June 29, 2013

2013 NHL Draft roundup: Underrated or overrated?

By Kirk Luedeke


Connor Clifton had nine points in 25 games for the U.S. National Development Team in 2012-13.
 

Hockey’s lottery weekend is upon us.

Hopeful prospects from all over the globe are traveling to New York and New Jersey for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft June 30 in Newark.

Because of the lockout-influenced schedule, the normal two-day draft process will be packed into one single afternoon and evening, with festivities kicking off at the Prudential Center, where the New Jersey Devils call home, at 3:00 p.m. Sunday. All seven rounds will take place, lasting well into the night with a scheduled 10:30 conclusion time.

With a deep draft class, the Bruins are hoping to make some hay even without a first-round pick. The last time the B’s were without an opening choice inside the top-59 was 2004, and the team snagged playoff ace David Krejci with the 63rd overall selection (acquired from the Kings for Jozef Stumpel). Nine years later, they’ll try to mine gold in similar fashion with the 60th pick and beyond (B’s own the penultimate selection in every round from 2-7).

Because Boston has a veteran roster and a pretty stocked stable of prospects, don’t expect for a great deal of horse-trading for earlier selections (returning to the first round is going to be tough- don’t bet your mortgage on it) or extra picks. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli can afford to be patient and add a few solid prospects with promise while focusing on moves to improve his NHL roster and keep the team in contention.

Simply put, the Bruins are not in rebuild mode and don’t need the 2013 draft to pay off for them anytime soon. If they identify the right players, as they did with Krejci, they can set the table for three-to-five years down the road. Hardcore draftniks always hope that their favorite hockey team will load up on draft picks, but that has never been Chiarelli’s M.O. and after making it to within two wins of the 2013 Stanley Cup, this year’s draft is not what will make the club better at present.

You could see the B’s perhaps try to move up in the second round from 60 by offering up additional picks in this year’s pool, or a prospect or two, but anyone expecting them to add quantity to the six choices they already have will probably end up being disappointed. The key to keeping Boston in contention now and in the future is by identifying raw, but serviceable talent and inserting them into the roster after further development. Unlike the NFL draft, barring a completely unforeseen development like when the B’s stole Patrice Bergeron in 2003 and he was in the big lineup on opening night that October, don’t expect Boston to see any returns on their investment in 2013, much like a year ago.

In the meantime, here are a few players NEHJ has identified as underrated and overrated based on discussions with NHL scouts and using independent sources like Red Line Report:

Underrated

Greg Chase, C Calgary (WHL) - Red Line calls him “possibly the most underrated forward in the entire draft,” so why not begin the list with this gritty pivot from the Western League? Ultra-competitive and smart, Chase doesn’t have high-end skills in any area, but does everything well and brings every ounce of what he has on any given shift.

Connor Clifton, D U.S. NTDP (USHL) - Average-sized defender checks in at a shade under 6-feet, but you wouldn’t know it with the “kill-shot hits” he levels on opponents, as one NHL scout told NEHJ earlier this season. New Jersey native and Quinnipiac U. recruit has good wheels and an underappreciated offensive game. He was exposed at times in the Under-18 tourney, especially against Canada in the gold medal game, but this kid has moxie and some intriguing long-term potential.

Eddie Ellis (Burlington, Mass.), C Phillips Andover (Mass. HS) - Not flashy, and his senior season was a disappointment, but with his size, solid two-way game and intelligence, why aren’t more people talking about him? The Harvard recruit who will likely suit up for the Middlesex IHC of the Eastern Elite League before he heads to Cambridge is a longer draft shot than some, but he’s got the tools and toolbox to be a player.

Brendan Harms, RW Fargo (USHL) - Would be right at home in the TD Garden wearing a spoked-B sweater one day. An industrious winger who never stops working, Harms has underrated skills but stands out more for his physical, energetic style. He may not possess elite talent, but inspires teammates with his non-stop motor and endless hustle. Very good on the forecheck and in puck support; more of a jack-of-all-trades type, but you win with players like him.

Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.), RW U.S. NTDP (USHL) - Little dude, but can this guy ever score! If it wasn’t for Kelleher’s well below average size, he’d be ranked a lot higher on lists because he’s an effortless blazer who darts in and out of holes in the offensive zone and makes high-end scoring plays look routine.  Some might call him a poor man’s John Gaudreau, but the UNH-bound Kelleher might follow in the little big man’s footsteps as a pint-sized scoring machine in the NCAA.

Jesse Lees, D Kelowna (WHL) - As one of the youngest players in the 2013 draft class, he’s also overshadowed at times on the Rockets’ deep group of defenders. Although undersized for the position, he still has room to grow and plays a pretty effective game in his own end while exhibiting impressive power play potential at the next level. The Bruins have shown a tendency to go for smaller, speedy d-men with skill, so Lees has a shot at being the next in a pretty long line of “little engine that could” types inspired by Torey Krug’s breakthrough postseason.

Sean Malone, C U.S. NTDP (USHL) - Small but fast two-way center excels with his smarts and willingness to play in heavy traffic areas on the ice. Another Harvard-bound player, the Buffalo-area native left prep at the Nichols School for the National Team and did extremely well in adapting to the higher competition level in the USHL and D1 collegiate circuit. He’s a character kid and leader…yet he always seems to be an afterthought when discussing the Team USA prospects this year.

Juuse Saros, G  (Finland) - Our lone goalie entry, he’s under 6-foot, which is normally the kiss of death for goalies at the NHL draft, but this guy is so good at stopping the puck, a team out there is sure to make an exception. If the value on Saros is good enough, he might be the kind of player the B’s would take a flyer on…they’ve had success with smallish goalies like Tim Thomas and Anton Khudobin, after all.

Sergei Tolchinski, RW Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - Tiny blazer has everything you want in a player except the size. Diminutive but dynamic game-breaker is a serpentine skater in the offensive zone, as he weaves and ducks would-be defenders on the way to quality scoring chances. Although defense won’t ever be a strong suit, he’s a slick producer. One more gem that Soo Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas and his hard-working group of scouts unearthed, Tolchinski deserves more of attention in the pre-draft hype hot tub.

Overrated

Pavel Buchnevich, C Cherepovets (KHL) - Highly skilled pivot is a first-round talent, but in serious need of a heart transplant—simply does not compete if a scoring chance isn’t riding on him making the extra effort. This kind of player rarely delivers on the promise of what his skill level says he should be.

Evan Cowley, G Wichita Falls (NAHL) - Sure, he’s plenty big with all the big league tools, but his fundamentals need a lot of work. Some team will grab him and take a chance on him relatively early in the draft, but he’s a long-term project and we’re just not sure if he’ll ever be the sum of his impressive parts.

Remi Elie, LW London (OHL) - It strains credulity that a player with seven goals over a full season is being touted in some circles as a potential second-round pick, even with the reduced role and ice time. If Cheri Oteri were here, she’d be saying “Simmah down now!” about Elie, but he certainly has his place in the draft. The problem several NHL scouts have with the hype is that you have to take a pretty big leap of faith that his offensive game is going to progress to justify taking him there. Good player, but not where some are touting him in our view.

Mike McCarron, RW U.S. NTDP (USHL) - He’s big…fast…also soft and has questionable hockey instincts. Could become a force in the NHL with his blend of size, speed and potential (when he’s on his game), but it just seems that far too many are enamored with some very limited flashes of big league promise. Someone is going to reach for him, and may be disappointed in the long run.

Ian McCoshen, D Waterloo (USHL) - With his natural size and mobility plus good production in the USHL, McCoshen is rated as a first-rounder in some circles, but does that offense project at the highest level? A solid second-rounder, but too hyped to be a strong value in the top-30.

Guys we like and why we like ‘em

Hunter Shinkaruk, LW Medicine Hat (WHL) — Winner of the best draft story heard in a long time brings passion and character to go with his speed and scoring chops.

At a young age, he was already such a big fan of the NHL and the draft that when his family was at their summer vacation cabin, he would insist on watching the proceedings on the television there. When he was eight, Shinkaruk hauled his Sunday suit to the cabin and put it on to watch the NHL draft. As each player went up on stage dressed in their best to pull on their NHL sweaters for the first time, Shinkaruk envisioned himself doing the same some day.

On Sunday, he’s going to cross that dream off his list, and his first NHL game shouldn’t be too far off in the distance. Winner.

Nic Petan, C Portland (WHL) — Skilled pivot may be small, but he’s one of the most dangerous scorers in the entire class- a player whose offense is so electrifying, it earned him a nickname: the Rainmaker. Like so many of the WHL’s top prospects, the Vancouver-area native is a top talent with the character to match. If the B’s had retained their first-round selection, he’d be a top candidate to take a chance on, but as it stands, he’ll be long gone by the time pick 60 comes around.

Frank DiChiara, LW Dubuque (USHL) - Some guys just get it, and the native New Yorker is on a nice upward trajectory. After realizing he was carrying more weight on his frame than ideal, the former NAHL standout who became a Clark Cup champion this season went to work in the weight room and is rounding into form. He gets bonus points for calling back for an interview after spending an hour on the ice in St. Louis taking power skating instruction. Being bright, articulate and committed are all great assets when you have the natural size to be a power forward.

Wiley Sherman (Greenwich, Conn.), D Hotchkiss (Conn. HS) - When you have a 6-foot-6 defenseman with the fluid mobility of someone closer to 6-foot in height, what’s not to like? Sherman has a massive reach and is progressing in his defensive reads and overall play. While not likely to develop into a scoring presence, he’s mature and a worthy project to take on in the mid-to-late rounds. We goofed by running his ninth grade photo in the June draft issue, but he was a good sport about it. He’s worth keeping an eye on and after a NCAA stint at Harvard, will be primed to win at life if the hockey thing doesn’t work out as planned.

Ross Olsson (Billerica, Mass.), LW Cedar Rapids (USHL) - The skating is holding him back right now, but the former Billerica HS Indians star is a quality person who wants to be a player. With his hands and heavy shot, he could develop into an interesting project if he can improve his initial quickness and agility. At 6-foot-4 and195 pounds, he has room to grow and has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to help his team win. The Northeastern recruit has a lot going for him even if he is one of the draft’s wild cards. All it takes is for one NHL to see big-time potential, so we’ll see on Sunday if there are believers in Newark. If not, Olsson has time to improve his game and shoot for 2014.

Boston Bruins 2013 draft picks at a glance

2nd round: 60

Potential selections: Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), C; Jimmy Lodge, C; Nick Baptiste, RW; Jackson Houck, RW; Keaton Thompson D; Jordan Subban, D;

3rd round: 90

Potential selections: Greg Chase, C; Eric Locke, C; Nick Moutrey, RW; Eric Roy; D Kyle Burroughs, D

4th round: 120

Potential selections: Kurt Etchegary, C; Brendan Harms, RW; Ben Harpur, D; Anthony Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.), D

5th round: 150

Potential selections: Colby Cave, C; Frank DiChiara, LW; Nick Paul, LW; Wiley Sherman (Greenwich, Conn.), D Connor Clifton, D

6th round: 180

Potential selections: Brian Pinho (North Andover, Mass.), C; Jayden Hart, C; Brody Silk, LW; Peter Quenneville, RW

7th round: 210

Potential selections:  Kyle Platzer, C; Nick Hutchison, C; Andrey Sigarev, LW; Justin Auger, RW; Keegan Kanzig, D;  Charlie Graham, G

Twitter: @kluedeke29
Email: kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com