After Day 2, more than 50 American players were selected in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. So many quality players heard their names called over the course of two days in Pittsburgh and there were even a few that didn’t, but all-in-all it was another strong draft for American hockey and its future.
There was also a wide variety of developmental backgrounds from which players were selected. The Draft is always a pretty interesting referendum on where players are getting seen and how they are being valued. It’s not a perfect capsule, but it’s at least a good indicator.
fourfive Americans were selected in the NHL Draft, 14 of which were taken within the first two rounds (six in first, eight in second). That’s up six players from 2011. Twenty four of the NHL’s 30 teams drafted at least one American player, with Washington leading the way with four U.S. selections.
Coming up after the jump, a look at all players taken in the second round and some of the interesting mid- and late-round selections from Saturday.
Note: Some links are repeated within each player capsule, in case you want to skip around to your teams’ new prospect.
Second Round Recap
F Nic Kerdiles — 36th overall, Anaheim Ducks — Kerdiles was a player that was on the bubble for many to be a first-round selection, so Anaheim getting him at 36 gives them a pretty good value pick. I had him slotted as my No. 5 American prospect. Kerdiles was a standout at the World Under-18 Championship, leading Team USA with nine points including a two-goal, three assist performance in the blowout win against Sweden in the gold-medal game. He’s headed to Wisconsin next year where he can continue to build strength and a little more edge to his game. He has the ability to be a really strong two-way forward at the next level.
D Dylan Blujus — 40th overall, Tampa Bay Lightning — I had Blujus slotted as the No. 14 American prospect in the Draft, but was not at all surprised to see him go in the first half of the second round. He’s a big bodied defenseman that has some athleticism and offensive upside. He’s still a bit of a raw prospect as there are questions surrounding his hockey sense, but the physical tools give Tampa something to work with. Nothing wrong with grabbing a big guy that can skate.
D Patrick Sieloff — 42nd overall, Calgary Flames — Sieloff was my No. 7 U.S. prospect and a lot of that had to do with the toughness he brings. Teams are going to love a defenseman who plays mean, engages physically and has some good defensive abilities to back it up. He does things like this often (VIDEO). Sieloff is a steady presence and was one of the leaders on the U.S. U18 last year. He’s a great character kid that can be brought along at any pace, and he should rise to the challenge.
D Jake McCabe — 44th overall, Buffalo Sabres — McCabe has come so far in his development over the last three years and I’m guessing the Sabres had a good handle on that. Buffalo’s AHL coach is Ron Rolston, who was McCabe’s coach at the NTDP. This guy came a long way under the guidance of Rolston and his assistant coach Chadd Cassidy (also with the Amerks). McCabe was my No. 9-rated American for the Draft. His offensive game has improved, to go along with an already steady defensive mindset. He can play physical brand of hockey, but is responsible about it. He can get a little better with his feet, but like most of his game, that has come a long way too.
G Anthony Stolarz — 45th overall, Philadelphia Flyers — One of the great stories in this Draft, Stolarz was actually cut from a team in the EJHL before the season started. All he did was go to the North American Hockey League and turn himself into one of the more intriguing goalie prospects in hockey this year. The big-bodied netminder is raw, but has the athleticism to get to a good place with his game according to USA Hockey’s national goaltending coach Mike Ayers. It might have been a slight reach by Philadelphia, but this is a kid who has had very little formal training. With more focus on technique and fundamentals, he could be a great find for Paul Holmgren.
F Brian Hart — 53rd overall, Tampa Bay Lightning — The Lightning grabbed their second American of the second round when Steve Yzerman tabbed Hart. Had him listed as my No. 12 American prospect and I think he’s got a lot of great development ahead of him. At 6-3, 203, Hart has quite a bit of offensive ability. Putting on some more strength at Harvard over the next few years could go a long way to making this kid a potential steal for TB.
F Samuel Kurker — 56th overall, St. Louis Blues — I think the Blues will be happy that Kurker fell to them at 56. He’s another guy with a good frame at 6-2, 201 and just needs some of that added edge to his game to take it to the next level. He’s headed to BU next year where he will get worked hard and challenged daily. This should be a great find for the Blues, as a lot of scouts have been high on Kurker after his performance in the prep ranks this year. A couple more years of solid development will go a long way for the player I had listed as the No. 15 American prospect.
F Boo Nieves — 59th overall, New York Rangers — The Blueshirts might have been a little surprised to see Nieves there at the end of the second round. Some projections had him as a potential first-round guy. I listed him as the No. 11 American prospect. Concerns about him possibly playing too much on the perimiter for a guy his size might have scared a few teams away, but the Rangers will be banking on his offensive tools like his puck handling and speed to be the building blocks of his potential. The Syracuse native is going to get some really solid development time at the University of Michigan and if he can reach his stunningly high ceiling, this might be a pick we talk about for some time. Oh, yeah, he also did this at the Ivan Hlinka in August… against Russia:
Other Interesting Picks
Definitely liked seeing Jimmy Vesey go early in the third round (66th overall to Nashville). I had him as my No. 13 American prospect due to his immense production in the EJHL this year and his offensive upside at 6-1, 194. He has a lot of room to fill out and if he brings strength to his offensive game, he’s going to be a potential top-six guy one day.
Mackenzie MacEachern played in the little-scouted Michigan high school ranks last year and managed to be the 67th pick overall. He’s 6-2, 180 and I know Red Line Report was high on him as a high-value sleeper. He’s a Michigan State commit.
Philadelphia didn’t sleep on my favorite sleeper of this whole draft by nabbing Shayne Gostisbehere at No. 78. The offensive instincts and hockey sense he showed at Union this year were pretty impressive. He needs to get much stronger to become an NHL defenseman, but he’s a great project for Philly to get their hands on.
Boston pulled a bit of a surprise when it took the undersized Matt Grzelcyk 85th overall. The Charlestown, Mass., native has been a favorite on this blog for some time. He has elite hockey sense and could be one of the more skilled defenders that no one was talking about. Central Scouting didn’t even bother ranking Grzelcyk in their mid-term. Boston might have reached, but it is a calculated reach.
Brady Vail going to Montreal in the fourth round was pretty fortuitous for the Habs. He’s such a terrific defensive forward that was able to shut down guys like Nail Yakupov throughout the year. Concerns about offensive upside were likely to blame for Vail’s tumble after being ranked fairly highly. I had him as the No. 10 American prospect.
I thought Washington’s selection of Thomas Di Pauli at No. 100 was a pretty nice value pick as well. His puck possession skills are pretty nice to get in that range. The Caps took four players with ties to the NTDP in rounds four, five and six including Austin Wuthrich, Connor Carrick and Riley Barber.
After watching Shattuck teammates Teddy Bleuger and John Draeger go before him, Zach Stepan was selected by the Predators at 112. He was a pretty hot name coming into the Draft. He’ll be headed to the Waterloo Black Hawks next year before heading to Ohio State.
Toronto was the first team to select a player out of the Minnesota high school ranks by grabbing Duluth East’s Dom Toninato at No. 126. It’s a pretty long wait for a Minnesota high schooler to go. Longer than I can remember. He had 73 points for the Dutchmen last year and will be headed to the Fargo Force before heading to Minnesota Duluth.
I was somewhat surprised to see Brian Cooper and Logan Nelson go as low as they did. Nelson more so, after he became a bit of a late riser this year with a great rookie campaign in the WHL. Cooper came into the year with high expectations, but the lack of offense might be a concern at his size. He could prove a lot of people wrong one day with his work ethic and a few years back with former Fargo head coach Dean Blais.
Connor Hellebuyck went to Winnipeg at 130. He was the second player out of the NAHL to get picked after Anthony Stolarz and that’s a huge accomplishment for a league that has seen it’s draft numbers dwindle down to nothing the last few years. Hellebuyck is headed to UMass-Lowell next year and Mike Ayers told me he thinks the big goalie could be a dominant force in college hockey.
Carolina got a nice pick in Collin Olson at No. 159. The goaltender rose up Draft charts after his directorate-award-winning performance at the World Under-18 Championship. He’s headed to Ohio State where he’ll be reunited with former NTDP goalie coach Joe Exter who helped turn Jack Campbell and John Gibson into elite goaltending prospects after a big year of growth with Mike Ayers. This kid will continually get better.
Cornell defenseman Joakim Ryan took a gigantic step forward in his development in his freshman season after not getting drafted this year. The Sharks sneakily picked him up at 198th. He played top-pairing minutes at various points this season for Cornell and is a candidate for the U.S. National Junior Team. His best hockey is well ahead of him.
Nick Ebert at one point was tabbed as a surefire top-10 pick in this Draft, some even believed top-five. At 211th, he was the last player taken in the NHL Entry Draft. It might be one of the biggest drops from pre-season to the actual Draft, but in the end the Kings get a player that has plenty of development ahead. His rookie numbers were big while playing with All-World defenseman Ryan Ellis. Without Ellis, he was less-than-stellar, but still showed signs of the upside he looked to have last year. Ebert has offensive tools and this could be the wake-up call he needs to turn around his development trajectory.
There were a lot of great players selected, but here are a few who weren’t that surprised me a little bit:
G Michael Houser — Houser was the OHL’s player of the year and in his third and final year of Draft-eligibility. Many believed his historic OHL campaign would get him picked, but it was not to be. He can now sign as a free agent and I am certain there’s a team out there willing to give him a shot.
F Austin Czarnik — The second-year eligible forward from Miami has a lot of puck skills and speed and I thought despite his size he would get a shot. No team came calling, but he’ll be playing a substantial role at Miami this year and could be a guy teams regret having to pick more expensively as a college free agent.
F Frankie Vatrano — The forward with a bomb of a shot and sneaky speed was thought to be a potential mid-round guy, but no one bit. That might have to do with Vatrano’s conditioning, but he has some serious natural goal-scoring ability that could be put on display this year at BC. He could find himself selected in next year’s Draft.
D Max Iafrate — The son of the greatest skullet in pro hockey didn’t hear his name called and I was surprised to see it. He took a big step forward developmentally in Kitchener, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Apparently there was too much for NHL teams to take a chance.
F Quentin Shore — This one really surprised me. The third Shore brother eligible in the last four years, I thought for sure Quentin was going to get a long look. He has some nice goal-scoring ability and is a dependable two-way center. He had a really nice World U18 Championship and looked like he had the size to make it. He’ll have to do some things at Denver next year while playing with brother Nick to shoot for eligibility in his second year.
All-in-all, USA Hockey should all be really pleased with how this Draft went. With over a quarter of the players selected this year baring U.S. nationality, that’s a positive step forward for all involved from the grassroots youth hockey organizations they started at to the teams they were selected from.
It’s a great day for American hockey.