• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
It was Hockey Night in Draft-Prospect Land on Saturday, as virtually every league was active. A full slate of games in European U20 leagues and the CHL gave the highly-ranked names a chance to shine (Zadina, for one, took full advantage). Rasmus Dahlin returned to the SHL and scored his first goal of the season there, but even wasn't strong enough to make tonight's list, as there were some great performances by less likely heroes.
A full HDC complement of 10 star performances are listed here for Saturday's games. The group includes six Canadians, two Swedes, and two Czechs:
TY DELLANDREA -- A great night for Dellandrea in Flint's 5-4 overtime OHL victory over Ottawa. He was truly the hero of this one, scoring with two seconds left in OT. He also had an assist and six shots on goal for the Firebirds. His assist came on a power-play goal that opened the scoring. Dellandrea, one of the projected picks in great position to raise his stock this year, also went 19-for-29 in faceoffs. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
SAMUEL ERSSON -- Gavle's U20 goaltender pitched a 5-0 shutout agaionst Mora at home. He made 26 saves in raising his season record to 4-2 for the strong Brynas squad. One of the lesser-heralded goalies in Sweden, Ersson is a definite draft candidate, having given up only eight goals in six U20 starts.
GABRIEL FORTIER -- Baie-Comeau lost its game at Drummondville 8-5 on Saturday night, but Fortier stood out in defeat. The former No. 4 overall pick in the QMJHL draft had a goal and two assists for the Drakkar. He kicked off the scoring at 8:43 of the first period, and followed through with two primary assists on second-period goals. A year ago, Fortier was dealing with a shoulder injury at the start of the season, but it's a very different story now, as he already has two goals and two assists in three games.
ANDERSON MacDONALD -- Moncton's preseason acquisition is already playing huge dividends for the Wildcats. On Saturday, he had two assists and five shots in his team's 2-1 win over Charlottetown. He was named the game's No. 1 star after picking up a secondary assist on a goal at 1:30 of the second period that opened the scoring. He saved his best for later, when he had the primary assist on the game-winning goal at 3:33 of the third. It was his second multi-point game of the young QMJHL season. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
RYAN MERKLEY -- You can be sure Merkley will be one of the highest-drafted defenseman in the first round of the 2018 draft, and he might be the highest-drafted Canadian blueliner. He is showing why early in the OHL season, putting up a two-assist night in Guelph's 6-3 win at Saginaw. Both of Merkley's assists were on the power play, and both were primary helpers. His first assist came on a goal that made it 2-1 Guelph early in the second, and his other assist helped stretch the lead to 4-2 late in the second. That goal held on as the game-winner. Over the weekend, he has had back-to-back multi-assist nights and been a key to the Storm's power play. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
KAREL PLASEK -- Plasek was the dominant player in Brno's 5-2 Czech U20 victory over Vitkovice, scoring two goals, assisting on a third, and finishing the day with a plus-2 rating. His first goal, scored at 5:49 of the second period, made it 2-0, and he second closed out the scoring with less than a minute remaining. The son of a well-known Czech league player, Plasek is making a name for himself with four goals and three assists in seven U20 games so far.
MATTHEW STRUTHERS -- Struthers had his best game of the season and only the second two-goal game of his OHL career on Saturday, helping the Owen Sound Attack edge Mississauga 6-4. The game's No. 2 star opened the scoring at 7:14 of the first period and found the net again at 10:24 of the third period for a 5-2 lead. That stood up as the game-winner. Just 27 seconds before his second goal, he had picked up the primary assist on another goal -- all part of his first OHL three-point night. He now has five points in three games.
AKIL THOMAS -- If you go to a Niagara IceDogs game, it's likely that the best player on the ice will be Akil Thomas. The Florida-born Canadian center was his game's No. 1 star for the second night in a row, as Niagara crushed Peterborough 5-1 at home. Thomas had a goal and an assist in the win, scoring to get the IceDogs on the board and tie the game 1-1 at 11:14 of the first period. He later picked up an assist on the game's final goal. He will be a candidate for OHL Player of the Week and will probably start drawing even more scouts to his games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MARCUS WESTFALT -- It's not so easy to get noiced in the Swedish U20 league, since so many draft prospects play up in the SHL, but Westfalt is doing his best to compete with the big boys on draft day. In Gavle's 5-0 shutout of Mora on Sunday, Westfalt had a hand in all but one of his team's goals. The final tally: two goals, two assists, and a plus-4 rating. Westfalt scored the first goal of the game -- and the official game-winner -- just 15 seconds after the opening faceoff. He added another goal to make it 3-0 in the second period. Westfalt, who was likely going to be drafted anyway, now has four goals and four assists in six games.
FILIP ZADINA -- Get used to this name, because you will hear it all season. Zadina looks like the Euro-successor to Nico Hischier as far as QMJHL newcomers to North America go. On Saturday, he earned No. 1 star honors in Halifax's 4-3 win vs. Bathurst. He did it on the strength of two goals and six shots. A dangerous scorer, Zadina notched his first of the game at at 5:02 of the opening period, and he nailed down his second at 13:47 of the first to make it 3-0. The Czech star now has three goals and four assists in four 'Q' games and has yet to be held off the scoresheet. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)