Welcome to the Weekly Prospect Report. Here, we’ll take a look at some key names over the past week that are a big part of the next wave of NHL stars. This column will dive into both NHL-affiliated and draft-eligible prospects, focusing mainly on those outside the NHL.
The 2020 NHL Draft is fast approaching, and The Hockey Writers has you covered. We’ll be publishing prospect profiles, rankings, mock drafts, features, and much more from now up until the draft. To keep up with the content, you can do so here. As we get ready for this exciting time on the hockey calendar, I’ll be highlighting one 2020 draft-eligible prospect a week as the “Underrated Player of the Week.”
COVID-19 Halts Hockey World
No NHL. No AHL. No OHL, QMJHL, WHL. No USHL, European leagues, no IIHF tournaments. As you know by now, hockey is at a hault. With coronavirus spreading around the world at an exponential rate, that’s a good thing. The health of everyone playing the game comes first and it’s good to see the various leagues respecting that.
What will be interesting to see is how this impacts the prospect world. As of now, obviously no prospects are playing. In most seasons, many prospects look to the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship and/or their respective playoffs as the final place to show off their skills. That is no more.
Many prospects show off their personalities and athletic ability at the NHL Combine. That’s scheduled for the end of May, but will that be at risk? What about the NHL Draft itself? Will that be pushed? Will it be conducted remotely? There are many unknowns right now about how the rest of the scheduled year will go.
What might be most interesting to watch for me, is how this will impact the draft. The various playoff leagues and the U18s are a great opportunity to watch many players in high-stress situations. It doesn’t even have to be the U18s, look at Moritz Seider from last year at the IIHF Men’s World Championship – he stood out and put anyone who wasn’t paying attention on notice.
What might end up happening, is high-end talent slipping in the draft due to lack of scouting. Especially for the European and Russian players, there’s a chance that they might go lower than expected. No matter what happens, there’s no question that this has significantly impacted the prospect world. After all, it’s impacted everyone – in or out of hockey. More importantly than hockey: stay inside if you can, keep washing your hands, and stay safe.
Kings’ Parik Has Historic Night
Lukas Parik had quite the night on Mar. 10, one that goes down in the record books. Not only did the Los Angeles Kings prospect collect his first WHL shutout for the Spokane Chiefs, but he became the first Chiefs’ goaltender to score a goal himself. He becomes the ninth goalie in WHL history to score a goal and the first to record a goal and a shutout in the same game.
What goes unnoticed in this rare accomplishment, is that Parik saved 36 shots in the shutout victory – Spokane’s 10th in a row. Also, the young netminder is in his first season in the WHL and while this is obviously a highlight so far, he’s been remarkable all season.
If the season is over, Parik finishes 22-7-3 with a 2.73 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. He’s increasingly becoming a top goaltending prospect in the league, and the Kings have to be happy with his progress.
Senators’ Pinto Raises Stock Since Draft
Throughout this season, one player who has been turning heads and raising his draft stock is 2019 NHL Draftee Shane Pinto. Selected by the Ottawa Senators 32nd overall, there were many questions about the selection with numerous big names still on the board. But general manager Pierre Dorion stuck by his selection, and it’s looking like the right choice so far.
In his rookie season in the NCAA, Pinto has 16 goals, 12 assists and 28 points in 33 games. The point total puts him sixth among U20 skaters in the NCAA, and he’s third in freshman goals behind Cole Caufield and Alex Newhook – both drafted well ahead of Pinto. That goal total was enough to lead his team as well. On top of this, Pinto impressed in the faceoff circle, winning over 60 percent of his faceoffs.
He finishes his campaign named to the NCAA (NCHC) All-Rookie team as a member of the regular-season champions, the University of North Dakota with fellow Senators Jacob-Bernard Docker and Jonny Tychonick.
Let us also not forget the impressive performance Pinto displayed at the 2020 World Junior Championships, collecting four goals, three assists, and seven points in five games for Team USA, resulting in him being named a top-three player on the team. So far, Dorion and the Senators look good with this pick.
Does Rossi Win CHL Scoring Title?
As discussed, hockey seasons are at risk of being cancelled. If that is the case, Ottawa 67’s star, and 2020 NHL Draft top-eligible prospect Marco Rossi comes away with the CHL scoring title. He potentially finishes the season nearly doubling his 65-point rookie season in 2018-19 to 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists) in just 56 games.
His point total finishes higher than projected number-one prospect, Alexis Lafreniere (112 points) in the QMJHL and fellow OHLer and 2020 draft prospect, Cole Perfetti (111 points). He also finishes as one of two players in the OHL to finish about two points per game (2.14) along with Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Jan Jenik (2.07).
Rossi has been all over the top-10 this season, but he’s put in the work to be considered a top-five talent in this draft. Winning the CHL scoring title might help to prove that to any remaining doubters out there.
Wallstedt Makes SHL Debut
Looking ahead to the 2021 NHL Draft, there’s a goaltender that has been turning heads early on and did so again this past week. Jesper Wallstedt, arguably right there in the conversation with 2020 top-goaltender Yaroslav Askarov, made his SHL debut, becoming the youngest goalie to ever play in the league.
As I Tweeted above, he looked very good in his debut, finishing with a 1.55 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. There were a couple of moments early on where he overshot some of his pushes, which is likely due to nerves – which is to be expected in any debut, regardless of making history.
But overall, he looked very good, and you could see him become more confident as the game went on. He did a very good job of controlling the puck, both in rebounds and playing the puck behind the net which he did often.
There’s a lot of excitement around Askarov in 2020, but you can expect the same level of excitement surrounding Wallstedt in the future.
Underrated Player of the Week: Ozzy Wiesblatt
Bell’s Ranking: 60th
We’ve already looked at James Hardie and Yan Kuznetsov, next up on the Underrated Player of the Week section: Ozzy Wiesblatt. In my February draft rankings, the right-winger came in as a second-rounder, 60th overall. He’s been higher in some other rankings, and likely will be in my final rankings as well.
Playing in the WHL for the Prince Albert Raiders, Wiesblatt put together a solid season of 25 goals, 45 assists and 70 points in 64 games. The Calgary, Alberta native is a player that coaches and fans alike will love. He has a never-quit mentality, bringing a high-energy pace to every shift and both ends of the ice. He’s not afraid to get under the skin of his opponents, sometimes reminding me of the Tkachuk brothers in his play.
He’s a good skater, evident in his transition play where he also shows off his great puck handling. He has a high hockey IQ, allowing him to make great plays on a regular basis. I see him as a middle-six player that could play up and down the lineup and on any special teams. As I said, for the team that drafts him, he’ll be a fan favourite.
Thanks for checking out this edition of the Weekly Prospect Report. Throughout the season, I’ll keep you updated on all of the players not yet in the NHL that you should be keeping an eye on. If ever you’d like me to write about a specific prospect, have any questions or anything else, leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter: @JoshuaBellTHW.
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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.