Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2014 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects and honourable mentions. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
With the Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors, Five Nations) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up to date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under 18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
2015 NHL Draft February Ranks 21-25
21) Timo Meier, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (6’01” 209 lbs) – In recent year’s Halifax is just churning out high end forward prospects, and Timo Meier is the latest. Meier has had a tremendous start to the season with the Mooseheads putting up 32 goals and 71 points in 47games so far. An improved skating stride and more speed have really helped him this season, and he’s racking up points and rocketing up draft charts as a result. He’s not a speedster, but while he was once a bit of a poor skater, he’s now slightly above average in this regard. Meier has great hockey sense and gets to the open areas of the ice, where he can be set up to finish chances with an excellent shot and release. He is also a very physical player, establishing his position in the slot and winning board battles to create offence. He has excellent balance and can control the puck down low on the cycle. He is a strong two-way player who also kills penalties for the Mooseheads.
22) Daniel Sprong, Right Wing, Charlottetown Islanders (6’0″ 192 lbs): Sprong is likely to be the highest drafted Dutch born player ever. He moved to Canada in 2005 to face stronger competition than what was available in the Netherlands. Sprong’s 30 goals was the most by any 1997 born player in the CHL last season. Sprong has picked up where he left off and has 28 goals and 64 points in 55 games for the Islanders so far this season.
Sprong has great speed off the wing, and a bullet wrister with a deadly release. He is dangerous every time he touches the puck, and loves to shoot. Sprong has outstanding acceleration and his ability to change speeds while carrying the puck can help him to blow past a flat-footed defender. He also has very good agility, and can slip by a a defender with quick cuts. Add to this some great stick handling ability, and you have a player who can be a threat to go coast to coast at any time. Don’t get the wrong impression though, Sprong also has excellent passing ability and can play the role of playmaker if a linemate has an opportunity. He must get stronger and be better at taking a hit going forward. This is specifically true of his lower body, where some more muscle would help him be more powerful and better balanced to be stronger on the puck. He is already good positionally and shows effort in the defensive end of the ice.
23) Jeremy Bracco, Centre/Right Wing, US NTDP (5’9″, 172 lbs): Bracco is having a fantastic season with the US National Team Development Program, and its getting him noticed in scouting circles. Any time a US NTDP player puts up 74 points in 54 games on the Under 17 team, and has 17 goals and 54 points in 38 games with the Under 18 team, its going to make waves. The biggest knock on Bracco is his size, as he’s just 5’9″ and 172 lbs. For an undersized player to succeed in the NHL today, he must be a great skate, and Bracco meets that requirement. He is one of the fastest players in this draft class, and has outstanding acceleration, edgework, and agility. He also has great hands and this combined with his skating makes him extremely dangerous off the rush. He has very good vision and strong passing skills as well, making him an ideal playmaker. Bracco has a decent shot and good release, but sometimes seems a little too hesitant to shoot. Overall he must get stronger to win more battles on the boards, and to be able to succeed with his frame. He’s headed to Boston College in the fall.
24) Brandon Carlo, Defence, Tri-City Americans (6’5″ 185 lbs): At 6’5″ Carlo has the size that NHL teams covet on the blue line. Normally known as a shutdown defensive defenceman, Carlo has added some offensive punch with 21 points in 45 games this year. He has greatly improved his stickhandling, poise with the puck, and his passing skills. Carlo is now waiting an extra second with the puck on his stick and making the smart pass on the breakout or in the offensive zone, instead of looking to get it out of the zone, or dumping it into the corner. This added offense has really brought him up the draft rankings from where he sat early this year. Carlo has very good mobility for a big man, showing a good first step, solid acceleration, and a powerful skating stride. He is willing to play a physical game and finish his checks, but must add some muscle to play that game more effectively. He played for the U.S. Team at the World Junior Championships.
25) Jordan Greenway, Left Wing, US NTDP (6’5″ 225 lbs): Greenway is playing a top 6 powerforward role with the US NTDP this season. The massive winger has just 3 goals this year, though he does have a respectable 19 points in 26 games this year. He is committed to Boston University starting in the 2014-15 season. Greenway is a decent skater for his size. He is especially strong on his skates and shows excellent balance. Greenway creates offence by winning battles in the corners, forechecking hard, and creating havoc in front of the net. He has a very hard and accurate wrist shot. His release is decent, but could be improved. He does have soft hands and can make tips in the crease, or good passes to set up teammates. The combination of size and skill makes Greenway an intriguing prospect.
Stay tuned the rest of the week as we go through the rest of the top 30, and honourable mentions.
Have you tuned into Last Word On Sports Radio? LWOS is pleased to bring you 24/7 sports radio to your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. What are you waiting for?
Main Photo via Getty Images.