Trouba Leads 2012 NHL Draft Class
by Mark Bilotta/CHN Reporter
Last year's draft saw the lowest amount of NCAA-bound players, and U.S.-born players, selected in the first round and overall, in just about a decade. Of course, the numbers were still pretty good in both departments, but it may be another year where American picks slow down.
Still, there is plenty of NCAA/U.S. players expected to be selected high in the draft.
Unlike the previous two draft classes that saw playmaking forwards come off the board early and often – this draft shows a wealth of talent at defense. A look at the final 2012 Central Scouting Rankings for North American skaters shows only four forwards in the top 12 spots. With this depth of backliners there is a chance that the 2012 NHL Draft class could look like 2008, when four defensemen were selected in the top five slots. While top draft contenders Nail Yakupov (Sarnia Sting, OHL) and Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec Ramparts, QMJHL) would disagree – this draft begins and ends with the blue line.
The top two college-bound defensemen as ranked by CSS are 2012 Michigan recruit Jacob Trouba (6-foot-2, 194 pounds) at 9th, and 2012 Minnesota recruit Brady Skjei (6-2, 203) at 19th.
A two-time gold medalist at the World U-18 Championships, Trouba was the youngest member of Team USA at the 2012 World Junior Championship, where he recorded three assists in six games. In his second season with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Trouba tallied 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) in 50 games.
A two-year teammate of Trouba’s on the USNTDP, Skjei racked up 22 points (4 G, 18 A) in 56 games. Skjei comes from a strong athletic pedigree as his grandfather was football star at Minnesota in the early 1960s. Both defensemen possess the physical power and size to make NHL talent evaluators’ heads turn, and each will likely hear their name called in round one.
Many other college hockey prospects litter the top 50 of the CSS rankings; here are a few other prospects that expect to hear their names called in the first two rounds.
* C Zemgus Girgensons (Vermont, 18th) – The 6-1, 185-pound Latvian native led the Dubuque Fighting Saints to a USHL title with 55 points in 49 games. He is the prototypical gritty forward that can wear down opponents physically and on the scoresheet.
* LW Nicolas Kerdiles (Wisconsin, 29th) – The native Californian put together a strong campaign for the USNTDP with 42 points in 50 games. His CSS ranking in the top 30 never wavered due to his offensive skill set, but some scouts have questioned his willingness to use his 6-1 frame on the defensive end. NHL decision-makers feel that some time spent in Madison will only make him a stronger pro.
* LW Phil Di Giuseppe (Michigan, 22nd) – Di Giuseppe made a big impact in his freshman year with the Wolverines, with 11 goals and 15 assists in 40 games; which tied him for 4th in the CCHA in freshman scoring in 2011-12. He showed great poise with the puck and impressive offensive instincts in his first collegiate campaign, which should earn him a high selection.
* C Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (Michigan, 37th) – Not much was quiet about "Boo" as he posted two consecutive 39-point seasons in 22 and 26 games for Kent School. Nieves is viewed by scouts as a talented scorer with great speed, but many feel his time spent in Yost Arena will be productive in making him a better defensive player.
* RW Sam Kurker (BU, 36th) – Having recently agreed to attend Boston University a year earlier than anticipated, the Reading, Mass., native is making the jump from St. John’s Prep into the NCAA in 2012. The 6-foot-2 200-pound Kurker was a dominant force for the Eagles, racking up 60 points in 24 games. Scouts bill him as a strong winger who has the knack for setting up chances for his teammates and being able to create his own when a pass isn't available.
* RW Brian Hart (Harvard, 54th) – Another big body forward at 6-2, 200 pounds, Hart dominated the prep ranks at Phillips Exeter, posting a 61-point season (27 games) and a 68-point season (29 games). With an older brother already playing for Providence, the Cumberland, Maine, native was widely regarded as one of the best prep school players in Massachusetts.
* D Jake McCabe (Wisconsin, 47th) – The strong all-around defenseman had a solid first season in Madison, notching 12 points in 26 games. The 6-1 McCabe isn’t known to jump into in the offense regularly but plays a very strong game in his own end with a strong first pass out of the zone.
* D Mike Matheson (BC, 30th) – Despite being wooed by the Shawinigan Cataractes of the CHL, Matheson chose to join Dubuque of the USHL to preserve his NCAA eligibility. He is well-known to scouts as an excellent skater with the size (6-2) to play the physical game as well. Offensively, he piled up 27 points in 53 games from the back line.
* D Jordan Schmaltz (North Dakota, 34th) – Notching 41 points in 55 games for Sioux City and Green Bay of the USHL, Schmaltz has made a name for himself as an offense-first defender. He possesses a heavy shot and great up-ice vision according to scouts and has the 6-foot-2 frame to play a bruising game as well.
* D Patrick Sieloff (Miami, 31st) – A smooth skater and a defensive-minded defenseman, Sieloff formed a strong D pairing with Jacob Trouba for the USNDPT. Sieloff was employed as the team's premier shutdown defender, seeing the most ice time against the opposition's top lines.
* G Anthony Stolarz (Nebraska-Omaha, 4th) – The 6-foot-5, 200-pound netminder posted a 2.84 GAA and .920 save percentage for the NAHL's Corpus Christi IceRays. His butterfly style has been compared to Nashville Predator Pekka Rinne, mostly due to his size and quick feet; but scouts are confident that time spent in the NCAA will allow him to improve further.
* G Jon Gillies (Providence, 6th) – Gillies initially committed to Northeastern in April of 2010 but decommitted this summer in favor of Providence to play for coach Nate Leaman. Yet another 6-5 gifted butterfly style goalie, Gillies notched 31 wins, a 2.77 GAA and a .915 save percentage for the Indiana Ice of the USHL. The South Portland, Maine, native is particularly adept at using his size to force shooters into making the perfect shot to beat him.
* G Matt Tomkins (Ohio State, 10th) – The top ranked of two top 25 goalies rated by CSS to attend Ohio State (Collin Olson at 21st), Tompkins is a stellar athlete who scored very well at the NHL Combine. While he won't arrive in Columbus until 2013, Tomkins has very long limbs for a 6-foot-1 goalie, which allows him to protect his crease with poke checks and reach more effectively across his crease.
For those skaters who aren't ranked in the top 50, here are a few other prospects that might make noise in later rounds:
* C Kevin Roy (Brown, 78th) – The former 13-year-old YouTube star is all grown up, earning USHL Player of the Year honors with an eye-popping 104-point campaign (54 G, 50 A) in 59 games for the Lincoln Stars. A slick puck-handler and strong two-way player, the 5-10 Roy is committed to Brown but word has recently surfaced to indicate that he might be looking to switch college sweaters in 2012. Stay tuned.
* LW Jimmy Vesey (Harvard, 77th) – The son of two-time All-American and former Merrimack standout Jim Vesey jumped 87 spots from his midterm CSS ranking. After being passed over in the 2011 Draft, a motivated Vesey starred for South Shore of the EJHL tallying 91 points (48 G, 43 A) in just 45 games. The strong-skating 6-2 left wing is projected as a late second round, early third round draft pick.
* RW Chris Calnan (BC, 69th) – The hulking prospect from Nobles (Mass.) finished off a very productive season for the Bulldogs, notching 55 points in 27 games. The 6-2 winger scored very well during the NHL Combine, posting the highest vertical jumps and left hand grip among the field and registering in the top five in eight additional categories.
* LW Hunter Fejes (Colorado College, 91st) – In his second year at Shattuck-St. Mary's, Fejes posted an impressive 78 points in 55 games and jumped 20 spots from his midterm CSS ranking. Talent evaluators peg him as a potential NHL power forward with a 6-1, 191-pound frame, strong work ethic and a nose for the net.
Other Americans worth keeping an eye on during draft day include Alex Galchenyuk (Milwaukee, Wis.), the high-scoring center from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. As the highest rated US-born player, Galchenyuk has set himself up as a top five pick with an 83-point (31 G, 52 A) stat line in only 68 games with Sarnia.
Other notable names include former New York Ranger Stephane Matteau's son Stefan (Chicago), ranked at 17, who passed on a chance to lace up his skates for North Dakota in order to play for his father's team in the QMJHL for 2012-13. The bloodlines of this draft don't end with the Matteaus; 70th-ranked Max Iafrate (OHL's Kitchener Rangers; Baltimore) and 75th-ranked Henrik Samuelsson (WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings; Scottsdale, Ariz.) are both sons of former NHL defensemen.