• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
What a busy weekend it was for draft prospects. With countless games and countless great performances it was hard to make the cuts to get this list down to 10 for the past three days.
But this is all good news, because it shows how much talent is up for grabs in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Even though they are younger than many of their teammates, these players are not bystanders. They contribute in major ways and sometimes literally carry their teams to victory. Sunday was a particularly intriguing day, since at least two players listed here had the best performances of their careers to date. There are going to be names called at the draft that nobody saw coming a year ago.
Sunday's list features two Swedish junior players, six major-junior players, and two from the USHL. Check out these young men who made a tough cut:
JONATAN BERGGREN -- There's a lot of talent on Skelleftea's Under-20 team, but the leader of the pack is Berggren, who erupted for two goals and two assists in a 7-0 cakewalk over Jonkoping on Sunday. The Swedish junior star picked up all four of his points in the opening period. He assisted on the game's first goal at 1:02, scored on a power play to make it 2-0 at 8:08, had the lone helper on a goal at 9:52, and scored to make it 4-0 at 12:24. Berggren, a 5-foot-10 center, has been sensational of late. Since the second half of the Swedish U20 season began, he has posted seven points in three games and is tied for 14th in scoring among players on the top 10 junior teams. Overall, he has a seven-game point streak dating back to Dec. 3, posting eight goals and seven assists during the run. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ZACHARY BOUTHILLIER -- Goaltender Bouthillier dominated Chicoutimi's 3-2 win at Baie-Comeau, making 33 saves to earn No. 1 star honors. He stopped all nine Drakkar first-period shots, 15 of 16 in the second, and nine of 10 in the third. Bouthillier plays mainly as a backup, and he has suffered a lot of hard-luck losses for a struggling team. Win or lose, when he's on, he's outstanding. Heading into Sunday, he hadn't won since Dec. 9, but he has three straight starts that have ended with three-star selections. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MARC DEL GAIZO -- Del Gaizo, a Muskegon defenseman, had his first two-goal in the USHL on Sunday, helping his team edge Chicago 5-4. The game's No. 1 star notched his first goal on a power play at 16:22 of the second period to put Muskegon up 3-2. His second goal also came on a power play at 17:31 of the third, making it 6-4 and standing up as the game-winner. Del Gaizo is not a big scorer with only six total goals on the season, but he definitely showed an offensive upside on Sunday.
SAMUEL ERSSON -- By far the most reliable of draft-eligible goalies in Sweden's top junior league, Ersson rolled to another U20 win Sunday with 32 saves in Gavle's 3-1 vwin over Vasteras. He was perfect in the first period, stopping nine shots, before stopping seven of eight in the second and then raising his game to make deny all 16 shots in the third. Ersson has won five of his last six U20 starts with a staggering .931 percentage over the past nine games. (Note: Ninth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
BENOIT-OLIVIER GROULX -- Bo Groulx dominated Halifax's 8-2 rout of Saint John on Sunday with two goals and two assists for No. 2 star honors. He began the point parade with the primary assist on the game's first goal, scored on a power play at 4:23 of the opening period. He then assisted on the eventual game-winner for a 3-0 lead at 15:34 of the first. In the second, he scored at 1:24 to make it 4-0, and added another power-play goal at 13:40 of the third for a 7-2 lead. The big day snapped a three-game scoring drought, giving his 21 goals and 39 points in 49 QMJHL games. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ALEXANDER KHOVANOV -- Let's just say we've been waiting for this guy to show up on this list for a long, long time. Khovanov, a Russian center who was thought to be one of the very best players in this draft, missed the first half of the season dealing with Hepatitis A and then chose to resume his career in the QMJHL rather than remain in Russia. Well, he's playing for Moncton now and is starting to look like he can live up to at least some of the hype. On Sunday, he had a goal and an assist in the Wildcats' 4-3 OT win at Shawinigan. Khovanov assisted on a goal at 8:46 of the first period for a 1-1 tie before scoring on a power play to cut Shawinigan's lead to 3-2 at 11:16 of the second period. That was the first of three unanswered Moncton goals. Through 14 QMJHL games, Khovanov has a respectable two goals and eight assists.
JARED McISAAC -- Widely considered the best shutdown defenseman in the 2018 draft, McIsaac was an offensive star Sunday with a goal, two assists, eight shots and a plus-4 rating in Halifax's 8-2 win over Saint John. He assisted on a power-play goal at 14:56 of the second period to go up 5-2, had the primary assist on another man-advantage goal at 13:40 of the third, and closed the scoring with a goal at 19:58. McIsaac, who posted five points in two weekend games, has six goals and 31 points in 47 QMJHL games, putting him within one point of his 2016-17 total. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
RYAN MERKLEY -- Sunday was a big day for defensemen, and Merkley -- one of the most offensively gifted -- came through with a goal and two assists as the No. 2 star of Guelph's 3-2 win at London. Both assists were primary helpers. He set up the game's first goal at 3:48 of the opening period, and assisted on a power-play goal at 11:50 of the first for a 2-0 lead. His goal, which put Guelph up 3-1 at 1:22 of the second, stood as the game-winner. Merkley has points in nine straight OHL games and is the second-highest scoring defenseman in the OHL with 57 points in 47 games. (Note: Eighth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
IVAN PROSVETOV -- Prosvetov, a Russian goalie playing in North America, was passed over in the 2017 NHL draft. That probably won't happen again, given his play this season. On Sunday, he made 41 saves to earn No. 1 star honors in Youngstown's 2-1 win over Dubuque. He stopped all eight shots he faced in the first period, 12 of 14 in the second, and a stunning 20-for-20 in the final 20 minutes. This was Prosvetov's first USHL win since he made 52 saves on Jan. 13. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
WYATTE WYLIE -- No prospect had a bigger day on Sunday than Wylie, the Everett defenseman who plays WHL hockey in his hometown. He fired seven shots on net and posted his first two-goal WHL game as part of a three-point performance in the Silvertips' 6-5 OT win over Spokane. The game's No. 1 star, who had only 21 points in 50 games prior to Sunday, scored on a power-play at 10:30 of the second period to tie the game 3-3. He scored again at 5:08 of the third to cut Spokane's lead to 5-4 before picking up the primary assist on the game-winner at 1:10 of overtime. Sunday's goals were the first in 10 games for the 6-foot-1 blue-liner, whose size should help him on draft day. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)