In a couple of profiles, I've mentioned how Toronto seems to like prospects that have a bit of a 'late bloomer' phase in their draft year. Guys who seemingly come out of nowhere, only play in one of the top development leagues for the first time in their draft season, and earn bigger roles on their team with bigger point production than they've ever had.

One guy who fits that mold is John Mustard. He didn't really have a big surge late in the season, but he is definitely someone who came out of nowhere this season as a whole. He was not on anyone's early season watch lists, mostly because before this year he was not playing at any level that was even remotely close to a major development league.

So let's talk about what he did this year to jump onto many scouts' radars.


  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): USHL
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 186 lbs
  • Birthdate: August 16th, 2006

Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:

  • Bob McKenzie: 64th
  • Will Scouch: 27th
  • Elite Prospects: 62nd
  • Scott Wheeler: 51st
  • Dobber Prospects: 39th
  • FC Hockey: 46th
  • McKeen's: 54th

John Mustard was born in Newmarket. I don't know much of his parents and if he moved around, but as far back as Elite Prospects has information on his minor hockey stats – 2019-20, when he was 12 years old – Mustard has been playing in New Jersey leagues. He played in some US Prep High School programs, which is usually where top prospects in the US play before making the jump to the USHL, NAHL and then the NCAA. But as of last year, Mustard was only playing in AAA leagues where he was bit even among the top tier of point producers. He was just inside the top 10.

Only in this season did Mustard make his debut in a top development league, the USHL. He played for the Waterloo Blackhawks, who were a middle of the pack team in the league in terms of points in the standings and in terms of offensive production. Mustard finished 2nd in rookie points, one back of the leader, and 1st in goals. He had 29 goals and 56 points in 60 games. That was also good for second on his team, and again first in goals.

Mustard also played at the All-American Prospects Game, which is an invite for all the top prospects playing in the US – not necessarily American-only players, but any players in the USHL and USNTDP. Mustard stood out as one of the most dangerous players on the ice in that game, and scored the winning goal off of, you guessed it, a rush chance.

Mustard did get used a good amount on Waterloo, but not necessarily top minutes. Through the regular season, he quickly won a 2nd line winger and top powerplay role. He got occasional penalty kill time but wasn't one of their main guys for that. He was used on the third line for the playoffs, but that seemed to be more about spreading out their scoring depth. It also didn't work, and they were bounced in two games.

From Mitch Brown's Tracking Project:


If I were to summarize the profile of Mustard, it would be something like: "skates hard, shoots hard, works hard."

Let's start with the skating, which is arguably the most impactful skill that Mustard has. He is a very athletic player, and it shows when he moves around on the ice. He is one of the best skaters in this draft, and is one of those guys that's fun to just watch get up to speed and bomb up and down the ice. He's explosive in his first two steps, and can out-skate just about anyone else in the USHL in a straight line race. He can also be very slippery and agile, shifting his weight to fake out defenders or make quick cuts to elude checks.

The most important part about Mustard's skating is that while handling the puck, his skating is not slowed down. He makes dekes and takes shots without slowing down, which helps drive his rush offense a lot. Without the puck, he uses his speed to get in behind defenders to create odd man rushes and breakaways, giving his teammates an easier passing opportunity to spring him. Mustard uses his skating to be an absolute terror at driving rush offense.

From David Saad at Dobber Prospects:

One of the more entertaining players in this year’s draft. Mustard has exploded onto the scene in his first year in the USHL. He’s one of the finer skaters in the draft and can beat defenders with elusiveness, simple dekes, or just raw speed to an unsurpassable level. Not to say he’s all sparkle either, he’s got a lot of upper body strength that he uses to win puck battles, extend offensive possessions or provide some old-fashioned grit.

John Mustard goal

One thing I've learned in the past few years is that speed on its own is not enough. It can be a useful tool, but only if its used properly – or at all. I don't like calling out specific players in a negative way, but this always drove me crazy about Dmitri Ovchinnikov. He had plenty of speed, but both couldn't and wouldn't use it on a consistent basis.

That's not the case with Mustard. He both can use his speed effectively – see above about him being able to make plays at high speed – but is also very willing to use his speed in every situation. He will use it to forecheck hard and get down on the defenders trying to retrieve dump ins, jump on rebounds and loose pucks, get back on defense, and so on. He has a very strong work ethic on the ice

From Brandon Holmes at FC Hockey:

Mustard is a hard-working, two-way forward who wills his way into dirty areas to make an impact for his team. The standout in his game is his work ethic and his willingness to drive into contested areas in pursuit of the puck. He’s an aggressive forechecker who hounds pucks below the goal line and probes opposing defensemen for mistakes, able to jump on loose pucks at a moments notice to generate turnovers for his team... He’s able to outwork larger opponents in front of the net to win loose pucks and get shots on goal, and seemingly always finds a way to find space around the goal mouth. Mustard is also a responsible defensive forward, showing a willingness to come back in his own zone to assist in puck retrieval and is an active backchecker as well.

Now, if a fast-skating rush-offense generating forward is giving you PTSD flashbacks of Ilya Mikheyev breakaways he couldn't score on (at least not as much as you wanted him to), then I have good news! Mustard both has a very good shot to use with that speed. It has a good combination of getting it off quickly and accurately, with enough velocity to beat goalies from in close or medium distances.

Mustard is also good at scoring goals from in close to the net off rebounds, passes into the slot, or other chaos-causing events in the offensive zone. He is not a purely one-dimensional speedster who only gets scoring chances off the rush, he can also use his skating, puck handling, physical play and work ethic to create scoring chances off of sustained possessions in the offensive zone.

From Scott Wheeler at The Athletic:

He's a tremendous skater who uses his speed to get out in transition, turn defenders with the puck, get on pucks and win races. A Providence commit, he fits well with the Friars as a hardworking forward who gets after it. He's also shown some skill, a quick release and a hard wrister this season, and is just a month away from eligibility for the 2025 NHL Draft. His athleticism, skating, competitiveness and well-rounded skill will carry him a long way.


Having said the above that Mustard is not a one dimensional goal scorer, I will add a general note that of all the prospects I have profiled so far, Mustard is definitely more one dimensional. His passing and playmaking is okay, but nothing to write home about. It's something that he can hopefully improve over time, especially when it comes to simpler passes to use for give and go's, or simple outlet passes. That old coaching refrain about passing the puck is the fastest way to get the puck up the ice comes to mind here, no matter how fast you are as a skater.

But it's also true of offense creation. Mustard can create offense for himself off the rush, primarily. He is pretty good at creating chances in the offensive zone, but not nearly to the same level. I'd say he's more of a finisher in these areas, otherwise he's more of a creator of chaos through hard work and forechecking in the same sort of way that Knies creates offense.

So the question becomes, how good are his strengths and are they enough to carry him to the NHL without enough improvements in these other areas? Matthew Knies got to the NHL because he is a physical specimen with an insane level of skill in some specific but useful ways. I don't think it's reasonable to expect the same of Mustard just yet, where even if I do admire his skating, shot and work ethic, I don't think they're at such a high level that they're enough to make him an impact forward in the NHL.


The thing with Mustard is that he is still young relative to most of his peers in this draft, and he already showed some remarkable improvement in his development this year. This is a situation Toronto has typically liked in their prospects, especially with guys that prove to be hard workers with useful secondary skills aside from scoring points.

If you, or the Leafs' scouting teams, see opportunity with Mustard to develop his overall game in ways that could turn him into a useful supporting winger, I would not be terribly surprised to see them take him. That said, I would be a bit surprised if they take him outright with their first round pick where it is right now. I just think there are other players who also seem like Toronto picks who are better, and still pretty likely to be available in that range.

But, if Toronto winds up getting a draft pick in the 2nd or 3rd round range, either from trading down from their first round pick or from another trade, I can see Mustard being an interesting choice. In Bob McKenzie's most recent rankings, he had him ranked at the very end of the second round. Since Mustard did not have a big surge in the late season, no big playoff run or participation in a major international tournament, there's none of the usual late season hype bumps to significantly change his rankings.

If the trade scenario comes true, or if he somehow drops all the way to the fourth round, I would absolutely be interested in swinging on Mustard.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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