The Holmes Report: Early Season Standouts
The Holmes Report 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.
We’re just about one month through the 2021-22 scouting season for the 2022 NHL Draft in July, which begs the question, especially from fans of struggling NHL teams: who is currently rising to the top in the 2022 NHL Draft class?
In the offseason, we always make our early prognostications and projections based on what we’ve seen in the previous year or two. However, there is a reason why many early rankings are labeled as preliminary, as we’re in the very early stages of this draft class’ scouting cycle and both rankings and opinions are bound to change throughout the year.
Here are the players that are making an early name for themselves and making an impression on scouts with their play thus far this season.
Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
Any list of this manner would be remiss to not include Joakim Kemell, who has exploded in the early going of the 2021-22 Liiga season for JYP.
The 17-year-old Finnish winger has been nothing short of exceptional and prolific and is currently on pace to record arguably the best draft-eligible season in Liiga history. Through 14 games, Kemell currently leads Liiga in both points (15) and goals (10), all while being one of the youngest players in the league. Kemell’s pace of 1.07 points-per-game currency puts him on pace to break Aleksander Barkov’s draft-eligible record of 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 53 games set in 2013, and he’s currently on pace to shatter the draft-eligible goals record set by Kaapo Kakko in 2019 when he had 22 goals in 45 games.
— Liiga (@smliiga) October 15, 2021
“Kemell is an absolutely electrifying player to watch with his blend of speed, puckhandling and finishing ability,” Finnish FCHockey scout Rasmus Tornqvist said in a recent report, “He always seems to find ways to make plays and go for goal even when there seemingly is nothing there.”
Kemell, No. 10 in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2022 draft, has impressed scouts every step of the way so far this season by leveraging his blend of skill and offensive smarts on a nightly basis, and will be a player that will be hard to ignore in the top three discussion if his torrid pace continues throughout the duration of the season.
Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
From one league points leader to another, Alexander Perevalov continued production early on in the MHL season has been impossible to ignore.
In 15 MHL games so far this season, Perevalov has only been held off of the scoresheet once — that’s right, just one single, 60-minute game. Perevalov currently is tied for the MHL’s league lead with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in those 15 games. Those 13 tallies put him in second in the league’s goal-scoring race. Perevalov’s early-season heater has earned him a promotion to the Yaroslavl’s big club in the KHL, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and is a player that will certainly be on the international radar throughout the coming months.
— Хоккей России (@russiahockey) August 3, 2021
Perevalov, No. 91 in FCHockey’s prelim ranking, is a player that I got a very early viewing on this year and was left impressed, albeit not overwhelmingly so, as his puck skills and creativity were both plus attributes and he had a clear knack for finding scoring areas. Perevalov has proven to me he’s worth another close look immediately and is someone that will surely be rising up a lot of draft boards.
Liam Ohgren, LW, Djurgardens IF (SHL)
Liam Ohgren, No. 58 in FCHockey’s prelim ranking, has been a standout early on with Djurgardens J20 Nationell club and has quickly earned himself time with the big club in the SHL.
The 17-year-old came into his club season fresh off a standout performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for Sweden, where he was arguably the team’s best forward with seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games during the tournament, tying for second on the team with fellow draft-eligible Filip Bystedt. While playing in the J20 Nationell league, Ohgren has been a dominant offensive presence performing at a 1.63 points-per-game pace through eight games, with 13 points (seven goals, five assists).
Sweden is on the board. 2-1.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) August 3, 2021
“Ohgren has stood out to scouts with a very well-rounded offensive skill set, posing dual-threat capabilities to opposing defenses while also displaying high-end skill and creativity with the puck on his stick. “Ohgren is a real offensive threat every time he crosses over center ice,” Swedish FC Hockey scout Fredrik Haak said. “With his stickhandling and creativity, he earns his power play time and wants to make points every night.”
Ohgren is a candidate to watch to potentially break into the late first round or early second round tier of the 2022 NHL Draft, and has only helped his case thus far in the season.
David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czech)
David Jiricek is among the most exciting Czech defensemen to come through the draft in a very long time, and his play thus far this season has only stoked that flame further — particularly on the offensive side of the puck.
He currently sits tied for sixth in the Czech Extraliga for scoring among all defensemen with eight points (two goals, six assists) through 12 games. His scoring numbers become more impressive when looked through a historical lens for players his age. Martin Hamrlik holds the all-time scoring mark for draft-eligible defensemen in the Czech league with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 50 games for AC ZPS Zlín back in 1991-92, good for a .42 points-per-game pace. Jiricek’s pace of .67 points-per-game and .25 goals-per-game currently puts him on pace to shatter Hamrlik’s scoring records in the Czech league as a draft-eligible defenseman, and Jiricek will likely have more chances to prove himself to NHL scouts when the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship rolls around.
David Jiříček with his third goal of the season.
— Czech Prospects (@CZprospects) October 3, 2021
Jiricek’s offensive game is highlighted by good puck skills for a big defenseman as well as a booming point shot. He does a good job of finding attacking lanes and getting pucks through from the point, and on the defensive side of the puck, he also stands out to scouts due to his physicality and bite. If Jiricek, ranked No. 16, is able to maintain a high level of play throughout the year, it appears far more likely than not that NHL clubs will look his way at the draft table well inside the top-15.