Future Considerations’ upper-Midwest scout Dan Shrader 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.
It may sound absurd to say that an ‘A’ ranked player by Central Scouting would come to a surprise, but defenseman Jake McCabe was exactly that for me.
Having been a NCAA hockey fan for a very long time, I’ve seen a number of true freshman (a rarity these days with the exploding popularity of junior hockey) look out of sorts in terms of dealing with the pace of play and the physicality that comes with playing against players who are sometimes five or six years older. It’s not until their sophomore year where the light bulb turns on, but with McCabe, he was as well adjusted as anyone I’ve seen.
Possessing excellent poise and an ability to process the play and make quick decisions allowed him to not just step in and play top-4 minutes for University of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves, but also get trigger man duty on the top power play unit with Justin Schultz, but also penalty kill time with partner John Ramage.
While he was playing it a bit safe in my first viewings of him, he was not only playing like a seasoned WCHA veteran but being a proactive force in my final viewing of him. Stepping up on puck carriers, confidently moving the puck out of his zone, using his vision and passing to find open teammates and in a highlight reel play, took the puck end to end with a substantial amount of acceleration and dishing it off to a teammate for a game winning goal. Its plays like these that makes it easy to forget that McCabe is playing out of his age group- surprising and all the more impressive.
In the book “Moneyball”, Billy Beane uses the term ‘jeans model’ in reference to a player who has the look of someone bound for stardom, yet that’s all it is – a look. Standing a healthy six-foot-three and weighing in at 203-pounds, Brady Skjei is a powerful and fluid skater as well- a mouth watering combination for fans and scouts alike. Disappointingly enough, Brady Skjei is a ‘jeans model’.
In an exhibition game around the New Year, the U18’s took on Minnesota State-Mankato and Skjei’s mental deficiencies were exposed. Poor decision-making and bad instincts made him a liability, and his insistence on skating the puck end to end often put his partner Brett Pesce in comprising situations. Despite having the size, Skjei was muscled off of pucks and lost battles.
Now, in fairness, he was playing in front of friends and family so there may have been some desire to put on a show for them, which is understandable. However, a few weeks later I saw the same troubling deficiencies in a game against Dubuque, but they were disguised because of who he was playing against – players in his age group, instead of the 20-somethings who skated in the WCHA. He could get away with the same things he was exposed for at the USHL level, which begs the question- what will happen at the professional level?
Over the course of a season watching game after game after game, you tend to find players you grow an affinity for, and eventually you find yourself circling dates on the calendar where that particular player will be playing. That player for me was Ian Janco, who just finished his senior year at Bloomington Jefferson High School in the Suburbs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
Jefferson was a long and storied history in the annals of Minnesota high school hockey history. However, this last year was not one of them – yet I found myself in the stands watching Janco, the backbone of the rebuilding Jaguars, go up against stronger competition every night.
Janco asserted himself very well in the Fall Elite League, where he had played as well as any of his peers, especially his fellow blueliners. Now in a more prominent role with his Jefferson team, Janco excelled at moving the puck out of his zone and up to his teammates.
With maybe the best passing touch and vision I saw from any high school or prep player I saw all year, Janco routinely hit his teammates tape to tape from almost any distance, including one game where on three consecutive shifts he sprung breakaways with goal line to offensive blueline strikes. A very smart and economical player, Janco simply needs more strength to add more effectiveness to his physical play and his skating, giving him more explosion when he wheels the puck up the ice.
A more talented supporting cast would further the effectiveness of his puck moving and point play, where often times great plays would only top out as good intentions during the high school season. For my money he is as good as any of the draft eligible defensemen coming out of my region this season.