It's a busy time of year for international tournaments, as I mentioned last week in this space. Five Nations tourneys in Finland (for under-18s, won by the home side) and Michigan (under-17s, hosted by the NTDP and won by the Russians) have wrapped up, while the Youth Olympic Games in Norway are on now, playing host to the under-16 crowd. There have also been some big performances on the local scene, so here's a look at some of the key prospects making noise right now.
Nathan Bastian, C – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Things are really starting to pick up speed for Bastian, a 6-foot-4, 208-pound force in Mississauga. He originally came onto the radar as the left winger on Sauga’s top line with fellow 2016 draft prospects Mikey McLeod and Alexander Nylander, but a lower-body injury to McLeod has Bastian at pivot now. In the three games since McLeod went down, Bastian has five points and the Steelheads are undefeated. The first game saw Bastian go head-to-head with Erie super prospect Dylan Strome and hold his own. The kid did play center as a rookie, but bouncing back and forth this year has been a great experience.
“Sometimes as a center you don’t realize how hard it is to be a winger, to be on the wall in your own end,” Bastian said. “That’s something I’ve gotten a lot better at – getting pucks out and being tough there.”
A late 1997 birthday, Bastian is part of an insane cohort of draft talent in Mississauga, along with McLeod, Nylander and Sean Day. Next year, the Steelheads have potential top-10 picks in Owen Tippett and Nic Hague and Ryan McLeod will be a top pick in 2018. But Bastian is focused on the here and now.
“It’s tough to look too far ahead with the team we have this year,” he said. “We’ve proven we can beat all the top teams in the league. Put us in a playoff series and if we’re playing well, you never know what can happen.”
Bastian is happy to take on a leadership role in Sauga and prides himself on doing the little things well. He references Jeff Carter and Mark Scheifele as role models.
“For me to be playing well, I have to be a big forward and a 200-foot guy,” Bastian said. “And this year I’ve been able to pitch in more offensively.”
Sauga’s recent run is a good omen as the playoffs near and if the Steelheads don’t get it done this year, that’s OK: Bastian and crew are just entering their window.
In the Pipeline
Danton Heinen, C (Boston): It was a big weekend for Bruins prospects, as Ryan Donato had a hat trick for Harvard while Heinen, the University of Denver sophomore, has been on fire for weeks now. The slick offensive threat’s seven points in a weekend sweep of North Dakota were part of a six-game streak that has seen the Pioneer notch 13 points.
Mike Amadio, C (Los Angeles): The North Bay Battalion veteran went off for five goals in a 6-5 loss to Kingston, setting a team record in the process. Elsewhere in the OHL, fellow Kings pick Matt Mistele netted five for Sarnia – so a great weekend for L.A. fans.
Mathieu Joseph, RW (Tampa Bay): The Quebec League’s first star of the week, Joseph rang up seven points in three games for the Saint John Sea Dogs. A late pick of the Lightning (120th overall), Joseph plays an all-around game and can contribute in any situation.
Andrew Nielsen, D (Toronto): The top-scoring defenseman in the WHL, Nielsen has been a key part of Lethbridge’s crazy surge this season. Big and strong, Nielsen is willing to stick up for his teammates when he’s not pumping in points.
Zach Fucale, G (Montreal): Hey, here’s some good news, Habs fans: Fucale was the AHL player of the week! The competitive and affable St. John’s netminder won all three games this past week, including a shutout of Syracuse and a one-goal performance against the offensively deadly Toronto Marlies.
2016 Draft Stars
Kieffer Bellows, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL): Tied as the leading scorer at the Five Nations in Finland with five points in four games, Bellows is a Boston University commit with strength and a wicked goal-scoring touch. Consistency is one area scouts would like to see improvement from him.
Janne Kuokkanen, C – Karpat Oulu (Fin.): Currently on loan to Hokki in Finland’s second circuit, Kuokkanen was a top player for Suomi at the Five Nations. Great hands and skill had him making plays all tournament long and scouts were impressed. He was a big-time producer in junior this season before the promotion.
Filip Gustavsson, G – Lulea (Swe.): Gustavsson is a strong candidate to be the first netminder taken this year and helped the Swedes to second place at the Five Nations with a .953 save percentage in three games. He's got the size, structure and technique to get the job done.
Wade Allison, RW – Tri-City Storm (USHL): A big, Manitoba farm boy with some nice offensive skills, Allison stood out at the USHL Top Prospects Game and has been buzzing ever since. The Western Michigan commit has been held off the scoresheet just twice in 14 games since the calendar flipped over to 2016.
2017 Draft Stars
Klim Kostin, RW – MVD Balashikha (Rus.): A serious prospect to watch for next year, Kostin had four points in four games at the Five Nations in Michigan, continuing his growing rep in international tournaments. A powerful 6-foot-3 winger, Kostin has that great combination of strength and skill that NHL teams love.