-A Challenge (one goal, two assists in six games). He helped Russia to goal at the Hlinka.
Buruyanov also won a gold medal in 2018-19 is Russia in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, recording no points in six games. That season he served as the captain of the Buldogi St. Petersburg U17 team in the Russia U17 league. He scored 18 goals, 17 assists, and 35 points in 26 games.
Buruyanov’s speed and puckhandling ability could see him get some high draft consideration in 2021, especially if he can find some consistency in his game.
YAROSLAV BUSYGIN, D, BRANDON WHEAT KINGS (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Brandon Wheat King’s defenseman Yaroslav Busygin is a stay-at-home defender who managed to put up four goals, one assist, and five points in 25 MHL games last season. Despite weighing only 170 pounds, it is inventible that he will fill out his six-foot-two frame, adding physical tools to his already impressive defensive prowess. Coming to North America from Russia, the smaller ice surface should play to his advantage, as his skating is one of his biggest strengths.
Before getting picked 39th overall by Brandon in the CHL Import Draft, Busygin had four goals and 11 assists in eight games wearing the “C” for the U18 Vitayz Podolski team. Without any prior North American experience, Busygin is a dark horse candidate to climb into the earlier rounds of the upcoming draft.
JAYDEN GRUBBE, C, RED DEER REBELS (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
The seventh overall pick by the Red Deer Rebels in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Jayden Grubbe, The six-foot-three, right-shot center from Calgary has shown plenty of promise as a high-end offensive playmaker. His rookie season in the WHL was a smooth transition from AAA, where he put up six goals, 23 assists, and 29 points.
During Grubbe’s time with the Calgary Bison’s U15 AAA, the forward was a force en route to winning AMJHL MVP. He scored a phenomenal 29 goals and added 37 assists for 66 points in 35 games. The following year as a 16-year-old, he had four goals and 22 assists for 26 points in 32 games helping the Calgary U18 AAA Buffaloes win the AMHL championship.
As it goes for most rookies in major junior, Grubbe should see a significant jump in his usage next season, which will directly correlate with his stock for the 2021 NHL Draft, climbing out of the later rounds where scouts currently have him slotted.
TYLER HASKINS, C, SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE (USHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
As a 153-pound center, Tyler Haskins has relied heavily upon his offensive skill set to put himself in a favourable draft position for the 2021 NHL Draft. Haskins spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Mission 16U AAA Team. In 2018-19, he had eight goals and seven assists for 15 points in 15 games. For his 2019-20 season, Haskins focused more on developing his playmaking ability. He put up another 15-point season, this time in 17 games. Of those 15 points, 11 were assists. He also had a short stint in the USHL, where Haskins got one game at the beginning of the season in September and two more in the middle of December but never registered a point.
Haskins played for Team Forest at the 2019-20 USA-S16 tournament, where he managed a stat line of four goals and 10 points in five games. His point-per-game of two at the tournament is identical to the Detroit Red Wings’ 55th-overall pick at the 2020 NHL Draft, Cross Hanas.
Haskins still has to put on some weight to compete physically at the University of Michigan, where he’s committed for the 2021-22 season. If Haskins can successfully transition his offensive production from AAA to the USHL, he is another sneaky candidate to climb up the draft boards as the season progresses.
MARC LAJOIE, D, TRI-CITY AMERICANS (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Unlike other prospects who will need time beyond this season to mature into their physical frames, Marc Lajoie already stands at a whopping six-foot-four and 231 pounds. Lajoie dominates his competition physically while still being able to contribute a bit of offense. In his 2019-20 season with the Tri-City Americans, he had eight goals and five assists in 53 games.
While primarily known for his size and defense, he was much more dominant offensively before his rookie season in the WHL. During his 2018-19 season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep, Lajoie scored 11 goals and 24 assists, putting up an encouraging 35 points in 35 games. Lajoie went on to win the CSSHL U18 Championship playing a pivotal role.
Lajoie’s size alone will garner interest from scouts as a later-round pick. However, should he see an increase in scoring similar to his year with Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep, he can expect to see a major rise in his draft stock.
LOGAN MAILLOUX, D, LONDON KNIGHTS (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Standing at six-foot-three, 214-pounds, some thought Logan Mailloux would play in the OHL last season. With the arrivals of Hunter Skinner and Ryan Merkley, the Knights opted to send the defenceman to the London Nationals of the GOJHL. He tore it up, putting up an incredible 50 assists and 68 points in 48 games. That’s the fourth-best assist total by a defenseman in league history, and he played the whole year as a 16-year-old.
Mailloux recently joined SJ Lejon, who play in the third tier of Swedish hockey, on loan until the OHL season begins. When he returns, he is expected to step right into London’s top-four and will likely be tested on the powerplay.
People may scoff at his totals and say they were in a weak league, but let’s not forget that Mark Scheifele, Tanner Pearson and Brandon Montour all began their careers in the GOJHL. Mailloux has a season under his belt, in which he played top-pairing minutes and dominated. He should flourish on a strong Knights team.
ALEKSI MALINEN, D, JYP (U20 SM-sarja)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Another prospect that has started the 2020-21 season in the Liiga, Aleksi Malinen is already catching the eyes of scouts with his feet. From his acceleration to his speed, this is a player you won’t want to miss.
He spent the 2019-20 season with JYP U20 of the Jr. A SM-liiga, playing 49 games and scoring once, adding nine assists and 10 points. He also dressed for Team Finland in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, playing five games.
The year prior he played with the U18 squad in the U18 SM-sarja, putting up two goals, 12 assists, and 14 points in 41 games. His hands will need to learn to keep up with his feet, but there’s a lot to like in think young Finn.
DANIIL MOLODTSOV, D, TAIFUN PRIMORSKY KRAI (MHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
An extremely lesser-known prospect, Daniil Molodtsov is at the opposite end of the draft class from Buruyanov. The defender was born September 12, 2003, making him one of the youngest players in this class.
Currently in his MHL rookie season with Taifun Primorsky Krai, Molodtsov looks like he could be a player to climb in rankings as the season goes on. He won’t be one to light up the scoreboard, but he plays a solid defensive game and has shown promise early on this season.
Last season, Molodtsov played for HK Dmitrov U17 and U18 teams, collecting a goal and seven points in 26 U17 games, and a goal and two assists in 20 U18 games.
There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of the young defender at this point but our scouts believe he’s one to keep an eye on this season.
JONATHAN MYRENBERG, D, LINKOPING HC (J20 Nationell)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
First off, defenseman Jonathan Myrenberg hasn’t exactly exploded like some of the other prospects on this list. But, our scouts think he could. He has an extremely intriguing toolkit and has shown flashes of something great.
The six-foot-two, 181-pound player is playing in the J20 Nationell for Linkoping HC J20 this season and is impressing early on. He got a taste in the league last season with seven games, not recording a point. For the remainder of the season, he was with Linkoping HC J18 in the J18 Elite (four goals, seven assists in 15 games) and the J18 Allsvenskan (three goals, nine assists in 14 games).
He also dressed with Team Sweden at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, being held pointless in the tournament. He also played in some U16 international games the year before. In that season, he mainly played in the J18 Elit with the IFK Taby HC J18. As the alternate captain, he played 23 games scoring four goals, eight assists and 12 points.
Myrenberg’s skill is very promising and early on in 2020-21, it seems like he’s putting it all together. He could be an interesting player to keep tabs on this season.
EVAN NAUSE, D, QUEBEC REMPARTS (QMJHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Evan Nause was selected by the Val D’Or Foreurs in the first round, sixth overall in 2019 but elected to play in the USHL. After recording 14 assists and 17 points in 44 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede, the defenceman was drafted again – this time fifth overall by the Quebec Remparts.
With Quebec in one of the province’s “red zones,” Nause has only played two games this season, in which he recorded an assist and played on the first pairing.
The New Brunswick native may go unnoticed for some due to the subtleness of his game. On both sides of the puck, he is remarkably poised for his age. Some scouts may hope for him to show some more flash, whereas some may be happy for him to fly under the radar so they can look smart picking him later in the draft.
YEREMEI SHUMILIN, C, LOKO YAROSLAVL (MHL)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Yeremei Shumilin was very close to being on the Players to Watch list rather than this one but hasn’t received the attention he deserves yet. The prospect has shown his skill at the international level and in league play and could be one to push into first-round conversation.
The centerman is playing with Nazarov with the MHL’s Loko Yaroslavl, after playing a full season with the team last year and impressing. In 42 games last season, he had 11 goals, nine assists, and 20 points. He also joined Buruyanov at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the World Junior-A Hockey Challenge. He had one assist in the Hlinka, en route to a gold medal.
In 2018-19, Shumilin dressed for Traktor Chelyabinsk U17 in the Russia U17 league. In 32 games, he potted 22 goals, 32 assists and 54 points. He also played in eight U17 games internationally, adding a goal and five assists to his stat line.
Shumilin may very well be one of – if not the – best players on this list and could be among the top Russian prospects selected on draft day.
VICTOR SJOHOLM, D, HV71 (J20 Nationell)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
While Victor Sjoholm may be undersized at five-foot-eight, 163 pounds, he makes up for it in his play. From his balance to his compete, Sjoholm is a player who you want to cheer for and you can’t take your eyes off of.
His small stature hasn’t held him back yet though, already getting SHL action this season. The majority of his time has been spent in the J20 Nationell though, where he spent 32 games last season. In that time, he collected four goals, seven assists, and 11 points. Granted, he also had 105 penalty minutes.
He also played with Myrenberg and Olsson in the World Under-17 Challenge, collecting two assists in five games. In the 2018-19 season, Sjoholm spent time in four leagues at three different age groups, from the U16 Elit to the J20 SuperElit. This while just 15 years old.
Don’t let the defender’s size fool you, Sjoholm knows how to handle himself and can more than hold his own at the top levels. He’s an intriguing early-to-mid-round option at this point in the 2021 NHL Draft.
JIMI SUOMI, D, JOKERIT (U20 SM-sarja)
FCHockey Rank: N/R
Finally, we come to Jimi Suomi, or “Jimi Finland.” What this prospect lacks in size (he’s five-foot-nine, 152 pounds), he makes up for it with his skating and his abilities in transition.
Last season, Suomi played for Kiekko-Espoo U20 in the Jr. A SM-liiga. He played 37 games, racking up a goal and 11 assists for 12 points. He also dressed for Team Finland in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, collecting two assists in four games.
In 2018-19, he played with the Blues U16 team, splitting time in the U16 SM-sarja and U16 SM-sarja Q. He had three goals, 11 assists, and 14 points in each league.
The size may see him not rise too high in the draft, but the skill that Suomi possesses will be enough to keep him on a number of team’s radars.