FC’s Scout Series: Andrew Weiss (Midwestern USA)

Andrew Weiss2013 Draft Center, Scouts Series

Future Considerations’ scout Andrew Weiss gives his thoughts on who from the 2013 NHL Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.

To go even deeper into the draft class, pick up Future Considerations’ 2013 NHL Draft Guide.

Last year’s draft class was one to remember for myself personally after scouting what would turn out to be a league record six USHL first round picks on a regular basis.

This year, skaters who played in the Midwestern USA received less draft attention than others, but could very well end up making teams’ draft a memorable one. Many of these players provide great value in the later rounds of the draft. Below is a look at just one players each who impressed, disappointed, and could be a sleeper in this year’s draft class.

Who Impressed?

I did not view as many Ontario Hockey League games as I would have liked this season, but when I did I made a point to watch the Plymouth Whalers.

Aside from the ten players whom had already been selected by NHL teams, the Whalers featured high-end draft eligible Ryan Hartman. For the past two seasons, Hartman has always been a personal favorite of mine to watch because of his playing style.

Every facet of the West Dundee, Ill. product’s game is above average and displays versatility that makes him an attractive option in the late teens to early 20’s of the first round. Being a point-per-game player in his first year of Major Junior hockey and seeing his overall puck skills makes scouts think he could translate into a point getting top-six forward with a physical game.

If his game does not completely translate to the pro level, Hartman proved he can play a third line role. His play on the ‘grind line’ at this year’s World Junior Championship was key to the USA’s gold medal run and saw Hartman shut down top opposing lines throughout the tournament.

With his skating ability, high hockey sense, and his tough to play against demeanor I see the 5-foot-11 Hartman being a second line player who fills the highly sought after role of a Brad Marchand-like player at the National Hockey League level assuming reaches his potential.

If Hartman can continue to round out the defensive side of his game, get stronger, and improve his discipline—which I believe he will — Hartman will reach his potential and be a great value pick in the second half of the first round later this month.

Who Disappointed?

From the surface, many would have a hard time saying that a player in the top-60 of most draft boards was disappointment, but that is what Minnetonka (Minn.) High School’s Tommy Vannelli was for me.

Vannelli’s draft year was an up and down battle that saw him begin as largely an unknown heading into his senior year at Minnetonka. An impressive start to his year in the Upper Midwest Elite League propelled him into first round status at Future Considerations.

The University of Minnesota commit would carry the momentum gained from playing for Team Northwest into the high school season and continue to impress scouts. Playing on one of the most offensively skilled clubs in the state, Vannelli would go onto finish third on the team in points as a defenseman with 10 goals and 25 assists in 27 games.

The high school season affirmed what scouts saw since the beginning of September. He as a very strong skater, can create scoring chances easily on the power play, and loves to create chances for his teammates with his passing ability—particularly as he stretches the ice. The downsides were also very clear: suspect play in his own end and an overall lack of strength. I thought there were really no secrets to Vannelli’s scouting report as I saw all of these strengths in weaknesses in his game after being able to watch numerous online viewings of Vannelli late in the season.

After Minnetonka’s premature exit from the Minnesota Sectional playoffs, Vannelli joined the National Team Development Program. While many will excuse growing pains going from MNHS to the USHL early on, it appeared Vannelli was never able to quite settle in at the junior level. Stretch passes were constantly getting picked off in the neutral zone, his defensive play was exposed and appeared worse than originally thought, and his lack of strength hurt him greatly in all three zones. I was able to see him twice live in his 11 USHL games and saw these weaknesses in both games.

When it came to the U18 World Championships, Vannelli was such a liability for the United States his minutes were limited in even strength situations the deeper the team went. In the semifinal against Russia, Vannelli logged just 13 minutes in an overtime game while five defensemen saw more ice. The gold medal game against Canada was also very similar as Vannelli played in limited situations and was most commonly seen on the power play because of the lack of defensive responsibility involved.

It’s entirely possible scouts will write off Vannelli’s NTDP struggles as an inability to get settled in, but his play in the eighteen games for the National Program has me concerned for a team who may select Vannelli in the first three rounds later this month.

The Sleeper

Most of the college games I view are just for pre-World Junior scouting being that the high-end skill guys have already been selected by NHL teams. That said, University of Michigan’s Andrew Copp was a player who caught my eye midway through the year of my college viewings.

Copp wasn’t even supposed to be playing collegiate hockey as the original plan was for him to head to play a full season in the USHL in Sioux Falls but ended up being a late add to Michigan’s 2013 incoming class.

After being a standout high school football player in the state of Michigan, Copp’s first season of solely focusing on hockey was much more impressive than many expected. He played small roles early in the season, but after 13 games of going pointless, Copp exploded for 11 goals and 10 assists in his final 24 games of his freshman year. The 11 tallies was fourth highest among Wolverines despite not being known for his goal scoring ability.

Despite the impressive season, the major drawback to Copp’s game is that he was fairly inconsistent from game-to-game and even shift-to-shift. Watching Copp’s last games as a freshman in the CCHA tournament was apparent of this as he was one of the best players on the ice in the semifinal game versus Miami — scoring two goals — but then was a non-factor against Notre Dame in the CCHA Championship.

It is safe to say the Ann Arbor, Mich. product has been a late bloomer after rightfully being surpassed in his first year of draft eligibility last spring. While the impressive freshman season may come as a surprise to some, the fact Copp fully committed himself to hockey this season and his excellent athleticism should make sense of his drastic improvements.

Copp has always been known for is his excellent defensive play, skating and faceoff ability, and overall strength. Copp has drawn USA Hockey’s attention after receiving an invite to their World Junior Evaluation Camp in August, but draft viewers will have to wait until later this month to see if he caught the eye of NHL scouts too.