McGee: USHL offered much value outside Round 1

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Perhaps more than ever, the 2012 edition of the NHL Draft was unpredictable to say the least.

Its twists and turns offered the opportunity for a lot of movement and a lot of potential for NHL organizations to get a little extra value out of their draft picks.

The no-brainer pick for me is Filip Forsberg dropping to the Washington Capitals at 11th overall. I simply believe Forsberg is the second best forward in the draft. His total package could perhaps even be the best of any forward.

A big Swede who is hard to knock off the puck with offensive instinct? Sounds a lot like a recent hockey great of the same name. Unlike that other Forsberg, Filip’s shooting ability is ahead of his passing skills. He’s not just a one-trick pony in terms of offense either. He’s a high-compete level player who is going to work extremely hard in all zones.

On the stage, Forsberg looked extremely excited to get drafted, perhaps realizing he has the chance to play with a current great Swedish Center in Nicklas Backstrom. Scouts may have been scared off by Forsberg playing in Sweden’s second division, or perhaps there just was ‘defense first’ mentality amongst most of the top 10 picks, but Forsberg should fit in Washington just fine. Next season in Sweden will be a telling time for this pick, but in my mind, it was a huge steal.

But the United States Hockey League may be home to two of the more intriguing picks.

A second great value pick is Nicolas Kerdiles to Anaheim. As a scout of the USHL, Kerdiles brings a skill set that rivals Zemgus Girgensons in his ability to work hard as a two-way force.

Kerdiles’ offensive abilities are even flashier than Girgensons,’ though he is a less physical player. His two-way ability mostly comes from his agility and positioning skills. He brings a competitive level that should be noted as well, as he’s not a player who you ever have to question giving up in any situation. He’s the kind of player who will sacrifice his body for the good of the team to block a shot.

Kerdiles also displayed a lot of big leadership qualities throughout the year, which makes you think he could perhaps have captain-like influence on his teams down the line. The big question for Kerdiles will be his consistency in the offensive end. He needs to show that he can produce at the college level at a good pace. However, once he rounds out his game, I personally think he’s easily a first-round talent.

Going all the way down to sixth to the Carolina Hurricanes, the selection of Collin Olson may come as a bit of a surprise.

Of recent NTDP goalies, Olson isn’t as athletically gifted as Anaheim Ducks property John Gibson. Olson is not as much of a clutch game stealer like Dallas Stars Jack Campbell.

What Olson does do, like the others, is win. Olson is a big goalie who has great technical skills and positions himself well in net. He moves quite well for his size and is never rattled after allowing a goal. There’s not much flash to his game, but the end results are all that matters. Olson has shown he can win, capturing the gold medal at the recent U18 World Championshis, shutting out a Swedish team led on offense by Sebastian Collberg(#33 overall) as well as Forsberg(#11 overall) and Hamphus Lindholm(#6 overall) with Oscar Dansk(#31 overall) between the pipes.

Olson ended the tournament with a goals against average of 0.80 and a save percentage of .966 en route to being named the top goaltender. Olson has all of the qualities to become a starter in the NHL some day and at pick 159, that is quite the bargain.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the undrafted Justin Wade, who surprised me by going unselected.

To me, Wade is a classic case of a late riser. At the beginning of the year, he was still a bit of the clunky skating kid who didn’t have good hands and showed little improvement over the previous season.

As the season progressed, he was probably the most dominant physical defenseman in the USHL and he began to get his wheels and his hands moving with him while still being a force in his own end.

Getting to see Wade over 25 times this season, I made note of what seemed to be game-to-game improvement in all aspects of his skills. Others seemed to make note as well, as Wade was chosen mid-season to play a game for the NTDP against Minnesota-Mankota with Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones out of the lineup.

Wade will return next season to Fargo, in what will be his third season in the league and without a doubt, he will be the leader of a solid, but young defense for the Force, hopefully improving his draft stock for selection in 2013.

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