Among the many prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, there’s a select group of players who have one thing in common – their team. The United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Chicago Steel has six players that are first-year eligible for the upcoming draft. And one player to get very excited about in the 2021 NHL Draft in Owen Powers. While he’s not touched on in this piece, he’s very much a prospect to be excited about.
The Steel had an extremely successful season. They finished the campaign with a franchise-record 41 wins, which included two 13-game winning streaks. That was in no small part to their group of draft-eligible players.
For the 2020 NHL Draft, the Steel are represented by Brendan Brisson, Sam Colangelo, Josh Doan, Sean Farrell, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, and Luke Reid. What’s even more impressive is that as many as three of these players are on track to be drafted in the top-62 (the first two rounds). Let’s take a closer look at these players.
2019-20 Season: 45 games, 24 goals, 35 assists, 59 points
Brisson is one of the biggest draft-eligible risers of the 2019-20 season. Despite putting up a 101-point season for Shattuck St. Mary’s Midget Prep in 2018-19, there weren’t many that were sold on him. He changed that in a big way this season, even looking like a potential first-round (even top-20) pick.
For the Steel, Brisson put up a 1.31 point-per-game pace – the second-highest rate of any Steel player ever. His point total finished second on the Steel and in the league, one point behind teammate Mathieu De St. Phalle but in four fewer games. For those who weren’t aware of him, he made sure they were with a dominant performance in the 2019 World Under-19 Hockey Challenge (WJHC).
Brisson put up five goals, seven assists and tournament-leading 12 points in the six games, helping Team USA to the bronze medal. He was named to the All-Star Team after tying the tournament’s all-time point total in a single tournament with Andrei Svechnikov and Nick Schmaltz.
Committed to the University of Michigan for the 2020-21 season, Brisson is a very intelligent player with great skating. He’s light on his feet and uses his edges well. While he’s been an offensive threat all season long, he can hold his own in the defensive end as well. He’s a good puckhandler and an excellent playmaker. What he’s likely known for at this point is his one-timer that he showed off at the WJHC. That shot is powerful, accurate, and fast. Goalies will be afraid of Brisson when he’s open.
2019-20 Season: 44 games, 28 goals, 20 assists, 58 points
NHL.com put out an interesting piece on Colangelo, comparing the right-winger to Toronto Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews. His former coach Greg Moore, now a coach with the Toronto Marlies, explained this comparison.
“He can get himself into spots on the ice a lot of other people can’t. Strong on his feet, strong with his hands. Then he can fire a puck. When he gets an opportunity to shoot, he has a good shot. But he’s got to learn to get into those spots a little bit more during the game to utilize that.”
He continues, “I’d say his stature, the way he skates, his poise on the ice is a lot like Matthews. In terms of how he gets around the rink and his poise and presence, he’s very similar to that.”
That’s high praise for the 2020-21 Northeastern University commit, and give a great breakdown of Colagelo’s game. On top of this, Colangelo brings a level of grit to his game, making him a difficult player to play against. He has some work to do on his skating and his defensive game, but there’s a lot to like about this young player. Don’t be surprised to see him go in the second round, our early in the third.
2019-20 Season: 45 games, 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points
If you’re looking at the name “Doan” and thinking of Phoenix/Arizona Coyote legend Shane Doan, you’re right on the money. Josh is the son of the long-time NHLer, and who is better to discuss the young forward than his father.
“His hockey IQ is what makes him capable of playing at the next level,” said Shane of his son. “He has the ability to make plays. He moves the puck well. The way that he’s growing right now is something that is really exciting to see where he finishes, because he’s physically probably been a little bit behind on the overall spectrum, but he’s closing the gap a lot over the last six months to a year. I think when his physical side matches where his mental side is, he’s going to have an opportunity to play a lot of hockey.”
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Doan isn’t quite at the level of some of his Steel teammates, but there’s definitely talent there. Expect him to be a late-round pick – possibly even going undrafted. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Coyotes take a chance on the young player, having his father call his name similar to how the New Jersey Devils let Martin Brodeur draft his son back in 2013.
He has some time to improve though, and he’ll be heading to Arizona State University in 2021-22 to do just that.
2019-20 Season: 44 games, 15 goals, 41 assists, 56 points
While Farrell may be undersized at 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, he makes up for it with pure skill. He’s a player with great speed and if he doesn’t have the puck he’s always battling for it. His strongest asset is his passing ability, as is proven by his league-leading 41 assists this season.
Farrell was a member of the absolutely stacked under-18 USA Hockey National Team Development Program in 2018-19, playing a depth role behind some of the big names that were drafted early in the 2019 NHL Draft. Still, he put up 11 goals, 27 assists, and 38 points in 64 games. He collected two assists in the World Under-18 Hockey Championship, winning a bronze medal with the team.
This season, he’s been one of the leaders for the Steel, and with Brisson was a star in the WJHC, adding five goals, three assists and eight points to his impressive 2019-20 season. He just might have played himself into the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, although I see him more as a second-round pick.
While Ferrell is known for his passing ability, it’s important to note that the young player brings a great shot to his game too. As seen from the WJHC totals, when he shoots, he can rip it past the goalie. He’s simply an excellent passer and feels more comfortable utilizing that. As he gains more confidence with his shot, you’ll likely see those goal totals rise.
2019-20 Season: 45 games, 26 goals, 31 assists, 57 points
Aside from having the best name of the bunch, Fontaine is also the only overager on the list. What you have two know about him though is that he’s also only one day shy of being eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. He’s practically a double overager, which might hurt his chances a bit.
That being said, he seems to have done everything right this season in order to hear his name called in the 2020 NHL Draft. Despite playing 15 fewer games this season, he saw all of his totals increase from the 2018-19 season (20 goals, 23 assists, 43 points). That’s a step in the right direction for sure.
Fontaine has always brought a strong level of compete to his game, always battling for the puck, and always trying to get it back if the other team has it. He also holds a wicked shot, that has a lot of strength and accuracy with it. He took all of this to a new level this season, able to go through opposing defences and fire more past goaltenders, hence the higher production.
Fontaine is definitely on the radar of NHL teams, after having attended the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp in 2019. TSN’s Craig Button even had him ranked 79th in his January rankings. That’s a bit high for me, as I see him more as a mid-to-late round pick. However, all signs are pointing to him hearing his name called in 2020.
2019-20 Season: 45 games, 2 goals, 17 assists, 19 points
Reid is the lone defender on this list and is among the oldest players in this draft class. He’s in his second season with the Steel and while his stat line is identical to his 2018-19 season, it’s actually an improvement. In 2018-19, he played 60 games, dropping to 45 this season. That’s a 0.32 point-per-game average jumping up to a 0.42 point per game average. He’s not what you’d call an offensive defenseman, but it’s good to see the growth.
The dual citizen has dressed for both Team Canada (in the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge) and Team USA in the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the 2019 WJHC. He hasn’t jumped off the scoresheet in these tournaments, collecting three assists overall in 16 games.
Reid is a good skater who can move the puck, and he definitely has potential. Still, it’s likely that he’s a mid-to-late round pick in the draft. Future Considerations has him as high as 83rd (third round), but I think it’s likely he goes lower than that. I can see a team taking a chance on Reid as a wait-and-see prospect, with the chance that he ends up as a solid NHL contributor. But there’s no question that he has the talent and potential to take his game to the next level.
Steel Players: Could They All Get Picked?
Yes, they definitely could. It would be a great testament to the development of the Steel organization. All of these players stand a very good chance of hearing their name called by an NHL organization with Brisson, Colangelo and Farrell leading the way for the others.
On top of these players, three affiliates of the program found themselves on the NHL Central Scouting Midterm List. Defensemen Ian Moore and David Ma, and forward Matthew Gleason. There’s no question that the Steel are set to make an impact on the 2020 NHL Draft.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.