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BELL: 20 NHL Prospect Points – Mateychuk, Stankoven, Demidov, Buium + More

Riley Heidt. Photo by Erica Perreaux

Welcome to 20 Prospect Points, a bi-weekly column where I dive into the trending prospects - drafted and draft-eligible - from around the globe.

This edition dives into Denton Mateychuk’s incredible scoring streak, Logan Stankoven and Brandt Clarke’s impressive AHL rookie seasons, the emergence of Ivan Demidov, Zeev Buium’s historic start to his NCAA freshman season, and much more.

Drafted Prospects

#1 I’m not sure there’s been a hotter prospect in hockey than Denton Mateychuk to start the 2023-24 season. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect collected at least one point in the first 23 games of the Moose Jaw Warriors season, racking up 35 points (six goals, 29 assists) throughout that stretch. The streak recently came to an end, but not before getting an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp.

#2 It wasn’t that long ago that some were questioning Logan Stankoven’s future due to his 5-foot-8 stature. The former captain of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers made the jump to the AHL and the Texas Stars lineup this season and has continued to prove all doubts wrong. The rookie has 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists), sitting second in the league behind teammate Mavrik Bourque. Stankoven also leads the league in goals so far. He’s on pace for a ridiculous 48 goals and 99 points.

#3 After spending another season in the OHL last season and proving to be way too good for the league, defender Brandt Clarke has jumped to the AHL this season with the Ontario Reign. The eighth-overall pick in 2021 has had an excellent start to his season thus far, putting up 25 points (five goals, 20 points) in just 23 games. That leads all defensemen in the league so far - and he’s doing it as a rookie. The sky is the limit for the young defender who may just earn a call-up sooner rather than later.

#4 Despite putting up 97 points in the WHL in his draft year, Riley Heidt slid down to 64th overall and the patiently waiting Minnesota Wild in the 2023 NHL Draft. And they have to be happy with the early signs from the Price George Cougars forward. Heidt is leading the league in points with 55 (15 goals, 40 assists) in just 28 games for a remarkable 1.96 points per game.

#5 Over in the OHL, Quentin Musty has taken a noticeable step forward this season. After being drafted 26th overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2023, Musty has returned to the Sudbury Wolves and made his presence known. He’s leading the league in points per game with an impressive 1.90, but his 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) aren’t there yet due to a pair of suspensions. The Sharks will be hoping he can keep his discipline under control, but have to be happy with his progress.

#6 Speaking of the Sudbury Wolves, what a rookie season for St. Louis Blues’ prospect Dalibor Dvorsky so far. After starting the season in the SHL with inconsistent minutes, the 10th overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft decided to head overseas and join the OHL team. That’s proven to be an excellent decision as he had points in all but two of his 20 games so far. That brings him up to 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) and the third-highest points-per-game rate (1.70) in the league. Don’t expect him to slow down any time soon.

#7 Another 2023 draftee of the Blues, Juraj Pekarcik has had an excellent start to his North American career as well, making the move from Slovakia to the USHL and the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Through 18 games, he’s up to 27 points (five goals, 22 assists). Not bad at all for the 76th overall selection. He’s currently riding a 10-game point streak, where 18 of his points (two goals, 16 assists) have come from. He should be a standout for Slovakia at the World Juniors this month.

#8 Yet another Slovak that should turn heads at the World Juniors (again), netminder Adam Gajan made the jump to North America last season, spending most of his season in the NAHL. This year, the Chicago Blackhawks prospect stuck with the Green Bay Gamblers, going 14-4-1 with a .911 save percentage. That save percentage is second-best in the league while he also holds the most minutes played (1209)  and saves (621) of any goalie this season. After being named the best goaltender in the 2023 World Juniors, he’ll be looking for a repeat of his performance in a couple of weeks in Gothenburg, Sweden.

#9 Over in the NCAA, another goaltender has been standing out in a big way. Freshman Jacob Fowler, drafted 69th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2023, headed to Boston College this season after a very successful couple of seasons in the USHL, where he was Goaltender of the Year in 2022-23. So far with Boston, he’s 13-3-1 with a .925 save percentage, a 2.16 goals against average, and one shutout. He has the most wins of any goalie in the NCAA and sits eighth in save percentage. He’s one of the three netminders for Team USA at the World Juniors this year and is in excellent form to cement himself as the No. 1.

#10 Fellow freshman Aiden Fink, a seventh-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators (218th overall), is also having a standout start to his season. Through 19 games, he’s up to 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists), leading Penn State University in all three categories and sitting 12 in the NCAA in points. It should be no surprise that he’s producing offense after a 97-point season last year in the AJHL, where he was named the league’s top forward. Keep an eye on him for the remainder of the season, where he could be at least a finalist for Freshman of the Year if this production continues.

Draft-Eligible Prospects

#11 After a rough start to the season for Ivan Demidov, due to a knee injury and playing limited minutes in the KHL, the forward has settled in with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg in the MHL and the stats are starting to back that up. After failing to hit the scoresheet in his first two games, he’s been on the board in every game since, collecting 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 10 games. Look for him to truly start to break out soon and his stat line to bloat.

#12 While Artyom Levshunov is the NCAA draft-eligible defender near the top of draft lists, it’s been Zeev Buium who has been the most offensively dominant defender in the NCAA - draft-eligible or otherwise. The University of Denver defenseman is up to a remarkable 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) in 18 games, putting him third in points in the NCAA, tied with projected first-overall prospect Macklin Celebrini. The defender is currently on pace for the highest-scoring season by a U19 defender in league history. Is Buium knocking on the door of the top 10? It’s extremely possible.

#13 Another defenseman who’s dominating the scoresheet, Zayne Parekh is up to an astounding 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) in 27 games for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. He’s second in the league for defenders, behind the impressive Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Hunter Brzustewicz (51 points). Parekh has some doubters out there, but there’s no question that he has tremendous offensive skill.

#14 Goaltender Ryerson Leenders of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads has been off to an excellent start this season, putting together a 12-8 record, with a .913 save percentage and two shutouts to his name. While his 3.06 goals against average doesn’t exactly stand out, the netminder has the highest save percentage in the league (tied with two others) and the fourth-most saves. Plus, that goals-against average is still the eighth-best in the league. In a draft class without a big-name goaltender, Leenders is one to watch.

#15 QMJHL prospect Felix Lacerte has truly been coming on as of late, driving his point total up to 25 (14 goals, 11 assists) in 21 games for the Shawinigan Cataractes. He’s shown up clutch for his team in tough minutes and plays a hard game. Look for his name to rise up draft boards as the season rolls on, despite his 5-foot-10 frame.

#16 Swedish defenseman Leo Sahlin Wallenius has been on fire in the J20 Nationell, currently in the midst of a seven-game point streak that has seen him collect 13 points (three goals, 10 assists). He’s up to 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) in 27 games on the season with Vaxjo Lakers J20, sitting third among defenders in the league. The smooth-skating defender is a player to keep an eye on as the season rolls on.

#17 A lesser-known prospect, Leon Muggli has broken into the Swiss National League this season and I don’t think it’s being talked about enough just how impressive his season has been. The defender has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 25 games, putting him tied for fifth all-time in the league for a U18 defender, already ahead of a well-known Swiss defender - Roman Josi (eight points in 35 games). His team EV Zug has potted the most goals of any team in the league this season, but it’s a record worth keeping an eye on.

#18 After being passed over in the 2023 NHL Draft, Jesse Pulkkinen has been looking to prove NHL teams wrong with his play in 2023-24. The defender proved too strong for the U20 SM-sarja after collecting 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 18 games, and got the call-up to the Liiga after a six-game stretch in the Mestis. Through four games, he’s picked up his first Liiga point and looks very much like he could be sticking in the league. He’s a top overage contender for the 2024 NHL Draft.

#19 Looking ahead to the 2025 NHL Draft, it’s impossible to ignore what goaltender Josh Ravensbergen is doing in the WHL. The Prince George Cougars netminder has a ridiculous 11-2-0 record with a 1.69 goals against average, a .940 save percentage, and SIX shutouts so far. The rookie leads the WHL in all three of those statistics as well. He’s a must-know name at this point.

#20 Looking even further into the future, Adam Nemec, a top prospect for the 2026 NHL Draft and the younger brother of New Jersey Devils’ defender Simon, recently got the call to the top men’s league in Slovakia with HK Nitra. He didn’t see any ice time, but it’s just a matter of time before he does. In 27 games with HK Nitra U20, he has 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists). For comparison, Simon had eight points in 13 games in the U20 league in his DY-2 - but played 12 games with the men’s club.