Josh
Bell
July 13, 2021

FCHockey’s Final rankings: 5 biggest risers of the season

After a hockey season like no other, the 2021 NHL Draft is almost here.

And with the big day quickly approaching, FCHockey’s Final ranking for the draft is launched and ready for hockey fans to pour over. Through the year, some prospects have been able to use this shortened season to shoot up draft boards – including FCHockey’s.

RELATED: FCHOCKEY’S FINAL RANKINGS: 5 BIGGEST FALLERS OF THE SEASON

From the Preliminary ranking back in November 2020 to the Final edition just weeks before draft day, here are FCHockey’s five biggest risers over the course of the season. After not being on the widespread radar to start the season, these players have exploded onto the scene could all be selected within the first to rounds of the 2021 NHL Draft.

5. Aryton Martino, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)

Preliminary Rank: Not ranked in top-100

Final Rank: 40

After spending the 2019-20 season in the OJHL with the St. Michael’s Buzzer where he had 79 points (29 goals, 50 assists) in 48 games, Aryton Martino made the decision to transfer to the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs. With the BCHL season delayed and potentially cancelled, Martino didn’t officially play a single game with the Chiefs before heading south of the border to the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. It’s safe to say that decision has paid off.

Martino went off for 56 points (18 goals, 38 assists) in just 38 games. That total not only led the Lancers despite missing 15 games, but he placed him eighth in the league. He also finished fifth in the league for assists and points per game (1.47). A commit to the NCAA’s Clarkson University, Martino has used his USHL performance to skyrocket up draft rankings this season.

“Martino began the season in Chilliwack as an under-the-radar player displaced from Ontario but soon began showing his jam early in the BCHL developmental season, prior to COVID-19 induced shutdowns,” FCHockey’s head Western Canada scout, Justin Froese said. “After transferring to Omaha of the USHL, Martino took another step forward and finished the season as one of the league’s more impressive offensive players. Martino’s game is dynamic and skill-based but his IQ and spatial awareness is at the center of it all.

“He shows great ability to extend plays, find pockets of space and remain an off puck threat by showing great route and speed differentials. He’s got a competitive edge and will need to learn to adapt it to create space for himself under pressure but I’ve had no qualms with where he’s at. He’s shown great growth and a guy who has qualities you can apply to an offensive role if he hits.”

4. Aleksi Heimosalmi, D, Assat U20 (U20 SM-liiga)

Preliminary Rank: Not ranked in top-100

Final Rank: 36

Aleksi Heimoslami wore the “A” for Assat U20 in the U20 SM-liiga and watching his games, it’s hard not to notice him. The slick defender can take over shifts and pull off highlight-reel goals, as he proved at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship. In Finland, the defender collected 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 35 games, then adding eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games.

Signed with Assat until the 2023-24 season, it’s very likely that the rearguard will play in the Liiga next season as he continues to rise in his development. His skating and offensive ability stand out in very big ways and for that, he’s been shooting up FCHockey’s rankings.

“It was hard to not take notice of Heimosalmi throughout this past season,” FCHockey’s head Crossover scout Derek Neumeier said. “He can go quiet for stretches, but then all of a sudden turn on the jets and make something amazing happen out of nothing thanks to his superb skating. His mobility is explosive at its best and there are few defenders in this draft as dangerous as him when moving the puck up ice.

“He’s also still a little undeveloped physically, so it’s easy to get excited about what his game might look like once his body matures.”

3. Jack Peart, D, Fargo Force (USHL)

Preliminary Rank: Not ranked in top-100

Final Rank: 34

It’s always difficult to gauge high school prospects and how they’ll develop. The captain of Grand Rapids High in 2019-20, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare Jack Peart. After playing five games with the USHL’s Fargo Force last season, he then stepped into the league this season as well, quickly becoming one of the best defenders in the league. He then returned to Grand Rapids for 18 games – where he had 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists). Peart was now very much on the radar.

Peart then headed back to the Force to finish out the season, ultimately finishing with 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) in 24 games, followed up by seven points (two goals, five assists) in nine playoff games. For his efforts, Peart was named to the USHL’s All-Rookie Second Team and was then named USHS Minnesota Mr. Hockey as the best Minnesota High School Player.

“Peart was not a notable name to follow at the beginning of the year,” FCHockey’s USHL scout Dylan Krill said. “But that changed instantly as he adjusted very well to the USHL and quickly became an important impact player for his team. Logging big minutes and being used in all situations on both special teams. Peart catches your eye every time he’s on the ice, displaying great vision, strong gap control, smart decision making and patience with the puck.”

2. Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)

Preliminary Rank: Not ranked in top-100

Final Rank: 26

With the WHL season delayed, many prospects in the league were stagnant in thier preliminary ranking post 2019-20 season. Olen Zellweger didn’t exactly standout on the scoresheet in that season, but he showed tremendous potential. When the 2020-21 season finally got underway, Zellweger used that to show off that potential and his remarkably high ceiling.

In just 11 WHL games, he collected 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 11 games. He was then named to Team Canada in the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship where he continued to excel, arguably as Canada’s best defender in the event. He finished with eight points (one goal, seven assists) in seven games, en route to a gold medal.

“Zellweger was a breakout candidate as a draft-1 prospect due in part to the excellent platform skills he possesses and the dynamic base to his skating and skill-game,” Froese said. “He has the ability to multitask and reads ice proactively which has allowed him to show growth as an efficient defender and became a key offensive-minded player for the Silvertips.

“His thought process displays proactivity, adaptability and accountability. The growth is noticeable as he kept getting more stacked on his plate and has boosted his stock.”

1. Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)

Preliminary Rank: Not ranked in top-100

Final Rank: 20

You’ve likely heard about him. Maybe you’ve seen some highlights. Matthew Coronato took the NHL Draft public sphere by storm and shot up every draft ranking. After collecting 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) in 45 games, Coronato more than doubled his point total this season, putting up 85 points (48 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games, capping it off with 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in eight playoff games en route to the Clark Cup.

Coronato ended up leading the league in goals, while finishing second in points and points per game to teammate Sean Farrell. Coronato’s highly competitive game is nearly impossible to take your eye off of. He could surprise on where he’s selected on draft day. For his emergence and his success this season, he’s FCHockey’s biggest riser on the year, breaking his way into the top-20.

“Coronato was a big riser on our list because of how he continued to impress not only with his ability to put the puck in the net but his relentless motor,” FCHockey’s head Eastern Canada scout Dylan Galloway said. “While small in stature Coronato has a huge engine and on offense, he never quits driving the play. We loved his combination of shot, skating and the smarts he possessed to continually get into the home plate area.

“The competitiveness he has in his game will make him successful at the next level in our minds, and he should be able to be a middle-six scoring option for an NHL team, and also be an asset on the PP.”

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