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Welcome to the first DP Draft Reports of 2022! This week’s edition features reports on Denton Mateychuk, Matthew Poitras, Simon Forsmark, Rutger McGroarty, and Vladimir Grudinin.
Mateychuk, a defenceman with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, was the DP Scouting Team’s top-ranked Canadian blueliner in our midseason rankings, coming in at 16th overall on our board. He has been a workhorse for the Warriors this season and currently sits second in scoring among all WHL defenders.
Matthew Poitras of the Guelph Storm in the OHL is a well-rounded forward who has been graded as an “A” level prospect by NHL Central Scouting. His production on the season has been a bit underwhelming but there are a lot of pro-level traits in his game that will continue to garner interest in the mid to late first round.
Simon Forsmark is a left-handed, two-way defenceman with good size who has split time between the SHL and J20 Nationell in the Örebro system this season. He has built up a substantial lead in scoring among draft-eligible defencemen in the J20 Nationell despite playing half of his season at the men’s level.
Rutger McGroarty was one of the most hyped prospects to begin the year but he has slid down most draft boards as he has been outperformed by other members of his team. He has produced well with 32 points through 26 games so far this season but he hasn’t necessarily been the driving force on a line with Logan Cooley.
Grudinin is an undersized but mobile defenceman who has played games in the MHL, VHL, and KHL this season for CSKA. Though his minutes have been limited, the fact that he has been given a look at the KHL level despite his age and small stature is encouraging.
Let’s get to the game reports.
Denton Mateychuk | RD | Moose Jaw vs. Red Deer (WHL) | 2021-12-31
0G, 1A, 0 SOG, 31:21 TOI
Jameson Ewasiuk: With Moose Jaw’s top defenceman Daemon Hunt out of the lineup since early December, Mateychuk has been tasked with an even larger role. The first-round ranked defender was definitely up to the task in this tough matchup as he logged the most minutes of any player on the ice against a hard-working Red Deer Rebels squad that is currently fourth in the WHL.
Offensively, the young rearguard wastes no time in moving the puck up ice, often leading the team into the offensive zone. His ability to shift gears and explode through the neutral zone allowed him to consistently create space and gain zone entry throughout the game. His confidence with the puck was on full display in this contest but at the same time, he was conscientious when it came to picking his spots and not putting his team at risk defensively. Playing on the top pairing next to Cole Jordan – a composed and reliable defender – allowed Mateychuk to act as the rover while knowing that he could rely on his partner to effectively hold down the fort.
Mateychuk continues to show improvement in his overall game. While he will likely never be a shutdown defender, it is great to see him become more consistent in his ability to break up plays and limit the opponent’s chances. He undoubtedly lacks size and strength but with that being said, his ability to work the angles, utilize his elite skating to cut off puck carriers, and then use his body positioning to steal pucks was on full display in this game. He is learning how to find the inside track and use his shoulders to assert himself, not so much in a physical way, but more so in a puck protection/retrieval sort of way. His stickwork was efficient and he was more patient and consistent with his gap control than he was earlier in the season.
When it came to special teams, Mateychuk found himself leading his team in ice time for both the powerplay and the penalty kill. The Warriors’ top powerplay was unique as they ran four forwards, one defenceman, and that defenceman (Mateychuk) was positioned at right wing. After the faceoff, Mateychuk was positioned in the slot area as the bumper while forwards Ryder Korczak and Jagger Firkus manned the point positions. This formation did not utilize the draft-eligible defender to the best of his abilities and though he did not seem as confident there, him being the only left-handed skater on the unit likely played a factor in the coach using him in such a way.
On the penalty kill, Mateychuk was steady enough to be effective but going forward he will want to learn to be more assertive in the net-front area. He is not expected to be a physical presence in that area in the future but he will need to be able to stand his ground at the pro level. At times in the game, Mateychuk appeared a bit hesitant to engage physically, and while he has that ability to make smart split-second decisions, in some situations it looked like he just wanted to get rid of the puck regardless of where it went to avoid taking a hit.
While it is great that he plays a composed game, there are moments when he is a bit too composed when it comes to defending the opponent’s down low cycle and that is something he will need to focus on moving forward.
With the game in overtime, Mateychuk made a slick cross-slot pass to Jagger Firkus to win the game for his team. Overall, the mobile rearguard put in a strong two-way performance and continues to show why he is a consensus first-round ranked prospect and #16 on the DP Scouting Team’s midseason ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft.
Follow @JamesonEwasiuk on Twitter
Matthew Poitras | C | Guelph vs. Saginaw (OHL) | 2021-12-04
1 G, 0 A, 2 SOG, 14:26 TOI
Nick Richard: This was your typical Matthew Poitras performance. His raw skill didn’t necessarily jump off the screen but he was all over the puck, made a number of strong plays to create chances for his team, and ended up being a key figure in a winning effort for the Storm.
Poitras was hard on the puck in the offensive zone, taking smart routes in pursuit and utilizing his quick hands to pull pucks off the boards and through congested areas. He is deceptively shifty, if not exceptionally fast, and can play between checks while supporting play or possessing the puck. He was relentless in hunting pucks to pressure opposing defenders and created a great chance after winning a board battle and pulling the puck off the wall to dish to an open teammate as he was falling. There was another instance where Poitras took a great angle to cut off the opposing defender behind his net, forcing him to turn and fire an ill-advised pass into the slot that led to a great chance for the Storm. His ability to force opposing players into mistakes, and then take advantage of them stood out.
Poitras also showed off good puck protection skills throughout the game, most notably on the play that led to him scoring what would eventually be the winning goal. He kept the defender on his back as he circled down low, drew a second defender, and hit Sasha Pastujov in the slot with a backhand slip pass. Pastujov’s shot went off the bar but Poitras worked back to the front of the net and got open as Pastujov recovered the puck down low and dished to him in the low slot. Poitras took the pass off his skate and quickly fired a quick snap shot by the goaltender to give Guelph a 2-1 lead. In more subtle fashion, there were a couple of occasions where he was able to spin off a check and find a teammate with a short pass to relieve pressure.
His cerebral nature showed up on the defensive side of the puck as well as he consistently maintained solid positioning in his own zone, be it staying below the puck to break up a chance after a failed clearing attempt by a teammate or picking up a man left alone in front of the net to disrupt a potential scoring chance. Though he is undersized, Poitras also showed that he can handle the physical game. There were two noticeable plays where he was able to body oncoming checks to maintain possession and drive play forward, but he also showed that he can elude traffic with the puck on his stick.
On a couple of plays where Poitras was carrying the puck, he did well to create space for himself by pushing the defenders back and then slowing down to assess his options or create space to get a shot off. He was able to quickly shift directions while protecting the puck on his outside hip to decrease the chances of the opposing defender getting a stick on his shot.
As is often the case with Poitras, it was the details in his game that made him a difficult player for the opposition to handle. He may not wind up on the highlight reels every night but he does a lot of things right to drive play for his team, and he has the skill to capitalize when presented with an opportunity. This game showed why Poitras is one of the more well-rounded forwards in the 2022 draft.
Follow @_NickRichard on Twitter
Simon Forsmark | LD | Örebro vs. Växjö (SHL) | 2021-12-30
0 G, 0 A, 1 SOG, 13:52 TOI
Alexa Potack: This game ended much better than it started for Simon Forsmark. Towards the beginning, he found himself to be the lone defenceman during an odd-man rush and he appeared slow while skating backward. He ultimately overcommitted to one of the players, giving the other a prime scoring opportunity. As the game went on, Forsmark began to engage more physically on defense. He was able to use his body to edge out forwards that were positioned at the net-front to lessen the chance of a deflection and provide a better line of sight for his goaltender.
Although the points are yet to accumulate, Forsmark’s two-way ability is noticeable at the SHL level through his positioning and visible motivation to break into the offensive zone. It’s as clear as anything that Forsmark wants to be the set-up man, and in the J20 Nationell that has been his role, but he is still coming into his own in SHL play.
One issue that was recurrent in this game was his reliance on passing to get through the neutral zone. Typically, Forsmark has been calm and collected during zone entries but Växjö’s aggression forced him to pass the puck with poor aim, resulting in a few turnovers.
An intangible skill that Forsmark demonstrated towards the end of the game was resilience. With only a handful of minutes left on the clock and Örebro down by a goal, Forsmark tripped, leaving a clear path for an opponent to charge towards the net with the puck on their stick. He got back up and when the Vaxjö player ultimately didn’t score, he tried to generate an offensive opportunity with teammate and top prospect for the 2023 draft, Leo Carlsson.
Overall, this was an alright game from Forsmark. He demonstrated some of his positives like his two-way mindset but also made some poor choices and had his average-at-best skating on full display. There’s definitely room to grow for Simon Forsmark but we are starting to see the player he is evolving into.
Follow @alexa_potack on Twitter
Rutger McGroarty | LW | U.S. U18 vs. Dubuque (USHL) | 2022-01-07
0 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, 16:54 TOI
Kyle Watson: This was a very quiet outing for McGroarty: he failed to generate much offense despite playing on the top line, as well as on the first powerplay unit, and did not impact the game defensively. There are three factors I believe led to a sub-par performance from the former minor hockey star; his powerplay usage, an inability to balance playing with pace and poise, and the game being primarily a neutral zone battle.
On the man advantage, he was used in front of the net and while he has the frame and hands to play there, I would have expected to see him on the half wall. He possesses a wicked release and displays ingenuity in small spaces that show me he can play there.
Although McGroarty possesses a lot of raw ability, I saw very little of it in this game. He rushed the play and took shots from bad angles when he should have leveraged his frame and puck skills to hold out for better options. He made some nice one-touch passes and set up a perfect rebound by shooting low off the goalie’s pad that his teammate couldn’t capitalize on, but for the most part it was a pretty uneventful evening.
A substantial part of the game was played in transition and alternating counter-attacks. There weren’t a lot of powerplays or sustained in-zone attacks from either team. It seems to me that this is not the type of hockey Rutger McGroarty enjoys playing, which brings me to the elephant in the room: his skating.
The Michigan commit has received plenty of criticism for it in his time with the NTDP and is a controversial prospect as a result. It was certainly evident to me; he fails to generate power in his first three steps and thus takes too long to reach his top speed, which is adequate. He could have been tired on some of the shifts, but at times he really looked a step behind the pace of the game without the puck.
In a game like this, where he didn’t have many opportunities to hold on to the puck and try to slow the game down, he certainly did not look like a first-round pick. He showed he can read the game and make high-end plays in flashes – whether it be a pass around the defenceman’s heels to set his teammate up for a tap-in or sneaking behind an opponent in his own zone to pickpocket the puck – but I really worry about how he will fare at the NHL level. If he can’t beat a man one-on-one with his feet he needs to get creative or leverage his size more.
McGroarty is a prospect who intrigues me. His resume is immaculate and he has shown complete dominance at times, but there is a lot of room for improvement and it will take the right development path for him to reach his ceiling.
Follow @kyle_nw on Twitter
Vladimir Grudinin | D | Russia U20 vs. Switzerland U20 (WJC) | 2021-12-28
0 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, 18:01 TOI
Zack Szweras: Vladimir Grudinin is an example of the high-flying modern-day defenceman that NHL teams covet. With this performance, he showed why teams should take a flyer on him near the top half of the second round.
Starting with his transition game, Grudinin showed patience with the puck and the passing awareness to find teammates in all areas on the ice. Early on in the game, he received the puck off a turnover in his own end, kept his head up, and made a zone exit pass,which resulted in his teammate making an offensive zone entry. A couple of shifts later, Grudinin similarly held the puck in his own end, kept his head up, and using his passing awareness, located his teammate on the opposing team’s blueline and made a beautiful stretch pass resulting in another clean entry. In another example of his transition game that occured later on, Grudinin was being pressured in his own end and was able to chip the puck to center ice past three opposing players to his teammate. On a later play, Grudinin calmly handled the puck at his own blueline and made a clean pass through the neutral zone to his teammate, which led to a high danger scoring opportunity.
An area of Grudinin’s game that is a strength is his work along the offensive blueline. In this game, Grudinin had the puck at the blueline, used his puck handling skills to move the defender in front of him in order to open up a shooting lane, and successfully got the puck to the net. On that same shift, the opposing team was attempting to break out but Grudinin stood his ground at the blueline and was able to stop the Swiss team from exiting the zone.
Something we were able to see more in his limited World Junior play was Grudinin’s ability to attack down low and on the half-wall. In the MHL and KHL, Grudinin has shied away from getting involved down low offensively, potentially due to the style of play requested by SKA. It was refreshing to see him use his high-end mobility and puck skills to advance the play in the offensive end. On a later shift, Grudinin was able to jump into play twice. The first time he jumped in he was able to cycle the puck down low while taking a hit and keeping possession alive. The second time, he was more patient with the puck, and got it back to the blueline where it was passed around, eventually leading to a goal.
On an offensive possession, Grudinin used his mobility to join his teammate for a two-on-two. By joining the rush, he took one of the defencemen out of the play and allowed his teammate to wrap around the net into open space and score.
Another interesting note: During this game, Grudinin was given powerplay time, however, he wasn’t playing the traditional quarterback position. Instead, he was playing in the middle and facilitating the puck to the players on the half-wall. On this power play, a Swiss player was able to get the puck and darted down the ice, but using his mobility, Grudinin was able to catch up to the forward right as he reached the Russian net.
The area of Grudinin’s game that needs the most improvement is his defensive awareness. Early on in the game, Grudinin pinched in to pressure the puck carrier, however, the opposition was able to easily get the puck behind him and start a breakout. Later in the game, Grudinin tried to pressure a forward in the neutral zone and the player was able to get around him and dump it into the Russian zone.
Follow @Zack_Szweras on Twitter