This week's column features two 2020 NHL Draft eligible players who broke into the top ten in our initial ranking found here. Ryan Wagman provided some notes on the top 31 players on NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk recently . It is very rare for McKeen’s, or most draft evaluators, to rank a goalie in the first round, let alone the top 10, given their notorious difficulty to project. Catherine Silverman explores that challenge in a recent article for McKeen’s. Yaroslav Askarov is that big a talent at a young age and Alessandro Seren Rosso, who has followed him for some time, reports from Russia. Vince Gibbons reports on a very fast riser for the draft in the early part of the season as Connor Zary is turning heads and eyes in the WHL and is our prospect in the news for this week.
NBC Wednesday Night hockey features two rebuilding organizations with lots of young talent already in their NHL line up. Tom Dorsa reports on three former first round draft picks currently playing in Grand Rapids while Ryan Wagman looks at impressive defender K’Andre Miller in the Rangers system.
Enjoy. The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
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2020 NHL Draft Prospect – Russia - Yaroslav Askarov, G
2019 Stats: 2.54 GAA, 0.910 save percentage for SKA-Neva St. Petersburg
Yaroslav Askarov is a tall (6'3") goalie who plays a solid butterfly style. He's got an uncanny ability in tracking the play, and he seems always to know where the puck is - even in traffic. He's very resilient between the pipes and is always ready to challenge the opposition. He's already playing against men in Russia, and that's a fantastic chance to gather some much-needed experience. He's in consideration for a trip to the WJC, and this speaks loudly about his level, considering his age and Bragin's inclination toward older, more experienced players.
After moving to St. Petersburg from his native Omsk, Askarov quickly ranked up the system, being the perennial starting goalie for the 2002-born Russian national team, while earning different trips with the 2001s. In 2018 he played at his first Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he helped the Russians return home with the bronze medal. Later that year, he was awarded best goalie at the U18 WJC. In August 2019 he helped the Russians win gold for the first time since 1995, emerging as one of the best goalies in the world for his age group, if not the best. He's considered the best goalie coming out of Russia since Andrei Vasilevskiy (who is eight years older), and has all the tools not only to simply become an NHL goalie, but to emerge as a potential Vezina Trophy winner, just like Vasilevskiy himself and Sergei Bobrovsky. He should be taken in the top 10 in the next NHL draft. – Alessandro Seren Rosso, Russia
Prospect in the news: WHL - Connor Zary, C, Kamloops
2019 Stats – eight goals and 16 assists in 16 games for Kamloops (WHL)
After last season’s top forward candidates in the WHL took hold of the first round, 2020 looked like it would be the year of the defender (a common draft theme for the league). In terms of volume that may very well be the case with Braden Schneider, Kaiden Guhle, and Kasper Puutio all having strong starts to the season. One player though, has really pushed himself towards the top spot of draft eligible players in the WHL, Connor Zary. Despite being one of the older draft eligible players his improvements offensively need to be recognized. Zary is tied for 3rd in WHL scoring with 8 goals and 16 assists over his first 16 games (first among draft eligible players).
Zary has always been looked upon as a solid two-way player with very good skating ability but what has moved him from the back of the first round to the front of it is a more dynamic offensive game. His shot in terms of volume and quality has taken strides this year. No one in the WHL has shot the puck more than him at this point in the season. In addition to that, he Is tied for second in the league in terms of assists. He has become a real dual threat offensively. He is able to make high level plays in traffic, create space and drive play while being defensively responsible and protecting his own zone first. While he is a bit older his maturity shines through as one of his top qualities is, he can be used in every possible game situation. – Vince Gibbons, WHL
NBC Wednesday Night Hockey – Detroit vs. New York
On a ‘rebuilding on the fly’ Rangers team, our first ranked and fourth ranked prospects in their system in the McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook, Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox are now NHL regulars. Ryan Wagman looks at a potential impact player when he joins the core group currently on the ice in defenseman K'Andre Miller
K'Andre Miller, D (22ndoverall, 2018. McKeen’s team rank: 2 Last Year: 3)
2019 Stats – three goals and one assist in eight games for University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Playing on Wisconsin's first pairing alongside Arizona prospect Ty Emberson, Miller has been given the freedom to roam for the Badgers, allowing him to use his plus speed to add an element to the attack that few NCAA squads have, especially with the moves of Adam Fox (Harvard -> NY Rangers), Cale Makar (UMass -> Colorado), and Quinn Hughes (Michigan -> Vancouver) to the NHL. The sophomore has already scored three goals through eight games, including a beauty conversion of a breakaway out of the penalty box against top ten team Clarkson. A late convert to the blueline, Miller has all of the tools to be a top pairing defender at the highest level, but needs to round out his game away from the puck in order to earn such an opportunity. Although he is used in all situations, Wisconsin has been outscored 7-11 with Miller on the ice so far, although that is not all on the Rangers first rounder's shoulders as Tony Granato's team plays a bit of run and gun, and has a few other high end NHL prospects, including Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield (to name only the first rounders). While team defensive structure has played a part in Miller's relative own zone struggles, he can, and should play a bigger role in righting that particular ship. – Ryan Wagman, Prospects Director, NCAA, USHL
‘From a young, hyper-athletic forward to a still young, hyperathletic blueliner, K'Andre Miller is near the end of his metamorphosis. Based purely on skill, he should be ready to move on to the professional ranks, but after losing the end of his freshman year due to a leg injury, Miller has decided to spend one more year on campus. With the Rangers now climbing out of their rebuild, it probably is better for his development to not be in the spotlight just yet, but to come up after the new core as more firmly established themselves on Broadway. For much of his freshman season, Miller was the top draw with the Badgers, combining fantastic skating with top shelf hockey IQ and easy to ignore physicality. His offensive game is still raw, but he does things few other blueliners would consider. Going back to school also all but guarantees that Miller will get another chance to impress at the WJC as those six games were his least impressive of the year. His upside is still that of a first pairing defender, but he isn’t quite there yet.’ – Ryan Wagman, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook
Detroit is also an organization in a rebuild mode and hoping many pieces are in place already and ready to contribute in the near future. Grand Rapids has always played a huge role in the development of prospects in the organization, more-so than most other teams. The AHL team currently features the top three players in our ranking of the Red Wing prospect system in the 2019-20 McKeen’s Yearbook. Tom Dorsa will be providing an update on prospects in the AHL West very soon in a feature at www.mckeenshockey.com and he provides notes on the top three, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and Moritz Seider - all first round picks in the last two NHL drafts. McKeen’s subscribers can read full scouting reports and notes on the site.
Filip Zadina, LW (6th overall, 2018. McKeen’s team ranking: 1 Last Year: 1)
2019 Stats – three goals and two assists in five games
When Zadina was drafted at sixth overall in 2018, the pick had the makings of a steal, after the Czech winger was projected to go no later than third overall by most major draft experts (ourselves included). However, he has struggled to acclimatize himself with the North American game and is having trouble implementing his gameplay style in the rough-and-tumble AHL. Still, he possesses what is maybe the most complete package of any forward prospect in the sport, grading out as above average at skating, shooting, puck-handling, physicality, and smarts. The former QMJHL star merely needs to be more assertive with the puck, and instead of trying to do too much, simplify his game and focus on what he does best. He is far along defensively and has added some muscle to his still young frame but has a way to go to being a sure-fire NHL talent.
Joe Veleno, C (30th overall, 2018. McKeen’s team ranking: 2 Last Year: 2)
2019 stats – two goals and zero assists in 11 games
His first full month as a pro was a rough experience at times (-11 in October), but patience is a virtue for the Red Wings, who will soon reap the benefits of Veleno, who has flashed some incredible tools with AHL Grand Rapids thus far this season. With a high compete level and a drive unlike any other player his age, he plays up his already stellar skating as well as his high-end puck-distribution skills. His hunched-back style of skating gives his lanky body a low center of gravity and an enviable balance on his edges. The former 100-point star with QMJHL Drummondville reminds me of a young Jason Spezza in his skating, puck-handling, and absurdly quick wrist shot.
Moritz Seider, D (6th overall, 2019. Last Year: Draft Eligible)
2019 Stats – zero goals and six assists in 11 games
Perhaps Seider was a reach at sixth overall in 2019, but the blueliner’s game is based on maturity, discipline, and wondrous vision, so he has not had to adjust much to instantly succeed in the AHL. A smooth skater, Seider’s technical refinement on his feet — specifically his forward-to-backward (or vice versa) movement — is breathtaking. Comfortable playing on his offside, he is adept at positioning himself properly and has a very active stick on defense. His selective aggression comes out on the power play, where he is not hesitant to move the puck into dangerous areas, and on the penalty kill, where his defensive skills of stick-checking and shot-blocking are under the spotlight. He has the tools to be a high-usage shutdown defenseman on Detroit’s top pair, and in short order. – Tom Dorsa, AHL West