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Friday, September 10, 2010

USHL Sleepers Alert: Brendan Woods, Casey Thrush

Two '92 birthdates who were passed over in the 2010 NHL Draft, but who just might hear their names called in Minnesota if they have the kind of seasons they're capable of are a pair of USHL forwards in Brendan Woods and Casey Thrush.

For Chicago Steel winger Woods, it was mostly a lost season because of broken femur that cost him half the year. At 6-2, 195 pounds, he has the kind of size NHL teams are always looking for. Although not an outstanding skater, he generates power in his lower leg drive and can get where he needs to go. He finished the 09-10 campaign strong, but was unable to do enough to earn a draft call from any of the NHL's 30 teams. The guess here is twice-snubbed guys like Craig Cunningham and Justin Florek can get picked in the middle rounds by the B's, then a player like Woods has more than a fighting chance so long as he can stay healthy and productive.

"I thought Woods was one of the better forwards in the USHL at the end of last season," Red Line Report's Max Giese said recently. "If he can play a full season and build on last year, then I think he'll get drafted in June."

Thrush is a little different story. One of two players I actually scouted in the Washington D.C. region last season (Washington Jr. Nationals forward David Bondra the son of-- you guessed it-- Peter Bondra, being the other), Thrush had all the tools to be a mid-to-late draft pick, but was likely passed over because of several factors including level of competition (he played for Team Maryland AAA now known as the D.C. Capitals) and the fact that although he has a great set of wheels and was dominant against a bunch of JAGs, he was often times a one-man show who tried to do it all himself and wasn't so hot away from the puck (translation: the hockey sense just isn't there). The UNH recruit for '11 has the size and ability, and to be honest, I was a little surprised that some team didn't at least take a seventh-round flier on Thrush in L.A.

I think that if he can post even average numbers in the USHL this season that he'll get picked in Minnesota just because 6-foot plus forwards with the kind of speed and soft hands Thrush has don't grow on trees. He'll have his work cut out for him as a member of the expansion Muskegon Lumberjacks, though. Like Silver Spring, Md. native and fellow UNH aspirant Nick Sorkin, who dominated the local hockey circuit two years ago but got nary a draft whiff in '09 (or '10 for that matter), Thrush must overcome the stigma of coming from a hockey no-man's land and being that proverbial big fish in a small pond. The good news is that he should benefit from solid ice time on a team that isn't going to be very competitive, but sometimes, those are the best situations for players like Thrush.

Giese, who saw Thrush in action last year, concurred saying: "He's got to learn to use his teammates more. It's hard for me to understand how a player with as much talent as he has simply didn't make anyone around him better."

When Giese said that, the light went on for me as well, because in watching Thrush myself, there was something nagging at me that I couldn't quite put my finger on despite the fact that I was clearly looking at a skilled forward.


  1. Well i'm batting 0-for today with the names you are throwing out Kirk, but that's a good thing. I'm here to learn. If i knew something on everyone in the draft i wouldn't have to read haha.

    I know i'll be in the very small minority with this comment, but, i'm not a big believer in the "make everyone around them better" statement or in this case, not making everyone better.

    I think sometimes it comes down to the talent that surrounds a player as well. Sometimes, there's no chemestry. To use a professional example, was Savard able to make Ryder better?

    I'm sure you and I will agree to disagree on that statement. But i'll put more stock into you saying you are watching a kid with talent as opposed to someone saying he doesn't make anyone around him better 8 days a week. It's quite possible that even Bobby Orr couldn't make the talent surrounding the kid better.

  2. Well, it has more to do with a player who uses his teammates effectively by hitting them with passes for prime scoring chances and thereby increasing their production and making them "better" as opposed to a guy who tries to do it all himself and either succeeds with making the unassisted highlight reel goal OR-- more often, is negated by the opposition defense.

    Tyler Seguin told me last year that he helped make his teammates better by trying to put them into the position to be successful and thereby more dangerous-- and he did that by hitting them in stride with passes or finding them for the wide-open farside tap-in. Obviously, one guy isn't going to necessarily make his mates more skilled or talented, but he WILL contribute to their production/success if he makes the right decisions with and without the puck and puts them in situations they can cash in on.

    Food for thought, Dom-- scouts put a lot of stock in this aspect because hockey is a team game, and the guys who either go it alone because they're more selfish with the puck or because they simply don't have the vision/hockey sense to ferret out the higher percentage options and as a result help their team win can be a cause for concern. Guys who are good at using their teammates are going to naturally get more out of their linemates because they expect that if they find the openings he'll find them, as opposed to the ones who don't distribute the puck or involve the other four guys on the surface as much as they should. It stands to reason that if a player doesn't think he's going to be rewarded for putting out that extra effort to go hard to the net and give his teammate an opening to hit him with the pass, then he's probably not going to accept the risk or put forth the effort.

    It's human nature.

  3. Appreciate the feedback Kirk. I've been trying to learn this for years, and maybe i'll never get it. And that's fine too.

    I have no issue with anything you said as i've always maintained i have never come accross anyone that articulates it as well as you do. But in Giese's comments he said "He's got to learn to use his teammates more." And IMO that's a perfect assessment.

    I just dont understand the part of "making everyone around him better" being associated with that. I guess i'm of the opinion that you can have the best player with all the attributes, vision, skating, passing, and if he uses that and his teammates to finish, how can he make them better?

    Hey, i know i'm probably wrong and it wouldn't be the first time. Just trying to learn as i go.