2020 Draft Countdown: Anton Johannesson, Nick Malik, Maxim Beryozkin, Elliot Ekmark, Samuel Knazko

Welcome to OilersNation’s 2020 Draft Countdown. Over the next few weeks leading up to the draft (or, well, when it seems the draft might be), we’ll be rounding up scouting reports, quotes, and videos about our Top-100 prospects available. Here are aggregated profiles on Anton Johannesson, Nick Malik, Maxim Beryozkin, Elliot Ekmark, and Samuel Knazko.

No. 100: Anton Johannesson

Date of birth: March 26th, 2002
Nation: Sweden
Position: Defenceman
Shoots: Left
Height: 175 cm / 5’9″
Weight: 70 kg / 154 lbs

Profile: Though he’s been considered by some scouts to be one of the most skilled Swedish defenders in this draft class, Johannesson has flown under the radar due to issues with injuries. He was limited to just 11 regular-season games in Sweden’s junior league in 2018-19 and didn’t get his 2019-20 season kicked off until November. Johannesson is a small defender who plays a new-age game, relying on his speed, smarts, and skill with the puck to generate offence from the blueline. The knock against him is whether he would be able to perform in the defensive zone against larger forwards in North America. 

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Johannesson is rising on my personal rankings and is the most skilled Swedish defenseman in this year’s draft. For the draft he could sneak his way into the bottom of the first round or early second round. He has elite puck skills and is very smart with the puck. He skates with ease and can move around coast-to-coast with the puck. He is also a strong first pass defenseman and plays with confidence in tight situations. He processes the game well and has strong awareness.

Overall, I will always bet on a skilled smart player and Johannesson is that. I see the potential of him being a good top four puck-moving defenseman with calm, poise, mobility, strong passing, and power play assets. – Jimmy Hamrin, McKeen’s Hockey

Johannesson’s contributions in the defensive end are centered on quick stickwork and timely reads. His ability to keep the net area clear of traffic is limited to harassment and occasional shoves, but opponents controlling the puck down low need to be cognizant of Johannesson’s intelligent stick techniques. He also wins a fair amount of board battles against players of all sizes and showed no aftereffects from the hand injury that had shelved him for so long.

Although he is a smart and elusive player with the puck on his stick, the amount of turnovers and hasty decisions increase in frequency when facing a physical group of forwards. This is natural for an undersized “offenseman”, but Johannesson deserves credit for holding his ground and not making it easy for opponents. Additionally, he has the wherewithal to stick around a puck battle long enough for it to squirt in his favor and allow him to make an instant charge the other way. Johannesson was a tertiary option on the penalty kill for both HV71 and Sweden, and his ice time seemed to decrease when a lead needed to be maintained late in the third period. – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst

No. 99: Nick Malik

Date of birth: April 26th, 2002
Nation: Czech Republic/United States
Position: Goaltender
Shoots: Left
Height: 189 cm / 6’2″
Weight: 79 kg / 174 lbs

Profile: The son of former NHL defenceman Marek Malik, Nick Malik was born in Carolina but had played his entire career in the Czech Republic before this season. After this year’s World Juniors, he made the move across the ocean to play for the Soo. Greyhounds in the OHL. In 16 games for the Greyhounds, Malik posted a .886 save percentage and was ranked No. 10 among North American goaltenders by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. Malik is praised for having a large frame in net and playing with a calm demeanour. 

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This season saw Malik play for HC Frydek-Mistek in the Czech2 league and in 19 games posted a 2.46 goals-against-average and .927 save-percentage. But after the World Junior Championships were completed, Malik decided he would join the Soo Greyhounds. His decision was influenced by fellow Czechian and Soo Greyhound Jaromir Pytlik. On January 10, 2020 Greyhounds’ GM Kyle Raftis made it official and Malik was set to join the team.

Malik’s stats in the OHL were nothing to write home about – a 3.77 goals-against-average and .886 save-percentage. I will be the first to admit I had limited live viewings of Malik in the OHL, but I did watch all of his games in the O whether live or on video. I also saw video of all of his major international competitions. So, “grain of salt” must be added.

Malik plays the butterfly technique extremely well. He has decent size at 6’2” but his ability to keep himself big when down on his knees is close to perfect. He plays with a calm demeanor when there are battles for pucks in front of him and is very adept at taking away the lower part of the net.

As mentioned, things didn’t go particularly well in the Soo. And when they didn’t, Malik appeared to quickly forget what just happened and was ready for the next puck to come his way. To put it another way, he seems to never get rattled. Having experiencing playing against men prior to coming to the OHL may have helped with that. – Dominic Tinao, OHL Writers

No. 98: Maxim Beryozkin

Date of birth: October 12th, 2001
Nation: Russia
Position: Left/Right Wing
Shoots: Right
Height: 188 cm / 6’2″
Weight: 91 kg / 201 lbs

Profile: Beryozkin is a big, skilled winger with high-quality scoring skills and instincts. He scored 25 goals and 54 points for Loko Yaroslavl of the MHL, good for second on his team in both categories. With his large frame and wicked shot, Beryozkin boasts the profile of a classic scoring power-forward, but he could use his size to play more of a physical game. 

With a large frame and advanced offensive talents in key areas, Maksim Beryozkin is hard to miss when a Loko game is on. A right-handed shot, he mans his off wing on the left side of the top line alongside Oilers’ center prospect Maksim Denezhkin and undrafted right wing Yegor Manin.  Beryozkin is used in all even-strength situations and sees additional ice time on the lead penalty-killing unit and the point or bumper on the power play. Statistically speaking, the numbers from his second full MHL season are beyond impressive. Beryozkin finished the regular season as the league leader among first-year draft eligibles with 25 goals and his 1.06 points-per-game average was second only to Rodion Amirov. Beryozkin also tied for first in the league with four shorthanded goals. – Ross Martin, The Draft Analyst 

No. 97: Elliot Ekmark

Date of birth: January 29th, 2002
Nation: Sweden
Position: Centre
Shoots: Left
Height: 176 cm / 5’9″
Weight: 72 kg / 159 lbs

Profile: Somewhat of an undersized pivot, Ekmark uses his speed and shiftiness to beat opponents in one-on-one battles. He posted 26 points in 31 games in Sweden’s top junior league this season and played well enough to earn a four-game cup of coffee in the Swedish Hockey League. Ekmark is viewed as a smart, two-way player who can provide offensively while also holding his own in the defensive zone. 

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Ekmark rises a little after showing clear signs of progress throughout the season. He has had a great season in J20 SuperElit, and he’s even played a couple of SHL games as well. He is an undersized playmaking center but he also has a very good one-timer which he likes to use on the power play especially. He also plays a surprisingly good two-way game. Ekmark is a very good skater but not elite in that area. He might have to move to wing at the NHL level but middle-six upside is definitely possible for him. – Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects

Ekmark is an excellent skater who is quick with his first step and rapid with his lateral movements. Having a slight frame hinders him in the balance department, but you can’t hit what you can’t catch, and Ekmark has made a habit of taking larger defensemen to the woodshed when it comes to one-on-one entry attempts. He’s an inside player willing to sacrifice his body while taking the puck into the middle of the ice. One thing to consider is that Linkoping boasts a lineup loaded with size and muscle, but it is the 5-foot-9 Ekmark who consistently stands out when it comes to throwing his weight around and finishing his checks. – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst

No. 96: Samuel Knazko

Date of birth: August 7th, 2002
Nation: Slovakia
Position: Defenceman
Shoots: Left
Height: 184 cm / 6’0″
Weight: 84 kg / 185 lbs

Profile: Born and raised in Slovakia, Knazko made the move to Finland for the 2018-19 season to continue his development in a more competitive league. Last season, he played for TPS’ U20 club while also representing Slovakia at the World Juniors. Knazko, known as a defenceman who can produce offensively from the blueline, posted 28 points for TPS this season, good for 10th in the league among defencemen.

Samuel Knazko is one of my favorite defensemen for this upcoming draft, and one of my biggest risers so far this season. I’ve wanted to write about him for a while now, and I feel like now is the time as he’s turning heads playing in the WJC as a 17 year old. The 6 foot, 185 pound Slovakian is electric on offense, and he’s having a fantastic year in the Jr A SM-Liiga. With 6G + 16A = 22P in 32GP, Knazko leads TPS in scoring amongst defensemen. He also sits 2nd amongst all draft eligible defensemen in the league. His 22 points are also good for 7th amongst all draft eligible skaters. To summarize, Knazko produces. He’s got some special skills to work with, the most notable being his skating.

Knazko is a guy that has tons of offensive upside, and can certainly run a power play at the next level. Knazko brings speed, skill, and consistent play to every game. He’s got some Hughes in him, some Boqvist in him, and even a little Sam Girard in him. I’m looking forward to his draft day, and he can potentially be one of the first 10 defensemen taken. If he goes past the second round, someone’s getting a steal. His rights are owned by Vancouver in the WHL, so it will be interesting to see if he chooses to play there, stay in Finland, or go the NCAA route. – Alexander Taxman, Future Scope Hockey