Every season Future Considerations’ scouts spend countless hours in cold rinks across the globe in an effort to gather information on the next wave of NHL talent coming down the pipe. In this monthly column we will provide our readers with a few single scouting snapshots and some early impressions from actual game reports taken by our talented evaluators.
November 28, 2015 – Eden Prairie vs Prior Lake (MSHSL) – C Michael Graham, Eden Prairie, 6’1.5”, 195
“First high school game after spending the fall playing for the Fargo Force of the USHL with limited even-strength offensive output. Opinions will differ on his decision to leave the USHL in favor of another season of high school hockey. I see a player who may not be getting the best advice, and is feeling the heat of draft year pressure. He also recently changed his NCAA commitment from Minnesota Duluth to Notre Dame.
“In this viewing, he was centering top 2017-eligible Casey Mittelstadt and Cole Lawrence on what will be the most feared line in the state this high school season. They had some trouble gelling for most of the first period, but dominated possession time for the rest of the game, connecting for five of Eden Prairie’s six goals. Graham is a joy to watch skate, as he possesses an effortless stride, though not blazing straight-ahead speed. He doesn’t have the type of bring-you-to-the-edge-of-your-seat-when-he-gets-the-puck offensive game that Mittelstadt possesses, but employs an effective game in all three zones. He consistently won board battles using his combination of strength, smarts and skilled stick work, then curling into the slot to snap of shots or find teammates backdoor.
“His goal in the second period showed his determination and grittiness to find the puck in a sea of sticks battling in the front of the net for a rebound. In the first period, he corralled a breakout pass that not many players at this level could handle, switching from forehand to backhand in a split second while in full stride. His limited offensive upside is what will keep him out of the top-100, though his overall play keeps his floor pretty low. I have him pegged as a fifth rounder at this point.”
November 21, 2015 – Everett @ Calgary (WHL) – G Carter Hart, Everett Silvertips, 6’1″ 170
“It has been a phenomenal start for the sophomore goalie who sports the top GAA second best SV% in the league on a very average team. He is a very fluid and athletic goalie that moves seamlessly through his crease. He doesn’t have an overly imposing frame, but his ability to effortlessly slide through the crease makes him tough to beat under any circumstance. I loved the way Hart energetically followed the play, maintaining excellent position while tracking the puck and remaining in a strong stance from which he could quickly and powerfully push off of an edge to cover lateral space. He looked very confident throughout the game and didn’t seem to waver in his focus at any point.
“While I did like the way he tracked the play and kept good angles, there were times when he did cheat a little bit while playing the percentages, rather than maintaining a perfect neutral position. For example, if a right handed shooter was flying down the wing looking to shoot, he cheat a little bit to the short side, knowing it would take a perfect shot to beat him on the far side. While I think this shows good situational awareness at the WHL, it will be something he will have to be more careful of at the next level as he faces better shooters. When on his knees in the butterfly, Hart relied on athleticism and instinct to throw his body at high pucks. As he doesn’t have the natural size to simply let high shots hit him when he is in the butterfly, he would go down to his knees, then almost jump up to take away high shots around his head and shoulders.
“Hart didn’t show any spectacular puck handling ability in this game, but he wasn’t one to jump to action and start the breakout, which is also a product of the low tempo game his team plays. Overall, Hart is a very impressive goalie prospect with a lot of upside. He isn’t the biggest goalie around, but he has great poise and he regularly makes tough saves when his team makes a poor mistake. In doing so, he creates confidence for his team, and that is reflected in Hart’s confident, focused demeanor. He is a second round prospect to me.”
November 24, 2015 – Boston College @UConn (NCAA) – LW Tage Thompson, UConn, 6’4”, 185
“Thompson is the son of the current Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach, Brent Thompson, as well as one of the point leaders on UConn’s roster, so I expected big things out of the freshman tonight. After giving up four goals in a shaky first period, Thompson was extremely impressive the rest of the night. In the first period, the majority of play was in UConn’s zone and Thompson looked unsteady. He wasn’t aggressive and made some poor plays, for example, he made a bad clearing pass right into a BC player which led to a BC goal soon after. However, his defensive zone play did improve the rest of the night and also played on the second PK unit for UConn.
“What impressed me most about Thompson’s defensive game was how disciplined he was. After the initial period, he was rarely out of position and never over pursued the puck. It showed what a smart player he is too, knowing that he should not do that. I thought he could have been a bit more aggressive at blocking shots, but other than that, his defensive zone game was pretty steady. Offensively, Thompson’s game was a bit peculiar to me at first. Though he only weighs 185 pounds, he still stands at 6-foot-4 and having met and heard stories about his father, I expected Thompson to a physical force out on the ice. He will lay the body when he wants to, but he is not someone who will be overly physical in the offensive or neutral zone. He does use his body to his advantage though. His hands are nothing to write home about, but he does an exceptional job of using his body to protect the puck and then either make a beautiful pass as he did on his lone assist of the night, or get a hard shot off on the rush, as he did once when he came down, did a great job of cutting to the middle, crossing the center line on the ice, and then shooting back across the goalies body, forcing him to make a good save. For someone his size, his skating is better than I expected and his top end speed is very good. He’s also an extremely smart player in the offensive zone and on the rush. In one opportunity, Thompson recognized that he needed to drive the center lane, and by doing so, he drew a defender and created a 2-on-1 for the other two players on his line. This did not result in a goal, but it showed that he knew what he needed to do to create chances.
“It is evident that Thompson is a talented player, but I believe that he is even smarter than he is talented. Being the son of a coach has obviously made an impact on what kind of player that Thompson is. Though he is not overly physical, I do expect him to have a successful NHL career, as he reminds me of a combination of the Hayes brothers – Big guys who aren’t necessarily the most physical, but use their bodies and style of play in a way that lets them be successful NHL players. I believe Thompson has the potential to become a second or third line player in the NHL and I believe he will get there. In all, I would expect that he is drafted in the second round of this years draft.”