After detailing the top eight of the American class, it’s time to look at the guys who won’t be making the first round, but are still a big part of this U.S.-based draft class.
Like many years before, there should be a large number of Americans selected throughout the middle and late rounds. In each of the last several years, no less than 50 Americans have been selected in the draft, often making up more than 20 percent of the players selected.
There are going to be some really solid prospects available in the middle rounds that could make some noise over the course of their careers.
Coming up after the jump a look at the remainder of the top 15 American prospects, some honorable mentions and a quick look at some sleepers to know.
9. Justin Bailey (Williamsville, N.Y.) — RW — Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
A highly intriguing prospect, Bailey has great size and a good base of skills that could land him in the second round of the draft. In his first season of junior hockey after competing for the Long Island Royals AAA program, Bailey handled the transition extremely well, putting up 36 points in 57 games.
The former Michigan State commit had to shake off some early season injuries, but his game continually improved as the season went on. He has a long way to go in his development to reach his full potential, but the upside for him is really exciting. At 6-3, 186, he can add some strength and potential develop into a top-six style forward with good puck skills and an ability to get to the net.
Stats: 57 GP, 17-19–36, 34 PIM
Projected range: Mid-second to early-third round
10. Jimmy Lodge (West Chester, Pa.) — C — Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Lodge took a gigantic leap forward in his development this season and had the numbers to show for it. As a result, his draft stock has been soaring in the second half of the season.
He’ll need to add strength to his game, but Lodge has strong puck skills and creativity with the puck on his stick. He went from 12 points in 45 games last season to 67 in 64 games. That jump in production may be more tied to how differently he was able to be used in Saginaw this year, but he certainly earned his points.
Lodge is a fairly good skater and seems to have a good offensive sense. I think he’d be a selection that would carry some moderate risk, but his puck skills are worth taking a chance on.
Stats: 64 GP, 28-29–67, 28 PIM
Projected range: Late-second, early-third round.
11. Tommy Vannelli (Minneapolis, Minn.) — C — Minnetonka H.S. (MN-HS)
With loads of potential, Vannelli is one of those guys teams might be tempted to take a little earlier than expected. Currently a wiry, 6-2, 165, Vannelli has a frame he needs to grow into a bit more, but his skills are really attractive.
Vannelli has some excellent offensive ability that is highlighted by creative puck skills and good skating. He is a terrific distributor and has good vision, but needs quite a bit of work defensively. Some of his decision-making and physical play is lacking, but Vannelli’s offensive capabilities allude to potential for future success.
Vannelli starred at the Minnesota high school level and later joined the NTDP’s U.S. National Under-18 Team, even earning a spot at the World Under-18 Championship. He really grew a lot over those few weeks of the tournament, which was interesting to see.
He’s headed to Minnesota next year, which should help foster his offensive skills. Vannelli needs a lot of rounding out and will take some patience on behalf of the team that drafts him, but if he ever reaches his ceiling, he could be a home-run pick in the second round.
Stats: 25 GP, 8-23–31, 14 PIM
Projected range: Early-second to Early-third
12. Connor Hurley (Eagan, Minn.) — C — Edina H.S. (MN-HS)
Hurley had a whirlwind season, having played on four different teams between his Minnesota elite league squad, Edina High School, the U.S. National Under-18 Team and Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Hurley’s draft stock is trending down a little bit as playing in junior late in the year may have shown a few more of the cracks in his game, but he still has plenty of development ahead of him.
A strong two-way center who has good offensive skills and solid skating, Hurley has some obvious upside due to some solid hockey sense. He’ll need some work and I believe Hurley will end up playing in the USHL full time next season before heading to Notre Dame.
I like the base skills in his game and expect him to continually grow as a player. He should be a solid prospect for whoever nabs him.
H.S. Stats: 25 GP, 15-28–43, 8 PIM
Projected range: Late-second, mid-third
13. John Hayden (Greenwich, Conn.) — RW — U.S. National Under-18 Team (USHL)
With pro-level size and strength already, Hayden looks like he belongs in the NHL. If his game continues progressing as it has, he’ll get there.
Hayden is 6-2, 220 and he uses every bit of it to get to the hard areas of the ice and attempt to create offense. He has a workmanlike approach to the game, which makes him a factor at both ends of the ice and really difficult to play against. Hayden can deliver punishing checks and isn’t one to shy away from the tougher elements of the game.
He skates well for a man at his size and can take care of his responsibilities in the defensive zone. I’m not convinced he has the offensive upside to be a top-six power forward at the next level, but he could thrive in an energy role and contribute enough offensively.
Hayden missed a fair amount of his season while recovering from an injury, so what he was able to accomplish in the latter half of the year is really intriguing and a big reason he shot up a lot of draft charts. He is headed to Yale next season after ignoring overtures from the Halifax Moosheads of the QMJHL.
Stats: 45 GP, 15-14–29, 74 PIM
Projected Range: Late-second to late-third
14. Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y.) — D — Univ. of New Haprshire (HEA)
I had a hard time ranking Pesce as every time I saw him this year, I’ve really liked the way he’s played. As a true defensive defenseman, it’s tough to project how his game would translate at the NHL level.
Pesce handled the jump from the EJHL to college hockey expertly this year and showed he’s got a lot of good years ahead of him. The fact that there’s little, to no offensive upside, I think is why I’ve got Pesce lower than some others. I still believe he has the potential to be a second-round pick, but it will be interesting to find out where he really ends up.
At 6-3, 170, he has room to grow and probably will do so in college hockey. Considering how big of a role he played at UNH this year, he should be getting a lot of really tough assignments for the Wildcats over the next few years which bodes really well for his development.
Stats: 38 GP, 1-5–6, 10 PIM
Projected range: Early third.
15. Tyler Motte (St. Clair, Mich.) — C/W — U.S. National Under-18 Team (USHL)
Underrated because of his size, Motte is a really interesting prospect that could bring teams a lot of value as a mid-round pick. While he has no standout tool, Motte does just about everything well from scoring goals to killing penalties.
At 5-10, 175, Motte is small by NHL standards, but he plays with such competitiveness and tenacity, the size issue becomes so much less of a concern. Additionally, Motte has strong puck skills with an ability to get around defenders well. It also helps that he is a strong skater, who can play the game at a very high speed.
Despite the size issue, Motte is tremendous defensively as evidenced by his play at the World Under-18 Championship. From back-checking to blocking shots, Motte stays engaged in all aspects of the defensive game.
He’s headed to the University of Michigan next year, which has had no trouble churning out strong NHL prospects. Motte should jump right into the lineup and contribute.
Stats: 57 GP, 21-16–37, 40 PIM
Projected range: Mid-third, early-fourth round.
Michael Downing — D — Dubuque Fighting Saints: After a strong second half of the season, Downing got back into the good graces of scouts. He came into the season with high expectations, but took a while to really get going. Downing can afford to build strength and increase his physical play, but he has a lot of upside as a strong defender with puck-moving potential. He had 20 assists for the Clark Cup champions this year.
Ryan Fitzgerald — C — Valley Jr. Warriors: The son of Tom Fitzgerald, Ryan has some quality offensive skills that should help him develop into a strong playmaking forward. The Boston College commit didn’t quite dominate the EJHL at the level he was expected to, which is why his stock has been falling of late, but there’s some really good potential for a smaller player.
Keaton Thompson — D — U.S. National Under-18 Team: Though his stock has really tumbled over the course of the season, Thompson has some serious puck-moving upside and plays quality defense. He needs to become a little more confident with the puck on his stick and make better decisions, but he should do a nice job of rounding out his game at the University of North Dakota starting next fall.
Zach Sanford — LW — Middlesex Islanders: At 6-3, 168, scouts are really liking Sanford’s upside. He had a solid year in the EJHL with 36 points, but looks more like a long-term project for whichever team drafts him.
Will Butcher — D — U.S. National Under-18 Team: Butcher is a high-level offensive defenseman, who distributes the puck well and has a nice, accurate shot from the point. His size will limit his draft stock, but the puck skills he possesses increase his potential. Butcher needs to work on some of his decisionmaking, but he is really sound in his own end for an undersized defenseman.
Eamon McAdam — G — Waterloo Black Hawks: Though this year’s crop of goalies is very deep, most of the Americans might be selected in the later rounds. McAdam is almost sure to be one of them. He has good size at 6-2, 185 and strong technique, he should be one of the first American netminders off the board. His sup .900 save percentage on one of the USHL’s best teams could bump him down further than previously expected however. McAdam is one of Penn State’s most notable recruits heading into the first season of the Big Ten.
Evan Cowley — G — Wichita Falls Wildcats: For the second straight year, the most intriguing American goalie prospect will be coming out of the North American league. I’ve seen some scouting services suggest Cowley could go as high as the late second round, though I think that may be a bit optimistic. He’s 6-4, 182, so has the size teams covet and he has some really raw skills. He needs a lot of development time, but he made 50 appearances this year, which is a great head start.
Brendan Burke — G — Portland Winterhawks: The run on goalies continues. Though not the primary starter for his team next year, Burke had a good showing in 30-plus appearances for Portland. The son of one of the NHL’s most respected goalie gurus, Sean Burke, may boost his stock a little higher as well. He’s 6-3, 176 and had a .908 save percentage.
Gustav Olofsson — D — Green Bay: OK, so Olofsson isn’t American, but he did play in the USHL this year and I think he may end up being one of the better USHLers to come out of this draft long term. He’s 6-2, 185, and performed very well in his rookie season with the Gamblers. The big Swede has a ton of tools and terrific mobility. He could go as early as the second round.
Jake Guentzel — C — Sioux City Musketeers: Some players really struggle with the jump from high school hockey to the USHL. Not Guentzel, who posted a stunning 73 points en route to rookie of the year honors. He’s undersized, but has shown a high skill level and nose for the net. He should find himself picked.
Sleepers to Watch:
These players aren’t generating a lot of upper-round draft love, but they could be excellent value picks in the latter half of the draft…
Andrew Copp — C — Univ. of Michigan: Passed over in the last draft unsurprisingly, Copp really turned things up in his freshman season at Michigan. This is the first year he’s been a hockey player full-time after a tremendous high school football career that earned him offers from Division I schools as a quarterback. He had 21 points as a freshman at Michigan and grew a bit as well, now listed at 6-1, 203. He really showed in the second half of the season what he can do and the best is definitely yet to come.
Taylor Cammarata — LW — Waterloo Black Hawks: At 5-7, 165, it’s going to be tough for Cammarata to earn an early-round draft nod, but his 93 points in the USHL season won’t be ignored. He needs to work on his skating and aggresiveness, but Cammarata has a nose for offense and scoring at such a high clip at his size is eye-opening.
Teemu Kivihalme — D — Burnsville H.S.: The American Finn is an interesting prospect, who has shown a knack for offensive play and an ability to move the puck extremely well. His size is a moderate concern for a defenseman, but as he continues to add strength, Kivihalme could round out into a really solid offensive defenseman.
Aidan Muir — LW — Victory Honda AAA: It is very rare that a player out of the midget hockey ranks earns a draft selection, but Muir seems likely to do so. At 6-3, 182, he is only beginning to realize his potential. He’s likely headed to the USHL next year before joining Western Michigan in the spring of 2014. Muir is a dual U.S./Canadian citizen.
Anthony Louis — LW — U.S. National Under-18 Team: Another diminutive forward, Louis has some shifty skills and terrific vision. He had 43 points this year in a slate that included USHL, NCAA and international teams. His tenacity and willingness to go to the tough areas of the ice make him more effective for a small player. He could be worth a late-round stab.
I’ll be handling all of the NHL Draft coverage over at CBSSports.com’s Eye on Hockey blog all day Sunday, so be sure to stop by here.