Depth on D goes beyond blue chippers

Dan Stewart2013 Draft Center, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

The depth on the blueline of the 2013 NHL Draft crop goes well beyond the Joneses.

Though the press has rarely gone beyond Seth Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan Pulock as it pertains to quality draft eligible blueliners, there is plenty of talent to be had on defense outside of the first round.

Case in point? Mike Downing of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints.

The Canton, MI product really relishes the physical side of the game as well as displaying a strong potential at both ends of the ice.  He joins the rush and contributes using his vision with the puck.

While he did not have a great Ivan Hlinka Memorial, it won’t be held against Downing. In fact, neither did most of that Select squad, giving Downing a fresh slate in Dubuque to work on as he paints his draft portrait.

Eric Roy, on the other hand, used his season last year to plaster posters up announcing his arrival.

Putting up big offensive numbers in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Roy has made many evaluators and prospect junkies alike take notice. The big, mobile blueliner has some enviable skills but currently plays second fiddle to teammate Pulock on the Wheat Kings blueline. Roy will need to have a good season to break into the first round.

Much like Roy, Rimouski Oceanic import Jan Kostalek has the potential to be a big time riser as well this season as he can be a force on both sides of the puck. His mature, safe defensive game is highly impressive for such a youngster and coupled with his puck moving abilities, make him a prime candidate for a jump up the board early if he produces results.

Will Butcher of the USNTDP Under-18 squad is a puck moving, offensive generating blueliner to keep an eye on as well. An agile skater who likes to have the puck on his stick, Butcher can play a big role in games and should be a big contributor both against USHL and NCAA talent as well as in international competition.

The Val-d’Or Foreurs have a strong two-way blueliner that is not yet the sum of his parts, and if Matt Murphy can put it together, he’ll get some serious consideration in 2013.

Murphy has so much potential in the way he can move the puck, play strong defensively and display’s excellent hockey sense. He also plays the body but needs to put it all together, consistently. If he does he will force his name into top-30 discussions as the season wears on.

One of the more popular names for the 2013 draft, due to his bloodlines, is Jordan Subban of the OHL’s Belleville Bulls. Subban is on the small side for a forward let alone a defenseman and while he does have some excellent offensive creativity and talent like his brother PK, he doesn’t have the same size and this keeps him down the rankings early.

On the other hand, one of the most ambiguous prospects when people are talking about the 2013 NHL Draft has to be Owen Sound’s Chris Bigras.

The Elmvale, ON product is not flashy and will not destroy his competition with devastating checks, but what he does do is bring intelligence, strong positioning and sound decisions in all zones.

Some evaluators love the Seattle Thunderbirds’ Shea Theodore, while other question if the defenseman’s flashy offensive skills will translate to the next level because of a perceived lack of hockey sense. The Aldergrove, BC product will have all season long to prove one way or the other.

USHL rookie Jordan Gross will take the season to prove some things, too.

After a sublime Minnesota high school career with Maple Grove High, the Green Bay Gambler will try to ensure he is seen as a smooth skating kid with some real high-end offensive chops. It’s the other side of his game that needs to develop before he can be seen as a top round talent.

Swift Current Bronco Dillon Heatherington is a big and strong blueliner who has the talent to make a real name for himself this season. While he needs to take the next step in the offensive zone and produce more than just the safe defensive game and offensive potential he has shown thus far, people close to Heatherington will continue to rave about his commitment away from the rink as well.

Samuel Morin, Rimouski’s towering six-foot-five defenseman, has the size and skating ability to really make himself a top prospect and has been referred to a potential poor man’s Tyler Myers in some circles. His defensive game is good as he uses his size, reach and tenacity well but his offensive game is still a work in progress.

US NTDP U18 defender Scott Savage has the chops to eventually develop into a strong, top-four NHL defender after he refines his raw tools which include strong skating ability, good puck moving skills and understanding of defensive positioning.

Lastly, Red Deer bruiser Kayle Doetzel is a physical, mean and nasty player who many an NHL team will want to add to their stable of prospects next June. He has some blemishes, such as slower feet and lack of high-end puck skills that will keep in out of the first round or two, but if he can show some improvement his stock could also take off.

While the names Doetzel, Heatherington and Gross aren’t as sexy as some of the blue chippers on the blueline, it’s their contributions to the 2013 NHL Draft that have greatly strengthened the depth among defensemen come June.

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