Plenty to watch with American group

Dan Stewart2016 Draft Center, NCAA

There may not be a Jack Eichel coming out of the college hockey circuit and into the 2016 NHL Draft, but the top-end talent coming out of the United States could be from the NCAA.

And that is in the form of Boston University freshman defenseman Charles McAvoy.

A Future Considerations evaluator recently got a good look at McAvoy and liked what he saw out of the quick thinking defenceman.

“He is able to skate the puck at high speeds and dish a crisp pass without having to slow down to process his options, hitting the open man through the smallest seam in traffic,” he said. “He is constantly making solid defensive plays, using his reach and his strength to get to the man and separate him from the puck. McAvoy’s head is always on a swivel and he is constantly aware of the play in front of him and what he needs to do to adapt to the incoming play. He is a forward thinker who sees the ice well and analyzing the game exceptionally well.”

Joining McAvoy as a top NCAA prospect for the 2016 NHL draft is University of Wisconsin freshman center Luke Kunin who will make some noise for the Badgers after some strong years with the NTDP. Kunin is a slick possession player, with quick hands and the ability to get creative coupled with the ability to play in both ends of the rink.

Speaking of the NTDP squad, the group has three guys who we feel are strong contenders to be first round picks come June.

Center Clayton Keller of the under-18 is a smaller, but highly skilled, quick, explosive playmaking forward. His creativity, vision and shiftiness really stand out to us. Forward Kieffer Bellows is a guy that has showed us flashes of future NHL goal scoring potential.

“Bellows is physically mature forward who contributes in the offensive zone and is a force on the outside,” a FC evaluator noted. “He plays a heavy game and will take a hit to make a play – even giving the aggressive play right back while maintaining possession. Bellows also possesses explosive separation speed and the ability to change direction quickly. He is dangerous off the rush and attacks the zone with speed all while fully aware of his passing options around him.”

The NTDP Under-18 team has blueliner Chad Krys patrolling the back end, making smart, controlled plays to get the puck to the teams’ skilled forwards.

One FC evaluator summarized Krys as “a driver of the play who loves to be in control of the puck as he kick starts the rush with a crisp breakout pass, a strong controlled zone entry, or a little skate through the neutral zone before making a clean pass to lead to a zone entry.”

“A smooth backwards skater, Krys can move laterally exceptionally well as he escapes his check with speed and poise,” he added. “Possesses good speed on the attack and has incredible hockey sense that leads him to make strong passes and make smart plays all over the ice.”

On the USHL’s other teams there is plenty to keep our guys busy.

Cedar Rapids power forward Matt Filipe has really impressed with his overall game. His competitiveness and physical play along with the ability to skate with the puck and contribute offensively make him one to watch. Fargo Force winger Riley Tufte has flashed the immense size and skill that has our evaluators dreaming for what he could continue to develop into at the next level.

“Tufte is a big power forward who has a very good sense of the developing play. He uses his reach to his advantage in the defensive zone and when picking up his check on the backcheck, extending his reach to wraparound the puck carrier if needed to get his stick on the puck,” noted a FC evaluator. “He has a good first step to get him going and can reach top speed fairly quickly, though he doesn’t always seem willing to get into extra gear until he absolutely needed to. Given his size, he has no reason to be afraid of board battles and he wins many of them but can also look disinterested at times.”

Big winger William Knierim of the Dubuque Fighting Saints is also a guy we like a lot as a potential top 30 guy with his blend of size, playmaking skill and offensive creativity.

“A big winger with skilled hands, Knierim really caught my eye in this viewing,” noted a FC evaluator recently. “He shows patience with the puck and excellent separation ability in his skating, especially for such a big guy. Knierim makes good use of his size to keep the puck away from defenders while maintaining possession, scoping out his options. Can also play a heavy game of dropping his shoulder and driving to the net.”