Scouting is, at best, an imperfect discipline.
Every year at the NHL entry draft players that should get selected fall through the cracks. This happens for a variety of reasons: sometimes they weren’t scouted closely enough, sometimes they were late bloomers and later had standout seasons, sometimes a team likes a player but doesn’t have any draft picks remaining, and so on.
The most important thing, though, is recognizing when you’ve missed a good prospect and taking steps to fix the problem.
When it comes to Czech defenseman Ondrej Vala, 30 NHL teams passed up on him at the 2016 draft. The Stars, however, were certainly intrigued by his potential and kept close tabs, inviting Vala to join their team at the annual prospect tournament in Traverse City. The Philadelphia Flyers were another team that was keeping tabs on Vala, as they had invited him to their prospect development camp that same offseason.
After the Stars got another good look at Vala in Traverse City they decided that they didn’t want to risk missing him again, signing him to a three-year entry-level contract on September 29th, 2016.
It’s a move that’s looking more and more shrewd as time passes.
The 6’4,” 211-pound blueliner is steadily growing into an impact player with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. He picked up three goals and six points over his last three games, bringing his season totals to 15 points in 22 games.
His last two goals have come in similar fashion, with Vala skating hard to join the offensive rush, as can be seen here.
Vala possesses a cannon from the point that he loves to unleash (he ranks 9th among all WHL defensemen in shots), is a great skater for his size and makes a very nice first pass out of his zone. His defensive game, especially his one-on-one coverage, still needs a lot of fine-tuning, but the Stars have to be thrilled with how Vala’s physical tools have developed over the past year.
Keep an eye out for him at this winter’s World Juniors as part of the Czech Republic team; he could easily end up being their top defender.
North American Juniors
Brett Davis, who seems to have been converted from a winger to a center full time, had a good week for the Kootenay Ice, picking up a goal and an assist over three games. The woeful Ice aren’t a good team, but they won their last two games with Davis playing a big role.
Nick Caamano had a hat trick on Wednesday (highlights here) but was then held off the score sheet in his next two games. The Flint Firebirds are one of the worst teams in the OHL this year, but Caamano, who is averaging just under four shots per game, is certainly trying to keep them afloat.
Liam Hawel had a great week for the Guelph Storm, picking up three assists in three games and winning 55% of his faceoffs. Highlights of a beautiful helper can be found here.
Jake Oettinger played one game for Boston University this past weekend and was stellar, stopping all 30 shots that he faced as BU laid a 7-0 stomping on Maine. It was his second shutout of the season.
Defenseman Joe Cecconi record his second goal of the season for the University of Michigan, which can be seen below. He’s now up to eight points in 12 games this season.
Miro Heiskanen scored another goal this past week, because of course he did, right? He didn’t pick up any points in his other two games, but in Friday’s match he played a team-high 27:06 of ice time and fired a team-high of six shots on net.
John Nyberg picked up one goal and one assist for Frolunda in the SHL. Highlights of the goal can be found here.
Jacob Peterson had a very productive week in Sweden’s under-20 league (he’s part of the same Frolunda organization as Nyberg). He recorded six points through three games, and is tied for the scoring lead on his team at 23 points in 22 games. He’s also tied for 6th in scoring for the whole SuperElit.
The Texas Stars split a win and a loss last week against their biggest state rivals, the San Antonio Rampage.
Landon Bow started both games for Texas, stopping 26 of 29 shots for a win on Wednesday before only stopping 24 of 29 in a loss on Saturday (although, most of the goals against in this game weren’t his fault).
Jason Dickinson and Roope Hintz each scored a goal over the two games, but beyond them, it was another quiet week for the few Dallas prospects on the team. Julius Honka has been held without a point in all eight AHL games that he’s played in so far (Sean Shapiro posted an interesting note about Honka on Twitter recently, seen here), while Denis Gurianov is still searching for his first goal of the year after potting 15 last season. Gurianov drew a penalty shot on Saturday, but wasn’t able to convert.
2018 NHL Draft Watch
The QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads could realistically have three different players of theirs get selected in the 1st round of the 2018 draft, one of whom is defenseman Jared McIsaac. Highlights of a three-point game this weekend, which includes two goals, can be found here. McIsaac is a smart, athletic, two-way defender that can do a little bit of everything and shows flashes of #1 defenseman potential. He’s been a go-to player for Hockey Canada internationally over the last year, including winning gold at this past summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament.