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The DP Draft Reports is back after a small break! This week features game reports of Ethan Gauthier, Martin Misiak, Jesse Nurmi, William Whitelaw and Axel Sandin-Pellikka.
Ethan Gauthier impressed many in Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and he’s been having a good season for Sherbrooke in the QMJHL as well. He’s mostly been seen as a 1st round pick in different public rankings. Martin Misiak has been spending the first half of the season in Slovakia, but he’ll move to the USHL now to play for Youngstown. He was ranked 28th EU skater in Central Scouting’s rankings. Jesse Nurmi has divided a lot of opinions this season, as some have seen him as a late-round pick and some even as a 1st round pick. Point production-wise, his season has been good as he’s notched 41 points in 32 games – many against much lower competition though. William Whitelaw has spent the season in Misiak’s new team – Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. He hasn’t been producing like crazy, but is on pace for pretty strong 50-60 point season. Axel Sandin-Pellikka’s been rising the rankings throughout the season, and could even be a top-15 pick in the draft. He had a strong WJC showing, and was ranked 3rd EU player in Central Scouting’s last ranking.
Let’s get to the game reports!
Hadi Kalakeche (QMJHL Scout)
Ethan Gauthier | RW | Sherbrooke Phoenix vs. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) | 2023-01-04
0 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, 20:10 TOI
Gauthier had a strong, but revelatory showing in this game against a strong Rouyn-Noranda. There was some inefficiency in his puck skills, which translated to poor on-puck results. His passes were sometimes off, sometimes blocked, but it was mostly due to what he tried – he oozes creativity, and this makes him anticipate plays that poorer playmakers wouldn’t even see. Behind-the-back spin passes and area saucers helped advance play in a positive way, and he found his teammate in the slot on one occasion with a smart no-look pass while a defenseman was all over him. Though he does need to diversify his passing arsenal, which is another part of why his passing numbers were unimpressive in this one, a big factor in these numbers was the fact that he precipitated some smart ideas rather than letting the play develop.
Off the puck, Gauthier was every bit as troublesome, fearless and unrelenting as he usually is. His sheer determination won him most of his contested puck battles, he disrupted many plays with his stick, and he threw the body on six separate occasions. He retrieved many loose pucks with his smart positioning and anticipation of play, and was regularly involved along the boards – especially on the forecheck. Gauthier also created more turnovers than takeaways. His secondary assist in this game came off the back of a good physical play in the defensive zone; the forward received a poor pass from his defender which left him exposed to the pinching Rouyn-Noranda blue-liner, but he managed to poke it up the boards to the teammate he identified due to his excellent scanning habits. He also made sure to reverse-hit that defender so he wouldn’t be able to make a play on the puck. Just like that, his teammates had a 2-on-1. They converted.
The combination of intelligence, relentlessness and maturity in Gauthier’s game forms a rock-solid foundation upon which to expand his game. He seems more like a late first-round pick-up due to the lack of refined puck skills in any direction – his shot isn’t all that threatening, his playmaking arsenal isn’t refined and his stickhandling is only slightly above-average, with his top hand often resting on his hip rather than remaining free in front of him. However, teams love this brand of player. Gauthier should hear his name between 20 and 30.
Alexandre Lagarde (Central Europe Scout)
Martin Misiak | C | HC Nove Zamky vs. Poprad (Tipos Extraliga) | 2023-01-15
1 G, 0 A, 1 SOG, 13:26 TOI
On overall solid effort from Misiak in this game, who reached a milestone today by scoring his first goal of the season. There is a lot to like about Misiak’s game, as we constantly see a relentless motor with high level IQ in all three zones. Misiak saw significant powerplay time in this game, slotting in the bumper position on the first wave which is a nice vote of confidence from the coaching staff. Also, Misiak was given the responsibility of being the main puck carrier on the power play in transition.
In terms of his skills as a player, we are seeing improvements in his passing game, as he is attempting more high-reward plays instead of always defaulting to the closest teammates. These long-cross ice passes were executed perfectly which allowed him to use his elite speed to join the developed play. He showed great wheels and the ability to pace himself according to the speed of his teammates; This is a NHL translatable skill that we have wanted to see from Misiak.
As per usual, Misiak showed off his offensive and defensive awareness by continuing to improve on his off-puck habits. His scanning habits are excellent which allow him to gather information as the play develops. He was often used as the F1 forechecker, reading and reacting to the defensive players body language or stick position efficiently. Misiak will adjust his angle of attack based on the information gained in his zone entry, which forces the defenders to make quick and efficient decisions. Not only is he calculated, he also possesses the ability to stick lift and block passing lanes at full speed. In his own zone, he often cycles down low to support his defenseman on breakouts and will comfortably reset the play if the rush scheme isn’t ideal. All in all, he is a very smart player.
Lastly, there are some shortcomings in Misiak’s game that need to be highlighted. Offensively speaking, he lacks any real threat with his shot. His wrist show lacks any power behind it and he doesn’t make up for it with a quick release. His hands are simple and effective but do not stand out as a difference maker in his game. Misiak’s performance today is one that NHL GM’s will love because he is responsible in all three zones while having enough offensive ability to chip in as a middle 6 forward (and at center to boot).
Eetu Siltanen (Director of Scouting)
Jesse Nurmi | LW | Tappara U20 vs. KooKoo U20 (U20 SM-sarja) | 2022-01-19
0 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, 18:59 TOI
Nurmi has been producing very well for KooKoo in U20 SM-sarja, but couldn’t really get his offensive game going in this one against the league leader Tappara. However, he did manage to get on the score sheet in the third period with an assist: he was able to maintain the possession with a good stop-and-go move along the boards to drop the defender off his back, and gave a sneaky pass between two opponents. Despite that goal, Nurmi wasn’t able to generate more to help his team come back and win.
Nurmi’s skating is good and has improved throughout the season, as he has fast feet and plays a high-pace game. However, he couldn’t really utilize that in this game, and even in my Liiga viewings of Nurmi, he was able to challenge the defenders more with that speed. However, there were a couple of good sentences where he flashed that speed, in example one coast to coast where he was able to use his speed and puck skills to sneak between two defenders, but just couldn’t finish the rush. Nurmi – however – lacks a lot of creativity in my eyes, and doesn’t really read the opponent off the rush, but instead just makes some decision, no matter how the opponent is defending it. There was also one really concerning play, where he cut to the middle off the rush, with his head down. That’s something that’s not going to end well in pro level, especially in North American style of play.
I mentioned lack of creativity and reading in Nurmi’s game. Well, while his toolkit and speed are pretty good, he does not shine in terms of hockey IQ in overall. He should learn some patience with the puck, and without it, his positioning isn’t very flattering. Many times in this game he found himself in a same stack with his two linemates, and was wandering around in right wing, even though he was a left winger. Without the puck, he has tendency to do some puck hounding and is a bit too eager to give pressure at times. Nonetheless, I have to say that one thing has improved significantly this season: off the rush he always seemed to run into the defender, trying to do some fancy move to get past him. Now he really tries to use his speed or find a different kind of solution, despite not really reading the defender still. In this game, I don’t think I saw even one of those kind of plays – and it was the same in the last game I watched from Nurmi.
Nurmi lacks physicality and isn’t too eager to battle along the boards either. Still, he isn’t the smallest player out there and that might improve in the future. He was ranked #30 amongst EU skaters in latest Central Scouting’s rankings, and I feel like it’s not far from my opinion either. He looks like an NHL prospect, but not a very early pick.
Sebastian High (Head of North American Scouting)
William Whitelaw | LW | Youngstown vs. USDP (USHL) | 2023-01-07
0 G, 1 A, 12 SOG, 20:15 TOI
This performance really encapsulated Whitelaw as a player. He was the fulcrum of every Youngstown attack when he was on the ice and registered 12 shots on goal singlehandedly. His offensive threat is dictated by his tremendous tools. His speed, mobility, shot, playmaking, and stick handling are all standout strengths and he’s quite easily among the 10 most “toolsy” players in the draft class. In transition, he repeatedly pushed the pace vs a strong NTDP team and used his agility and creativity to generate remarkably consistent zone entries. When he gets into scoring positions, he flashes very clean shooting mechanics which he layers with deception. Beyond being a strong handler, he remains strong on his stick and resisted most stick lifts he faced in this game. His skating mechanics are refined, featuring very good stride depth, clean edgework, and sometimes an impressive motor.
There are four main issues with projecting Whitelaw as an NHL prospect, however.
First, he is largely perimeter-based in the offensive zone. He has all the tools he needs to access the slot and yet more often than not he defaults to shooting and passing from outside the dotted lines, which is far from ideal, especially for an early ’05 birthday in the USHL, a league known for its passive defensive structures, especially against the rush.
Second, he is undersized. I’m not overly concerned about this one, but it goes in tandem with the third point. He flashes an impressive motor, tenacity, and strength despite his small frame, which, if consistent, would not make his size a real hurdle with the modern NHL trending in the direction of speed and skill, both of which he has in abundance.
Third, he is incredibly inconsistent. His decision-making, habits, engagement, and even creativity all seem to have an on/off switch that can be triggered at any point, even in the middle of a shift. Against the NTDP, he made a very impressive read and execution to singlehandedly carry the puck through the neutral zone, bypassing all three forwards up the middle-lane, but as soon as he entered the offensive zone, instead of delaying and waiting for support, he fired off a shot from the lulling almost instinctively. While it was on target, it was never a threat to score.
Last, he plays individualistically, as the 12 shots on target — on 15 attempts — demonstrate. He is reluctant to use his teammates and wants to do everything himself, which he was able to get away with in Prep school hockey last season on a dominant Shattuck St. Mary’s team alongside top 2024-eligible Macklin Celebrini, but which doesn’t fly in the USHL. He has, however, shown more consistent flashes of sharing the offensive responsibility as the season has progressed. He had a few nice give-and-go’s in this game, and even flashed a delay game a few times.
As a whole, Whitelaw represents a huge swing on tools and upside to overcome deficiencies in his habits, decision-making, and consistency, one which I’d be open to making in the mid-first-round, but which I fully understand other scouts and teams being hesitant to consider in the top-50.
Alexa Potack (Swedish Scout)
Axel Sandin-Pellikka | RD | Sweden U20 vs. Czechia U20 (World Juniors 2023) | 2022-12-29
0 G, 0 A, 2 SOG, 22:05 TOI
Production-wise, Sandin-Pellikka had a slow tournament, with only one assist. However, he ended up in a larger role than initially envisioned. In the pre-tournament matches, Sandin-Pellikka ended up as a 3rd pair or extra defenseman, though once the games started, he proved his worth through skating and confidence, leading to 2nd pairing minutes alongside Calle Odelius. The intention, patience, and poise in Sandin-Pelikka’s game are, unsurprisingly, above average for a draft-eligible defenseman. As usual, Sandin-Pellikka’s skating stood out. His ability to move laterally and pivot quickly makes it possible to attempt more aggressive defensive positioning, which was effective. Fluidity in his stride became more evident later in the game. Though his skating was on point in this game, his puck skills lacked their usual power.
Occasionally, Sandin-Pellikka was overwhelmed by Czechia’s aggressive forechecking and defense, causing him to lose control of the puck in transition. He is usually dominant in transition and does not hesitate to jump on the rush, but in the first half of the game, he maintained a more conservative defensive role. Later in the game, Sandin-Pellikka had a scoring opportunity while moving in from the right faceoff circle but mishandled the puck while trying to switch to his backhand for the shot. Sandin-Pellikka did not let the frustration of the missed opportunity take over, and he had two more shots on the shift.
Even when matched with larger opponents, Sandin-Pellikka effectively positioned his body to force the oncoming player to the edges of the ice, preventing rushes to the net in transition. While defending the rush, he utilized agility and strong backward skating to match the speed of the opponent and push the play away from the goal. Despite being 5’11”, Sandin-Pellikka’s physical presence was one of the more noticeable aspects of his game, especially when guarding the inner slot. It is something that many have been waiting to see but could use continued improvement.
As previously mentioned, the defenseman wound up on the scoresheet less than anticipated, but he still played a role offensively. Sandin-Pellikka mainly anchored the blue line in this game, especially on the power play, but registered five shots, two of which reached the goal. He was looking for a deflection, but he did not always get help from his teammates around the net. Twice or three times, they were moved out of the slot by the Czech defense or seemed to be waiting for a rebound from further away. Sandin-Pellikka took one penalty during the game, a cross-checking minor in a scrum.