How good is Connor McDavid? He’s not draft eligible until 2015 and he’s already at the center of the prospect world. If he was available to NHL teams this summer, he very well could still go first overall. And he’s the No. 1 reason (Jack Eichel being No. 2) why the Islanders may be wise to give Buffalo their first round pick this year to consummate the Thomas Vanek trade, despite the fact it could be a top five selection, and not risk losing next year’s. The entire draft is supposed to be deep, but McDavid stands as the ultimate prize.
And it’s plays like these that draw comparisons between McDavid and Sidney Crosby or any other quick and elite NHL scorer. Read more
The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow, which means a flurry of future draft slots and prospects themselves will likely move around the league. Whether teams are more willing to give up first and second round picks for 2014 rather than 2015 (which is seen as a stronger draft headlined by Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) will be something to watch. In the meantime, watch out for these names – they could be coming to your favorite NHL team in a few years.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Gird yourself if Ehlers is coming down the wing against your favorite team anytime soon. The Danish phenom has put up back-to-back hat tricks, plus an assist in each of those contests, to push his points total to 91 with 43 goals through 57 games.
“It’s been a great season so far,” Ehlers said. “I definitely do not regret coming over and it’s not just the hockey, but the city of Halifax, too.”
Born in Denmark, Ehlers is the son of a hockey coach who moved the whole family to Switzerland when Nikolaj was 11 years old. That helped the burgeoning winger turn into the prospect he is today.
The first-ever Mike Richter Award will be given out to the top goalie in the NCAA this year and it’s a wide-open field of 18 candidates.
The creation of the award was officially announced last October by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation, but the field was narrowed down today. It will be presented at the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia, April 10-12.
The 18 candidates were nominated by the 59 coaches at the Div. 1 level of NCAA hockey. The finalists will be determined by a panel coaches, scouts and media.
Guidelines are more than just on-ice goaltending ability. Committee members are asked to consider the goalie’s academic standing, his academic achievement and sportsmanship and his involvement in the community.
Based on on-ice ability alone, two of the favorites have to be junior Ryan Faragher from St. Cloud State and sophomore Adam Wilcox from Minnesota. They’re currently one-two among goalies in fan balloting for the Hobey Baker Award – with 20,300 and 10,588 votes, respectively.
It was a slower month in terms of high-profile NCAA hockey commitments, but kids are still pledging their allegiances to schools for the future and those prospects could soon be coming to your favorite NHL team, courtesy the draft. Scouring the College Hockey Inc. commits page again, here are some of the names that stand out for me.
Tyler Sheehy, RW, University of Minnesota
A point-per-gamer for Waterloo, the best team in the United States League, Sheehy is a smaller (5-foot-9) forward who plays with a lot of grit and smarts. While his height might hurt his draft stock, the college game has proven to be a great training ground for shorter players such as Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau and Gopher Kyle Rau. Sheehy is draft eligible in 2014 and will join the Gophers next season.
Hard to believe how quickly this season is going, as the NCAA is almost entering the playoffs already. But before the college boys get at it, the prep ranks will gun for titles. As mentioned last week, the Minnesota high schoolers are in their sectional playoffs, while the New England prep schoolers kick things off this week. There’s a lot to cover before the NHL draft in Philadelphia, so let’s look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the pros one day.
Josh Jacobs, D – Indiana Ice (USHL)
Jacobs has all the attributes you could ask for in a modern-day defenseman. The kid is already 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, he plays at both ends of the rink and he can move.
“I think my skating is very good,” he said. “I have a big, long stride and I can switch up from backwards skating pretty quickly.”
When you hear about a prospect for a long time, two things can happen. The first is fatigue, where scouts begin to pick away at an otherwise excellent player because they’ve seen him so often. John Tavares suffered this fate thanks to his late birthday and early entry into the Ontario League, though he still went first overall to the New York Islanders. But keep in mind, there were rumblings just before the 2009 draft that Matt Duchene should have usurped him.
The second path is dogma. For example, Connor McDavid has to go first overall in 2015, right?
Kristers Gudlevskis stopped a jaw-dropping 55 Canadian shots in Latvia’s 2-1 defeat in the Olympic quarterfinal. His counterpart, Carey Price, called the effort “one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen.”
Not bad for a guy who started 2013-14 as a Florida Everblade. It sure seems like Gudlevskis came out of nowhere, but a closer look at his development suggests we’ll hear his name in the NHL one day – and that the Tampa Bay Lightning will have some tough decisions to make.
The Bolts took Gudlevskis, then 20 years old, 124th overall in last June’s draft. The 6-foot-4 netminder impressed in camp and started his pro career with Florida of the ECHL. A 1.83 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 11 appearances were enough to earn him a promotion to Syracuse of the American League.
To realize he’s just 21 today makes his folk-hero showing against Canada all-the-more impressive. At 21, he’s quite young for a goalie. Including two appearances with Dinamo Riga of the Kontinental League and his 22 AHL games, he already has 35 pro games scribbled onto his resume, not to mention “Team Canada onslaught.” It’s not insane to think a relative unknown, picked in the mid to late rounds of the draft, emerging from the ECHL, could make a big splash one day (read: Quick, Jonathan; Thomas, Tim).
While the Olympics get to the good stuff, playoffs are also coming up in the prospect ranks. First and foremost are the Minnesota high schoolers, who now know the brackets for the regionals and what hopefully will be a trip to St. Paul and the Xcel Center for the state final. Elsewhere, the first 12 of 16 teams in the Quebec League have clinched post-season berths, with Blainville-Boisbriand and Baie-Comeau duking it out for the top seed. With prospects in mind, let’s take a look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Anton Karlsson, LW – Mora (Swe.)
Karlsson is looking like one of those juniors who is just a little too good for the kid’s table, but can’t quite make an impact at the men’s level. The youngest player on Sweden’s silver-medal world junior team, he saw very little ice time by the end, but will be an important piece next year in Canada.
“I am a very physical player and I love to take the positive energy to my team,” he said. “I like my role in the game.”