Future Considerations’ upper-Midwest scout Dan Shrader 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.
After participating in FC’s Scout Series this time last year, I went into the 2012-13 scouting season with these same principles in the back of my mind. Who will impress me to the point worth singling out, who stumbles, and who may the most note worthy sleeper in my region?
Of all the various leagues in my territory (High School/Prep, NAHL, USHL, and NCAA), it was pretty much a no-brainer as to who stood above everyone as the most impressive prospect I saw: Jake Guentzel of The Sioux City Musketeers.
I had been familiar with Guentzel from his days playing Minnesota High School. The hockey sense was evident then, as he effortlessly and instinctively maneuvered around the ice in leading his Hill-Murray Pioneers to the State Tournament. Guentzel made the jump to the USHL for his draft year, and was having a modicum of success for a struggling Musketeers team which earned him an invite to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
You know when you have an older car, and the transmission is a tad clunky? The car struggles to go until the transmission finally drops into gear. Apply the same analogy to Guentzel’s game. He finished the season in dominant fashion — a 21 game scoring streak — resulting in 43 points. By season’s end, Guentzel had the two-second advantage over the competition; he sees the plays happen two seconds before everyone else.
Or, as a colleague suggested, “There is just too much Jaden Schwartz in him to ignore.”
I was able to see him before and after the proverbial ‘gear change’. He was succeeding before but when I saw him late in the season, he was simply making things happen every time he touched the ice. The puck followed him around. He was breaking up plays and stealing pucks on the defensive end and created offense in what seemed like the most nonchalant manner possible, whether it be finding teammates through traffic, generating rebounds with clever use of his shot, or getting to the right spot at the right time to bury a loose puck.
He made dominance look so easy, so its crazy to see that he did it considering his size and physical immaturity. He’s learned how to thrive despite these shortcomings. What he lacks in sheer speed and power he makes up for in guile- which has turned him from a possible mid-round pick into the biggest riser going into the Draft.
Conversely, every year there are players who go into their draft year highly touted and expected to succeed yet stagnate, stumble, or simply drop off of the map. It was hard not to find a player that disappointed me more than Hudson Fasching this year. That’s not to say there weren’t other players who simply didn’t live up to the hype or preceding reputation, but as far as disappointing performances it was hard to top the Minnesota native; and one viewing in particular stands out.
In October, the USNTDP was playing in a series of NCAA exhibition games and during a swing through my region they played Wisconsin, North Dakota, Bemidji State, St. Thomas (Division III), and the University of Minnesota. Fasching had the chance not just to play in front of friends and family, but also for his future college coach in Don Lucia, in his future rink (Mariucci Arena), against his future NCAA team (Minnesota.) Fasching wasn’t alone in this situation. Vinni Lettieri, who had been struggling with the Lincoln Stars at the time, was called up as an injury replacement. He too is a Minnesota commit.
That’s where the paths diverge.
Lettieri not only was the best player on the ice, he used this short stint with the U18’s to kick start what became a great year for Lincoln. Fasching, for all of his size and ability, was nondescript. No fire, no passion, no zest, no zeal in front of friends, family, future coaches, teammates and fans. Can it be any more disappointing? There was no edge there, an absence I saw repeatedly in following viewings.To be fair, he did struggle some with injuries but never took the step from complementary player to one of the guys driving the bus.
He’s got the size and there is skill there, but despite the willingness to hit, he sidesteps a lot of incoming checks. He’s got the tools to dominate — he reminds me of Charlie Coyle in his EJHL days — but the desire to win and the inherent competitiveness just wasn’t there consistently. Now, this isn’t a referendum on the kid as a person. He’s got tremendous character and his back story is heart breaking, but on-ice Fasching simply did not bring it when he should have.
When it came to picking a sleeper, this is when things got murky. I felt there were a number of players that I could use here like Jonny Brodzinski of St. Cloud State, a 1993 born forward who scored 22 goals in 42 games as a freshman, or Prince Edward Island product Brett Beauvais, the Kalamazoo K-Wing defenseman who had been plying his trade in the NAHL — he would have been in the USHL had it not been some logistical issues. Matt McArdle, who was a rock on the Shattuck St. Mary’s blueline, playing a nasty brand of shutdown hockey while the younger guys around him got their feet wet playing a Tier 1 schedule.
It came down to the the recent Clark Cup run for The Dubuque Fighting Saints, and how much Frank DiChiara accounted for their success in the regular season and in the playoffs. The massive winger (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) had a sterling season, scoring 30 goals and 60 points — he never went more than three games without a point all season — and came up huge in the postseason, scoring four goals and 12 points in 11 games. No goal he scored as bigger than the overtime game winner against Fargo which clinched it for the Fighting Saints.
DiChiara spent his draft year playing with St. Louis of the NAHL and, after a successful season, the Yale commit was drafted by Dubuque in the 2012 Draft. An extremely hard working and devoted player, he gives an honest effort every shift and will play a grind it out style along the boards. His skating is still on the choppy side, but he keeps his feet moving which allows him to get in on the forecheck. He finishes his checks, he’s got some skill, and he’s got solid hockey sense; DiChiara’s got all the makings of a pretty solid power forward type. He may not a top line guy, but someone who will create space for his linemates and contribute in secondary fashion.
It may take a little time for DiChiara to get where teams want him to be, but he stands as a good testament to the fact that some players take a little extra time to reach their ceiling As sexy as first-year draft-eligibles are, re-entry players also warrant attention and consideration as well. This sort of thing makes Frank DiChiara the best sleeper candidate I’ve seen all season.