Top-10 prospects of the month – April 2021
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 April 2021, alphabetically listed:
Note: Other than Danila Klimovich, this list was determined prior to the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship.
Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
If you checked out FCHockey’s latest rankings, you may have seen Corson Ceulemans shoot up to No. 11 on our list. While he played just two AJHL games in April, he put up four points (one goal, three assists) in those two games before heading to Texas for the World U18s. Going back and watching tape on Ceulemans from this season, Ceuelemans has proven to be slightly polarizing among scouts. But the skilled defender has shown improvement in his overall game this season and his offensive game is among the best in this class among defensemen. While this list was determined prior to the World U18s, Ceulemans has been one of Canada’s best defenders, helping to solidify his spot as one of this draft’s best defenders.
“Ceulemans’ name doesn’t come up often when people discuss the defensemen at the top of this draft class, but for my money, he’s not that far off the very top group,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier wrote in a recent report. “It’s very, very rare to find right-shot defensemen who are this athletic, talented and versatile. The AJHL is on the older side of things for a junior league, but he’s logging No. 1 defenseman ice time as a 17-year-old and doesn’t look out of place doing it.
“He plays with a fantastic combination of pace and determination, wheeling up and down the ice and dictating play in all three zones.”
Danila Klimovich, C, Team Belarus (World U18s)
The one player on this list that was added after the World U18s started, Danila Klimovich exploded onto the international scene, especially in his three April games. After potting the lone goal against Sweden in Game 1, he went off against the Swiss the next night for a hat trick, before putting up another two goals against Latvia. The forward has shown off an extremely impressive shot, a strong ability to find the soft ice, slipping behind defenders and getting open, and perhaps most importantly – confidence. He’s been playing in the Belarus Vysshaya league this season for Minskie Zubry, collecting 52 points (28 goals, 24 assists). He’s very much emerged on the draft scene and with his impressive tournament, he’s a strong candidate to hear his name called in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Matthew Knies, LW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Matthew Knies has been capturing our attention all season long, but in April he’s looked very impressive for the Tri-City Storm as they made their push to the playoffs. The forward collected 15 points (10 goals, five assists) in 10 games through the month, and his total on the year stands at an impressive 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists) in 44 games. Ranked No. 76 in FCHockey’s Spring ranking, he’s a name to watch in the draft through the first three rounds.
“Knies is very effective when he gets his feet moving and hard to stop. His first three steps are quick and he’s able to generate great speed,” FCHockey scout Dylan Krill noted in a recent scouting report. “I believe Knies has some of the best hands in this draft, being able to handle the puck with high pace and protecting it well with his long reach and body… Knies is a player with a ton of potential, but also plays a strong two-way game, which makes me confident that he could even play a bottom-six role.”
Riley Kidney, C, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
What a month for Acadie-Bathurst Titan’s Riley Kidney. The QMJHL prospect continues to impress FCHockey’s scouts and his 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 15 games through April were just the cherry on top. The centerman finished his regular season with 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 33 games, and has been lights out in the playoffs thus far with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in just six games. Ranked No. 87 by FCHockey, Kidney could be an interesting sleeper pick out of the QMJHL this season.
Simon Knak, RW, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
We haven’t given overagers much love in the Top-10 prospects of the month through the year, so we have two in this edition! One of the best re-entries in this draft, Simon Knak has been impressing with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. The winger collected 14 points (five goals, nine assists) through 11 games, including an eight-game point streak. One of the more notable players that were passed over in the 2020 NHL Draft, Knak should hear his name in 2021.
“Knak has really improved his skating over the last couple of seasons,” FCHockey scout Donesh Mazloum wrote in a recent report. “He’s using his hips much more effectively and the added length in his stride is noticeable. He’s still not the quickest off the hop however I’m not super concerned that his foot-speed will be the limiting factor in his progression to the pro ranks.”
Dmitri Kostenko, D, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)
Spending the majority of his season in the VHL, the Russian tier II men’s league, Dmitri Kostenko has stood out to FCHockey’s scouts in every view. He’s collected 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 40 games, plus nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 10 MHL games. The defender is a very intelligent player, making smart decisions and rarely making puck mistakes. He could be a player that hears his name in the second round of the upcoming draft. He’s ranked No. 54 by FCHockey.
Guillaume Richard, D, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
The lone USHL player on Team Canada in the World U18s, Guillaume Richard has shown big improvements in his game over the season. The defender won’t be an NHLer that racks up the points, but he can contribute as he’s shown with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) through 46 games. Through the year, FCHockey’s scouts have seen improvement in the Storm defender’s decision making and defensive awareness, which should bode well for his draft projection.
Justin Robidas, C, Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
In every single game Justin Robidas played in this season, he recorded at least one point. Alright, it was just four games, but the centerman put up eight points (four goals, four assists) and three of those were playoff matches. The forward may be just five-foot-seven, but his name continues to come up in FCHockey discussions. Ranked No. 85 by FCHockey, he should be an interesting name to keep an eye on in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Pavel Tyutnev, C, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Our second overager on this list, Pavel Tyutnev might just be the top re-entry available. The Russian forward spent most of his season in the MHL with Loko Yaroslavl, recording 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 25 games, adding seven points (four goals, three assists) in 10 playoff games. The forward is excellent in both ends of the ice, showing the ability to apply pressure in all zone, force turnovers, and use his creativity to create space for himself and his teammates. He has a very good chance of being the first overage prospect off the board.
“He constantly funnels the puck to the net, whether through passing or bringing it in himself,” FCHockey scout Josh Bell said in a scouting report. “He plays the center position excellently, supporting his defense, getting involved offensively, and seemingly always in good position. He has strong acceleration, explosive at times. He battles hard and shows a great ability to fight off sticks when he has the puck. He is really creative in his passing, opening up defenders before passing through their triangle.”
Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Finally, we come to defender Olen Zellweger, who – if you’ve been watching the World U18s – is going to be a riser on every public ranking very soon. But even prior to his Team Canada performance, the defenseman has been impressing. He had eight points in his four games prior to heading to Texas for the World U18s, giving him 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) through 11 WHL games. If you haven’t seen this young player yet, he needs to be a must-watch, because he’s shooting up draft boards quickly.
“He compensates for his small frame by being a strong and smooth skater in all directions in order to get ahead of the play,” FCHockey scout Kurt Pohs said in a recent report. “His biggest strengths lie on the offensive side, as he is very confident when he has the puck and showed that he likes to drive play from the blue line. This will even include carrying the puck down in the zone to shift passing lanes so that he can get a pass into the slot, looking for a deflection to go on net.”