2018 NHL Draft Primer

Throughout the year, I watched dozens upon dozens of junior and college hockey games. While not my focus, I did keep track of some (not all) draft eligible players in those games. This piece is meant to be a quick introduction based on sporadic viewings of these players. As such, I won’t be evaluating their NHL future but instead will focus on their abilities.

Mitchell Hoelscher – Forward – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Hoelscher was a guy that showed some flashes of offensive brilliance for me. He can thread passes in scoring areas and showed hustle all over the ice. His hands are decent and he has average speed but I like his shot. He gets quick elevation with the puck and his release is good. He’ll likely be a 5th round pick or later. He has some time to develop consistency.

Sam Bitten – Forward – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Sam Bitten was a player that pops out at you with his hustle and effort. I didn’t see much offensively out of him (his shot is decent but he didn’t show much creativity with the puck) but he’s aggressive and has potential to develop into quite the agitator. He’ll probably be a late round draft choice or one of the first invites to a team’s prospect camp.

Kevin Bahl – Defenseman – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Bahl is an imposing defender that displays confidence with the puck and uses his physicality to be a problem for opposing forwards. In many ways, I thought he was a similar player to Andrew Peeke although Peeke is more offense-oriented than Bahl is. He’s a fine skater for his size but can be beat out wide when transitioning or changing directions. Defensively, he does a good job at using his stick and body to separate forwards from the puck. Many fans will attach negative connotations on him due to his size but he’s not a one trick pony. While very raw, I liked what I saw out of him in limited action.

Elijah Roberts – Defenseman – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Roberts is a second-time eligible defenseman that is active all over the ice. Roberts uses his skating abilities to lead the rush and jump in the play offensively. He’s a smart player offensively and can create chances at the top of the slot. I liked what I saw from him but I’m not sure if his style of play will translate to the professional level.

Akil Thomas – Forward – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Thomas is a good skater that displays 200-foot competency and composure. His shot and edgework are both far above average and he displayed good puck smarts. All-in-all he jumped out to me as a safe player that was very consistent from shift-to-shift.

Nick Dinofrio – Goalie – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Dinofrio is a big goalie with a quick glove hand. He does a good job tracking pucks through traffic. I think he could be a bit more athletic and could stand to improve his angle when he squares up to the shooter.

Joe Veleno – Forward – Saint John Sea Dogs/Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Veleno will forever be one of the most mentioned prospects of the draft given his lengthy history in the QMJHL and previous “exceptional status” granted by Hockey Canada. I saw Veleno once this year when he was with Saint John. Veleno is a cerebral player that possesses exceptional vision and good passing ability. He’s an agile skater with a fluid stride and great puck handling ability. Veleno was all over the ice in my viewing and his numbers improved dramatically following his trade to Drummondville.

Justin Blanchette – Goalie – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Justin Blanchette was one of three goalies in rotation for Baie-Comeau this year. He’s an aggressive goalie that loves to handle the puck and challenge the shooter. He can fight through traffic and does a good job at closing holes when he’s dropped to the butterfly. He does well to make the first save but has some trouble controlling rebounds. I think one of the big things holding him back is that his balance and skating abilities don’t put him in a position to save second and third opportunities. I think he’d be a solid summer camp invite for a team.

Xavier Bouchard – Defenseman – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Bouchard is a big puck moving defenseman that skates decently well for his size. He makes good decisions with the puck and maintains good gap control on the rush. His vision is above average and he walks the blue line well. However, I didn’t like some of the decisions he made without the puck and I think he has some work to do to improve on the powerplay. He’s an intriguing prospect that I have mixed opinions on but certainly has potential.

Cameron Wright – Forward – Bowling Green State University (WCHA)
Cameron Wright is an offensive-oriented, third time eligible forward that was a key piece for Bowling Green as a freshman. Wright sees the ice well and possesses the offensive instincts to score goals off the rush and through sustained offensive zone pressure. Wright’s skating and balance could stand to be improved but his hockey sense and instincts makes him a valuable weapon to have on the powerplay.

Luka Burzan – Forward – Moose Jaw Warriors/Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Burzan didn’t get many opportunities as a Warrior in the game I saw, but his explosiveness and acceleration are phenomenal. The last few steps of his stride are unmatched by the vast majority of players outside the NHL. While he was more of a depth player, I thought he stood out in how aggressive he was in hounding the puck. His puck skills aren’t elite but he’s a hockey player that coaches will love. I think he could really surprise people by going very early in the draft.

Jett Woo – Defenseman – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Woo was a player I had many opinions of in my viewing. He’s got great puck skills and an enticing aspect of physicality and snarl, but I’m not sold on his offensive creativity. Aside from that, I think he’s got great hockey sense and does a really good job fitting in with whatever situation he’s been put in. He has potential to thrive at the next level in one-on-one defensive situations.

Bode Wilde – Defenseman – U.S. NTDP U-18
Wilde was a player I saw a few times but wasn’t a focus. That said, it’s hard not to be excited with how tools-y he is. He’s a physically well-rounded player with great top speed, good puck skills, and a great shot. With that said, there are concerns about his decision making with the puck. Wilde will be an interesting player to track as he adjusts to fit in with the NHL game.

Oliver Wahlstrom – Forward – U.S. NTDP U-18
Much like Wilde, Wahlstrom is a player that often jumps out at you for his skill on the ice. Wahlstrom’s sensational puck skills, elite puck poise, and lethal shot all but guarantee him to be a proficient scorer at the next level. He is one of the most fun prospects to watch in recent memory largely in thanks to his puck handling ability and offensive reliability. His name will be called early on Friday.

Noah Gregor Scouting Report

Noah Gregor (Forward)
Victoria Royals (WHL)
Born: 7/28/1998 | Height: 6’ 0” | Weight: 188 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th Round, 111th Overall, in 2016

Games Played Goals Assists Points +/- PIM
60 29 36 65 7 56

 

Viewing
Date Event
9/29/2017 Regina @ Moose Jaw
2/28/2018 Victoria @ Kamloops
3/31/2018 Vancouver @ Victoria

KEY BREAKDOWN:
Strengths:
– great speed and mechanics
– can create/finish off the rush
– 200-foot responsibility and effort provides value at both ends
– on-ice attitude/decision making is team first
– good hockey sense

Weaknesses:
– not assertive enough offensively
– vision and passing is good but he needs to look for better opportunities during 5v5
– questionable offensive ceiling at the next level

SCOUTING REPORT:
Noah Gregor is a responsible 200-foot center that brings an enticing blend of speed and skill. Gregor was an important forward for both the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Victoria Royals.

Gregor is a great skater with remarkable speed and impressive skating mechanics. He’s rather explosive out of the gate and uses both straight line speed and good cuts to quickly beat opponents directly or out wide. His stride is long and smooth with good extension in his trailing leg.

Offensively, Gregor impresses but also leaves a bit to be desired. Gregor has good cross-ice vision that allows him to pick out passes across the slot. Gregor’s shot is fine but he could stand to be more accurate when shooting high glove or high blocker. One thing I like about Gregor’s game is the variety in the execution in his offensive game. His ability to play with the puck at a high tempo and at high speeds forces defenders to make quick decisions. He’s got great hands and can quickly get the puck from forehand to backhand. He is good as a leading player or passing option on the rush but also does fine work in front of the net and in the middle of the slot. He’s not the strongest player out there but he does a good job establishing positioning and avoiding being tied up by defensemen. The one downfall with Gregor’s game is that I see him as more of a supporting forward at the pro level rather than one who generates offense. In my viewings it rarely seemed like he was the main driver of his line with Moose Jaw or Victoria but I think he’s more than capable of being an excellent supporting forward.

Defensively, Gregor has very few holes. Gregor is very good at battling along the boards and can fish the puck free or knock it to a teammate with relative consistency. Much like the Sharks’ centermen and system, Gregor is very proactive in taking away the middle of the ice off the rush and in the defensive transition. While his positioning is a little too loose in the corners, Gregor does a good job at supporting the defensemen by taking away space in the slot and along the boards.

All-in-all, Gregor is an interesting player to track. While I believe he shows potential offensively, I don’t know if he is a creative enough player to be a driving force at the NHL level. He may not be the most offensively dynamic at the next level but he’s a well-rounded player and a reliable one at that. His adjustment to the pro ranks with the Barracuda should be telling in what his future holds. As of now I think Gregor has the potential to be a versatile two-way third line NHL forward with an outside chance of finding that offensive spark necessary to be even greater.

Ivan Chekhovich Scouting Report

Ivan Chekhovich (Forward)
Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Born: 1/4/1999 | Height: 5’ 10” | Weight: 176 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 7th Round, 212th Overall, in 2017

Games Played Goals Assists Points +/- PIM
65 29 31 60 -11 28

 

Viewing
Date Event
11/10/2017 Baie-Comeau @ Saint John
2/18/2018 Baie-Comeau @ Sherbrooke
3/7/2018 Baie-Comeau @ Shawinigan

KEY BREAKDOWN:
Strengths:
– good skating ability and agility
– effective and creative stickhandling makes him dangerous off the rush
– accurate wrist shot generates rebounds by forcing goalies to fight the puck
– creativity and offensive hockey sense keeps defenders guessing

Weaknesses:
– defensive effort and ability can be improved
– needs to be more tenacious in puck retrieval instead of letting it come to him
– has shifts and flashes of dominance but needs consistency
– needs to add some mass

SCOUTING REPORT:
Ivan Chekhovich is a speedy winger with a plethora of skill and a knack for generating chances off the rush. Chekhovich was a staple on the first powerplay unit with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Much like Chmelevski, Chekhovich also joined the San Jose Barracuda to help them qualify for the playoffs.

Chekhovich is a great skater. He has quick feet and his refined skating mechanics allow him to efficiently get around the ice. Chekhovich’s last few strides of his acceleration are just as powerful as his first few. One of the biggest positives of his skating is the ability for his hands to keep up with him no matter the angle or route he’s taking.

Offensively, Chekhovich is a threat from anywhere on the ice. While being a good stick handler, one thing that stands out about Chekhovich is his ability to very quickly get the puck from one side of his body to the other. This opens doors for him to create opportunities on his forehand and backhand in a much more deceptive and dangerous way than other forwards. His vision and passing abilities are both far above average, and his hockey IQ allows him to quickly find unmanned ice and make things happen at the top of the slot. Chekhovich’s shot is above average and he can pick the corners consistently. I’d like to see him position himself better to be able to fire off one touch snapshots consistently though. The weakest part of his game offensively is his tendency to let the puck come to him. I certainly saw flashes of a much more determined game from him but he needs to add consistency on that front. There were also times where he reverted to perimeter play in the offensive zone but they were seemingly few and far between.

Chekhovich will not be known for his defensive acumen. His defensive positioning isn’t great, and it often leads to him drifting towards the middle of the ice and leaving a wide-open player out front. I noticed that he would tie up a player’s stick when the puck was down low in his own zone but never established good body position to fully prevent a scoring chance from occurring. With Baie-Comeau he plays very high up in his own zone and is usually the first forward to leave the zone when Baie-Comeau retrieves the puck. While he often had little commitment towards defense, when he did fight for battles he certainly showed some promise. Nonetheless, Chekhovich’s career certainly looks like it will go as far as his offensive skill will take him.

All-in-all, Chekhovich’s offensive prowess is tantalizing but questions over his involvement at every corner of the ice will be the biggest hurdle for him to overcome in his career. He is a boom or bust prospect that will either be a scoring forward in the NHL or won’t make the NHL at all.

Sasha Chmelevski Scouting Report

Sasha Chmelevski (Forward)
Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Born: 6/9/1999 | Height: 6’ 0” | Weight: 186 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 6th Round, 185th Overall, in 2017

Games Played Goals Assists Points +/- PIM
68 35 41 76 8 24

 

Viewing
Date Event
11/5/2017 Sarnia Sting @ Ottawa 67’s
2/2/2018 Niagara IceDogs @ Ottawa 67’s
3/2/2018 Ottawa 67’s @ Hamilton Bulldogs
3/16/2018 Ottawa 67’s @ Mississauga Steelheads

KEY BREAKDOWN:
Strengths:
– offensive positioning allows for him to set up high-danger passing plays
– edgework and skating speed
– hands and agility make him a threat in zone entries and down low
– quick release and ability to find scoring areas makes him dangerous
– vision and passing ability are both top-notch

Weaknesses:
– tendency to make poor plays under pressure when outside of the offensive zone
– defensive positioning could be improved
– defensive consistency could be improved

SCOUTING REPORT:
Sasha Chmelevski is a highly skilled offense-oriented forward with above average skating abilities. Chmelevski was a regular feature on the powerplay for the Ottawa 67’s and stepped in to help the San Jose Barracuda in their playoff push.

Chmelevski is an above average skater that relies on using good edgework, quick cuts, and good top speed to create separation off the rush and in the corners. His elusiveness and use of quick positional changes along with head fakes makes him hard to keep track of in the corners and gives him valuable time to look for passing plays. While his first few steps out of the gate could stand to be more explosive, his acceleration is fine and he does a good job keeping his feet moving at all times.

Offensively, Chmelevski possesses good puck skills and good vision all over the ice. He can make quick, accurate cross-ice passes with ease and his vision makes him dangerous when he’s along the half-wall or on the point. While not the strongest player, Chmelevski does a good job in puck protection and puck possession even when hounded by opposing players. Chmelevski possess a quick release on his snap shot and wrist shot and is accurate in his placement. His best offensive work on 5v5 situations takes place right outside the slot and below the goal line, where he uses his edgework and passing abilities to find teammates or find open ice to create scoring opportunities. The downsides to his play with the puck are his tendencies to make junior plays or cough up the puck in his own zone.

Defensively, Chmelevski looked improved in his March showings but still has some ways to go. Ottawa’s system (at least against Sarnia and Niagara) seemed to focus on having the center play shallow in the offensive zone and focus on puck support, which Chmelevski did well. He’s good with his stick on both ends of the ice and does a good job supporting the play while being the trailing forward when defending against an odd-man-rush. He’s aggressive when defending but that often acts as a double-edged sword. I don’t think his defensive positioning is great and I think he’s too hesitant when defending against opponents outside of the slot. Far too often I saw him lose his man or fall out of the play because of poor positioning or seemingly aimless skating. While he wasn’t very tenacious defensively in his November showing, he was much improved on that front come February and March. I was pleasantly surprised with how active he was in puck retrieval.

All-in-all, Chmelevski is a valuable forward that adds a much-needed offensive punch to the Sharks’ prospect cupboard. With him you have speed, skill, and skating but I have concerns over his defensive decision making and sometimes lackadaisical play with the puck in his own zone. I think Chmelevski has middle six potential as an NHL forward.

Mario Ferraro Scouting Report

Mario Ferraro (Defenseman)
University of Massachusetts-Amherst (NCAA)
Born: 9/17/1998 | Height: 5’ 11” | Weight: 185 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round, 49th Overall, in 2017

Games Played Goals Assists Points +/- PIM
37 4 18 22 4 20

KEY BREAKDOWN:
Strengths:
– quick hands and plays an up-tempo game offensively
– good vision and executes well on the break out
– quick and active stick defensively
– pro-level offensive instincts and potential
– smooth, quick skater with good edges
– clogs lanes and quickly closes in on attacking players

Weaknesses:
– doesn’t do a good job establishing positioning down low and in front of the net
– too aggressive in the corners
– lack of strength hurts him along the boards and in front of the net
– slow, indecisive defensive decision making at times
– tends to panic in the defensive zone

SCOUTING REPORT:
Mario Ferraro is a smooth skating offensive defenseman playing for UMass Amherst. Ferraro plays on the top pairing at even strength where he is paired with Cale Makar. Ferraro also logs heavy minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill.

Ferraro is a good skater that relies on using his acceleration in transition to catch defensemen off guard. His first few steps aren’t great but his edgework is excellent and his overall speed is good. His skating transitions are fine and he is elusive. Ferraro could stand to be more explosive and be smarter in how he uses his skating abilities.

Offensively, Ferraro is a playmaker that relies on end-to-end rushes and quick puck movement to generate offense. Ferraro possesses quick hands and a great transition game. His superb vision, puck skills, and aggressiveness allows him to generate offense all over the opponent’s zone. Ferraro isn’t afraid to carry the puck in and has a knack for creating time and space with quick passes down low. He does an excellent job at maintaining the blue line and uses his vision to create movement on the powerplay. I really like how involved he gets and how he seeks out open ice even in the neutral zone. His shot and slap shot are average (he’s a fan of the half-slapper) and his shot selection could use work. Other than shooting for tips, Ferraro struggles to consistently get the puck on net. While Ferraro has NHL level offensive potential, right now he relies a bit too heavily on plays and rushes that just won’t work at the NHL or AHL level. All-in-all, Ferraro is offensively adept and has the tools and potential to be a point contributor at the NHL level.

Defensively, Ferraro has potential but also has major holes in his game. Ferraro has good stick work and has decent gap control against quicker forwards but is inconsistent in his defensive reads and awareness. Ferraro’s main problem defensively is that his aggressiveness down low and near the crease gets him in trouble. He can be too aggressive in the corners and near the circles at times and can be burned by skilled stickhandlers. At times, he’ll chase the play and will give up open ice on his side of the slot. Ferraro doesn’t do a good enough job establishing dominant positioning over the opposition near the net. Refining his defensive decision making process, adding muscle, and playing a calmer game away from the puck when in his own zone should be a priority.

Mario Ferraro’s offensive potential is tantalizing but he needs to add some mass and focus more on tightening up his defensive game. Ferraro is one of the best Sharks defensive prospects and has NHL potential. If he cleans up his defensive play and adds muscle I can see him slot in as a top six or top four defenseman. I question his ability to quarterback a top power play unit at the next level but with the right development I could see it happening. Ferraro has three more years of collegiate eligibility and plenty of time to improve on any deficiencies he has.