This week’s edition of DP Draft Reports is headlined by Winnipeg Ice star Matthew Savoie who leads the WHL in scoring through the early part of the season with 39 points in 23 games. He entered the season as one of the top-ranked prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft and his stock has only gone up as he has been a driving force for the WHL’s best team.
North Bay defenseman Ty Nelson has gotten his OHL career off to a strong start, leading Battalion defenders in scoring with 18 points through his first 22 games while playing key defensive minutes. Another highly touted right-shot defenseman in Tristan Luneau, a former first-overall pick in the QMJHL, also makes his DP Draft Reports debut this week and he has recently started to find his game after recovering from an injury early in the season.
Rounding out this week’s reports are a couple of Swedish-based forwards in Liam Öhgren who has split time between Djurgårdens’ SHL and J20 squads, and Austrian import Marco Kasper of Rögle who has played more games and recorded more points in the SHL this season than any other draft-eligible player.
Enough preamble, let’s get to the game reports.
Matthew Savoie | C | Winnipeg vs. Lethbridge (WHL) | 2021-11-10
1 G, 3 A, 5 SOG, 16:43 TOI
AJ Gidaro: Matthew Savoie was impressive in the blowout win over Lethbridge, recording a point on four of Winnipeg’s five goals. He was incredibly dangerous in the offensive zone, displaying his high-end playmaking vision and quick, powerful shot. His speed and pace of play was tremendous, allowing him to open up space and create a ton of scoring chances. On the rush, he is a skilled puck carrier with a variety of tools that helped him facilitate controlled entries. He can blow by defenders with his explosive step or outmaneuver an opponent with his puck handling, and that was evident in this game.
There are not many 5-9 centers in the NHL but Savoie is definitely an exception and he is surprisingly resilient on the puck. When challenged physically, he fought off pressure well while escaping most engagements with control of the puck. Even in puck battles along the boards, Savoie was quick to engage and consistently came away with pucks – two of which lead directly to goals. Rarely was Lethbridge able to maintain possession which had a lot to do with Savoie’s pursuit on the backcheck and forecheck. He hounded opponents with speed and stick, forcing a number of turnovers.
There were a few instances where he would be going a little too fast and bobble or turnover over the puck but if he can play at a dynamic pace, he could control the ice more than he already does. Going into this year, I thought Shane Wright was the clear first overall pick but in my opinion, games like this one are pushing Matthew Savoie into that conversation.
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Tristan Luneau | RD | Gatineau vs. Rimouski (QMJHL) | 2021-11-27
1 G, 0 A, 4 SOG, 18:21 TOI
Brayden Olafson: As a 17-year-old defender, Tristan Luneau exudes a relatively high level of intimidation to his opponents, including those with similar size and a high level of skill. In this contest, despite his early goal on a quick-release long-range bomb from the right point, I thought he had a bit of a slower and less engaged start than what is typical for him. His early goal somewhat highlighted what I see as one of his most prominents strengths, which is an ability to optimize the effectiveness of his shots. Although not entirely utilized in this instance, his ability to walk the line with his head up so that he can time and place his shots perfectly is quite consistent. Aside from this I felt that his defensive implication and timing was a bit off early in the game. His stick-check attempts weren’t very effective, his pivots tended to be a bit slower than what was required to stay downstream of the play (something that is uncommon for him), and his breakout passes didn’t lead his forwards into open ice.
One thing that everyone can appreciate about Luneau is his rare combination of composure and urgency on the powerplay. From a fan perspective, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario where Luneau could continually be heckled to “shooot!” on the man advantage, while from a tactical perspective, it’s difficult to fault him for much of anything either. When he comes into possession on the powerplay, he does everything that a good quarterback should, but faster. There’s no delay in his transition from side to side, or in his identification and subsequent execution of passes to the half-wall. In keeping the pace up, Luneau amplifies the pace of the entire Gatineau unit, and challenges his opponents to regroup quicker and move more themselves. Finally when the opportunity for a cross-seam one-timer from the right half-wall arises, he does not hesitate to unleash his cannon through traffic. His subtle use of misdirection head-bobs and juking as he carries the puck into the slot are another effective element of his offense on the powerplay that was employed in this game.
Luneau really didn’t make a lot of glaring mistakes in this game, which is something notable for a prominent player of his age. Stylistically, I think it’s fair to liken Luneau to QMJHL graduate and former first-round draft pick, Justin Barron – albeit on a slightly more conservative basis in terms of his skating and mobility. While he can be a hyperactive presence given some extra space on the powerplay, Luneau was, and typically is conservative when it comes to his pinches and gap control. He was often the first player back to the puck on a dump, giving himself an extra couple of seconds to identify the best breakout strategy. Although he’s shown in this game and historically, an ability to identify opportunities quickly and adapt under pressure, I do have some concern about how sustainable this level of conservative play is. The primary reason for this concern is that while he’s quite well developed physically speaking, Luneau’s skating really isn’t something that he can rely on to get him out of a pinch. While the pace of the QMJHL has been good to him, and he’s been able to compensate by taking smart, direct lanes to the puck, the world of NHL forecheckers will demand rapid puck recovery, decision making, and execution on a consistent basis.
At the end of the day, this was a pretty low-event game for Luneau. He fared well at both ends of the ice, but didnt particularly excel, or show indications of any substantially projectable elements outside of the powerplay. I’d like to see him really increase his pace at 5-on-5, and improve some of the minor imperfections in his skating, which is what I think a lot of people are banking on for him to realize the potential of a mid-to-late first-round pick.
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Ty Nelson | RD | North Bay vs. Kingston (OHL) | 2021-11-26
0 G, 1 A, 0 SOG, 25:15 TOI
Nick Richard: Aside from a couple of misreads, Nelson had a really strong game in heavy minutes against Kingston. He saw his fair share of shifts against the Frontenacs’ top line led by Shane Wright and helped prevent them from generating much in the way of offensive opportunities.
Throughout the game, Nelson’s mobility, awareness, and attacking mindset were on full display. He has a knack for pouncing on attacking forwards at the right time and made several good reads to break up plays, both in the defensive zone and off the rush. He did a good job of taking away lanes, identifying switches in coverage responsibilities, and making plays on the puck whenever the puck carrier showed any hesitation or loss of control. Nelson consistently led with his stick to disrupt possession before getting a body on his man to finish plays. His one glaring error on the night came when he got a little too aggressive and committed too far to the outside in defensive transition, allowing his check to drive the middle for a two-on-one rush that led to a goal against.
Other than that goal against, Nelson defended quite well – especially for a smaller defenseman. Though he isn’t very tall, he has a sturdy build and is usually the one to initiate contact. He finished his hits, established good body position in battles along the boards, and had a number of strong box-out plays in front of his own net. There were a couple of occasions, including a great play to step up and get a piece of Shane Wright in the high slot, where Nelson was able to break up the play with a strong stick check and maintain possession to start a breakout for his team. His quick feet and smooth stride often made it difficult for attacking forwards to get to the inside of the ice as well.
It was a relatively quiet game offensively for Nelson but he did make some nice plays to drive play for his team and managed a nice assist on the powerplay. It was a four-on-three man advantage for North Bay and Nelson did well to shrink the zone from the point, skating downhill to receive a pass in the high slot before selling the shot and quickly dishing to his teammate in the circle for a one-timer that got cleaned up in front. He had one stretch pass that really stood out when he skated back to his own zone to retrieve a puck and quickly turned around to fire a dart to a streaking teammate at center ice which led to a scoring chance. Nelson didn’t hesitate to jump into the rush if there was space, and created a couple of nice entries off of give and go plays in transition.
North Bay came out victorious on this night and Nelson played a big part in that, handling tough defensive minutes and making an impact on both special teams units. Though his aggressive nature burned him once, it proved to be a positive trait far more frequently throughout the course of the game. Showings like this one are why he is projected by many to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
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Liam Öhgren | W | Djurgårdens J20 vs Skellefteå J20 (J20 Nationell) | 2021-11-19
1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, 15:55 TOI
Eetu Siltanen: Öhgren didn’t really impress me in this game but I have to give him credit for producing, as he scored a goal and an assist in his team’s win over Skellefteå. He had a prominent role, playing on the team’s top forward line and primary powerplay unit. His playmaking skills were on display and he also flashed his good shot on his powerplay goal, taking a pass in the slot and firing a quick wrister top corner. He was playing the slot or bumper spot with the man-advantage and beyond his goal, he was active making himself available for passes or creating lanes for a cross-crease passes down low by drawing defenders to him. Öhgren created a few good chances, including a play where he battled for the puck in front of the net and gave a good pass to the back post for an assist.
I was a bit disappointed,however, in Öhgren’s transitional ability and play driving in this game after seeing some decent performances from him in the SHL. He is a pretty fast skater with strong footwork and he has good puck skills, but didn’t really carry the puck much in this one. I was waiting for Öhgren to drive the play more but his linemates definitely were the ones driving it. He played off the puck more in this contest but that is a strength in his game as he constantly keeps himself open and available for passes. There were also a couple of nice reads by Öhgren against Skellefteå and one almost ended up in a breakaway. He showed some good passing in transition and moved the puck quickly after receiving it. Öhgren’s motor was solid in all areas of the ice but he didn’t look as competitive as he did in my SHL viewings. In terms of point production, this was a good game but his ability to influence possession was a bit disappointing.
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Marco Kasper | C/W | Rögle vs. Växjö (SHL) | 2021-11-02
0 G, 1 A, 0 SOG, 12:40 TOI
Alexa Potack: Kasper was all about strong skating and passing in this game. He didn’t take a shot on net but he created space for himself and his teammates in the offensive zone. This was apparent when he outskated two Växjö players after a loose puck in the offensive zone. He gained control and used his mobile feet and puckhandling skills to set up a passing play, earning himself a secondary assist.
His dynamic offensive skills have also made him an option on the second powerplay unit. On the man-advantage, he took a net-front position for much of it. Not much came his way, but while in that position, he did not seem physically outmatched which was impressive for Kasper as he still has room to grow into his frame.
Kasper’s quick hands are one of his best assets but a few instances in this game showed how he needs to refine them a bit. He lost control twice, causing a turnover on one of the plays. In addition, he should utilize his skating ability to better position himself on defense. On a few occasions, Kasper seemed out of place and unable to execute a play due to his positioning.
One thing that stands out most in Kasper’s game is his confidence. Sure, he still has work to do, but as a 17-year-old in the SHL, he doesn’t appear daunted by competition in the way that many of his fellow potential draftees do. With this being his 24th career game at the men’s level, he seems comfortable among his teammates and opponents. This level of assurance isn’t a technical skill but one that allows him to demonstrate his talent to the fullest.
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