Our hockey analyst Mathias Brunet has been scrutinizing for two weeks the performances of the best prospects in anticipation of the NHL Draft in July, including all the playoff games of the consensus first choice, Shane Wright. In this week of the NHL lottery, presented Tuesday evening, it offers you for the next three days the main candidates, by position. Today, the wingers.
The NHL Draft always brings its share of superlatives. In the case of the most popular winger at the moment, the Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky, we are talking about a certain Jaromir Jagr.
However, it should be remembered, Jagr ranks second in scoring in the history of the National Hockey League behind Wayne Gretzky with 1,921 points in 1,733 games…
These specialists may justify themselves by talking about comparison of styles of play and not projections in terms of production, it is putting undue pressure on an 18-year-old boy who has amassed 10 points, including 5 goals, in 31 games in Liiga, Finland, and was shut out in seven games at the World Junior Championship.
Slafkovsky captured the imagination at the Olympics by scoring seven goals in as many games, a performance worthy of mention for a youngster as an 18-year-old, but we must also remember the caliber at these Games. Canada, among others, was led by former players, Eric Staal, who had not played all winter, David Desharnais, Jordan Weal, Mark Barberio and a few young firsts like Owen Power and Mason MacTavish.
Moreover, Sean Farrell, a hopeful of the CH drafted in the fourth round, amassed six points in four games at this Olympic tournament and Weal, a former Canadian, five points in as many games.
However, we understand some recruiters and analysts to salivate at the mention of this player, even to the point where some see him as a threat to Shane Wright in the first row.
Slafkovsky is 6-foot-4 and weighs 225 pounds. He is fast and skates powerfully. He has great puck skills and good scoring instincts. This type of specimen does not run the streets.
So much for the qualities.
But Slafkovsky is also flashes. This feint to bypass a defender marks the spirits. But three other times, he will lose the puck attempting a play where there is none hoping to outsmart two opponents at once.
He will also have to learn to better situate himself in space. We sometimes feel him lost in the defensive zone, running right and left, and also struggling to find free spaces in offensive territory.
A team confident in its teaching skills can fish it high and hope to polish this diamond in the rough to make it its elite scorer for the next decade and beyond. But it also often happens that we do not succeed. The future will tell us in his case.
Finn Joakim Kemell is often the second winger mentioned after Slafkovsky in conversations ahead of the repechage. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-hander grabbed attention at the recent World Under-18 Championship by eliminating Canada with his third goal of the game in overtime.
Kemell is first and foremost an offensive player. A plague around the opposing net. Good skater, dog, killer instinct. Without being a defensive nuisance, his strength lies in the attacking game.
This young man still scored 15 goals and amassed 23 points in 39 games in Liiga, the same circuit as the exiled Slovak Slafkovsky, a league, all the same, lower than the SHL in Sweden.
Also watch for Noah Östlund’s two Swedish wingers, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, a right-hander, and Liam Ohgren, 6-foot, 187 pounds, a left-hander. Lekkerimäki still scored seven goals in 26 games with Djurgardens in SHL, a frankly impressive performance. He also has 20 goals in 26 games in the Swedish junior ranks. He had 15 points in just six games at the World Under-18 Championship. He is only 17 years old and will be one of the youngest players in this vintage, having been born on July 24.
Öghren, a little bigger than his line partners, was Sweden’s captain at the World Junior Championship, where he had nine points, one less than Östlund and six less than Lekkerimäki. He had just two points in 25 SHL games at Djurgardens, but was a hit in the junior ranks with 58 points, including 33 goals, in 30 games.
Lekkerimäki intrigues. He is not the most elegant skater. It even gives the impression of “skating on the boot”. But his speed does not suffer. Neither did his confidence with the puck. He has an excellent shot. Despite his position less critical than that of a center player, this young man, Lekkerimäki is effective in all three areas. Don’t be surprised if he becomes one, if not the best winger in his class.
After them, we must evoke the polarizing Cutter Gauthier, 6 feet 3 inches and 190 pounds, 19 goals in only 22 games in USHL within the American development program, a lot of dog, sometimes too much, also able to play in the center. The power forward par excellence.
But his shots/goals success rate is very high at 23% and must raise questions, either about the quality of the goalkeepers, or about a year where the stars are aligned in a masterful way for him.
If we relied only on his performances on the ice, Gauthier would constitute a guaranteed top five. However, behind the scenes, among the recruiters, less favorable things are said about the boy’s personality.
A defense lawyer would point out that these are young men barely out of their teens, who can still mature, and that not necessarily the nicest things were said about Jon Merrill in that regard. dawn of the 2010 draft.
We find him twelve years later, in his thirties, a luminous personality, father of a family, still in the NHL, with the Wild, after a short stint in Montreal, seventh in his vintage for career games even if he was finally drafted in the second round.
In the case of Gauthier, we will leave it to the scouting teams to determine if he can become a good teammate in the pros, but the talent of this Logan Cooley winger is undeniable. And you don’t win Stanley Cups with 23 kids at heart.
It is unclear to what extent the delusions of grandeur of the Russian president will affect the selection of the best hopes of this country. Gary Bettman has confirmed their eligibility, but will clubs be more skittish given the Ukraine invasion? Under the circumstances, Danila Yurov could be a nice hidden card. Good size, at 6 feet 1 inch and 175 pounds, very talented skater, a great spirit. But difficult to assess due to starving time in the KHL, where he was shut out in 21 games. He looked good in two games at the World Junior Championship, before the tournament was canceled. He also has good vision, generous with the puck and responsible defensively. He comes seventh in the ranking of the best European players.
Brad Lambert is probably the most complex case of this draft. Son of a former Canadian professional player established in Finland for his career and a mother of the country, Lambert was considered before this season as a candidate for the top three, after producing 15 points in 46 games in Liiga while he started that season at 16.
But his performance dropped sharply this winter, and his three-point game against Austria cannot be forgotten.
Lambert is still ranked second on the list of a specialized agency, still in the top ten according to some… but left out of the first round according to others. It is important to mention that he is a peripheral player who generally refuses any physical commitment in the Liiga. He will have to drastically change his way of playing in a much more robust circuit if he wants to break through.
Nathan MacKinnon :
Michael Bunting :
Cam Robinson is the author of this pearl on Twitter. Bunting, the Leafs forward, is therefore one of three finalists for the trophy awarded to the best rookie even though he will be 27 in a few months and this is his sixth season in the ranks of the professionals. He thus dismisses Lucas Raymond, six points less than him, but only 20 years old, since March 28. Bunting amassed 63 points in 79 games, but also had the privilege of playing with stars like Matthews and Marner. Personal opinion: Players 25 or older should not apply.