While the attention of the hockey world is currently on the Czech Republic and the exciting 2020 IIHF U20 World Junior Championships, we have a review of the top draft eligible participants that recently took part at the World Jr. A Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John British Columbia on December 7-15, 2019.

Teams from Canada West, Canada East, Russia, Czech Republic and the United States all took part and the event produced some impressive performances as well as a few lackluster ones from names we were expecting more from. DraftPro had two sets of eyes on the event and offer this review of ten participating 2020 draft eligible performers.

Canada West

Carter Savoie, C, Sherwood Park (AJHL), 5-10, 195, DOB 1.23.2002
“Savoie is a skilled forward having himself a breakout season for Sherwood Park in the AJHL. He boasts a strong frame for a winger despite having some room to grow still. His weight helps him really whip his stick when he is shooting. Savoie has a unique ability to score when around the net because of quick hands and mind. Savoie boasts an accurate wrist shot from the outside as well. He was used on the power play for Canada West on his off wing. Trying to open up his forehand the power play was often looking for the triggerman Savoie. Although there was hype surrounding Carter heading into the tournament, I was a little disappointed in his consistency and effort. He showed flashes of his raw talent producing 2 goals in the 4 games he played. I think Savoie has the speed and stride to keep up at the next level, as it will only get stronger over time. His best part of his skating is his edge work allowing him to beat defenders side to side on the stop of a dime. His hockey IQ leads me to believe he will figure out some intangibles to bring to his game when the points aren’t coming. I would like to see Savoie bring a bit more energy on a shift-to-shift basis. There were some shifts that you can tell the talented winger was feeling confident due to his hunt for the puck. However, at times he was stagnant and waiting for something to happen.” – DraftPro evaluator Matt Donald

Michael Benning, D, Sherwood Park (AJHL), 5-9, 177, DOB 1.5.2002
“Expected to lead from the back end for Canada West he really didn’t show much of that dynamic skill set that makes him a top prospect for the upcoming draft in June. Slower first couple of steps but he’s more of an agile skater than an explosive one. Transitions the puck up the ice efficiently hitting his teammates in stride consistently breaking out of the zone, a really good passer. Loves to shoot the puck, tends to use a slapshot when shooting and normally keeps his shot low. His mobility helps him keep a good gap control and I did like his defensive awareness stepping up at the blueline and in the neutral zone to disrupt the rush. His overall positioning is pretty good, doesn’t get caught too much. Covers the man in front but shows his lack of strength when trying to outmuscle and tie up sticks. Doesn’t just do one thing extremely well instead does multiple things well. Has potential to be a solid puck moving defenseman playing in transition.” – DraftPro evaluator Jared Brown

Canada East

Ryan Alexander, C, St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL), 5-10, 162, DOB 6.17.2002
“Alexander has a great engine that never dies when chasing for the puck, but his skill level is not high enough to generate multiple scoring chances on his own during a game. Liked how he positioned himself in the neutral zone to steal passes and is strong on his stick to strip players. His skating is just not up to par when he has the puck, foot speed isn’t quick enough to break away, create space and he struggles to make plays under pressure. Multiple times he would try and get a pass off through traffic, but he just doesn’t have the finesse to slide passes through tight spaces, he was also trying to set up his teammates more than showing he can take it and score himself. Needs to work on a lot of areas in his game.” – Brown

Devon Levi, G, Carleton Place (CCHL), 6-0, 183, DOB 12.27.2001
“Levi is a big goaltender for Carleton Place in the CCHL. Devon had an excellent tournament for Canada East as their starting goalie. He was a big part in the success that team East achieved as Levi provided a steady presence all tournament. Levi is athletic in the crease and made multiple high-end second and third saves. Levi is sound off the rush cutting down angles and attacking the top of the crease to chance the shooters view. Levi never gives up on a puck battling in his crease trying to stop everything even if it seems he is out of it. He also battles in his crease to look for pucks and the shooting lanes. Never satisfied with his view he is in constant motion making sure he is in the right position. Levi is great at playing the puck as he is able to help his team with the break out on dump ins. Hard crisp passes were simple breakouts for the Canada East defense thanks to Levi anticipating dump ins.” – Donald


Vasili Ponomaryov, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL), 6-0, 176, DOB 03.13.2002
“My expectations were high for him coming into the tournament with how well he played in his last two previous international tournaments and I came away not disappointed. His biggest strength was on full display though, his skating, can outright skate until his legs fall off. Gains speed effortlessly and uses that speed to hunt down the puck, force turnovers, get back defensively, and to make sure he is back up in the rush to generate offense. I rarely see him take shifts off, playing with such intensity and drive to be the best on the ice. His skillset mixed with his speed allows him to gain zone entries easily and take that each second to move around the zone before rushing a pass. Liked his ability to read a play developing in the offensive zone, wanted to see more of a finishing touch from him. Regularly was in support to help his defense out. He didn’t create as many chances as fellow countryman Daniil Gushchin but he plays a more complete game.” – Brown

Yan Kuznetsov, D, University of Connecticut (HE), 6-3, 186, DOB 9.3.2002
“Kuznetsov is a powerful blue liner playing for the University of Conneticut in Hockey East and plays a big role on the blue line in the NCAA at 17 years old this season. Yan is a big solid defender that will grow even more and has some offensive upside to his game despite being a shut down defender. He was able to pick up 1 assist in 5 games this tournament in a shutdown role for Russia. He has a heavy shot and has great vision to make smart passes. He has the skating ability to join the rush or lead the rush as well as get back if he gets caught. Speed and edges are hard to realize because he plays so heavy. However, watching opposition trying to outskate him makes you realize he can pivot and really motor for a big guy. He is excellent at timing open ice hits and uses his physicality to buy him more time with intimidation. Lots of opportunities were shied away from at this tournament because of his presence on the blue line. His hockey IQ is excellent as well as he reads the play well and is able to direct traffic. He confidently is able to play man on man with big strong players as well as small shifty ones. His quick smart passes to break out help make sure he is not stuck in his end for lengthy shifts. Yan showed poise on the blue line and was really looked to as a lead by example type of player. Blocking shots and shift-to-shift energy was a big reason Kuznetsov was able to help bring Russia a gold medal.” – Donald

Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Tolpar UFA (MHL), 6-3, 190, DOB 1.10.2002
“He is a tall lanky defender playing for Tolpar UFA in Russia and was the Russians most electrifying defender offensively all tournament long. A tall and skinny build which gives him room to grow into his body as he ages. He will most likely play at a body composition close to Victor Hedman. Shakir is an elite skater already and is effortless with his speed and edge work. He can move forwards and backwards at the same speed and change directions fluidly. His skating allows him to be a one man break out and push the pace of play offensively. He is also confident with the puck making tricky passes through traffic or stick handling. Shakir joins the rush a ton and is mobile enough to get back if caught. The biggest part of Shakir’s game will be the adjustment of reading when to stay back. Several times this tournament Shakir was the most electrifying player on the ice with end-to-end rushes that looked effortless. However, there are still times when his team has the lead that he needed to simplify his game. Shakir has a game breaking intangible in his slap shot. He can absolutely fire the puck and is a power play and 5 on 5 weapons because of this. Shakir was able to pick up 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 games including the gold medal over time winner on a slap shot.” – Donald

Daniil Gushchin, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL), 5-9, 167, DOB 6.2.2002
“He has been one of my favourite Russian prospects since last year at the WHC -U17 tournament and he continues to get better. Offensively dangerous every time he has the puck on his stick, Gushchin has high-end talent and skill set that drives the pace of play. Speed is the way the game is progressing too and that benefits him with how quick his feet and hands are. Loves to carry the puck into the zone and stop up along the boards opening up the ice and spreading out the defense. Attack him and he will find a way to burn you getting a pass off through which he frequently did throughout this tournament; he was setting up teammates for grade A scoring chances. Great hands that make him dangerous in tight around the net, gets a lot of velocity off his wrist shot, but needs to work on his accuracy. Has a fuel tank that never runs out, is always skating whether he has the puck or not. Doesn’t play very physical and being a smaller forward will make NHL teams watch him in those areas on the ice.” – Brown


Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago (USHL), 5-11, 177, DOB 22.10.2001
“Brisson is a center playing for Chicago in the USHL and excelling in all 3 zones. He really was the most offensively impactful player at this JRAC. Not only was he used as a shut down player he was still the 1st line center used to produce points. Brisson finished the JRAC with the lead in points and just 1 shy of the tournament record with 12. He also did an amazing job on the penalty kill and trying to shut down stars from the other teams 5-on-5. His ability to produce on the powerplay was better than expected as well. Brendan has a high hockey IQ that allows him to see the game like a game breaking forward. He has a heavy release that is sneaky and on the goaltender very quickly. Very little wind up before he snaps the puck on his release. I think Brendan will produce at the next level because of the way he scores his goals. He can score from any area on the ice and is not shy to go the dirty areas on the ice. I see a bit of Nazem Kadri in Brisson because of the physical edge they bring with a skilled package. His edge and ability to play every role should make him a riser in the upcoming NHL draft. The edge Brendan brings is his best asset to his total package. The captain shows his character every single shift and leads by example as well as vocally. He was whipping back draws at an impressive rate on the penalty kill and power play, which was a big reason in the USA having success. Brisson is an average skater, as he doesn’t have the shiftiest of feet despite being a solid straight-line player. Once Brendan sees open ice, he is able to pick up speed and use his skill set and frame to make plays. His JRAC really opened a lot of scout’s eyes to Brisson and his unique 2-way ability.” – Donald

Sean Farrell, LW/C, Chicago (USHL), 5-9, 175, DOB 11.2.2001
“He is a small forward playing for Chicago in the USHL who has an electric skill set from soft hands, to quick edges and offensive creativity. He finished in a tie for the tournament lead in goals with 5 in 6 games. Sean has a skill set that allows him to be a power play specialist. He is a perfect triggerman and can also play the half boards to run the play. He has excellent hockey sense and vision and uses it to spring his teammates into goal scoring areas. Farrell made several soft area passes showing his skilled hands, vision and creativity. He also has an excellent motor for a skilled player. He brings energy every shift. He hunts the puck on the fore-check and the back check with a good stick causing turnovers. He is a threat off the rush as well due to his ability to beat you wide or pull up and make a play. Farrell has a unique release that allows him to pick corners from far out. Sean has a more accurate shot than it is heavy. He was able to score from outside on shots picking corners off the rush as well as rebound goals from the dirty areas. He moves side to side so quickly it is hard to catch the body when trying to hit Sean. He knows there to be on the ice at the right times and is rarely out of position. This gave the USA coach confidence in Sean to play in the last minute when protecting a lead.” – Donald

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