2017 NHL Draft

10 Draft Prospects You

Should Know About

Steve Kournianos  |  1/3/2017 |  New York  |  

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  • Jonah Gadjovich

  • Emil Bemstrom

  • Patrik Hrehorcak

  • Jesse Bjugstad

  • Maxim Zhukov

  • Mason Shaw

  • Jesse Koskenkorva

  • Pavel Koltygin

  • Alexandre Texier

  • Connor Gutenberg

New York (The Draft Analyst) — They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, but that axiom doesn’t necessarily apply to scouting teenage hockey players. One of the more enjoyable things about critiquing prospects for any kind of draft is creating a list of players who caught your eye at one point or another, then doubling back at a later point to see if they confirmed or denied the original assessment. Some of the notable players will hover around the top of pre-draft rankings regardless of production and/or upside, while others simply never get as much as a mention. Nevertheless, below is a list of 10 players who really stood out over the last two months who in out view are deserving of a long look heading right up to Draft Day.

LW Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound, OHL | 10/12/98, 6’2/201): Sturdy power winger with average speed but a willingness to take a beating while traversing direct routes to the net. Gadjovich’s stick is always in the right position and he makes a habit out of getting to the spot he wants and looking to tip shots home. His hands are quick enough to corral shots off the end boards and bring the puck on his stick for stuff-in attempts, and he’s quite difficult to move off the puck in one-on-one situations. His lack of speed makes him an easy target for a double team effort, but most of these attempts are futile. Gadjovich has been red hot of late, racking up points in 15 of his last 18 games, including three straight with two goals or more.

C/W Emil Bemstrom (Leksands J20, Superelit | 6/1/99, 5’10/174): Hard-nosed speedster who leads the J20 Superelit Norra with 20 goals in just 24 games. Bemstrom is a quick, dual-threat forward who can bury the puck as well as he can dish it. He has excellent vision and will utilize hard, accurate cross-ice passes to improve the quality of a scoring chance. His speed allows him to create time and space when the ice seems clogged, but he’s an even bigger threat in open ice – he rarely makes mistakes on odd-man rushes and will not telegraph his next move. Bemstrom controls the puck with speed through the neutral zone and uses accurate lead or drop passes if he senses a defender will vacate a lane. He may not look big, but he is strong enough to come away with pucks during one-on-one battles with bigger opponents. Bemstrom is a relentless forechecker who finishes his checks and can win key faceoffs.

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LW Patrik Hrehorcak (Trinec U20, Extraliga Juniors | 3/18/99, 6’0/170): Slippery sniper with a a soft set of hands and excellent instincs in the offensive zone. Hrehorcak never received an invite to Slovakia’s WJC camp but should be a serious candidate next year. Too bad for the goal-starved Slovaks, who could have used his finishing abilities in Canada. He has an excellent shot and release and doesn’t hesitate to display them. Hrehorcak is one of the top scorers in the Czech junior circuit despite playing in his first year of draft eligibility. He’s far from a power forward but he gets involved in physical play and doesn’t back down from a challenge.

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LHD Jesse Bjugstad  (Stillwater HS, Minnesota | 4/4/99, 6’2/178): Hard-nosed defender with NHL bloodlines who is a critical piece to Stillwater’s Minnesota high school steamroller. Bjugstad is a two-way blueliner with a rocket of a shot who plays on the top pair and is used for all key matchups. The Ponies are a perfect 11-0-0 on the season,  outscoring opponents by four goals a game, and while forwards Noah Cates and Luke Manning (both 2017 eligible) lead the way in scoring, it’s Bjugstad’s No. 1 presence on the back end that in our view makes them a legitimate favorite to win the coveted state title. You can make a strong argument that Bjugstad is Minnesota’s top high school defender and could be a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award, which his cousin Nick (and current Florida Panther) won in 2010.

C Mason Shaw (Medicine Hat, WHL | 11/3/98, 5’9/180): Playmaking two-way center with a strong feel for the game who simply knows what to do with the puck on his stick. Shaw is undersized from a physical standpoint, but his heart and effort quickly make you forget he’s under six feet tall. Shaw is an elite passer and phenomenal stickhandler who uses quick movements within tight spaces to earn enough time to carve up a congested zone. He plays with bite and is one of the draft’s better options to bolster a power play.

G Maksim Zhukov (Green Bay, USHL | 7/22/99, 6’3/180): You’d be hard pressed to find the last Russian-trained goalie who ditched both his native land and the pro leagues of Europe to bolster his pre-draft resume in the USHL. But here is Zhukohov, a Kaliningrad native whose rights belong to Severstal of the KHL, dominating America’s top junior league as a rookie with a stingy 2.15 goals against and .912 save percentage. He’s got a pro build and excellent mechanics, using quickness and agility to reveal solid post-save recovery techniques. Zhukov plays an upright butterfly and is far from a flopper — he offers shooters very little very due to cat-like reflexes and strong net awareness. Both he and fellow USHLer (and Winnipeg Jets 2016 draftee) Mikhail Berdin are legitimate candidates to share Team Russia’s netminding duties at next year’s WJC in Buffalo.

C/RW Jesse Koskenkorva (Karpat, Liiga | 7/31/99, 6’1/170) Koskenkorva is a goal-scoring winger/center who’s quietly established himself as a contributor for a Karpat squad that lost current NHL’ers Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho — the duo who carried them during last year’s Liiga playoffs. By no means is Koskenkorva in the upper tier of pre-draft prospects like the aforemntioned duo were among their respective classes, but he has good size and an excellent shot with a quick release. He led Karpat’s U20 team in scoring and ranked among the league leaders, and should be a top-six mainstay when Finland heads to Slovakia in the spring to defend their U18 world championship.

C Pavel Koltygin (Drummondville, QMJHL | 2/17/99, 6’0/192) Powerful goal scorer from the center ice position who makes the most of his opportunities. A native of Moscow, Kolytgin doesn’t possess blinding speed, but his hands are soft enough to corral any kind of pass while he’s in full flight, giving off the appearance that he’s traveling faster than he is. He is strong on his skates and his edgework is fantastic, and he can fire off a quick, accurate shot while extended or fading away. Koltygin is a responsible player who understands the ins and outs of all three zones and is very good on faceoffs. Among the QMJHL leaders in rookie scoring, he has a wide frame and significant lower-body strength that gives him an advantage during board battles.

C/W Alexandre Texier (Grenoble, France | 9/13/99, 6’0/187): A lightning quick French teen who plays significant minutes in the French senior league, Texier is a dynamic offensive talent who is mature and can handle playing against older competition. You have to go back to the late 1980’s and former St. Louis Blues prospect Philippe Bozon to find a teenager from the French league with this kind of NHL potential. Texier is an excellent skater who can handle the puck and make plays off the rush. Rarely does he look overmatched despite being the youngest player in the circuit, and he recently finished as one of the top scorers (1g, 7a) at the recent Division IA under-20 WJC.

C Connor Gutenberg (Brandon, WHL | 9/4/99, 5’9/160): It’s been a down year for the normally dominant Wheat Kings, who have yet to recover from the injuries plaguing star center and top draft prospect Nolan Patrick. Gutenberg is by no means a replacement for a player of Patrick’s ilk, but the latter has been conspicuous to say the least. Fast and smart, Gutenberg is a two-way center who can play on the top unit of either the penalty kill or the power play. His zone entries are calculated and if necessary, deliberate, and he can stop on a dime with his head up to give himself some breathing room. He’s a very good passer with keen vision and will accurately saucer the puck over a maze of sticks and legs. Gutenberg is a playmaker adept at making slap passes and no-look feeds. He’s quite dependable in the faceoff circle and he’ll win tough draws in late game scenarios.