This week’s prospect report brings a distinctive OHL flavor. Our 2020 NHL Draft prospect feature focuses on Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit, sitting just behind Arthur Kaliyev of Hamilton in OHL League points scoring. Our prospects in the news feature focuses on Kaliyev and Nick Robertson, both pacing a goal a game early in the season and ranked first and tied for second in the OHL with 14 and 12 goals respectively. Kaliyev (LA) and Robertson (TOR) are 2019 draftees who have bolted out of the gate after being drafted in June, and looking like steals based on early returns, given they both slipped out of the first round with Kaliyev going 33rd overall and Robertson falling to 53rd.
Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh face off in the NBC Wednesday Night Hockey game and neither organization has a particularly deep prospect pool a result of repeated regular season success. That success has partly been a result of effectively filling organizational need out of their system as we explored in last week’s article on Pittsburgh. This week we look at Tampa Bay and a close look at Carter Verhaeghe who won a spot in the line-up out of training camp.
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The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com.
2020 NHL Draft prospects
North American Prospect
Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw (OHL)
2019 Stats: 5 goals, 19 assists in 24 games with Saginaw (OHL)
While the shootout may not be everyone’s favorite event in hockey, it can create memorable moments for individuals, especially on the international stage. Like Jonathan Toews and Troy Terry before him, Cole Perfetti made his name known this summer by scoring three times in the shootout of the semifinal game between Canada and Sweden at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, a premier tournament for the world’s best U18 players. Even though Canada would eventually lose in the gold medal game, Perfetti finished as the tournament’s leading goal and point scorer. This, in combination with his strong rookie year in the OHL for Saginaw the year prior (he led the league in goals and points by rookies), put him on the map as a potential top 10 selection for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Perfetti has continued his strong play into the current OHL season where he currently sits tied for second in OHL scoring with 24 points in 13 games. He was a common choice by most analysts in preseason prognostications to lead the league in scoring, perhaps even taking home the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding player.
At the heart of Perfetti’s game is his outstanding understanding of the game. His hockey IQ is off the charts good as he looks to take advantage of all the weapons in his repertoire; and he has a lot of weapons. Perfetti’s hands are silky smooth and he is terrific at prolonging possession in the offensive end, spinning off checks, making defenders miss as he waits for his opening. He can thread a pass-through traffic. He can cut into the slot and rip his wrist shot top shelf. He plays the slot as well as he does the half wall. Perfetti may not be blessed with the breakaway speed of Connor McDavid or Jack Hughes, but he does have quick feet and good agility that allows him to be elusive.
There is some question as to whether Perfetti can be a center at the NHL level, with his home likely on the wing moving forward. However, there are no questions about his offensive skill set and ceiling. He projects as a first line forward and potential point per game player who can anchor an NHL team’s offensive attack and with the right offseason conditioning program, he might even be able to make an impact as early as next season. – Brock Otten, OHL
Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga)
2019 Stats – 3 goals, 1 assist in 11 games for HIFK (Liiga)
Anton Lundell has been a prospect in the spotlight for several years now. He was stellar for HIFK U16 in the 2016-17 season, forming a lethal duo on the team's first line with Vegas Golden Knights prospect Marcus Kallionkieli. Later on, he was called up to the U18 team and spent most of the season there. He has consistently made strides in his game since then, playing against older competition and thriving as an important part of his teams. Currently he is getting quality ice-time with HIFK's Liiga team and has registered three goals and one assist in 11 games.
What has always made Lundell an intriguing center prospect is his ability to read the game. No matter what level he has played at, he thinks the game a step ahead of most players on the ice. Because of his anticipation and ability to process the state of play, he quickly moves in the right position without the puck. He plays a terrific three-zone game, supports his teammates, while bringing a lot of skill. He protects the puck very well, sees the entire ice and makes smart, productive passes. He owns a precise, quick wrist shot and can pick his spots well from close range. Moreover, he excels at face-offs. "The only aspect of his game that still lags behind is his skating. Even though he has added strength since last season, his first few strides lack power and quickness. However, because he already plays such a well-rounded and efficient game in a men's league, I consider Lundell a potential Top 10 pick for the 2020 NHL Draft. His excellent hockey sense makes him a pretty unique prospect – he is going to make one NHL team very happy on the draft day." – Marco Bombino, Finland
Prospects in the News/On the Rise
We look to a pair of 2019 second rounders currently playing the OHL for some of the hottest 2019-20 starts among all NHL prospects.
Arthur Kaliyev, LW (LA) (33rd overall, 2019. McKeen’s Last Year: Draft Eligible)
2019 Stats – 14 goals and 11 assists in 12 games with Hamilton (OHL)
It is not often that a player who pots 50 goals in his draft year in the OHL escapes the first round unclaimed, but Kaliyev was left to dangle overnight last June in Vancouver. Many, ourselves included, attributed his relative fall to his general indifference away from the puck. As much as he was the complete package in the offensive zone, his pace and commitment waned in his own end. Perhaps that failing has weighed on him this summer, or perhaps he is simply too gifted a goal scorer for the OHL, but Kaliyev has already scored 14 times in the season’s first 12 games. According to our OHL analysts, the bulky winger has great chemistry with linemate Jan Jenik (an Arizona draft pick), in a case where the line is more productive than the sum of its parts. The goals don’t negate the warts noted above, but they make them easier to overlook. – Ryan Wagman, McKeen’s Prospect Director
‘One of the most polarizing prospects from the 2019 NHL Draft class, Kaliyev ended up sliding to the second round where the Kings selected him. Yes, there are some concerns over both his pace of play and his eagerness to involve himself physically and without the puck. That said, he is nearly the complete package on the offensive side of the puck. He possesses both a booming slapshot and a quick release wrist shot, which he can use while cutting in or driving wide. He operates best as a triggerman in the slot, but he can create his own chances. He is also an underrated playmaker whose poise and patience with the puck has improved greatly through his time in the OHL. There are warts, but there is also massive potential for Kaliyev to develop into a consistent 30 goal scorer in a top six role for the LA Kings.’ – Brock Otten, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook
Nick Robertson, LW (TOR) (53rd overall, 2019. McKeen’s team rank: 2 Last Year: Draft Eligible)
2019 Stats – 12 goals and 8 assists in 12 games with Peterborough (OHL)
Whereas Kaliyev lasted into the second round despite owning first round tools due to a concern about his effort level, there has never been any questioning Robertson’s effort or compete level. His inner fire is notorious. The younger and much smaller brother of Dallas prospect Jason Robertson fell because of his size. 5-9” and slight, he plays the game of a bigger player and there is the concern that his style could lead to injuries during his career. With 12 goals and 20 points through his first 12 games, so far, so good. The creative and feisty winger has been flashing his high-end talent with far more consistency than he did in his draft year, with the ultra-aggressiveness showing up in every shift. He seems to be playing more intelligently, enabling him to play the puck more frequently. – Ryan Wagman, McKeen’s Prospect Director
‘What Robertson lacks in size; he makes up for in skill. One of the youngest 2019 draft eligible players, he is one of the most creative players in the OHL. He uses great edgework and quick hands to open up space to operate; ripping off his powerful wrist shot, or a cross ice pass to an open teammate. His puck control draws defenses into him, which opens up those lanes and space for his linemates. He is also very tenacious on the puck in the offensive end and is terrific at forcing turnovers with his quick feet and stick. Far from a finished product, he needs to mature physically to help him gain an extra step in his stride and to make him stronger playing through checks. The Leafs can afford to be patient with Robertson in hopes that he hits the growth spurt that his brother Jason did (a top Dallas prospect). The upside here is incredibly high, with Robertson possessing the skill set to be a front-line player.’ – Brock Otten, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook
NBC Wednesday Night Hockey
Carter Verhaeghe, C (82nd overall, 2013 [Toronto]. McKeen’s Team Rank: 12 Last Year: 15)
2019 Stats – 0 goals, 1 assist in eight games with Tampa Bay (NHL)
There were opportunities at camp to fill spots in Tampa Bay's lineup with Brayden Point expected to miss the opening of the season, and Cedric Paquette also injured. Carter Verhaeghe earned a chance by leading the Lightning in preseason scoring (6-2-3-5) - and after leading the AHL in scoring in 2018-19 with the Syracuse Crunch. The fifth-year pro has impressed with his versatility during his first eight NHL game. It looked at camp that Russian winger Alexander Volkov would make his NHL debut. After scoring 23 goals in each of his first two seasons in Syracuse, Volkov had a strong camp in Tampa and was noted to be a more mature player with an extra gear to his game. However, he suffered an injury late in preseason and was sent to the AHL where he returned for the Crunch home opener this past weekend. You can read Carter Verhaeghe’s profile from McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook below:
‘A veteran player in the AHL ranks, Verhaeghe has finally been coming into his own and hitting his stride. Last season was a career high season as he finished with 82 points in 76 games with Syracuse. Those are the type of numbers that Tampa Bay is looking for from a forward prospect. He is a good two-way player and a good playmaker now that he understands the importance of patience and has the maturity in his game to make the right plays. Now that he is getting older however, this next season will be a make or break season for him to see if he will be able to cut it at the NHL level. It is one thing to be able to produce in the AHL, but it is another to be able to keep up the same level of production and play at the NHL level and half the battle for Verhaeghe will be getting the chance to do so.’ – Shaiyena Cote, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook
Last week we took a look at three Penguins prospects, Sam Lafferty and Teddy Bleuger providing injury relief covering a slew of early season injuries, and the top prospect in their system Samuel Poulin found here: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/article/prospects-report/prospects-report-lafreniere-tops-2020-draft
John Marino, D (154th overall, 2015 [Edmonton]. McKeen’s Team Rank: 12 Last Year: 10 [Edmonton])
2019 Stats – 0 goals, 0 assists in seven games with Pittsburgh
The injury wave has spread to the blueline with the loss of Brian Dumoulin – a standout to begin the season alongside partner Kris Letang. John Marino emerged as a surprise at camp and has bolstered the defense corps – handling just under 18 minutes per game. Marino’s profile from McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook is below.
‘Four years after the Edmonton Oilers took Marino in the sixth round, Pittsburgh sent a future sixth rounder to Central Alberta for his rights, and immediately signed him to an ELC. While Marino was a two-way threat in his junior level days, he has evolved into more of an own-zone specialist over three years at Harvard. He has decent size but is rather strong and rangy and plays a physical game. He reads the play well and plays instinctively. He lacks the offensive elements to his game to profile as more than a third pairing defender who could get some time on the PK, but that’s pretty good value for the sixth round.’ – Ryan Wagman, McKeen’s 2019-20 Yearbook