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Welcome back for another edition of DP Draft Reports! This week features game reports on Owen Pickering, Danny Zhilkin, Alexander Suzdalev, Beau Jelsma, and Ludwig Persson.
Be sure to check out the DP Scouting Team’s April rankings for the 2022 NHL Draft to see which of these players landed in our top-64:
DP Scouting Team’s April Rankings for the 2022 NHL Draft
Pickering is a defenceman with the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL who has great size and mobility. His production doesn’t match that of other potential first-round blueliners but his tools are high-end and he has been one of the biggest risers on public draft boards this season. Pickering was recently named to Canada’s roster for the upcoming U18 World Championships.
Zhilkin is a highly-skilled forward who headlines a strong group of draft-eligible players from the Guelph Storm in the OHL. He is among the top-scoring draft-eligible players in the Ontario league this season and has been a big part of the Storm’s success due to his ability to drive the pace offensively.
Suzdalev is a creative offensive winger who has had a big year playing for HV71’s J20 team and he is the third-leading scorer among draft-eligibles in the J20 Nationell. He is also slated to suit up in the U18 Worlds where he will represent Sweden and how he is able to handle the pace will be an area of focus for scouts.
Jelsma is a smooth skating, energetic forward who plays for the Barrie Colts and he has been one of the top goal-scoring draft-eligible players in the OHL this season.
Persson was a star in the J20 Nationell for Frölunda this season, utilizing his well-rounded offensive toolkit to lead all J20 draft-eligible players in scoring.
Owen Pickering | LD | Swift Current vs. Regina (WHL) | 2022-04-08
0 G, 0 A, 5 SOG, 25:18 TOI
Evan Pace: Pickering is able to physically handle the game at this level, mainly because he is a towering 6-4, however, he will have to continue building strength as he develops. He can be a force physically at times, but there are also times where he looks a bit wobbly and can be knocked off balance. On the offensive side, he has no shortage of effort or determination and he is able to impact the game positively on that end. In his own end, he struggles with defensive zone coverage but in defensive transition, he can usually read opposing attackers well and won’t allow them an easy, smooth way around him.
He took a lot more than five shots; he either had them blocked or missed the net but once again, there was no shortage of offensive intensity from Pickering. His ability to handle pressure, mainly in the defensive zone with the puck on his stick, was a bit concerning sometimes. Here and there, he appeared to lack confidence in his decision-making and could fire an unnecessary pass or mishandle the puck, but thankfully his long reach was able to keep control of the puck.
There are concerns with his game but he is a very raw prospect with plenty of potential who will eventually grow into his body. Pickering’s ceiling remains high and his play has improved offensively throughout the season, even if it doesn’t always result in high-level production.
Danny Zhilkin | C | Guelph vs. Owen Sound (OHL) | 2022-04-01
1 G, 1 A, 8 SOG, 19:38 TOI
Kyle Watson: Zhilkin possesses that lightning-in-a-bottle energy that allows him to be a threat from almost anywhere on the ice when he gets the puck on his stick. The game plan for the Storm this season has often been to give the puck to Danny and let him go for a skate, and it paid dividends against Owen Sound. In one of his first shifts, Zhilkin showed great awareness to get onside before receiving a pass and setting up the game’s first goal – all in a matter of seconds. 50 minutes later in overtime, he turned a defender inside-out and sniped one over the goalie’s shoulder to end the game.
His game is built around entering the opponent’s zone at top speed and creating chaos. He is one of the fastest players in the league in terms of straight-line speed and shows good deception in transition, making quick turns and shoulder fakes to constantly change his point of attack. He has quick hands and can really rip the puck when he has space to load up. He uses a solid 6-2, 183-pound frame to shred through traffic and drive for the net constantly. This strategy has worked for Zhilkin thus far in his career but I would like to see more variety in his offensive game. He clearly has tremendous raw skill and ingenuity but in this game, I didn’t see him cause a lot of trouble from a standstill.
Zhilkin was very effective on faceoffs in this game but the vast majority of his starts were in the offensive zone – which brings me to his defensive game. His checking game did not stand out to me: he was engaged at all times but wasn’t really disrupting lanes or attacking the puck as a center should. He can be an offensive game-changer but he is still working to translate those skills to the defensive side of the puck.
Alexander Suzdalev | LW | HV71 J20 vs. Rögle J20 (J20 Nationell Playoffs) | 2022-03-30
1 G, 0 A, 1 SOG, 21:42
Eetu Siltanen: Suzdalev was playing left wing on HV71’s second line in their playoff game against Rögle, notching a goal in just under 22 minutes of ice time. His biggest strengths – good on-puck skills and a creative passing game – were on display in this one. His goal was a very nice one; at 4-on-4, he found room to receive a pass, took a few steps closer to the goal, and fired a great wrister far side.
Suzdalev’s on-puck game and offensive toolkit are good, but his off-puck and overall game haven’t impressed me this season. He controlled the puck well in tight spaces and showed off his creative passing ability. While his skating is technically sound, he doesn’t possess great top speed. Perhaps that lack of speed is a reason he seems to prefer passing in the transition game. However, his zone exit passes were especially good.
He has solid size but didn’t really seem to enjoy engaging in battles that much. His defensive zone game was better than in my previous viewings as he had good positioning and he blocked passing lanes pretty well. You can see that he is trying to work and improve his off-puck game, which is encouraging. He turned the puck over with poor decisions a few times so that is also an area he will need to continue to improve as well.
My biggest concern with Suzdalev is probably centered around how he is going to translate to the smaller rink and faster pace. He has had a strong season in the J20 Nationell, however, and could enter the conversation as a potential second-round pick with a strong showing at the U18 Worlds.
Beau Jelsma | LW | Barrie vs. Niagra (OHL) | 2022-03-17
1 G, 0 A, 2 SOG, 15:02 TOI
Nick Richard: Jelsma got the Colts on the board early in this one as he opened the scoring just over a minute in. He made a nice play to corral the puck on the cycle behind the net before skating it to the corner and leaving it for a teammate, then worked into space at the bottom of the circle to take a return pass that he fired home. The shot was impressive as he received the pass away from his body with his arms extended and was still able to roll his wrists over to quickly release a hard and accurate shot that beat the goaltender up high.
The speedy winger almost added another goal shortly thereafter when Niagra turned over a puck in the neutral zone. Jelsma read the play and wasted no time turning up ice to take a pass for a two-on-one rush. Keeping his feet moving, he pulled the puck close to his body in order to open up the lane and dished it to his teammate before driving the far post. His teammate made a great return feed and Jelsma had plenty of net to direct the puck into but he instead tried to drag it across the net and though he beat the goaltender, he backhanded it through the other side of the crease.
Jelsma’s overall pace and skating ability stood out for much of this contest. He is a strong skater who employs good knee bend and depth of stride, along with quick feet that allow him to stay fluid and quickly change directions to hunt space and pressure opponents. He changes speeds and has the ability to accelerate into space, almost bending around the edge like a pass rusher in football. Jelsma uses this mobility and strength on his feet to open himself up around the opposing net and he created a couple of chances in that area, both at even strength and on the man advantage.
He had one really strong zone entry where he curled back to the defensive blue line for a pass and wound his way through the neutral zone scanning the play. He got a little too aggressive, however, and ended up taking a huge hit while trying to split the defense after entering the zone. It didn’t work out for him on this occasion but it is encouraging to see Jelsma utilizing his speed to attack opposing defenses.
Overall, this was a solid performance for Jelsma. He displayed intelligent positioning, coming away with a takeaway at the top of the offensive zone and helping out down low in the defensive zone to turn play in his team’s favor. His pace of play put pressure on the opposition, he was utilized on both special teams units, and though he was playing on the wing, he also won a couple of key draws while chipping in at the offensive end.
Ludwig Persson | LW | Sweden vs. Slovakia (U20 Four Nations) | 2022-04-14
2 G, 0 A, 3 SOG, 15:32 TOI
Alexa Potack: Persson scored two goals in Sweden’s 4-0 win over Slovakia. His first goal came early – about two minutes into the match. Persson utilized his strength to plant himself net-front and wasn’t deterred by physicality from the Slovak defense. Liam Dower-Nilsson fed him a beautiful backhand pass while circling the net as Persson was there to finish. Although this goal wasn’t much of his doing and more the passing of his teammate, Persson’s determination to stay in position created this opportunity. His second goal was also a net-front finish, as he charged the goal to receive yet another strong pass from Dower-Nilsson. Persson should be credited with earning the offensive zone possession on that shift due to his forechecking abilities and positioning. Though it was a teammate that received the puck, he was open by the blueline as a pass option to start the play.
Persson was featured on the powerplay where he continued to man the blue line and swing down to screen Slovakia’s goaltender. His placement helped to make use of his strong passing, which continued to be a positive for himself and his team. He once again proved his creativity and accuracy which drives much of his playmaking ability.
In the past, Persson has impressed me with his puck skills and mobility but sometimes his best assets were muted in this game. Persson hustled some of the time but appeared disengaged and immobile on other shifts. He has the capabilities to play at a high pace but did not consistently demonstrate them. Additionally, he frequently uses his stickhandling talents to beat defencemen and drive toward the net. On occasion, he struggled to generate enough power to get to the inside. His hands are quick and deceptive, though he failed to brush past the opposition as the rest of his body was not meeting the level of speed and strength.
On defense, Persson seemingly viewed his role as a pass option rather than an active defender. He was static, even when deep in the defensive zone, barely moving with the play. He attempted a couple of poke checks at the top of the zone and often waited around for a breakout.
Overall, it is clear that Persson did not display the range of capabilities that made him dominant in the J20 Nationell this season. It isn’t easy to claim that a player who scored two goals didn’t have a great match but this game was certainly not all that Persson has to give. At this point, there’s a common understanding that Ludwig Persson is a natural goal scorer, so he now needs to work on shoring up his weaknesses. The offensive potential is there but his toolkit needs some refining and further development to be successful at higher levels.