This week’s prospects include Juuso Valimaki (Tri-City Americans), Nicolas Hague (Mississauga Steelheads) & Antoine Crête-Belzile (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada).
Born: October 6, 1998 – Nokia, Finland
Weight: 200 lbs.
Drafted: 2015 CHL Import Draft – Round #1 (14th overall) by the Tri-City Americans
JuusoValimaki was new to the WHL and the Americans last season and
managed to put up seven goals and 32 points in 56 games. His leadership
is quite noticeable on the ice as he communicates well and shows emotion
at both ends of the ice. He has since been rewarded with the “A” on his
sweater this year. He’s a real mobile skater who loves to join the rush
and catching opposing defencemen off guard by carrying the puck deep in
the offensive zone and creating scoring chances. He has great offensive
instincts and has the ability to skate back to his position with ease
and get back into the play. Valimaki is not known as a flashy defenceman
but displays patience and a calmness with the puck on his stick. He has
crisp tape-to-tape outlet passes and always has his head up and rarely
out of position. He doesn’t have an overpowering shot but with some
work, it can be developed.
DID YOU KNOW? According to Tri-City Americans Broadcaster Craig West, Valimaki’s
entire immediate family moved to the United States and the Tri-Cities
area so they could be close to Juuso for the Americans’ 2016-17 season.
Nicolas Hague - Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Born: December 5, 1998 – Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Weight: 215 lbs.
Drafted: 2014 OHL Draft - Round #2 (29th overall) by the Mississauga Steelheads
Another Top Prospect out of Mississauga this season, Nicolas Hague is a
hulking defenceman who is capable of making his presence known every
shift on the ice. He has the offensive capability to score the big goal
and really likes to tee it up from the blue line as well as moving in
from his point position to get a scoring chance. Hague runs the
Mississauga power play, scoring 14 goals last season with five of them
coming with the man advantage. He has good balance on the ice and knows
how to skate himself out of danger and rarely makes a bad decision with
the puck. Hague uses his long range to his advantage when the puck is in
deep. The biggest question mark is his physical play and his skating.
For a big kid, he doesn’t throw his weight around too much but has a bit
of nasty streak. He skates well for his size and is quite mobile, but
he will need to develop more to keep up with the pace of the faster
players at the higher level.
DID YOU KNOW? Hague earned OHL Scholastic Player of the Year honours achieving an 82% Grade 12 average at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. He carried a full course load last season, studying pre-University Level Accounting, Canadian Law, Chemistry, Data Management, English, and Philosophy.
Photo from Armada de Blainville-BoisbrianAntoine Crête-Belzile - Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
Born: August 19, 1999 – Quebec City, Quebec
Weight: 191 lbs.
Drafted: 2015 QMJHL Draft – Round #1 (11th overall) by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Antoine Crête-Belzile impresses with his dynamic skating ability and has
the mobility to join the rush and create scoring chances for his
forwards. He likes the puck on his stick and does a good job of
maneuvering around forecheckers to keep it. He has a great first pass
tape-to-tape and follows his pass up rather than watching it. He has
great vision on the ice and before making bold decisions, he makes sure
it is safe to move the puck in deep or dump it in. Crête-Belzile likes
to play the puck off the glass and chase it down. He has gotten caught
down low that led to odd man breakouts the other way but has the speed
to catch up and rejoin the play. He’s off to a slow start this season
and doesn’t have the flash of a #1 defenceman yet but has the skill set
and smarts to blossom into a reliable offensive defenceman.
DID YOU KNOW? Crête-Belzile dressed for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament last August where he registered an assist in four games played. He was Assistant Captain and is regarded as one of the best skaters available in the upcoming NHL Draft.
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