Holmes’ 10 Takes: Bedard, Cossa, Hughes & More
Holmes’ 10 Takes is a monthly column from Brandon Holmes, one of FCHockey’s video scouts. This column will highlight Holmes’ analysis of 2021 NHL Draft-eligible prospects and reaction news in the prospect world.
It’s great to have the WHL back and many of the games in the early going have been very entertaining, from a 15-year-old phenom stuffing nets in Regina and a 6-foot-6 iron curtain stopping everything in Edmonton. South of the border, we’ve also seen plenty of notable draft-eligible performances throughout the season, and with the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships right around the corner, things are likely to only get more interesting. Buckle up.
Here are my 10 Takes for the end of March:
Connor Bedard looks special
The Regina Pats opened their season on March 12, which meant we finally got to see the debut of the WHL’s first-ever exceptional status player in Connor Bedard and did he ever not disappoint. Through Bedard’s first six games in the WHL, the 15-year-old forward has already notched five goals and 10 points, tying him for fifth in the entire league in points-per-game with a pace of 1.67. Bedard has been everything anyone could have hoped for thus far, displaying explosive edgework in his skating, quick deceptive hands, and a strong wrist shot that should only get better with age. Bedard is a long way from being draft-eligible, but it’s looking like 2023 is going to be well worth the wait.
Sebastian Cossa is red hot
The Edmonton Oil Kings remain undefeated to this point in the season with a record of 7-0-0 and a large part of their success can be attributed to draft-eligible goaltender Sebastian Cossa, who has been sensational for Edmonton in his six starts. Ranked No. 32 in FCHockey’s most recent draft rankings, the six-foot-six netminder has been drawing more and more potential first-round interest with his recent play.
SEE ALSO: FUTURE FOCUS: SEBASTIAN COSSA
Cossa’s individual numbers are about as good as you could ask for at the moment with a 1.17 goals against average and a .956 save percentage, going 6-0-0 in his six starts with one shutout as well. Cossa uses his size well to play his angles and take up large portions of the net, seals the ice well, and tracks the puck with ease. For teams looking for goaltending help in the draft, Cossa is likely worth a look in the first round.
Draft Eligibles Dominate USHL Scoring
Heading into the final month of the season, first-year, draft-eligible skaters have dominated the leaderboards for scoring pace in the USHL. While USHL veterans such as Sean Farrell and Erik Middendorf still top the overall scoring race, a glance at the league leaders in points-per-game reveals a plethora of draft-eligible talent making an impact for their respective teams. Of the top six players in the USHL in points-per-game, five of them are first-year, eligible forwards – Chaz Lucius (1.88 PPG), Matthew Coronato (1.76), Sasha Pastujov (1.71), Ayrton Martino (1.66), and Cole Sillinger (1.58). Certainly, there is plenty of early-round talent coming out of the USHL this season, and it’s been a blast to watch.
Chaz Lucius Hasn’t Lost a Step
Speaking of Lucius, I touched on his return from injury in last month’s column and it appears as though Lucius is still as dangerous as ever despite the long layoff. Always known as a goal scorer, upon his return Lucius has done what he has always done best with 10 goals and 15 points through his eight games played this season, laying to rest any concerns regarding whether or not the long layoff and knee injury would affect his ability on the ice. I still have some general concerns with his skating stride and overall foot speed, but the young American is arguably the most dangerous scorer between the dots available in this class with his quick shot release, deceptive hands in tight, and willingness to drive hard areas in the offensive zone. If Lucius continues to finish this season, it will only help his case for going in the top 10 come July.
Jake Martin, Unsung Hero
On the blue line, the U.S. National Team Development Program has a trio of attention-grabbing, offensive-minded defensemen in Luke Hughes, Aidan Hreschuk, and Sean Behrens, which can at times make it easy for a steady player like Jake Martin to really slip under the radar. Martin’s offensive numbers do not pop off the page like some of his contemporaries, as he currently sits with four goals and 14 points through 34 games this season, but it’s the little things he does on the ice that allow him to make a positive impact for his team.
Martin has always stood out to me due to his smooth and reliable mobility, ability to make efficient and smart plays on the breakout, and control gaps and make one-on-one defensive stops in his own zone. With Martin on the ice this season, the Americans have controlled 60% of unblocked shot attempts and 58% of overall shot attempts, which speaks to Martin’s steady style of game impacting his team’s ability to drive play and possession. Martin is committed to a strong collegiate program for next season at the University of Wisconsin and if you haven’t yet, I would encourage you to take a closer look at this kid, he’s as steady as they come.
Luke Hughes’ Injury
In less fortunate news regarding U.S.-born defenseman, it appears Hughes’ season may be in jeopardy after suffering a recent lower-body injury, according to multiple reports. The timing of Hughes’ injury is particularly unfortunate with some major events on the scouting calendar just on the horizon, most notably the Biosteel All-American Game set for April 7 and the World Under-18 Championships set for April 26 through May 6. Ranked No. 1 by FCHockey in our most recent rankings, Hughes will likely have to let his resumé of 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 38 games this season with the U.S. Development Program speak for itself if he hopes to hang on to the top spot.
OHLers Starting to Return Home
Though there are still substantial hurdles for the league to overcome, the OHL hopes to finally make its long-awaited return to play towards the end of April, which of course is contingent on approval from the provincial government. However, despite the OHL’s season still being somewhat in limbo, we’re starting to see some top OHL prospects return home after playing overseas. Brandt Clarke appears to have played his last game for Nove Zamky in Slovakia, leaving the team amid a current hot streak that saw the young defenseman collect seven points in his final five games at the Slovakian pro level.
Also on his way back to Canada is Francesco Pinelli, who had been skating in Slovenia with HDD Jesenice in the ALPSHL, notching five goals and 11 points in 13 regular-season games and an additional goal in the playoffs for the club. It has been good seeing some of these top OHL prospects find success while playing overseas professionally, but hopefully we’ll be able to see them lace up in North America again before the draft officially rolls around.
MHL Playoffs Underway
The MHL (along with its parent league the KHL) recently began its playoffs and in turn, we’ve gotten to see some draft-eligible players play in some playoff hockey. Top draft-eligible skaters such as Nikita Chibrikov and Prokhor Poltapov have both contributed on the scoresheet for their respective clubs with three points each, but an under-the-radar name near the top of the MHL’s playoff scoring is MHK Dynamo Moskva’s Alexander Kisakov.
Kisakov, helping lead Dynamo Moskva to a sweep over Atlant in the first round, currently sits tied for sixth in playoff scoring with two goals and six points through five games played. High-level production is nothing new for Kisakov this season, as his 36 goals and 73 points led the club in scoring, and what has stood out with Kisakov is his willingness to park himself in front of the net to make himself available for scoring opportunities while also displaying strong playmaking vision from time to time. Currently ranked 79th by FCHockey, Kisakov may be worth a look in one of this draft’s middle rounds.
Russia’s Preliminary U18 Roster
As the World Under-18s draw just one month away, Russia was the first team to announce their preliminary roster for the tournament, and no shortage of draft-eligible talent will be on display for the Russians. Among the highlights on the roster, you can expect the trio of Chibrikov, Fyodor Svechkov, and Poltapov to make the roster and play prominent roles in the team’s top six. Among the other notables named were Matvei Petrov, Vladislav Lukashevich, Ilya Ivantsov, and Daniil Lazutin, but arguably the most exciting part of this roster is the young talent that won’t be draft-eligible until 2022 or even 2023.
Matvei Michkov, a 2023 eligible coming off a season that saw him break Nikita Kucherov’s U16 MHL scoring record, is expected to make the team and will likely be one of the most dangerous scorers at the entire tournament. 2022 eligibles Ivan Miroshnichenko and Danila Yurov were both also named to the preliminary roster and stand a good chance of making the final cut, while fellow 2022 Ilya Kvochko likely has an outside shot as well.
Draft Staying Put
After some lobbying back and forth, the NHL has made the decision to leave the entirety of the 2021 NHL Draft untouched at its original date of July 23 and 24. As mentioned earlier, the OHL is still attempting to make its return to play, with many other leagues also dealing with truncated schedules this season, which is very likely to be an added wrinkle in regards to draft position this season. With fewer games on the scouting calendar this year, the Under-18s may hold extra significance in relation to draft position, and this Russian team will certainly be one to watch next month.