The OHL, CCHL, OJHL, QMJHL, US Prep, NAHL, NCAA and USHL leagues are of primary focus to our regional evaluators in the Eastern region. Early in the year there have been those who have stood out and those who have come out of the woodwork as surprises. Here are a few of those reports from our Eastern North American evaluators.
Sudbury Wolves @ Saginaw Spirit
Dow Event Center – October 26th 2019, 7:05 pm
Sudbury 5 vs. Saginaw 2
Quinton Byfield, C, #55, Sudbury Wolves (OHL), 6’4” 215 Lbs, DOB August 19, 2002
The former top OHL Priority selection has jumped out to an incredible start to the year. In this contest he did not disappoint with a couple of helpers and strong two-way play all night. His first helper was a rush from his own zone where he used his vision to pull over two defenders to himself in the neutral zone before making quick a tape to tape back pass to an open teammate, taking three long strides to get himself open, receiving the pass back just inside the offensive zone before setting up a teammate streaking to the net for a tap in. Real solid touch and go type pro style play. His second was a play where he rushed the puck up ice, stopped up, circled back around and found the open trailer for a quick shot. Both primary assists and both set-up off his creativity.
Strong, athletic build. Excellent skater, with a long powerful, effortless looking stride. Has small space quickness which is rare for big guys, especially those with his size and skilled hands combo. Very agile and uses his edges well. Hard to contain. Fights through contact. Drives to the net. Consistently wins one on one battles along the wall. Impressive hand-eye coordination, ability to knock down passes or tip pucks around the net. Smart and creative. Elite vision. Makes highly skilled passes and does so with a calmness about him. Has a powerful and deadly accurate wrist shot. Needs to work on getting his slap shot off a little quicker. Makes good reads and decisions both with and without the puck. Hard on the forecheck and uses his speed and reach to disrupt and force turnovers. Solid two-way instincts. The full package. He has the immense size, the high-end skill and unbelievable speed to be almost unstoppable. The only issue is that he does not always use his strength to the best of his abilities. He uses it to maintain possession and protect the puck but there are instances in every game I have watched where I wish he would have been harder on the puck or bulldozed his way to the net instead of settling for a passing option. He is smart enough to see how being more assertive could really elevate his game to elite. I see him closer to Lafreniere then say the Swedes at the top end of the draft. – Dan Stewart
Rimouski Oceanic @ Victoriaville Tigres
Colisee Desjardins – October 6th 2019, 4:00 pm
Rimouski 4 vs. Victoriaville 1
Alexis Lafreniere, LW, #11, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 6’1” 203 Lbs, DOB October 11, 2001
The reining CHL Player of the year is producing at well over two points per game. But he is not all razzle dazzle. On his first of two goals this day he drove to the net ahead of the play and waited for the Dmitry Zavgorodniy shot to come, quickly scooping up the small rebound and putting it home for what was eventually the game winner. He will make the pretty play but also knows the ugly goal has the same effect on the scoresheet.
A natural goal scorer with elite hockey sense and high compete level. Just as much a high-end playmaker with his elite vision and patience. Knows where everyone is at all times on the ice. Aggressive offensively. Drives and controls the pace of play, breaks down the oppositions defense with quick smart decisions. Elite offensive instincts. Patient and controlled with the puck. Has some of the best hand-eye coordination and ability to settle bouncing pucks I have seen in years. Quick, skilled hands make him dangerous to defend one-on-one and a goal scoring threat whenever he gets in close. Drives the net and looks for tips. After taking a shot off the rush he jumps into the slot looking for rebound chances. Possesses a heavy shot, quick release and ability to disguise its release point. Dangerous snap shot and one-timer. Utilizes all the traffic and screens he can generate. Picks the corners instead of just driving the puck on net. Solidly built and strong as an ox along the wall. Battles for pucks. Uses his physical strength to protect the puck, power his way around the ice and lay the body when the opportunity arises. Has strong balance with a wide skating stance. Agile and quick, his straight-line speed has improved over the past year to the point of no longer being considered a weakness however more work is needed to boost his first few steps to get them NHL ready. Uses his anticipation to contribute in his own zone as well. Gets himself into position to close lanes with his body and disrupt pucks with a quick stick as well. Nearly unstoppable when he plays with energy and intensity, which he tends to do for the most part, but he is not perfect and has had moments where he looks complacent and a little lazy. Is it too easy, is he just getting bored? No doubt this mature, confident winger will make an impact in the NHL next year. – Dan Stewart
Niagara IceDogs @ Barrie Colts
Colts Center – October 26, 2019, 7:30 PM
Niagara 3 vs. Barrie 4
Tyson Foerster, C, #71, Barrie Colts (OHL), 6’1” 193 Lbs, DOB January 18, 2002
Tyson had a great game. He was named first star in the game as he pumped in two goals on the night while playing against the IceDogs top line. Tyson showed some solid team first character early in the game standing up for his center man after a questionable hit. He also looks to have the trust of his coach to play important minutes on both sides of the puck. He brings energy with competitive edge to every shift. Tyson is a skilled right shot forward that came to the league as a center but has found a home on the wing. Playing on the wing has allowed Tyson to develop some chemistry with elite playmaker Ryan Suzuki.
A solid two-way winger who contributes all over the ice. He has strong straight-line speed but could improve his first couple steps. Even still he is more than capable to keep up with his fast line mates as his skating has improved a lot in the past year. He has skilled hands and shows creativity with the puck. He uses his size to hold on to and protect pucks in gritty areas. Owns a heavy shot that he uses to pick corners. A goal scorer mentality. Sets up at the one timer spot on his off wing much like Ovechkin on the power play. Natural offensive instincts and a high hockey IQ overall. Defensively he drives back deep into his own zone, closes off opponents and makes himself an option. He is excellent at transitioning the puck back to offense. After a growth spurt Tyson will continue to put on weight to fill out his tall frame and this will only provide more upside for his game. What makes him a safe pick by an NHL team is his ability to play down the line up if need be. – Matt Donald
Madison Capitols @ U.S. National Under-18 Team
USA Hockey Arena – Oct 20, 2019, 4:00 PM
Madison 1 vs. USNTDP U18 3
Ty Smilanic, LW, #28, U.S. National Under-18 Team (USHL), 6’1” 170 Lbs, DOB January 20, 2002
First time seeing Smilanic since last January and he looks like he has improved in more than one area of play. He looks faster, more coordinated, and like he has added some considerable strength since I last watched him. He scored the game winner in this contest as he received the puck off a pinch keep in by the defender, made a quick move to gain separation from a defender, protecting the puck with his body, skated towards the net, maked a power move pulling the puck from behind the goal line to the front of the net and scored using a quick wrister just over the goaltenders pad. Those are becoming typical plays by Smilanic who has drawn comparison to Detroit’s Dylan Larkin for his play.
Speedy, darting and offensively dangerous when he has the puck. Keeps his head up, sees the play develop and makes proper adjustments. Solid playmaker with impressive vision. Has the touch to make skilled passes, hitting his teammates in stride through tight lanes. Not overly physical but will use his strength and frame to his advantage to protect the puck. Has a fluid skating stride that generates impressive speed with what looks like very little effort. He is agile, darting quick and good on his edges. Strong offensive instincts and positioning. Instinctually goes to the net without the puck when he sees the play collapsing to the crease. Not afraid to shoot the puck. Incredibly quick wrist shot. Deadly release. Skilled hands and quick, agile feet make him hard to contain when he has the puck. High energy, fast and ferocious forechecker, works his tail off to disrupt. The hard working, smart, energetic, two-way center has yet to make a college commitment and is still likely a few years out from making the jump to the next level. Needs to continue adding strength and continue to work on his defensive position but he looks like a future top six two-way winger when that happens. – Dan Stewart