When looking at the 2021 NHL Draft, there’s a Chicago Steel forward getting plenty of first-round hype around the league in Matthew Coronato. It’s well-deserved, Coronato is coming off an outstanding season playing alongside Montreal Canadiens prospect and record-setting USHL forward Sean Farrell as the Steel collected the Clark Cup. While Coronato is garnering the attention and will likely be gone by the time the Canadiens pick, one of his teammates, Mackie Samoskevich, could be ripe for the taking at the tail end of the opening night.
Samoskevich doesn’t have the same gaudy stat line as Coronato or Farrell, but still managed a point-per-game pace over the course of this season. He possesses incredible skill that few can match in this draft class. There’s a lot of talent to work with, and with a bit of time at the powerhouse Michigan hockey program, there’s plenty more upside to uncork as well.
Birthplace: Newtown, Connecticut
Date of Birth: November 15, 2002
Position: Centre/Right Wing
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
When trying to nail down a way to describe Samoskevich, I keep coming back to ‘smooth.’ Everything he does with the puck on his stick seems effortless, from receiving a pass while in motion, to turning that pass into a dangle around a defender and generating a scoring chance. He started his USHL season with some warts to his game, but after a pause in games due to COVID he came back looking like a more assured, well-rounded player.
Taking a quick glance at his scoring numbers in relation to other players on the Chicago Steel team paints a picture that maybe Samoskevich underperformed his talent level this season. However, when we see he played 17 fewer games than leading scorer Farrell (who was originally slated to play in the NCAA this year) and still was contributing a point per game, that narrative falls to the side a bit.
When he was healthy, Samoskevich was a top-six staple for the Steel, and it’s not hard to see why with his vision and skill set in the offensive zone. With the University of Michigan’s talented roster in his immediate future, Samoskevich should see even more growth in his game, even if the offensive numbers aren’t as high in a tougher league.
It’s not hard to see why Samoskevich is such a tantilizing player. When he’s fully engaged, there are few that can slow him down. He is outstanding at finding the right areas on the ice to be in, and when his teammates get him the puck he makes the most of it. He isn’t a poacher, though, just hanging around waiting to be fed the puck. In fact, Samoskevich was a huge piece of the Chicago transition game as his hands and vision allowed him to work around defenders with ease.
He isn’t going to power through anyone, but he will always find a way around them whether by dragging the puck between his legs as he attacks the outside lane of the defence or doubling back with a pass off the wall to himself where he can then attack an open lane he just identified.
Therein lies Samoskevich’s best asset: he approaches the game in a cerebral manner. There are no wasted passes or shots when he has the puck. If the lane isn’t open for a shot, he will pick out a teammate who is in a position to shoot. He constantly moves through the offensive zone like a rover, trying to find soft ice to operate in. When he does, he is able to use an effective wristshot to beat goalies. As the season wore on, he developed a better feel for manipulating the angles of his shots to score from sharper angles.
It would appear that Samoskevich has all the trappings of a sure-fire top-10 pick in this year’s draft, however there is a handful of flaws that are holding him back right now. Chief among them is that he tends to play on the periphery when he doesn’t have the puck or is in the process of an offensive rush up the ice. He doesn’t move his feet along the boards, making him easy to knock off the puck in board battles. In close quarters, he loses his effectiveness and isn’t able to protect the puck in a way that you might want, making him a bit of a liability.
That also applies overall to his defensive-zone work. He isn’t known for his efforts when defending in his own zone. He doesn’t possess the size to bully opponents off the puck.
While not as big as his defensive deficiencies, Samoskevich’s skating isn’t anything to write home about. It’s effective enough at the USHL level, and some improvement would take his offensive game up a notch.
Elite Prospects: #19
Future Considerations: #30
Hockey Prospect: #42
NHL Central Scouting: #26 (NA Skaters)
TSN/Bob McKenzie: #31
There is so much to love about the Samoskevich’s game. He has jaw-dropping skills, and when he’s fully engaged he’s unmatched on the ice. His defensive flaws are something that can be worked on, but will nevertheless see him fall down draft boards.
Picking at the end of the first round, if a talent like Samoskevich falls into your lap, it’s unwise to ignore him. For the Canadiens, it presents an opportunity to add a versatile offensive threat to their prospect pool, and they’ve shown a willingness to gamble on players who might lack some defensive chops.
He looks a lot like a player that we will look back on and wonder why he dropped as much as he did. For a team that is graduating several of its offensive prospects to the professional ranks, adding a talent like Samoskevich would keep the prospect pipeline flowing.