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Edit: Drafted 47th Overall by the St. Louis Blues.
Tommy Vannelli burst onto the scent this year during his appearances on the international stage. Vanelli joined the US NTDP after his high school season finished, and appeared in some USHL league games for the club. He also was part of the team that went to the 2013 IIHF Under 18 World Hockey Championships where the American team that came home with a silver medal, falling just short in a 3-2 loss to Canada in the Gold Medal Game. Earlier in the season he was part of Team USA’s entry at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament. It is through this play where scouts have been able get a good look at his abilities when he is on the ice with other top players in this age group. It is also his play in these tournaments that this report is based on as I just didn’t see Vanelli playing on the US High School Hockey circuit, which is where he spent the middle portions of his year. He is committed to play for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey program, beginning next season.
Born Jan 26 1995 — Minnetonka, MN
Height 6.02 — Weight 165 — Shoots Right
Vanelli has great mobility. He has very good top end speed moving both forwards and backwards. His acceleration is also very good, and he has excellent first step quickness. Vanelli is very agile, and has great lateral mobility as well. This aids him in all aspects of his game, as he closes down gaps on defenders, and is hard to beat one on one. Offensively it allows him to walk the line in the offensive zone to open up passing and shooting lanes, or to be elusive when carrying the puck out of the defensive zone or through the neutral zone on the rush. He has very good edgework and pivots as well, and is thus able to cover a lot of ice.
Vanelli is an excellent stickhandler. He protects the puck very well, which combined with his skating allows him to skate the puck out of danger and to lead the rush from the backend. He is a good passer whether it be a crisp, smooth outlet pass, or in running the point on the powerplay. His vision, and patience allow him to be a future powerplay quarterback. Vanelli’s slap shot is decent, but not overpowering. He could stand to add some muscle to his frame though, and it may improve as that happens. His wrist shot is accurate and features a good release.
Vanelli’s defensive game is hampered by his lack of upper body strength at this point. He certainly does the right things, being involved in front of the net and along the boards, but he will really need to bulk up in order to effectively clear the crease and to battle along the boards. His positional game is strong and he effectively gets his stick into passing lanes, but his defensive game is especially vulnerable to bigger, stronger forwards at this point. The tools are there, but he has some work to do.
In many ways his style is reminiscent of Ryan Whitney at this point in his career. This is a stylistic comparison only though. In terms of potential, he can become a second pairing offensive defenceman with good defensive skills assuming he can overcome the strength issue. Going the NCAA route will certainly help as he’ll have the time available to spend in the weight room.
Check back tomorrow for another NHL draft feature.
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