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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Central Scouting Watch List: NCAA

Because this blog still waiting to hear from a couple of key sources, we're going to hold off on the OHL and WHL Central Scouting rankings analysis and jump to the NCAA. We won't cover all the ground out there, but will hit the highlights in hopes of filling in the blanks later.

Starting in the Hockey East, there are three 'A' players Central has identified, two of whom come from a rapidly rising Boston University program, just two years removed from a national championship (and oh what a glorious game that was to see live but I digress).

Defenseman Adam Clendening is a New Yorker and U.S. NTDP product who is one of the best puck-moving defensemen available in the entire draft, not to mention the NCAA ranks. As an Oct. '92 birthdate, he just missed out on the 2010 NHL draft, but is in a good situation on Commonwealth Ave. playing for legendary coach Jack Parker. Not big at 5-11, 187 pounds, Clendening is a very good skater with the vision and instincts to ignite the transition and attack. As a member of Team USA's dominant, suffocating defense in last spring's Under-18 gold medal squad, he's seen international competition at the highest level among his peers and acquitted himself extremely well in that tourney. With five assists in 10 games with the Terriers, he's been steady as she goes as a freshman and better things are in store.

"You can see that he oozes hockey sense," one NHL scout who saw Clendening in Belarus last spring said. "He's a bright, cerebral player who can dissect opposing defenses and get pucks out of his zone quickly."

Clendening's teammate, Matt Nieto, is another player to watch. The speedy, explosive forward can pile up the points, but the offense is yet to come for him at BU (1 goal, 2 points in 10 contests). Another late '92, Nieto has a significant amount of potential but may be a longer-term kind of project who will need at least three years in the NCAA followed by a minors stint before he's ready for the NHL grind.

"Nieto was one of the more dynamic American forwards coming out of Ann Arbor," the scout said. "He's got to watch the compete levels and consistency, but when he's on his game, he can skate with anyone and score goals at will. Very talented guy with upside."

Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak rounds out the HE watch list. The Ontario native and USHL product is raw, but at 6-7 and 244-pounds is a physical beast who will get picked just for his size from the looks of it. Where he goes in the draft, however, will depend on his play for the Huskies this season. His mobility is surprisingly good for a big man, although he does need to improve his agility and pivots/turns. But as far as straight-line speed goes, that long, powerful stride of his covers a lot of ice quickly. There isn't much offensive upside with Oleksiak-- he scored just two goals in 82 USHL games over three seasons with the Chicago Steel and Sioux Falls Stampede, and in 10 NCAA games he's posted a 1-1-2 line. But, if he can be that shutdown guy with a condor wingspan and an edge to his game (a work in progress), he'll go in the top-three rounds.

UMass-Amherst forward Mike Pereira is on the 'B' list for the HE-- and to be frank, B2011DW was stunned that the explosive winger who carried the Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers on his back to the 2010 prep championship was not picked in the NHL draft last June. He's not big, but his wheels are high-end, and he's as opportunistic a scorer as you will find. With five goals in his first eight games for the Minutemen, I think some NHL team will realize its mistake and snap him up come June. BU forward Sahir Gill and Nick Sorkin are on the 'C' list and were also passed over in previous drafts. Gill's hot start could get him a look. Sorkin, who played high school hockey in Silver Spring, Md. before going to the USHL for a tuneup and is now at UNH, is tall and raw. Look for him to go the free agency route when his NCAA career is done.

In the ECAC, RPI defender Pat Koudys is listed as a 'B' player, but with his size and mobility, he could end up going higher than people are projecting. The ECAC has fallen on hard times in terms of where NHL teams view players coming out of that league given competition and games played, but Koudys comes out of the OJHL with top defenseman accolades and at 6-4, 195, will play at around 220-230 pounds when he reaches his physical peak. He's not managed a point in eight NCAA games, but with his skill set, he should get on the board soon.

Jumping out to the WCHA, there are four 'A' players, three of whom we'll discuss briefly.

Denver University's Nick Shore is flying under the radar in most public draft discussions these days, but we're hearing that NHL teams are onto the skilled, intelligent NTDP product.
Red Line Report scout Max Giese said before the season that he saw Shore as a first-round player with the talent, work ethic and two-way game to break into the top-30 over bigger, more widely-known names. Shore is just getting back from being on the injury report, (3-0-0), but watch for him to boost his stock as the Pioneers' season gets rolling. Even if he doesn't get intot he 1st, its hard to imagine he'll drop far into the 2nd round of the draft because of his versatility and value.

University of Wisconisn forward Michael Mersch's stock is also on the up and up.

"Mersch is just getting better and better and is now on the Badgers' first powerplay unit as its' net presence," Giese said via email recently. "He doesn't even shave yet and he's already a broad, thick kid and will get bigger. His nose for the net and soft hands are what endears him most to NHL guys, but he gets underrated as a set-up man."

Mersch doesn't get much pub as a legitimate top-30 draft candidate, and is more likely to fall into the bottom half of the second round. But, if you put faith in that view, the team who gets him might be getting a steal.

On the downside and disappointing to hear, is Giese's assessment of Dillon Simpson, who was recently pegged on this blog as a potential first-round pick for the Bruins in a mock draft.

"He's a smart player defensively, rarely out of position; but he's a pretty bad skater and he doesn't have any poise moving the puck," Giese said. "He's a slushy skater with a short and sluggish stride. His hands are stiff, he struggles to put passes on the tape and he always hurries to get the puck off of his stick. He's getting the ice time right now because of North Dakota's injuries."

As for the CCHA, apologies. This blog space does not know enough about Kevin Clare, Jacob Fallon, (both with University of Michigan), Thomas Tynan (Notre Dame) and the rest of the 'C' players on that list. I will get updates on them as the season goes on.


  1. i've seen all of bu's home games and i've liked what i've seen from clendening as a puck-moving d-man. however, at least once a game he'll make a bad turnover trying rely on his skill to take the puck out of his own end. and his defensive positioning has been "colby cohen-esque" at best. would you attribute these qualities to youth and making the adjustment to the college level? i have to admit i was a bit surprised when i scrolled through tsn's 2011 draft rankings and saw they had him listed as the 7th best draft prospect.
    overall, i can see he definitely has potential. he carries himself with a swagger that can't be taught (after-the-whistle scuffles with maine, merrimack) and makes tape to tape passes out of his zone better than gilroy, shattenkirk, or cohen did, and they're all in the nhl.

  2. I think you nailed it-- he's in his first year of competition in one of the NCAA's best conferences, so there are bound to be mistakes along the way. Thing I look at most is-- are the mistakes being made things that he can learn from, and based on what I've seen the answer is yes. If a player does not have the natural feel for the game or the vision to make the first pass or distribute the puck on the power play, then he'll *always* be limited even if he possesses excellent hockey skills because the intangibles are still an important part of the package. Clendening has that natural offensive hockey sense and he's a smart player.

    His size is what is keeping him from being a top-five candidate. If he were about three or four inches taller, he'd be right up there in draft talks with Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier. Yes, I believe he's that good-- I saw that last spring in the Under-18 championships. He was a standout on a very good USA defense.

    Thanks for the feedback-- sometimes I wonder if this blog is just an echo chamber for my bloviations. I'm glad folks are reading...lol