It’s been a slog, but we are almost at full speed when it comes to development leagues in North America. True, we won’t see any OHL or WHL action until the calendar flips over to 2021, but otherwise we’ve got the QMJHL, USHL, Jr. A leagues and now the NCAA (mostly) coming back, amongst others. So it feels like time for a round-up.
While many of Canada’s best players are sequestered in Alberta for the nation’s world junior camp, there is still a lot of talent playing games right now, so I’m here to give you a snapshot of who’s hot around North America right now. I’m going with a combination of NHL draft picks and those eligible for the 2021 draft – which will already be one of the most uniquely scouted classes ever. NHL franchises are relying on their video teams more than ever and it will be interesting to see how that impacts the final boards. But let’s get to the prospects, shall we?
Daniil Gushchin, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL): One of the most dynamic talents in the league, Gushchin is back in Muskegon on loan from OHL Niagara. That’s great for the Jacks, as Gushchin has already put up seven points in three games. He’s a San Jose Sharks pick.
Kent Johnson, LW, University of Michigan Wolverines (NCAA): I could have featured any number of Wolverines after their opening weekend against Arizona State, but let’s focus on Johnson, who racked up five points in two games and made it look easy. The sizzling freshman is a 2021 draft prospect and Michigan’s early scoring leader.
Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL): A two-way defenseman who plays with a nice physical dimension, Ceulemans is an early scoring leader in Alberta with five points in two games for Cale Makar’s old squad. He’s a University of Wisconsin commit.
Elliot Desnoyers, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): One of the best surprises early on, Desnoyers has been an offensive machine for the Mooseheads, posting 24 points in 15 games. The Philadelphia Flyers pick goes to the net for gritty goals, but he also has some high-end moves.
Austin Wong, LW, Fargo Force (USHL): Ever since I saw Wong in Jr. A, I’ve been in the tank for this kid. With no Harvard season, Wong is suiting up for Fargo and playing the same hit-everything-that-moves game that makes him so fun to watch. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick has three points in two games, too.
Matteo Costantini, C, Penticton Vees (BCHL): One of the top scorers in the league’s “Extended Training Camp” season with 20 points in 13 games, Costantini is a super-smooth playmaker who is particularly dangerous on the power play. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick is committed to the University of North Dakota.
Alex Beaucage, RW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL): A wicked offensive weapon in his final year of junior, Beaucage is a Colorado Avalanche draft pick who is off to a great start with the Huskies: the shooter has 13 goals and 19 points in just 10 games so far.
Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): If you want offense from the blueline, Poirier is your man. The Calgary Flames pick just netted a hat trick for the Sea Dogs and he’s now up to 16 points through 15 games on the season.
Sasha Pastujov, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL): He leads his team in goals (8), shots (20) and is tied with Dylan Duke for first with 14 points in nine games – not too shabby. Pastujov is committed to the University of Notre Dame.
Cole Brady, G, Arizona State Sun Devils (NCAA): Sure, the Sun Devils got swept by Michigan, but on the bright side – Brady looked pretty good when he was in net. The 6-foot-5 freshman made 44 saves in a 3-0 loss. He’s a New Jersey Devils pick.
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