January 31, 2021

Holmes’ 10 Takes: Clarke, Wallstedt, Petrov & 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.

The NHL season is in full swing! Is your favorite team off to a hot start? I sure hope so.

However, if your favorite team is off to a slow start, fret not, because we have you covered here at FCHockey if you’re already beginning to take a look forward to the 2021 Draft NHL!

Here are my 10 Takes for the end of January:

Canadian Junior Prospects Go Elsewhere

In addition to drafted prospects finding their way to the AHL, undrafted prospects from the OHL, WHL, and in some cases Junior A, have sought to play elsewhere, whether it be heading south of the border or overseas. Top 2021 draft prospects from the OHL, Brandt Clarke and Brennan Othmann, have been in Europe for quite some time; Brett Harrison has found a temporary home in Finland with KOOVEE, Francesco Pinelli appears set to join Jesenice in Slovenia, and Mason McTavish is likely on his way to Olten in Switzerland to join the aforementioned Othmann.

On top of players heading to Europe, many CHL prospects have opted to head to the USHL, which seems to bring in new high-end talent every week these days. Jack O’Brien headlines a quartet of Portland Winterhawks who have joined the Lincoln Stars, Jack Bar from the BCHL decided to head to the Chicago Steel, but of course, the big one is Cole Sillinger deciding to take his talents to the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Sillinger in Sioux Falls

There is one thing we all know for certain: Sillinger can score goals, and that has been very clear in his first few games for the Stampede. After being held scoreless in his USHL debut, Sillinger has now strung together a four-game point streak, securing four goals and two assists along the way.

The goal-scoring instincts and shooting ability are as present as ever; Sillinger is so good at identifying soft areas of the ice in the offensive zone to make himself available as an offensive threat and his ability to read and react to space allows him to play faster than his feet allow. Many scouts, myself included, are disappointed that his skating stride wasn’t smoothed out during the pause in play, but I remain a believer that his offensive brain will allow him to overcome this hurdle to a degree.

Coronato’s Point Streak Ends

In the USHL, it’s difficult to not have your eye drawn to the eye-popping stat line of Matthew Coronato, who has been a points machine so far this season for the Steel. The Harvard commit had his 28-game point streak snapped on January 22 in a game against the Youngstown Phantoms, a streak that stood as a USHL record and saw a stat line of 24 goals and 30 assists dating back to last season.

On the season, Coronato leads the entire league in scoring with 18 goals and 41 points in 22 games, eclipsing his total from a year ago in 23 fewer games played, though I do have some reservations moving forward. For a player producing so much, I’m not quite sold on the skating stride as I find his first-step quickness can be clunky at times and I question how high-end his skill game truly is. However, the young American does a fantastic job of driving high-danger scoring areas and filtering pucks to those areas to create offense for his teammates, and I have no doubt the points will continue to come for Coronato in the USHL.

Clarke in Slovakia

As mentioned earlier, Clarke, FCHockey’s No. 1 prospect to start the 2021 season, has spent the early part of this season in Slovakia during the OHL’s continued pause in play. Skating for Nove Zamky in Slovakia’s top professional league, Clarke is currently one of the youngest defensemen playing in the league and has looked quite comfortable thus far during his unexpected start to his pro career.

Recently picking up his first professional goal, Clarke’s stat line currently stands at one goal and one assist through his first 10 games, and his ability to transition the puck and play the game with pace and fluidity has helped him in the early going thus far. Continuing to perform well against men should only help his case in the quest for No. 1 overall in 2021.

Wallstedt is a Wall

I find it so incredibly difficult to not talk about Jesper Wallstedt because what the young Swede is doing in the SHL is remarkably impressive for a goaltender his age. Not missing a beat after returning from the World Juniors, Wallstedt has been fantastic in each of his appearances for Luleå, bringing his stat line on the season to a stingy 1.76 goals against average and a .927 save percentage with a 10-6-0 record.

In regards to players who have done what Wallstedt is currently doing in the SHL at his age, he has almost no comparables and is currently posting the best save percentage by a U19 goaltender in league history with a minimum of five games played. In a year where the No. 1 overall spot is wide open, I would not rule out Wallstedt.

Petrov Under the Radar

While watching some tape on Russia in recent days, Matvei Petrov, a left winger from Krylia Sovetov in the MHL, has caught my eye. Petrov is a go-to option for his team in the MHL despite being a fairly young player in the league, as he won’t be turning 18 until mid-March. What stands out the most with Petrov is his work ethic and willingness to put pucks on net.

Myself and fellow scout Derek Neumeier have each tracked separate games where Petrov has attempted 10 shots, he does a great job of finding his way into soft areas of the ice to get his shot off while also playing unafraid to drive dirty areas and hound pucks on the forecheck. He currently stands at 17 goals and 32 points in 40 games on the season, leading his team in both categories, and there could be much more to offer as he adds more strength to his frame. He will be someone to keep an eye on as a potential top-64 selection in the 2021 NHL Draft.

From my recent report on Petrov from January 11: “Petrov is still a fairly raw winger in his current state, but there are plenty of tools to like in his work ethic, mobility, and shooting ability that should be amplified once he fills out his six-foot-one frame more.”

Johnson Keeps Producing

After getting off to a hot start in the NCAA, Kent Johnson has continued his strong play for the Michigan Wolverines and has even worked his way up the lineup after starting the season on the team’s fourth line. There’s plenty of debate in regards to who the top forward in this draft class is, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find a more skilled forward than Johnson in this group.

On a nightly basis, Johnson flashes dynamic puck skills, mobility, and most importantly, fantastic creativity while attacking from east-to-west in the offensive zone. Already a go-to offensive weapon in his freshman season for a top program with 18 points in 16 games played, I don’t think Johnson is going to fall out the top 10 on personal board unless something drastic happens.

Roy Traded in the QMJHL

As the QMJHL recently resumed play, a small flurry of trades swept the league, the biggest of which involved 2021 NHL Draft eligible Joshua Roy. Roy, a personal favorite of mine in this class, was sent from the Saint John Sea Dogs to the Sherbrooke Phoenix, and the Phoenix spared no expense in getting the young center as they sent three first-round selections and one second-round pick to Saint John in order to acquire Roy.

Roy, a possible first-round selection, was off to a solid start with the Sea Dogs with 17 points and 15 games and will figure to be a massive part of the Phoenix’s core upon arrival in Sherbrooke, it will be interesting to see how the move impacts his play and, in turn, his projection for the upcoming draft.

2021 NHL Draft Format in Question

Though some CHL prospects have found new homes in the United States and Europe, there are still many top prospects from the WHL and OHL who have yet to play in any games so far this season, making it difficult for those players to demonstrate growth to NHL clubs while also limiting how many views NHL teams can get on these players. In light of this, there has been some discussion to alter the date and/or format of the 2021 Draft to remedy some of these concerns from NHL managers and scouting staffs.

Some alternatives have included hosting the draft in December 2021, or potentially even hosting the 2021 and 2022 drafts in the same week during the summer of 2022. My preference would be to keep the 2021 NHL Draft at the conclusion of the 2021 season, but we’ll see where this goes. It seemed as though the 2020 Draft cycle lasted forever due to the pandemic and we may be in line for something similar in regards to the 2021 edition.

AHL Camps Draw Junior Stars

With the OHL and WHL seasons still in limbo and the AHL season just around the corner, many NHL clubs have decided to assign their junior stars to their American League affiliates to start the 2021 season. Quinton Byfield, 2020’s second-overall pick, will start the season with the Ontario Reign, Cole Perfetti, a 111-point player a season ago and a 10th-overall selection by the Winnipeg Jets, is skating with the Manitoba Moose.

Whether or not this spurs on a broader discussion of junior-aged eligibility in the American League will remain to be seen, but without a doubt, the pandemic has altered the landscape of junior hockey in 2020 and 2021. Just something to keep an eye on.

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