Photo credit: Pure Life Photography (Beckner), Garrett James Photography (Nadeau, Stanley Lacroix), Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog (Wood)
NHL Central Scouting has released its Players to Watch list ahead of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and there is no shortage of BCHL representation.
A total of nine current players, one future prospect and another two former BCHLers have made the list.
Central Scouting divides their list into A Prospects, indicating a first-round candidate, B Prospects, someone projected to go in the second or third rounds and C Prospects, players in the fourth to sixth round range.
Matthew Wood (F) – University of Connecticut (Victoria Grizzlies)
Wood finished as the BCHL’s leading scorer and Rookie of the Year in 2021-22, ending his campaign with 45 goals, 40 assists and 80 points. His strong showing in the league led to him heading to college a year early as a 17-year-old. In eight games at the University of Connecticut this year, Wood has totaled three goals and four assists for seven points and was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Week.
He also has some recent international experience under his belt, representing Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the Under-18 World Championships.
Bradly Nadeau (F) – Penticton Vees
At just 17-years-old, Nadeau currently leads the BCHL in scoring with 24 points in 11 games, while his 10 goals are also tied for the league lead. Playing alongside his brother Josh, Bradly won a Fred Page Cup championship as a rookie last year, tying for second in playoff scoring with 24 points in 17 games and scoring a hat trick in the championship clinching game.
Nadeau is committed to the University of Maine.
Owen Beckner (F) – Salmon Arm Silverbacks
Beckner has taken a huge step forward in his second year in the BCHL. After posting 10 points in 42 games with Salmon Arm last season, the Victoria, B.C. product has already surpassed that total in just 11 games this year, posting a line of six goals, eight assists and 14 points.
Beckner recently announced his commitment to Colorado College.
Dylan Compton (D) – Vernon Vipers
Compton is a BCHL rookie, having spent the past several years at the Shawnigan Lake program where he amassed 46 points in 36 games his final year in 2021-22. The 17-year-old has a goal and two assists in five games so far with Vernon this year, but has been injured and out of action since early October.
Compton, another Victoria product, is committed to Northeastern University.
Donovan Frias (F) – Cranbrook Bucks
Frias is off to a solid start in his BCHL career, playing at a point-per-game pace in Cranbrook’s seven games so far with three goals and four assists. Prior to joining the Bucks this year, the 17-year-old starred at St. George’s School in Rhode Island. He led his team in scoring in 2021-22 with 35 points in 24 games.
Frias is committed to Yale University, as is his brother Julian, who is also playing for the Bucks this season.
AJ Lacroix (F) – Chilliwack Chiefs
Lacroix is tied for the Chiefs lead in points with 10 in 10 games and his four goals are also tied for most on the team. This is his second season in the BCHL after impressing his rookie year to the tune of 40 points in 53 games. Lacroix, a dual American-Canadian citizen, got some international experience under his belt in the offseason, playing for the United States at the Hlinka Gretzky U-18 tournament.
The West Vancouver, B.C. native committed to Michigan State University last month.
Carter Richardson (G) – Salmon Arm Silverbacks
The lone netminder on the list, Richardson has three BCHL games under his belt and is coming off the first shutout of his junior career last Thursday against Coquitlam at the BCHL Showcase. In that game, he swatted aside all 22 shots he faced to earn the win. Through two starts and one relief appearance, the 17-year-old has a goals-against average of 2.74.
In 2021-22, Richardson was a standout at Boston Hockey Academy’s 16U team.
Brady Smith (D) – Trail Smoke Eaters
Smith has played all 11 of Trail’s games so far this year as a 2005-born rookie. Last year, he played with the Saskatoon Contacts AAA team in Saskatchewan’s U18 league and led his team in points from the back end, putting up five goals and 18 assists for 23 points in 37 contests.
He announced his commitment to the University of Connecticut back in May.
Hoyt Stanley (D) – Victoria Grizzlies
After being limited to just 13 regular-season games last year due to injury, Stanley is back and healthy for the 2022-23 edition of the Grizzlies. So far this year, the West Vancouver, B.C. product has played in all 11 of Victoria’s games, registering a goal and three assists.
His goal earlier this year may have been his first in the regular season, but Stanley got on the score sheet with a playoff goal in last year’s series against the Langley Rivermen. The 2005-born blueliner ended up with a goal and three assists in the five-game series.
Aydar Suniev (F) – Penticton Vees
Suniev joined Penticton midseason in 2021-22 and was an impact player right away, producing nine goals, 11 assists and 20 points in 17 games down the stretch. So far this year, the Russian-born forward has picked up right where he left off, piling up eight goals and five assists for 13 points in 10 games to sit in a tie for 10th in league scoring.
Suniev is committed to the University of Massachusetts.
Jonathan Castagna (F) – St. Andrew’s College (Penticton Vees)
Castagna currently plays for St. Andrew’s College, but is committed to the Vees for next season. He most recently scored 10 goals and added 10 assists for 20 points in 35 games as a 16-year-old in 2021-22 with St. Andrew’s.
Before playing at St. Andrew’s the past two seasons, the Etobicoke, Ont. native played for the Toronto Marlboros program in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
Cameron Johnson (F) – Chicago Steel (Chilliwack Chiefs)
Johnson played the previous two seasons with Chilliwack before joining the Chicago Steel of the USHL this year. The 17-year-old was the BCHL’s eighth-leading scorer in 2021-22 with 65 points in 54 games and was awarded the league’s Bob Fenton Trophy for Most Sportsmanlike Player.
So far this year, he has seven points in 10 games with Chicago. He is committed to Harvard University.