Notebook: Power, Clarke, Hughes & More
Every season, FCHockey’s scouts are scouring the globe to get eyes on prospects eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft and beyond.
They spend countless hours watching both live games and game tape to get the best possible analysis on the prospects entering the NHL Draft. Our Unpacking the Notebook series typically looks at prospect reports filed within the last week but with the conclusion of the season has been expanded to feature top NHL Draft prospects.
Here’s a glimpse at our scout’s analysis.
OWEN POWER, D, MICHIGAN (NCAA)
MINNESOTA 3 – MICHIGAN 2 – MARCH 15, 2021
Scouting report by Dylan Krill
Coming away from this game, I have great confidence in saying Owen Power will be an effective defenseman who can play in the top-4, with the ability to contribute on both special teams. The big question being, will he be a top pair or No. 1 defenseman. He is very strong and smooth on his edges, able to stay balanced and move around the ice efficiently. Although he did show that he doesn’t have the greatest breakaway speed and wasn’t able to separate himself from opponents with his acceleration. He has good deception at the blue line and is able to freeze opponents with fake shots to get around them for higher quality chances. On the power play, he displayed great vision and passing ability. He was able to identify open lanes quickly, and had no difficulty finding his teammates, making strong and accurate passes, tape to tape to set up a shot or just to open up space. He has strong stick positioning and is able to consistently make contact with the puck to force turnovers, end rushes and minimize offensive zone entry attempts. He also has a strong gap control, quickly closing space and using his long reach effectively. I’d like to see him work opponents into the boards more consistently and use his size to his advantage. I saw him trying to poke the puck free instead of forcing his opponent into the boards, which resulted in agile opponents using their quickness to escape the pressure. He defends well in front of the net and is effective at tying up opponents sticks and making it difficult to get good positioning, which minimized scoring chances. He displayed great defensive awareness on the penalty kill, using his body to block shooting lanes, while also using his long reach to quickly take away time and space from opponents. He looked very poised and in control of the situation, suppressing many chances and high danger shots. In my opinion, Power has excellent potential and I would feel comfortable taking him in the top-5, knowing his ceiling is a No. 1 defenseman, and his floor is still a reliable and effective defenseman.
BRANDT CLARKE, D, HC NOVE ZAMKY (SVK)
HC NOVE ZAMKY 5 – DETVA 1 – FEBRUARY 5, 2021
Scouting report by Joseph Aleong
Brandt Clarke is playing in Slovakia currently, on loan from the Barrie Colts while the OHL season is on pause. He has stepped into the low-tier pro league with aplomb, showing trademark poise with the puck and a more conceited effort to use his physicality to his advantage against men. Clarke is a strong skater with excellent edgework and power through his strides. His legs splay slightly outwards in his stride, but his overall form and extension he gets on his strides is very good for his age. His foot speed is an area of improvement, but he excels at jumping into the rush and does a good job picking his spots to minimize risk. He is very confident with the puck on his stick, skating it through the neutral zone in transition with purpose and showing good management of his speed and balance to find open patches of ice to make zone entries. He showed good decision-making under pressure, making quick plays to beat forecheckers and using his feet to escape pressure. Makes a strong first pass and is very aggressive trying to find wingers pushing the pace of play at the offensive blue line. His poise is apparent in the offensive zone, using subtle fakes and deception to open space for his teammates. His vision from the point on the power play was impressive in this game, generating multiple dangerous chances by moving laterally to open passing lanes. His aggressiveness can get him caught deep in the offensive zone at times, leaving a forward back to cover counterattacks. He has solid awareness when defending in his own zone, but is still learning to pick and choose when to pressure his man with body contact or simply use his long reach. Clarke’s acceleration and overall strength in puck battles is still a long way from the top levels, but he has the brain and puck skills to eventually contribute as an all-situations defender in the NHL.
LUKE HUGHES, D, USA U-18 (USDP)
GREEN BAY 6 – USA U-18 5 – FEBRUARY 26, 2021
Scouting report by Derek Neumeier
This was my best viewing of Luke Hughes so far this season, so it was an extra shame that his season-ending injury occurred shortly afterwards. I had found his focus and intensity lacking in prior viewings, so it was nice to see him display a bit more of a killer instinct. His skating is still marvelous, and among the best in this entire draft class. His edgework is sharp and he can change direction effortlessly. Both his acceleration and his top speed are also high-end. Makes his zone exits and entries look easy. Defends the rush well and keeps tight gaps. Puck skills are coming along nicely, as he can keep the puck safely in front of him even at full flight. Displays some creativity with his playmaking, including behind-the-back passes. Also knows how to execute a give-and-go on the rush. Plays on the power play, though I don’t think this will ever be a true standout area for him. Shot is alright, but not special. His puck management in this game left something to be desired, as there were a handful of missed passes and other turnovers. I’d still like to see him show more intensity in his board battles and cycle defense, as he can get outworked. He killed some penalties in this game, but I don’t think it will be something that he does regularly in the NHL. The lack of special teams specialization, on both sides, is disappointing. There’s no doubt that Hughes is near the very top of this draft class, but I still find myself doubting if he’s the cream of the crop and whether he can be a true number-one defender on an NHL team.
MATTHEW BENIERS, C, MICHIGAN (NCAA)
MICHIGAN 3 – NOTRE DAME 1 – JANUARY 22, 2021
Scouting report by Justin Froese
One of the more energizing top prospects around, Matthew Beniers approach to the game is relentless and he instills more fear in defenders on a retrieval than Cujo did terrorizing his victims. Beniers game is built around pressure by taking his style of game to the opponent and keeping them on their heels. He’s a powerful, athletic skater who gets wound in 3 strides and consistently plays at top gear with and without the puck. I like his explosiveness and dynamism in tight spaces but I honestly think he would be more deceptive if he used more linear crosses. He tends to compound forward strides as the mindset is to outrun opponents, often leading him at the end of a rope from time to time and putting himself off balance trying to pivot off course. He is powerful on the puck and is effective at protecting his hands from opponents, at times showing a giddy mindset to lead with his hands, but able to cut linear or side step pressure. I think that a lot of the technical elements to his shooting prowess, and how he applies deceptive elements to his passes by looking off defenders is really effective and he shows the qualities of what could be a high level multitasker, as long as his head can keep up. The qualm I have with Beniers is what I feel is somewhat hardwired into his game. He’s an effective problem solver under pressure and I love his mental agility, but his mindset is so one tracked at times to just ram his style of play down the throat of opponents that he doesn’t see the whole picture. He’s the cook, the kitchen is his and yet he’s still trying to wait on tables and ring up the bar tab too. Beniers style of game in these scenarios result in him trying to be a Mac truck to create offense off pressure, opting to attack alone in scenarios and not showing presence of mind to adapt a consistent B game with off puck offensive tactics. At times he shows that he can play that support game, choosing arcs and masking himself in secondary layers to space himself off pucks, but he flips stylistically back to that of the bull. While it looks great when it works and he’s highly successful in transition at this point, this type of skill expression and mindset has a low percentage success rate and will be more detrimental as he advances with a limited scope. Can’t knock the efforts he shows off, he’s a strong off puck player in both zones when he’s thinking practically, but he needs to adapt a style to implement at the next level because playing like a model rocket doesn’t work for even the best in the world.
WILLIAM EKLUND, LW, DJURGARDEN (SHL)
DJURGARDEN 3 – FROLUNDA 2 – NOVEMBER 28, 2020
Scouting report by Fredrik Haak
I have been following William Eklund over the past seasons and he never stop to surprise me with his development. 2 years ago he was a top player in the U18 – leagues. Last year he turned into a top U20 player in SuperElit. And this season he has already become a high performing player in SHL with the seniors. Eklund has a fantastic way of adapt him over what type of game it is. Eklund has great speed both with and without the puck but could still work more on his skating over longer distances. When Eklund does not have the puck he works really hard all over the ice. He forechecks like he loves it and never quit. He completes hits, pokes with his stick and makes it difficult for the opponent’s. In his own zone he has good awareness of what’s happening and where he should position himself. He works with his stick and to cover areas and passes and rarely gets caught out of position. He helps his defenders and is often playable when the want to start an attack from their own end. He could also come down deep to get the puck early and then transport it to the offensive zone without any trouble. In his offense I think it’s amazing how well he handles the physical aspect and tight battles. It is like when he comes and the opponents tries to tackle him he just bounces away and often gets more speed out of it. He has so much energy and creativity and it is really hard to get the puck from away from him. Today he had many technical numbers that give him advantage and goal scoring opportunities from his skills. Eklund is also and asset in Powerplay and today they had many chances to score in during these penalties. Their goal that gave them a 2-0 lead was a perfect example of his skills. He took the puck in neutral zone, went in and moved around the goal but instead of passing the way he skated he passed backwards to the first post where Alexander Holtz just had an open goal to score in. In the end Eklund also managed to score in Powerplay with his 3-2 goal but that was actually more of a lucky bounce but he earned it after his game. Overall Eklund was one of the top performers today and he earns his time on the ice. He makes very few or no mistakes today and plays a really mature game combined with some really skilled moves that makes him very fun to watch every night.
DYLAN GUENTHER, RW, EDMONTON (WHL)
LETHBRIDGE 1 – EDMONTON 5 – FEBRUARY 26, 2021
Scouting report by Donesh Mazloum
Dylan Guenther came out of the gate flying in his WHL season debut, and any doubts that may have been creeping in after a good but not great AJHL audition quickly vanished after he potted a goal and an assist in the first minutes of this game. Guenther was truly dominant in this game and created chances on almost every shift. There was an extra gear in his stride that we didn’t see earlier in the year with the Sherwood Park Crusaders. The final tally for Guenther was four points as he followed up his early outburst with a slick seam pass on the Oil Kings third goal and an absolute laser beam of a shot for Edmonton’s fourth goal. Guenther is lethal with time and space and is especially potent on the power play where he is an equal threat to pick a corner or find a teammate backdoor. That offensive balance and situational intelligence was seen time and time again throughout this contest and he’s the type of player I think will only improve as the talent around him get better. He has a knack for playing to his linemates strengths and really maximizes offensive opportunities. He has supreme confidence in his game reading abilities and always has a sense of his next move or next pass without telegraphing his intentions to the opponent. While his offense steals the show, I think he is a sound defender as well. He’s unlikely to be a fixture on the penalty kill at any level, however he doesn’t cheat up the ice and he showcased a myriad of smart stick checks in this game to disrupt the opposition’s cycle. Guenther is getting a late start compared to many other top prospects in this year’s draft, but the fact that no one has seized the No. 1 slot leaves the door wide open for Guenther. If he continues to keep the pedal to the floor and put up gaudy numbers it’ll be hard to deny him that top spot.
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