I haven’t rambled for a while but a couple of days ago, hockey Twitter went a bit nuts because Central Scouting and Craig Button released their latest rankings, and unsurprisingly, there was controversy.
We could debate an entire day about Tim Stützle and his position at the top of the European ranking and tied with Quinton Byfield for second overall. But instead of that, I thought it might be interesting to look at some prospects who seem underrated based on everything I’ve seen from them. And by that I mean I will be focusing on European prospects because those are the ones I’m more familiar with.
I am not going to talk about how good or bad either ranking is because they are both very notable rankings that pretty much every prospect junkie checks out, and I respect everyone who scouts prospects for a living. But I will give my opinions on the players in question and where I have them ranked. Here are my top six choices for “Most Underrated” on Central Scouting’s latest ranking and on Craig Button’s latest ranking.
Jan Mysak, C/W
Mysak was ranked ninth among European skaters on Central Scouting’s list which is not that dissimilar to our latest ranking of European prospects – we had him seventh among European prospects which includes one goalie. The difference is that Central Scouting has Rodion Amirov, William Wallinder and John-Jason Peterka ahead of Mysak.
Craig Button ranked him 61st overall which is very late in the second round. My personal ranking has Mysak at 17th overall, and I have a hard time not seeing him in the first round, so he definitely seems underrated there.
Mysak is capable of playing at center and at wing and has been used in both positions at different times in different leagues or events. He was mostly used down the middle last year when he played in the Czech Extraliga at age 16. He played on a very bad Litvinov team which allowed them to give him decent opportunity but his results were absolutely incredible considering his age. He scored seven points in 31 games during regular season, and then carried the team to avoid relegation, scoring nine points in six games.
This season, Mysak played a bottom-six role at wing but still managed to score nine points in 26 games before he decided to jump to the OHL for the rest of this season. And in between, he played a third-line role for the Czechs at the World Juniors and won two Player of the Game awards in five games – not too shabby.
Mysak may not have a lot of elite tools but it’s difficult to find any flaws or weaknesses in his game. He has decent size (6-0, 176), he is a very good skater, he has great skills, and his effort level is consistent and very high. He can play up and down the lineup, he can be used at center or wing, and he can be used on both special teams without any fear of him being a weak link. With a June birthday, he is also pretty young for his draft class.
Helge Grans, RHD
Grans was ranked 21st among European skaters on Central Scouting’s list which likely puts him in late second round range. Craig Button ranked him 56th overall which puts him in similar range. Our ranking had him 12th among European prospects, and my personal ranking has him 31st overall.
Grans is a big (6-3, 192) defenseman with a right-handed shot, and those guys are always very valued around the NHL. He is also a great skater which makes him even more valuable. He has scored 22 points in 22 games in the Swedish junior league which is second-best in the league among under-18 defenseman, and his points-per-game average is best among that group. For context, Wallinder has 21 points in 27 games, and both rankings have him significantly higher than Grans.
Grans has also played 12 games in the SHL, and even though his ice time has been minimal (8:55 per game), he has still managed to score two points there. That is nothing special but still a good sign.
As you can probably guess from the point totals, Grans is not only a big guy who can skate very well, he is also a very skilled offensive player. His May birthday also means he’s on the younger side for his draft class. The reason I don’t have him higher on my ranking is that I have some concerns about his hockey sense. The decisions he sometimes makes just seem unexplainable. But considering all the great tools in his toolbox, I wouldn’t want to risk not taking him late in the first round or early in the second. But perhaps I’m just higher on him than most.
Emil Andrae, LHD
Andrae was ranked 13th among European skaters by Central Scouting. We had him 11th among European prospects, so not much difference there. Craig Button had him 58th overall which seems low to me considering I have him 25th overall on my personal ranking.
Andrae is an undersized (5-9, 183) offensive defenseman but he is surprisingly good in the defensive end as well. He is a great skater and he has great skills but his hockey sense is his biggest strength. He is a very creative player who can create something out of nothing and pull people out of their seats. But he also had a great understanding to know when to pull those moves. Of course not all of his creative plays work all the time but he doesn’t take stupid risks that would cripple the team.
Andrae has 26 points in 28 games which leads the entire Swedish junior league among defensemen regardless of age. Andrae has also played four games in the SHL, and even though his usage has also been minimal (4:30 per game), he has shown he can play against men despite his size. He is a skill player first and foremost but he doesn’t get pushed around too easily. His February birthday puts him slightly on the older side for his draft class but not by much, so it’s not really a factor one way or another. I do wonder if size plays a role here.
Kasper Simontaival, RW
Simontaival was ranked 36th among European skaters which puts him in fourth round range. Craig Button only ranked his top 93, and Simontaival wasn’t included. Our ranking had him ninth among European prospects – yes, ahead of Andae and Grans – and on my personal ranking, Simontaival sits 23rd overall.
Simontaival can be a bit of a controversial prospect, so I’m not shocked that some people like him much less than I do. He is undersized (5-9, 172) but that’s not much of a concern for a winger. His January birthday puts him on the older side of his draft class. It is also reasonable to say that his development has stagnated a bit – yes, he’s a dominant player in the Finnish junior league but he was doing that already last season. He hasn’t been getting many opportunities at the Liiga level but that is just because he’s in the Tappara organization which is known for running young players out of town by not giving them any sort of a legitimate chance to play at the top level. On many other organizations, he would be a full-time Liiga player already.
Injuries have played a major part in Simontaival’s journey over the past two years but he has managed to stay healthy this season which is great. But that has meant we have seen one concern that was perhaps a bit masked by injuries in the past. His consistency has been a concern this season, and perhaps it was in past years, but you could make the argument that it was caused by all those injuries he faced. This season, he doesn’t have that excuse anymore.
When he’s at his best, Simontaival looks like a legitimate top 10 talent who can dominate with his skating, skills and smarts. He is one of the most naturally gifted hockey players to come out of Finland in a long time. But with his past injury history and current consistency problems, it’s easy to understand why he isn’t in that top 10 discussion. But if he somehow slips to the fourth round, he could end up being the biggest steal we’ve seen for a few years. I would be willing to bet on his incredible natural talent and his ability to dominate when he’s at his best. I have been watching him often and for a long time, so I won’t be easily convinced otherwise. But I can also understand why some have bigger doubts than I do.
Juuso Mäenpää, C
Mäenpää was ranked 60th among European skaters by Central Scouting which puts him somewhere in the sixth round range. Craig Button didn’t have him on his top 93. Our ranking had him 27th among European prospects with a draft range of 70-90, meaning somewhere in the third round.
There is no doubt about the concerns related to Mäenpää. He is small (5-7, 141), and he is a playmaking center. It is very difficult to see a 5-foot-7 player being able to stay at center at the NHL level. Could he switch over to the wing and be one of those rare playmaking wingers? We don’t really know because he is so good down the middle at the junior level – I don’t remember a single game this season where he would have been used at wing.
For goal-scorers, switching over to the wing is not really a concern. But for someone like Mäenpää who lives by having the puck on his stick and looking for passing opportunities, it’s much harder to switch positions. It’s not impossible and others have done it in the past. But we have also seen examples of players not able to make that switch and becoming star players in some European league instead because of that.
Mäenpää also hasn’t played any games at the top level because he’s in the Jokerit organization which is obviously a KHL team, so it’s very difficult to jump from the junior league to that level. He could probably play at the Mestis or even Liiga level already but the KHL is just too far out of reach at this point.
Other than that, it’s hard to find any flaws in Mäenpää’s game. He is an excellent skater with great skills. He has great hockey sense and very good creativity. His effort level is consistent and very high, and he can be used on both special teams. His 41 points in 39 games puts him tied for first among under-18 players in the Finnish junior league. But is he going to be Kristian Tanus 2.0 and not get drafted because he is a small playmaking center? We shall see that but at least Mäenpää is a much better skater than Tanus already now, and he’s obviously two years younger than him.
Veeti Miettinen, RW
Miettinen was ranked 92nd among European skaters by Central Scouting which would put him in the “undrafted” range. He wasn’t on Craig Button’s top 93. Our ranking had him 15th among European prospects with a draft range of 30-50, so this was most definitely the biggest shocker on this list.
Miettinen is undersized (5-9, 159) but as mentioned in the Simontaival paragraph, that is not really a big concern for a winger. Miettinen is also one of the
youngest oldest (of course) players in his draft class with his September 20th birthday. The other thing that may concern someone is that he is still playing in the Finnish junior league at this point but the only reason for that is that he is committed to St. Cloud State University, and he would lose his NCAA eligibility if he would play any games at the men’s level.
And on the other hand, Miettinen is absolutely destroying his competition at the junior level. He has 30 goals and 52 points in 39 games, and he leads the league in both categories by a significant margin. And it’s not like he’s playing on some powerhouse team because his Kiekko-Espoo team finished 11th in the first half of the season which meant they were dropped to the lower continuation series. Without Miettinen, they would have been one of the worst teams in the league.
Miettinen is a very good skater with a great nose for the net. His wrist shot is both hard and accurate. But more importantly, he can sense scoring opportunities incredibly well. It can often look like he’s not really involved in the game and suddenly, he gets the puck on his stick and scores within two seconds. Some might suggest it’s luck but when you do it consistently over and over again, that’s not likely. He is also a very good playmaker, so he is not just a goal-scoring machine either.
If this season’s production as an 18-year-old wasn’t impressive enough, he had 27 goals and 61 points in 48 games last season as a 17-year-old, so this is the second year when he’s been a dominant player in the U20 league.
I guess I’m much more bullish on him than many others but again, this is a player I’ve been watching frequently and for a long time, so it’s difficult to convince me to change my mind about him. His results speak for themselves. If he is not drafted in the first few rounds, someone could hit the jackpot late in the draft.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of Aamulehti.fi