October 3, 2017

Beichler Notebook – September

Every season, scouts from Future Considerations spend countless hours in rinks across the world in an effort to gather information on the next wave of NHL talent coming down the pipe. European-based Janik Beichler is no different. 

Here is Beichler’s notebook from the month of September.

Luke Zazula, D, Kamloops Blazers, 5-8, 170, 05-18-2000
Kamloops Blazers 5 @ Prince George Cougars 3 (WHL Exhibition) – September 15, 2017

A smart, smooth-skating defender who stood out with calm play in his own end. Frequently recovered pucks in the D-zone and found ways out of pressure, using his smarts and agility. Used his body extremely well to shield the puck despite his tiny frame. Always stayed calm and patient no matter what was going on around him, and used smart, accurate outlet passes. Didn’t take many risk and didn’t stretch out his passes very much, but always found ways to get the puck out to a teammate with a short pass or chip out of the zone. Like many players his size, Zazula profits mightily from his skating skill — he moves around well in all three zones and has great two-way upside. But how far can he go if he doesn’t grow?

Vladislav Mikhalchuk, RW, Prince George Cougars, 6-2, 172, 10-16-1999
Kamloops Blazers 5 @ Prince George Cougars 3 (WHL Exhibition) – September 15, 2017

The most outstanding draft eligible player on a team that seems to be lacking 1999 and 2000-born talent, but he, too, wasn’t too impressive. Brought an early lead with a spin shot for the 1-0 and worked hard to make an impact throughout the game. Worked hard to dig out pucks in the corners and tried to use his body as well. He showed the capability to be physical, but his aggressiveness came in random spurts. Seemed like he only played really aggressively with hard forechecks and hits when he was upset about a previous event (turnover or being hit). He used his body well to protect the puck when driving to the net, but his speed seemed rather average and he drove to the outside almost every time. Didn’t seem overly creative or skilled, but proved he can be, when he made two Kamloops defenders look like peewees with a couple of smooth dekes through the sticks/legs before letting a quick shot off. Needs to show that more consistently and work on his speed, though. Overall, he didn’t produce a whole lot, but showed flashes of skill and vision. His biggest issue might be his weak and choppy stride that doesn’t allow him to generate much power.

Matt Leduc, D, Spokane Chiefs, 6-5, 215, 01-10-2000
Spokane Chiefs 4 @ Prince George Cougars 2 (WHL) – September 22, 2017

I quickly dismissed Leduc, but  was difficult to ignore him as the game progressed. He made several smart neutral-zone reads and pinched perfectly to either force turnovers or force attackers to dump the puck in. Used both his stick and frame extremely well to do so, hitting oncoming attackers perfectly in the neutral zone to keep them far away from the net. Despite his rather weak forward stride, Leduc displayed strong lateral mobility, again aiding him in defending the rush. I wish someone publicly tracked zone entries or rather carry-in percentages against for the WHL, because Leduc’s must’ve been close to 100 percent. Very low success rate for attackers who targeted him on rushes.

Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs, 5-10, 170, 03-24-2000
Spokane Chiefs 5 @ Prince George Cougars 1 (WHL) – September 23, 2017

This was the game he showed me how good Smith really is. Focusing closely on his game in his own zone tonight, he showed he’s not only an offensive player, but he’s superb defensively as well. He controlled the gap perfectly on rushes, managed to push attackers to the outside and used his stick well to knock pucks loose. He has zero reaction time and, thanks to his skating ability, attackers struggled all night to shake him off. His defensive positioning was perfect as well, and I didn’t see a single thing he could’ve done better. The only problem might be his size, as he will never be a big physical player, but he makes up for it with his skating and smarts. Like the previous night, Smith also jumped in on the attack several times, but without taking any unnecessary risks whatsoever. He recorded one assist, where he displayed excellent awareness, as he skated the puck into the offensive zone, slowed down behind the blue line, and waited for his D-partner to follow up, before playing a perfect set-up pass that was converted into a goal. What stood out the most throughout the game was Smith’s passing ability. From short to long passes, straight-forward and spin passes, everything he did was extremely accurate. Like the previous night, he played one stretch pass from in front of the net to the opposing blue line through traffic; it didn’t lead to a goal this time, but it once again displayed Smith’s awareness and passing skill. He also had zero failed breakout attempts this game. He used his edge work and agility extremely well to shake off forecheckers before transitioning to offence. Again, Smith looked like a highly talented two-way defenseman who can easily make it into the top-10. Depending on teams’ preferences, however, I could also see him falling a little bit due to a lack of flash and dynamic offensive play. At his height, one might expect him to play like an Erik Brannstrom or Quinn Hughes, but that’s just not who he is. Just an extremely smart two-way defender.

Notebook by Janik Beichler

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