We're back with some observations and analysis of the U.S. NTDP draft options in net and on defense based on the season to date and the most recent victory in the Five Nations Cup played in the Czech Republic last week. In case you missed it, the forwards were profiled here.
Here also is the link to the USA Hockey press release for the 5 Nations and Vlad Dzurilla (Under-17) tourney wins.
John Gibson, 6-3, 200 -- The top netminder available in the 2011 NHL Draft continued to justify that standing with scouts in this tourney. Gibson has excellent size and is extremely athletic, with all the quickness, flexibility and lateral agility NHL teams want to see at the position. He's the modern, prototypical butterfly netminder who is exceptionally adroit at taking away the lower portion of the net and takes up a large amount of the rest of the space, leaving shooters very small spaces to hit. What makes Gibson a cut above so many of his peers who possess similar physical attributes, however, is his calm, composure and ability to shrug off the pressure of big games and tight situations. Originally committed to Ohio State, Gibson shifted gears much to the chagrin (and ire) of Buckeye fans everywhere when he opted for arch rival Michigan instead.
Matt McNeely, 6-2, 205-- Minnesotan and Duluth Bulldogs recruit has some real long-term potential, but is nowhere near the refined and poised goalie his partner is at this stage. Resembles Gibson in the net with his size and stance. Not quite the athlete nor is he as poised and composed as his counterpart, but there is some upside here. Needs work on his technique and should end up being a mid-round pick from an NHL team that will give him all the time and patience to develop. He's done well in limited playing time at the NTDP and would be competing for the Frank Brimsek Award as Minnesota's top HS goalie (won last season by B's prospect Zane Gothberg) if not for being in Ann Arbor.
Robbie Russo, 5-11, 189 -- Some scouts are really high on the Illnois native, others not so much. Russo is a smallish, mobile puck mover who had some high expectations coming into the season but has been up-and-down for those who have seen him regularly. Pretty average skater given his sub-6-foot height, but manages to get the puck up the ice effectively enough. Committed to Notre Dame University. A bit overrated in some circles-- one of those players that you either really like or are pretty tepid on. Count this blog space in the latter group. Russo has some positive attributes, but he just seems like a reach where some scouting lists have him.
Mike Paliotta, 6-3, 196-- Big and mobile, Paliotta was the 32nd-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting in their mid-term list. Like Russo, scouts we've talked to are divided. Red Line Report had him in the first round of their rankings up until last month when they dropped him into the second. Much of that has to do with a lack of pure production from him, which given his skating and size, may mark him as more of a shutdown 'D' at the next level as opposed to the always in demand puck mover with upside. Bright, articulate and driven, Paliotta will take his game to the University of Vermont next season. One NHL scout who saw him in international play had some real questions about his vision and passing skills, noting that he misfired on what should have been some high percentage plays. Another scout noted that Paliotta has markedly improved from where he was a year ago and even earlier this season.
Connor Murphy, 6-3, 192-- Former Bruins defender and current Florida assistant coach Gord Murphy's son has been out most of the year with a bad back, but this kid is certainly intriguing for his size and skill mix. He moves well for a big guy, but like most tall, gangly types, needs to get better laterally and his high center of gravity is a bit of a disadvantage until he can get stronger in his lower body. He's not much of a puck mover, but owns a booming shot. He's not a high-upside kind of defender, but he's one of those players who could be a good value pick in the middle of the draft because of all the time he missed and develop into a legitimate prospect over the next few years. His durability is a bit of a concern, but shouldn't sink him too far. Will play at Miami University with Biggs next fall.
Joe Fiala, 6-1, 180-- No frills with this guy, just a solid, defense-first blue liner. Possesses the size to be a player at the next level, but isn't going to wow anyone with his hockey skills. Heady and tenacious: has that innate feel for where he's supposed to be in his own end and makes the simple, smart play. Good passer, though not a textbook puck-mover by today's definition. Needs to work on his shot and improve accuracy and release. Not the prettiest skater, but gets from A to B effectively enough and seems to be solid in just about every area. Could be one of those sleeper picks who doesn't have a high-round pedigree, but wills himself into being a player in the big show through sheer effort and dedication.
Jake McCabe, 6-0, 195-- Wisconsin native and Badgers recruit is coming on. Doesn't have great size, but plays a physical, banging style and seems to be pretty effective as a stay-at-home D. Don't have a lot of ink on him to date, so need to expand the viewing profile, but comes off as another solid, capable and hard-working kid who goes about his business with a minimum of fanfare. As a late '93, he is not eligible until 2012.
Barret Kaib, 5-9, 182-- Another big man trapped in a small man's body. Skates very well and plays a surprisingly physical style for someone of his size. It works for him at this level, but he's going to have durability issues as the competition gets bigger and stronger because he sticks his nose in and writes checks his body will have trouble cashing. He's a poor man's David Warsofsky; doesn't quite have the offensive skills of the BU standout, but is similar in terms of being a small defender who plays with a chip on his shoulder, as if he's gotten sick and tired of hearing everyone tell him he's too small to play defense. Unfortunately for Kaib, he lacks the elite skill level of a Ryan Murphy for example, to project him as an NHL defenseman down the road. Pennsylvanian is committed to Providence College and should thrive under Tim Army.
Andy Ryan, 6-1, 200-- Another defense-first, no-nonsense defenseman who has battled injuries this season and has a more limited viewing profile.
Matt Van Voorhis, 5-7, 162-- Explosive speed and whirling dervish player, but not much of an NHL prospect at this stage of things. Simply too small to be considered a legitimate draft option, but could work his way into the mix eventually as a free agent. May need a switch to forward to do so, however. Committed to University of Denver.