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.
While the hockey world is on a COVID-19 shutdown, the 2020 NHL Draft will still happen – somehow. Throughout “The Pause,” I’ll keep my content rolling to ensure you have some reading material to get through quarantine. The Hockey Writers have started to compile it’s annual NHL Draft Guide, and you can check that out for tons of prospect profiles, features, rankings and more!
The Weekly Prospect report will go on as long as it can, although it might look differently in the coming weeks. As there’s still been prospect news rolling in, we have some items to touch on this week.
Maple Leafs’ Robertson Among Leaders in OHL Coaches Poll
With the OHL season officially cancelled, including the CHL playoffs and Memorial Cup, the league released it’s annual Coaches Poll. The poll asked coaches to recognize the top-three players within their conference in various categories. Among the names that popped up numerous times, Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Nick Robertson is at the top.
Roberston was voted the Most Dangerous Player in the Goal Area and having the Best Shot, placed second as the Hardest Worker, Best Stickhandler, and Best Shootout Shooter, while finishing third in Hardest Shot. It’s safe to say that the opposing coaches in the league think very highly of the young forward.
After finishing the season as the CHL’s goal leader, with 55 in 46 games, Robertson has made his 53rd-overall pick look like an absolute steal. Now the big question that many will be asking through what could be a long offseason – where does Robertson play next season?
Other standouts from the OHL Coaches Poll include 2020 NHL Draft-eligible Marco Rossi, who was in six categories including winning Smartest Player, Best Playmaker and Best Shootout Shooter, and another draft-eligible in Cole Perfetti, who had the most first-place finishes with four (Smartest Player, Best Playmaker, Best Stickhandler and Best Shootout Shooter).
Oilers’ Broberg to Remain in Sweden for 2020-21
The Edmonton Oilers have reportedly told top-prospect Philip Broberg to remain in Sweden for next season. General manager Ken Holland has a history of taking it slow with his prospects and Edmonton is starting to get a taste for that.
For Broberg, this is a good thing. The two-way prospect just spent his first season in the SHL, collecting one goal and seven points in 45 games. He played roughly 14 minutes a night for Skellefteå AIK, a number that will surely rise in his second season.
As for the Oilers, they are in no rush for their prospect to rush himself. The team took a step forward this season and have a number of young d-men on the roster and sitting in waiting. Players like Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones made the jump this season and another top defensive prospect in Evan Bouchard looks ready to make the jump.
Broberg should see a significant increase in time on ice and in his production next season while playing against top talent. Also, it’s important to note that Broberg has a two-year European clause in his entry-level contract. That makes it look like Broberg playing in Sweden was the plan all along, and we could very well be seeing him in North American in 2021-22.
Senators’ Norris Wins AHL Rookie Scoring Title
If it hasn’t been mentioned already, congratulations to Josh Norris for winning the AHL’s rookie scoring title. The Ottawa Senators’ prospect exploded this season for 31 goals, 30 assists, and 61 points in 56 games. Not only did those totals lead rookies but led the Belleville Senators and put him fourth in the entire league.
Norris was originally drafted 19th overall in 2017 and was acquired by the Senators in the Erik Karlsson trade. With the way he’s progressed, through the NCAA and the World Juniors in 2018-19 to the AHL in 2019-20 and even to his three games in the NHL this season, the centreman could be a catalyst of that trade.
Back in 2018, I wrote that I thought Norris could be the Senators’ future down the middle. While many saw him with a third-line ceiling, I saw future top-six talent. I think he’s proven that’s the case.
With the Senators likely to start their climb back to contention in 2020-21, I expect Norris to make the jump to the big club. Although it’s been one season in the AHL, it’s obvious that he’s too good for the league. If he’s not already, get ready for Norris to be a fan favourite.
Senators’ Pinto Named NCHC Rookie of the Year
We’re sticking with the Senators for one more section here, with another player that people doubted until this season. Shane Pinto, who was drafted with a highly-criticized 32nd overall pick, has been named the NCHC Rookie of the Year.
Pinto finished his freshman season with the NCAA’s University of North Dakota potting a team-leading 16 goals and 28 points. He came out of the gate swinging this season, starting with a five-game point streak, and never really slowed down, including a seven-point performance at the World Juniors.
Pinto is the first UND player to win the Rookie of the Year honours since now-Vancouver Canuck Brock Boeser in 2015-16. The next season, he led the school to an NCAA championship.
“I think it’s a great accolade to win,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “Brock Boeser won it as a special player and now Shane Pinto won it as a special player as well. I’m really excited about his next year and what he can do.” (from: “Shane Pinto named NCHC rookie of the year” – Grand Forks Herald – March 25, 2020).
Pinto has definitely silenced his critics this season, dominating where ever he plays. He’s likely to stay with UND for another season and you should expect him to be a contender for the Hobey Baker Award if he can take another big step forward.
Connor Bedard Makes WHL History, Granted Exceptional Status
Connor Bedard has made history, becoming the first player to be granted Exceptional Status in the WHL. He applied along with two other 2023 NHL Draft-eligible prospects, Brayden Yager and Riley Heidt, and is approved one year after 2022 NHL Draft-eligible Matthew Savoie was turned down
From my news release, “Bedard is coming off of a big season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL), with the West Vancouver Academy Prep U18 team – at 14 years old. In 36 games, he put up 43 goals, 41 assists, and a massive 84 points.
“In his first year at that level, he led both his team and the entire league in points. That point total is also good for third-best in the league ever, although the two players ahead of him were 16 and 17 years old – two and three years older than Bedard.
“Bedard is a special player, and that’s obvious now that he’s been granted exceptional status. But for many, this was obvious well before this announcement. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound forward oozes offensive ability. He has a natural ability to score, potting goals at a 2.13 rate in 2018-19 and 1.19 rate (against 18-year-olds) in 2019-20.”
The next day, the Regina Pats won the WHL Draft Lottery and general manager John Paddock has already confirmed that the team will select Bedard first overall. Now we just need to wait until hockey’s back to actually watch him play.
Adam Fantilli Commits to USHL’s Chicago Steel
In more 2023 NHL Draft-eligible new, the top-ranked player in the 2020 OHL Draft has committed to the USHL’s Chicago Steel for the 2020-21 season. Fantilli will be joining his older brother Luca there, setting up an interesting route to the NHL.
Fantilli will be in the USHL next season but after that, he’s keeping his options open. The North Bay Battalion holds the first overall pick in the OHL Draft, earning the right to draft Fantilli. While there’s a risk that he might not play there, there’s still a possibility and that might be a risk the Battalion has to take.
“Luca has wanted to play for Michigan since he was a little kid,” said Guiliano Fantilli, the father of Adam and Luca. “But Adam is different, he likes the OHL and he likes the NCAA. He doesn’t know what he wants to do yet. He’ll take this year to develop in Chicago and play with his brother. North Bay had an awesome presentation, but it just wasn’t the right fit for (2020-21). It doesn’t mean it won’t be next year. We told them, ‘We’re not going to play for anybody else. It’s not a North Bay thing. It’s just we’re not ready right now.”
After this season in the USHL, Fantilli will still have two seasons prior to his NHL Draft. He could go to the OHL or he could stick in the United States and go the NCAA route. All options are open right now, and that’s ok for the 15-year-old.
Underrated Prospect of the Week: Pavel Tyutnev
Bell’s Ranking: 101st
Finally, we come to everyone’s favourite part of the column, the Underrated Prospect of the Week. We’ve already looked at James Hardie, Yan Kuznetsov, Ozzy Wiesblatt, and Martin Chromiak. and This week, we’ll take a look at Russian centreman Pavel Tyutnev, who plays for Loko Yaroslavl in the MHL.
Tyutnev has a tremendous amount of offensive skill and has a knack for scoring goals. In his first full season in the MHL, he collected 13 goals, nine assists and 22 points in 36 games. He added two goals and four points (and a gold medal) at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and five goals at the World Under-19 Hockey Challenge.
His offensive instincts are off the charts, showing creativity, patience, and poise in the offensive end. He’s got a quick, hard snapshot that can surprise goalies as he gets it off without much effort. He’s quick on his feet and uses that to surprise offences with a forecheck that causes a number of turnovers. His game reminds me of Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Nils Höglander in a way, just that pure skill and creativity he displays.
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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