2021 NHL Draft: 5 under-the-radar American players to watch
Depending on when the date for the 2021 NHL Draft is officially set, prospects playing in the United States could see an advantage over Canadian Major Junior players.
For players in the USNTDP and USHL, the scouting process is already underway. All five of the players listed below are spending their 2020-21 seasons in the United States and will be able to offer a full sample size to scouts, no different than any other year. Hopefully.
With FCHockey starting preparations for the 2021 NHL Draft, our scouts agreed on five draft-eligible players currently playing in the United States that are currently under the radar. Keep your eyes on these three forwards and two defensemen this year as they show off their skillsets and work to cement themselves into the 2021 draft rankings.
Here are FCHockey’s five under-the-radar American prospects to watch out for this season:
Tyler Boucher, RW, U.S. National U18 Team
Son of former NHL goaltender Brian Boucher, Tyler Boucher, the New Jersey native is another U.S. National U18 Team winger that could see a rise in his draft stock ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft. Boucher is viewed as a chippy winger with high competitiveness and a developing scoring touch. His offensive production has taken a noticeable step forward this season. However, he still has lots of development time to refine his craft at Boston University, where he is committed for the 2021-22 season.
Boucher played his 2019-20 season with the U.S. National U17 Team in the USDP and then followed that up with 24 games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. On the US National U17 Team, Boucher scored nine goals, 17 assists, and 26 points in 43 games. He followed that up with four goals, seven assists, and 11 points playing the USHL. Boucher then contributed three assists and four points as a member of Team USA, collecting a silver medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Boucher’s game consists of many of the physical elements that scouts look for in a player. If his scoring stays consistent with the pace he began the 2020-21 season, Boucher will be a lock to rise in the draft.
Tyler Haskins, C, Sioux Falls Stampede
As a 153-pound center, Tyler Haskins has relied heavily upon his offensive skill set to put himself in a favourable draft position for the 2021 NHL Draft. Haskins spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Mission 16U AAA Team. In 2018-19, he had eight goals and seven assists for 15 points in 15 games. For his 2019-20 season, Haskins focused more on developing his playmaking ability. He put up another 15-point season, this time in 17 games. Of those 15 points, 11 were assists. He also had a short stint in the USHL, where Haskins got one game at the beginning of the season in September and two more in the middle of December but never registered a point.
Haskins played for Team Forest at the 2019-20 USA-S16 tournament, where he managed a stat line of four goals and 10 points in five games. His point-per-game of two at the tournament is identical to the Detroit Red Wings’ 55th-overall pick at the 2020 NHL Draft, Cross Hanas.
Haskins still has to put on some weight to compete physically at the University of Michigan, where he’s committed for the 2021-22 season. If Haskins can successfully transition his offensive production from AAA to the USHL, he is another sneaky candidate to climb up the draft boards as the season progresses.
Sasha Pastujov, LW, U.S. National U18 Team
Already committed to Notre Dame for 2021-22, Sasha Pastujov will get valuable development time, working on his skills in the Big Ten. With seven goals, four assists, and 11 points in seven games for the U.S. National U18 team. Pastujov’s early scouting reports mention his playmaking ability as his strongest asset. However, this year he is putting his scoring ability on display early in his 2020-21 campaign.
Throughout Pastujov’s young career, he has always been one of the most dominant scorers on his team. During his 2019-20 season, playing for the US National U17 team, Pastujov tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 goals, 36 assists, and 50 points in 49 games. At the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Pastujov helped lead Team USA to a silver medal, leading the tournament in assists with seven and adding one goal for eight points in six games.
Preliminary scouting reports have Pastujov already ranked to be a first-round talent, but his pace of play this year suggests he could very well be one of the first prospects selected out of the USDP.
Roman Schmidt, D, U.S. National U18 Team
Smooth-skating defenseman Roman Schmidt is a name to watch out for when the 2021 NHL Draft rolls around. Schmidt is a well rounded two-way defenseman, making his presence felt all over the ice. At six-foot-five, Schmidt already has a high-quality defensive game, strong transition game, and is surprisingly mobile for a man his stature. Schmidt will spend his 2021-22 season playing at Boston University.
In 2018-19, Schmidt spent time in the GTHL U16 with the Don Mills Flyers U16 AAA, where he put up an astounding 18 goals, 53 assist, and 71 points in 73 games. Schmidt won the GTHL Championship and went on to help lead his team to an OHL Cup Championship. The following season Schmidt was a member of Team USA at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Schmidt contributed one goal and two points in six games, helping bring home the silver medal.
As a defenseman with a noteworthy combination of traits that includes immense physical tools and puck skills, Schmidt will undoubtedly solidify himself as a first-round talent of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Ryan Ufko, D, Chicago Steel
The 2021-22 University of Massachusetts commit, Ryan Ufko is one of the most underrated defensemen eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. As a 16-year-old rookie in 2019-20, Ufko scored two goals, seven for nine points in 43 games for the USHL’s Chicago Steel. Scouts were significantly impressed with Ufko’s skating ability and how mobile he was getting up and down the ice. Going into 2020-21 a year older and more physically mature will significantly benefit the agile defenseman. Ufko will turn a lot of heads his way as the upcoming draft inches closer.
Prior to Ufko’s time with the Steel, he spent the 2018-19 season with the North Jersey Avalanche 16U AAA Team. Ufko racked up four goals and 19 points playing AYHL 16U. He managed to keep up his pace when his team graduated to T1EHL 16U, where Ufko added an additional two goals, 22 assists, and 24 points in 25 games.
Right now, scouts have pegged Ufko and a potential late-round pick. Although, we should expect to see much more from Ufko in terms of point production, which will inevitably lead to a profound increase in Ufko’s draft ranking.