26. Marat Khusnutdinov C – 5’11, 176 lbs
Playing in the MHL (the KHL’s junior feeder league), Khusnutdinov is not a household name for most draft enthusiasts, but he is a legit first round talent to many, including yours truly. He plays a very strong and rugged game for a smaller guy (5’11, 176 lbs), and possesses some seriously good hockey sense. He uses his good speed to get around his competition, especially in the neutral zone, and penetrate the offensive zone. The young pivot doesn’t shy against stronger competition and loves cutting to the net.
His vision is his primary asset, and his passing his his most dangerous offemnsive weapon, as he can find open lanes quickly and take advantage. His precise passing (as seen the sequence above) can help find the flaw in a defensive box formation, while also offering the shooting option as defensemen scramble to cover passing lanes. I personally see top-6 C upside, but he would have to really begin improve his shooting and goalscoring for me to see him a legit dual threat at the next level.
27. Brendan Brisson C/LW – 5’11, 177 lbs
The Chicago Steel standout was very impressive in the USHL mainly due to his exceptional Hockey IQ and his fluid skating. Committed to the University of Michigan next season, Brisson possesses all the tools to make it to the NHL. What makes Brisson an attractive value at this stage in the rankings is simply the way he thinks the game. He is both incredibly intelligent and fearless, meaning he’s a player that will use his skill in tight spaces to make incredible plays.
Brendan Brisson, just magic. pic.twitter.com/eorgGJxEB1— Future Scope Hockey (@FSHockeycenter) March 24, 2020
His 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in 45 games puts him in impressive company amongst USHL players, but don’t let the offensive numbers fool you, because he can impact the game in all three zones. He plays a responsible and physical game, all while constantly hounding the opposition for the puck. While also being effective in transition, Brendan is very effective at neutral zone possession, allowing him to execute seamless zone exits and zone entries on the rush.
It is worth noting that due to his great vision and speed of execution, Brisson is an exceptional playmaker in tight. He is able to force toward high danger areas, attract defenders, and feed open temmates on a regular basis (the sequence below highlights Brisson’s game in a nutshell).
Most people will have Brendan Brisson in the 2nd round, but I see a surefire NHL talent with legit top-6 upside. He has all the tools to impact the game in all three zones, while playing a warrior’s style on the ice.
28. Connor Zary C – 6’, 180 lbs
Connor Zary is another one of those clutch scorers who displays great leadership and strong offense prowess. He plays a very powerful game, which is evidenced in his skating stride, as it allows him to fly at top-speed after only 2-3 strides.
He doesn’t possess dynamic, game-breaking skill, but he is an extremely effective player at putting the puck exactly where he wants to with a nice saucer pass or a precise wrist-shot. Zary has a very fluid game that many believe will translate well at the NHL level because of his mix of physicality, smarts and nose for the net.
Connor Zary has swagger pic.twitter.com/ZJGPdQf4AO— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) June 1, 2020
29. Helge Grans RD – 6’2, 183 lbs
Grans is a really intriguing prospect for many reasons. He has ideal size (6’2) and is very strong at moving the puck up the ice. The young rearguard doesn’t possess great speed, but he has wide strong strides that allow him to cover ice quite well. You can see it in the sequence below (defenseman in yellow starting the play out of his defensive zone). He doesn’t have blazing speed, but his long strides power him up the ice in a way that compensates for his lack of explosivity. This will come in handy on smaller ice, especially to box out opponents defensively.
Grans has very good vision and is able to man a powerplay quite well. Grans’ 4 goals and 23 assists for 27 points in as many games in the SuperElit legue for Malmö’s J-20 league was quite impressive and in his 21 games with Malmö’s main roster team, Grans put up 1 goal and 2 assists, which is respectable for a 17-year-old, he was able.
Gran’s shooting tools are also quite good for a defenseman, as his wrist shot is quite powerful and precise, while his one-timer (still needs work) is able to get off quite quickly. So far in this pre-season (and early season) Grans has been far more aggressive with the play and has actively begun sliding himself in the backdoor for more offensive chances (just like the one shown below)
He projects as two-way top-4 D that can command the puck and move it in a hurry. I believe he simply needs to round out his game, gain experience to better improve his decision making to reach the next level in his game. The good news? The signs of improvement are already evident early on this season.
30. William Wallinder LD – 6’4, 191 lbs
I was immediately impressed with just how well Wallinder moves for a youngster of his size; it was almost alarming to see how much ground he covered in such a short period of time. For a player listed at 6’4 that is some exceptional skating, with a great technique and solid edgework. What I like is that he uses his skating to avoid forechecks from the opposition and transition the puck out of his zone himself ( as seen below).
Wallinder’s skating, his long stick and his already impressive gap-control made him a solid add mid-way through the season for Modo. Although he is known to have the occassional braint-fart, Wallinder is rather reliable in tight situations defensively speaking.
What began to change for him last season was his offensive expression. Wallinder began gaining more confidence in his ability to carry and distribute the puck. In fact, Wallinder has an excellent first pass, be it 6 ft or 30ft lon. He also uses his speed to join in the rush as the 4th man ( as seen in this video) and is very adept at finding his teammates in front for a quick tap in. I believe that he has some offensive potential in that category left to be uncovered now that he will have a bigger role this season.
Ultimately, Wallinder projects to be a stable and mobile top-4 defenseman with a penchant for moving the puck. I’ll take him on my team any day
31. Tyson Foerster RW – 6’2, 194 lbs
Foerster has the classic look of a power forward. Standing at 6’2 and 194 lbs, Foerster is a physical specimen that uses his large frame to shield his opponents from the puck and extract lose pucks during board battles. His main skill is his deadly shot.
I see you Tyson Foerster! 14 PPG’s to lead the OHL currently. What a shot. pic.twitter.com/wEwC6gWQDo— ☘️🏒 Sean Patrick Ryan 🏒☘️ (@TheOilKnight) February 9, 2020
Foerster showed great improvement going from 23 points in 64 games as a 16-year-old to putting up 36 goals and 44 assists for 80 points in just 62 games as a 17-year-old in the OHL. Many attribute his newfound success to his high Hockey-IQ and increased usage. His positioning and his deceptiveness in the offensive zone lead many to believe he could have a strong impact on a competitive top-9 in the NHL real soon.
#MeetTheFuture: Tyson Foerster— CanadianHockeyLeague (@CHLHockey) September 1, 2020
The @OHLBarrieColts top scorer had a breakout performance competing among the #CHL’s top #NHLDraft prospects and carries an excellent shot and quick release that helped him snipe 36 @OHLHockey goals.
🎥 Presented by @KubotaCanadaLtd pic.twitter.com/BKXKoORFwU