September Notebook – Froese

Aaron Vickers2020 Draft Center, From The Notebook, WHL

Every season, scouts from Future Considerations spend countless hours gathering information on the next wave of NHL talent coming down the pipe. Future Considerations head Western scout Justin Froese is no different.

Here is Froese’s notebook for September.

Daemon Hunt, D, 6-0, 198, 5-15-2002
Moose Jaw Warriors 2 at Brandon 1 – September 14, 2019
The cream quickly rose to the top and it was no surprise that Hunt was one of the standouts dressed in this game. With Moose Jaw losing several key members, Hunt is expected to be the focal player on the back end and showed he is poised for a step forward in his development. He’s a smart kid who sees the ice well and can throw dimes all over, but where I was able to see the most growth was his use of his skating and ability to shift into a higher gear, using his feet to attack. His shot has always been a known weapon but he has learned to utilize lateral movement and quick screens to add to his arsenal instead of just being teed up for one-timers. He doesn’t tend to overplay the puck and uses a good combination of quick hands and body positioning to avoid checkers and though confident, knows when he needs to find an outlet. He brings a combination of sandpaper and skating ability to the table when defending and could edge well to maintain gaps and shift direction to keep his opponents on the outside. He’s able to battle for position and get his stick in on opponents without incriminating himself to take penalties or get caught on the wrong side of the puck. Overall, he isn’t the flashiest guy but is calculated and plays a pro-style of game that you can’t really pick apart or degrade. He looks to become the next member of Moose Jaw’s defensive depth pipeline and with a strong year could be a second round player.

Braden Schneider, D, 6-2, 209, 9-20-2001
Winnipeg Ice 3 at Brandon Wheat Kings 2 – September 20, 2019
With Dylan Holloway heading south to play out his draft year at Wisconsin, Schneider has assumed the initial title of top prospect in the Western region heading into 2020. While I have had ample sample size of the big right shot defender, early impressions show that he has evolved even more as a player since the last time I saw him take the ice live. Noticeably with Schneider is that he stands out for doing the small things right and is a commanding presence on the ice. He isn’t the biggest or the flashiest but he is the complete package and I was impressed with how composed he played under pressure offensively and defensively. Two big changes stood out for me in comparison to past viewings. The first being that his play with the puck was a lot more patient and methodical as he didn’t feel rushed to make rash decisions he has in the past and there was a more awareness to how he could open up the ice and find a better option or create space by using his skating or deceptive tactics. Secondly, his delivery of the puck on passes and shot showed more maturity and he was more of a threat offensively due to it. His passes were well received and hard to the tape, and his shot power along with his execution has made him a legitimate scoring threat after years of struggling to be a presence. His skating makes him a threat to rush the puck and although he has the opportunity, he tends to pick his spots wisely and tends to stay on the defensive side of the puck and can get on his many quick thanks to quickness and power in his legs. He’s a sensible defender as well who combines a physical edge and long reach to court opponents and either take them out of neutralize them before they can gain space. He is steady but fluent mentally and doesn’t run around or play uncalculated under pressure, bringing a steady, underrated impact to zone coverage and the breakout. I would think that unless his play falls off a cliff he is going to keep improving and looks to be a projectable two-way defender.

Connor Zary, C, 6-0, 174, 9-25-2001
Kamloops Blazers 3 at Portland Winterhawks – September 22, 2019
It’s been awhile now, but Zary has been on the map for some time and with a steady improvement along with some notable performances in league and international play his stock is soaring going into his draft year. Zary isn’t a kid who has one or even a couple skills he has that are outstanding but more of a sum of his parts kind of guy who plays a well-rounded style, mired with statement moments in a timely fashion. Once a choppy skater who relied on short bursts, he’s seemed to not only become better at extending his stride but becoming more dynamic on his edges. Not to say that he is going to be the best skater on his team or amongst his peers, but he’s smart enough that he can hang in the reads and take advantage of catching someone flat footed to gain separation. I really think he has a well-rounded arsenal that aids him in controlling the puck and producing. He’s a dual threat player who uses quickness and a patient approach to bait opponents and react to the anticipated response. He picked up a secondary assist on the power play by pressuring the forward at the top of the box to attempt a poke check and without hesitation Zary started the domino effect of slinging the puck on his forehand to his open man inside the hash marks who went cross seam to catch the goalie going slow laterally for a goal. When not being an architect in the playmaker department, he is really strong at holding onto pucks with quick fakes and hesitations and using his edges and body to get wiggle room. This extra space helps him utilize his shot which isn’t overly powerful but unpredictable due to his willingness to shoot from any angle and his ability to release quickly and in motion. While well rounded for the most part, I didn’t love the effort displayed was caught 3 times on the ice for a goal against. While some strong awareness to play a strong supporting role shone through as positives, he was nowhere near aggressive enough tying up, checking or getting on the defensive side of the opponent within arm’s length. Sometimes Zary may not air on the high end of the excitement factor but he knows what the roots of his game are and how to be effective. I think that the offensive strengths of his game will bode well for him to crack an NHL roster one day but he needs to be more dynamic and show he has the work ethic to log regular minutes. I may not have drank the Kool Aid quite yet on him being the stand alone top forward in our region but he reminds me of a Dillon Dube type of player in his draft year.