We’re into day five of the Top 100 and dipping into the 70’s – the mid-third round if you will. We have players from all over the world in this group, including another goaltender. Let’s take a look.
#80: Ostap Safin (F – Czech)
By Jeremy Davis
- Age: 18 – February 11th, 1999
- Birthplace: Praha, CZE
- Frame: 6’4″ / 198 lbs
Safin was overshadowed at some of the more recent tournaments by higher touted Czech eligibles like Martin Necas and Filip Chytil, but he made an impression regardless. A more imposing player that the other aforementioned Czechs, there’s a lot more physicality to Safin’s game.
Safin spent the lion’s share of his season in the Czech U20 league, with appearances in both the top tier Extraliga and second tier WSM Liga. In the former league, he managed a goal and an assist in just eight games, which isn’t bad production for a teenager at that level, especially when he was averaging just 6:53 per game. Though it’s a limited sample, his resulting points per 60 at that level were among the best for Under-20 players in the Extraliga, handily beating the point rates of admittedly more established players like Necas and Chytil.
His time in the Extraliga generated a few NHL matches, lesser known though they may be, including Milan Kraft and Michal Grosek.
Safin is a big Czech forward with the propensity for some dangles now and again, though sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s deking through players or just fighting the puck – likely the answer lies somewhere in the middle. In any case, Safin certainly doesn’t shy away from handling the puck and attempting some fairly dazzling moves with it. His straightaway speed is also a noteworthy attribute. Combined with his 6-foot-4 frame and the physicality described earlier, Safin certainly offers an interesting package.
The creativity that Safin exhibits when trying to hold on to the puck doesn’t necessarily transfer to setting up teammates. As a result, he is more of a carrier and a straight line player, with somewhat limited playmaking ability. He projects as a middle six winger in the NHL, and spending time in a men’s league between now and then will only benefit him.
#79: Jarret Tyszka (D – WHL)
By J.D. Burke
- Age: 18-years-old, 1999-03-15
- Birthplace: Langley, BC, Canada
- Frame: 6’3″, 192 lbs.
One could hardly blame you if you had a hard time noticing Jarret Tyszka this season. The Seattle Thunderbirds were the WHL’s best team, and they did it with a veteran defence corps that includes WHL defenceman of the year, Ethan Bear. Talk about being insulated.
That’s a bit of a double-edged sword for Tyszka. On the one hand, it made it hard for him to show his mettle on most nights — there just wasn’t a tonne of ice-time left for Tyszka after the veterans got their slices of the pie. On the other, Tyszka’s defensive game needs work, and it’s likely that the excellent supporting cast and limited ice-time made those deficiencies less present.
Tyszka’s best attributes come from his skating. He’s an adept puck carrier who excels at transitioning play with the puck on his stick. Some of Tyszka’s best work came with the man advantage, where he consistently made quick decisions with the puck and never shied from using his cannon of a shot. If Tyszka can work on streamlining the release on his shot, it’ll become a real threat.
For Tyszka to make that next step, he’ll need to add muscle to his frame and be a more engaged defender in the defensive zone. Tyszka isn’t shy about throwing the odd open ice hit, but many are left wanting when the 6’3″ defender struggles to end the cycle or separate opposition players from the puck with regularity. You’d like more from a player with Tyszka’s frame at this level, certainly. He should have a physical advantage over his opposition that just isn’t there.
When we look at Tyszka’s statistical profile, there’s a lot to like. Considering he didn’t play a tonne of minutes at even strength, I find his 25 points (six goals and 19 assists) in 54 games encouraging. You combine that with NHL height and the fact that he’s putting up those numbers in a league that just churns out defenceman, and pGPS is a definite believer. Roughly 30% of the players in Tyszka’s cohort went on to become full-time NHL’ers, and they generally developed into second pair defencemen when they did. Players like Brayden McNabb and Travis Hamonic check out as current players with the highest degree of similarity to Tyszka among successful members of his cohort.
#78: Pavel Koltygin (LW/C – QMJHL)
By J.D. Burke
- Age: 18-years-old, 1999-02-17
- Birthplace: Moskva, Russia
- Frame: 6’0″, 192 lbs.
It’s hard to get too excited about a QMJHL forward scoring well under a point per game clip, so I can understand why Pavel Koltygin doesn’t generate much discussion as a top prospect. The list of players to produce like he has with his frame and make the NHL is a short one — there’s no hiding from that fact.
It’s just as hard to watch Koltygin play, though, and not find yourself fawning over his puck skills and ability to dictate pace in the offensive zone. Koltygin isn’t an explosive skater, but he has good enough edgework and gets around the ice well, all while defending the puck fearlessly. I tend to think better of Koltygin’s shot than most, too. His best traits are in his hands, though. He can work the puck in traffic and does a good job of setting his linemates up with passes in transition.
The Drummondville Voltigeurs are a team on the rise, but they’ve a ways to go still. With a little more talent around him, perhaps my perception of Koltygin’s skill set will be vindicated with an increase in production.
His defensive game is already in a good place, but as with most 18-year-olds, it could stand to benefit from some growth. Koltygin isn’t afraid to engage defensively, and he does a good job of using his body to separate the opposition from the puck, but his reads and positioning are often suspect.
Draft analytics never shine the fondest of lights on players from the QMJHL, and this is especially true when they don’t produce at a gaudy rate. Only 7.5% of the players in Koltygin’s cohort went on to play full-time NHL careers, though, they produced at an impressive 46 points per 82 game pace. Among current NHL’ers, he compares closest to Mike Hoffman and Matthieu Perreault through this lens.
#77: Ryan Hughes
By Jeremy Davis
- Age: July 27th, 1999
- Birthplace: Edmonton, AB, CAN
- Frame: 5’8″ / 154 lbs
Ryan Hughes is yet another small, speedy player available in this year’s draft. At 5-foot-8 and 154 pounds, he has a major size disadvantage and a lot of room to bulk up before he even thinks about professional hockey. Which is probably why he’s absent from most prospect rankings.
That shouldn’t turn teams out to him entirely though, after all we are seeing more and more small plays succeed in the NHL as speed becomes a defining factor. A quick look through Hughes’ statistical comparables will provide examples of such players, including Tyler Johnson and Tyler Ennis, both of whom Hughes has outscored in the WHL at a similar age.
What he lacks in size, he makes up for in scoring. Hughes was in the top ten for 5-on-5 primary points among eligible WHL forwards, despite have a significantly lower estimated TOI than most of the names above him. With a late July birthday, Hughes is also one of the younger members of the draft class, making it easier for him to slip unnoticed by many scouts until recently.
Hughes’ creativity and puck skills are also listed as strengths, and his ability to create space is readily apparent in the video above. He’ll need to continue leaning on that aspect of his game as he progresses, while some physical growth wouldn’t hurt either. At this point though, he seems to be showing that he can get along just fine the way he is.
#76: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (G – Jr.A Liiga)
By Jeremy Davis
- Age: 18 – March 9th, 1999
- Birthplace: Espoo, FIN
- Frame: 6’4″ / 196 lbs
When Luukkonen took over for the older Leevi Laakso at the 2016 World Under-18 Tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota last year as a 16-year old, it seems clear that he was destined to be Finland’s International goaltender of the future. He put up a .917 save percentage that tournament, en route to a Gold Medal, backstopping a powerful Finnish team led by Jesse Puljujarvi and Eeli Tolvanen. He also posted a .924 save percentage in Finland’s top junior league, drawing plenty of attention as one of the top goaltending prospects for 2017.
Unfortunately, Luukkonen wasn’t able to replicate his international success during his draft year. Reports of his performances at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka tournament, the 2017 Five-Nations Tournament, and the 2017 U-18’s in Slovakia last month all bore a similar refrain: the talent is clearly there, but the numbers highly disappointing. In each tournament, Luukkonen posted save percentages under .900. Finland’s silver medal at the U-18’s came almost in spite of Luukkonen, rather than as a result of his play.
His domestic play was more appeasing, posting a .917 save percentage and a 1.78 goals against average in 35 games as a starter in the Junior Liiga, though his save rate still took a step back from the previous year.
At 6-foot-4, Luukkonen has the height that the current NHL covets. Those long limbs provide him with a wide butterfly stance that he gets into quickly and efficiently, and moves fluidly from one side of the crease to the other, making it extremely difficult to beat him down low. He does have a tendency to go down and little earlier than he needs to and can be exposed up high at some points.
His calm demeanor and mental game have been routinely praised. Perhaps underrated qualities, psychological aspects allow him to brush of goals and give an confidence boost to the teammates in front of him. Luukkonen excels in modern techniques of economy of movement, positioning, and puck tracking, while working in some inherent athleticism to boot. He should prove to be an NHL starting goaltending at some point in the future, and teams will have to hope the his tournament performances will be the exception, not the rule.