Photo Credit: Steven Ellis

Now that most leagues around the world are well into their respective seasons, we are starting to see a few names that previously weren’t on anybody’s radar begin to shoot up some of the latest mock draft boards. But while these players (that I am going to talk about in this article) may have virtually been unknowns a few months ago, the time and effort they have put into developing their craft this season may prove to pay off big time as they are certainly starting to have scouts scrambling to book plane tickets to be able to see them play in person.

The first name that has been catching many people’s attention lately is the towering 6’7, 207-pound Russian defenseman Anton Silayev. This impressive young blueliner, who is only 17 years old, has already managed to make his way to Russia’s top professional hockey league, the KHL. He plays for the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and, through 54 games played thus far, has been able to accumulate three goals and eight assists for a total of eleven points.

Anton is highly coveted right now because, along with his impressive size and grit, he possesses the rare ability (for a big man) to move his feet. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he skates so well that he is capable of outskating most defenders who are a foot smaller than him. But that’s not all. Silayev already has broken KHL records for most points scored by a defenseman under the age of 18. He managed to break that record by utilizing his NHL-caliber shot to fire in that piece of vulcanized rubber from the point at speeds the goalie cannot see but can only hope to get in front of and later (because of the bruising) wish they didn’t.

Because of these attributes, Anton is starting to draw comparisons to future Hall of Famers like the Lightning’s Victor Hedman. And, I have to say, although that seems like an enormous reach, I’m starting to believe there is some validity to those evaluations.

With that being said, as his stock continues to rise, the sky is the limit for Silayev because it is extremely rare that teams ever have the opportunity to draft a player with his size and skill set. So much so that you should not be surprised if you hear his name being called as one of the top ten players selected this summer.

Switching gears, we will now take a look at an imposing 17-year-old center who goes by the name Cayden Lindstrom. This 6’4 216 pound forward, who plays for Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, exhibits just the right blend of physicality and skill that should have teams clamoring about on the draft floor for the chance to select this intimidating power forward.

At the beginning of the season, Lindstrom appeared as though he would be nothing more than a potent scoring threat, but throughout the course of this season, he has proved to be so much more. Being a true student of the game, Cayden continues to impress scouts with something new every time they head back up to Alberta to watch him play. This is the case because, with each passing game, Lindstrom appears to have improved in yet another facet of the game. For example, his noticeable size and strength would lead one to believe that Cayden would rely solely on brute force to create chances offensively. But he instead has been able to transcend those physical traits into things like a powerful skating stride to create the kind of speed that allows him to have the separation he needs to breakaway from defenders. Or how about his ability to utilize his size and strength to protect the puck so well that he can stick handle using only one hand to get by the opposition so he can then sell an apparent shot with his body in order to make a perfect pass to an awaiting teammate in scoring position. Therefore, it is these constantly changing intangibles to Lindstrom’s game that make his potential seem immeasurable.

To date, Cayden has played 32 games for the Tigers this season and, during that time, has managed to score 27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points. Folks that means Lindstrom is scoring at a 1.46-point-per-game pace right now, which, if you happen to tune into a game, is believable considering that he looks like a man playing against boys out there.

Since we have been talking about guys who would appear better suited to play basketball rather than hockey given their physical stature, I thought we should continue with that trend and mention the 6’7, 209-pound center known as Dean Letourneau, who plays for Saints at St. Andrews College in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. All jokes aside, Letourneau has exploded onto the map this season to the point where St. Andrews might have to begin to limit their seating for their student body in order to accommodate the growing number of scouts in attendance for their games.

Now, some are comparing Dean to the Buffalo Sabers’ Tage Thompson for his obvious size and elite scoring ability. And there is definitely a reason for that, considering Letourneau has been able to total a combined 57 goals and 49 assists for 106 points in just 49 games played so far this season. He is so dominant, in fact, that it appears that he can quite literally score any time he wants to while out on the ice.

And when you’re scoring goals at a rate of over a goal per game and accumulating over two points a game, you can expect one of those teams with scouts in the stands to come calling. Much like Boston College did when they recently persuaded Dean to agree to play for them in the not-so-distant future. With all this being said, expect a team to take a chance on him by moving up to select Dean late in the first round.

The last player that we will talk about who has been making noise as of late is Justin Porier. Justin, (who is the younger brother of the Flames’ Jeremie Poirer), plays for the Bair-Comeau Drakkar of the Qubeuc Major Juinor Hockey League. But unlike the others listed in this article, Porier does not possess great size and strength. Instead, this 5’8 diminutive player relies heavily on his shoot first and ask questions later approach that has gotten him to where he is today.

Luckily for Porier, he is able to back that sometimes selfish approach up with the kind of shot-to-goal ratio that few others are currently capable of achieving. For instance, this season, Justin has been able to record an impressive 35 goals and 17 assists for 52 in just 47 games played thus far. And if he keeps playing at this pace, he will finish the season with over 50 goals to his credit.

As you probably saw in this highlight video presented above, Porier already possesses all the pieces needed to be an offensive threat at the NHL level. He has a great one-timer, a strong wrist shot, and the kind of speed that allows him to set the pace needed to develop the optimal scoring chance for every situation he encounters along the way.

The only thing is, because of his size or lack thereof, Justin is probably destined to be taken in the second round rather than the first. But let me assure you, whatever team that chooses to select Porier will see him paying dividends soon enough.

As always, stay tuned in to Prospect Watch to find out all the latest news on these players and other great ones like them as the season continues to draw to a close.