In Ryan Kennedy's weekly round-up of prospects, our expert shines the spotlight on Swiss winger Kevin Fiala and explains why Sam Bennett is loved by Central Scouting.
The NHL’s Central Scouting bureau made waves this week, naming Kingston’s Sam Bennett and Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl its top two North American skaters, despite the fact this year’s No. 1 overall debate had centered around Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart. The latter two will captain the CHL’s Top Prospects Game Wednesday in Calgary. Now, Central Scouting has missed on two of the past four No. 1 selections overall (They had Tyler Seguin and Seth Jones), so take the listing with a grain of salt. But it is an interesting debate point. Let’s take a whirl around the world of prospects to catch up with some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Kevin Fiala, LW – HV 71 (Swe.)
A Swiss national playing in Sweden, Fiala is a dogged competitor who was one of the more noticeable players in Canada’s world junior win over Switzerland in the quarterfinal. It was interesting to see him stand out, particularly since he also played well against the Canucks in the summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament.
“I was pretty good, but I can always be better,” he said. “Gotta keep on going.”
A top-10 scorer in Sweden’s junior South Division, Fiala posted 10 goals and 24 points in his first 26 games. While he probably could have dominated back in Switzerland, he wanted the extra challenge at HV 71.
“The level is much better and gives me more confidence,” he said. “I thought it was a better organization and I wanted to try something new.”
The son of former European coach Jan Fiala, Kevin learned from his dad all through his career, playing his entire youth under the elder Fiala. Now the left winger is on his own and showing off what he can do.
“I try to throw hits, I try to do everything,” Fiala said. “I would like to get better in the defensive zone. It's something I work on in practice.”
Look for Fiala to be a standout for the Swiss next year at the world juniors and one to watch on NHL radars. Draft eligible in 2014.
Sam Bennett, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
It’s been more than a month since Bennett was last held off the scoresheet, though an undisclosed injury will keep him out of the CHL Top Prospects Game. No matter – scouts already know about his crazy hockey sense, elite offensive talent and complete game. He may be a surprise No. 1, but it’s hard to discount the move when you consider the player in question. Draft eligible in 2014.
Brayden Point, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Bennett’s replacement at the Top Prospects Game is an undersized pivot who brings excellent vision and playmaking to the table. Point gets his offense in bunches and with seven points in his past four games with the Warriors, he’s currently on one of those great runs. Draft eligible in 2014.
Blake Heinrich, D – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Originally committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Heinrich just changed course and will instead suit up for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks next season, though he may get in a couple games at the end of this campaign. Hard-hitting and nasty in his own end, Heinrich will help fill out the Hawks’ blueline next year. Drafted 144th overall by Washington in 2013.
Ted Hart, C – Phillips Exeter Big Red (New Hampshire HS)
Impressed scouts at this summer’s Beanpot invitational. Hart has two older brothers; Tampa Bay pick Brian (Harvard) and Kevin, a senior at Providence College. That’s where Ted recently committed to as well, where he’ll bring great hands and 1-on-1 skills. Also a star soccer player, Hart has five goals and 16 points through 14 games with the Big Red. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jonas Johansson, G – Brynas (Swe.)
A big netminder at 6-foot-4, 198 pounds, Johansson has started the past two divisional games for the Brynas junior squad, despite being one of the younger backup on the team. He gave up just two goals in each of those games and has posted an overall goals-against average of 1.83 – best in the circuit. Draft eligible in 2014.
Brandon Hickey, D – Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
Hickey brings a skill that all scouts love and that’s skating. The 6-foot-2 D-man has improved his offensive production with the Saints, totaling four goals and 16 points through 37 games after notching just seven all of last year. Draft eligible in 2014.
Devin Shore, C – University of Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
You can’t get much hotter in the college game than Shore, who is pacing the Black Bears with 26 points in 20 games. But the offensively gifted pivot has done most of his damage lately, putting up an 11-game point streak, including five multi-point efforts. Drafted 61st overall by Dallas in 2012.
Brett Lernout, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
A tough defenseman with great balance who is more than willing to drop the gloves, Lernout has also been on a bit of an offensive tear, with four points in his past five games for the Broncos. The late 1995 birthday now has 18 points overall after notching just two in 41 games last season. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
This is a very thin year for Quebecois talent and Aube-Kubel is one of the few prospects slated to go in the top-50. Speedy and smart, Aube-Kubel has five points in his past five games and is the first Quebec-born player in Central Scouting’s rankings at 46th among North American skaters. Draft eligible in 2014.