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2019 Draft Countdown: Antti Saarela, Matej Blumel, John Farinacci, Eric Ciccolini, and Nikita Alexandrov

Welcome to Canucks Army’s 2019 Draft Countdown. Over the next four weeks leading up to the draft, we’ll be rounding up scouting reports, quotes, and videos about our Top-100 prospects available. Here are aggregated profiles on 2019 Draft Countdown: Antti Saarela, Matej Blumel, John Farinacci, Eric Ciccolini, and Nikita Alexandrov. 

No. 95: Antti Saarela

Date of birth: June 27th, 2001

Nation: Finland

Position: LW/RW

Shoots: L

Height: 5’11” / 180 cm

Weight: 183 lbs / 83 kg

Profile: A raw prospect with an interesting skill set and a high-quality hockey IQ, Saarela is a long-term project. He doesn’t have overwhelming physical skills but instead relies on very good offensive vision to be successful. 

Saarela is an above-average skater and uses a very upward stance for most the time. His first few steps are not the most explosive and he doesn’t have blazing speed, but I don’t think that the skating holding him back. Saarela is usually regarded as a smart player and plays on both special teams, but I have started to question how good his offensive instincts are. His hands are also above-average, as he is able to pull off good dekes from the time to time but also lost the puck a couple of times in critical situations. I’m not sure if he was frustrated, but he played more physically than I’ve seen him play before and actually made a few nice hits. – Lassi Alanen, Finn Prospects

Quite well thought of, but projects as a long developmental center when still needs time to strengthen his overall game. Thought of as a gifted guy with smart instincts, with good energy and stick skills, but that might be a premature assessment. At the Five Nations Under-18 his zone entries were thwarted on zone entires with puck losses. Was given first line responsibilities but neglected his defensive end responsibilities after he was stifled on the attack. Took a needless kneeing penalty against Russia a got a one game suspension. All this doesn’t close the book on him, just points to a need for more maturity in his on ice demeanor and in his game and skill development. – Bill Placzek, Draft Site 

No. 94: Matej Blumel

Date of birth: May 31st, 2000

Nation: Czech Republic 

Position: LW

Shoots: L

Height: 6’0″ / 183 cm

Weight: 198 lbs / 90 kg

Profile: Blumel was surprisingly passed over in last year’s draft after some strong international showings. He doesn’t boast high-end skill but is a strong and explosive skater. 

Second year eligible player who surprisingly was not selected last year. “The most impressive Czech player in the Five Nations U-18. a year ago. He is an explosive skater who needed time to adjust to the new surroundings of an experienced Waterloo USHL club. Works hard to use his speed to separate, find seams, and forecheck. His shot is coming along and is a dangerous player when on the ice in short-handed situations. Committed to the University of Connecticut.” – Bill Placzek, Draft Site 

No. 93: John Farinacci

Date of birth: February 14th, 2001

Nation: United States 

Position: C

Shoots: R

Height: 6’0″ / 183 cm

Weight: 185 lbs / 84 kg

Profile: Farinacci had a dominant High School season, appearing miles above his peers. He’s a big, skilled centreman with a good hockey IQ who can create offence with a combination of skill and smarts. 

The centreman led his team this season with his hands and vision of the ice. Even through the special defensive attention he received every game there was a lot of space for him to operate in due to the nature of the competition he played against. He had no trouble recognizing where that space was and making the defence pay for their lapses. As defenders closed on him, he could dangle through them, protect the puck with his sturdy frame, create room for himself, get his head up, and find scoring plays.

Farinacci was levels above his peers, and his offensive tools allowed him to dominate. In a single game, you could fill a highlight reel with his plays. – David St. Louis, Habs Eyes On The Prize

A big right shot centre who passes the puck quick and effectively, uses his size to protect pucks and wins the battles along the boards. One of the best passers in high school as he puts but touch and zip on them. A really good skater for a large kid; he needs to work on his first step quickness, but once he is moving straight ahead, he is barreling freight coming down the track. Long term developmental project who needs to get first step quicker, and add sixty minute a compete level. Committed to Harvard University. – Bill Placzek, Draft Site

No. 92: Eric Ciccolini

Date of birth: January 14th, 2001

Nation: Canada 

Position: RW

Shoots: R

Height: 6’0″ / 183 cm

Weight: 170 lbs / 77 kg

Profile: A Canadian forward taking the NCAA route, Ciccolini had a dominant season for the Toronto Jr. Canadians this year. He racked up 27 goals thanks to his elite shot, which is his best attribute as a prospect. 

Ciccolini is an offensively gifted player who can play both the wing and center. He has good size at 6’ and very good speed – both in first steps and top speed – with a deceptive separation gear. He’s an extremely good stickhandler and seemingly has the puck on a string whenever he’s in possession. He has the ability to make things happen at top speed.

Ciccolini also has very good vision and hockey sense. He sees plays developing and has an uncanny ability to slow the play down and wait for opportunities to open up. Perhaps his greatest offensive weapon is his shot which borders on elite. He gets the puck off his stick quickly and accurately and often times catches goaltenders by surprise. – Dominic Tiano, OHL Writers

No. 91: Nikita Alexandrov

Date of birth: September 16th, 2000

Nation: Russia 

Position: C

Shoots: L

Height: 6’0″ / 183 cm

Weight: 179 lbs / 81 kg

Profile: A Russian-born but German-raised forward, Alexandrov has spent two seasons with Charlottetown in the QMJHL. He’s evolved into one of the Islanders’ best forwards, producing offence with creative playmaking and high-end skill. 

Under six foot thick winger who has offensive skills and good speed. Some perceive him as more of a scorer based on his shot and offensive gifts but also creativity and excellent unselfish passing skills. Plays with intensity when on the offense but also needs to play stronger without the puck and in his own end. – Bill Placzek, Draft Site 

Read also:

2019 Draft Countdown #100 – #96

Options at #10 – Mathew Boldy

  • Something to work on with these lists is an ongoing effort to reduce the margin of errors. With this list of 100 typically 25% of the choices will not be part of the final 100 when the draft is over. In a similar vein of the 31 first round picks on the speculative list 8 of the picks will fall into the second round. I point this out not to be critical of your efforts but to only emphasize that the pursuit of excellence is the primary goal. Keeping this in mind should help perfect the choices of 31 predictions (or 100 predictions) on the list is the ultimate goal.

  • Still a believer in the Best Player Available concept when it comes to drafting like 10th over all. Don’t know enough to say who that could possibly be. Selecting by position for its own sake is a tricky business. We’d like a good D frankly but Bowram will not be available at that point and not too sold on others mentioned as maybe I should be. We’ll see.

    • BPA is definitely one way to go, but it isn’t the only drafting strategy. It focuses on the best player at that time 17-18 and is directed at trying to hit on a prospect more than miss. It is useful for building depth in an organization in which drafting is the seen as the primary way to build the team.

      There is also the highest ceiling approach, the one used by Holland. It focuses on skill. I think Holland once said he could find checking players at any time, and it was more difficult to find skill. It is directed at building a core and filling the bottom of the roster through trades and free agency.

      Another strategy is the value approach utilized by Poile. It focuses on which players have the highest asset values. It resulted in a larger amount of defensemen taken as they usually have the highest asset/trade value. Therefore, it focuses on building a team through trades.

      I think any of these strategies can be useful depending upon the teams needs. I do think it is important to draft from the goal out. Drafting the goalie while in a window, defence on a decline and forwards on ascent due to development time and having the players emerge together to create the longest window. Anyways, interesting to think about IMO

      • I feel that BPA is always better than drafting by position or ideology. We can use 2014 as an example. Scouting reports consistently had Nylander as the player with the highest ceiling in the entire draft. However, we know that Benning believed that a PP QB’s and power forwards were the hardest roles to fill. So in the absence of a PP QB like Makar in that draft, I think he drafted based on position (power forward) and ideology (big bad Bruins model) as well as the hometown player factor. In the end, it’s pretty clear that given the output of Ehlers and Nylander compared to Virtanen, not subscribing to any kind of BPA philosophy caused us to pick an inferior player given our draft position.

        • I think you are absolutely right Spiel. BPA is usually meant to say best player in my list or strategy. I think it is interesting to listen to GMs in interviews and see how much differences there are in philosophy of running and building a team there are. I also was interested in how draft lists vary so much from people to people, be it McKenzie and Button or any of the ranking sites. It makes for fun discussion and speculation.