June 28, 2013

2013 NHL Draft preview: Top 11 New England prospects

By Kirk Luedeke

In the June 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal, Kirk Luedeke shared his top 11 local prospects, sleepers, who to watch for in 2014 and more in his New England draft preview.

1. Adam Erne

LW, Quebec (QMJHL), 6-1, 210 • Shoots: L (North Branford, Conn.)

GP-68, G-28, A-44, PTS-72, PIM-67 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 26 NA

The skinny: Long on the radar of NHL teams, Erne has made a convincing case to be a first-round selection in Newark. He’s a power forward who takes the puck to the net, has a heavy shot and works well in the dirtiest areas of the ice. There are times he’s shown himself to have NHL star potential, but there is not a consensus with the one-time BU recruit. On the downside, some scouts have knocked Erne for his conditioning, and he ran into some minor off-ice controversy when he was nearly suspended by the Remparts for an alleged lack of commitment to the team. In the end, he still projects as a first-round pick next month, but the bloom is off the rose a bit.

Quotable: “Anytime it’s about Adam Erne (2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament or CHL Top Prospects Game), he’s dynamite, but I’ve also seen times when he’ll pick his spots or not work as hard when the focus isn’t on him.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

2. Zach Sanford

C/LW, Middlesex IHC (EJHL), 6-3, 190 • Shoots: L (Auburn, N.H.)

GP-37, G-12,  A-24, PTS-36, PIM-22 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 60 NA

The skinny: After dominating New Hampshire high school competition at Pinkerton Academy, Sanford made the jump to junior hockey in his draft season. Although it took the young power forward time to adjust, no area prospect finished stronger than Sanford did. He has fine size, skating ability and shot, although he’s still very much a raw project player at this point. With one more anticipated year of junior before he heads to Boston College, Sanford is picking up interest for his ability to play any forward position, but he’s most effective at center. He’s NEHJ’s prime pick to come off the board earlier than most are projecting, as at least one NHL team might be willing to roll the dice on him in the second round, and that’s all it takes.

Quotable: “Has been this season’s sharpest riser in New England. His improvement and torrid second half show his potential to develop into a true power forward. ” — Red Line Report, April 2013

3. John Hayden

C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-2, 220 • Shoots: R (Greenwich, Conn.)

GP-45, G-15, A-14, PTS-29, PIM-74 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 29 NA

The skinny: The former Brunswick prep standout has really elevated his stock with a fine showing with Team USA. He might not have the elite offensive skill set to project as a top-six NHL forward at present, but the potential is there. As a power forward, the Yale recruit does everything else pro teams look for in a player: He’s strong, physical and does the honest grunt work in the trenches. He lacks suddenness: His initial first few steps are sluggish, though he’s a good skater in a straight line when he works up to speed.

Quotable: “He’s a physical beast with an NHL body already. He really looks and plays the part of a power forward. He plays an aggressive style, drives to the net hard, tries to intimidate and stands up for guys. He may not have a high ceiling and he does take a bit to get going.” — NHL scout, Western Conference

4. Ryan Fitzgerald

C, Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL), 5-10, 170 • Shoots: R (North Reading, Mass.)

GP-26,  G-14, A-16, PTS-30, PIM-50 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 56 NA

The skinny: The 2013 John Carlton Memorial Award winner as area’s top hockey player and student has elite instincts and vision. Although below-average size and not a dynamic skater, the oldest son of former NHL forward and assistant to Pittsburgh Penguins GM Tom Fitzgerald (Billerica, Mass.) more than makes up for that with outstanding puck skills and anticipation. He got off to a great start before getting derailed with nagging injuries. His skating and smallish frame works against him, but a team that likes his intangibles, especially the hockey IQ, might make him a top-50 selection.

Quotable: “He’s got great hockey sense, really good hands plus is feisty and competitive. I like everything about him except his size and speed ratio. He reminds me of (former UNH star) Darren Haydar — he’ll go to Boston College and be a good hockey player there, and maybe tear it up in minor pro. But the highest level? He’ll have his work cut out for him.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

5. Brian Pinho

C, St. John’s Prep (HS-Mass.), 6-0, 175 • Shoots: R (North Andover, Mass.)

GP-21, G-17, A-36, PTS-53, PIM- N/A • Central Scouting Final Rank: 109 NA

The skinny: A draft dark horse who has gained positive attention for his all-around game and sterling character. Pinho is a plus-skater with quick jump, acceleration and the ability to separate, though he doesn’t flash dynamic, game-breaking speed. Also shifty and elusive; plays with his head up and can thread the needle effortlessly. Plays the game with a great deal of intelligence and passion. Effective two-way player who will be another impressive component in the rising Providence College program in 2014 after a year of junior hockey (sixth overall pick by the Indiana Ice in the USHL draft last month).

Quotable: “He’s an excellent skater and he’s only going to get better. He’s a smart player; I like the way he sees the game. He can make plays and score. He doesn’t have that high-end scoring talent, but he’s got the instincts and work ethic to manufacture offense and play a consistently strong two-way game.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

6. Anthony Florentino

D, Selects Academy (HS-Conn.), 6-0, 210 • Shoots: R (West Roxbury, Mass.)

GP- 62, G-21, A-32, PTS-53, PIM-68 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 75 NA

The skinny: A right-shooting defender, Florentino plays a capable all-around game and carries a big stick as the area’s most intimidating hitter. His skating is above average with room to improve in the area of fluid footwork and smooth transitions. He’s an effective puck-moving defenseman especially in space when he has time and room to work with. Florentino will need to process the game faster as the play gets tighter around him at the higher levels, but he played a capable two-way game at the prep level.

Quotable: “Big, rugged blueliner is a pain in the (butt) to play against. Very strong and exacts a heavy toll for real estate around the crease, doling out physical punishment with some thundering hits.” —  Red Line Report, April 2013

7. Jason Salvaggio

C/LW, Selects Academy (HS-Conn.)/Indiana (USHL), 6-1, 190 • Shoots: L (Hanson, Mass.)

GP-64, G-54, A-40, PTS-94, PIM-70 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 97 NA

The skinny: With his size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds), killer instinct and a big shot, Salvaggio shot up the draft boards after going out to the USHL with the Indiana Ice and proving himself at a higher level there. Has a slick set of hands and a nose for the net. His stock is rising after a great season at South Kent School in Connecticut followed by 11 points in 17 USHL games with the Ice.

Quotable: “The buzz on Salvaggio is palpable; would say there were at least a dozen teams checking him out in Indiana late in the year. He has very good hands and a wicked one-timer. He’s definitely one of those ‘shoot-first’ guys and he has enough size to play at the next level. Going forward, I think the question is whether he can play better with others and involve his teammates more and find the open man.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

8. Wiley Sherman

D, Hotchkiss (HS-Conn.), 6-6, 215 • Shoots: L (Greenwich, Conn.)

GP-26, G-4, A-6, PTS-10, PIM-32 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 104 NA

The skinny: Gigantic defenseman is progressing well for his size and skating ability. Sherman is a fluid skater for such a tall, young kid who is still growing into his huge frame. Uses his long reach to disrupt passing lanes and force opponents to the outside. Keeps things pretty simple with the first pass and will not be a point producer at any level.

Quotable: “Sherman is one of the most interesting players from the area and I think he’ll get drafted for sure. He’s got naturally light feet and impressive mobility for such a big guy. He’s competitive and can play a physical game. He showed it at the Beantown (Classic). He’s raw, though. He has a long reach but doesn’t know quite how to use it yet. He’s fine in space, but will need to work on making that first pass under pressure.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

9. Eddie Ellis

C, Phillips Andover (HS-Mass.), 6-2, 210 • Shoots: L (Burlington, Mass.)

GP-24, G-12, A-13, PTS-25, PIM-N/A
• Central Scouting Final Rank: NR

The skinny: Big Blue captain has an NHL body and head, playing a strong two-way game and bringing an honest effort. He could stand to get quicker in his first few steps, but skates well in a straight line and goes hard to the net. Uses his size to work effectively along the boards and is a solid two-way presence.

Quotable: “Big-bodied power center is at his best when he’s engaging physically and creating space for his teammates. Drives the net and uses size to create havoc in front.” — Red Line Report, April, 2013

10. Ross Olsson

RW, Lincoln/Cedar Rapids (USHL), 6-5, 200 • Shoots: L (Billerica, Mass.)

GP-43, G-6, A-13, PTS-19, PIM-145 • Central Scouting Final Rank: : 186 NA

The skinny: Huge forward had a strong finish to the season after struggling to generate offense early on and getting traded to Cedar Rapids. The former Billerica H.S. and Williston-Northampton star is one of the best pure shooters in the draft but must improve his skating to have a chance at reaching the NHL. A quality person and Northeastern University recruit, Olsson has the drive and willingness to work. If he picks up a step or two, he could develop into a dangerous forward who plays with a good amount of snarl.

Quotable: “He was one of the most raw players in the (USHL) and has some of the slowest feet. Early in the year, he would go to finish a check, couldn’t get there quickly enough and was behind the play. He wants to be an aggressive, physical power forward. I like his attitude and hustle, so if he puts in the effort to improve his wheels, he’s one of those guys you could see someone taking a gamble on late.” — NHL scout, Western Conference

11. Ryan Segalla

D, Salisbury School (HS-Conn.), 6-1, 185 Shoots: L (Rockland, Mass.)

GP-28, G-10, A-8, PTS-18, PIM-28 • Central Scouting Final Rank: 169 NA

The skinny: Not the most flashy or dynamic defender, Segalla nonetheless is a fluid, mobile player who takes the body effectively and led his Crimson Knights squad to the 2013 New England prep title. Fine skater with fluid stride, quick direction change and lateral agility. Not quite the physical force Florentino is, Segalla nonetheless embraces a physical style and finishes his checks. Active stick, displays good gap control. Overall, Segalla is a solid defenseman who might only be coming into his own as a legitimate NHL prospect.

Quotable: “He’s not a flashy guy at all, just your typical meat-and-potatoes defenseman, but he’s got some toughness. I like him. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and he’s a bit of a sleeper in that a lot of people aren’t necessarily talking about him, but they were definitely watching him.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

Sleepers

Josh Couturier, D, Boston Jr. Bruins (EJHL), (Newbury, Mass.) — Tall (6-foot-3), lanky defender had a solid, unspectacular year but has the mobility and first-pass skills to land on a few teams’ radars.

Tyler Kelleher, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), (Longmeadow, Mass.) — Tiny by pro hockey standards at 5-foot-6, 152 pounds, the national team’s leading scorer (26 goals, 52 points) has a world of speed and skill. UNH will benefit from this pocket rocket of a dynamo, but until he demonstrates his ability in the NCAA ranks, NHL teams might pass on him. Worth a late-round roll of the dice in our view.

Shane Starrett, G, Selects Academy (Bellingham, Mass.) — Former Catholic Memorial player and BU recruit graded out as 15th-ranked North American goaltender after a sub 2.00-GAA season with fellow draft prospects Florentino and Salvaggio. With a July ’94 birthdate, the 6-foot-5 player blots out the sun when he takes the net and is projected to hit Comm. Ave. in 2014.

Nolan Vesey, LW, Austin Prep (North Reading, Mass.) — The younger brother of Harvard sophomore-to-be and Nashville prospect Jimmy Vesey is carving out a name for himself after captaining the Cougars to the Super 8 championship game and then winning a national Tier 1 18U title with the Neponset Valley River Rats. The younger Vesey has soft hands and a heavy shot. He can score from just about anywhere and is improving his skating.

Miles Wood, LW, Noble & Greenough (Manchester, Mass.) — Ranked 138th, Wood has NHL bloodlines. The Buffalo-born (when dad Randy played for the Sabres) 6-foot-1, 160-pounder has a lot of physical maturing ahead, but he has nice raw upside. Just made the 2013 draft cutoff by two days (Sept. 13, 1995), and despite having missed significant time to injuries, is a solid bet to be a late-round pick.

NEHJ Super Sleeper

Liam Coughlin, C, Catholic Memorial (South Boston, Mass.) — Simply put, we love this kid, who is unranked by Central. In fact, we think his name should come up a whole lot more in draft discussions given his 6-foot-3 frame and scoring touch. As it stands, we wouldn’t be shocked to see an NHL team with an entrenched New England presence grab him in the final rounds. Coughlin is a winner; the USHL’s Clark Cup champion Dubuque Fighting Saints agree, taking him 30th overall in that league’s draft.

New England players to watch for 2014

J.D. Dudek, C, Kimball Union Academy (Auburn, N.H.) — The son of NCAA D3 star running back Joe Dudek (Plymouth State) and a former linemate of Sanford’s at Pinkerton is one of the most creative playmakers in New England. Like most kids his age, the Boston College-bound pivot needs to get stronger but projects as the top prep player in next year’s draft.

Shane Eiserman, LW, U.S. NTDP (Newburyport, Mass.) — Late ’95 and UNH recruit just missed the 2013 NHL draft cutoff so will have to keep elevating his game to impress scouts next year when in the USHL with league champion Dubuque. With his 6-foot-2 size and two-way power forward style, Eiserman currently projects as the No. 1 regional prospect for next year’s NHL draft.

Ara Nazarian, F, Malden Catholic (Boxford, Mass.) — ESPN Boston’s inaugural Mr. Hockey isn’t a dynamic skater but he’s got outstanding hands and a lot of vision and  creativity. He’s been on area watch lists for years, and like Eiserman, will take his NCAA game to Durham, N.H., eventually.

Liam Pecararo, LW, Waterloo Black Hawks (Canton, Mass.) — Skill and natural scoring finesse is the name of the game with this ultra-talented 5-foot-9 waterbug and University of Maine recruit. Scouts are looking for him to round out his game more next season.

Also keep an eye on …

New England natives also ranked by Central Scouting:

NO.

PLAYER

HOMETOWN

POS.

TEAM

120

Cole Cassels

Hartford, Conn.

C

Oshawa (OHL)

185

Connor Light

Sudbury, Mass.

D

Phillips Andover

206

Tyler Wood

Manchester, Mass.

D

Noble & Greenough

Twitter: @kluedeke29
Email: kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com