Year after year, the United States and their respective developmental leagues have a strong presence at the NHL Draft.
First-year eligibles in 2014 are looking to continue the trend.
While there doesn’t appear to be a player ready to compete for the first overall pick, the crop from the United States Hockey League is a deep one. As the season begins, there are several players from these leagues to keep a close eye on. In addition, there are several interesting battles of sorts to watch as well.
The first comes from the National Team Development Program that is perennially deep with draft talent. There are several players at the NTDP who could hear their name called first. Sonny Milano, Jack Dougherty, Dylan Larkin and Jack Glover are all special talents and have potential to go in the first round
Right now, the clear-cut favorite to be selected first is the flashy Milano. The five-foot-11 Milano displays elite speed along with a great set of hands.
Dougherty, one of the NTDP newcomers, reminds a bit of fellow Minnesotan Tommy Vannelli (St. Louis, 2nd 2013) but with a much more polished game at this point compared to last year. Dougherty has the potential to sneak into the first round with a strong year.
Larkin, who was sometimes lost in the forward depth at the NTDP on the U17 team last year, has good size with impressive offensive sense. The Michigan commit will likely play center the entire year for the U18 team, but can also play left wing.
The final player in the mix for the top NTDP selection in the upcoming draft is Glover. The six-foot-three defenseman is a great skater and sees the ice very well.
Minnesota High School Hockey is lacking draft talent compared to prior years, but Edina’s Dylan Malmquist and Eden Prairie’s Steven Spinner display top-100 talent amongst the rest of the first-year draft eligible players.
Both are very quick forwards, though Malmquist is more known for his elite offensive ability and Spinner for his all-around game. The Lake Conference foes will face off head-to-head for the first time Dec. 21 and again on Jan. 30 — a can’t miss for scouts.
Out East, Ryan Donato is the player who could make a Ryan Fitzgerald-like (Boston, 4th 2013) emergence. Son of Harvard head coach and former NHL player Ted Donato, scouts have seen a growth both physically and in his game in the last year. Donato may not get many opportunities to stand out playing for Dexter (Mass.) School so his addition to Thursday’s All-American Prospects Game is big for the skilled center.
Staying out East, Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko is the premier draft eligible collegiate player. The San Diego native and NTDP alum’s mix of size and athleticism will make him a highly sought after goaltender come the draft. Scouts will get their looks at Demko as he is likely to be the starter for the nationally ranked Eagles team.
With the amount of players in the US that are receiving draft consideration this draft season for scouts should be a busy one. The formal viewing of these players has already begun in some leagues but much is still to play out in the US.