Prospects Ramblings: U18 wrap up, OHL Eastern Conference Final Scouting Notes

by Peter Harling on April 25, 2017
  • Prospects Rambling
  • Prospects Ramblings: U18 wrap up, OHL Eastern Conference Final Scouting Notes

The U18 World Championship is over and the USA took the Gold Medal, Finland claims Silver while Russia finished with the Bronze. For the USA, it is their tenth Gold and 15th overall Medal. The USNTDP has had a lot of success having their national team play together for the season and the U18 typically is their crowning achievement of their development program. The Americans went a perfect 7-0 en route to their seventh Gold Medal in nine years and were led offensively by the diminutive Sean Dhooghe with three goals and nine points in seven games. At a mere 5-3 Dhooghe is a surprise energy player, a relentless forechecker with speed to burn and is deceptively strong. He will surely put to the test that size doesn’t matter at the NHL draft!

USA also got strong performances from 2017 draft eligible prospects Max Gidon on defence, and Dylan St. Cyr in goal. More familiar names Grant Mismash, Josh Norris, and Ryan Poehling also provided significant production for the Americans. Some promising prospects for the 2018 draft also stood out for USA such as Brady Tkachuk (Another son of Keith) and Quinton Hughes who are both committed to play NCAA hockey for their draft year. Quinton Hughes and his 15-year-old brother Jack Hughes are two prospects you will need to know in the near future as both offer tremendous upside and at a very young age are creating plenty of buzz. Jack was the top ranked player for the recent OHL Priority Selection but has committed to the USNTDP team, but despite this he was still picked in the first round eighth overall by Mississauga in hopes they can recruit him in the future.

The player of the tournament and MVP was Finland’s Kristian Vesalainen who led the tournament in scoring with six goals and 13 points in seven games. His draft stock gets a nice bump after he struggled all season bouncing between pro leagues, a minor league, the Champions League and three international tournaments and could now be a top ten pick.

Another Fin to raise his draft profile at the U18 was Miro Heiskanen who finished second overall in scoring as a defenceman with two goals and 12 points.

Get more on Vesalainen and Heiskanen on the latest DobberProspects Radio podcast

The Russian team looked great and as usual had high skilled players who could have a fantasy impact. Their top players were Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau Drakkar , QMJHL) who scored five goals and nine points. He tied for the team lead in scoring with 2018 draft eligible and potential first overall prospect Andrei Svechnikov. Another 2017 draft eligible Russian who stood out is Kirill Slepets (Loko Yaroslaval, MHL) a 5-10, 154 pound undersized forward who displayed slick hands and got on my radar!

The Directorate Awards winners are

Best Goaltender: Maxim Zhukov (RUS)

Best Defenceman: Miro Heiskanen (FIN)

Best Forward: Kristian Vesalainen (FIN)

The Media All-Star Team

Goal: Dylan St. Cyr (USA)

Defence: Miro Heiskanen (FIN)

Defence: Max Gidon (USA)

Forward: Kristian Vesalainen (FIN)

Forward: Sean Dhooghe (USA)

Forward: Ivan Chekhovich (RUS)

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The CHL playoffs continue and I managed to take in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals in Peterborough. The Petes are now down three games to none at the hands of the Mississauga Steelheads. Both teams boast strong depth, but the Steelheads have the star power advantage. Mike McLeod has been a force in this series and scored the double OT game winning goal in game three. Playing with his younger brother Ryan McLeod who is a top prospect for the 2018 draft had a 42 point season and has 15 points in 14 playoff games. Ryan is like his brother and has speed to burn, excellent skating skills, but in my opinion he has even better offensive skills and at 6-2, 190 at 17-years-old he has the size to be a first line NHL center. He is one to watch!

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Detroit Red Wings prospect Vili Saarijarvi has had a breakout season playing in Mississauga this year after being acquired from Flint. Limited to just 34 regular season games due to injury he still managed to produce 11 goals and 31 points, just shy of a point per game. In the post season he has four goals and 12 points in 14 games. Saarijarvi is undersized at 5-10 and a slender 165 pounds but his skating is elite. He has excellent acceleration, agility and edge work and a blazing top gear. His skating stride is fluid and looks effortless and his skating skill are matched by his hockey sense. Always in good position, anticipates plays well and reacts to create turnovers and interceptions effectively.  While he may be very slight he excels at what makes a modern day NHL defenceman.

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Los Angeles Kings prospect Spencer Watson who was acquired from the Kingston Frontenacs has been exceptional playing on a line with the McLeod’s. Watson missed time recovering from surgery to start the season and was limited to 41 games but still scored 53 points. In the playoffs he has 14 goals and 22 points in 14 games. Watson is also undersized at 5-10 and 170 pounds, but his puck handling skills are elite. His hand-eye coordination is second to none and he has soft hands that move the puck extremely quickly. He makes creative plays and passes using his offensive creativity and vision and has a bag full of toe drags, dipsy doodles and moves that are awe inspiring at times. His shot doesn’t seem to be overly powerful, but it is pin-point accurate and he has a sneaky quick release. The Kings found great value drafting Watson 209th overall in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.

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After listening to TSN’s Craig Button voice his concerns regarding Owen Tippett and Nicolas Hague on episode 14 of DobberProspects Radio I was keen to watch them live. On Tippett there is no doubting his size, skating and shot. He is a natural goal scorer and loves to shoot the puck. These skills project well to the NHL and could see him evolve into a solid goal scoring winger. But I did recognize that when he does not have the puck he can be difficult to notice. Button suggested he lacks hockey sense, and that is the most important skill to be an effective NHL player.

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The NHL Draft lottery will be held Saturday April 29th, while you wait be sure to check out the DobberProspects mock draft and look for an updated version of our mock draft after the lottery is held.