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BELL: 20 Prospect Points – Johnson, Michkov, Celebrini, Silayev + More

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

This edition takes a look at Kent Johnson, Matvei Michkov, and Hunter Brzsutewicz are a few of the drafted prospects turning heads, while Macklin Celebrini, Konsta Helenius, and Anton Silayev are turning heads ahead of the 2024 NHL Draft.

Drafted Prospects

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 29: Columbus Blue Jackets Left Wing Kent Johnson (13) looks on during the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 29, 2022, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

#1 It was a little surprising to see Columbus Blue Jackets’ Kent Johnson sent down to the AHL this month, especially after putting up 40 points last season as a rookie. But it appears to be the right decision as the 2021 fifth-overall pick has been on fire, with 14 points (four goals, nine assists) through his first nine games - a 101-point pace through 65 games. Don’t expect him to stick around in the AHL for too long.

#2 At the start of last season, many rankings had Hunter Brzustewicz in their first round of the 2023 NHL Draft. By the end of the year, this wasn’t the case. He slid to the third round, 75th overall, where the Vancouver Canucks called his name. They have to be feeling pretty good about that decision now. He’s exploded out of the gate this year, putting up six goals (matching last year’s total) and 33 assists for 39 points in just 23 games. He’s on pace to smash last season’s total of 57 points. Not only is he leading all defenders in the OHL but he’s second overall in points in the league.

#3 It’s been a long road for Kieffer Bellows, being drafted back in 2016 by the New York Islanders 19th overall and never being able to break into the NHL. This season, he attended the Carolina Hurricanes training camp on a pro tryout before getting cut and signing a pro tryout with the Toronto Marlies. He’s been extremely impressive since then, putting up 12 points (six goals, six assists) in nine games with points in eight of those nine games. He’s done everything he can to earn himself a contract.

#4 At one point, there was discourse regarding Connor Bedard or Matvei Michkov for first overall in the 2023 NHL Draft. Due to the contract situation and rumours of concerns surrounding him both on and off the ice, he slid to seventh overall and the waiting Philadelphia Flyers. After being loaned to HK Sochi, he’s absolutely on fire in the KHL with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 27 games. He’s on pace for 52 points right now and for what it’s worth, the U20 record in the KHL is Kirill Kaprizov’s 42 points in 2016-17.

#5 There’s been a lot of talk of Macklin Celebrini’s freshman season in the NCAA (we’ll get to that) and that’s been overshadowing another excellent rookie season - Gabe Perreault. Drafted by the New York Rangers 23rd overall in 2023 after a historic, record-setting 132 points in 63 games with the U.S. National U18 Team. He’s continued that office into his career with Boston College, already at 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) in 13 games. He’s currently on a nine-game point streak and shows no signs of slowing down.

#6 Another NCAA freshman that’s flying under the radar, Aiden Fink is commanding attention. Drafted 218th overall in 2013 by the Nashville Predators out of the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits (where he was league MVP), Fink is currently second in the NCAA in freshman points with 21 (nine goals, 12 assists), one behind Celebrini and four behind Massimo Rizzo for the league lead. The Predators have to be happy with their late-round pick.

#7 It’s been quite a year for Beau Akey, being drafted 56th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2023 NHL Draft and signing his NHL entry-level contract. There was a strong chance of him dressing for Canada at the 2024 World Juniors, but that’s no longer possible after undergoing shoulder surgery for a dislocated shoulder. One of the top prospects for the Oilers, he’s likely done for the season - a big blow to his development.

#8 Tough news for another player who was taking a step forward this season, Rutger McGroarty will miss the remainder of the first half of the season for the University of Michigan - at least. He was stretchered off the ice after taking a hit to the boards on November 17th. The Winnipeg Jets prospect was up to 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 13 games in his season, well on his way to passing his 39-point mark last season. This does put his spot at the World Juniors in a month in jeopardy, which would be an offensive blow to the team.

#9 Speaking of the World Juniors, it seems like we’ve seen the last of Seattle Kraken prospect Shane Wright on the WJC stage. Kraken general manager Ron Francis noted, “he's kind of been there done that.” Wright has participated in the World Juniors twice, although that includes the cancelled 2022 edition. But, he did captain the 2023 Canadian team to a gold medal. With his focus on carving out a permanent spot in the Kraken lineup, the decision makes sense.

#10 While we’re on the Kraken, they have to be happy with the massive step forward that Carson Rehkopf has taken this season. Drafted 50th overall in the latest draft, the Kitchener Rangers forward has been dominant this season in the OHL. He currently leads the league in goals (26) and points (45) through 25 games and is well on his way to double his draft year output of 59 points in 68 games.

Draft-Eligible Prospects

NORTH ANDOVER, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 1: NCAA men's hockey at Lawler Rink on December 1, 2023 in North Andover, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon)

#11 It’s safe to say that Macklin Celebrini is comfortable in the NCAA. The projected first-overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft and the youngest player in the NCAA this season currently leads all freshmen with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in just 13 games. His 1.69 points-per-game pace this season puts him third all-time for a U18 player in the NCAA and he should only get better as the season goes on. He’s a must-watch player this season for any hockey fan.

#12 Another player looking more than comfortable in their draft year, Konsta Helenius has simply been getting better and better. He’s carved out a top-six role for himself with the Liiga’s Jurkurit and is running with it, with 17 (eight goals, nine assists) points in his last 16 Liiga games. That doesn’t even include his tournament-leading six points (two goals, four assists) in three games at the U20 5 Nations Cup.

#13 Speaking of the 5 Nations Cup, it’s worth highlighting another Finn who also led the tournament in scoring: Emil Hemming. The right winger, who’s been impressive himself in the Liiga so far, matched Helenius’ point total with six (two goals, four assists) in one extra game played.

#14 Another tournament recently wrapped up as well, the U18 5 Nations Cup saw the USA dominate most of the event, winning three of their four matches. Cole Hutson, the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens’ prospect Lane Hutson, was arguably the top defender in the tournament, putting up seven points (two goals, five assists). His creativity and elusiveness were on full display at the event.

#15 However, the true story of the U18 5 Nations Cup was 2025 NHL Draft-eligible James Hagens. An early contender for the first-overall pick, the centerman put up a tournament-leading 11 points (two goals, nine assists) for the Americans, and an impressive 14 shots in the USA’s only loss in the event, a 7-6 shootout versus Sweden. Get used to hearing Hagens’ name - you’ll likely start hearing it a lot more.

#16 Another player worth highlighting from the U18 5 Nations Cup, Swedish defender Leo Sahlin Wallenius seemed to get more and more comfortable as the tournament went on, finishing with one point in every game for a total of four (one goal, three assists). But the true story is since the tournament - he’s returned to the J20 Nationell on fire, with nine points (three goals, six assists) in his first five games back.

#17 In recent years, the Chicago Steel have been a dominant force in the USHL. That doesn’t appear to be the case this season as they sit two points from the bottom of the league so far. That’s part of the reason that we haven’t been hearing the name Michael Hage as much as we should be. The Canadian centreman missed most of his DY-1 season but has been excellent so far this year, with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in as many games with the struggling Steel. Keep an eye on him as the season rolls on.

#18 You’ve likely been hearing about the 6-foot-7 defender out of Russia that has shot up draft rankings early this season. Anton Silayev, while a polarizing prospect, has been the talk of the prospect world, having broken into the KHL, shattering the U18 point record for a defender, tying the U18 points record (any position), and tying the U19 record for a defender. He currently sits with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 34 games and is on pace to double that before the season ends. Silayev should remain a topic of conversation all season.

#19 In the WHL, the play of Cayden Lindstrom is commanding attention. The forward is up to 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers and is on pace to more than double his rookie-year output. Standing at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds with some of the softest hands around, Lindstrom is another prospect that has forced top-10 discussion.

#20 Another WHLer who is enjoying a breakout year, Terik Parascak has entered the season as a rookie for the Prince George Cougars and shocked at nearly a goal-per-game pace. He leads all draft-eligibles in the league in goals, with 21 in 23 games while adding 13 assists for 34 points. The winger is currently outpacing Connor Bedard’s draft year and while it’s likely he comes back down to earth at some point, it’s a remarkable start for the young prospect.