• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
On a day when only two games were played at the World Juniors, the best action was in the Western Hockey League. Wednesday's full slate of WHL matchups showcased more draft prospects than the World Junior games. Three of the 10 players on the list below are from the WHL, which has the weakest overall draft pool of the three major-junior leagues. It's possible that only two or three WHL players will go in the first round, which would be the lowest WHL number in a generation.
It was also a good Wednesday for players overseas and those in Minnesota high schools. Four European-based players made this list, along with two from Minnesota. Check them all out below:
LUKAS DOSTAL -- Jakub Skarek is playing for the Czech World Junior team, but there's an outside chance that Dostal could be the first Czech goalie picked at the 2018 draft. He continued to shine in a men's league on Wednesday, stopping 25 shots in Trebic's 3-2 WSM Liga victory over Havirov. Dostal, who has also been a standout in the Czech U20 league, has won five of his last six WSM starts. His WSM save percentage (.910) and goals-against average (2.58) are also impressive. (Note: Ninth appearance on this list in 2017-18 -- leads all goaltenders)
FILIP HALLANDER -- This Swedish winger has been bolstered by the return of linemate Jacob Olofsson, who played in the World Junior A Challenge. On Wednesday, Hallander scored twice in Timra's 3-0 win at Tingsryd in the men's Allsvenskan league. His first goal, at 19:42 of the opening period, made it 2-0. His second, at 9:06 of the third stretched the lead to 3-0. Despite his youth, Hallander is Timra's second-leading scorer with seven goals and 16 points in 28 games. Wednesday snapped a seven-game goal-scoring drought, due in large part to Olofsson's absence. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
JAN JENIK -- It was a career-high, four-point night for Jenik on Wednesday, as the Benatky nad Jizerou left wing had a goal and three assists in his team's 7-3 win over Kadan. Jenik, who was born on the cutoff date, will be the youngest player in the 2018 draft pool, but he already has NHL size and is playing well against men in the Czech WSM Liga. On Wednesday, he scored the game's first goal 22 seconds into the opening period. He then had primary assists on a power-play goal at 15:19 of the first to make it 2-1 and at 3:21 of the second for a 3-1 lead. He closed with an assist on a goal at 15:42 of the third, as Benatky went up 5-3. Jenik now has three goals and eight points in 23 WSM games.
JACK JENSEN -- Last season, the Eden Prairie high school hockey program gave us super-talented Casey Mittelstadt. This year's pride of the Eagles is Jensen. The high-scoring left winger picked up two more points -- a goal and an assist -- in Eden Prairie's 5-4 OT loss to St. Thomas Academy in the Schwan's Cup tournament's Gold division. Jensen scored at 16:19 of the first period to tie the game 2-2, and he had the primary helper on another tying goal at 2:30 of the second period. Through nine games, Jensen has nine goals and 17 points, and he is riding a three-game scoring streak. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ISAAC JOHNSON -- Johnson, who was passed over in last year's NHL draft, scored two goals for Tri-City in the American's 6-3 win at Portland. His goals were the first of the game at 8:00 of the opening period and another that made it 3-3 at 12:57 of the second. Johnson has been heating up of late, riding a five-game point streak. He has eight goals in 28 WHL games this season, but four of them have come in the month of December. He's 6-foot-2 and was ranked in Central Scouting's top 100 last year, so if he keeps it up, he should be drafted this time.
PHILIPP KURASHEV -- Kurashev had only one goal on Wednesday, but it was a huge one. He scored the game-winner at 11:16 of the third period, giving Switzerland a much-needed 3-2 win over Belarus at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. The Quebec Remparts center, a possible first-round pick in June, nearly scored another goal for the Swiss moments later, and certainly helped his draft stock on the big WJC stage. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
JACKSON LEPPARD -- Leppard had a goal and an assist for Prince George in the Cougars' 5-3 WHL win at Victoria. His goal came on a power play at 14:48 of the first period, pulling Prince George into a 3-3 tie. He later assisted on the power-play game-winner at 2:54 of the second period. The points snapped a four-game scoring drought for Leppard, who now has eight goals and eight assists in 32 games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
PAVEL ROTENBERG -- Life is good when your dad is a Russian oligarch. It's better when you are also an NHL draft prospect. One of the most intriguing prospects for 2018, Rotenberg doesn't need NHL money, so you know he plays for the love of the game. On Wednesday, he had a goal and an assist in St. Petersburg SPB's 7-3 victory at Moscow Red Army. He started with the primary assist on a goal at 2:37 of the second period to make it 2-0. He finished with a power-play goal for a 7-1 lead at 8:22 of the third. The two points ended Rotenberg's eight-game MHL scoring drought. The goal was his first since Oct. 19.
COLIN SCHMIDT -- One of the top Minnesota high school prospects, Schmidt was in top form Wednesday with two goals and an assist in Plymouth Wayzata's 5-1 win over Cloquet-Ecko-Carlton at the Hilltopper Holiday Classic in Duluth. After assisting on a goal at 14:30 of the first period for a 3-0 lead, Schmidt made it 4-0 with a goal 58 seconds into the middle period. He later closed the scoring at 15:26 of the second. Through nine games, the future University of Minnesota center, who stands nearly 6-foot-5, has six goals and 11 points. That includes goals in five of his last six games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
RILEY SUTTER -- Prior to Wednesday's game at Vancouver, Sutter had never scored a hat trick in the WHL. By the end of the night, the Everett winger had his first four-goal game. Sutter, who finished with five points, had the best performance of his career in the Silvertips' 11-0 destruction of the Giants. He began with a power-play goal 2:28 into the opening period for a 1-0 lead. Everyone could have gone home at that point, since it was the game-winner. But Sutter wasn't done. He scored again at 12:43 of the first to make it 2-0, and picked up the lone assist on the 3-0 goal at 19:05. In the second period, Sutter scored at 2:21 to make it 5-0. In the third, he tipped home a goal at 11:28 for a 10-0 lead. Former NHL star Ron Sutter has to feel proud of his son, who now has 17 goals and 31 points in 37 games. He has points in five of the past six games and is in the midst of a three-game scoring binge, putting up 10 points over the span. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)