52. Jake Neighbours – LW
The talented winger from the WHL has a pretty complete tool box. He has soft hands, strong Hockey-IQ and some very seriously underrated vision. Neighbours isn’t the fastest of the group, his main detractor in my opinion, but his positioning and decision making more than cover for his lack of top-end mobility, allowing him to sneak behind the opposition and receive passes for quick finishes. Above all, Neighbours has a very god shot, especially his wrist shot, which he can unleash with great velocity at full speed. Neighbours’ success at the next level will center mostly on him rounding out his two-way game and increasing his explosivity, but he remains solid value at this point in a Draft.
53. Anton Johannesson – LD
Anton Johannesson doesn’t get the credit he deserves due to having missed a large part of the season due to injury. When healthy, he was a force in the SuperElit league for Sweden’s HV71 J-20 team. He put up a very impressive 8 goals and 16 assists for 24 points in just 20 games. Johannesson is a very effective PP QB, distributing pucks with ease, using his exceptional skating to draw defenders to him, while also having a very precise wrist shot. He is one of my darkhorse picks to jump in this Draft, given the league stoppages, as the tape on this young man is very good, but some teams might be weary of his recent injury history. His fluid skating, high hockey IQ and strong stick in the defensive zone make me confident in his ability to make it to the next level.
54. Joni Jurmo – LD
Joni Jurmo is another strong, puck-movind defenseman who’s game is predicated on speed and skill. Playing in the Jr A league in Finland this past season, Jurmo was able to use his solid skating stride and very favourable size (6’4) to help neutralize players as they attempted zone entries. He was the best offensive defenseman in the league last year for Jokerit, putting up 5 goals and 23 assists for 28 points in 43 games in a league that is known to be very defensive.
For him to take the next step in his development next year with JYP of the Finnish Liiga, he will have to improve his work in the defensive zone, as he has difficulty in zone tracking and man-to-man coverage during the cycle. He has all the tools to become a PP quarterback in the future, due to his solid passing and vision, but he will not succeed at the next level without shoring up his defensive game.
55. Carter Savoie – LW
Savoie is such an intriguing prospect. He put up 53 goals in 54 games for the Sherwood Park Crusaders (along with draft-eligible Michael Benning) in the AJHL and is also committed to the University of Denver, where there will be no shortage of offensive opportunity for the young man. Seen primarily as a shooter first, many folks have questioned Savoie’s ability to create plays or think the game from a creative perspective. However, Savoie is a very involved player who is noticeable even when he isn’t scoring, as he plays a very high-octane and high-tempo game predicated on speed and relentless puck-hounding. The small winger (5’10) looks like more of a long-term project, but at Denver University, they relish in turning raw prospects into NHL players.
56. Dimitri Ovchinnikov – LW
Ovchinnikov is kind of an unkown to many, but I quickly fell in love with this prospect due to his strong two-way game and his relentless hustle. Ovchinnikov was a monster in the Russian junior league (MHL) this past season, putting up 24 goals and 31 assists for 55 points in 54 games and it earned him a 2-game call up to the main roster for Sibir in the KHL. Ovchinnikov’s offensive game is predicated on strong puck distribution and offensive zone possession. His defensive ability, which is made possible by his good, albeit unspectacular, speed and his incredibly underrated Hockey IQ (his anticipation is really something). Some many question whether or not Ovchinnikov’s offensive ability will translate at the next level, and the answer to that question will determine where Ovchinnikov lands on this board, as his defensive acumen will give him a foot through the door to the NHL; it<s just up to him to further develop his offensive tools (such as his wrist shot and deceptiveness).
57. Alexander Pashin – C
Similarly to Ovchinnikov, Alexander Pashin is a smaller Russian forward (5’7) who looked really strong playing in the MHL this season, due primarily to Hockey IQ and very powerful wrist shot. Although he only scored 17 goals (along with 22 assists) in 37 games, Pashin’s wrist shot is his best asset, as the velocity and accuracy is really quite intriguing. His speed of execution and his Hockey IQ mean that he can slide into high-danger areas and unleash his shot just as quickly as he received the pass. These kinds of offensive tools are highly translatable to the next level of professional hockey. Defensively, Pashin is a strong forechecker that attacks with great intensity and purpose, while having a strong knack for identifying and neutralizing passing lanes in the neutral zone.
58. Sean Farrell – LW
The third member of the infamous top line for the Chicago Steel of the USHL this year, Sean Farrell was just as impressive offensively, but lacks the overall game to be ranked ahead of Brisson and Colangelo. The 5’9 forward is known primarily for his sound two-way play and his exceptional vision. Primarily a playmaker ( as evidence by his 41 assists in 45 games), Farrell is very good at finding streaking players and put a saucer pass right on the tape for a high-danger scoring chance.
He thinks the game at incredible speed, but doesn’t necessarily have the shooting acumen to be a true scoring threat at the NHL level. I believe that he could be a legitimate top-9 player in the NHL due to his speed of execution and his Hockey IQ, but the Harvard University commit has lots of time to work on his game and could be an idea late-2nd round project for a team with multiple picks.
59. Shakir Mukhamadullin – LD
Mukhamadullin has a huge frame, very long reach and very good skating for his size. At the very worst, he can be an elite shut-down defenseman due primarily to the easy in which he skates in every direction, as well as his long reach, which he consistently uses to break up rushes and pressure opposing forwards.
60. Luke Tuch – LW
Although Tuch didn’t put up great offensive numbers playing for the USNDT this year, he has all the tools to become a legit top-9 player in the NHL. Brother of current NHL Alex Tuch, Luke has all the tools but just hasn’t put it together yet. Although he only scored 15 goals and 15 assists in 47 games, Tuch has far more offensive potential than the numbers let on. He has the ideal size (6’2), he has above average speed, a very strong but sometimes imprecise wrist shot, and some very solid Hockey IQ.
He may not have the upside of a Smilanic or Bordeleau (his teammates with the USNDT), Tuch looks like a very likely candidate to make it to the NHL and, at this rank, that’s already a very good thing. Tuch is currently projected to be a 3rd line winger on a competitive top-9, but, should he put it all together, Tuch could become a bruising power forward that could impact a game, especially tight ones.
61. Alexander Nikishin – LD
The physical rearguard had himself quite the eventful season, going from the Russian junior league (MHL) to the KHL and playing 29 games for Spartak Moskva. In the MHL, the hard-hitting and surprisingly mobile Nikishin put up a very respectable 8 goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 62 games, and he was able to express himself offensively with crisp and precise passes. He plays a very rugged game, similar in style to Nikita Zadorov, where he likes to box-out incoming forwards and then neutralize them with a solid, yet legal, hit. Playing in the KHL at 17 is no small feat, and further exposure to top competition will be great for his development as a potential #4/5 D with great defensive awareness.
62. Ty Smilanic – C
One of the most hyped prospects going into the USNDT program this year, Smilanic looked good, but not great. His 7 goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 34 games left many scouts wanting more from the young man, as he had difficulty creating offensive zone situations when away from the top unit. He possesses a good wrist shot, with deceptive velocity, but many question his Hockey IQ and vision, leading some to believe that Smilanic could be a one-trick pony at the next level. Personally, I certainly see top-9 upside with lots of character, the tenacity in his game, and, above all, his excellent skating and speed.