26. Carolina Hurricanes: Zachary Bolduc
Zachary Bolduc had a real rollercoaster of a draft year. Bolduc went from winning the rookie of the year award in 2019-2020, while riding shotgun with 2020 1st overall pick Alexis Lafrenière, to being the sole offensive weapon on a rebuilding Rimouski Oceanic. Couple that with an appendectomy in October, a play stoppage that reopened sporadically, and the young pivot only got marginally better offensively. In the fall, the scouting reports were coming back with scouts constantly wanting more out of him. He didn’t put up near the goal scoring prowess he put up with Lafrenière last season. However, make no mistake about it, he has serious shooting ability, and his wrist shot has a very powerful release capable of fooling any goaltender in front of him.
Although Bolduc had a miserable start to this campaign, it is worth noting that he ended it rather strong. He salvaged his end of season by putting up 18 points in his team’s last 13 games of the season. You saw more fire in his game and more of the drive that scouts were claiming looking for during the mid-season mark. The thing that many scouts have realized is that Bolduc will likely play a complimentary role in a team<s top-9, possibly even top-6, but that he requires a playmaker in order for him to be successful, and that’s totally okay at this point in the draft. He has great hands, a wicked accurate shot and some underrated passing skills that show me he’s a prospect that many are unfairly down on. That being said, I still believe he slides in this draft due to concerns over this last season.
For a club like Carolina, at this junction, it’s a no brainer, as the potential reward of a scoring winger (he does project to play wing at the next level) would far outweigh the risk. I feel like Bolduc, now traded to the Quebec Remparts (a far better team than Rimouski at this point) will prove many people wrong next year.
27. Colorado Avalanche: Sasha Pastujov
Pastujov is a pretty hot-debated player for this draft, Some people see a potential steal in the making. Whereas others think he simply doesn’t have the skating/drive (although he is quite agile) to be an impact NHLer. I find myself in the middle of the pack. He is the definition of a boom or bust player, but I think that he has the tools to reach those goals.
I’ll concede that I wasn’t as high as some on him a month ago. However, after watching many of his USNDTP games over the last month in preparation of the draft, he sold me on his skills, specifically his vision and his surprising powerful shooting mechanics. This makes him an absolute force on the powerplay. He is able to quarterback the man advantage from the half boards and fire off a lazer of a pass to any open teammate.
The concerns in his game come from his potential effectiveness at 5 on 5, due to the lack of explosivity in his first steps and inconsistent effort levels. There is some truth to it, as often, Pastujov reaches good speed, but the fear is that he would not be able to reach his top speed when faced with intense forechecking or stronger defensive systems at the next level.
That being said, I think Pastujov’s U-18s, where he led Team USA in scoring with 5 goals and 3 assists in 5 games, goes to show exactly what kind of talent we’re dealing with here. The Avalanche would likely look at the talent level on Pastujov (some insane puck handling and creativity) and not pay much attention to the concerns about consistency or compete, as they have the prospect pool and the team to insulate a player like Pastujov. That being said, I still think the concerns on his game at 5 on 5 are fair, but he has a few years at the University of Notre Dame to work on that, and they know a thing or two about intensity!
For Colorado, I think this is an ideal boom or bust kind of pick in the first round that could bring back seriously good return if they are patient and Pastujov improves his explosiveness.
28. New Jersey Devils (Via NYI): Simon Robertsson
Simon Robertsson is quite the difficult prospect to evaluate. Sometimes he can go complete games without being visible and then BAAM, the puck is in the net. That’s because he plays a very opportunistic form of hockey, where he hones in on lose pucks or pressures opposing defencemen to commit turnovers and capitalizes on them. He’s not overly quick on his skates, but he is shifty enough to throw the opposition off balance while forechecking.
Simon Robertsson gets his second of the game. He’s been quiet in this tournament so far, nice to see him starting to roll with the elimination games on the horizon. #U18Worlds pic.twitter.com/UsFuoxrzeW— Josh Bell (@JoshuaBell31) May 1, 2021
I find Robertsson possesses a very solid shot, one that he can unleash from practically anywhere in the offensive zone without notice. In the J20 league in Sweden, he was lighting it up this past season for Skelleftea AIK and also played 22 games for their main roster team where he put up 1 goal and 2 points. He followed up his solid season with a good showing for Sweden at the U-18s, where he put up 3 goals and an apple in 7 games. Even during the tournament, his shot mechanics and opportunism pounced right off the screen for me. He needs to improve his play away from the puck and his explosivity, but the offensive tools are clearly there.
Simon Robertsson strikes late for SWE to put them up by two! pic.twitter.com/Uh4a2jOw1B— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 6, 2021
I like Robertsson as a project for New Jersey at this point, as he adds size and a secondary goal scoring to their prospect pool. He’ll have all the time in the world to develop and grow into his frame before jumping over the pond and trying to take a roster spot, and that’s ideal for this youngster. He reminds me very much of Joel Armia at the same age, and if he can develop into a middle-6 winger with scoring acumen, this certainly becomes a solid value for New Jersey in this draft.
29. Vegas Golden Knights: Francesco Pinelli
Pinelli had one heck of a year. With Covid-19 cancelling the OHL season, Pinelli went to Slovenia in order to get some playing time. Despite the situation, which kept a lot of OHL kids out of hockey for what is now 16 months, Pinelli crossed the Atlantic and was able to impress his teammates and coaches in the 13 games he played in the AlpsHL.
From memory of his 2019-2020 season, Pinelli put up solid offensive numbers for the Kitchener Rangers (18G and 23A for 43 points in 59 games), but I thought his hockey IQ and his vision were his best attributes. Pinelli is a right-place-right-time kind of player, and is often able to find the holes in the defensive brigade and slide into them unnoticed.
Ok, Francesco Pinelli, ok!— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) March 4, 2021
Lovely goal on the powerplay as he gets around a defender and fires.
He also picked up an assist in this game. Has 9 points in the last 4 games.#OHL #2021NHLDraft @OHLRangers pic.twitter.com/wziECpZY0z
He supports the play so very well, making him ideal on any line destined to gobble up time and possession. He is great at being able to find his teammates in traffic, while also not being shy about putting his own fair share of goals in the back of the net. His passing and playmaking are his best offensive attributes, but he also possesses a solid wrist-shot that can surprise many goaltenders.
In my honest opinion, I do believe a player like Pinelli would be going higher in a normal draft year, as he likely would have been a two-way PPG center in the OHL this season. However, due to the lack of viewings and a primarily defensive utilization for Team Canada at the U-18s, I think the mid-20 to 30 range in the draft is where he’ll wind up. A team like Vegas, who’s hurting for centers at the moment, will scoop up Pinelli and allow him to grow into the two-way force many project him to be.
30. Montreal Canadiens: Zachary L’Heureux
Zachary L’Heureux has had one heck of a year. The stop and go nature of the QMJHL, the suspensions, the scoring inconsistencies, etc. The Halifax Moosehead has been up and down on everyone’s rankings because they simply cannot project what is going to happen with him. That’s mainly because there are concerns in regards to his attitude and his hot-headedness getting him into trouble.
I always say that, in amateur hockey, if a player is too intense, maturity will fix this (as I myself had quite the temper in junior sports), but a player who is deemed unmotivated is a no draft for me. This is the same for L’Heureux, who plays a style of hockey akin to a Brad Marchand (who also played for the Halifax Mooseheads.
L’Heureux projects as a power-forward type player that has a nose for the net and a fantastic set of shooting tools, allowing him to score in many ways. He is very good at being able to obtain inside position on the rugh, forcing defensemen to compromise themselves in order to cover him. That’s when L’Heureux is able to use his size and vision to create space for himself and his teammates. The combination of soft hands and size will make him a staple on a team’s top-9, but there is serious potential for him to eventually carve himself a top-6 role if he hits his peak potential.
Wow.— Garreth MacDonald (@GarrethMD) September 13, 2020
What. A. Goal.
Halifax is gonna love Zachary L’Heureux. pic.twitter.com/CGaxsN4Uw9
For a team like Montreal that is short on big, scoring wingers in their prospect pool, drafting L’Heureux is exactly what the doctor ordered. They can give him some time to mature and grow in the amateur and minor ranks before he can join the Canadiens and possibly even form quite a duo with Ryan Poehling.
31 Columbus Blue Jackets (Via Tampa Bay): Mackie Samoskevich
Samoskevich is a slick and talented member of the powerhouse Chicago Steel of the USHL. He possess really good speed and some soft hands, allowing him to perform everything at top speed. He plays a very North-South kind of game and is at his best on the rush. Mackie is able to dangle himself out of a mess and has the vision to make the pass or even create space for himself to take the shot.
Where I believe many have concerns with ‘’Mackie’’ is the defensive aspects of the game. He’s an absolute possession beast, when the puck is on his stick, but the question is whether or not he will be able to execute such a game when you spend much less time with the puck on your stick in tougher leagues. The University of Michigan commit will join his former Steel teammate Owen Power and should have a good opportunity to get acclimated to the pro game and learn to improve his two-way game. I for one am not worries, as he really has a good hockey mind and will put it the work.
Mackie Samoskevich @ChicagoSteel (#24) is a dynamic offensive threat who creates high danger chances consistently.— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) March 30, 2021
He’s a creative playmaker, but also has a lethal, accurate shot with a very quick release. IMO he is a clear first round talent#2021NHLDraft #USHL pic.twitter.com/TqUccWq87r
In the end, Samoskevich projects as a middle-6 forward with offensive potential, with a style that reminds me of Jordan Eberle (albeit faster in execution and skating). He’s a player coaches love, and Columbus would love to add that kind of player at this point of the draft.