Notebook: 2021 WJC Edition
With the 2021 World Junior Championship kicking off this week, FCHockey is giving a glimpse into some of the draft-eligible names to know in this week’s Unpacking the Notebook.
Our scouts have been watching those eligible for both the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts leading up to the exciting tournament, and we’ve highlight five names to know here with a glimpse into their games.
Keep an eye on FCHockey throughout the week, as we take a look at all of the draft-eligibles in the tournament, from overagers to 2022-eligibles.
Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan – Team USA
Arizona State 1 – Michigan 8 – November 14, 2020
Scouting report by Dylan Galloway
Matthew Beniers is a quick and energetic freshman centreman for Michigan. He seems to be all over the ice and involved in every play when he’s on the ice. Berniers possesses some quick feet that he utilizes in both directions with an almost tireless effort level. His back check is almost as smart and aggressive as his forecheck. I liked Beniers feet in this game. Effective not only in straight line puck races, but I particularly liked his 4-way mobility with and without the puck. He routinely utilized some shifty footwork to get the puck from the outside lanes to between the dots. Without the puck, he does a solid job of understanding how to use his body positioning to gain the inside lanes on pucks, and then when the opportunity arises, activate his explosive first few steps to lose his coverage. In this way, you can actively see Beniers brain working through plays regularly and looking for subtle advantages constantly. His brain is capable of keeping up with his feet and hands. This combination makes him pretty lethal on both sides of the puck, utilizing speed and smart stick checks to poke loose pucks and create pressure. Beniers looks like a top-end player in this draft and could break the top 10 if he continues this level of play.
Giancarlo Chanton, D, Team Switzerland (U20 Exhibition) – Team Switzerland
Switzerland 8 – Germany 4 – July 20, 2020
Scouting report by Joseph Aleong
Giancarlo Chanton struggled in his first OHL campaign last year, but should play a role on Switzerland’s World Junior team this season. Smooth skater who has good agility and edgework, but doesn’t have great power in his strides, limiting his top-end speed and acceleration. Struggles to make high-percentage plays under pressure; sometimes flipping the puck out of the zone while missing a center lane option. Strong foundational passer who moves it out of his own end with pace and flashes the ability to hit stretch passes to create an offensive chance. Shows some good puck control carrying through the neutral zone but lacks separating speed and the skill to gain the zone consistently. Displays some decent vision when set up in the offensive end but could stand to be more aggressive jumping into shooting lanes and trying to find a lane to the net. Needs to develop his strength, as he doesn’t protect the puck well against physical pressure and struggles to box forwards out of high-danger areas. Allowed opposing players to attack to the middle of the ice too easily and needs to develop more lower-body strength to drive forwards off their line. Could also sit lower in his stride to gain more explosiveness in his stride.
Samuel Helenius, C, JYP (Liiga) – Team Finland
JYP 4 – TPS 6 – November 27, 2020
Samuel Helenius strikes me as a defense-first forward. There may be some two-way upside, but in this game, the offense wasn’t really there, rarely touching the puck in the offensive zone. His defensive play is strong though. He knows when to drop down and support the defenders, jumping into the corners and using his long reach to pull the puck out of scrums, get in the passing lanes, and poke check pucks away. Although there was a play where he continued to back into his own zone, allowing the defenders to shorten the OZ, resulting in a goal. Had he stood his ground, they wouldn’t have been able to close in like that. He’s still figuring out how to use his size to his advantage, especially difficult playing in a men’s league. Helenius’ able to pin opponents and rub them out along the boards, but in open ice and when trying to hit, this is still very much a learning curve. He’s constantly scanning, checking for where the attackers are and where his next move is. However, when the puck enters the slot, he can freeze a little and get lost in the scrum. His stance and skating were tough to pin down in this one. It’s very much a work in progress. I found that when defending, he loses any ankle flexion, therefore losing his mobility and ability to accelerate quickly. With the puck on his stick though, he maintains a better posture, bending his ankles, getting his knee over his toes, and having a nice, long stride. If his defensive game is going to be what carries him, I’d like to see that dynamic posture no matter the situation. He’ll need to work on his puck control, as he seemed to lose it a few times in his skates, unpressured. He does protect it well though, using his long reach to create separation between the puck and the attacker. The biggest adjustment that he’ll need to make moving forward is keeping his head up. He’s staring down at the puck too much, losing sight of the play around him. This may be why he’s not excelling in the offensive zone (at least in this game), as he’s missing opportunities to make plays. He didn’t carry the puck in the OZ much though, opting to pass it off quickly. He may lack confidence in his ability to create plays. I’d like to see him more engaged in the offensive end. His assist in this game came from a neutral zone pass. His defensive game will attract NHL teams, but I’d like to see improvements to his game with the puck and in the offensive zone. Right now, I could see him slotting into a bottom-six, without much offensive upside.
Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia) – Team Slovakia
Nitra 3 – Dukla Trencin 6 – November 29, 2020
Scouting report by Chris Smith
Simon Nemec is a RHS defenseman eligible for the 2022 Draft playing in the Slovak Extraliga. Nemec is gifted with solid size and physical tools already at the age of 16. Nemec plays with an impressive level of maturity and poise to his game that is rare to see among defenseman his age, and the fact he’s able to do it against men is just that much more appealing. He plays the game with his head up, quickly surveying the ice and is able to make quick outlet passes out of his zone to aid in transition or can skate himself out of trouble. On one particular play, Nemec was the last man back in his zone with the puck while his linemates were changing, he was facing pressure from an oncoming forechecker and instead of panicking or throwing the puck away, he made a quality read to sidestep the F1 and was able to skate the puck up and out of his zone to relieve pressure. He’s a strong and powerful skater that pivots cleanly and is able to retrieve pucks and avoid turnovers. Very good understanding of where to position himself while defending the rush, strong gap control and stick makes him a challenge to beat 1 on 1. He had a very nice primary assist in the third period where he crept down from the middle of the point and made a deceptive seam pass to his linemate for a one-timed goal. While he’s very young and is a ways away from his draft, Nemec looks like a player with a lot of upside moving forward.
Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL) – Team Sweden
Skelleftea 0 – Lulea 4 – December 1, 2020
Scouting report by Derek Neumeier
If you didn’t know that Jesper Wallstedt just turned 18 you would never be able to guess it from watching him in the net, which is pretty rare to see at a level like the SHL. His poise and composure are miles ahead of most other netminders his age. Doesn’t look nervous at all staring down dangerous scoring chances. He uses his large frame and big equipment to play a simple blocking style, and he is incredibly effective at it. His form and technique are rock solid, so when he squares up to a shooter there’s almost no daylight to aim for. Can go post to post without overshooting and getting caught out of position. Rebound control is excellent — if a shot doesn’t get sucked into his equipment it usually stays close enough that he can easily cover it up with his glove. Doesn’t get caught scrambling or flailing too much when his crease gets chaotic. Displays a very good ability to track the puck through traffic, knowing when and where the shot is coming from without having to guess too much. Is confident coming out of his crease to handle the puck, and can make passes to his teammates off his forehand and backhand. There aren’t a lot of complaints here, but I would like to see him be quicker in his movements when necessary, especially when projecting out to the top of his crease to cut down shooting angles. Glove hand could also be better, as he looks a little too reliant on staying square and hoping the puck hits his glove as opposed to actually catching it, which works a lot of the time but not all the time. It will be fascinating to see what happens if he continues to perform this well all season. In a draft class that is relatively weak at the top, could he eventually work his way into the discussion for 1st overall?
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