Dubuque Fighting Saints players, past, present and future, will hear their names called this weekend. The completely virtual draft is being held one month later than usual as the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and move back to normalcy.
Here are names that are currently ranked, and the scouting report on each:
F ANDREI BUYALSKY
(106th by NHL Central Scouting, North America)
The Fighting Saints' resident speed demon was not ranked at any point this season—until the end of it, after he helped shape the Saints' push to the playoffs. He scored 15 goals and 17 assists in 36 games. An upper-body injury prevented him from playing in the playoffs, but scouts got to see everything they needed to from this dangerous speedster while he preyed on the USHL in Dubuque.
The 20-year-old has jumped in the rankings because of his pro skating speed and his ability to legitimately strike fear into the opposition. His ability to bear down on defenders and turnstile them was on frequent display night after night. You knew once he revved up speed in his own zone, the other team had to deal with a high-quality scoring chance.
Scouts say that he will need to diversify his game, and he most certainly will have to. The pro game will not allow him to be a one-trick pony and be able to stick long term. But the raw skills and skating ability he possesses on its own is enough to have a team take a chance on him. He will also need to learn to shoot off of the rush, as most of his opportunities were in tight after getting past a defender. Good for him to have those hands and those abilities, but he has a good shot too—he should use it more.
He is significantly older than his contemporaries in this draft, which could sour the outlook on him, but on skill and speed alone, he's worth taking. Next season, he will play for the University of Vermont.
F JUSTIN JANICKE
(128th by NHL Central Scouting, North America)
GM Kalle Larsson made a draft day splash to acquire forward Justin Janicke with the first overall pick of Phase II. Janicke will play one more season in juniors with the Fighting Saints before heading to the University of Notre Dame.
Not overly imposing in size, he makes up for it with his relentless work ethic and ability to force plays on the forecheck. He uses his physicality to get inside position. He will do everything it takes to win—and that is exactly what the Fighting Saints' brass is counting on, and what NHL scouts have seen from him with the NTDP.
Janicke scored 10 points in 18 games against USHL competition, and was a very reliable forward on both ends of the ice for the U18s' development circuit. He represented the United States at the World Under-18s a few months ago as well.
His brother, Trevor, also played for Team USA's National Team Development Program, spent an extra year in juniors with the defunct Central Illinois Flying Aces (may they rest in the most peace), and was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2019 NHL Draft. Both of them are similar in size and skill set, and it appears, the journey as well.
F CONNOR KURTH
(203rd by NHL Central Scouting, North America)
A poll of NHL scouts in The Athletic revealed Connor Kurth as the most underrated prospect in the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft. His mix of stickhandling prowess and his ability to thread the needle in all situations have appealed to talent evaluators across the NHL.
Is he overly tall? No. Fast? No. But he just gets it done every shift anyway. He's a heady guy both on and off the ice. His 41 points in 52 games earned him USHL All-Rookie Second Team status, and his nearly 4.20 GPA earned him USHL Scholar Athlete status. He is committed to the University of Minnesota.
Kurth's real skill is on display once he is able to force turnovers. His ability to capitalize on his opportunities when he has the puck on his stick alone is worth the price of admission. As an EliteProspects scout put it, "he just swashbuckles his ways through defenders, cutting through them like a hot knife through butter..."
The comparable for Kurth was Matt Hendricks. In this broadcaster's opinion, think a more skilled Matt Hendricks.
F RYAN ST. LOUIS
(125th by NHL Central Scouting, North America)
Hockey Hall-of-Famer Martin St. Louis' eldest son, Ryan, is a lock to be selected in the NHL Draft. He was drafted late in Phase II by the Fighting Saints in case he did not choose to go to Northeastern University. By all accounts, it appears St. Louis will elect to play collegiately next season.
Ryan is a deceptive forward, just like his father. He is heading to a top-notch Hockey East school to continue his development and his education.
The middle child, Lucas, just 16 years of age, will need to wait his turn to be in the conversation, but he is certainly trending upwards, and figures to be part of the blue line in Dubuque shortly.
F ANDREW KING
(216th by NHL Central Scouting, North America)
Andrew has already committed to play for the Cranbrook Bucks of the BCHL next season, but King's potential selection would mean he would be the second Dubuque native to ever be drafted into the NHL—joining the Winnipeg Jets' Tucker Poolman.
For King, it's his skill that stands out. He has spent the last several years rising through the ranks with the Sioux Falls Power AAA squad, and last year, played limited time because of a COVID-shortened season with the Neponset Valley River Rats 18U AAA club.
F SAMU SALMINEN
(12th by NHL Central Scouting, Europe)
F NICK ROUKONAKIS
(184th by NHL Central Scouting, North America)