• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
Next week, there will be plenty of draft-prospect action at the World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia. This week? Not so much. It was a fairly quiet Wednesday on the prospect front, but there were enough to squeak out a top-five list.
Below are one European and four Canadians from major-junior leagues. Look for more Russians to show up at this time next week, since Russia is sending several of its top prospects to the World Junior A. But for now, check out Wednesday's best:
LUKAS DOSTAL -- The Czechs recently announced that Jakub Skarek will their youngest goalie at the World Juniors later this month, so Dostal missed that cut. The way he is playing, however, he could be the No. 1 guy at the 2019 tournament. Dostal, who has gone up and down between the Czech WSM Liga and the U20 junior level, put on a show against the WSM men on Wednesday, stopping 41 shots in Trebic's 3-2 shootout win at Karlovy Vary. He was also a perfect 5-for-5 in the shootout after stopping all 19 shots faced in the third period and overtime. Dostal now has three straight WSM victories with a .946 save percentage over the span. (Note: Eighth appearance on this list in 2017-18 -- leads all goaltenders)
ALEXIS GRAVEL -- The Halifax Mooseheads goalie was supposed to be one of the top draft prospects at his position. Instead, he has only five wins in 15 QMJHL starts in slipping to the No. 2 role. He took another loss Wednesday, as the Mooseheads lost 3-2 in an OT shootout at Shawinigan. This loss wasn't Gravel's fault. He stopped 30 of 32 shots to earn No. 3 star honors. That included 10 saves over the third period and overtime. The worst might now be behind Gravel, who earned his second straight three-star selection. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
OLIVIER MATHIEU -- Mathieu, a left wing with Quebec, picked up two key assists in the Remparts' 3-0 win over Baie-Comeau on Wednesday. It was a relatively high-scoring night for a player who has only 15 points through his first 30 QMJHL games this season. Mathieu had the primary assist the game-winning power-play goal at 6:43 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. He later added another primary helper on a power-play goal at 4:28 of the second to make it 2-0. Mathieu is suddenly in the midst of a four-game point streak. He's yet another undersized player, so more scoring will be crucial going forward.
RYAN MERKLEY -- You can't say enough good things about Merkley, who just keeps piling up points as a defenseman. He now has 35 in 28 games to rank second among all defensemen in the OHL. On Wednesday, he picked up a pair of primary assists on power-play goals and earned No. 2 star honors in Guelph's 6-3 win at Hamilton. His first assist, at 1:36 of the third period, pulled the Storm into a 3-3 tie. Five minutes later at 6:35, Merkley set up the game-winner to make it 4-3. In addition to his 35 points, he now has a seven-game point streak with a goal and eight assists during the run. He will be drafted in the first round for sure. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18 -- tied for lead among defensemen)
JOE VELENO -- Veleno, a projected top-10 pick who might be the first Canadian forward drafted, reached a point-per-game average through 31 QMJHL games with two goals, an assist, and six shots in Saint John's 4-3 loss to Drummondville. Despite his team losing, Veleno was named the game's No. 1 star. He scored at 6:39 of the first period for a 1-1 tie before picking up the primary assist on a goal at 10:15 of the first to go up 2-1. In the second, Veleno scored at 9:28 to pull the Sea Dogs back into a tie at 3-3. The three-point night extended Veleno's current scoring streak to five games. He seems to be heating up at just the right time. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)