Welcome back to Top Shelf NHL Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2014 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2014 Draft Articles Click here.
Its finally here, draft day. With 75 NHL Draft scouting reports in the books, I now make a number of short write-ups to take us over three full rounds worth of prospects (at least on my best player available chart). If history is any indication though, some of these players will get taken in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds, and in my opinion, will be big-time steals at those picks.
76. Justin Kirkland, LW/RW, Kelowna Rockets (6’3″, 190 lbs): Was productive as a rookie in the WHL after playing just 6 games after coming up from the Notre Dame Hounds late in 2012-13, putting up 17 goals and 48 points in 68 games. Added a further 5 goals and 10 points in 14 playoff games. He has very soft hands and the ability to deke opponents and finish plays and score goals in close to the net. Has a decent stride and skating for his size. He could stand to add some weight and be more physical given his size. Intriguing prospect with raw skills, but needs time to learn to play the game still.
77. Rourke Chartier, C, Kelowna Rockets (5’11” 180 lbs): Rourke Chartier put up 24 goals and 58 points in 72 games for Kelowna this season. A very quick skater who never seems to stop moving his feet. He is always first in on the forecheck and creating turnovers in the offensive zone. Uses that effort level on the backcheck as well. When his teammates get the puck he seems to find the soft spots in the defence and is always open to bury a feed in the back of the net with a strong, hard shot and good release.
78. Ryan Collins, D, USNTDP (6’5″ 200 lbs): The Minnesota native won’t put up much offence with just 1 goal and 9 points in 92 games with the US NTDP this season. He has great size though, and a willingness to clear the crease and battle in the corners, but isn’t really a big hitter. His skating could use some work to improve his speed in both directions. He makes a solid first pass and will be a worthwhile project going forward. He is committed to the University of Minnesota.
79. Dylan Sadowy, RW, Saginaw Spirit (6’0″ 180 lbs): He put up 27 goals this season, and then followed it up with 4 goals in 5 playoffs games. Sadowy scores most of his goals in tight, tipping in shots, banging in rebounds, and converting passes in front of the net. He battles hard and plays an agitating style. He could use some work on his skating as it is merely average right now. A longer stride would help. He showed great improvement between his first and second year though, so there are good signs there. Game is reminiscent of Scott Hartnell in terms of style.
80. Lucas Wallmark, C, Lulea (SHL); (5’11″ 176 lbs): Undrafted in 2013, a strong season in the SHL and a good showing with 8 points in 7 games at the world juniors has scouts taking a second look. A playmaking centre with good vision and hockey sense. Wallmark has good stickhandling and controls the play, slowing things down so his teammates can get open. Is also a strong two-way player with good face-off skills, and can kill penalties. His skating is his weakness, as he has a short, awkward stride and poor acceleration and while its better than last year, is still the big sore spot. Has top notch skill, if he can fix the skating.
81. Matt Mistele, LW, Plymouth Whalers, (6’2″ 190 lbs): Mistele has the size and the willingness to play a powerforward’s game. He works in all three zones, whether its being quick on the forecheck, fighting for space in front of the net, working the corners, or playing strong defensive hockey. He is a good skater who can fight through checks and cut hard to the front of the net. He also has a hard and accurate wrist shot, and a very good release. Consistency was an issue for him this season, as he struggled as the go to guy in the Whalers offence. Had 34 goals and 60 points as a rookie, but only 18 goals and 37 points in 56 points.
82. Clark Bishop, C, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (6’0″ 184 lbs): Bishop put up 14 goals and 33 points in 56 games for the Screaming Eagles. He is a great skater, with great top end speed and acceleration. He also has good agility and balance. Bishop is a cannonball on the forecheck who punishes opposing defenders. He is also very good on the penalty kill. Bishop’s shot has a good release, but he needs to work on his accuracy. He is a straight ahead player who will score most of his points through hard work and going to tough areas, rather than playing a high skill game.
83. Daniel Audette, C, Sherbrooke Phoenix (5’9″ 176 lbs): The son of former Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, and Montreal Canadiens winger Donald Audette, Daniel Audette is proving that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The first overall pick in the 2012 QMJHL draft, Audette is a natural sniper blessed with the fantastic wrist shot and quick release that was his father’s best asset as well. He’s also a very good stickhandler and is able to beat goalies with an array of shootout moves. Audette is a little undersized, but makes up for it with his strong skating and outstanding hockey sense. Scored 21 goals and 76 points in 68 games this season. The only knock here is size.
84. Noah Rod, RW, Geneve-Servette (6’1″ 190 lbs): A Swiss forward who plays a North American style mixing plenty of grit and mixing it with some skill. He forechecks hard, and wins a lot of board battles. Will drive the net when he does have the puck on his stick. His skating speed is decent, but his edgework and agility are very good which make him very slippery in the offensive zone. Already well-developped in terms of his two-way game.
85. Alexis Pepin, C/LW, Gatineau Olympiques (6’2″ 238 lbs): Capable of playing both Center and Left Wing, he is a quick and agile skater, with a very good shot and excellent release. A big forward who is still growing and is already 6’2″ and well developed at 238 lbs, Pepin is your prototypical power forward who loves to throw his weight around and drive to the front of the net. He put up just 17 goals and 34 points in 60 games this year though, and the offensive production just doesn’t match the package. Effort level can be inconsistent at times in the physical department, if he drove the net regularly would produce more. Some games are great, but not all. Pepin has taken steps to improve his defensive game and become a two way forward this year, though. With his package of size and physicality, he would be a real steal if he can learn to get to the front of the net game in and game out.
86. Julien Pelletier, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (5’11 180 lbs): Put up 25 goals and 50 points in 67 games this season as a QMJHL rookie. He has good speed, and is very difficult to knock off the puck, using good core strength and a low centre of gravity. Good hockey sense in the offensive zone helps him to find holes in the defence. He has a good shot with a quick release. A strong defensive game has led to penalty kill time.
87. Vladimir Tkachev, LW, Moncton Wildcats (5’9″ 160 lbs): Missed most of the season with visa problems coming from Russia, but managed to put up 10 goals and 30 points in just 20 games. An undersized but highly skilled forward. He is a great stickhandler who has great skating including a strong change of pace, and great agility. If he can add some muscle to his frame he could be an offensive producer in the NHL. Needs some work defensively.
88. Shane Eiserman, LW, Dubuque Fighting Saints (6’2″ 200 lbs): Power forward prospect who put up 16 goals and 40 points in 53 games in the USHL. He is a strong skater with good speed and the power to fight through checks, allowing him to go wide and cut hard to the net with the puck on his stick. He has a good shot and release, and strong passing skills. Needs some work on keeping his feet moving in the defensive zone.
89. Gustav Forsling, D, Linkopings (5’11” 176 lbs): Very impressive at the Under 18 IIHF World Hockey Championship putting up 4 goals in 7 games for Sweden. An undersized offensive defenceman, with great skating in both directions, and strong passing skills, both in starting the rush and in quarterbacking the powerplay. He loves to join the rush or lead it. Forsling has an outstanding point shot, and his one-timer is an absolute rocket.
90. Olivier Leblanc, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (5’11” 161 lbs): Another undersized defenceman, this one from the QMJHL. Put up 7 goals and 33 points for an improved Sea Dogs team this season. A very strong skater who loves to join the rush, or even lead it with strong puck handling and passing skills. Also has a very good shot from the point. Needs to add muscle to be better in the defensive zone, but should have room to do so on his frame.
91. Dominic Turgeon, C, Portland Winterhawks (6’2 196 lbs): Played on a deep Winterhawks team and saw limited ice time. As such he only had 21 points this season. He is a very well-rounded player though, strong defensively and very good in the faceoff circle for a 17 year old. Add in the good size, and some untapped offensive potential, with a good shot and vision, and he may be worth a flyer as he improves going forward. Is very strong with the puck on his stick and plays a strong forecheck and cycle game in the offensive zone.
92. Reid Duke, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (6’0″ 190 lbs): Scored 15 goals and 40 points in 62 games for Lethbridge this season. He was a solid two-way player, who showed hard work, grit and physical play in all three zones, and defensive responsibility. A good skater, with solid speed, decent acceleration and good edgework and agility. Could stand to work on core strength and balance though. Offensively he is a very good playmaker with strong vision and passing skills. His shot is underrated and he needs to use it more often.
93. Emil Johansson, D, HV 71 (6’0 194 lbs): Swedish puck moving defenceman who skates well and has strong passing skills. Can join the rush or run the powerplay from the point. He could use more power on his shot. Defensively has very good hockey sense and anticipation, breaking up plays and starting the transition. Gets involved physically and plays the body, but is not a huge hitter. Has good balance which helps in board battles.
94. Brady Vail, C, Windsor Spitfires (6’1″ 196 lbs): A 2012 Montreal Canadiens fourth round draft pick, he is a draft re-entry after not signing with the club. Put up 83 points in 67 games to be top 20 in OHL scoring this season. Plays a strong two-way game, with good faceoff skills and playing against opposing teams top forwards every night. Solid skater with good speed and edgework. Rumours of character concerns seem to be the reason he did not receive a contract offer from Marc Bergevin.
95. Sebastian Aho, D, Skelleftea (5’9 165 lbs): An undersized Swedish defenceman with a ton of offensive skill. He’s a great skater in all directions, and has excellent edgework and pivots. Aho has great vision and can quarterback the powerplay. He also has an excellent slap shot, and is adept with a one-timer. Good at leading the rush or joining as a trailer. If Aho was three or four inches taller he’d be a potential first round pick, but at his height, the ability to compete with big physical forwards may always be an issue.
96. Stefan Leblanc, D, Mississauga Steelheads (6’0″ 183 lbs): Was the Steelheads best defenceman after a trade brought him in from Sudbury at mid-season. Excellent skater with strong passing skills and a good point shot. His positioning is good in the defensive zone, and despite the fact he needs to add some muscle, he’s not afraid of anyone and doesn’t back down from physical confrontations. One area he does struggle with is speedy forwards going to the outside.
97. Maxim Letunov, C, Yougstown Phantoms (6’2″ 150 lbs): Russian centre comitted to Boston University for the 2015-16 season and who put up 43 points in 60 games. Tall and Lanky he will need some time to add some muscle, but he has slick hands and good playmaking ability. Excellent hockey sense and seems to always make the right play with the puck on his stick.
98. Oscar Lindblom, LW, Brynas (6’2″ 190 lbs): A big strong winger who is at his best working the cycle game, battling in corners and getting to the front of the net. Has soft hands and knows how to finish when he gets there. Very strong on the puck and uses his body positioning and strong puckhandling to protect it. Works well in the defensive zone, blocking shots and getting his stick in passing lanes. Could use some work on his skating.
99. Darby Llewellyn, LW, Kitchener Rangers (6’1″ 179 lbs): Led the Kitchener Rangers in goals with 25 this season, showing off an ability to get open in the offensive zone for one timers, and to pounce on rebounds in front of the net. A good skater with a solid stride and good acceleration. Llewellyn also showed a strong defensive game, even playing on the penalty kill.
100. Anders Bjork, LW, USNTDP (5’11” 180 lbs): Great skater with tremendous speed and outstanding acceleration who is always first in on the forecheck, and fighting for loose pucks on the boards. Played on the US NTDP checking line with Dylan Larkin and played a great two-way game in helping the Americans to the Under 18 gold medal. Good stickhandler who loves to take the puck to the front of the net. Also shows vision and passing skills. Committed to Notre Dame for next season.
No Ranking: The Ultimate Draft Wildcard – Blake Clarke, LW, Saginaw Spirit (6’1 190 lbs):
I’m not even sure what to say about Blake Clarke. He came into the season as a top 5 pick on our preseason list. Let’s take a look about what we had to say after an outstanding rookie season with North Bay where he scored 19 goals and 51 points.
“Clarke has good speed, but really shows off his skating skill with his agility, edgework, and ability to change speeds. He has great hockey sense and always seems to make the right play. Equally adept with strong playmaking skills and a good shot, with a quick release, Clarke can play the roles of playmaker or sniper off the wing. He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice to score goals, or to carry the puck in traffic, protecting it well with good stickhandling. Not overly physical though. Has a solid frame and could stand to add some muscle this season.”
Last summer he looked very good in the US camp but then suffered a shoulder injury and never seemed to get back on track. Finished the season with only 2 goals and 12 points in 54 games, split between North Bay and Saginaw. It was hoped the mid-season change of scenery would get him back on track, but it didn’t. He teased with flashes of that potential, but they were few and far between this year. Looked lost on the ice at times.
This could be a real home run pick if it was a one year aberration and he gets back on track, but if not it could be a total waste. It will be interesting to see if he gets taken.
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