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Sammy Blais
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Prospects Report

Prospects Report: Wild about Kirill Kaprizov

by McKeen's Hockey
Updated On: October 30, 2019, 2:26 am ET

McKeen’s has just released their initial first round ranking (Top 31) for the 2020 NHL Draft in what is being touted as a strong draft year. It is very early days so we will see if that is borne out on the ice. Our team is busy in rinks evaluating this year’s eligible players. We will begin posting our full scouting reports in November once they have had a chance to get some viewings in. It is always an interesting journey as this list will change substantially over the coming months. To see who has caught our eye in the early going you can check it out here: https://www.mckeenshockey.com/nhl-blog/mckeens-2020-nhl-draft-top-31-october-2019/

This week’s column on the prospect world covers our highest ranked defender on that list, Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters in the OHL. The O looks to be a very promising league in the early - going taking seven of our top 31 spots along with three of our top six. Brock Otten is back on deck again with a report as a result. The prospect in the news is Cole Caufield, who leads the NCAA in goals and our head scout, Ryan Wagman, recently caught in action.

For the NBC Wednesday night game between Minnesota and St. Louis we cover the current leading goal scorer in the KHL, Kirill Kaprizov , and Sammy Blais, a prospect on the cusp last season who is making his pitch for a full-time role. Minnesota has no prospects of note in the line-up and Kaprizov could join them as soon as next season. St. Louis is reeling from the news of an extended absence from superstar Vladimir Tarasenko and looking for answers. Blais is one of several contenders.

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.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK on Twitter.

Live streaming Tuesday October 29 on NBC: Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers 6:30 PM ET. Watch here!

2020 NHL Draft prospect - Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)

2019 Stats – five goals and 14 assists in 19 games for Erie (OHL)

Mobility and puck poise are such important qualities for defenders to possess in today’s NHL. Disappearing are the days when shutdown defenders had to be hulking giants who could impose their will physically. NHL teams are realizing that the best way to neutralize the opposition’s attack is to prevent them from setting up in the first place. Having mobile defenders who can recover dump ins and quickly transition up ice limits defensive zone time and swings momentum in favor of your team.

That’s what makes Erie Otters defender Jamie Drysdale such an appealing option for the 2020 NHL Draft in Montreal. As of right now, Drysdale is considered the top defender available and is starting to gain traction as a possible top five pick, just as Vancouver Giants defenseman Bowen Byram did last year. The Otters assistant captain (and captain of Team Canada’s entry at this past summer’s Hlinka/Gretzky Cup) is currently the third leading defenseman scorer in the OHL with 19 points in 14 games and has been nothing short of fantastic to start the season.

His aforementioned mobility is a major asset. It is rare to see him hemmed in his own zone as he recovers dump ins so quickly by taking great routes to the puck and using his body to shield off forecheckers. From there, he is aggressive in finding routes to lead the breakout, pushing the pace of play and kick starting the offensive attack for his team. Drysdale excels as a puck carrier not only because of his elite skating ability, but also because his hands allow him to maintain control even at full speed. His comfort level and confidence as a powerplay quarterback have grown considerably this year.

As the current top defender available, Drysdale projects as a top pairing NHL defenseman who can play in any situation and be one of the top blueliners in the NHL. Depending on his conditioning and physical maturation, he may be able to play in the NHL as early as next season. - Brock Otten, OHL

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Prospect in the News – Cole Caufield, RW, MTL (15th overall, 2019. McKeen’s team rank: 1 Last Year: Draft Eligible)

2019 Stats – seven goals and two assists in six games for University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

This early in the NCAA campaign, statistical leaderboards are effectively meaningless, as the number of games played by the various schools can vary widely. Some schools have played seven or eight games, while Ivy League schools have yet to play an official game at all. So, the fact that Cole Caufield leads the nation in goals scored, having lit the lamp seven times in his first six games with the Wisconsin Badgers is not necessarily meaningful, but it is very good, nonetheless. Part of that fact is due to opportunity, as Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato has wisely made him a fixture in the team’s top six from day one, often playing with former USNTDP teammate Alex Turcotte, as well as 2020 Draft candidate Dylan Holloway (currently ranked 13th by McKeen’s).

Moreover, Caufield is making the most of the opportunity, and his 27 shots on net help him to a fifth-place tie for shots per game across collegiate hockey. He still looks like, for all intents and purposes, a high-end NHL sniper. He has an innate feel for finding scoring lanes and his trigger is very hard to detect. He loves firing the puck and has more than enough puck skills and elusiveness to overcome his small stature and generate scoring chances seemingly at will. There is nothing to point to his current numbers being egregiously unsustainable, and if he can keep up a pace even remotely resembling his current one, he will end the season in the Montreal lineup. - Ryan Wagman, Prospects Director, NCAA, USHL

‘The comparison to Alex DeBrincat is obvious, but also pretty apt. Like the aforementioned, Caufield is mite-sized and has put the puck in the net at every stage of his development, including an awe-inspiring 72 times in 64 games for the USNTDP last year. He may be small, but he is built solid, with his leg strength serving as a springboard for the rest of his game. He can score from anywhere in the offensive zone and on a wide variety of shot types. He skates well, too, getting to a nice top speed and enabling him to sneak up on defenses. He has exceptionally soft hands for receiving passes and making them work and he reads opponents like my father reads the obits: figuring out at a glance if he has somewhere to go. Not every short goal scorer will be the next DeBrincat. Caufield might be better.’ - Ryan Wagman, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook

NBC Wednesday Night Hockey

St. Louis vs. Minnesota

St. Louis – Sammy Blais, LW (176th overall, 2017. McKeen’s team rank: 5 Last Year: 6)

2019 stats – three goals and two assists in 10 games for St. Louis (NHL)

Sammy Blais started the season on the top line alongside Ryan OReilly and David Perron and registered three goals and two assists in the first five games. Production has trailed since then going pointless in the next five, including a recent move to the third line coinciding with a thumb injury - causing him to miss the most recent game. His competitive physical style of play has earned him ice time, starting with a call up in last year’s Stanley Cup run, appearing in 15 games.

Tarasenko’s absence from the lineup for five months has opened up an opportunity for one of St. Louis young guns to step up and fill that role. Blais has shown he has the skill to play a complementary role in the top six, bringing a robust presence and currently leading the team in hits by a wide margin with 39 - almost four a game (3.9). He has also seen some time as a net-front presence on the second power play. There will be competition for a top six role, but the opportunity for the 23 -year old to shed his prospect status and earn full time NHL employment is wide open with a return to health. – McKeen’s

‘Rarely does a sixth-round pick play NHL hockey, and even more scarce are those that have the instant impact Blais had at that level. Inserted into the Blues lineup midway through their playoff run, the former QMJHL star was a spark of non-stop energy and a physical edge on every shift, playing all over the lineup and producing throughout. Aside from the hard work and grittiness that has drawn the respect of his teammates, the left-hander excels at getting into the right positions away from the puck, using his whippy, heavy shot at any opportunity. His offensive vision is not as impressive as his sizzling shot, but the 23-year-old is capable of making space for teammates by drawing defenders his way through his dominant puck-protection skills. He projects to be a depth scorer and energy line winger going forward, but his versatility and reliability can push him up into the top six if his coach needs a jolt. At 23, he is NHL ready.’ - Tom Dorsa, 2019-20 McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook.

Minnesota Kirill Kaprizov, LW (135th overall, 2015. McKeen’s team rank: 1 Last Year: 1)

2019 Stats – 12 goals and nine assists in 19 games for CSKA Moskva (KHL)

Kaprizov is currently the KHL’s top sniper, and he has a chance to win the award for the second year in a row. He plays on the league’s top team, and is certainly gathering valuable experience before he moves to the NHL next year. Considering his tools and the Wild’s situation, he should slot nicely on the team’s top-six and starting doing damage right away.  – Alessandro Seren Rosso, updating from Russia

‘An elite offensive player who is already one of the top KHL talents at his young age, Kaprizov is a gifted forward with an impressive resume under his belt. Last year, he led the whole league in goals and game-winning goals, and also won the Gagarin Cup with CSKA before helping Russia to get back home with a bronze medal at the IIHF World Championship. With his size, hands, and poise, he won’t have many problems in adapting to the more demanding NHL game and it will be exciting to see what he can done there after his contract with CSKA will run out next April 30. He is a hard worker, and won’t be a defensive liability for his team, but Kaprizov is a top-six player and won’t contribute much on a bottom-six, defensive oriented role.’ - Alessandro Seren Rosso, Russia, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook

McKeen's Hockey

McKeen’s Hockey has been writing about NHL hockey and covering prospects for 25 years. Our team of scouts and analysts are in rinks around the world providing insight into the NHL’s future at mckeenshockey.com.