Every season Future Considerations’ scouts spend countless hours in cold rinks across the globe in an effort to gather information on the next wave of NHL talent coming down the pipe. In this monthly column we will provide our readers with a few single scouting snapshots and some early impressions from actual game reports taken by our talented evaluators.
October 6, 2015 – Sparta Praha @ ZSC (Champions Hockey League) – C Auston Matthews, ZSC Lions, 6-2, 195
“There wasn’t going on a lot offensively in today’s loss which held Matthews’ team scoreless. Despite the fact that he was held scoreless for once, Matthews was one of the more active forwards and had several scoring chances. Coach Marc Crawford gave Matthews a lot of ice time and used him on one of the power play units. Matthews showed very good vision in the offensive zone and it seemed like he always knew where his line mates are, even without looking. He also showed his defensive awareness, backchecked well and was looking for his opponent in the defensive zone. He often tried to protect the area in front of the net taking away passing lanes and protecting the crease.
“He often showed nice give and go passes within tight spaces and had a couple of passes in the offensive zone where he showed his powerful, accurate pass combined with his outstanding vision and understanding of the game. Matthews has a lightning quick release and used his strong wrister and it needed a couple of good reflexes from the Sparta goaltender to prevent Matthews from scoring. Matthews has very smooth hands and is an excellent stickhandler and puck carrier, who is hard to knock of the puck once in full motion. He showed decent skating balance. Matthews is clearly the type of player who keeps you on the edge of your seat and you can always expect a fancy move from him when he has the puck. However, he tends to do too much at times and could simplify his game a bit. He had one or two blind passes which led to takeaways.
“In my eyes Matthews will be picked first overall next year, especially if he continues to impress in nearly each game in one of the most competitive European leagues. He is no longer a boy among men and showed a high competitive level in his first few games with ZSC.”
September 4, 2015 – Gatineau @ Ottawa (CHL Preseason) – LW Vitalli Abramov, Gatineau, 5-9, 170
“Abramov had a very impressive showing in Ottawa. The Russian import was a threat offensively and picked up three assists, all of which were quite impressive, to help lead his team to victory. His first assist was very slick as he head faked a check on the wall and beat him to the inside before the play carried on and he exploded to the opposite side of the ice to take control of the loose puck; once he had possession, Abramov walked out front untouched before dishing a crisp pass through the slot to the backdoor on the tape of the goal scorer.
“The second assist was even better; Abramov gained speed as he crossed the blue line on the right side, saw his option to his left, drew a defender close and shifted his upper body to the inside facing the slot and twisted his stick position to deliver the pass right on the tape of his target. Abramov drew a penalty later in the game thanks to his knack for always keeping his feet moving no matter how tight the man is on him. In one direction, Abramov skates with a bit of a hunch, but his quick, shifty, agile skating is a strength that he uses regularly. Has explosive speed when he needs it and can change speeds, up and down, in a flash. He explodes at the right time to streak into the lane and receive the pass absolutely timed right.
“Has the confidence to get creative with the puck and makes some pretty impressive moves around defenders at the blue line before driving to the net or down low to set up. Will need to ensure his option is present as there was a point where he went so fast to the side of the net and spun to pass in front where not one Gatineau player was present, ultimately turning the puck over when he had full control over the play. Almost got the lights knocked right out of him as he got crushed trying to exit his own zone with his head down. Has a bit of a tendency to over extend his reach when trying to poke at the puck defending and on the forecheck instead of taking the extra step to have a better chance at getting the puck. Seems to have eyes on the back of his head and an excellent sense of the game and his surroundings. Almost potted a goal of his own later in the game as he unloaded a quick and lethal wrist shot low from in the circles that just missed by inches — he saw the opening and tried to pick it, but couldn’t convert.”
August 20, 2015 – Djurgardens @ Tappara (Champions Hockey League) – LW Patrik Laine, Tappara, 6-3, 210
“Patrik Laine played an important role in Tappara’s CHL premiere of the 2015-16 season as he scored two goals and had one assist throughout the game. It was amazing watching such a young player playing as a fully developed senior player on this international level. What mostly stood out was his aggressiveness, as he was not afraid of taking and giving out bodychecks, plus that he could stand up for his teammate after a big hit.
“Laine showed amazing skill, poke checking the puck during the back check, creating several turnovers for his team, one that lead to him scoring a backhand goal on a breakaway after getting the goalie out of position with a nice deke, and one assist after creating a two-man breakaway, making an excellent cross pass in the slot. Something that lead to his excellent poke checking was his positioning in the neutral zone, as well as his hockey IQ. He would position himself in a centre-winger type of role in a neutral zone trap play where he used his length to reach the puck. He also read the upcoming plays with excellence, always making him a threat to the opponents. For his length and weight, Laine had a very good speed and acceleration as he reached his top speed very quickly and was hard to knock out of balance – both with and without the puck. He mostly used his size to get pass opponents, but he showed that he has the ability to deke out defenders as well, which he showed with perfection at his first goal. He jumped successfully pass the defender in the left corner of the offensive zone, which lead to a quick deke against the next defender, leaving him open with a hard, accurate wrist shot straight up in the left top corner from the left face-off circle.
“With the puck, Laine showed several options of passing the puck. He preferred cross passes in the slot, but had no problems laying saucer passes to the blue line during power plays, as well as laying passes behind his back with perfection. He would also pass the puck in tricky situations where he would get body checked, just to let the team carry on the offense. Laine was very calm with the puck throughout the game and rarely made mistakes. He had a very North American type of play, often crashing the net and playing more physical than the other players. He also showed some leadership in him as he could stand up for teammates and often did the dirty work in the gritty areas, plus that he never showed any signs of a bad body language. Because of his perfection in this game, carrying his team at this young age and at this level, I would definitely say that Laine is a top 10 lock in the upcoming draft, with the potential of becoming a top-5 pick. His game is very adjusted for the North American type of hockey and he will become an excellent NHL player in the future.”