Prospect Impressions: Aho wins Liiga for Karpat, U18 highlights, more from the CHL

By David Hahn
Anthony DeLuca - Rimouski Oceanic

Photo: Rimouski Oceanic forward and 2015-eligible Anthony DeLuca has scored nine goals and 14 points in 12 playoff games that is poised to move on to the QMJHL championship series (courtesy of Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)



In this week’s Prospect Impressions, a Finnish forward scores a dream goal to win the Liiga championship for his team. In the QMJHL, a pair of forwards score overtime winners of their own in clutch situations. The U18 World Championship has wrapped up, but two draft-eligible forwards had big performances in the final opportunity to raise their draft stock. The OHL playoffs are in the semi-finals, and one lesser-known Buffalo Sabres prospect is in the mood to win. Meanwhile, a former OHL forward has transitioned into the AHL successfully, paired up with a fellow forward who faced similar questions about his game.

While some won’t admit it, most kids dream of scoring the game-winning, overtime goal in a Game 7 situation. Enter Sebastian Aho of Finland, not to be confused with his Swedish counterpart with the same name, who scored the game-winning goal for Karpat to lift them to a Liiga championship. He split time this year between the senior club and Karpat’s junior team, where he was a point-per-game player. NHL Central Scouting ranked Aho as the 18th-best European prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft.

Brendan Leipsic and Connor Brown had something in common coming into the season, and now they are playing on the same line together for a team making some noise in the AHL playoffs. Leipsic was acquired from the Nashville Predators organization in the Cody Franson trade, while Brown was a former sixth round pick who is also in his first professional season. Though they came from different backgrounds, both have been labeled as undersized players unlikely to succeed in the NHL. Well, this week was a nice feather in the cap for both players, when Leipsic was awarded the AHL Player of the Week honor while Brown picked up an award as a member of the AHL All-Rookie Team. The duo combined for 115 points this year – take a look as they connect for a fantastic goal this week.

Offensively gifted is a phrase not quite strong enough to describe the play of Matt Barzal this season. He just finished his second campaign with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL, finishing with 12 goals and 45 assists in 44 regular season games. He added eight points in six playoff games before heading off to the U18 World Championship with Team Canada. There, Barzal is tied for the lead in tournament scoring with 2016 draft-eligible Auston Matthews, displaying his wicked shot release and poised, confident puck movement. Barzal is projected to go within the first half of this summer’s NHL Draft.

Every team needs a Colin White, the type of player who does all the little things and chips in during big moments over the course of the season. White, expected to be a future first round pick, has looked great this year with the U.S. National U18 Team. He’s a stalwart competitor who is willing to get to the front of the net and battle through traffic. Those elements were on display against Canada at the U18’s this week, as White picked up a hat trick (White would go on to score the gold medal-winning goal for Team USA). He is committed to Boston College for next season.

Over the last three seasons, not many players in the QMJHL have maintained a development trajectory like Anthony DeLuca. The Rimouski Oceanic forward has improved his point totals in each consecutive season, and has been a difficult player to contain. In 68 regular season games, DeLuca notched 44 goals and 47 assists, and has been dynamic in the playoffs. He also has a penchant for scoring game-winning goals, scoring 23 of them over the course of his career. Arguably, none were more important than his recent overtime goal over the Val-d’Or Foreuers in game one of their series.

Val d’Or Foreurs forward Alexis Pepin hasn’t exactly been an offensive force this season, but the massive winger has chipped in when it matters most. After a midseason trade to the Foreurs, Pepin finished the last 23 games with eight goals and five assists. However, the playoffs have been a different story. Pepin, a prospect of the Colorado Avalanche, has four goals and four assists in 15 games, but one of those goals sent Val-d’Or straight into the semi-finals in dramatic fashion.

On a team loaded with potential NHL prospects ranging from the high end to role players, Jean Dupuy is working his way into the discussion. Before arriving in Sault Ste. Marie via trade, Dupuy was a generic enforcer and pest playing in the bottom-six. Leave it to Sheldon Keefe, the Soo Greyhounds’ head coach, who employed Dupuy in an offensive role this season and Dupuy greatly rewarded that decision. Dupuy enjoyed a career year, scoring 18 times and adding 28 assists in 54 games, scoring more points this year than his previous three in the league. The Buffalo Sabres prospect helped kick off the Greyhounds’ semi-final series against the Erie Otters by driving wide and making a nice move to score his third of the playoffs.

More Prospect Impressions coming your way next week!

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey