FCHockey’s Top-10 Draft-Eligible Prospects of the Month – October 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 October 2020, alphabetically listed:
Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes
Despite playing just four games to start the QMJHL season, Xavier Bourgault picked up right where he left off in 2019-20. One of the top draft-eligibles in the league this season, the forward has started his draft year with at least a point in every game, racking up three goals, two assists, and five points in those four games played.
“The mobility he shows on his feet is excellent,” said Eastern Canada and Crossover scout Josh Bell. “He has good acceleration, utilizes good edgework, and fights for superior positioning. His hands match his feet, he showed tremendous puck movement in this game, combining his hands and feet to cut into the middle and set up his teammates.”
Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg
Over in Russia, right-winger Nikita Chibrikov looks like he could very well be the top Russian forward in this class. He’s impressed at every level he’s played in to start the season, including the VHL (three points in two games), the MHL (three goals, five assists in eight games), and he’s even played nine games in the second-best league in the world, the KHL. He’s scored one goal in the KHL so far and has emerged as a top prospect in the 2021 NHL Draft.
“He has a very quick first few steps with power that allow him to accelerate quickly,” said Bell. “His small-area game is very good, through puckhandling and then having the ability to find a teammate through traffic… This is very much a player to keep an eye on for the first round.”
Dylan Duke, C, United States U18 National Team
The United States National Development Program has a very strong group this season, with numerous names getting wide-spread recognition. One name that hasn’t been getting as much recognition, but is very much deserving, is Dylan Duke. To start off his season, the forward has collected three goals, nine assists and 12 points in just eight games. He’s caught the eye of a number of scouts, looking like one of the best forwards on the team early on.
“Duke is on the smaller side for his age,” started Eastern Canada scout Joseph Aleong. “But he plays like he’s a few inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. He’s a strong skater with great foot speed and he possesses a nonstop motor, both with the puck and when pressuring opposing defenders.”
Dylan Guenther, LW, Sherwood Park Crusaders (Loan)
While the WHL hasn’t started, one of the league’s star draft eligibles is already stealing the show. Dylan Guenther would be playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings in a normal season but this is no normal campaign. Instead, he’s on loan with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL. In two exhibition games, the left winger has racked up three goals, four assists, and seven points. The Crusaders will be appreciating Guenther’s talents until the WHL season starts up.
Guenther’s most recognizable trait is his speed and mobility,” said Crossover scout Brandon Holmes. “He possesses an explosive skating stride while moving in transition and was able to move through the neutral zone with plenty of pace… (He also) displays some good vision and puck distribution skills.”
Luke Hughes, D, United States U18 National Team
Living up to his name early on this season, it’s no surprise that Luke Hughes is catching the eyes of scouts early on this season. He’s collected five assists in eight games so far and has been putting his elite skills on display. This team is full of talent for the 2021 NHL Draft, but the team’s No. 1 defender might just be the best of the bunch.
“Hughes is a smooth-skating, skilled offensive back who shows an incredible ability to be a high-end playmaker and puck mover,” said Head Eastern Canada scout Dylan Galloway. “He plays a dynamic offensively minded game showing a penchant to jump up into the play and drive the transition with controlled exits and entries.”
Ville Koivunen, LW, Karpat U20
A lesser-known player out of Finland, Ville Koivunen has been taking the U20 SM-sarja by storm to start his season. The left winger is among the leaders in the league in points, collecting 12 goals, nine assists and 21 points in just 17 games so far. That’s second in the league among draft eligibles. The five-foot-11, 159-pound forward is very much a player to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.
This should really be no surprise for Koivunen though. In 2019-20, the winger put up 27 goals, 44 assists, and a whopping 71 points in 37 U18 SM-sarja games. Those totals led the league in both goals and points. The young Finn was named the league’s Best Forward and Best Player.
Peter Reynolds, C, Saint John Sea Dogs
One player that our scouts have been particularly drawn to early on this season in Saint John Sea Dogs centerman, Peter Reynolds. Reynolds has come out of the gates very strong, arguably looking like the best draft-eligible player in the QMJHL so far thanks to his play at both ends of the ice. In eight games so far, Reynolds has three goals, two assists, and five points in eight games.
“Reynolds is a speedy skater who can get to top-end speed really quite quickly,” said Galloway. “On top of his great straight away speed and three-step acceleration, I liked the few flashes I saw of his edgework, he was able to change direction in a few instances and it was particularly evident around the puck in the offensive zone.”
Oskar Olausson, LW, HV71
Over in Sweden, Oskar Olausson has been impressing early, entering first-round consideration – if he wasn’t there already. He’s made a big impact at the J20 Nationell level with a draft-eligible leading 14 goals, 13 assists, and 27 points in 16 games, on top of playing in his first five SHL games, adding another assist to his stat line so far. The young forward is making a strong case to raise his draft stock early this season.
“Olausson is a dynamic two-way forward that delivers in both ends, said Swedish scout Fredrik Haak. “Quick turns with and without the puck. Great speed and balance overall and seems to use his body and arms well to cover the puck and gives him an advantage and more time to make his play.”
Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea AIK
Sticking to Sweden, a more widely-known player, Simon Robertsson, is right there with Olausson. In the J20 Nationell, the right winger has collected nine goals, 11 assists and 20 points in 15 games, while playing two games at the SHL level. The SHL action isn’t new for Robertsson, having played eight games in the top-Swedish league last season, scoring once. The 2020-21 season has so far been proving that Robertsson is an extremely intriguing prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft.
“Robertsson has a high hockey-IQ and knows where he has his teammates and when to pass the puck or when to hold on to it,” said Haak. “He often makes quick decisions and opens up the game with diagonal passes through the zone… He has a fantastic flow in his feet and shows great balance with high speed.”
Samu Salminen, C/LW, Jokerit U20
Last but certainly not least, Finnish forward Samu Salminen has already passed his 2019-20 output in an under-20 league, putting up eight goals, 14 assists, and 22 points in 14 games to start the season. The alternate captain had 20 points in 23 games in the Jr. A SM-liiga last season. The young player currently leads all draft-eligibles in the league, one point ahead of the aforementioned Koivunen.
Salminen is one of the best players to come out of Finland ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft class. If the forward can keep this up this season, we should see him in some Liiga action, which will only help his draft stock.
Future Names of Note
In a list talking about players that have started of the 2020-21 season with a bang, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention two other players in this month’s edition. Two players from the 2023 NHL Draft are already making headlines, nearly three years away from their draft. Russia’s Matvey Michkov and Canadian Connor Bedard are commanding attention right now.
Michkov is playing in the MHL with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg. Through his first 16 games, he’s collected 11 goals, eight assists, and 19 points, adding another three goals and an assist in six game with SKA-Varyagi. His 23 points have already set the record for the most points by a draft-2 player.
Bedard on the other hand, is on loan from the WHL’s Regina Pats to HV71 in Sweden. So far, he’s been over a point per game in his Swedish career, collecting two points (one goal, one assist) in one J18 Region games and four points (two goals, two assists) in four J20 Nationell games.
It’s very early but these two are already showing why the 2023 NHL Draft looks to have two potential superstars at the top.