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BELL: 20 Prospect Points – Stankoven, McGroarty, Demidov, Greentree & More

Michigan forward Rutger McGroarty (2) (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

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 the latest news around one of the biggest scouting events of the year, the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, the incredible rookie season that Logan Stankoven is having in the AHL, and the ridiculous output from draft-eligible Ivan Demidov.

The end of the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game?

#1 You read that right. The 2024 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is reportedly the last one, according to Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek. He also mentioned that a two-game series between the best prospects in the CHL and the best prospects in the US may replace it. CHL All-Stars versus USHL/NCAA All-Stars? Yes, please. This is the right direction.

Drafted Prospects

#2 What a rookie season for Dallas Stars’ prospect Logan Stankoven. The young forward has been on fire in the league, leading all players (not just rookies) in points with 50. His 20 goals sit fourth in the league and his 30 assists are third. Standing at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Stakoven continues to prove that size isn’t everything when it comes to being a productive and contributing hockey player.

#3 Rutger McGroarty has come back from the World Juniors on an absolute mission. The University of Michigan star has put up 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in his six games back in the NCAA and shows no signs of slowing down. It seems that gold looks good of the Winnipeg Jets’ star who has returned with an extra boost of confidence in his step. He leads the team and sits fifth in the NCAA in points.

#4 You can’t talk about the NCAA and not mention Massimo Rizzo right now. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect is sitting atop to NCAA in points with 42 (10 goals, 32 points). The prospect was also named to the Team Canada roster for the 2023 Spengler Cup, picking up two assists there in the men’s tournament. He’s a player on the rise after being drafted back in 2019, 216th overall. This has the makings of a scouting success story for the Flyers.

#5 It’s been a strange ride for German prospect Julien Lutz, from his injury-riddled time in the DEL to his move to North American hockey and the USHL. Well, it seems that things are starting to come together for the Arizona Coyotes prospect. Playing with the Green Bay Gamblers, Lutz is riding a nine-game points streak, sandwiching the World Juniors. He has 14 points over that time, bringing him to 34 (12 goals, 22 assists) in 25 games. There’s no question that his development has been impacted over the past two years, look for him to really come into his own now that he’s playing consistently.

#6 There was some hope that Calgary Flames’ prospect Topi Ronni would take a step forward in the Liiga this season, but with just two points in 19 games, that appears not to be the case. However, his play in the U20 SM-sarja has been excellent. In his last eight games, he’s racked up 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and has been playing big minutes, skating over 26 minutes twice in that stretch. Seeing that he might have outgrown the U20 SM-sarja and he’s not quite ready for the Liiga, perhaps a change of scenery is coming in the 2024-25 season.

#7 Noah Ostlund, on the other hand, is doing just fine at the men’s level. The Buffalo Sabres’ prized prospect has taken his success from the World Juniors back to Vaxjo Lakers HC, where he’s potted 10 points (four goals, six assists) in eight games since returning. While he’s currently on pace to match last year’s total, it’s important to note that last year was in the HockeyAllsvenskan with Djurgardens and this year is in the SHL.

#8 Speaking of players that are hot lately, if you haven’t been keeping an eye on Quentin Musty - you need to. The San Jose Sharks prospect has been one of the most prospects in the world over the past two weeks with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in his last six games. He’s playing confidently, and finding success. While Team USA did win World Juniors gold, you can’t help but wonder what Musty would have looked like in the red, white, and blue.

#9 What a segue to another Team USA player! Oliver Moore, like McGroarty, has returned to the University of Minnesota and just continues to produce. He has a seven-game point streak currently, tallying 13 points (four goals, nine assists). He seems practically unstoppable at this point, playing at nearly a point per game as a rookie.

#10 Over in Russia, Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Alexander Rykov is tearing up the VHL, playing at nearly a point-per-game pace. He’s up to 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 27 games, and has added another six goals and two assists in the KHL this year. In fact, he’s riding a three-game goal streak in the KHL, even though he played just 3:28 in one of those games. He’s under contract with Chelyabinsk for one more season. Could a North American move follow?

Draft-Eligible Prospects

#11 Another Russian prospect, this one has been absolutely dominating the public sphere discussion as of late. I’ve previously written about the emergence of Ivan Demidov since he was moved to the MHL for a consistent stint, and now? He’s dominant. He has points in his last 12 games, with multiple points in nine of those. That stretch has seen his point total rise by 32 points, bringing his season total to 45 (20 goals, 25 assists) in just 23 games. He even has 11 points in his past TWO games. Where does he fit on your draft board?

#12 I’m not sure that anyone is truly appreciating what Zeev Buium is doing in the NCAA right now. He’s producing at a 1.38 points-per-game rate - the highest rate for a U19 defender in about 40 years and higher than players such as Brian Leetch, Lane Hutson, and Adam Fox. According to Chace McCallum (@CMhockey66), he’s currently scoring at a rate that top-scoring NHL defenders hit in their age 20 season. Yeah, that seems good.

#13 Is Liam Greentree underappreciated? It’s quite possible. EliteProspects’ consolidated ranking puts him 15th overall. But the Windsor Spitfires captain is on pace for 100 points this season, already potting 64 (27 goals, 37 assists) in 41 games. His ability to produce was on full display on January 27th when he put up six points (three goals, three assists) against the Peterborough Petes. He’s worth a closer look.

#14 Jett Luchanko might just be another underappreciated OHLer available for this draft, but perhaps his on-ice testing for the Top Prospects Game will change that. He finished fourth in the 30m skate, third in the 30m skate with the puck, third in the 30m backwards skate with the puck, second in transition ability with the puck, third in reaction, first in reaction with the puck and ultimately, first overall. He’s quite deserving of some recognition.

#15 We keep coming back to players that have been strong since returning from the World Juniors and we’re doing it one last time. Michael Brandsegg-Nygard has returned to Mora IK in the Hockey Allsvenskan with a newfound level of confidence, currently riding a six-game point streak, with seven points (four goals, three assists) over that time. He does appear to be dealing with an injury as well, so if he’s not held out for too long, perhaps the best is yet to come.

#16 Over in the WHL, Tij Iginla, one of the recent starts of the CHL Top Prospects Game, is a player that has just been on the tip of everyone’s tongue all season it seems. His 57 points (32 goals, 25 assists) in 42 games is absolutely impressive, sitting fourth among U18 players (his 32 goals are first), but it’s everything else that really draws you in. His competitiveness, his creativity, and his elusiveness all add up to an extremely promising prospect. He’ll be a candidate to be taken earlier than expected in my eyes.

#17 A name not often talked about in this draft class, Chase Wutzke is a goaltender that needs to be on your radar. The Red Deer Rebels netminder is currently on an eight-game winning streak, bringing his total to 15 on the season (15-2-1). He has a .922 save percentage, which sites this in the league. He’s been one of the strongest goalies in the league as of late, and arguably one of the best all season long.

#18 From the QMJHL, Raoul Boilard caught the attention of scouts at the CHL Top Prospects Game, scoring twice and adding an assist for Team Red in a 3-1 win over Team White. He was named the Player of the Game for his team. He’s been playing at nearly a point-per-game this season for Baie-Comeau Drakkar with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 47 games. Likely a second-rounder, he’s one to keep an eye on on the second day of the draft.

#19 In the USHL, Joe Connor may be a slightly hidden gem in this draft class. The Muskegon Lumberjacks forward has been playing in the shadows of highly touted players Matvei Gridin and Sacha Boisvert, but Connor has been impressive as well with 31 points in 27 games this season. In fact, that point-per-game pace (1.15) is second on the team, just behind Gridin (1.19).

#20 Sticking in the USHL, goaltender Louka Cloutier started the season not-so-hot (losing his first four-straight and five of six) but has truly been coming into his own as of late. He’s taken over the starters job and has now rattled off five straight wins, including his first USHL shutout. The rookie’s numbers don’t stand out at 8-8-1 and a .898 save percentage, but with consistent playing time, and the Chicago Steel looking better in the second half of the season, he’s been impressive in net.