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  • I've been having some thoughts on what I talked about last year with the two types of hockey sense - vernunft and verstehen. And I'm starting to wonder now if the two are maybe not so separate as I was thinking at the time. The idea was that there's verstehen, which is just understanding the game - reading plays, anticipating, reacting instinctively, understanding positioning, and then there's vernunft - which is about being sensible, managing risk, being aware of situation and location. I was pretty lenient with guys like Holtz and Stranges in particular making a lot of mistakes (Perfetti too, but he had some other issues as well) because I figured they were so able to be so individually dominant at lower levels that they never had to learn to keep things simple and play within a team system, and I figured over time with good coaching, that would be fixable. But I've been thinking about something lately, since I quit smoking weed. I've tried a couple times before, and the initial quitting part is easy, the difficulty is after a month or two of having a ton of energy and motivation, it wears off and I wasn't really sure what to do with my time or how to relate to myself, and that's when I would fall back to old habits. I'm now at 19 weeks, and have had to make a lot of broader, deeper changes in my life.

    So that, along with Holtz' struggles late this season, have got me thinking. I still think that over time with good coaching, these issues are fixable, but I'm now thinking it may be a more complex, systematic problem than I did before. I mean, sure, a player can easily stop making stupid mistakes, but then what? Instead of making the stupid play, they're just going to stand still like I dropped my controller playing chel? They still have to make a play, they need to replace the bad habits with better habits, or else a coach can scream at them all they want for making stupid plays, but if they don't understand what they need to do instead, they're just going to keep making the same mistakes or fall back into old habits.

    The upcoming players at the top of that list are Kent Johnson and Gleb Trikozov. I feel like the issues with Johnson aren't quite as pronounced as with the three players I mentioned from last year's draft. Trikozov is a bit different, I believe his upside is the highest of any of the players I mentioned (except maybe Stranges) - the pure talent level may o may not be quite as high, but with the power element and defensive presence he brings, this could be a franchise-altering player - but the issues also seem to be more serious than the other players I mentioned (again, except for Stranges). I'll be keenly interested to see how these players progress going forward. We've seen plenty of players like these before, from Ho-Sang to Milano, and I'm not gonna rack my brain trying to think of them, but this is the first time I've been so familiar with these players from a young age and able to closely follow their progression, and I'm excited to see where I went wrong and what I have to learn.
    Last edited by matchesmalone; 03-12-2021, 09:06 PM.

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    • Not calling this my final list, but if the draft really is going in July, I think it's getting close to solidified, at least towards the top. The big thing I'm looking for is players with a combination of safe "floors" as well as high "ceilings". Clarke is the one player in this draft that seems to fill both criteria very well. Slight but realistic chance he's Drew Doughty territory, but really good bet he's Josh Morrissey plus . Beniers is practically a lock to be a solid second line center, and there's an outside chance he's in Bergeron/Toews stratosphere, but Ryan Kesler would be a better bet. Luke Hughes is a pretty safe bet to be at least an effective puck-moving defenseman, and I think there's enough upside on the defensive end to potentially put him into Norris conversations one day. Power is more of a balance - floor isn't as high as Beniers or Clarke, ceiling isn't as high as Hughes, but both are pretty high. Sillinger is difficult to define. For an upside, I get major Joe Pavelski vibes. Very safe bet to at least be a top nine forward, fairly safe to be a top six, but I also don't think it's such a longshot that he reaches his ceiling.

      1. Brandt Clarke
      2. Matthew Beniers
      3. Luke Hughes
      4. Owen Power
      5. Cole Sillinger
      6. Carson Lambos
      7. William Eklund
      8. Kent Johnson
      9. Dylan Guenther
      10. Chaz Lucius
      11. Simon Edvinsson
      12. Fabian Lysell
      13. Fyodor Svechkov
      14. Nikita Chibrikov
      15. Aatu Raty
      16. Zach Bolduc
      17. Jesper Wallstedt
      18. Oskar Olausson
      19. Corson Ceuleman
      20. Simon Robertsson
      21. Sasha Pastujov
      22. Mason McTavish
      23. Stanislav Svozil
      24. Xavier Bourgault
      25. Anton Olsson
      26. Matt Coronato
      27. Artyom Grushnikov
      28. Francesco Pinelli
      29. Daniil Chayka
      30. Aiden Hreschuk
      31. Matvei Petrov
      32. Brennan Othmann
      Last edited by matchesmalone; 03-13-2021, 02:52 PM.

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      • Well, I just checked out the shift-by-shift of Bedard's first WHL game. Unreal. 8 points in 4 games as an exceptional player. This kid is generational.

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        • Man, I am falling in love with Yurov's game. I've been a big fan for a while, and have been saying he's an incredibly pro-style player. Forget about 50-50 battles, give him a 40-60 battle and he's gonna win almost every one at this level; even when it looks like there's very little chance of him coming away with the puck, he so often finds a way. So many factors come into play there - obviously strength, which is impressive considering he's barely 17 in a 19 year old's league, but also quickness, work-ethic/tenacity/stick-to-it-iveness, and also hockey IQ, which are all extremely high end. I've also been saying for a while that I thought he's probably the best 2003 Russian forward, and that's being confirmed as he's playing 23 minutes a night at the MHL level. But now late in the season his confidence at this level is soaring. I've expressed question marks about his upper end upside, and I'm still not sure he's an offensive superstar in the NHL, but I'm starting to see some real high end puck skills. I've always known he's had really good hands in tight, but I'm starting to see him make some successful one on one moves, and more willingness to use his hands in tight to challenge multiple defenders around the net. I can't wait to see Salomonsson play, but for now Yurov is my number five for 2022, after the big four.

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          • Some news out of Russia for the 2024 draft. Ivan Demidov led the U16 Districts Cup in scoring as a December birthday, with 19 points in 7 games. His linemate was second with 16 points and nobody else was even close (10). Alexei Dontsov was second in scoring at the U15 Districts Cup, to some kid called Mikita Onishko; not sure if that's gonna be a name to watch for, or if it was just a line of really good junior players, as all three finished top ten.

            Cole Eiserman and Macklin Celebrini tore apart the bantam ranks with Shattuck St. Mary's, along with their linemate Aidan Park, posting the 4th, 5th, and 6th best p/g ever recorded in that league umbrella according to EP.. I am guessing Aidan Park was more or less along for the ride, but who knows.

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            • Alright well Owen Power has very gradually worked his way up my list. I think I had him 5 or 6 on my first list this year, and it seems he's gone up about a spot every couple months. It's just been hard to get viewings. It is still clear to everyone that guys Clarke, Hughes, Eklund, Johnson are more talented than Power, but the question is: is his size advantage enough to make up for the difference in level of talent. The more I watch of Power, the more I think that in many cases, the answer is yes. Brandt Clarke has pretty firmly solidified himself in my number one spot. After that I now have a clear top five, with Hughes, Power, Eklund, and Beniers. I'm pulling my hair out trying to decide between Beniers and Power for number two right now. Beniers is just such a pro-style player with all the intangibles, but the question is: just how high is the upside? And this is a complicated question with him. We've seen flashes, and even a whole tournament, where he looks like an offensive dynamo. We know he has the hockey sense, reaction speed, the willingness, and wherewithal to recognize and attempt high-end skill plays when they are available, and at the World Junior level certainly he had the skill level to execute. But his technical skill level, while impressive, is not exactly elite. So the question is whether his skill level can continue to progress enough to keep up as he moves up to higher levels and has to make those plays with less and less time and space. Hughes and Eklund are right there in the mix, but at the moment I have them a step behind.

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              • After the top five, Sillinger is pretty much locked in at number six - doesn't have the upside of the top five, but he's gonna be a rock in the NHL. Next up I'm trying to decide between Guenther's safety or Johnson's upside, or if maybe Lucius or Lysell deserve to pass one of those guys. I was pretty disappointed with Guenther's U18s, but his season makes good sense to me. As a big, strong kid with a mature game and solid all-round skillset, it makes sense that he is able to excel in WHL against older but on average less skilled players, while on the U18 stage amongst the best players in the world at this age group, his skill doesn't stand out.

                I'm having second thoughts about Johnson. I've been pretty harsh on him about some of his decision-making, and I worry I may have blown it out of proportion. As I said from the start of the season, he's going to make high-risk plays, but he seems to manage the risk quite well.

                Lysell deserves to move up my list. His skill level has always been abundantly obvious, but I'd had issues with him wanting to use his skill to do everything himself. Clearly the SHL has humbled him, and at U18s I see a vastly matured player. Still definite concerns about size and physical play. If Lucius ends up being the steal of the draft, I'm going to feel really stupid, because I have no real reason to rank him as low as I do, but I just haven't seen him enough this season, and his hockey sense remains a curiosity. I've seen scouting reports that say he's one of the smartest players in the draft, and if you believe that to be true, you've gotta pick him top five. But the way he sees the game is so unique, and I guess my concern is if you're always so focused on the big picture, birds-eye view as it were, it may be more difficult to focus on what is immediately present to you, especially if it is happening at breakneck speeds.

                After that, Edvinsson seems to have made significant strides in his defensive play, but I mean, he had nowhere to go but up. Fyodor Svechkov is already just about as high as I'm comfortable ranking him, but I did say at one point he might be a top five-worthy prospect. And he's added "clutch" to his résumé. I've never thought of him that much as a physical presence, but he was battling for his life in that gold medal game, and driving the puck into highly contested areas of the ice like I haven't seen from him before. I don't think he had any points in this one, but it was one of the best games I've seen him play, and so I looked back at the U17 gold medal game, and found that he broke a scoreless tie in the second period and ended up with two more assists for three points.

                Unfortunately, Carson Lambos will be falling to somewhere in the 10-15 range. It's not that I'm changing my opinion of him, but I've said from the start that he's the prospect with the most question marks surrounding him, and while all these other prospects were impressing in all these ways, he just hasn't had the opportunity to dispel the concerns. I saw two games from him in Sarja, and he looked great, but it's a lower quality league than any of the four North American major junior leagues. And then after a bitterly disappointing stint in Liiga, he never got a chance to display himself at the WHL or U18 tournament level. I still think his upside is enormous, but at this point there is just too much risk to take him in the top ten.

                After that, I'm not sure. I'm deciding between Chibrikov and McTavish for the last two spots in the top 15, again upside vs. safety. Wallstedt and Ceuleman are my only other real locks for the top 20. Raty will likely still go top 20, but I don't think anyone will be too surprised if he takes the kind of plummet on draft day that makes everyone really uncomfortable. He's up against Tuomaala, Bolduc and Othmann to round out my top 20. That's about as deep as I can comfortably go in this draft. I will have to figure out a way to finish the first round, but it's gonna mean deciding based on a single shift-by-shift viewing for some players. Thankfully DevilsInTheDetails has a very impressive collection this year. I still need to watch Coronato, Morrow, Bourgault, Knies before I can settle on my top 32.

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                • I'm kind of undecided about Power. If he didn't have the size advantage and still played so dominantly, he'd be my clear #1. Part of me worries that once his size isn't as much of an advantage, he'll fall behind. Far from final, but right now I've got Clarke #2 and Beniers #3. Then I think it might be Hughes, Eklund, Edvinsson, and Lambos in that order, but I've still got a lot of work to do.

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                  • Well, if you already have him first I don't need to try to convince you, but... his size is still going to be a pretty big advantage in the NHL. Aside from being 6'5, he's already 215, and it shows. Many of these bigs kids, like Edvinsson, are lanky and have a lot of filling out to do. Power already looks stocky, and could easily max out at 230 or 235.

                    I've been checking out some shift-by-shifts. There have been two up of William Eklund in the past few weeks, who I hadn't had a lot of opportunity to see before. After I watched the first one, he solidified himself in my top five, now after this most recent one, woah. I'm slowly starting to understand the intangible I've seen some folk rave about, in addition to ridiculous skill level. Made a couple of great plays in his own zone, and his defensive positioning is beautiful to watch. He's not on Lucas Raymond's level of tenacious two-way forward, but his skill level may be higher, and I see some good stick lifts and puck battles on the forecheck. Certainly different - his skating falls much more into the smooth category. I honestly see some Paul Kariya in him. The bizarre thing is, although he's older than their draft years, unlike Raymond and Holtz, he doesn't just look good "for his age" in the SHL; he looks like he belongs there, on the top line and top PP. His offensive hockey sense is very high level. Check this play out:

                    https://youtu.be/gBE_FGkaF2U?t=786

                    He's at the bottom of the screen, on the left wing board, he leads his checker into thinking he has him eliminated, then suddenly he cuts hard to the inside. It must be a set play, and it doesn't work, but holy smoke, those edges.

                    Meanwhile, I'm becoming somewhat less confident in Beniers' upside. I was a little frustrated with him at times in the past when I thought he avoided what could have been high-end plays to take the safer route, but I'm thinking now that he does that because he just doesn't have the hands to execute. I mean, his hands are good, same with his skating, very good, but they aren't in the vicinity of elite. I've now seen him in traffic a number of times just not having the handspeed to execute what he wants to do. Not the he fumbles the puck, but he's just not tight enough and lets the puck move into the reach of opponents' sticks and feet. I've said before, compared to Guenther and Sillinger, all are similar in their safety of being top six forwards, but Beniers has the edge because I see more potential for upside. I'm just starting to doubt that upside a little more than I did before. I think there is going to be shuffling within my top five before all is said and done.

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