By DraftPro Staff

Each gameday DraftPro Scouts can be found in the corner seats of junior rinks watching the next wave of talent develop into potentially one day becoming the next Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, or Andrei Vasilevskiy.

At DraftPro we want to share some of those reports gathers from those views in this feature we call “From the Corner Seats”. For the first instalment we bring you game reports from earlier this fall.

October 13, 2023
Prince George Cougars 4 vs Kelowna Rockets 5 (WHL)
Prospera Place, Kelowna B.C.
DraftPro Scout: Matt Hnatiuk

11 F, Tij Iginla, Kelowna Rockets (WHL), 6’0″, 181, L, DOB 08.01.2006

Tij is a growing power forward who is starting to play more like his father. He has a powerful skating stride and stance and uses it well to propel himself around the ice. His pace is about average, but it’s his ability to turn his backside towards an opponent and make himself about 8 feet wide and protect the puck. This ability makes him very useful to maintain puck possession as well as create offense out of nothing. His ability to control zone exits and entries is directly tied to his ability to protect the puck. He has a near NHL level shot (again similar to his fathers) and he can get it away quickly. He plays a methodically thought out game and sees the ice well at both ends of the rink. Being an Iginla, there is no questioning his compete level, ever. The only thing I would like to see him develop and use more is the physical/aggressive side of his game. He can show flashes of it, but it is never consistent. As a player who can play in any situation, and be plugged into any position up front and perform as required, Tij should be looked at as a top player this season.

October 14, 2023
Rouyn-Noranda vs Cap Breton – QMJHL
Centre 200
DraftPro Scout: Samuel Laplant

3 D Tomas Lavoie, Cap Breton (QMJHL), 6’4”, 220, R, DOB 03.31.2006

An extremely reliable defenseman on both sides of the ice. His defensive game is excellent. He uses his long reach so well to block opponents’ passing lines. That’s one of the reasons he’s used on the power play kill. He’s rarely beaten 1-on-1 because of his stick work and positioning. He positions himself well to either block the opponent’s space with his stick or to just poke-check the opponent. In front of the net, Lavoie isn’t afraid to let his presence be known by pushing the opponent and sometimes even cross-checking them. It’s also quite rare for an opposing player to take advantage of a puck in front of the net. He’s very good at using his strength, his physical game and his stick to prevent them from making a play. When an opposing player gets too close to his goalie, he doesn’t hesitate to protect him and push him off. Lavoie already has the physique of an NHL player. He finishes his checks well and separates the player from the puck. He wins his battles along the boards where he uses his physical play or his stick to retrieve the puck. His passing game is what makes him reliable in his zone. His first pass is excellent and he always makes the simple play. He moves well with the puck to give himself a better passing line. His first 3-4 strides allow him to create a good distance between himself and a player trying to chase him into his own zone. This acceleration also allows him to support the attack and carry the puck into the offensive zone. His skating stroke is very interesting for his size. He handles the puck well, but he’s not considered a player with a lot of skill handling. He tries to make 1-on-1 moves but gets the puck taken away because his hands aren’t fast enough. His slapshot is powerful. Cap Breton uses it very often on the powerplay. He’s also very intelligent in his shot selection. He shoots when there’s traffic in front of the net or when a teammate is heading for the net to deflect. However, his wrist shot needs more precision. He often shoots over the net. Lavoie is very intelligent. His decisions are smart and that’s why he’s an extremely reliable player. He reminds me of Alex Pietriangelo, only faster. In my opinion, if he’s still available in the second half of the first round, I’d jump on him.

October 21, 2023
Torpedo Nizhny 4 vs Amur Khabarovsk 2
Trade Union Sports Palace
DraftPro Scout: Tyler Ballesteros-Willard

21 D, Anton Silayev, Russia (Torpedo, KHL), 6’7”, 207, L, DOB 04.11.2006

Anton Silayev is the definition of the future when it comes to big, strong and agile defensemen. He has such tremendous transitioning and edgework to the point where he looks like he is gliding on water. Anton Silayev is the definition of a smooth and patient defensive defenseman who has tremendous raw offensive upside. Yes he may not be the fastest skating defenseman on the ice as due to his size, he does not have the same quickness in feet, but the way he transitions, his lateral movement alone is equivalent to NHL worthy skating. When it comes to defining what raw means on his offensive upside, he is very opportunistic at shooting the puck from the point as each shot is a missile. The aspect that is raw is that he absolutely needs to refine his accuracy as many times he likes to shoot high during screens which goes over the goaltender. When discussing his puck handling abilities, he absolutely needs to work on his hand speed when deking as his moves can be telegraphed by the opponents. Not many can get the biscuit off of him due to his fantastic body positioning. When it comes to his passing, this is by far his best aspect of his puck skills as every pass comes flat and crisp, even with the high saucers from end to end. Even though he has such a big frame, it seems like he does not necessarily like to throw the body so much which there is some work needed at effectively throwing many checks to become NHL worthy. The highlighting aspect of Silayev’s game is absolutely the way he vision’s the game. It seems that every play, he understands the aspect of using proper stick work when stopping a pass, as well as him seemingly being in the perfect position in any situation which because of this, not many teams pass through him. With no mistake about it, Anton Silayev is the future of big and agile defensemen as he is a crucial candidate to be selected top 10 in the 2024 NHL draft similar to his counter part Dmitri Simashev.

October 27, 2023
Windsor Spitfires vs Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Budweiser Garden
DraftPro Scout: Zach Morris

66 RW Liam Greentree, Windsor (OHL), 6’2” 198lbs, L, DOB 01.01.2006

Greentree is the offensive powerhouse for the Spitfires and although he only record one primary assist, it was extremely evident. He was all over the ice controlling play and dominating possession in the offensive zone. His skating looked extremely smooth and was a key part of his game. He displayed excellent open face skating as well as edge work to get by defenders and keep them off of him. When leading the rush you could see his high level stickhandling ability on full display. He was deeking by opponents and moving his stick in a way that was very William Nylander esq. He has excellent scoring instincts and isn’t afraid to shoot. In tight he has great hands and a deadly backhand shot. One downside is he is sometimes hesitant to pass the puck and holds on too long trying to create a scoring chance. Instead he should look to reset and hope another opportunity will arise or just ensure the team keeps possession.

November 5th 2023
New Jersey 8 vs Nichols 5 (USHS-Prep)
Northtowns Center
DraftPro Scout: Steven Pratas

2 D Jack Sullivan, Nichols School (USHS-Prep), 6’1”, 174, L, DOB 03.24.2006

Jack plays an offensively active game as his shot gives him the ability to exploit the opposition when they’re out of position. He’s able to quickly turn his hips when receiving the puck on the point or from the top of the circle and release a missile toward the net. The power he produces is quite impressive as noted from his back leg being lifted into the air after his wind up. Sullivan is a true leader on the ice, he eats up most ice time on the team, plays in all situations, and heavily relied on to produce on the score sheet. He plays the same game despite the score and isn’t easily demotivated. Smooth skater, edgework from forward to backward starting is done in a split-second. He’s able to swiftly get into proper position after gliding into the play. Powerplay specialist, his playmaking ability really shows on the man advantage. Accurate passer through traffic and sticks. His neutral zone coverage and gap control is usually excellent, but his active stick often breaks up plays from occurring. Beating him on the inside is a challenging mission for forwards, he constantly has his eyes on their chest rather than the puck. Towering at 6’1”, Jack uses his body to hide the puck when being pressured and isn’t afraid to lay the body in the open ice. Sullivan oozes confidence with the puck even when heavily pursued, he often acts as if there’s no one around him. Plays a heavy game when taking opponents on-on-one, which can cause penalties. Excels at being the last line of defense as he understands when or not to pinch along the boards. His vision up the ice is very inconsistent as he doesn’t take advantage of the opposition’s long changes and tired players. Sullivan doesn’t make the correct passes to his wingers at times which causes him to turn back toward his goal ultimately causing turnovers. Urgency and awareness are a weakness, communication with his d-partner may be the culprit.

November 11th, 2023
Green Bay 5 v Lincoln 2 (USHL)
Resoch Center
DraftPro Scout: Andy Miller

2 Adam Kleber, D, Lincoln Stars (USHL), R, 6’4”, 210, DOB 3.24.2006

Kleber moves well for a big player. He is a defender who can jump up in the play and he is able to recover with some speed and get back in time often. Kleber is a very good player at boxing out at the net front. He makes excellent reads on the ice and often intercepts the pass to turn the puck out of the defensive zone. Kleber could improve his lateral movement, it looks laboured at times. He is a good defender who can gauge players speed and use effective gap control to limit their speed. Kleber has an ability to see the ice and retain that information when going into the corner to retrieve the puck and be able to initiate the breakout under pressure. He is miserable to play against when he is on the penalty kill, but needs to ensure he doesn’t run around for hits and focuses on protecting the net front. Kleber has a nice long reach and capably uses that to get in the passing lanes. He makes good passes and reads, but is not an elite passer. He is a player who consistently makes a good decision. Kleber can jump up into the play and has a shot that can be tough to stop. He can get his shot off quickly when needed. If things go well in his development he could be an Ian Cole/Ben Chiarot type defender in a few years, likely a solid second pair defenseman. He is worth a look in the late second or third round in the upcoming draft.

November 11, 2023
Calgary Hitmen vs Edmonton Oil Kings – WHL
Rogers Place
DraftPro Scout: Colin Johnson

26 D Carter Yakemchuk, Calgary Hitmen (WHL), 6’3’’, 194, R, DOB 2005.09.29

A better game than I’ve seen him play previously. He did less rushing of the puck and made more outlet passes to exit the zone. Unfortunately, he still has some major red flags in his game. Decision making is questionable as he makes low percentage attempts for plays and is making the extra move rather than passing the puck because he is looking to open up a lane for himself. He is a primarily shoot fist defenceman and isn’t looking to get his teammates involved. Lastly, he is a player that plays on the edge a lot causing him to take unnecessary bad penalties. These are significant question marks in his game that don’t seem to be fixing themselves and pose an issue to his transferability to the next level. The undisputed part about is that he is massively talented. Big body, strong and willing to be physical defensively. A good skater that uses footwork in the offensive zone and speed to exit and enter the zones. Most importantly is his shot. It is just an elite level shot that could score on NHL goalies right now. Both wrist shot and slap shot are powerful with deadly accuracy. He pinpoints exactly where he wants to put each shot and doesn’t normally miss his spot. If his game matures and he begins to use his teammates more he will be a top offensive defenceman from this draft. But due to his lack of awareness on defence, where he looks lost at occasionally, he doesn’t project out as a great two-way defender until his effort from the offensive end is transferred to the defensive end.

November 17, 2023
Fargo 4 USNTDP 5
USA Hockey Arena
DraftPro Scout: Liam Staples

23 D Cole Hutson, USNTDP, 5’10” 158 L. 28-06-2006

Cole is a smooth skating defenceman and similar to his brother Lane, Cole is also a pass first, puck moving defenceman. The first impression of Cole was noticing how well he plays defensively with his stick. Cole managed to time his challenge with his stick well and did not get burned by getting his timing wrong. Listed at 5’10” Cole is a smaller defenceman that relies on mobility and efficient puck moving. A common trend NHL teams are strongly taking into consideration when drafting a defenseman is the prospects height. The last five Stanley Cup Champions, St. Louis, Tampa Bay x2, Colorado and Vegas, all had defencemen on their playoff roster listed as six feet or taller, there are two exceptions to this trend with Samuel Girard and Cale Makar on Colorado listed as 5’10” and 5’11” respectfully, but every hockey fan would tell you, both are elite level defencemen and a very rare commodity to come by. A positive for Hutson is he will have several years for his body to develop and grow into a bigger and stronger frame although this trend is an important thought to consider. The trend is not saying to avoid drafting or never draft defenceman listed as under six feet, the trend is saying that NHL organizations that are successful in the playoffs winning the Stanley Cup have focused on building their blueline on defenceman that are tall and strong because they know they will be relied upon to take heavy damage and punishment during a Stanley Cup run. Defencemen that are smaller are more susceptible to injury from obtaining heavy punishing hits against larger forwards game in and game out for four rounds of the playoffs. Hutson is a skilled-puck moving defenceman, he has a good habit of checking his shoulder to observe the ice before skating in for a puck retrieval and showed he is capable of making breakout passes to teammates while under pressure from his opponent. An interesting note made about Hutson from his viewing against Fargo was his ability to draw in his opponent to then spin off of him to skate off in the other direction. This is a very effective maneuver for smaller players battling against larger opponents in the corner as it will allow the player to protect the puck better as well as create separation space from his opponent to skate into open ice. Hutson plays cool defensively and does not show a lot of panic to his game, he did make a few errors in the defensive zone leading to turnovers, if he can limit errors in the defensive zone, his stock will rise.

November 19, 2023
HC Plzen 4 vs Rytiri Kladno 2 (Tipsport Extraliga)
CEZ Stadium
DraftPro Scout: Brogan Houston

5, RD Adam Jiricek, HC Plzen (Tipsport Extraliga), 6’1”, 152, R, DOB 6.28.2006

As a 152-pound 17-year-old playing among fully grown men in the Czech Extraliga, Adam Jiricek holds his own. Once he grows a little more, he will dominate — and judging by the size of his older brother, David Jiricek, he could put on three inches and 50 pounds. Jiricek excels at both ends of the ice, although his statline doesn’t show it. In the offensive zone, he plays the quarterback position, and does quite well under pressure from the opposing team’s wingers. He makes lots of nifty passes around defenders in the offensive zone to set his teammates up. Think of Quinn Hughes in the offensive zone — that’s Adam Jiricek. In his own end, Jiricek is the most fearless shot blocker in his draft class. He’d much prefer to take a shot to the legs than have the puck stay in his zone for another second. His positioning on the penalty kill is also something to write home about. He covers two attackers at once, blocking them from passing to each other and shooting. If he can do this in the NHL, he will be very valuable. Jiricek’s first pass is also excellent. In one instance in Sunday’s game against Rytiri Kladno, Jiricek broke up a rush and immediately sprung a 50-foot pass off the boards to his teammate, who then had a one-on-one chance. Jiricek had several other notable first passes that could have turned into goals. At the moment, Jiricek has zero points through 16 games in the big league. Last year, however, he potted 12 goals and 29 points in 41 games at the U-20 level. As he grows and adjusts to the more rigourous style of play, his offensive game should improve to at least what it was last year. Jiricek has the chance to be a star defenseman in the NHL, although he will have to grow and develop more before that dream becomes a reality.