January 3, 2021

FCHockey’s top-10 prospects of the month – December 2020

FCHockey’s scouts can be found in all corners of the globe, watching players at the professional level, right down to junior.

They see a countless number of players in action, but there are always those that shine.

Through the 2020-21 hockey season, our team will collect the names of those prospects that have caught their eyes. From standing out in their leagues to impressing at tournaments, from making history to accomplishing remarkable feats for their age, we’ll take a look at the 2021 NHL Draft-eligibles making waves in the hockey world each month.

Here are FCHockey’s top-10 draft-eligible prospects for December 2020, alphabetically listed:

Matthew Beniers, C, Team USA (World Juniors)/University of Michigan (NCAA)

From standing out at the University of Michigan to being a force on the international stage with Team USA at the 2021 World Junior Championship, we’re getting ready to reserve a spot on this monthly list for Matthew Beniers. In the World Juniors, the prospect has two assists in four games, showing his ability to be dominant at both ends of the ice. He’s been centering Cole Caufield and Matthew Boldy in a top-six role. Beniers is proving that he may very well be worth a top-five pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Related: 2021 WJC: 7 draft-eligible standouts from the preliminary round

“Very good details, wins a lot of his faceoffs, mirrors and supports the puck well down low,” Eastern Canada scout Chris Smith recently reported. “Plays a physical and hard working game, wins a lot of puck battles. Beniers can make plays on his edges and with his hands fully extended, great playmaking and passing ability, and he sees the ice well. I like his determination and hustle on the back check, broke up a lot of plays and is very good in transition, moves the puck quickly and can make skilled, small area plays.”

Tristan Broz, LW, Fargo Force (USHL)

Tristan Broz is a name that you’ll likely start to hear a lot of as we approach the 2021 NHL Draft. The forward for the USHL’s Fargo Force is playing at a point-per-game pace this season, with five goals, 10 assists, and 15 points in as many games. He’s shown the ability to produce offensively while showing excellent vision and patience with the puck. If he’s not on your radar yet, he should be.

Oliver Kapanen, C, KalPa U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

The cousin of Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Kasperi Kapanen, Oliver Kapanen looks to have the tools to be even better than his relative. The younger Kapanen has recently started making a name for himself in the U20 SM-sarja as the alternate captain with KalPa U20. In 24 games, the centerman has 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points. His fearlessness makes him a treat to watch and he should be a riser on draft boards as the season progresses.

“His competitiveness is extremely high, constantly looking to pressure the puck carrier and regain possession for his team,” crossover scout Josh Bell said in a report. “He jumps into board battles, he dives in front of shots and is fearless in his play. His positioning is excellent, always looking to support his teammates and find the open space. He’s very mobile, his puckhandling is strong, as shown with his navigation of small areas and his passing is strong.”

Aleksi Malinen, D, JYP (Liiga)

It’s not often that a 17-year-old defender truly stands out in the Liiga. It’s even less often that a 17-year-old defender plays a top-line, puck-moving role in the top-Finnish league. Aleksi Malinen is going just that. The defender has played four games with JYP in the Liiga this season, working his way up to playing 18:53 minutes in his last game, scoring his first goal and recording three shots. He’s playing himself up draft boards.

Oskar Olausson, W, Team Sweden (World Juniors)/HV71 (SHL)

Oskar Olausson seems like another player that has earned a permanent spot on this list. The Swedish winger has been impressive at the World Juniors as the lone draft-eligible skater on the team. While he’s gone pointless in the tournament, he’s contributing by being tenacious on the puck, making plays, and showing some intriguing two-way ability. Olausson seems to have carved out a spot for himself in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft and doesn’t look to be letting that go any time soon.

“He has very good compete and never slowed down throughout the game,” Eastern Canada scout Olivia McArter said. “Olausson is a quick paced, powerful skater with long strides. He’s able to chase down his opponents and pick the puck off them and get it back into possession to try and make a play. He is really good on his edges which helps him track the puck when his opponents are trying to spin or deke around him. He has very good play reading skills and is able to quickly get into an open position to take a shot on net.”

Brennan Othmann, LW, EHC Olten (SL) – LOAN

One of a handful of OHL players on loan in Europe, Brennan Othmann has really come into his own playing in the Swiss League for EHC Olten. After not recording a point in his first four games, starting at just 4:31 minutes in his first game, the winger is now playing over 18 minutes a night and has eight points in his last seven games. This brings his stat line to five goals, three assists and eight points in 11 games. When/if the OHL season drops the puck, look for Othmann to be a dominant force in the league.

“Was able to fire the puck with great velocity and beat the opposing goaltender with an accurate and hard wrist shot up high,” European scout Dennis Schellenberg wrote. “Possessed very quick hands and a fine puckhandling. Was treating the puck with great care. Showed off a few hard and accurate passes. Othmann is a smooth skater and possesses a quick acceleration. Was able to take off in a hurry and hit great top speed very quickly.”

Sasha Pastujov, LW, U.S. Under-18 National Team

Sasha Pastujov might be another player that has played himself into the first round of the upcoming draft. In 13 games with the U.S. development program, the forward has 14 goals and seven assists for 21 points. In three USHL games this past month, he’s racked up six goals and an assist. The forward is a part of a very interesting group from the USNTDP this year, that seems to have very deep depth. Pastujov should be one of the first players from the team off the board come draft day.

“Pastujov had a hattrick this game and was a constant threat on the majority of his shifts,” Smith wrote in a report. “His puck skills are very good and he sees the ice so well, great passer in transition and while on the PP, he makes good decisions and can execute high end plays in tight, very good finisher while also able to execute creative passes. He has good edge work and his skating is not an issue, but he lacks an extra gear.”

Victor Stjernborg, C/LW, Växjo HC (SHL)

Victor Stjernborg might not be a name you’ve heard too much about up to this point, but it’s a name you should make some time for. The forward started the season with the J20 group, captaining the team, and putting up nine goals, eight assists, and 17 points in 19 games. He then got promoted to the SHL’s squad and has played in eight games, slowly increasing his playing time although he has yet to record a point. With how he plays the game, the points are coming.

“Always seems to be in the right place at the right time without the puck, taking time and space away from opponents and causing turnovers,” head crossover scout Derek Neumeier reported. “He is incredibly cerebral and calculated, and can play at a fast place and a slow pace, depending on what the situation calls for… When it comes to playing slow he is cold-blooded and shark-like, navigating around until he finds the right time to strike, which happens often because of how well he reads the play.”

Stanislav Svozil, D, Team Czech Republic (World Juniors)/HC Kometa Brno (Czech)

A prospect that has become a household name in this draft class, Stanislav Svozil continues to show with his play at the 2021 World Junior Championship. The defender has some extremely impressive feet, and processes the game so quickly, knowing when to spring into action and take a chance in a split second. While he has just one assist in the tournament, he’s shown his ability to read the game and proven his intelligence in his decision making.

“He’s a really great skater,” McArter reported. “He was quick, had great footwork and was good on his transitions from backwards to forward skating. Svozil has very good passing abilities. When moving up ice, he was often able to create plays by making those smart, safe passing plays. When in the slot he had good positioning especially with his good net-front presence benefiting his linemates.”

Jesper Wallstedt, G, Team Sweden (World Juniors)/Luleå HF (SHL)

Jesper Wallstedt as the first-overall pick? It could very well happen. The 2021 NHL Draft class’ top goaltender just continues to drop jaws. One game in the J20 Nationell: a shutout. Taking over the starters role at the SHL level: 6-3-0, 2.06 goals against average, .920 save percentage, one shutout. Now at the World Juniors? He may be 0-1-0 (two games played, one in relief – stopping all 17 shots he faced against the USA), but his 2.40 goals against average and .923 save percentage speak for themselves.

“He’s a big goalie who has controlled and smooth side to side movements,” Smith wrote in a recent report. “Looked very comfortable and controlled in the crease and stood tall on a lot of very good chances. He needs to get a little bit quicker on how down-low coverage I feel, can get beat on the backdoor pass. Nice glove hand placement and he keeps very good positioning, staying square to shots.”

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