Each week I will be featuring the top three performers among first time eligible players for the 2020 NHL draft. Along with the occasional honourable mention for other noteworthy accomplishments. This week’s three stars feature a gifted playmaker from the Ontario Hockey League, along with a complete player from the Western Hockey League, and a diminutive Russian who is turning heads.
1. Cole Perfetti
Three multi-point games earned Saginaw Spirit center Cole Perfetti first star of the week honours. The shifty forward displayed remarkable vision in setting up teammates while also showing the ability to finish. In the three games he played this past week, Perfetti managed to find the back of the net once in each contest, while adding five assists.
In his first match, Perfetti added a powerplay assist on the game’s opening goal. Then while being hauled down behind the net, he managed to get the puck to the front of the net for his second assist of the night. After the London Knights had roared back to take the lead, Perfetti showed his persistence jamming home a rebound in a goal-mouth scramble. The Spirit prevailed with a 6-5 victory.
Perfetti then travelled to Hamilton to participate in the Kubota NHL/CHL Top Prospects Game. He helped Team White earn the victory providing a goal and an assist in that affair.
One night later, he again showed his exceptional scoring prowess by adding a goal and two assists in a 5-2 Spirit win versus the Soo Greyhounds. Perfetti is now second in the Ontario Hockey League scoring race with 72 points in 41 games.
2. Connor Zary
Kamloops Blazers star forward Connor Zary highlighted his week with a three-assist performance at the Kubota NHL/CHL Top Prospects game on Thursday night. Zary displayed his exceptional playmaking ability and vision numerous times throughout the contest. Zary is currently ranked 17th by Future Considerations for the 2020 NHL draft.
Earlier in the week, Zary earned the first star of the game honour in a Blazers 7-2 thumping of their division rival the Kelowna Rockets. Zary provided the game-winning goal while adding a pair of powerplay assists. The Blazers are on top of the B.C. Division in the Western Hockey League standings, and Zary occupies the eighth position in league scoring.
Zary is counted on heavily by the Blazers and used in all situations. The well-rounded centerman should be the first WHL forward drafted at the 2020 NHL draft.
3. Marat Khusnutdinov
Ranked 100th by Future Considerations for the 2020 NHL draft, speedy center Marat Khusnutdinov elevated his game this past week. He sparked SKA-1946 St. Petersburg to a pair of victories in the Russian MHL. In addition to his smart two-way game, Khusnutdinov showed an offensive side to his game.
In the first match, a 3-1 decision versus HC Riga, Khusnutdinov added the lone assist on the game’s opening goal. A day later, in the rematch with HC Riga, he exploded with a four-point effort. Once again, he assisted on the first goal of the game before adding a powerplay marker to give SKA a 2-0 first period lead. He tallied his second goal of the contest in the middle frame before rounding out his night with a third period primary assist.
Selected eighth overall in the Canadian Hockey League import draft by the Erie Otters, Khusnutdinov elected to stay in Russia for the current season. As a 16-year-old, he captained Russia to a gold medal win at the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Theodor Niederbach contributed five points in three games for Frolunda U20 in the Swedish SuperElit playoffs.
Rick Warman is a Vancouver Canucks and prospects contributor for Overtime Heroics. Follow him @statman1956 on Twitter
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