Taking A Look At The Draft Eligible USHL Talent At WJAC
On Saturday, the World Junior A Challenge kicked off in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and several USHLers are playing in the tournament. The draft eligible prospects from the USHL include:
Sean Farrell – Chicago Steel – Team USA
Ryder Rolston – Waterloo Black Hawks – Team USA
Sam Colangelo – Chicago Steel – Team USA
Alex Laferriere – Des Moines Buccaneers – Team USA
Brendan Brisson – Chicago Steel – Team USA
Luke Reid – Chicago Steel – Team USA
Daniil Gushchin – Muskegon Lumberjacks – Team Russia
If I had to choose two prospects that truly surprised me yesterday in their first game, they would be Sean Farrell (Left wing), Luke Reid (Right-handed Defenseman) and Daniil Gushchin (Right wing).
Farrell is not the best skater on the ice. His stride is average and his hockey stop is far from sound. While his skating needs some attention, Farrell’s offensive production needs more recognition. His ability to skate up the ice with the puck, deliver crisp backhand passes and top quality seam passing in the slot is an absolute joy to watch. In addition, he was able to land a top shelf goal from beyond the hashmarks even though he had quite a bit of traffic between him and Matthew Davis, Canada West goaltender.
Farrell was also able to tally on another goal in the game on the power play. The American forward crashed the net on the power play and buried a shot past Davis.
Gushchin was on fire last night as the Russians battled Canada East. He is a heavy checker in all three zones which you may not guess based on his body size. The Yekaterinburg, Russia native has done a great job of assimilating to the North American style of play. He is not the only Russian who was aggressive last night. Marat Khusnutdinov and Alexander Pashin were quite aggressive as well. All three Russian forwards were hungry for the puck and were on the lookout for optimal opportunities to strike.
Later on in the affair against Canada East, Gushchin netted a goal. Near the blue line, Gushchin managed to create plenty of open space for himself. His teammate, Dmitriy Zlodeev saw that Gushchin had plenty of ice to work with, so he delivered a light tap pass to Gushchin. Gushchin skated up to Canada East goaltender Devon Levi quickly and went five hole.
While his goal was not the game-winner, the Russians desperately needed a momentum swing since Canada East, who on paper had the worse squad was gaining ground on Team Russia. If Gushchin can have similar performances throughout the rest of the tournament, his draft stock could rise.
Before the World Junior A Challenge kicked off, I chatted with TSN’s Craig Button and The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler about Gushchin:
“Gushchin is one of those rare 5-foot-8 players who is talented enough that he might just make it. Those medium odds are driven in large part by his willingness to play bigger than he is,” Wheeler said. “Gushchin’s speed and his never-stop-skating approach make him a terror on the forecheck, tough to track when he doesn’t have the puck, and dangerous when he does have it. He’s an exciting, up-tempo winger who stops and starts on a dime, or can burn defenders with his speed. I’m a big fan. Daniil deserves to be in the early second/late first conversation in this year’s draft and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a fan favourite middle-six winger at the NHL level.”
Button said the following on Gushchin: “A skilled winger who is very smart and gets himself unchecked at the right times and gets himself into scoring positions and has the puck skills to create scoring chances and to finish them.”
Analysts sure seem to like Gushchin and as I mentioned previously, we could see his stock rise if he continues to have a strong showing.
In addition, Luke Reid had a solid performance in last night’s victory over Canada West.
Reid’s puck tracking and defensive positioning are worth noting. He is not the flashiest player on the ice, but when he is in the defensive zone, he is tough to out-maneuver. Reid seemed to be reading his opponents (Canada West) very well last night. The American defenseman was not often out of position and always seemed to be in sync with his defensive partner. When he has control of the puck, he will make crisp light release passes like the one below.
Prior to last night’s affair against Canada West, I spoke with Button about Reid and he said the following: “A diminutive defenseman who skates well and can jumpstart the breakout, kick it up in transition and jump into the attack offensively. He may not be a point producer but he is capable of sparking the offensive flame.”
Button’s statement on not being a “point producer”, but can start the breakout and spark the flame is dead on the money. Reid will make strong plays with the puck and utilize the boards to avoid traffic. He will complete bounce passes off the boards, in order to initiate a breakout without potentially creating an interception.
For more junior hockey and draft related content, follow me on Twitter @JoshTessler_.
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