By DraftPro Staff

Let’s face it, the 2021 NHL Draft is looking like a weaker crop.

When we watch games in all playing regions there are fewer prospects driving the play and making an impact than there was last season.

What we do see is a handful of high-end prospects who look like surefire future NHLers, but no real superstars in the mix. And then a bushel basket full of names who show promise but also have some weaknesses that will need correcting if they plan to carve out NHL careers.

That is not to say that a few of these names will not develop into franchise talents, just that at this stage in the evaluation process that forecast is less than ideal.

Regardless of that every crop has NHL talent and it is our job to find it. Our evaluators have been using the InStat service, among others, to make sure we get up-to-date video views on all the active prospects around the world so we can continue to build the book on each prospect who will be eligible for future drafts as well as the 2021 draft, whenever that is.

Ahead of our upcoming February rankings release we congregated electronically to debate those prospects we see as rising as well as those who are dropping based on our recent views.

There are those who are obvious risers in our discussion such as World Junior champ Matty Beniers, USHL scoring leader and hard worker Matt Coronato and NTDP puck rusher Luke Hughes, but there are also a few names that are less obvious that stood out to our staff.

Winger Ayrton Martino of Omaha Lancers in the USHL, who left the OJHL that was still on hold for a chance to play this season and boy are we glad he did, has been lighting it up in his first half dozen contests.

“Martino is a skilled player that has a high offensive IQ. He was dominant in the OJHL last season and the only knock was could he produce against top competition. Well after his first week in the USHL it looks like that production will continue.” said Draft Prospects Hockey evaluator Matt Morrison.

DraftPro Head NA Scout Jared Brown added, “I like Martino’s soft touch with the puck and overall, the games I’ve seen of Martino he’s impressed me.”

There was talk of Martino’s name on par with a few prospects seen as bubble first round talents meaning his stock is sure to rise in the February release.

Another kid who is really making our evaluators excited recently is Chicago defender Ryan Ufko who has made us take notice each time one of our evaluators views a Chicago Steel game.

“The smallish blueliner has been a pleasant surprise as he really is a strong two-way blueliner who not only moves the puck up ice but can drive the attack.  He is calm with the puck, shows excellent vision and smarts. His defensive game is coming along as well.” said DraftPro Director Dan Stewart.

Brown adds “Patient with the puck. Rarely looks flustered or in a panic. Constantly has his head up surveying the ice. Though he is undersized, it is a nice sight to see him step up and lay a big hit at his line.”

Gatineau Olympiques’ center Zach Dean is a high impact type forward that while he might have only played a handful of games this season has our guys buzzing none the less.

“I really, really, like Zach Dean’s game. That guy is a player and the type that will do anything to help his team. Not the most skilled, but he’s dedicated to win, he’s always involved at both ends of the ice. He leads by example whenever he’s on the ice. His tenacity helps him win puck battles even though he isn’t the strongest player.” said DraftPro Evaluator Alexandre Gaucher.

“I watched Zach Dean when he was the Toronto Nationals AAA team in his Minor Midget year, he was their leader. They had Ryan Del Monte, he was their skilled offensive weapon, but Dean was someone who could be relied on in all situations and his skating is so sharp and quick that I think it’ll be an asset when turning Pro and playing in tight.” added Brown.

Other risers that were discussed include Justin Robidas, Oliver Kapanen, Jesper Wallstedt, Tristan Broz, David Gucciardi, Jack Peart, Shai Buium, Jack Bar, Tyler Dunbar, Chase Stillman, Brennan Othmann, Dylan Duke, Alexander Kisakov, Nikita Guslistov, Innokenti Rybin, Cameron Berg and Red Savage.

There is still lots of season left to showcase skills and move up or even down the rankings, these names have already stood out in a positive way.

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