There hasn’t been much in the way of opportunity for members of the 2021 NHL Draft class to put themselves on display in a showcase situation this season. That’s why this year’s BioSteel All-American Game, set for Wed., April 7 in Plymouth, Mich., shouldn’t disappoint.
Understandably, there’s a lot of excitement set to stem from the event, even though it is just a single-game showcase for those eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. The game features players from the United States U-18 National Team Development Program (US-NTDP) against a roster filled with the best American-born players from the United States Hockey League (USHL).
All 22 players from the USHL lineup are eligible for the July 23-24 draft, with 18 of the 21 National Team Development Program participants eligible too. And, of the 40 players suiting up, 15 of them appeared in FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft Winter rankings.
Whether you’re a draft enthusiast, a prospect aficionado, or a casual hockey fan, before the puck drops at 8 p.m. ET (NHL Network in the U.S.) here’s a couple of guys to keep an eye on in the exhibition.
Five 2021 NHL Draft prospects to watch in the BioSteel All-American Game
Jack Peart, D, Team USHL (Fargo Force)
FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft ranking: 98
Peart, committed to St. Cloud State University, shredded the high school circuit in Minnesota this season. He posted 11 goals and 35 points in just 18 games since returning to Grand Rapids High after a successful 18-game audition with the Fargo Force. This past Monday, Peart was named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey.
Keep an eye out for his ability to break the puck out of his own end and his ability to quarterback a power play.
“Before leaving the USHL to rejoin Grand Rapids High to finish out his high school career, Peart was tied for the USHL lead in assists and was the second leading point-producing defenseman in the league,” FCHockey regional scout Dylan Krill noted.
“Peart will catch your eyes in a number of ways, whether it be his quick and agile skating, his long-range stretch passing accuracy or just watching him think and process the game, making the efficient plays rather than the skilled play.”
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Chaz Lucius, C, Team USA (US-NTDP)
FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft ranking: 15
It’s been a tough year for Lucius to get on track, missing much of the season because of a lower-body injury; however, he rebounded in a big way. Committed to the University of Minnesota, he’s posted 18 points (13 goals, five assists) in just 12 games after returning from injury and has solidified his status as a first-round pick in the process.
Lucius is supremely confident with the puck on his stick and takes a shoot-first approach when navigating the offensive zone.
“Lucius has emerged as one of the top forwards in this year’s NTDP class, most likely the top forward, so the spotlight will be very bright on him in this game,” said Derek Neumeier, FCHockey’s head of video scouting. “He is dangerous in the offensive zone when he has the puck on his stick, though there are some issues with his skating and ability to create space for himself, making him a little tricky to project. After missing the start of the year due to injury this event will be a great opportunity to showcase himself and make a splash.”
Matthew Knies, LW, Team USHL (Tri-City Storm)
FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft ranking: 48
Knies is entering the All-American Prospects Game as one of the USHL’s hottest players. He’s amassed 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his past four games and currently sits at 22 assists and 32 points in 37 games with the Tri-City Storm this season.
The University of Minnesota commit is a standout at 6-3 and 203-pounds but is better known as an offensive facilitator than a bruising, hulking forward.
“At the beginning of the year, Knies had high expectations coming off a point-per-game season in 2019-20,” Krill said. “Although his offense wasn’t great, he was still playing a strong two-way game, applying great pressure and intensity each shift. Knies has some of the best hands in the draft so keep an eye on some of the plays he has the ability to make. His vision and shot are both very effective, and he is now consistently getting rewarded with points.”
Cole Sillinger, C, Team USHL (Sioux Falls Stampede)
FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft ranking: 19
Sillinger, who joined the Stampede after a standout season with the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) last season, has shredded the USHL competition this season. He has 22 goals and 42 points in just 29 games and is fifth overall in the league with a 1.45 points-per-game mark.
The dual-citizen is one of the draft’s best pure goal scorers.
“Sillinger has been feasting on the USHL this season as a dual-threat forward who is equally lethal at shooting the puck and distributing it,” Neumeier said. “However, like Lucius, there are some issues with his skating and ability to create separation for himself. Defending in the USHL is inconsistent at best, so I’m very curious to see what Sillinger can do against the competition offered in this game.”
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Sasha Pastujov, LW, Team USA (US-NTDP)
FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft ranking: 50
Pastujov has been an offensive force for the National Team Development Program this season, amassing 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) against USHL competition this season. Pastujov, off to the University of Notre Dame in the fall, leads the NTDP in scoring with 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists) in 34 total games played.
It’ll be his offensive prowess that’s showcased in the All-American Prospects Game. Pastujov is a standout when he has the puck on his stick, both because of his vision and ability to navigate the offensive zone to create opportunities.
“You can expect a very eventful night for Pastujov, as he will be wanting to showcase his highly dangerous skill,” Krill said. “Pastujov is one of the best offensive players on the NTDP and has the ability to get you out of your seat with his highly skilled hands, vision and shot. Although his play with pace and skating is a concern, he has so much potential and will definitely be one of the main players to watch in this game, and moving closer to the draft.”
Aaron Vickers the managing editor for FCHockey.