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NHL PROSPECTS/2024 NHL DRAFT: BELL – 20 Prospect Points – CHL/NCAA agreement, Michkov, Celebrini, Iginla and more

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

This edition dives into the latest news around the potential CHL and NCAA agreement, the latest update from the IIHF regarding Russia and Belarus, the incredible seasons from Matvei Michkov and Macklin Celebrini, and much more.

Scouting/Prospect News

#1 Very briefly, it seemed like the entire North American development model was about to change. News came out that the NCAA was considering a major policy change that would allow CHL players to be eligible for American college hockey. The next step here is to go to a vote of the NCAA’s coaches - where it looks like the idea will be shot down, but nothing is certain as of yet. The coaches will be meeting in May to discuss this, so we’ll need to be patient for a decision here.

#2 We won’t, however, need to wait for an IIHF decision on Russia and Belarus’ eligibility in international events. The IIHF recently released a statement that they will uphold the current ban on Russian and Belarussian teams from participating in international events for the 2024-25 season. This will be reviewed again next year, but the two countries remain on the sidelines for international competition.

Drafted Prospects

#3 Philadelphia Flyers’ top prospect Matvei Michkov continues to impress in the KHL this season, breaking the D+1 record for points in the KHL with 37. Eeli Tolvanen previously held the mark with 36 points. With the Flyers’ recently parting ways with another top prospect in Cutter Gauthier, you can bet they’re excited with how their 2023 draft pick has been progressing.

#4 Another Russian prospect that has captured attention is Shakir Mukhamadullin, who played his first three NHL games with the San Jose Sharks recently. Mukhamadullin is currently having a strong first full season in North America with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, earning a spot in the AHL All-Star Game. He played well in his first NHL stint, even picking up his first NHL assist, but the AHL is the right place for him for now to continue developing his game.

#5 There may not be a hotter prospect over the past two weeks than the Seattle Kraken’s David Goyette. The Sudbury Wolves star is currently riding an eight-game point streak where he’s racked up 17 points (five goals, 12 assists). The 61st overall pick in 2022 is now up to 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 50 games, on pace for a staggering 114 points. He currently sits atop the OHL leaderboard in points, tied with 2024 re-entry Anthony Romani. But we’ll get to him.

#6 Another Kraken prospect worth noting is over in Finland, goaltender Niklas Kokko. The netminder recently transferred to the Pelicans from Karpat in the Liiga, and the move has been a positive development. After repping a .906 save percentage (SV%) and a 2-5-0 record with Karpat, he’s already gone 3-0-1 with a .933 SV% thanks to two shutouts with the Pelicans. Expect him to finish the season strong on his new team.

#7 Sticking to a Finnish prospect, Nashville Predators’ Jesse Kiiskinen stood out at the recent U19 Five Nations Tournament. He had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) through four games played, leading the event. This was right after a big game in the U20 SM sarja where he had a five-point night. Outside of that one game, he’s spent his season in the Liiga with the Pelicans.

#8 In the USHL, 2023 NHL Draftee Juraj Pekarcik of the Dubuque Fighting Saints has been commanding attention. The St. Louis Blues’ prospect is currently playing in his first season in North America and has collected 39 points (seven goals, 32 assists) in just 27 games. That includes a recent five-point explosion against the Chicago Steel. As he gets more and more comfortable in North America, look for him to continue to turn heads.

#9 In the last few editions of this column, I always have Yegor Sidorov right on the edge of being included. It’s now time. The Anaheim Ducks prospect has been on fire in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades, already potting 70 points (42 goals. 28 assists) in 51 games. He’s on pace for 90 points so far. The Blades are in the midst of a very strong year, and Sidorov is a core piece of that group, sitting second on the team in points and second in the league in goals.

#10 Back in the USHL, if there’s a candidate for most improved among drafted prospects, you might need to take a look at Zam Plante. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect finished last season with 33 points. This season, he’s already up to 50 (19 goals, 31 assists) and is on pace for 79. He’s currently second in the league in points, and eighth in points per game (1.39). He’s committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for next season and will be an intriguing freshman to keep tabs on.

#11 It’s been quite the season for Dallas Stars goaltending prospect Maxim Mayorov. Playing with Loko Yaroslavl in the MHL, he’s gone 10-1-1 with an impressive .931 SV% and four shutouts to date. He’s been splitting the crease with Penguins prospect Sergei Murashov who’s been equally as impressive with a record of 19-4-2, a .930 SV%, and an equal four shutouts. This is a goaltending battle that Loko Yaroslavl must be extremely happy about.

Draft-Eligible Prospects

#12 Macklin Celebrini continues to absolutely dominate the NCAA and impress scouts. At this point, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have him as their number-one prospect in the 2024 class. If you do, chances are they are looking for some clicks. The future NHL game-changer is currently LEADING the NCAA in goals (23) and sits third in points (42) while being the youngest player in the nation. His 1.62 points per game are third all-time for a U18 player in the NCAA. The hype is real.

#13 At this point, I may be contractually obligated to mention Ivan Demidov in these columns. The Russian star is now up to a 17-game streak in the MHL with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, where he’s racked up a massive 44 points. That’s an average of 2.6 points per game. Overall, he has 1.96 points per game this season, the most from a U19 player in the MHL ever (minimum five games). It’s even higher than Nikita Kucherov (1.87) - both through 23 games.

#14 From EP Rinkside’s Cam Robinson:(in their) draft-eligible seasons:

  • Jarome Iginla: 33 goals in 72 WHL games
  • Tij Iginla: 35 goals in 46 WHL games

That’s worth a mention in this list! The younger Iginla is not going to be able to avoid the comparison to his pops throughout his career, but he’s off to an excellent start by outscoring his dad to this point in his career. He’s up to 63 points this season and shows no signs of slowing down.

#15 Konsta Helenius has been a prospect that public scouts seemed to have soured on, but he’s been extremely impressive and quite consistent in the Liiga this season. He’s up to 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 41 Liiga games so far this season. His point total is already fifth all-time for a U18 player, and his 0.76 points per game are sixth (minimum three games played). He’s on pace for 39 points, which would put him third all-time for a U18 player in the league. That seems good.

#16 A prospect that seems to be the quiet star in the top-10 of this class, no draft-eligible prospect has as many points as Berkly Catton over the past two weeks, with his 11 (seven goals, four assists) in six games. That brings his total to 82 (38 goals, 44 assists) in just 49 games - a 114-point pace. He’s a player that should be stirring some more conversation as a target for your team and likely will down the stretch.

#17 The first of three players from the recent 2024 U18 Five Nations Tournament, American Teddy Stiga kicks it off as the tournament leader in points. While his team fell to Sweden in the final, he stood out throughout the event, with nine points (three goals, six assists) in the event’s four games. Stiga has been a player who has improved throughout the season and looks like a second rounder at this point.

#18 While Stiga led the tournament in points, the star of the event was likely Swedish defender and team captain Leo Sahlin Wallenius. He tied for the team lead in points with seven (one goal, six assists) in four games. His ability to move the puck around in the offensive zone, especially on the power play, was particularly on display in the event, as was his fluid movement.

#19 The final player I’ll mention from the event is Finland’s Joona Saarelainen. A bit of an unknown prospect in this class, Saarelainen loves to don the blue and white. He tied for the tournament lead in goals (six) and has been a regular fixture for the Finns on international ice, already dressing for the Word Under-17 Challenge, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (twice, once as captain), and numerous other events. He’s very much a player to add to your list if you haven’t seen him already.

#20 Last but not least, we’re going to look at an overager for the 2024 NHL Draft, Anthony Romani. Romani is currently tied with Goyette for the points lead in the OHL, with 84 points (44 goals, 40 assists) for the North Bay Battalion. This includes 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last four games. In the conversation for overagers to hear their name called in this class, Romani is one to discuss.