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Prospect Team of the Month: The All-Undersized Squad

For fans of "short kings", the there's been a load of talented prospects on display this season standing 5-foot-11 or shorter. Tony Ferrari takes a look at his top undersized players of the past month.
Lane Hutson

At the end of each month, I will be bringing you a themed ‘Team of the Month’ for the 2022 NHL draft. Much like any all-star team, we will have three forward slots, two defenders, and a goalie who will get some love and recognition.

This month, we will be taking look at players who will almost assuredly be knocked for being 5-foot-10 or under. These are players that, despite their high level of play and incredible skillsets, may fall a bit on draft day similar to Brayden Point in 2014 or Logan Stankoven last season.

Forwards

LW Filip Mešár, HK Poprad (Slovakia), 5-foot-10

One of the most interesting players in the 2022 draft class, Mešár is a member of Slovakia’s newest wave of talent. Playing in the top Slovak men’s league, Mešár has been quite productive with four goals and three assists through a dozen games. Noted as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer prior to the season, Mešár has developed his shot a bit more this season and found a way to get to the net more consistently to get better scoring chances.

The shifty Slovak has excellent hands and quick feet that allow him to create separation in the offensive zone. He has some impressive breakaway speed but he does lack a bit of strength. Getting stronger will be key, but maintaining Mešár's agility and quickness will be essential. With many analysts slating him for the late first or early second round, Mešár will be a prospect worth keeping an eye on throughout the year.

C Matthew Savoie, Winnipeg Ice (WHL), 5-foot-9

Can you feel the HEAT coming off the Winnipeg ICE centerman? I apologize for the pun, but this kid has been putting up big numbers early on in the WHL season. The lightning-quick forward attacks the play with predatory instinct and the will to create something just about every time he is on the ice. Be it with his silky smooth cross-seam passing or his willingness to cut to the net off the half-wall, Savoie has been a joy to watch this season.

Currently third in WHL scoring with 17 points in 13 games, Savoie has been doing everything in his power to prove that despite being a tad undersized, his talent and skill are worthy of being the second name off the board after Shane Wright when draft day comes. Savoie understands how to attack with his speed and uses changes in pace to find passing lanes all over the ice. There is a very good chance that Savoie sticks in the middle as the rare sub-6’ center and any team willing to give him that chance will likely be rewarded with an NHL game-breaker in due time.

RW Frank Nazar, U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL), 5-foot-10

The NTDP has been producing a ton of talent for the NHL draft in recent years and this year is no different with names such as Isaac Howard, Logan Cooley, and Rutger McGroarty all having various analysts discuss them as potential top-15 talents. Frank Nazar belongs in that group, too. Nazar plays with ridiculous speed and offensive instincts. The Michigan native is a true dual-threat with the ability to affect the game as a passer and a shooter.

Nazar passing game has added an element of creativity that it had previously lacked this season. Playing with high-skill players such as Jimmy Snuggerud and Isaac Howard has allowed him to utilize his teammates with more efficiency. Nazar has lethal offensive instincts and an underrated 200-foot game that should allow for an easy transition to the NHL after a year or two at the University of Michigan where he can build some strength.

Defenseman

LD Lane Hutson, U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL), 5-foot-8

The diminutive defender playing for the National Team Develop Program in Plymouth, Michigan has caught the eye of scouts and analysts with his incredible four-way mobility and intuitive play in all three zones. Hutson's size certainly presents an issue when defending in-zone if the opponent gets the chance to set up their structure but he is quite a capable defender when dealing with the opposing rush. Hutson uses his quick feet to close the gap and a precise stick to disrupt the opponent. Once the puck is free, he has the agility to collect it and find the open man or he will move the puck up ice with his feet.

The creativity on the offensive end of the ice is admirable. Hutson will often bait defenders one way and cut back or shake them off with seemingly instantaneous acceleration. He isn’t going to be the kind of blueliner that you can rely on as a shooting option as his shot from the point is a bit soft but he has little hesitation to skate down into the slot should the opportunity present itself. 

RD Ty Nelson, North Bay Battalion (OHL), 5-foot-10

The OHL’s top pick from the 2020 OHL priority selection draft is only just now playing his rookie year in the league as he had what should have been his debut season wiped out due to COVID. The North Bay defender has eight points in nine games, showing off his dynamism every chance he gets with the puck on his stick. Whether he’s taking a big shot from the blueline or penetrating the slot, Nelson makes his opposition pay when the puck is on his stick.

Nelson may only be 5-foot-10, but he is stalky and has shown the ability to win battles along the boards against bigger and stronger players. He leverages his size to get in under the scrum, establish body position and work the puck free. Once free, Nelson's skating and vision for the ice take over. He has the innate ability to generate offense off the rush and attack downhill off the point when set up in the attacking zone. He has the instincts that you look for in a true two-way defender and the creativity of a forward with the puck on his stick. 

Goaltender

G Hugo Hävelid, Linköping HC J20 (J20 Nationell), 5-foot-10

Small goalies never get the respect they deserve and Hugo Hävelid is no different. Despite some impressive numbers in Swedish junior hockey, he is often forgotten when people discuss the top goalies for the 2022 draft class. While he certainly isn’t of the caliber Jesper Wallstedt was last season, Hävelid is very fluid in his crease and shows good mobility in his net.

Hävelid has shown the ability to come up big in moments such as the U-18’s last year where although he only played one game, he was able to make 30 saves for a shutout over a feisty Latvian squad. He shows good hockey sense, reading the play quite well and using his technique to be in a position to save the puck. If Hävelid wants to continue to play at a high level at his size, athleticism and technique will continue to be key. He can’t rely on just one or the other.

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LW Filip Mešár - C Matthew Savoie - RW Frank Nazar

D Lane Hutson - D Ty Nelson

G Hugo Hävelid

As a whole, this team is extremely skilled and should have no issue moving the puck up ice and creating offense. There is skill, speed, and creativity. All three forwards have the ability to put the puck in the back of the net and create room for themselves with dirty dangles. On the back end, there are two excellent puck movers who can get it done with their feet or crisp passing. Both with mobility near the top of the class among blueliners. With the young Swede in net, the team has a nice security blanket as Hävelid has shown the ability to make the big save and move around his crease quite well. I’d take my chances with this top unit in any league around junior hockey. 

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