It is time to give Mikhail Grigorenko his due as a legit riser with his play this year in the QMJHL. While he has had a bit of a consistency issue in the past with his Russian team CSKA, his play in Quebec under coach Patrick Roy has been phenomenal.
Grigorenko, while consistently dominant in the offensive zone, still has some distance to go before catching top prospect Nail Yakupov. The difference is Yakupov’s commitment to playing a complete game in all zones, displaying his drive to constantly improve his game, his ability to play through physical blanketing teams thorough at him and not just taking what is given but instead creating his own space and chances.
Zemgus Girgensons, meanwhile, has really taken a step forward this year in terms of consistency as well. At times last year, the power forwards looked interested only when the puck was on his stick or when he was chasing it down in the offensive zone but this year he has rounded off that edge and is contributing nightly in all zones.
Much like Girgensons, Radek Faska of the Kitchener Rangers has really impressed over the past month. After watching him in the first few game of the pre-season, he looked like he had potential, but we weren’t 100 per cent sure if he would be able to transition to the OHL’s style of game. He’s thrived over the last 30 days, and is moving up the rankings because of it. His skill and mobility have impressed, as has his ability to fight through checks and play a North American style of game. His combination of size, mobility and skill give him a very high ceiling.
Another pair of performances in the last month have another pair trending upward. Impressive showings by both goalie and game stealer Oscar Dansk as well as steady and effective defender Ludvig Bystrom at the World Jr. A Challenge in Langley BC have both these two Swedes moving up the draft board.
Belleville stopper Malcolm Subban has taken over as the drafts top stopper based on his impressive and consistent play during the month of November. He has picked up the Bulls and carried them to a very good record while his main competition this side of the Atlantic, Oshawa General goaltender Daniel Altshuller, has been good but not great as his team has stumbled along during the first two months of play.
Others who are developing better than originally forecasted include Michigan Wolverine power winger Phil Di Giuseppe, who has been very productive early on, winger Nicolas Kerdiles, who had a outstanding performance in the most recent Four Nations event for the U18 US Squad and speedy winger Pontus Aberg, who continues to get a good opportunity on the Djurgården Elite League squad and is making the most of it.
In order for these players to rise, some have to fall.
Kitchener’s Matia Marcantuoni is no where to be seen in the FC top-40 for the first time this year due to his inability to stay healthy and now showing unwillingness to play the “drive the net” game he was so impressive playing in Midget.
Nick Ebert, Windsor’s favorite whipping boy, is one who we believe has been given a bit of a bad rap has undeniably failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed on him this season as he tries to do-it-all and may be spreading himself too thin on a young Spitfires squad. A simpler approach game-by-game may get this talented defender back on track as his skills are surely evident.
Doing more is needed with London speedster Andreas Athanasiou, though. Athanasiou has given our scouts cause for concern as he is just not progressing and becoming stagnant in his development. He is not willing to play with any type of physicality or go into areas that he may get greasy in, instead settling for too many crest shots from the outside.
While he is one of the most naturally skilled offensive players in the entire draft, what is keeping Chicoutimi forward Charles Hudon out of the first round is his lack of jump and straight line speed. Only improvement in that area will allow him to move into first round contention.
Forward A.J. Michaelson of Waterloo has really disappointed many this season as his game has not really translated to the USHL from Minnesota high school where he was dominant despite a good pre-season for the Blackhawks. Talk of character concerns has other scouts pushing the once highly regarded forward down the ranks.
And finally, Edmonton Oil Kings defender Griffin Reinhart, while holding very good pro-potential, has not progressed in all areas as hoped this year. He has been overshadowed at times by another draft eligible, Cody Corbett, who joined the Oil Kings after competing in the Upper Midwest Elite League this past fall.