Future Considerations’ USHL-based scout Jake VanBesien gives his thoughts on who from the 2016 NHL Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.
The United States Hockey League has their fair share of hopefuls for the 2016 NHL Draft.
Willie Knierim is among those that were the brightest this season.
The Dubuque Fighting Saints standout is a clear-cut power forward who plays well along the wall and deep in the offensive zone. His puck on hip skills and brute strength are his true assets and often posed problems as a net front presence for opponents. He struggles to keep up when the game is fast paced and will greatly benefit from improved agility and speed at the NCAA Level.
Fellow teammate Michael O’Leary was another impressive player. A true role player, this center plays a complete 200-foot game, and moves the puck with power in transition. He jumped onto the scene early on, but certainly made a great case for himself in improving his draft stock a bit at the USHL Top Prospects game in January.
Unfortunately, another set of teammates didn’t shine quite so bright in Waterloo Black Hawks’ Sam Rossini and Garrett Wait.
It was Rossini’s second year in the USHL skating on the blue line for the Black Hawks, and Garrett Wait’s rookie season. Both were highly touted draft prospects at the beginning of the season, but struggled to find their niche in 2015-16.
Rossini showed that he could play multiple roles, but could not seem to find a consistent and effective role. A lack of foot speed, inability to find a solidified role and playing style, and injury added up to a drastic drop in Future Considerations’ final ranking for the draft.
Wait, also highly touted, was set to see productive offensive minutes but started the year off on a bad foot and could never regain his full potential.
Muskegon Lumberjacks forward Rem Pitlick greatly matured in every aspect of his game all the way from physical size and structure to offensive production. Pitlick stepped into a top line center at the beginning of the season and took the bull by the horns in his sophomore campaign. Elusive hands, very agile, and strong on the puck, were all of Pitlick’s developed tools that allowed him to win the USHL regular season scoring title.
Playing for a team who struggled at the beginning of the season, Pitlick’s influence on his teammates provided Muskegon with a strong second half, but not strong enough to see postseason play. He was voted as the USHL’s Forward of the Year and Player of the Year, and makes a valid argument for a middle round pick come June 25th.
By Jake VanBesien