The World Junior A Challenge (WJAC) kicks off in Dawson Creek, BC on Saturday with five teams participating, including Canada West, Canada East, Czech Republic, Russia and the United States.
All of these rosters are stacked with talent, but let’s take a look at the prospects who are eligible to be drafted at the 2020 NHL Draft in Montreal, Québec.
Vasili Ponomaryov, LW, Russia, 6-0, 176, 03-13-2002
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 36
The Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) left winger is posting a solid season. In 27 games played, Ponomaryov has tallied 13 goals and 16 assists. Ponomaryov and his teammate Mavrik Bourque, also eligible for the 2020 draft, have been leading the charge for the Cataractes, who currently sit in ninth place in the QMJHL standings.
“He always puts the extra effort to reach a loose puck or get involved in the action. Ponomaryov is an excellent 2-way forward who uses his amazing competitiveness and hockey IQ to defend,” Quebec-based scout Andy Lehoux said. “He’s well aware of his defensive responsibilities and he reads passing lanes with ease. His positioning is impeccable in all three zones and he seems to be one step ahead of everyone.”
Carter Savoie, LW, Canada, 5-9, 170, 01-23-2002
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 43
Savoie has been extremely dominant for the Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) this season. In 27 games, he has piled up 30 goals and 21 assists. Savoie, older brother to 2022 NHL Draft prospect Matthew Savoie, is very skilled in the offensive zone and is ranked inside the second round in 2020. After this season, Savoie will be headed to Denver, Colorado as he is committed to play for the University of Denver next season.
“Savoie is the top-flight player in junior A for this year’s draft class and even though he plays all situational minutes for the Crusaders, his offensive game is what makes him a specialty player,” Future Considerations’ head Western scout Justin Froese said. “He is a highly aware, highly intelligent player who can hide in plain sight and gets so much room to operate that it’s hard to contain him once he does get the puck. His skating can look a bit sluggish at times, mainly since he doesn’t have an explosive first stride and coasts around a lot in shift, but when he sees an opportunity, there’s some ponies under the hood and he can break free from coverage.”
Daniil Gushchin, RW, Russia, 5-8, 161, 02-06-2002
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 45
Gushchin is lighting up the lamp with the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). In 18 appearances, the Russian sniper has tallied 11 goals and eight assists to follow-up a rookie season which saw him score 16 goals and 36 points in 51 games. No stranger to the international ranks, he’s twice represented Russia at the World Under-17 Challenge and once at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
“He’s really creative and can skate fine,” said Will Scouch, founder of scouching.ca. “He’s a good play driver and there’s certainly potential. Really skilled for sure. Takes a ton of shots but also passes the puck dangerously. Aggressive backchecker as well for someone his size. Doesn’t often disappear in play.”
Sean Farrell, LW, USA, 5-9, 179, 11-02-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 46
While we lowered his draft stock slightly on our Fall Rankings, Farrell is still one impressive USHLer. This season, Farrell has appeared in 20 games for the Chicago Steel and has mustered up 30 points (nine goals and 21 assists). Next season, he will pack his bags and head to Cambridge, Massachusetts as he is committed to Harvard University.
“Each viewing I get more impressed with Sean. His offensive skills are very good but he also uses his good speed to compete in all three zones,” US-based scout Ray Napientek said. “His shot and playmaking ability make him a threat but can also find scoring chances without the puck on his stick. With a compete level and a hockey IQ that is off the charts, Sean should be flying up draft boards in my mind.”
Luke Reid, RHD, USA, 6-0, 185, 09-26-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 50
In Reid’s second season with the Chicago Steel (USHL), the right handed defenseman has mustered up seven points (one goal and six assists) in 20 games. At his current pace, he is projected to beat last season’s point total (19 points in 60 games). Next season, Reid will head to the University of North Dakota and will likely play alongside Ottawa Senators prospects Shane Pinto, Jonny Tychonick and Jacob Bernard-Docker.
“Reid plays a solid positional game. Shows ability to play against top speed players,” Napientek said. “Does not look fast but works hard with his stick and gets into his opponents. Battles hard along the boards. Needs some strength.”
Alexander Pashin, RW, Russia, 5-7, 154, 07-28-2002
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 54
Pashin quietly has been having an excellent campaign with Tolpar Ufa (MHL). He has been fortunate to be brought up in such a strong farm system. The Priyutovo, Russia native has posted 21 points (10 goals and 11 assists) in 21 games played. If Pashin can continue to impress, he might get called up to Toros Neftekamsk (Salavat Yulaev Ufa’s VHL affiliate/minor league club) later on this season.
“Undersized but energetic player. Has a motor that never breaks. Gives everything he has in every shift,” head European scout Dennis Schellenberg said. “Shifty player that is hard to defend as he uses his blazing speed and quickness in his feet to make plays offensively. Not afraid to get his nose dirty around the net. He’s able to go to the slot and attack the net. Possesses good finisher skills and is a dangerous goal scorer at lower levels, needs to be seen how he can translate the game to the next level, especially given his smallish size. Compete level is there, though.”
Alex Laferriere, RW, USA, 5-10, 161, 10-28-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 69
Laferriere has been rising up draft boards. The Des Moines Buccaneers right winger has had a great campaign. In 21 games played, Laferriere has tallied 9 goals and 12 assists. While there are games where he tends to be invisible, they are a rarity. Laferriere has been lighting up the lamp and can be an exceptional special teams player in the NHL down the road. The New Jersey native is committed to Harvard and will be wearing the Crimson red next season.
“Alex has really taken off this season as a point-per-game player,” Napientek said. “He’s slippery with the puck. Sneaky good shot. He had a lot better vision and playmaking skills than I expected first time viewing him this season. Just a solid 200-foot player that teams need to compete. Plays in all situations for Des Moines.”
Michael Benning, RHD, Canada, 5-9, 170, 01-05-2002
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 75
Benning is having a productive season with the Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL). In 27 games, the right handed defenseman has tallied seven goals and 33 assists. While his stats are a bit inflated since he is playing in the AJHL, he is still having a stellar season and should not be overlooked at the 2020 draft. Along with Savoie, he will be packing his bags and playing for the University of Denver next year.
“On a team with some impressive offensive weapons, Benning is one of the kids who stuck out as a focal point,” Froese said. “There’s been hype for sometime surrounding his ability to create offense and he looks right at home at this level playing a calculated and mobile style that is centered around his dynamic skating ability. There are some kinks and risks to his game but for the most part, Benning can see the ice like few others in the league and can carve up the defense like a holiday ham with agile skating ability and dynamic, unpredictable hands.”
Marat Khusnutdinov, C, Russia, 5-9, 165, 07-17-2002
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 81
Khusnutdinov is playing in one of the most nostalgic and highly touted Russian farm systems (SKA St. Petersburg). In 23 games played with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL), he has mustered up 13 points (eight goals, five assists). The next step for Khusnutdinov will be getting called up to the VHL and finally the KHL.
“A skilled centerman who uses his skating abilities, agility and smartness to make plays happen offensively,” Schellenberg said. “Skilled with the puck. In combination with his smooth puckhandling skills, he’s a dangerous offensive contributor. Loves to have the puck on his blade and make plays, specially setting up plays having decent playmaking abilities. Possesses some leadership skills.”
By Josh Tessler