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Prospect Roundup: Draft Mailbag Edition

Tony Ferrari answers all your NHL draft questions about goaltenders, learning about players in interviews, re-entry draft prospects and a couple of interesting drafted prospects around the world.
James Hardie

This week I asked YOU for questions about NHL prospects or the 2022 NHL draft and you did not disappoint. I chose some of the best questions and I have come prepared with some answers! Without further ado, let’s answer some mail!

Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN): Would love your overall thoughts on the goalie class this year.

Let’s be clear, I am only choosing to answer this question because Steven is my boss. There was favoritism shown here, no denying it. As for the question itself, the goalie class for the 2022 NHL draft is pretty underwhelming. There certainly isn’t a prospect of the caliber we’ve seen recently in Jesper Wallstedt, Sebastian Cossa, Yaroslav Askarov, or Spencer Knight. We’ve been spoiled in recent years but there isn’t a goalie worth selecting in the top round and in all honestly, I don’t know if there is a netminder I’d be looking at in the top two rounds.

Topias Leinonen in Finland has some intriguing qualities including the always important massive frame as he stands 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds. He plays fairly positionally sound and he’s a July birthday making him young for the draft class. Sergei Ivanov is a favorite among many analysts but he is undersized at just 5-foot-11 which isn’t exactly commonplace in today’s NHL. He does boast good numbers in Russian junior hockey but the size will make some teams shy away. Simon Wolf is a big German netminder who has put together a solid year in Czech U-20 hockey.

In a goalie class that lacks pop, those three are probably the favorites with quite a few other names in the conversation as well. Dylan Silverstein from the NTDP, Braden Holt with the Everett Silvertips, and Tyler Brennan from the Prince George Cougars all have played well at various points or have been in the conversation among the top goalies in the draft. This has all been a long way of telling you that, in all honesty, I might not worry about missing on any of these goalie prospects.

Dylan Griffing (@GriffingDylan): As someone who interviews prospects, do you believe that it is possible to learn enough about a player in a pre-draft interview to justify completely throwing away a year's worth of scouting on said player?

This is a really interesting question. I’ll start by saying, in most scenarios, no but it certainly does change the overall view of a player. In my interviews, which can all be found on The Hockey News, I try to do two things primarily. First off, I want to learn who the player is as a person. That means both finding out about where they came from and how they grew up as well as what kind of music they like and more. Asking questions about hockey will only give you a piece of the puzzle. I feel it’s incredibly important to get to see the personality behind the player.

The second thing my interviews have given me is a peek into the on-ice mindset of a player. I put some game tape up on the screen and the player and I discuss what is happening on a given play. What does the player see on the ice, why does he make the decision that he makes, and what is the overall mindset of the player in-game. Hearing what a player such as Conor Geekie or Brad Lambert has to say about their own game can be illuminating as to whether the player has a good handle on who they are as a player and where their strengths and weaknesses are.

Gaining those two reference points helps me put the scouting that I’ve done in perspective. It allows me to fill in some of the details on my assessment of their mentality and process. That means the interviews undoubtedly influence my overall assessment of a player. Generally speaking, it allows me to move a player up or down on my personal draft ranking by a few spots or up or down a tier as we move further down the board. As for having it justifying throwing away the scouting work I’ve done, the only real scenario where I could see that happening is if a player comes into an interview and makes me feel like he would be a terrible teammate with an awful attitude or something ethically and morally unsettling is revealed in the interview process. 

A Mitchell Miller or Logan Mailloux-type situation would be an example had I interviewed and found out about their unacceptable discretion in the interview. Thankfully, while I’ve had some interviews go poorly, I haven’t experienced that level of a negative interview.

Daniel Cochrane (@CocherDaniel): What is Isak Rosen? Has anyone actually ever watched him play?

I can confirm that there are people who have watched Isak Rosen play. I can also happily tell you that he is very good at hockey and I enjoy watching him play. He is a shifty forward who plays a true dual-threat offensive game. He has an excellent shot that can beat goalies off the rush or maneuvering the offensive zone. His penchant for finding space, using his puck skills to open passing and shooting lanes, and creating chances in a variety of ways is what will make him successful at the next level. He can find his teammates through traffic as a playmaker as well.

The biggest weakness in Rosen’s game is his sizable disadvantage in the strength department. He is an incredibly skilled and smart player who can affect the game in transition and as an attacker but he is ineffective at times along the wall and in the cycle and he needs to get stronger to beat defenders in tight. There are so many excellent qualities so patience will be key in allowing Rosen to reach his ceiling because he could be a very high-octane forward for the Sabres in a couple of years possibly.

Joel Henderson (@dathockeydoe): What’s a one for one prospect swap you’d make that you think would help both teams?

This is a really interesting question. 

A couple of one-for-one deals came to mind right away. Any team with a good goalie prospect and the Edmonton Oilers seems like a solid match. Could a Jake Oettinger for Dylan Holloway deal make sense? Maybe. Could Coyotes-Bruins swap of Victor Soderstrom for Fabian Lysell make some sense? The Coyotes get a player who can infuse some skill, speed, and high-paced attack to their squad in a couple of years when they are ready to really come out of this rebuild. The Bruins added a player to their blueline a player that's a bit closer to NHL ready and fills a more immediate need. Soderstrom is a quietly effective two-way blueliner who could help make the Bruins blueline group a bit more effective as players move into more natural roles as Soderstrom steps into the lineup. Does that make sense for both sides? Sure.

The one that I am going to go with though is Jesper Wallstedt going to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Bowen Byram. The Avalanche are still looking for an answer in the crease longterm and with Nathan MacKinnon’s sweetheart contract coming to an end next season along with the need to re-sign key players such as Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky, they will need to find a way to save money and having a goaltender such as Wallstedt hopefully able to play important games on his entry-level deal will be a major win for the Avs and thankfully, Wallstedt may truly be able to live up to that in a year or so. Minnesota has Kakko Kahkonen, a young goaltender who has begun to show his potential at the NHL level, so losing Wallstedt may not be the death sentence it would be for many teams.

Losing Byram would be a hit for the Avalanche but with Cale Makar, Devon Toews, and Samuel Girard all on the roster, Byram may find it difficult to earn powerplay time or an opportunity higher in the lineup, both roles that Byram has the potential to fill in Minnesota. Byram’s talent offensively has flashed at times with the Avalanche and he has looked good in those high-intensity opportunities when he’s been given them. It could be an interesting swap for both clubs.

Rasmus T (@RT_scouting): Do you have any re-entries for the draft that are worth a shot this year?

This was a question asked a few times so I’ll give a few names. Jiri Tichacek is a shifty Czech defender who has impressive transition ability. He was a player that I felt should have been selected last year as he more than held his own in Czech pro hockey thanks to his impressive four-way mobility. He defends the rush quite well and sees the outlet passes when the puck is on his stick in his own end. He’s a bit undersized which is likely what kept teams from calling his name last year.

Another defender that could make for an interesting overage draft choice is Lukas Gustafsson from the Chicago Steel in the USHL. He is deceptive as a puck mover, using shoulder and head fakes to throw forecheckers off his path and then making good decisions on his passes out of the zone. If he sees a skating path through the neutral zone, he will assert himself and take it. His defensive game is developing and his offensive game has begun to show itself a bit more consistently this year as he puts his tools to use at that end of the ice.

James Hardie from the Mississauga Steelheads has continued his torrid scoring in the OHL this year after missing all of last season with the OHL not playing because of COVID. Hardie was a player many felt should have been drafted in 2020 but skating issues prevented that despite his impressive shot and offensive numbers. He still isn’t the cleanest skater and needs to clean that area of his game up but his offensive instincts and ability to fill the net should garner interest from teams.

Lightning Round!

Locked on Sens (@SensCentral): Does Tyler Kleven remind you more of Niklas Kronwall, Anton Volchenkov or Dion Phaneuf?

Ben Harpur? Maybe Logan Stanley? I don’t know. He’s impressed me to the extent that he’s been better than expected at the NCAA level but I still have a lot of concerns in terms of his ability to play at NHL pace. He hits a ton of dudes, he’ll probably play but his effectiveness may be questionable.

Tim Waugh (@timothywaugh): Victor Soderstrom and Jan Jenis Moser on Arizona - who is more legit?

I have Soderstrom here by a pretty decent margin. JJ Moser has impressed in his stint with the Coyotes recently but there’s some regression expected. Soderstrom projects as the better overall player and a player who can play in all situations possibly. Moser has exceeded expectations already and may very well be an NHL player with some interesting two-way ability. The JJ Moser hype is well deserved but we need to be careful to not let it get out of hand because it could lead to some lofty expectations. Soderstrom is a safer bet.

Jon Steitzer (@SteitzerJon): If one prospect leaves Sacramento on a train going 40 mph and another prospect leaves Boston at 55mph, where will they meet and why should the Leafs hold onto their first-round pick?

I am NOT doing math so I am skipping over the entire first part. I will answer the Leafs’ pick question though. They should keep it because they have been limited in their draft capital recently and they will need to continue to find gems such as Topi Niemela and Matthew Knies in the draft. Kyle Dubas and company have been known to be comfortable trading down at the draft and using a first-round pick to do that this year could net them a couple of solid prospects possibly. It’s all about maximizing that draft pick value.

Zack Szweras (@Zack_Szweras): Who is the guy with the highest boom or bust potential for this draft?

The first name that came to mind is Gleb Trikozov. The Russian forward has an unreal skillset and attacks with a zest that you just enjoy watching. His tools are unreal and he’s been producing at a high level despite still figuring out how to use all of his tools effectively at all times. If he organizes his toolbox, he could wind up being one of the best players in this draft class. He could also very realistically be a player who never puts it together and struggles to gain his footing at the NHL level. Denton Mateychuk, Ty Nelson, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, and Pavel Mintyukov also all come to mind.

Josh Bell (@JoshuaBell31): Who's your favorite 'undersized' prospect in this class?

Matthew Savoie or Seamus Casey? Do they count? I’m guessing you want something a bit deeper so I’ll go with a name not many people are talking about and a player that will likely go undrafted because of his size, despite a skill set I’d take a gamble on, in Vadim Fattahkov. The diminutive forward has been scoring a bunch in the MHL thanks to a fearlessness in his game that allows him to get to those high-danger areas despite his size. He can score in a variety of ways and he is unselfish with the puck, finding teammates all over the ice. He is one of the most entertaining players I’ve watched his year as well. Does the 5-foot-6 forward get drafted? Probably not but he’s a talented hockey player who should at least get a look from the scouting world. 

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