FCHockey’s Final rankings: 5 biggest fallers of the season
After an unprecedented campaign, the 2021 NHL Draft is finally here.
The 2020-21 season was full of questions, stress, and uncertainty. But one thing that was certain: FCHockey’s Final ranking. With the rankings out, we can now pour over the rankings, looking at how players have progressed in FCHockey’s scout’s eyes. For some players, they’ve shot up the rankings after impressive years in a tumultuous season.
Others though, dropped drastically in rankings. From the Preliminary ranking back in November 2020 to the Final edition just weeks before draft day, here are FCHockey’s five biggest fallers over the course of the season. While they came into the season with high expectations, they didn’t match that hype throughout the season.
5. Roman Schmidt, D, USNTDP (USHL)
PRELIMINARY RANK: 74
Final RANK: 249
Part of what looked like a promising, albeit not elite, defensive corps for the USNDTIP, Roman Schmidt didn’t take that step forward that many thought he would. After collecting 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 48 games with the Under-17 team, he then had just 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 45 games with the Under-18s.
Schmidt has yet to figure out to use his six-foot-six, 209-pound frame to his advantage and has struggled at both ends of the ice. He’s committed to the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers for 2021-22, where the hope is he can iron out his deficiencies.
“Schmidt started off strong on our list in the hopes that he’d put that size and skating together for a strong offensive season,” FCHockey’s head Eastern Canada scout Dylan Galloway said. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to bring the full package together and in particular, he was a real defensive liability. He needs to work on his defensive play reading and ability to close off space from attackers.
“He could become a decent option as a bottom pairing defender in the NHL, but needs to work on his ability to control the gap and his overall defensive positioning to be productive at the next level.”
4. Dylan Gratton, D, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
PRELIMINARY RANK: 86
Final RANK: 291
FCHockey had high expectations for Dylan Gratton entering the season, after showing some potential in 2019-20 with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. After being traded to the Youngstown Phantoms before the 2020-21 season, Gratton hasn’t been able to take the next step and reach a higher level. The defender still had 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 47 games, but didn’t continue his upward development curve as expected. The Penn State commit still has potential, but he has more work to do to reach that level.
“Gratton seemed to show flashes and glimpses of impressive plays using his vision and his impressive shot throughout the year,” FCHockey’s USHL scout Dylan Krill said. “Unfortunately, he was not able to stay consistent, not being able to become as impactful on both sides of the puck that you would like. There were many times where he would leave you wanting more and other times where he became unnoticeable.”
3. Daniil Lazutin, C, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
PRELIMINARY RANK: 37
Final RANK: 247
Daniil Lazutin was very much in the conversation for the top Russian in the 2021 NHL Draft class entering the season but just has not brought the same game that we saw in 2019-20. Last season, Lazutin looked strong in MHL play with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 32 games, while truly impressing at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with nine points (four goals, five assists) in six games.
This season, Lazutin got out of the game slowly, and was practically invisible on the ice at times. This dramatic change in his play is quite alarming, but there is still hope that he can turn his development curve back up. Lazutin will be an interesting name to keep an eye on after the draft.
Coming into the season, I, and many others, were excited about the raw skill and two-way package that Lazutin demonstrated as a 16-year-old in the MHL and looked forward to a big step in his development in 2021,” FCHockey crossover scout Brandon Holmes said. “But that big step just never seemed to materialize. While I remain a fan of Lazutin’s two-way game and commitment to supporting his defensemen in his own zone, the offensive side of the game just hasn’t clicked yet for Lazutin in the MHL.
“Far too often, I felt Lazutin had a difficult time penetrating the middle of the ice in the offensive zone and could have done more to read off his teammates to make himself available for scoring chances. If Lazutin has difficulty breaking down MHL defenses, it’s difficult to see a projectable path for him to become effective against NHL defenders, which is the key reason for him dropping throughout the year.”
2. Atte Lehikoinen, D, KalPa U20 (U20 SM-liiga)
PRELIMINARY RANK: 61
Final RANK: 276
Another player that came in with high expectations, Atte Lehikoinen was a potential top Finnish prospect in this class. After watching his play throughout the season, the defender showed a well-rounded, non-exceptional game. This calls into question his ability to transfer to the next level.
The defender had 11 points, all assists, in 39 games this season as the alternate captain for KalPa, a year after putting up 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 49 games the year prior at the same level. He obviously has leadership abilities that a team may target, but the upside is questionable at best.
“Lehikoinen was having a nice 2019-20 season before COVID came along,” FCHockey’s head Crossover scout Derek Neumeier said. “Which is why we were high on him early on. However, his game simply never took the strides forward that we hoped it would. He doesn’t really excel or stand out in any areas, and there isn’t one specific skill trait he has that he can lean on. He’ll need to find a specific niche that he can offer to teams moving forward.”
1. Hobie Hedquist, G, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
PRELIMINARY RANK: 69
Final RANK: Not ranked in top-300
In a year where the goaltending crop looks exceptional, Hobie Hedquist hasn’t matched the other goaltenders in this class. After strong showings at the U16 level and in his first USHL game in 2019-20, the potential for Hedquist to be a promising goaltender in the class were all in place. However, in 21 games, the netminder went 4-9-1 with a .831 save percentage.
The only player on this list that fell from the top-100 to outside the top-300, Hedquist has his work cut out for him if he still stands a chance to be an NHL prospect or a goalie. Goalies can be strange beasts though, so tracking his progression will be important whether he’s drafted or not.
“Hobie had an unfortunate year and was not able to show enough on the ice to impact and improve his draft rankings,” Krill said. “Despite in previous years where he posted quality goalie stats and seemed to be someone to keep your eye on, he was not able to find consistency and finished the year with a 4.45 GAA, .831 SV% with a record of 4-9-1.”