The Frozen Four has its champions, discussing the immediate future of Hobey Baker finalists, and the OHL Priority Selection Draft results in this Sunday's Ramblings…
Happy Sunday everybody! Lots of prospect-relevant news to discuss today from all reaches of hockey so lets get to it…
The NCAA Frozen Four (Division I Men's Championship) came to a close yesterday with North Dakota earning the status of the best team in college hockey. The Fighting Hawks beat the Quinnipac Bobcats 5-1 in the finale, with regular leaders Brock Boeser (VAN) and coveted Drake Caggiula (UFA) taking full advantage of the opportunity with four and two points, respectively. Defenceman Gage Ausmus (SJ) also recorded a multi-point game with two assists, and golatender Cam Johnson made 32 saves in the winning effort.
While we're on the topic of the NCAA: as mentioned in yesterday's article by Mark Allan, the prestigious Hobey Baker award for top college player went to Jimmy Vesey (NSH/UFA), a former Nashville draft pick who is now spurning the Preds to become an unrestricted free agent. So what can we expect from him and the other finalists going forward?
Vesey has his choice of destination next season, with theories focused on him going somewhere with family connections (Toronto, which employs his father and drafted his brother), or somewhere with a personal history (hometown Boston). One thing is for sure: whoever signs him plans on playing him. We've seen more and more evidence over the years that the top college players are capable of making an immediate impact in the NHL (see 2015 second-overall-pick Jack Eichel). At 6'2", 201 lbs, and the title naming him the best of his peers, teams have every reason to believe he can be a potential top-six player as early as next year, especially on weaker team with shallow depth charts. Fantasy owners can expect moderate point production from the 22-year-old winger (I dont think 40+ points is out of the question), and a high volume of SOG (he put nearly 4.5 shots on net per game over the college season), but dont expect much in terms of PIM.
Thatcher Demko (VAN) may not have won the Hobey Baker, but did win the Mike Richter award as top NCAA goalie, and has been viewed as the goalie of the future for Vancouver since he was drafted. How soon is that future? We may find out sooner rather than later. According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, Demko has decided to take a week to decide whether he will sign with the Canucks and be available next season or remain in college for a final year with Boston University. If this is a tough decision for Demko, one would think him signing with the team would mean he's been assured he will get a legitamate shot to make an immediate impact with the club. Markstrom has proven to be a capable netminder this season and Miller still has the makes of a decent tandem goaltender despite entering the twilight of his career, so breaking the NHL would require an outstanding pre-season push. My best guess: Demko doesn't wear the Canuck jersey until 2017-18, but will be in a position to hold a firm starter's spot when that happens.
Finally, Kyle Connor (WPG) took the NCAA by strom in his freshman season and as a result many think he could be of value to the Jets next season. His 71 points in 38 games is certainly impressive, but this was also accomplished with a 23.6% shooting percentage…which its safe to say will not be making the transition to pro when he does. And although the NHL is transitioning to being less size-demanding, its still very hard to not get pushed around at a slender 175 lbs while 6'1". The offensive gift is there and Connor will be a top-six forward, possibly even top-line in due time…but that time wont be next year. Let him hone his game for another year in college while growing into his frame and learning to add another more physical dimension to his play.
The OHL held its priority selection draft this weekend; you can find a full list of selections HERE via the OHL website. These players will be eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft at the very soonest. The top three picks went to Guelph, Sudbury, and Hamiton, and interestingly – the top four picks all came from different sources (GTHL, MHAO, OMHA, and USA Youth hockey). Your local team will have some very exciting new faces next season so take a moment to get to know them! I'll help you out with the top 5:
1. Guelph Strom – Ryan Merkley – A 5'11" defender coming from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, where he earned the title of GTHL player of the year after captaining his team and tallying 44 points in 33 games played.
2. Sudbury Wolves – Owen Lalonde – 6'0" defender Windsor native with a keen passing sense and shot that gets on net and provided him with 13 goals in 33 games this season (he also had 24 assists for a total of 37 points).
3. Hamilton Bulldogs – Connor Roberts – The hulking 6'3" 205 lb centerman captained his team and put up 39 points in 28 games, also adding a modest 14 PIM, which is impressive for his size (which often leads to overactive penalty-calling at young ages). He knows how to use his size to his full advantage.
4. Saginaw Spirit – Blade Jenkins – Another big centerman at 6'1", Jenkins has committed to the US National Team Development Program next season, making his high selection a talking point of the draft. He scored 36 points and racked up 44 PIM in only 22 games in US Youth hockey last year.
5. Flint Firebirds – Ty Dellandrea – The scoring ceterman put up an incredible 35 goals in 35 games this year in Midget Minor AAA, and hopes to be part of a turnaround for the embarassed Flint franchise. Known as a goal-scorer, the forward is also capable of playing a physical two-way game.
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your playoff pools!