Photo Courtesy of www.leijonat.fi
Welcome back to my mid-week Prospect Ramblings. This week we will take a look at some of the draft-eligible players who may not be on your radar yet but will be as the draft year progresses. These are players who aren’t in the first round conversation at the moment but could make things interesting. These players have all impressed in the opening month or so of the season, whether it’s in North America or overseas.
Lukas Reichel, LW, Eisbären Berlin (DEL)
Currently second on his team in scoring, Lukas Reichel has been the surprise German prospect for many. While Tim Stützle was the household name among prospects out of Germany and John-Jason Peterka was the Deutschland’s sleeper in the preseason, Reichel has come on strong to start the year. With eight points in 12 games in the DEL, the top men’s league in Germany, he is currently second on his team in scoring. He has shown off good skating ability, a high-end offensive awareness, and a dual-threat offensive toolset. He is equally good as a playmaker as he is a goal-scorer, he is actually leading the “German Big-Three” in goals and he ranks behind just Stützle in points.
As you can see in the video above, Reichel’s first DEL goal, he shows patience as he corrals a bouncing puck and then finishes in tight on the goalie. Reichel is a dangerous offensive threat and if he can continue producing at the DEL level, he could rise through the draft. Reichel will likely secure a spot on the German World Junior team, a good performance there along with his DEL play could lead him to break into the early second round.
Tyler Tullio, C/RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Oshawa Generals forward’s production shouldn’t come as a surprise. He had 42 points in 60 games last season as a rookie in the OHL, so the 5’9″ forward’s 14 points in 11 games thus far should be par for the course when factoring in his development over the year. Tullio’s production is matched by his work ethic. Consistently in on the forecheck and battling for the puck, Tullio is predatory in hunting down the puck carrier. He throws his body around as if he was six inches taller, unafraid to get to the dirty areas on the ice. Tullio has a sneaky quick release, the ability to stickhandle in a crowd and his vision is quite good. He plays in all situations, excelling as a triggerman on the half wall with the man advantage and an aggressive penalty killer who takes away time and space.
Before the season, Tullio was regarded as the third-best prospect on his team, behind defender Lleyton Moore and import forward Oliver Suni. His skating is just about average, which can be difficult for a smaller player to overcome but Tullio doesn’t play a small game. With his hot start and versatility, Tullio is working his way into early-round conversations and surpassing his fellow draft-eligible Generals.
Alex Laferriere, RW, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
Leading the USHL in scoring and still a week out from his 18th birthday, October 28th, Alex Laferriere (not to be confused with Alexis Lafreniere) is rising up draft boards. Perceived skating issues have held the New Jersey native back in some circles, but this season he’s been able to muffle those concerns for the time being. His passing is strong and his shot is really high-end, making him a dangerous offensive threat. He works well off the rush, feeding off of his teammates and deceiving the goaltender with excellent puck skills. He does a good job of changing his stick angle of the shot, altering the angle, opening up a new hole the goalie doesn’t expect to have to cover.
While Laferriere may not be a dynamic skater, he is a creative player. In the offensive zone, he is able to pull off just about any move. One of the strangest things about Laferriere’s production is that it doesn’t come on the power play. He only has three power-play points, all assists, and doesn’t receive top power playing time at the moment but that should change as the season progresses. Laferriere is another player who is putting some of his doubters in their place and he could work himself into the second-round discussion by the time June rolls around.
Juuso Mäenpää, C, Jokerit U20 (Jr A SM Liiga)
Juuso Mäenpää could be the player that your favourite team selects in the mid-late rounds in June and your response is “Who?” He is currently the leading scorer in the Jr A SM-Liiga with 27 points in 18 games. His ability to identify teammates open is outstanding and he has all the skill needed to get the puck to them in a dangerous area. He is a good skater and has stop-and-start ability to throw defenders off and give Mäenpää more space.
The biggest knock on Mäenpää is that he is small. Really small. He is just 5’7″ and 141 lbs but he doesn’t turn 18 until the end of April. There is no question that Mäenpää will need to put on some muscle and get stronger but with the NHL trending smaller and the right development staff, Mäenpää could be a steal in the mid-rounds of the draft, assuming he doesn’t continue to rise throughout the season as he tears the Finnish junior league apart.
Thanks for joining me as I ramble on every week, mid-week. Who are some risers for you early in the season? Which player has surprised you the most? Comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out my newest project, Shift Work: Alexander Nikishin where I do a shift-by-shift analysis of Nikishin’s game and figure out what makes him a high-end prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. Until next time, enjoy all the hockey!