• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
A busy Saturday was greatfor centers, as seven 2018 NHL Entry Draft prospects who made this top-performances list play in the middle. Center is a hot position on draft day, since talent there can be the first building block to success.
Saturday was also remarkable for the many strong performances in the Western Hockey League. The WHL is clearly the weakest of the three CHL leagues in terms of top-end prospects in 2017-18, but it flexed its muscle this time. Three WHL players made this list, but many more were legitimate candidates. Was this a fluke, or is the WHL stock on the rise?
Including the three WHL players, there are six major-junior prospects on this list. The others come from Europe, the USHL, and the Minnesota high school ranks. Check them all out below:
JUSTIN BLANCHETTE -- Blanchette looks like the best backup goalie in the QMJHL, as he continues to shine in his limited starts. On Saturday, he made 39 saves in Baie-Comeau's 3-2 overtime loss to Rimouski and earned No. 2 star honors. He was lights-out in the second period, stopping all 21 Oceanic shots. Over his past two games, Blanchette has stopped 62 of 65 shots for a .954 save percentage. His season-long save percentage is .906. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
TY DELLANDREA -- A night to remember for Dellandrea, as the Flint center exploded for a career-high five points in a 5-2 win at Sarnia. This included his first OHL hat trick, although two goals were empty-netters. Dellandrea began his blitz with the primary assist on the game's first goal at 5:08 of the opening period. He followed that with another primary helper at 14:20 of the first to make it 2-0. Just 49 seconds into the middle period, he notched the game-winner to make it 3-0. He closed his night with the empty-netters at 18:14 and 19:18 of the third after Sarnia had cut the lead to 3-2. Dellandrea now has 12 goals and 26 points in 33 games to rank second in scoring for Flint. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
JUSTUS HAKULINEN -- Hakulinen, a left wing, plays for Helsinki Jokerit in Finland's Under-18 league. He's only 5-foot-7, so he has a very small shot at being drafted. On Saturday, he made a bid for scouts' attention with two goals in a 5-2 loss at Lahti. He scored at 7:59 of the second period to cut the lead to 3-1, and then pulled Jokerit within a goal at 3-2 when he scored at 15:45 of the second. Hakulinen is riding a five-game scoring streak with four goals in his last four games.
BARRETT HAYTON -- Hayton scored two goals and assisted on another Saturday as Sault Ste. Marie coasted to a 7-1 OHL win at Guelph. Hayton, the No. 3 star, picked up the primary assist on the game's first goal at 0:42 of the second period. He followed that up with the game-winner at 7:26 of the second to make it 2-0 and later closed out the scoring with a goal at 17:44 of the third. Through 33 games, Hayton has 13 goals and 30 points to rank seventh on the Greyhounds in scoring. It's also worth noting that his team is an eye-popping 29-3-2 this season. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
BEN HELGESON -- University of Wisconsin fans have reason to celebrate the season Helgeson is having in the Minnesota high school ranks. The Badgers recruit had a four-point performance on Saturday, as his Hill-Murray team crushed Mendota Heights Henry Sibley 8-1. After assisting on a power-play goal -- the game-winner -- at 1:45 of the second period for a 2-0 lead, Helgeson scored his first of two goals at 14:16 of the second to make it 3-0. He added a power-play goal just over two minutes later at 16:30, and had a primary assist at 3:57 of the third for a 6-1 lead. Helgeson now has a six-game point streak, including five goals in the past two games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
KEEGAN KARKI -- Last season, off-ice issues drove Karki out of the U.S. NTDP program. The tall goaltender has rebounded from that setback in a big way to emerge as the No. 1 goalie for the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks. On Saturday, Karki stopped 38 shots in a 4-2 win over Chicago, including 19 saves in the second period alone. Through 40 minutes, he had 27 saves and maintained a shutout until 1:15 of the third period. He now has three straight USHL victories with a combined .935 save percentage in those games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
COLIN SCHMIDT -- Scouts have to be drooling over this 6-foot-4 center headed for the University of Minnesota. Schmidt has all the physical tools to be an NHL star, and dominates at the Minnesota high school level. He had a goal and two assists in Plymouth Wayzata's 5-4 OT win over Cretin-Derham Hall on Saturday. In the second period, he had the primary assist on a power-play goal at 2:53 for a 3-2 lead and then assisted on another power-play goal at 6:40. He later became the game's hero, scoring at 2:50 of overtime. Schmidt now has multiple points in three straight games, for a total of seven over the span.
RILEY SUTTER -- Ron Sutter's son got back in the scoring groove in a big way Saturday. Riley had two goals, and assist, six shots, and won 15 of 21 face-offs as the Everett Silvertips blanked Prince George 4-0 at home. The game's No. 2 star scored its first goal just 16 seconds into the middle period. That game-winner was followed by a power-play goal at 4:02 of the third to make it 3-0 and a primary assist on the final goal at 6:40. After a hot start, Sutter has cooled off a bit, and this was his first multi-point game since Nov. 25. He has 12 goals and 12 assists in 35 WHL games to rank fifth on the Silvertips in scoring. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
KYLE TOPPING -- The Kelowna Rockets trounced Saskatoon 5-0 on the road Saturday, and Topping was a major contributor with two goals and an 11-for-16 performance on face-offs. His first goal, at 4:43 of the second period, made it 3-0. His second, less than three-minutes later at 7:26, made it 4-0. Topping is averaging over a point-per-game with 13 goals and 36 points in 34 WHL contests, and ranks fourth in the Kelowna team scoring race. Saturday's effort extended his point streak to four games. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ELI ZUMMACK --Zummack had his first two-goal WHL game for Spokane on Saturday, helping the Chiefs to a 6-3 win at Portland. The game's No. 1 star scored on a power play at 15:44 of the first period to tie the score 2-2. He scored again at 15:21 of the second to make it 5-3. With 18 points in 32 games, Zummack is closing in on the 22 points he scored last season. This was his sixth multi-point performance in 2017-18. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)