Prospect Ramblings: Generational Shots
I’ve only been in the scouting ‘game’ for about 10 months. Because of that, I’ve only really seen two crops of draft-eligibles (while beefing up my knowledge of the 2020 and 2021 classes), but I can assuredly say that this 2023 class has some of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.
This starts from the top, with Connor Bedard having the upside to win several Rocket Richard trophies in his career. Then there’s Russian phenom Matvei Michkov, who can get an incredible amount of power in his shot despite being undersized. Then names like Colby Barlow and Matthew Wood hold incredible shooting talent. If these talents translate to the NHL, the 2023 draft could have four (or more!) 50-goal scorers in it.
There isn’t really any area of the game where Connor Bedard doesn’t excel. However, his shot is one of the many things that have made him the consensus #1 guy.
It’s not just the shot itself, but the combination of tools and intelligence that give him chances no other player in the WHL can get. Above average puck protection, tied with silky smooth hands, and phenomenal delay game make him the most dangerous player on the ice.
He is entirely middle-driven when rushing the net, and it creates intriguing chances (that usually go in).
His mechanics are phenomenal, with impressive accuracy and in incredibly quick release.
I don’t need to go into much detail to explain why Connor Bedard is great, but he genuinely does have the potential to score 50 (or 60, or 70!) goals one day.
As I’m writing this, Michkov is just finishing up a six-point night in the MHL. Since heading to Sochi, he’s been on a generational tear, pushing over .6PPG in the KHL, and he’s been consistently the best player on the ice since he joined the Kapitan team.
He has the explosive shot resonant of Alex Ovechkin, despite being six inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter.
His release is snappy and deceptive, and he has the strength of a guy double his size.
All of the aspects of his game allow him opportunities. Here he is beating the 6’4” 201 pound beast Dmitri Simashev (who I wrote a whole post about!) in a battle:
He does play a more perimeter-based game than Bedard, which is expected considering he’s on European ice, but he has the instincts and the tools to be effective from the side of the ice.
His playmaking is genuinely fantastic as well, but that’s not the point of this article!
He’s also insanely creative, pulling off ridiculous goals from any angle.
And he can do this:
It’s safe to say that Matvei Michkov will be one of the best snipers in the league immediately when he comes to the NHL.
Colby Barlow is the player I have lower than basically anybody else. Not yet cracking my first-round, and making me constantly think of Mike Hoffman when I watch him, I just haven’t gotten on the Barlow train.
I can, however, appreciate his incredible shot, as Barlow has one of the better releases I’ve ever seen.
Not only does he have 44 goals in 55 OHL games, but as a D-1 he had 30. There is an exceptional shooting talent here.
He gets a tremendous amount of power on his shot, especially his blistering wrist shot.
He equally holds a lot of deception in his shot that will serve him will in the NHL.
While the comparison to Mike Hoffman may seem negative, it’s easy to forget that he has had a 36-goal NHL season.
If Barlow can find himself in the right role, he could be a 40-50 goal guy. That’s an incredible season for a guy many don’t even have top-20, and who I don’t even have top-35.
Another player I’m decidedly low on is Matthew Wood. Underwhelming with every viewing, I have question marks on how he’ll become a complete NHL player (especially in his skating). The shot, however, is fantastic.
As the only 2005-born NCAA player, Wood has been strong.
Almost at a point-per-game, and still growing, Wood could be a sneaky high-upside pick if he slips outside of the top-20.
The shot mechanics are great, with great delay game and smooth hands. His skating does hold him back from the chances his counterparts get.
All in all, this draft class is simply incredible. Teams will be getting elite talents deep into the first round, and, if developed properly, a team could scoop a 50-goal scorer in the 20s.
Thanks for reading! You can catch me on Twitter with bi-weekly personal rankings updates @itovitch , and at the Puck and Roll Podcast!