For those inclined to throw darts at prospect names in fun, there is still time to enter the NHL Draft part of our summer fantasy hockey contest.
The final of five stops on our geographic league tour scouting prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft finds us back home in the United States.
If you missed our stops in the Canadian Hockey League in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League or Western Hockey or our hope across the pond to Europe, you can catch up with links to all of our NHL draft-related coverage in our “Canes and Coffee 2017 NHL Draft Central.”
About the Scout/Writer
Kevin Wickersham (Twitter=@KWcrosscheck) is a senior writer at Dobber Prospects and a weekly columnist for Dobber Hockey’s “The Wild West.” He is also a regular contributor for other sites on US prospects and has also launched his own prospect-focused website, Wix Hockey, that similarly focuses on NHL prospects.
Scouting the United States (USHL + other US) for the Hurricanes 2017 NHL Draft
Canes and Coffee: For a mock draft, who do you see the Hurricanes taking at #12 overall?
Kevin Wickersham: With their solid, young defensive core and Darling to back them up, Carolina needs to address scoring. Having finished 20th, 27th, 27th and 22nd in goals over the past four seasons they’ll hope a prolific, finishing forward such as the skilled and speedy Finnish sniper, left wing Eeli Tolvanen or cerebral, opportunistic center Elias Pettersson. Pettersson scored nearly a point-per-game pace in the Swedish Allsvenskan League last year and may man the right wing at the next level unless he bulks up a bit could fall to the Hurricanes in the first round. Cody Glass who has lit up WHL scoreboards as a right-shooting center could make the switch to wing as well, or be a fantastic center, but his rapid rise up the prospect rankings likely means he’ll be gone by the 12th pick, maybe as early as five. Swedish center Lias Andersson, who played an aggressive, smart and mature game with impressive scoring touch last year at age 18 in the SHL, the nation’s top men’s league, is also intriguing.
Canes and Coffee: Which US players are relevant in this range, and what are the pros and cons of each player?
Kevin Wickersham: There will be a dearth of worthy US players when the Hurricanes select a player at #12, but Tolvanen, who starred with Sioux City in the USHL for two years and is committed to Boston College could be there. He’s a bit small at 5-10, 170 but reasonably strong, lightning quick and elusive on his skates. In addition, he features a hard, accurate shot that he can fire off from distance or in tight spaces. He can play both left and right wing, flexibility that could be an asset as Carolina builds their top-nine. Tolvanen is also a deft passer that can dish assists and is more than capable on the defensive end. Just turning 18, he has time to grow his game and frame in the college ranks, and could be a key element in jump-starting the Hurricanes’ point production in the near future.
Casey Mittelstadt should be long gone by the time the Canes are on the clock, taken maybe in the top three, but if he’s not they have to nab the Minnesotan future star center who should rack up 70-plus points yearly in a long NHL career. Other US-born prospects Ryan Poehling, Callan Foote, Grant Mismash, Scott Reedy, Josh Norris, Shane Bowers and Kailer Yamamoto are all late-first or early second-round worthy, but Tolvanen seems the most likely and appropriate selection.
Canes and Coffee: Which handful of US players do you like in the second round which is currently scheduled to be a busy one for the Hurricanes who have three selections in that round?
Kevin Wickersham: Any of the above would be great additions should they slip to the 41st pick or lower. Keeping the focus on point production, the extremely fast and skilled puck-handling Yamamoto would be an absolute steal with the Canes’ initial second round pick. He’s fantastic at tripping up defenders by changing speeds and has great hands. While not as damning a deterrent as it once was, the Spokane-native’s 5-8, 159-pound physique may scare some GMs into overlooking three increasingly prolific scoring years with his hometown WHL Chiefs. Capping off consecutive juniors campaigns of 57 and 71 points, he landed 42 goals with 57 assists in 65 games during 2016-17. Also having skated at center as well as left and right wing, his versatility would help. Don’t count on him being available. He’s been tabbed as early as a mid-teens pick by some, as late as a mid-second rounder by a dwindling number of others, but they can’t pass Yamamoto up if he is.
More realistically, quality US-born forward prospects Scott Reedy, Jason Robertson and Ivan Lodnia could be available as the second round progresses.
Reedy’s a 6-1, 203-pound aggressive and effective center/left wing flying somewhat under the radar. I bet he’ll last into the second round, as he’s projected to go anywhere from the early 20s overall to late third. He’s a very physical and skilled scorer, outstanding puck-handler, and displays a knack for doing the right thing at the right time. Reedy uses his large frame and strength to blast opponents keeping him from the net, and can work his way out of the tightest traffic to create opportunities. In 2016-17 he totaled 32 goals, 24 assists and 90 PIM in 81 games between Team USA’s USHL play and the U.S. National U18 Team. A Minnesota native, Reedy has committed to the Golden Gophers.
Looking absolutely dominant at times while producing 42 goals and 39 assists for OHL Kingston, all the more admirable considering the Frontenacs tallied only 179 last year, Robertson is a 6-2, 194-pound, powerful left wing who also chipped in 18 points during their 11-game postseason run. He’s best at protecting the puck and bulldozing to the net to take high-percentage shots, and sports a solid wrister. His main knock is skating. He looks a little awkward on his first few strides, but once he gains momentum he travels well. The Michigan-born Robinson is highly aware on the ice and a hard worker, which should help him improve upon any perceived shortcomings.
Los Angeles-native Lodnia’s another diligent wing, playing on the right side for the Memorial Cup runner-up Erie Otters, who excels at finishing as well as distributing. The 17-year-old completed 2016-17 with 24 goals and 33 assists in 66 contests. A skilled stick-handler and puck-mover, he craftily tricks defenders and goalies out of position to help create quality shots. He’s almost constantly in motion while looking to gain advantage. At 5-10, 182 he’s not afraid to fend off larger opponents in traffic while carrying the puck in any zone or board-battle. A quality target for Carolina’s 52nd overall pick who could even slip to the end of the second round for their final selection.
Canes and Coffee: Which handful of US players do you like in the third round where the Hurricanes currently have two picks (67, 72)?
Kevin Wickersham: The USHL and United States high school and college prospect pickings grow more plentiful as we hit round three and beyond, with several forwards of note and promising goalies in a deep netminder class.
Should Carolina want to fortify their goaltending, Keith Petruzzelli is highly praised by his former USHL squad Muskegon’s General Manager and ex-NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck for his reaction time, use of size and mental approach. Ranked first among North American goalie prospects in Central Scouting’s mid-terms, the physically-imposing Petruzzelli slipped below Boston University’s Jake Oettinger to second place on their final list. This may help him last into the third round. He plays in a very calm and relaxed manner, with recent comparisons made between the 6-5, 180-pound Quinnipiac commit and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, particularly in how he squares up to shots and exhibits solid rebound control. He registered a 22-10-1 record, 2.40 GAA and .918 SV% with the Lumberjacks this campaign and also won a silver medal with Team USA’s U18 squad in Hlinka.
Left wing Evan Barratt’s playmaking, solid two-way game, hustle and highly competitive nature add up to a promising complementary forward with NHL potential. The 6-0, 188-pound Penn State commit averaged nearly a point per-game in Team USA’s USHL play with nine goals and 15 assists in 26 contests. He added an impressive 18 goals and 38 assists in 63 U.S. National U18 Team games. Barratt’s very hockey smart at age 18 and tenacious on the forecheck to complement the physical components of his game. He could fit well in a future middle-six role with the Canes’ developing front lines.
Former first-round candidate Patrick Khodorenko has great upper body strength and exhibits a physical game at center with solid puck skills, decent speed that he should work to increase, and a competitive nature. The northern Californian is particularly effective near the net where he uses his 6-0, 207-pound frame to force his way into advantageous positions. He nearly always wins battles in the corners and elsewhere for the puck and has promise as a tough, middle-six NHL presence, particularly with improved skating. He recently completed his freshman year at Michigan State where he garnered a good amount of minutes for a freshman, netting seven goals and 11 assists in 35 NCAA contests.
Canes and Coffee: Which 3-5 US players do you really like who might be available in middle to later rounds (rounds 4-7) of the 2017 NHL draft?
Kevin Wickersham: Big at 6-2, 174-pounds and well-built, Isaac Johnson had a solid rookie year as a power forward for USHL Des Moines. He landed 14 goals and 14 assists in 47 games, featuring an exceedingly hard snap shot that he can release from the smallest of openings, and creative stick-handling. Has soft hands and a good touch around the net complementing his power game. A persistent puck-battler, he has a great motor, rarely stopping as he scans the ice for offensive opportunities. Johnson’s versatility and power game, with proper development, could be a welcome site in Raleigh as they shape their future lines.
At 5-9, 181-pounds Micah Miller is on the smaller side, but he’s a lethal offensive right wing in the making. Finishing up last season with the USHL Clark Cup runners-up Sioux City Musketeers, and committed to St. Cloud State, his all-scoring prowess draws much opponent attention freeing teammates for better opportunities. In 23 contests he totaled 13 points, all at even strength. A clever stick-handler who can accelerate rapidly, he’s deadly on the rush and not afraid to fight for the puck against larger defenders. Miller turns the game pace up a notch when he’s on the ice.
Zach Solow was the USHL’s top scorer in 2016-17 and employs his vision and playmaking prowess masterfully to put teammates in good positions to score. He’s a cerebral field general on the ice, dictating play when he has the puck. 51 of his 69 points were on assists last year. Solow is often patient, allowing plays to develop before picking the right moment to strike with a quick pass or shot. Not the fastest or most smooth skater, but he’s better than average. At 5-9, 181 size is a concern and the main reason he should be available in the fifth or sixth round. A center thus far, he’ll likely switch to right wing as his career progresses.
At 20 years-old Jack Adams is an overage, 6-5, 211-pound power forward whose 37 goals in 56 Fargo Force contests topped the USHL. Diligent at his craft, the Massachusetts native increased his skating speed and skill last year which paid serious dividends with a 29-goal leap from 2015-16. Adams is money around the net and in traffic, especially tough against defenders who he just wears down with persistent physical play. The Union College commit is very much worth taking a chance on in the later rounds.
Canes and Coffee: Do you have any additional thoughts on the 2017 NHL draft as relates to the Hurricanes?
Kevin Wickersham: With luck and careful choosing the Canes could set themselves up well for years to come. Given all of their second and third round picks, Carolina has a chance to have an amazing draft haul in a year that isn’t very top-heavy but extremely deep with forward and goalie prospects. If they prize a higher first round candidate than the 12th selection will fetch, they could package and deal a few to move up, perhaps with Vegas at six who needs prospects obviously, but that may not be necessary.
Canes and Coffee extends a huge thank you to Kevin Wickersham from Dobber Prospects for generously sharing his ‘from the rink’ insight on US draft prospects who could be part of the Carolina Hurricanes 2017 draft class!