What a year 2016 has been in the scope of the NHL Draft.
From Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine chasing the top spot in June’s draft, to the hold on first that Nolan Patrick has through the first half of the 2017 class despite battling injury, there has been no shortage of storylines.
There have been no shortage of features, either.
As we reflect on the year that was in the scouting community, here are the top features to hit Future Considerations in 2016:
BOWERS CONTENT WITH USHL PATH
Shane Bowers bounced the name Sam Gagner when prompted with the trivia question.
He need not guess anymore though.
He’s the answer after becoming the last Canadian 16-year-old to play in the United States Hockey League in 2015-16, opting against the more traditional major junior route in order to keep his college eligibility.
“The decision happened last year,” said Bowers, who was drafted both fourth overall by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL Entry Draft, and 38th overall by the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL Futures Draft in 2015. “I was drafted into the Q and I decided I just wanted to keep my options open. I wasn’t set on the school route or major junior yet. We decided to head to Waterloo and it worked out great for me.”
CATARACTES’ GIRARD POISED BEYOND YEARS
On a night where an official was shoved and 13 minor penalties were handed out, it was a calmly won puck battle by a diminutive 17-year-old draft eligible defenseman that stood out the most.
Because it led to the game’s decisive goal.
Samuel Girard, standing 5-foot–9 and 165 pounds, forced a puck loose in overtime of the Shawnigan Catarcates’ game against the Gatineau Olympiques, allowing Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Dmytro Timashov to retrieve it and find Tampa Bay Lightning draftee Dennis Yan on the game-winning goal.
NECAS HOPING FOR STRONG SHOWING AT WORLD JUNIORS
Martin Necas is hoping a strong showing at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship will help his stock in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Necas, 23rd in Future Considerations’ Fall ranking for the 2017 draft, will enter the World Juniors as one of the most-watched prospects during the under-20 tournament.
“The chance to get drafted, it means too much, it’s the next step for me in my career,” Necas said through a team translator after the Czechs’ 5-0 loss to Canada in pre-tournament action Wednesday in Ottawa.
FATHER-SON CONNECTION POWERS KNIERIM’S DRAFT DREAM
Willie Knierim owes a lot to William Knierim.
After all, it was the elder Knierim who put the now-18-year-old NHL Draft eligible forward on the ice in the first place.
Even if it might’ve been a little bit against his will.
“I was six years old,” said Willie, who has 12 goals and 22 points in 48 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League this season. “My dad signed me up for a class. I didn’t really want to go.
“After I completed it I liked it a lot.”
TEASDALE’S HARD WORK BEING REWARDED
For draft prospect Joel Teasdale, work ethic has never been a concern.
When the 5-foot-11 hybrid winger-centre was taken 12th overall in the 2015 QMJHL Entry Draft, he was selected more for his on-ice intelligence than for his raw skill.
Now in his sophomore season, the speedster is touted as one of the league’s top draft-eligible forwards.
And he’s starting to be rewarded for his impressive work ethic.
“He just plays the right way”, said Joel Bouchard, Teasdale’s head coach and general manager with the Blainsville-Boisbriand Armada. “He just figures it out, that’s his biggest quality. When he’s on the ice, he figures it out.”
FRIENDS FORGING DRAFT JOURNEY TOGETHER
At first, Ottawa 67’s forward Travis Barron didn’t believe it.
“I thought it was just a joke,” said Barron, recalling an October trade that brought former teammate and best friend Drake Rymsha to the Nation’s capital.
The peaks and valleys of an NHL draft year are no secret, something made much easier when you’re going through the journey with a friend, a brother, and a former teammate.
“He’s like my brother, I’ve lived with him and I’ve known him for pretty much my whole life,” Rymsha said. “It makes things a lot easier out there when I’m together with him.”
SAWCHENKO SOAKING UP DRAFT EXPERIENCE
Zach Sawchenko is living a luxury most draft eligible goaltenders haven’t been afforded. The Moose Jaw Warriors standout is enjoying plenty of minutes in the crease.
And it’s nothing new for the 18-year-old.
Sawchenko saw 2,745 minutes in net last year, doubling his 1,257 total as a 16-year-old rookie in 2013-14. At 1,897 through 32 appearances this season, Sawchenko is making the most of the luxury.
“That’s the biggest thing,” said Sawchenko, one of four goaltenders set to attend the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. “Moose Jaw is letting me do my thing out there. Brody (Willms) and I, we’ve got a great relationship, us two. It makes the games easier for me to bring.”
GAUTHIER HAS SIGHTS ON GOAL
Julien Gauthier knew from a young age what he wanted to be when he grew up.
He’s sought out the path ever since.
At nine years old, Gauthier knew he wanted to try the road to becoming a National Hockey League player.
And headed into the gym.
“When you’re young, you don’t know what it takes to play in the NHL, right?” Gauthier said. “You just play hockey for fun and you don’t know what it really takes. When my father said, “If I really wanted it, well you should train,” that’s where it started. Since then, I saw it was really something I wanted to do later. I want to play in the NHL, to be honest, and have a good career. I want it to be my job forever.”
MITCHELL NOT CONCERNED ABOUT DRAFT STANDING
First round or seventh.
It makes no difference to Spruce Grove Saints defenseman Ian Mitchell.
Because the 2017 NHL Draft is just a stop on chasing his NHL dream.
“Honestly, I just try not to think about it,” Mitchell said. “Personally I’m trying to be the best player I can be and five years down the road…the draft is just a snapshot of one year.
“With me going to college and just trying to continuously get better, hopefully when I’m 22, 23 I’ll be able to step into the NHL.”
MAKAR FLOURISHING UNDER DRAFT PRESSURE
Cale Makar knows the attention that comes with wearing the ‘C’ for a Canadian entry at an international tournament.
He understands that focus increases substantially when a standout performance follows.
The Brooks Bandits defenseman realizes that, being eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft, the scrutiny becomes intensified.
But for Makar, who is captaining Canada-West at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, AB, the bigger challenge is keeping an even-keel when that noise follows.
“I just push it away,” said Makar, ranked 48th in Future Considerations’ Fall ranking for the 2017 NHL Draft, and rising.
“I know it’s there. Every game I see those scouts in the stands with their books. You don’t need to get nervous. They’re going to be there every game. It’s something that I’ve become accustomed to and something I’m looking to get more used as the season continues.”