Top-10 prospects of the month – February 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 February 2021, alphabetically listed:
Jack Bar, D, Chicago Steel (USHL)
After transferring from the BCHL’s Penticton Vees in January, defenseman Jack Bar has been getting settled in his new surroundings. While he likely won’t be a big-time point producer at this level or the next, his defensive game has been standing out as he gains attention from FCHockey’s scouts.
“Bar was very impactful in this game and displayed why he’s a special prospect that deserves attention,” FCHockey’s Dylan Krill recently reported. “His mobility and puckhandling allowed him to contribute in all three zones, while still playing a responsible defensive game.”
Sean Behrens, D, USNTDP (USHL)
While the focus of the USNTDP tends to skew towards potential first-overall pick Luke Hughes, Sean Behrens has been quietly improving all season long. He put up eight points in February’s six USHL games, and his defensive game has improved month-to-month this season. Hughes is still the star of the defensive end of this team but Behrens has been shining bright.
“I’m becoming more and more comfortable with saying that Behrens is the most mature and defensively responsible player for the NTDP,” Krill reported. “His decision making and approach is very consistent, suppressing high danger chances for his team, while minimizing turnovers and taking less risks that are avoidable.”
Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
After playing four AJHL games back in November (racking up three goals and two assists), Dylan Guenther came into the first WHL game of the season ready to go, impressing with four points (two goals, two assists). He followed that up with another two goals and an assist for the early WHL scoring lead. After putting up 59 points in 58 games in 2019-20, his rookie campaign, expect FCHockey’s ninth-ranked prospect to explode in the WHL this season. He’s already showing he can.
“Guenther’s puck control and touch are major assets in the offensive zone,” according to FCHockey’s Donesh Masloum‘s latest scouting report. “He is consistently adjusting and angling his hands and that conscious attention paid to where he’s carrying the puck makes him very difficult to predict. One area of his game that has improved drastically in the last couple of years is his ability to deal with physicality.”
Artyom Grushnikov, D, Krasnaya Armiya (MHL)
While Artyom Grushnikov hasn’t played a game this season, FCHockey’s first report on the Russian defender was a glowing one. The defender might be one of the best defensive prospects in this class, showing off an impressive awareness and knowledge of the defensive zone. Much like Braden Schneider climbed into the first round in 2020, Grushnikov could climb into that tier as well. Especially when (if) the OHL season gets underway.
“When attacking the puck carrier, he does well to get stick on stick, and then follow that up with his body,” FCHockey scout Josh Bell said in a recent report. “Not afraid to throw his body around and get in the carrier’s way. He’s very quick on his edges, with good movement in all four directions… his defensive game could be one of the more intriguing in this class.”
James Malatesta, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
James Malatesta has been a tough one to nail down for FCHockey’s scouts this season, with some mixed views early on. As the season has progressed though, he’s been coming more and more into his own, highlighted by his never-give-up attitude on the ice. He plays bigger than he is (five-foot-nine) and has strong skating to match his competitiveness. As the QMJHL season winds down, keep an eye on Malatesta’s ranking across draft boards.
“Malatesta is an ambitious attacker who treats every puck pursuit and counterattack as a way to leave his mark on the game and put on display is exceptional compete,” FCHockey’s Andy Lehoux reported. “Despite what many would think, his humble size didn’t slow him down a bit; physical play actually attracted him more than anything.”
Ayrton Martino, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
For the second month in a row, Ayrton Martino is turning heads of FCHockey’s scouts. Through his 10 USHL games in the month, he put up 15 points, improving on January’s 12 points in 10 games. The offensive dynamo is a name to keep a very close eye on as the NHL Draft approaches. While he’s played fewer games than most, his 1.40 points per game are currently eighth in the league.
“Martino has been very consistent with his play in the USHL and looks more comfortable and confident after each game,” Krill wrote in a scouting report. “He reads the play very well and is constantly anticipating the play, trying to get an extra step ahead of opponents.”
Kyle Masters, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Kyle Masters might not be a name you’ve heard yet. That is likely because he’s been patiently waiting for the WHL to get underway, like so many prospects this season. After collecting three points in 24 games last season, the defender already has two points through his first two games and is looking very confident in his play. As the season rolls on, Masters is a must-watch player in the WHL.
“Masters has piqued my interest as a player who may be under the radar going into this upcoming WHL season,” FCHockey’s Justin Froese recently reported. “While his game doesn’t have a lot of elements that really pop, in a limited role he does a lot of little things right and has some confidence with the puck on his stick and how he defends.”
Olivier Nadeau, RW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Olivier Nadeau is another player that has seemed to improve as the season has gone on. The winger is now up to 27 points in 24 games this season, with 20 of those coming as assists. He’s an intriguing playmaker that seems to do all the little things right, making good decisions with the puck and finding space well. In the middle rounds of the draft, Nadeau is a name to target.
“Nadeau is a big, physical winger, that plays a smart game and that has a good compete level,” Théo Lambert, FCHockey’s QMJHL scout, recently wrote. “He is a hard worker that is not scared of using his body to create space for himself, which he does very effectively, as he is very strong on his feet.”
Francesco Pinelli, C, HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)
Francesco Pinelli might just be one of the most intriguing prospects in this class. His ability to find lanes to the net, combined creativity with his hands and feet, and puck skills have all helped him adjust to the AlpsHL, a men’s league. With the potential of an OHL season on the horizon, Pinelli is a player to watch for a breakout. He’s a top-five OHL player in this class and he could very well be a top-20 player overall in this draft.
“Pinelli is an incredible and dynamic offensively gifted forward,” FCHockey scout Dylan Galloway said in a recent report. “It’s hard to miss Pinelli as he seems to be everywhere on the ice all at once. An electric puck possessor, it’s nearly impossible to tell what Pinelli is going to do next when the puck is on his stick.”
Isak Rosen, RW, Leksands IF (SHL)
One of the key draft-eligible Swedes this year, Isak Rosen continues to impress FCHockey’s scouts this season. After appearing in the January edition of FCHockey’s top-10 players of the month, Rosen is back after continuing to steal scout’s attention. Rosen is currently ranked 26th in FCHockey’s winter rankings and is a very serious candidate to be a riser moving forward.
“He’s a quick and energetic player, able to accelerate in the blink of an eye and burst into open space,” FCHockey head crossover scout Derek Neumeier reported. “Gets where he needs to go more so because of his reaction time, his determination, and his understanding of routes than his skating technique… Overall, there are a lot of translatable elements to Rosen’s game, and he projects well as a guy who could become a 20-goal, 20-assist player while also being reliable defensively.”