The season has ended for many draft-eligible prospects. All, but a few American draft prospects in the NCAA has seen his season come to a close. Meanwhile, the USHL’s regular season is just about to wrap up and the playoff race is already up and running across the Canadian Hockey League. Lastly, we’re just a few short weeks away from one of the most important international events for draft eligible players, the IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
Today, we’ll take a look at the NCAA prospects that will now turn their focus to off-ice strength training, as their season has ended. We’ll also take a quick look at a few NCAA players that can up their draft stock at the Frozen Four. As usual, we’ve got some links to prospect news and features. All that and more after the jump…
With the NCAA regionals now over and the Frozen Four looming, it was the end of the road for a few prospects that had really put themselves in a good position for the 2011 NHL Draft.
Coming into the tournament, the highest-rated draft-eligible prospect playing was Denver’s Nick Shore. I only was able to catch a few glimpses of Shore during tournament play, but what I did see I liked. It’s no secret that Shore is versatile offensively. He’s solid in the face-off circle and distributes the puck really well.
Another attractive thing about Shore was the way he was utilized. Even though he’s a freshman, the DU coaching staff had faith in the forward to use him in a variety of situations and he saw some good minutes on the power play.
He proved that his early-season injury had not slowed him or his development down a bit. His 18 points in 33 games are low, but considering what I saw over the weekend, he looks poised to have a breakout sophomore season, just as his older brother Drew did for the Pioneers this season.
I think we’ll see both Shore brothers in an NHL rink in the not so distant future. Like brother Drew, it appears Nick will be found somewhere in the mid-second round range.
Chase Balisy had a bit of a quiet tournament, as his Western Michigan Broncos fell to Shore’s Denver Pioneers in double-overtime in first-round action. In 42 games this season, Balisy posted 30 points (12g-18a). While strength and speed will be the deficiencies everyone will see in his game, he’s improved in both categories this season. Additionally, his hockey IQ and vision on the ice remain above-average assets.
Like Shore, Balisy can be and was used in a variety of situations by WMU head coach Jeff Blashill. I only see his game continuing to grow under Blashill, and as Balisy is asked to take on more responsibility, the better he’ll get. I believe that someone will take a late-round chance on Balisy, but if not… being a college free agent isn’t so bad, right Stephane Da Costa?
While the seasons for Shore and Balisy are over, T.J. Tynan and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are bound for the Frozen Four.
Averaging over a point-per-game for a Frozen Four-bound team as a freshman is a feather in Tynan’s cap. He’s been a big part of the success of the Irish and that’s a big boost to his draft status. Putting up 53 points (22g-31a) in 43 games is pretty impressive.
I tried to watch Tynan as closely as I could, particularly in the UNH game. Tynan has two strikes against him from scouts. The first being his size (5’8″, 156). The second is his skating. You can’t be little and slow. Now I wouldn’t call Tynan slow, but I would call his stride ugly. That said, he still gets to where he needs to be. Clearly scoring 22 goals in college hockey is evidence of that. In the UNH game, I didn’t see Tynan as the perimeter player he was thought to be. He was engaged in the forecheck, hustled back into his own zone, and made plays. He wasn’t a huge factor in the game, though, either.
Like Balisy, I feel like Tynan’s worth a late-round pick. He’s had two years of heavy offensive production and looks to only get better under the watchful eye of Jeff Jackson. I think it’s better to draft him now and let him develop for a few years, rather than having to pay a heftier price in free agency. Just a thought. He’s a risky pick, but in the sixth or seventh round, aren’t most?
Another player, whom I have not mentioned on this blog, but is also in his second year of draft eligibility is Michigan’s Kevin Clare. The freshman, and former National Team Development Program defenseman, has appeared in only 16 games this year, posting just two assists, but a plus-12 rating. Clare has been earning extra ice time, of late, in the absence of Michigan junior Brandon Burlon. In the regionals, Clare finished the weekend with an assist and a plus-1 rating as the Wolverines punched their ticket for the Frozen Four.
Burlon, who has lost 17 pounds due to illness, could be well enough to play in the Frozen Four. Should the junior not be ready to go, Clare has been solid in relief and could have one last push to earn draft consideration.
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Clare is a strong kid. At the NTDP he played with a mean streak and wasn’t afraid to scrap for his teammates. However, he ended up getting sent down to the Under-17 team towards the end of his U18 season, which pretty much dashed Clare’s draft hopes.
Despite not seeing a ton of game action at Michigan, Clare has made the most of his recent opportunities in helping Michigan advance to the Frozen Four. He’s a decent puck mover, and has a pretty good shot, though he’s at his best when he’s providing a physical presence in the corners and in front of his own net. There might not be enough of a sample size for scouts to judge the defensive defenseman, but he’s at least a name to know for the future, if he’s not worth a late-round flyer.
Now, it’s time for your links:
Ryan S. Clark, of the constantly good Slightly Chilled, ranked college hockey’s best recruiting classes based on the next two years of recruits. There’s plenty of 2011 and 2012 draft eligibles among the team’s he listed. Rankings like these are brave, so I give Ryan a lot of credit for putting this out there. It’s definitely worth a look.
Mike Morreale of NHL.com has added to his absolutely tremendous prospect coverage with a feature on Tyler Biggs. Morreale touched on Biggs’s leadership style as the captain of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. The big forward also sounds like he’s pretty dead set on attending Miami University despite overtures from the OHL (his rights are owned by Oshawa).
Becky Olsen does a fantastic job with the National Team Development Program features for USAHockey.com and this week sat down with top-ranked goalie John Gibson. The big netminder talked about the importance of working with goaltending coach Joe Exter and having his sights set on the World Under-18 Championship coming up April 12. Make sure to check out more of Becky’s stories here.
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald’s Jim Leitner (one of the finest journalists covering junior hockey, I might add), has a look at diminutive sniper John Gaudreau, of the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The small forward is having a standout year, which led Northeastern University’s coaching staff to offer Gaudreau a spot with the Huskies a year earlier than expected. (Story link via USHL.com.)
Editorial Note: I am told to expect an announcement regarding the roster for the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team that will compete at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship later this week. When the roster is made available, I will have a complete player-by-player breakdown similar to what I did for the U.S. National Junior Team roster. For you draft fans, the vast majority of players on that team will be 2011 Draft eligible. Stay tuned for that.