• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
A very busy Friday set the tone for a big weekend of draft-prospect action.
The amount of high-quality defensemen available in June is reason to be excited for Dallas. This year could set the record for blue-liners draft in the first round. Nine were picked there in 2017, which was fairly typical of recent years. The high mark was 13 in 2012, when eight of the top 10 picks weere defenseman. That won't happen, but breaking 13 might.
Friday's list includes one player in Sweden, five major-junior players, three from the USHL, and one from Canadian Tier II. See who made the tough cut:
ADAM BOQVIST -- Boqvist is projected as a possible top-five pick with good reason. He is a Swedish defenseman with great offensive talent -- a lesser version of Rasmus Dahlin. On Friday, he flashed that offense with two goals in Gavle U20's 4-2 win at Vasteras. He scored the game's first goal at 4:38 of the second period and later notched the game-winner for a 3-1 lead at 3:24 of the third. Boqvist, who has also played against men in the SHL this season, has three goals in his last three U20 games and has posted four two-goal games this season. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
EVAN BOUCHARD -- This guy is a machine. The OHL's highest-scoring defenseman continued to rack up points on Friday with two goals and an assist in London's 8-4 loss to Barrie. Bouchard scored at 5:40 of the first period for a 1-1 tie. His second goal, scored short-handed, cut Barrie's lead to 4-2 at 12:16 of the second period. He later had the primary assist on a goal at 1:56 of the third to pull the Knights within a goal at 5-4. With 18 goals and 45 assists in 48 games, Bouchard in tied for fourth in the league in assists and ranks eighth in points. In his current five-game scoring streak, Bouchard has amassed three goals and 10 assists. (Note: 14th appearance on this list in 2017-18 -- leads all defensemen)
ZACHARY BOUTHILLIER -- Bouthillier has pretty much taken over the No. 1 goalie role in Chicoutimi on the strength of his recent play. He dominated again on Friday with 43 saves in the Sags' 3-2 OT win over Rimouski -- earning No. 1 stars. He stopped 15 of 17 shots in the first period, all 10 in the second, all 14 in the third, and all four in OT. He finished the game with 46:40 of shutout time, enabling his team to come back from an early 2-0 deficit. Bouthillier's .900 QMJHL season save percentage is solid, but what he has done over the past three games is spectacular: Three straight wins, three straight No. 1 star selections, and an .946 save percentage. Wow. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ILIJAH COLINA -- Since he was traded to Prince George at the deadline, Colina has been a much more impressive player. On Friday, he had the first two-goal game of his WHL career, leading the Cougars to a 3-2 win at Brandon and claiming No. 2 star honors. His first goal, at 4:35 of the second period, tied the game 1-1. His second was the game-winner at 17:37 of the third. With Portland, Colina had three goals and 15 points in 37 games. With Prince George, he has four goals and eight points in 11 games. The numbers are good, but like so many diminutive major-junior players, Colina's size (5-foot-8) might lock him out of the draft. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
KEEGAN KARKI -- Karki earned his second shutout of the USHL season as the No. 1 star of Muskegon's 1-0 win at Fargo. He stopped 14 shots in the first period, 11 in the second, and 12 in the third. It was a big rebound game for Karki, who had been pulled in two of his last three starts. When he is on his game, however, there are few more effective goalies in the USHL than this former member of the U.S. NTDP program. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MATTHEW KELLENBERGER -- How often does the Princeton University hockey team land recruits like this? The Tigers hit the jackpot when they landed defenseman Kellenberger, who continued to tear up the OJHL on Friday night -- raising his average to more than a point-per game. His goal and three assists in Oakville's 8-2 win over Burlington made him the No. 1 star on Friday. After scoring the game's first goal at 3:39 of the opening period, he assisted on a power play goal at 12:04 to make it 3-0. In the second period, Kellenberger had the primary assist on a short-handed goal that made it 5-1. In the third, he had another primary assist on a goal that put the Blades up 8-1. With nine goals and 45 points in 42 games, Kellenberger is the third-highest scoring defenseman in the OJHL. He also has seven points in his last two outings. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
PHILIPPE LAPOINTE -- The son of former NHLer Martin Lapointe drew momentum from the USHL Top Prospects Game. On Friday, he was the No. 1 star of Lincoln's 5-3 win at the U.S. NTDP Under-17 team with a goal and two primary assists -- all in the first period. He set up the game's opening goal at 3:15, scored one of his own at 15:11 to make it 2-0, and assisted on a power-play goal at 18:02 for a 3-1 lead. Through 34 games, Lapointe has four goals and 15 points. His game is about more than scoring, and it's hard to imagine him slipping through the draft. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
SAMPO RANTA -- The University of Wisconsin recruit from Finland was the No. 1 star with two goals in Sioux City's 4-2 win over Green Bay on Friday. Ranta scored his first goal at 7:05 of the opening period for a 2-0 lead, and he tallied the game-winner to make it 3-2 at 6:06 of the third. Ranta has 13 goals and 21 points in 35 USHL games, including points in four of his last five. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
TY SMITH -- Yet another one of the players who will ensure a defenseman-heavy first round in June, Smith continued his high-scoring ways Friday with a goal and two assists in Spokane's 5-3 win at Kootenay. The game's No. 1 star scored at 3:14 of the first period for a 1-1 tie before picking up primary, power-play assists in each of the next two periods. In the second, he set up a goal at 11:55 to put the Chiefs up 3-2. At 3:55 of the third, he set up the game-winner to make it 4-3. With eight goals and 50 points in 49 WHL games, Smith is the league's fourth-highest scoring defenseman. His current four-game point streak includes two goals and seven points. (Note: Seventh appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MATTHEW STRUTHERS -- Struthers has flourished in North Bay, since the Ottawa 68's sent him there before the OHL trade deadline. His success continued on Friday as the No. 3 star with two goals on six shots in the Battalion's 5-3 win at Mississauga. Struthers scored at 19:10 of the first period to cut the lead to 3-2 -- the second of five unanswered North Bay goals. He later closed the scoring at 9:38 of the third. The two-point night snapped a four-game scoring drought, and the goals snapped a six-game drought. Struthers has 14 goals and 14 assists in 40 OHL games, reflected in his No. 108 ranking on the Central Scouting midterm list. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)