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 IIHF World Junior Championship is all wrapped up, with Canada coming out victorious over Russia. Sweden won the bronze medal over Finland, and Kazakhstan fell to Germany in the relegation game, to be replaced by Austria in the top tier next year. If you missed any of the action, The Hockey Writers have you covered.
Flyers’ Zamula Impresses at World Juniors
One player who constantly caught my eye during the World Juniors was Philadelphia Flyers prospect Yegor Zamula. The Russian defender made himself known every shift he took and was one of the best defenders in the tournament. He finished with two goals and two assists in seven games and was a bigtime minute cruncher for the Russians.
Zamula uses his big frame (6-foot-3) to his advantage and is very hard to knock off the puck. He wins most puck battles and net-front battles, makes a crisp first pass out of the zone, and can rip the puck. For his efforts at the World Juniors, he was named a top-three player for Russia.
What makes his play more impressive is that Zamula is the lone NHL prospect that went undrafted. That’s right, he was passed over in 2018 (despite being ranked 100th by ISS Hockey and 105 by FutureConsiderations). The Flyers invited him to their training camp that year, signing him to an entry-level contract in the middle of camp.
Zamula could very well be one of the top prospects for the Flyers and this tournament showed all of those who haven’t caught a glimpse of him just what he’s capable of. Flyers fans have a lot to be excited about this prospect.
Wild’s Beckman Took Advantage of World Juniors
While many of the top U20 players in the world were in the Czech Republic competing at the World Juniors, a Team Canada snub (as I wrote in my Team Canada B piece) was taking advantage and torching the WHL. Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman didn’t do anything different than he was before the World Juniors, but the result is him leading the WHL point race.
While the World Juniors have been going on, Beckman has put together a 10-game goal and point streak for the Spokane Chiefs, his longest of the season. In those 10 games, he has 16 goals, five assists, and 21 points. His goal streak is now a franchise record for the Chiefs – and it’s still going.
Beckman was the Wild’s third-round pick, taken 75th overall in 2019. They chose him after he collected 32 goals, 30 assists, and 62 points in 68 games for the Spokane Chiefs. This season? He’s already up to 29 goals, 30 assists and 59 points in just 36 games. It’s safe to say he’s taken a big step forward.
Capitals’ Hugo Haš Headed to OHL
Washington Capitals’ prospects and Team Czech Republic’s defender Martin Hugo Haš is headed to North America, ready to make his debut with the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. The 153rd-overall pick in 2019 has seen time in the Jr. A SM-liiga, the Liiga, and mostly the Mestis, where he collected one goal in 13 games.
At the World Juniors, he collected a goal and two assists for three points in five games. He likely won’t be the most offensive player on the ice, but he’s a smart defender who can hold his own in his end. He’s a valuable prospect to have.
Don’t Let One Tournament Define Askarov (or Anyone Else)
After allowing four goals in the Semifinals to Team Sweden, 2020 top-prospect Yaroslav Askarov was pulled from the game in favour of Amir Miftakhov. After the game, it was reported that Askarov was receiving threats online for his performance. This was after Russia won the game 5-4 in overtime.
Askarov didn’t have the best tournament, but as a 17-year-old in a U20 tournament, he did well. He had a 2.71 goals against average and a .877 save percentage. Not great by any means, but as a very young goaltender, this was an average outing. This tournament does nothing to lower the NHL expectations of the netminder and shouldn’t affect his NHL Draft rankings at all. He’s still the undisputed top goalie and an elite one at that.
The World Juniors, and any international tournament, are exciting and fun to watch. However, in the grand scheme of things, they don’t carry much weight on projecting the future of players. Their regular season play does the majority of that. Don’t a week and a half-long tournament cloud your view on Askarov.
Also, he’ll have two chances to make up for this year’s event. At 17, he’ll be eligible to play in the next two World Juniors. You should bet that he’ll be there and be great.
Lafrenière Named World Juniors MVP
If you had any questions about Alexis Lafrenière being the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, they were likely put to rest through the World Juniors. Not only did the star player put up four goals, six assists, and 10 points through five games, but he led Canada to a gold medal, winning tournament MVP along the way.
Things looked bleak when the Rimouski Océanic star went down in the second game of the tournament, especially after a dominant opener in which he had five points. He missed the rest of the round-robin but returned in the elimination games, not missing a beat.
The young player has all but cemented himself as the top player in the 2020 NHL Draft. He was absolutely dominant throughout this tournament and will now return to the QMJHL to look to add to his already stellar resume with a QMJHL title and a trip to the Memorial Cup. He’s put up 23 goals, 47 assists, and 70 points in just 32 games for Rimouski this season and will look to quickly build on that.
Chromiak Impressing in First OHL Week
Last week, it was announced by the Kingston Frontenacs that Slovakian Martin Chromiak was coming to the OHL. After being snubbed from the Slovakian team, Chromiak likely came with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove what he could do.
Well, he did just that. Chromiak scored in his debut game with a great deflection (seen below). He also added an assist in that game for his first two points. Despite being held off the scoreboard for the next two games, Chromiak has made an immediate impact on the Frontenacs playing with 2022 top prospect Shane Wright.
In my November rankings, I had Chromiak ranked 48th. I would still have him as a mid-to-late second-rounder, but if he really gets on a roll in Kingston, he could see himself rise up everyone’s draft rankings.
Myšák Headed to Hamilton Bulldogs
Speaking of players coming over the OHL, the league is getting a big one in Jan Myšâk. My 14th-ranked player ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft is headed to the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he’ll join Czech teammate Jan Jeník (if he can return from injury).
Myšák has been playing in the top Czech league but has been wildly underused. Even still, he managed to put up five goals, four assists, and nine points in 26 games. He was undervalued and underused again at the World Juniors, collecting a goal and an assist in five games.
With Myšák coming to the OHL, expect him to finally get the respect he deserves. He should get some top-line minutes with Jeniík out. He’s always a threat when the puck is on his stick, and to combine that with the offensive threat of Los Angeles Kings’ prospect Arthur Kaliyev could be dangerous for the OHL.
Bedard, Yager & Heidt Apply for Exceptional Status
Looking further out, there’s exciting news coming from Western Canada. Three young players, all eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft have applied for Exceptional Status in the WHL, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Connor Bedard, Brayden Yager, and Riley Heidt have all applied for this status, hoping to join a very successful line of players to be granted Exceptional Status.
There have been only six players granted this status in the CHL. You may have heard of some of them. The OHL has had John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, Sean Day, and Shane Wright granted this distinction, while the QMJHL had Joe Veleno. The WHL has never had a player be allowed in early.
Bedard stands the best chance to be the first WHL player granted Exceptional Status out of the trio. Last season with the West Van Academy Bantam Prep team, he put up 64 goals, 24 assists, and 88 points in just 30 games. This season, with the West Van Academy Prep squad, he’s already up to 25 goals, 27 assists and 52 points in just 23 games. He’s doing this against players up to three years older than him.
Yager and Heidt actually play together with the Saskatoon Contacts. Yager has a point per game with 30 in 30 (12 goals, eight assists), and is coming off a 103-point season in Bantam last year – in 31 games. He had another 28 points in nine playoff games. Heidt is just under a point-per-game, with 28 points through 30 games. In his previous season, he had 99 points in his 31 games, putting up another 24 points in nine playoff games.
Out of the three, my guess is that only Bedard is granted Exceptional Status, becoming just the seventh player to be awarded it and the first from the WHL.
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.
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.