Director’s Cut: Promise shining bright

Dan Stewart2015 Draft Center

Come November each year, evaluators start to feel like they are getting a firmer grasp on the talent available for the upcoming draft.

Each has spent plenty of nights in rinks across the globe and has seen enough to form a general idea of who they will need to keep tabs on the rest of the way to formulate an accurate list of draft eligible from their region. November is also the month where those same evaluators start to get excited about those prospects that have caught them by surprise and are developing better than expected; those diamonds that are just starting to shine brightly.

Some of those diamonds who are shining bright early on this season and moving their way up Future Considerations’ rankings.

Among them includes Nick Merkley in Kelowna who leads the Rockets in scoring and plays the game with a grinders mindset but with the tools of a finesse player.

“Merkley plays a fast and hard game, not messing around with the puck, and when he did he always made a man miss,” noted a Future Considerations scout. “He had a hard shot and his vision was superb.”

Needless to say, he has moved up in our November rankings.

Also out West impressing our evaluators is Prince George Cougars center Jansen Harkins, who has been labelled as a highly intelligent two-way player that makes a positive impact in every game.

“There weren’t many holes in Jansen’s game,” said the scout. “I see him growing an inch or two more and become a very well-rounded and skilled two-way centre. His hockey sense is his best asset and that will allow his game to continue to blossom in all aspects.”

In Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Blake Speers has also had a very solid start and is making waves in our evaluators viewings early on.

“Speers can do it all, possesses elite skating ability, the ability to hold onto the puck in high traffic areas, and the ability to make crisp, clean passes to teammates,” noted a Future Considerations evaluator. “Speers also possesses the intangibles that make pro aspirations a possibility in his future.”

Speers isn’t the Only OHLer, either. In Ottawa, it was not highly regarded Travis Konecny making all the noise but instead diminutive forward Dante Salituro who has overshadowed his draft eligible teammate early on.

Despite being undersized he is built wide, balances and sturdy on his skates.

“He gives the 67’s a much needed punch on the second line and provides them with secondary scoring,” one scout started, “which by the way, the way he plays and performs, it is often there primary source of scoring.

“Love what this kid brings to the table; with a little more simplicity to his game, it could go a long way.”

In the QMJHL, the most noise is being made by import players with Quebec Remparts winger Dmytro Timashov not looking like a bad consolation prize after missing out on center Pavel Zacha, who was drafted first overall by the Sarnia Sting.

The electrifying forward is producing at an incredible rate and making a true impact for the Memorial Cup hosts.

“Every time he is out there, something happens, mostly because of him,” one evaluator said. “He is a very fluid skater and he is always moving his feet. Shows off a quick shot release and impressive vision. He read the play very well with the puck and did a great job hitting the open teammate that had the better opportunity than him. At points, I was simply mesmerized by the moves he was making with the puck on his stick.”

Also in the QMJHL and Gatineau specifically is a Russian who has really impressed an eastern-based QMJHL scout as someone who was not expected to be a big performer but has exceeded all expectations early on. Yakov Trenin, a Russian import, has shown to be a strong offensive performer with nice size who is also defensively responsible.

“His puck skills are pretty good, can deke around defenders and uses solid puck protection due to his size and good speed once in the zone,” noted the scout. “He can make accurate, creative passes. His creativity with the puck is refreshing to watch. He has incredible vision down low or behind the net. Yakov possess a very hard shot with a pretty good release. He needs to shoot a bit more when in good position instead of looking to do a pass. He finishes his checks, goes in front of the net for deflection, initiates contact in the corners, works for loose pucks.”

In the U.S. and specifically the USHL, Waterloo right winger Brock Boeser has really impressive this year, whether it was at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial or at home where he has be dangerous every game as a goal scorer. He is currently one of the league’s top scorers.

“The thing I liked about Brock’s game the most was his compete level,” one evaluator said. “He is the hardest working player on the ice and when he has the puck on his stick, the other team basically has to kill him to get the puck away from him. He fights through any contact he encounters. In the offensive zone, he gets in a great scoring opportunity and the puck just seems to find him. He has a lethal shot, quick release and very accurate.”

In the College ranks, Zachary Werenski has jumped out to a great freshman start playing top minutes already with the Michigan Wolverines as he was producing offensive chances from the blue line and has shown good development already from when we saw him last season.

“Zach’s skating looks a step quicker than last season and he looks more comfortable handling the puck even against bigger opponents,” the scout said. “He jumps into the attack quickly and makes himself a viable threat. Sees opening quickly and makes a strong breakout pass. His development has made him one of the top defenseman available this year.”

Looking to Europe,, Frolunda Indians defenseman Jacob Larsson is climbing the ranks as well with an impressive start. He has been highly effective for the SuperElit J20 team and recently had a couple impressive performances in the SHL with the big club.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Larsson skates very quickly, keeping his balance and having very fluid movements,” a Swedish-based scout said. “He makes smart passes, seeing the ice where it is or will be open, creating dangerous chances for his team. Involved defensively. Larsson also showed great hockey sense and he is always in front of the opponents. He holds his position strictly and overall shows that he is a great defensive defender.”

There’s more than one Swedish blueliner to keep on the radar.

Another on the rise is MoDo’s Jesper Lindgren.

“Lindgren is one of the most talented Swedish defensemen going into this draft, especially offensively,” he said. “What is noticed the most is his hockey sense and smarts, it really stands out. At his best when he enters into the offensive zone with the puck. He has elite offensive vision and passing ability.”

Join me again next month as ‘Directors Cut’ continues to take a look at more draft prospects and news for 2015.

Dan Stewart
Director of Scouting
Future Considerations