Talent evaluation is subjective by nature.
One scout will see a sure fire top six scorer while another scout might see a AHL journeyman. One might see a can’t miss prospect while the other scout might not see anything to get excited about.
At Draft Prospects Hockey we task our group of evaluators to not only breakdown skill sets of each prospect they observe and speak on progression from view to view, which is very important to track, but also to give their best assessment of what type of future player these kids could eventually become at the highest level in an attempt to give our readers an educated idea of what upside each NHL prospect might have. That can be a daunting task as much change happens between views in a season let alone in the time between viewing a seventeen-year-old boy to when that same boy becomes a twenty-five-year-old man playing at the NHL level. But if you look close enough the clues to make those projections are there.
Below are some select reports on some of the 2022 Draft Class taken from actual game reports. We hope you enjoy these monthly reports this season as we give you, our reader, a small sample of what our evaluators see on the ice.
February 2, 2022
Reaktor Nizhnekamsk vs Ladia Togliatti (MHL)
34 C Raul Yakupov, Reaktor Nizhnekamsk (MHL), 6’1”, 168, L, DOB 06.21.2004
Upright skater. Needs to bend and add some flexibility to his skating. He can skate his way down the ice with some power and create chances. Lacks elusive escape ability. When he was kept to the outside he managed to get a backhand on net for a shorthanded opportunity. Showed some patience not forcing a shot towards the net. On the power play, he could have fired the puck but recognized the chances of getting the puck on net was slim. Instead, he used his hands to carefully stop his shot and handle the puck, eventually moving it back to the point. Showed nice ability to win faceoffs. Attempted to regain possession on the power play by backchecking and stick lifting the puck carrier in the neutral zone. Creeps around the defensive zone picking up coverage. Turns his back to shield the puck and attempts to shove the opposition. Strong and competitive in the faceoff category of his position. When the puck is a 50/50 chance, he uses smarts and strength to tie up the opposing center, eliminating the option of using his stick. Either using his feet or waiting for his teammates to jump in, for the most part he can stand his ground on top of the circle. Sometimes his body language shows laziness. His feet stop moving, floats around the ice, and has his stick up by his waist. Almost as if he is waiting for the puck to come to him, rather than working to get the puck himself. He is a bit physical. Throws his body around, but it is not going to plaster someone to the glass.
February 5, 2022
Lethbridge Hurricanes vs Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
24 RW Josh Filmon, Swift Current (WHL), 6’2″, 159, L, DOB 03.18.2004
Josh is a tall, lean forward who is always active when he’s on the ice. For the most part he shows an average top speed that is powered by his quick feet and a nice even stride, but occasionally he will find an extra gear and get his feet to move a little faster allowing him to separate from pressure or help him win a puck race. He is good on his edges and is able to maneuver just as quickly as his feet move. He shows he has good puck control and is able to settle pucks quickly when he has to and can move them on nice and smoothly. He is able to control the puck near his top speed, but when he really wants to separate from the opposition, there is sometimes a lag from the thought of speeding up and keeping the puck on his stick. His feet start moving quicker before his head and hands can keep up. Usually he can maintain control, but sometimes, he results in a turned over puck. He does show good patience with the puck, especially on special teams and doesn’t just throw it away that often. He usually takes a second to look around and find his best options, and if he can’t find one, peels back and tries again. He shows good scoring ability as well as playmaking skill. He is fairly well rounded when it comes to this area of his game. He is equal parts shooter and passer. He has a quick wrist shot that he tries to let off as fast as he can while not allowing the goaltender to know it’s coming. He is accurate from within range (top of the circles down) and he is willing to let shots go from almost anywhere he can. His passing and playmaking are just as good as his scoring. He is able to spot streaking and open teammates and quickly dish off passes that lead to high quality scoring chances. He isn’t afraid to try higher risk passes to try and make plays happen. He has a well rounded IQ and is able to read plays as well as formations at both ends of the ice. His IQ is higher in the o-zone, but I expect that from a forward of his calibre. He also shows great anticipation in the o-zone and has an ability to know when to pressure with more intensity to create a turnover in his favor. Physically, he doesn’t play a hard game. He will use his body to separate the opponent from the puck when he needs to, but you won’t see him make bone crushing hits every shift. Defensively Josh is active, but not often a noticeable defender. He does well to chip the puck out and chase them down, and he is effective at pressuring the defense at the blue line and making them rush their movements. Josh plays a nice, even offensive game with two-way ability. He has nice puck moving and shooting skills that will translate well at the next level. I think he could be a 5th round choice this draft and has potential to be a middle six player at the next level.
February 5th, 2022
Guelph Storm vs Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
4 D, Michael Buchinger, Guelph (OHL), 6’0”, 185, L, DOB 04.25.2004
Buchinger is a well-rounded rearguard that provides plays on both offence and defence. Had an impressive game and was noticeable for almost the entire game. He plays both special teams and his work on the penalty kill was solid. Using his mobility to actively get our from the front of his net and pressure. Places his stick and body in the way of passes and shots. Displays an effective reaching stick while defending the rush that can stifle zone entries for the other team. Pair that with a great gap control and he’s a reliable defender against the rush. An aspect to his transitional defence is due to his effortless skating ability. He moves well in all four directions. Smooth back skater with great lateral mobility and can lead the attack up the ice by activating his feet on the breakout. Possesses high-end awareness, hockey sense, and play recognition shown in his puck movement at both ends of the rink. His puck distribution on zone exits were solid. He does have trouble making a play on his backhand. Connected on his stretch passes and made sure his zone exit passes were crisp and hard. Does a great job waiting for the lane to be open. Offensively he made smart slip passes back to a teammate covering him at the point after pinching on a 50/50 puck on the boards. His awareness allows him to recognize plays and execute on them to set up his teammates. His shots were kept low from the point and attributed to his teams first goal of the game. An area I’d like to see him improve on is his ability to play the body. Buchinger has second paring NHL potential and is a mid-round prospect in my books, possible a late second rounder.
February 13, 2022
St Michaels vs Caledon (OJHL)
5 RD, Jack Sparkes, St Michaels (OJHL), 6’8, 229, R, 10-20-2003
Jack Sparkes is a long rangey defender that takes up a ton of room on the blue line. He plays for the Buzzers in the OJHL and is a part of a strong defensive group. He uses his size well to impact the game in different ways. That means physicality is there, long reach and active stick plus a long lanky stride that helps him get around with ease. He is surprisingly coordinated for his size and seems to be pretty solid at 229lbs. Some of the hits he threw in this one were heavy and exactly why he will be drafted. He started on the top pairing in a shut down role against the top line. He plays top line penalty kill and second unit power play. I will say I love how he knows what his game is and doesn’t force it. Not much offense despite a heavy shot. The wind up is just way too long and predicable. Will need work on his foot work along the blue line to get shots through as he’s a pretty stationary shooter from the point. His first step isn’t the quickest but he relies on strong edge work and a long stride to create speed. Sparkes forced a long pass a couple times and they ended up working out so I wonder if he does have some more offense to his game that is mostly playmaking. If he can work on the release he will also end up getting way more goals for a kid who already fires the puck heavy. He seems to have solid vision when he makes his first pass it is usually the quick and smart play. Defensively is where he makes his bread. He threw a huge hit in this one along the boards that sent his opposition flying. Likewise he took one he didn’t like and came back with some cross checks and a fight. Not afraid to get into it clearly and at his size that’s an element NHL teams will love. I have him as a later round pick in the NHL draft. He projects as a shut down bottom pair defender due to his size and edge.
February 13, 2022.
Leksand IF J20 vs Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
22 RW Joel Ratkovic-Berndtsson, Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell), 6’0’’,179, L, DOB 10.18.2003
A tough winger with many offensive skill sets. Ratkovic has had a great season thus far as he is over a point per game player who keeps producing and working hard night in and night out. He is a player that loves to have speed under his skates and there is nothing strange with that as he possesses a rapid and fluid skating technique. His first steps are frenetic and explosive, and he follows them nicely with athletic long powerful strides. Skilled to carry the puck at this speed with his smooth stickhandling and creative mind, doesn´t panic when he´s facing an opponent as he often makes a small body deke or a fast change or direction to get past. In addition to his skill is he a player who has an amount of grit to his game, not afraid of the physical game and likes to enter the dirty areas on the ice. Can for instance throw a heavy hit on his aggressive forechecks and be involved in scrums in the corners or in front of the net. His strongest attributes are in the offensive zone, he has good positioning with his hockey sense as he always seems to appear in the right areas to release his shot or pick up a loose puck or rebound. Shows overall a great creativity and finesse in the offensive zone with smart opening passes and a confidence on the puck that results in crafty yet unexpected dekes in tight time-pressured situations. Plays a huge role with the man advantage, often the one who creates the easy entries to establish pressure. Exhibits great movement on the powerplay as well to be open and ready to release his hard accurate wrister that is a goal scorer’s shot. On the downside, can appear inactive and stationary in the defensive play, his positioning is decent, however it would be nice to see him use that hunger that shows offensively in the defensive zone as well. Ratkovic is a lethal scoring winger who is a constant offensive threat with his qualities, and I must say I’m a bit surprised that his name doesn’t get mentioned more when it comes to discussions about the upcoming NHL-draft.
February 18, 2022
The Winchendon School vs Dexter Southfield (USHS-Prep)
8 RW Grayson Badger, Dexter Southfield (USHS-Prep), 6’0”, 172, R, DOB 5.09.2004
Maximum effort, scoring forward. Plays every shift like it is his last. He loves to attack through the neutral zone with speed. He plays a very north-south game and pushes the puck up the ice quickly. He has great straight-line speed, and he leaves defenders in the dust at this level. He has a great ability of getting leverage on opponents and using his speed to either create high danger chances or draw penalties. As he moves up to the next level, he will need to work on his deceptiveness coming through the neutral zone. He did not seem to have much creativity with the puck. In the offensive zone, he is always throwing pucks into dangerous areas in front of the net. Good things usually happen when he is on the puck. He crashes the net hard for rebounds. He is not the biggest guy, but he is not scared to throw his body around. He chases down loose pucks often and engages in puck battles. As he fills out his frame, he will only become more effective in fighting for 50/50 pucks. He has some work to do defensively. He shows a lot of effort, but he should work on his positioning to be more effective. One thing that is important to note is his team-first mentality. He is quick to compliment others for his own success and does not blame others for mistakes. He is the type of player that people love playing with because he makes people around him better. He is a player that is easy to root for, and by all accounts, he is an amazing teammate and leader. Badger has tremendous upside, given his drive, making him a hot commodity in the middle rounds of the 2022 NHL entry draft. If all goes well in his development, he could become a two-way middle 6 forward in the NHL.