Notebook: Robertsson, Zhigalov, Fantilli & 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 takes a look at some of the reports that FCHockey’s scouts have filed over the past week.
Here’s a glimpse at our scout’s analysis.
ETHAN SAMSON, D, PRINCE GEORGE COURGARS (WHL)
KELOWNA 2 – PRINCE GEORGE 1 – MAY 9, 2021
Scouting report by Justin Froese
A generalist on the back end for Prince George, Ethan Samson’s performance wasn’t spectacular in this game but I like the raw potential the big right hand defender offers. Playing in all situations for the Cougars, Samson is a workhorse who plays north of 25 minutes on a regular basis and is getting better at providing consistency in his approach to the game. Skating projects to be a big part of his game and even though I want the foot speed to improve I like how efficient he is with his stride and can cover a tonne of space with his glide and range. He could make a career of managing the game by under-handling pucks and making strong first passes but he is also a guy who likes to activate on the rush and get parallel in the attack to provide an option. There’s not a lot of flash to Samson’s game but his ability to battle hard on 50/50 pucks and evade opponents or moving pucks with precision with little processing time moves the needle for his team. Would still like him to get a bit more aggressive off the line and do a bit more than hammer pucks with a fairly impressive slap shot, but he’s getting more efficient at walking to the middle and moving pucks from the front to his hip to just give that extra bit of room to create a shot or pass lane. I do think that at times he can get a bit unbalanced and hunched over with his torso which may lead to him being limited with movements and in physical confrontations. He’s fairly clean in how he deals with the rush and odd man breaks, but I do think he needs to get out ahead of plays a bit more and be more assertive in stepping up and using that size to push bodies off the puck and box the net. Has a tendency to grip his stick with two hands in his zone and at times get tunnel vision which limits his coverage and awareness of seam threats. That being said he, had quite a few really good sequences where he showed good check attachment to separate bodies from pucks and feel he just needs more work at developing his identity at the position. You’re going to see him play the same pace, a low panic, smooth game most of his outings, but I don’t mind that approach as long as he can learn to add that layer of grit and provide consistency with a strong mental game. He falls a few slots down for me, but is still a good project defender who could round into a solid bottom-3.
IVAN ZHIGALOV, G, BELARUS (WJC-18)
BELARUS 2 – CANADA 5 – MAY 1, 2021
Scouting report by Shaun Richardson
Ivan Zhigalov came into the game in relief and turned in a fine performance. He favors a blocking style butterfly and, other than one shot that beat him through the five-hole, Zhigalov was very proficient at taking away the bottom of the net. He tended to play higher shots off his chest and did leave a few rebounds bouncing around the crease but not to the point that I would call it a concern, although it did lead to a couple second-chance opportunities against. A goalie who plays that big body blocking style might have some mobility issues, but Zhigalov was rather quick laterally, made several nice saves moving post-to-post, and his overall crease movement was slightly above average. Zhigalov’s positioning was very deep in his crease and even when actively engaging in a save, he didn’t venture far from his goal line. That style can sometimes give the shooter more to look at, but in Zhigalov’s case his patience allowed him to stay on his feet longer, read the play and remove a great deal of the guesswork. Combine that with Zhigalov’s less common right-handed glove and now the shooter has a different look to process. Zhigalov wouldn’t be considered in the same category as the top goaltenders in the draft and likely not in the second tier either, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t offer a legitimate late round option for a team looking to add organizational goaltending depth.
LUCA FANTILLI, D, CHICAGO STEEL (USHL)
MUSKEGON 1 – CHICAGO 5 – APRIL 24, 2021
Scouting report by Dylan Krill
Luca Fantilli is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who likes to join the rush and contribute offensively. He displays nice flashes of skill from time to time, but will need to manage his decisions on when he can make a skilled played and not overuse it. He’s strong on his edges and displayed good positioning while on the PK, covering a lot of ice. He does lack a bit of explosiveness in his stride, which resulted in him taking a tripping penalty while trying to keep up and defend a speedy opponent. He likes to make flashy plays every once in a while, but on one attempt while exiting the DZ, he was trying to make a spin move around a defender, but lost control of the puck, resulting in a turnover that led to a goal against. He will need to manage his risk assessment and simplify his game. This was not a positive game for Fantilli, with the majority of his passes not on target, he will need to improve on his passing accuracy. He was able to join the offensive rush and contribute throughout the game and on one play he rushed into the OZ with good speed and ended up drawing a tripping penalty. He is poised under pressure and understands when he needs to be aggressive or conservative. Not looking overwhelmed, he was able to focus on the play ahead of him and find open space. He has good stick placement and can keep a strong gap with his opponents, forcing opponents to make a move to enter the OZ. I’d like to see him become more aggressive while retrieving open pucks instead of waiting for opponents to set up so he can avoid puck battles. Fantilli has some attractive traits to him, where if he can focus on making more efficient plays rather than skilled plays, he has the potential to become a useful bottom-pair defenseman.
SIMON ROBERTSSON, RW, PITEA HC (HOCKEYETTAN)
HUDIKSVALLS 2 – PITEA 1 – APRIL 2, 2021
Scouting report by Sebastian Death
Simon Robertsson is a very well-rounded player who does well in all three zones and has no glaring flaws in his game. The main facet of his game is his high motor. Robertsson has a very quick first step and is very mobile, especially in the offensive zone where he would create opportunities for his teammates by running routes to move defenders out of position and create screens in front of the net. This enabled him to get to open ice or get his teammates more time with the puck. He is very good off the rush and does a great job of gaining the zone due to his mobility, edge strength and awareness. Robertsson attacks open ice and uses his speed/body movement with the puck to get defenders to move their feet. He can turn on a dime which enables him to consistently gain zone possession on less aggressive defenses who give him space around the blue line and the top of the circle. Robertsson is a very poised puck carrier, and he is not afraid to backtrack into the neutral/defensive zone if the other team is well positioned defensively and there is no opening. Robertsson is also a very strong forechecker. He goes to the dirty areas of the ice and due to his acceleration, is typically first on the puck. Off-puck awareness is another strength. He is constantly keeping his head up and looking around the ice before touching the puck. When he has the puck, Robertsson showed strong vision and playmaking skills. Due to his awareness Robertson excelled at winning puck possession along the boards and quickly one-touching passes to open teammates in the slot or high danger scoring areas. Overall, Robertsson is a very safe pick in this year’s draft, and he projects to be in the NHL at some point in his career. He can play a top-6 role due to his playmaking ability, IQ/awareness, strong shot, and edge strength. He can also play in a bottom-6 role and be an effective penalty killer due to his high-motor and gritty forechecking.
GUSTAVS OZOLINS, D, HS RIGA (LATVIA)
PRIZMA 0 – RIGA 5 – MARCH 10, 2021
Scouting report by Brandon Holmes
It was a decent showing for Gustavs Ozolins in HS Riga’s 5-0 victory over Prizma, as the young defenseman logged heavy minutes en route to a one-goal night. Where Ozolins shined most prominently was in his defensive zone play, as it’s clear he’s trusted by his coaching staff in key situations due to his ability to play smart defensive hockey. In his own zone, he’s generally well-positioned, defends the front of his net by keeping himself between opposing puck carriers and the goal, and more often than not was able to win physical puck battles along the boards. Ozolins showed a willingness to play physically and lay the body, which added an extra tool to his arsenal to separate puck carriers from the puck. Ozolins’ skating ability can be described as roughly average, as his top speed made it difficult for him to pull away from forecheckers on the breakout but he was able to control his gaps well and keep up when defending in transition. As an attacker and asset on the breakout, I found Ozolins to be a very basic player, not showing remarkable creativity with the puck on his stick in either zone and more often than not made basic plays to the outside of the ice. On the breakout, too often Ozolins was willing to dump the puck out rather than making a play to his teammate to preserve possession of the puck, but when passing the puck he was relatively accurate with his passes. Overall, Ozolins was leaned on heavily by his coaching staff in this game and played in all situations, but his shortcomings with the puck on his stick make it difficult at the moment to see him as more than a niche shutdown defenseman at the next level.
NICOLAS DAIGLE, C, VICTORIAVILLE (QMJHL)
VAL-D’OR 2 – VICTORIAVILLE 3 – JUNE 5, 2020
Scouting report by Andy Lehoux
Nicolas Daigle is a responsible, reliable and competitive two-way centerman who impacted his team in all areas of the ice with excellent decisions and resplendent energy. The left-handed attacker impressed with his defensive game, supporting his rearguards down low with ruthless corner battles, intercepting passes in neutral zone with a skilled stick and great anticipation, and repeatedly retrieving to his zone to block rushes and recover loose pucks. Extremely focused on the game, Daigle could be seen communicating with his teammates for assignment. Although he read and processed attacks quickly, he could get caught lacking foot speed to stay with his man. Offensively, Daigle plays a simple game constituted of excellent decisions, superb positioning and relentless intensity. The Canadian prospect flashed great instincts, proactively jumping into open space after completing a pass and crashing dangerous areas. He had multiple offensive chances, but either lacked the speed to separate himself from his man or the shooting skills to finish the play. He also possesses poor puck skills, having difficulties beating defenders 1v1 and struggling with his pass receptions. This forced him to refer to basic passes or dump-ins in transition, and he turned over the disc on his only dekes attempts. Daigle battles extremely hard on the puck pursuit, even creating the takeaway that led to him setting up the overtime President Cup winning goal. If Daigle lacks the skill, athletic abilities and creativity of top prospects, his presence on the ice was especially valuable for Victoriaville. I don’t see a ton of upside in his game at the moment, but perhaps his great work ethic and two-way game could allow him to make the jump to the next level.
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