The Big Ten hockey season got underway over the weekend with the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin sweeping their two-game sets. There were a lot of top prospects on display over the weekend including one who could be a top pick at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Also, a St. Louis Blues goaltending prospect is putting up some great numbers to start his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) season.
Johnson Nets His First College Goal
Even though only one conference in Division I has started to play, it is hard to deny that Michigan is one of the best teams in all of the NCAA. They opened their season with a dominating 8-1 win over Arizona State on Saturday night.
Their roster is absolutely loaded with a handful of recent NHL draftees, including three different first-round picks. The Wolverines also boast numerous players who are already near the top of the 2021 draft board.
One of those players is center Kent Johnson. After picking up four assists in his team debut on Saturday, Johnson scored his first NCAA goal by getting to a rebound and firing it home in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Sun Devils.
Scouts believe that Johnson has the potential to be an elite top-line center in the NHL one day. He was the most valuable player and top scorer in the British Columbia Hockey League last season with 41 goals and 101 points in 51 games for the Trail Smoke Eaters. He will be fun to keep tabs on during the remainder of the Big Ten season.
Donovan Leads the Way for Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Badgers opened up their 2020-21 season over the weekend, as well. They swept a two-game set from the University of Notre Dame. On a loaded roster that includes the likes of Cole Caufield and Dylan Holloway, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle.
Ryder Donovan is one of those players who may get overlooked at times on this deep team, but he stood out during Saturday’s 5-3 victory over the Fighting Irish. The 18-year-old forward scored two goals on three shots in the winning effort.
Donovan matched his freshman season’s goal total in one game. He scored two goals and five points in 32 games during the 2019-20 season. This was a disappointment after being drafted in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights. He has the NHL frame at 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, so progression during his sophomore season will be huge going forward.
Wisconsin will host Michigan for a two-game series this Thursday and Friday.
Granato Not Happy with Team Canada
One would think head coach Tony Granato would be nothing but smiles after his Badgers won back-to-back games over the 20th ranked Notre Dame squad. However, one of his top stars, Holloway will be heading to Team Canada’s World Junior Championship evaluation camp and will miss 10 games with his Badgers teammates.
Granato shared his frustration with losing his dynamic forward just as the season is starting.
They’ve said all along that they need and want and he has to be here. So from my side of things, I don’t think it’s right because his opportunity here to get ready for a World Junior tournament playing games like this is a heck of a lot better than scrimmaging 20 of your teammates that you’re going to be in the tournament with.From “Tony Granato criticizes Hockey Canada decision” by Todd D. Milewski, Wisconsin State Journal – 11/15/20
Holloway was drafted 14th overall by the Edmonton Oilers at last month’s NHL Entry Draft. He had two goals in Friday night’s season-opening game versus Notre Dame.
Ellis Racking Up the Stats
The Charlottetown Islanders have been the class of the QMJHL seasons so far. They are off to an 11-2-0 start and lead the league with 22 points. A big reason for their success has been the play of goaltender Colten Ellis.
This his first season with the Islanders after three solid seasons with the Rimouski Océanic. In 126, games he won 78 games while posting a .909 save percentage (SV%), 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) and 11 shutouts.
So far this season, Ellis has a perfect 9-0-0 record with a .908 SV%, 2.33 GAA and one shutout. In a unique stat for goaltenders, he has three assists on the season, all coming in his last two starts.
The Blues drafted Ellis in the third round (93rd overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. This will be his final season in junior hockey due to his age, so he could be looking to sign a professional contract in the near future. His numbers definitely warrant one at this point.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.