11 locals selected in 2014 NHL Entry Draft
By Roman J. Uschak
Top: Max Willman greets a Sabres executive; bottom left, Bay Stater Beau Starrett puts on the legendary Chicago Blackhawks sweater; bottom right, J.D. Dudek signs his first autograph as an NHL Draft pick. (Photos/Getty Images)
It took a while for the first New England native to be selected in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, but once they started coming, they kept coming all day long.
Harvard recruit Ryan Donato, son of Harvard University coach and former star Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.), was the first New Englander taken in the second round of the 2014 NHL draft at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. He was the first of 11 selected on the second day of the June 27-28 event, and among the 65 total Americans chosen on the weekend. Donato went 56th overall to dad’s old club, the hometown Boston Bruins, but will first join his father with the Crimson in 2015-16.
“Such an honor being handed that jersey from Cam Neely today,” said the younger Donato on Twitter following his selection.
Last season at the Dexter School, Donato (Scituate, Mass.) registered 37 goals and 41 assists for 78 points in 30 games. In two campaigns at the Brookline institution, he put up 66-72-138 points in 57 outings and also spent time skating with the Cape Cod Whalers. He is expected to play in the United States Hockey League before heading to Cambridge late next year.
The second round also saw Johnathan MacLeod (Dracut, Mass.) taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning (57th overall). The Boston University recruit had two goals and five assists in 44 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team based in Michigan. He also prepped scholastically with Kimball Union Academy earlier in his career.
“Johnathan is a hard-nosed defensive defenseman who consistently plays physical, usually against the top forwards on the other team,” said Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray. “That’s the matchup the Team USA coaches used him in. With the puck he keeps things simple with good, quick passes to the wings to start the play, and then follows it well.”
“He’s a really good, physical defenseman,” added U.S. Under-18 head coach Danton Cole. “He has excellent skills, moves the puck well and has a good feeling for the game.”
In the third round, Miles Gendron (Shrewsbury, Mass.), who will play at the University of Connecticut next season as the Huskies join Hockey East, was chosen 74th overall by the Ottawa Senators. He had 19 points in 22 games on defense a year ago for Rivers School. Beau Starrett (Bellingham, Mass.), who averaged nearly a point per game for the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s South Shore Kings last year with 47 points in 48 contests, was taken 88th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. The 6-foot-5 center/left wing is committed to Cornell University.
Shane Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.), a center/right wing who had 16 goals and 40 points last season for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, was the lone New England native picked in the fourth round. He went to Ottawa at No. 100 overall, although his next stop will be the University of New Hampshire.
Max Willman (Barnstable, Mass.) was the first of three New Englanders who heard his name called in the fifth round. The Brown University recruit, who was chosen No. 121 overall by the Buffalo Sabres, posted 21 goals and 44 points in 2013-14 at Williston-Northampton.
“I like to push the pace in the neutral zone and attack off the rush,” said Willman in a video clip at the Sabres’ website. “I think I have good vision and see the ice well, and make my linemates better around me.”
Following him at 130th overall was Liam Coughlin (South Boston, Mass.), a center/left wing who was tabbed by the Edmonton Oilers and who will attend BU this fall. He skated last season with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League, finishing with 18 goals and 45 points.
Seven slots behind Coughlin was Tyler Bird (Andover, Mass.), who led Kimball Union to the 2014 New England small prep school state title after scoring 33 goals and tallying 60 points in 37 outings. Bird, who will join Willman at Brown, was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Boston College recruit J.D. Dudek and Maine recruit Nolan Vesey (North Reading, Mass.) both went in the sixth round.
Dudek, whose father, Joe (Quincy, Mass.), played briefly with the NFL’s Denver Broncos after starring for Plymouth State University and meriting Heisman Trophy consideration, was taken 152nd overall by the New Jersey Devils. He was teammates with Bird at Kimball Union, and collected 9-35-44 points last season in 25 appearances. A native of Auburn, N.H., Dudek also saw action with the USA Under-18 Team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, winning a silver medal.
“He has a significant ways to go, but he has a very high skill level as is,” said Devils director of scouting David Conte on New Jersey’s website. “He does have pure, natural talent, which deviates a little bit from the physical presence that dominated the early part of our draft.”
Vesey, a left wing, went 158th overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played last year with the South Shore Kings, where he notched 26-40-66 points after playing the previous season at Austin Prep.
The only New Englander chosen in the seventh round was the only one not on the college track — at least not anymore. Cameron Darcy (South Boston, Mass.), a Dexter School alumnus who also toiled with the U.S. NTDP, played nine games with Northeastern University in 2012-13. He joined Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, collecting 35-47-82 points in 65 games before being taken 185th overall by the Lightning.
“Cameron is a smart two-way player,” said Tampa Bay’s Murray. “He has the skills to play with top players on your first or second line and the defensive commitment to be on a third or fourth line, so he gives himself a lot of flexibility to make a team.”
A trio of top players with ties to Boston College also was selected in Philadelphia. Left wing Sonny Milano and right wing/center Alex Tuch both went in the first round, among the first 20 choices made. Milano was taken 16th overall by Columbus, and Tuch followed two picks later when he was taken by the Minnesota Wild. Both played with the U.S. Under-18 Team last year and will enroll at The Heights this fall.
Milano tallied 24 goals and 72 points last season, while Tuch contributed 28 goals and 60 points.
“They’re two outstanding players, and were two of our leading scorers,” said USA’s Cole. “Sonny has really good hands and passion, and worked really hard on his game the last two years. Alex is a big power forward with really good hands who does a great job in the corners. Both of them will be really good college players.”
Boston College rising freshman netminder Thatcher Demko, who was ranked the No. 1 North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting, was taken by the Vancouver Canucks at 36th overall. The 6-foot-3 Demko finished 16-5-3 overall last season with a 2.16 goals-against average in backstopping the Eagles to the Frozen Four, which was also held in Philadelphia. BC fell to eventual national champion Union College in the semifinal round, after winning the NCAA Northeast Regional in Worcester.
Hockey East had a dozen incoming freshman, and three 2015-16 freshmen, selected, along with five other players who have made verbal commitments to Hockey East schools, lifting the total to an all-time league record 21.
This article originally appeared in the July edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to read the digital edition for free.