Future Considerations’ United States Hockey League scout Brian McGee gives his thoughts on who from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.
Nicolas Kerdiles of Team USA has been a player that impressed me the most over the course of the season.
I saw Kerdiles play with the U17 team during the 2010-11 season, but he sort of blended in a bit. In live action last season, he was one of the most complete players I observed in the USHL. Kerdiles’ skill level is evident even in warm-ups as you can see the hands and feet are clearly on a great level amongst his peers.
Fast forward to game time and he’s still got it. Displaying Ovechkin-esque moves by dragging the puck through his own legs, kicking it up to his stick all the while fighting off a defender hanging all over him and eventually getting off a decent shot. He finished the USHL season with 13 points in 18 games, a respectable figure for a player of Kerdiles’ role.
His offense wasn’t the only impressive mark. Kerdiles plays hard in all three zones, throwing his body around on the glass, clogging up the neutral zone and working hard in his own end. When I say working hard, Kerdiles’ was not afraid to get his body in front of the puck to block shots as he would lay out completely while shot blocking. Kerdiles’ also displays great leadership qualities as he is always talking on the ice and on the bench with his teammates.
His abilities were also impressive during international competitions as well. Even though Team USA disappointed a bit at the Five Nations tournament, Kerdiles played well. At the recent U18 Championships in the Czech Republic, Kerdiles scored five points in the gold medal game, ensuring Team USA victory in the 7-0 game against Sweden.
His consistency, great natural tools and level of competitiveness should get his name called during the first round of the Draft in June.
Brian Cooper of the Fargo Force was a player that did not live up to expectations over the course of the season.
During the 2010-11 season, Cooper showed enough talent to merit a lot of potential first round selection discussion. He finished the year with 11 goals and 33 points in 51 games, with a plus-15 rating – great numbers for a defenseman in what is known as a relatively low scoring, tightly contested league.
Prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, Cooper was named captain of the Force, no doubt adding to the expectations going into the year. Along with being a captain, Cooper was the only player who had been with the team since the 2009-10 year, when he started in the league as a 15-year-old.
Fargo came slow out of the gate during the last season, losing seven of their first 10 games. In that stretch, Cooper recorded just two assists, putting him on pace for a meager 12 points over the course of a full season. His production picked up a bit during the season, finishing with 24 points in 55 games and a plus-16 rating, however this was a big drop off in production compared to the previous season.
Going further than the numbers, Cooper’s overall play took a step back. During the 2010-11 season, there were a number of games where he took over in both ends of the ice – the kinds of games that made everyone on the ice and in the stands take notice. End-to-end rushes where he’d cap it off with a goal were par for the course. Stifling, physical defense where he would bring the game to the offense in his own zone was impressive to see. He would operate the power play like an in-prime Mike Green, skating swiftly around penalty killers, finding a tiny hole to thread a pass through that only a great power play quarterback could find.
This aggressive style did have its small drawbacks, as he could come off as undisciplined and over-aggressive in some games. During the 2011-12 season, this rough edge was smoothed over, however, perhaps not in the correct manner.
Cooper appeared timid, no longer skating out and putting pressure on opposing forwards and letting them bring the game to him. Deep in the zone, he seemed to second-guess himself as to when to battle in the corners and when to man the crease. Cooper’s puck handing and decision-making also lacked advancement last season and actually regressed.
No longer would you know a quality scoring chance was about to occur off the stick of Cooper, instead expecting him to lose the handle while carrying the puck or make a wrong decision when firing a pass. His shifty work on the power play was gone as well, as he no longer used his impressive skating ability to work up a scoring chance, many times just firing a shot from the point that went way wide or was blocked by a sliding defender.
Overall, Cooper still possesses a lot of great strengths including his skating, an extremely competitive work ethic and good offensive instincts. He has the ability to still become a contributor at the next level, however last season surely saw him take a tumble on some draft boards.
Kevin Roy of the Lincoln Stars is my sleeper pick of the draft.
Now, I know what you are probably thinking. Roy led the league in scoring by a huge amount and scored 54 goals. How can he be a sleeper?
Well, Roy has a tendency to take shifts and games off. I’ve seen Roy more than a handful of occasions this season and half the time he’s in the zone – and owning it – and half the time, his work ethic leaves a huge lot to be desired. At times, Roy appeared to not want to even cross into his own blue line for large chunks of the game and in the transition game, is late to hustle back. Roy is a bit undersized and avoids contact in games. He has a natural ‘shoot first’ mentality, even if there is a better play wide open, just waiting for the pass.
On the other hand, his skill level is clear.
He is probably the best operator through traffic in the USHL in terms of 2012 eligibles. Moving around an offensive zone like the opposing players are just going through the motions for him. His ability to carry the puck at full speed up the ice is also something that should be noted. Roy’s shot selection is frequent and deadly to goaltenders, while maybe not elite in terms of velocity and quickness in release, he gets the puck to the holes given to him. His 1 on 1 moves are also amongst the best in the league.
You can’t argue with the statistical productivity in a defense first league like the USHL. You can argue that Roy may not have it all mentally to compete at the next level. If his heart catches up with his hands, he’s on pace to be a pretty darn good top-six player in the NHL and a player that should hear his name called in the middle rounds of the draft after being passed up once already in 2011.