If you don’t follow me on Twitter (don’t worry, my weekly suggestion is at the bottom of this article), you probably don’t know, and very well might not care, but I recently moved from rural Saskatchewan to Saint John, New Brunswick. With all the things that have changed in our transition, the one thing that has thankfully remained relatively consistent is our access to quality major junior hockey. While I’m used to rooting for the Saskatoon Blades, who are currently rocking the WHL – I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to observe the Saint John Sea Dogs work through a trying rebuild. Max Chejkovic is truly the main attraction in at Harbour Station, but in my first two outings, three of the players that really stood out to be happened to be 16-year-olds.
My wife and I moved from Saskatchewan to New Brunswick over the last week… places change but hockey stays the same (ish). Excited to get my eyes on the Q! #newhomwteam #dobberprospects #dobberhockey pic.twitter.com/naxHPM2Sw3
— Brayden Olaf (@olaf1393) January 4, 2019
The excitement of watching a truly blossoming team got me thinking more about the 2020 draft, and which players in your locale might be worth getting out to see. I can only speak to the quality and ease of access to Canadian major junior hockey, so that’s where I’ll focus, however, I’ll also provide some thoughts on various North American geographical zones.
Justin Barron, D – Halifax Mooseheads
The late-2001 born defenseman is playing for his hometown Halifax Mooseheads, making the spectacle that much more intriguing. In his second full QMJHL campaign, the 6-2 defenseman is proving to be a steadfast defender, as well as an engaging offensive support tool. While he does lack the level of explosive speed and puck-handling that the trending forwards have in their arsenal, Barron amazes with his natural hockey IQ, and relaxed body language. In many cases, scoring opportunities will develop casually off the blade of his stick, a sign that the defender could have even more to offer in the coming year. Halifax is currently leading the Maritimes division of the QMJHL and will play most of their remaining schedule on home ice.
Theo Rochette, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
In his first shot at North American competition, the Swiss-Canadian 16-year-old has seriously impressed. He’s overall, a very fun player to watch, with potential to create dazzling scoring opportunities with each touch. Not only does he have the natural ability to drive the play on a regular shift, but Rochette has also proven to be a dangerous option on the power-play and penalty-kill. He’s an easy player to notice, and I strongly suggest you make an attempt to see him play if the Sagueneens are in your area.
— Dennis Schellenberg (@ScoutingFactory) October 14, 2018
Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw Spirit
Jammed into one of the more skilled rosters in the Ontario Hockey League, the 17-year-old Perfetti has had no trouble standing out in his first shot at major junior. An immense work ethic allows Perfetti to get to pucks and create opportunities for himself as well as his teammates. While his dynamic skill has yet to be put totally on display, his early success in the league should be building up his confidence for a critical draft season.
Dylan Holloway, LW, Okotoks Oilers
Although he hasn't been faced with the same level of competition as fellow draftee’s to be, Holloway has shown, even at the Alberta Junior Hockey League level that he is capable of contending for a first-round draft slot. The Wisconsin Badger commit is a physical presence, as well as a skilled one, using both sets of tools to create offense. He’s a full package of NHL desired assets making him a safe pick with potential to really surprise when he arrives at the next level. If you don’t have a chance to catch Holloway in the AJHL, he’ll be joining the loaded Badgers squad next fall as a full-time Big10er.
The top scoring 16-year-old in the USHL is property of the Western Conference’s highest scoring team, Waterloo Black Hawks. His semi-depth role on the high flying squad has allowed his offense to be suppressed to a certain extent, however, this isn't a player whose skill should be underestimated. Schingoethe is hoping that his transition to Notre Dame next fall will allow him the opportunity to stretch his wings as a dynamic centreman
Lost in the saturated roster of the USNDP U18 squad is 2020 draft eligible foward Sean Farrell. Although Farrell falls on the wrong side of the first scoring tier among the US power team, his success as one of the youngest players on the team should be noted. His dynamic edgework is consistent with undersized players of years gone by. His excellent puck handling and shot selection make him an extremely exciting presence on the ice, and despite his 5-9 frame, an intimidating weapon for the oppositions last lines of defense.
I hope you have the opportunity to get out and see at least one of these players first hand in the next couple of months – I’d bet that you won't be disappointed. For the most part, these players have proven themselves to be very hard working in order to overcome other small deficits in their game. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these guys if you do get the chance to see them, or even if you’ve already spent some time watching them locally. You can find me on Twitter @olaf1393.