USHL bolsters draft depth

Christian Roatis2015 Draft Center

The United States Hockey League has been adding depth to the NHL Draft in recent years and 2015 is no different.

The league has produced 251 NHL alumni to date, a number that continues to grow each season as the USHL sees more and more players drafted, and promoted through the ranks, each season.

As part of Future Considerations’ coverage leading into the NHL Draft, here’s a look at the best that the USHL has to offer.

No. 12
TEAM: Youngstown (USHL)
BORN: December 9, 1996
VITALS: 6’-1” / 185 Lbs
STATS LINE: 56 GP 34 G 46 A 80 PTS 6 PIM

The USHL’s top ranked player for the 2015 NHL Draft also happens to be its top scorer in Connor. Connor, had 34 goals and 80 points over 56 games this passed year and sits seven ranking slots ahead of the FC’s second ranked USHLer, Colin White.

Connor stands 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, but doesn’t often have to use his good-sized frame because of the wheels that support it. Connor is one of the most explosive skaters in the draft, and often blows straight by defenders on his way to the net. His agility allows him to make lateral movements and turn on a dime, if necessary. Once in the offensive zone, Connor posses all-world hands, which allow him to engineer his way through defenses and create scoring opportunities – facilitated by equally excellent shooting and passing skills.

Connor comes with few flaws, as elite vision and hockey IQ eliminate mental errors common in young players, and great speed allow him to catch up and negate mistakes quickly. He still has room to grow, at just 185 pounds now, and is occasionally caught trying to be to fancy with puck. Both issues that can be remedied as Connor matures.

No. 19
POSITION: Center/Right Wing
BORN: January 30, 1997
VITALS: 6’-0” / 185 Lbs
STATS LINE: 54 GP 23 G 31 A 54 PTS 28 PIM

Sitting second behind Connor, and 19th overall on FC’s overall list is NTDP pivot Colin White. White was a standout for the USA at the U17 tournament last year, recording 18 points in six games, and continued that torrid scoring this season in the USHL, finishing with 23 goals and 54 points in as many games. Funny enough, offence isn’t even what White draws the most praise for. Rather, it’s his two-way game.

The 6-foot, 185 pound center is lauded for his commitment to the defensive zone, and his excellence in all three zones of the ice. Like Connor, White is an elite skater with breakaway speed and dynamic lateral movement, which allow him to always be where he needs to be without the puck, and get to where he wants to be, with the puck.

White keeps it simple and focuses on doing it ‘right’, as opposed to pretty. He’s a very ‘meat and potatoes’ offensive player in that sense. His passing is crisp and shot is assertive, patiently waiting for seams to open and opportunities to present themselves. White rarely forces plays, and isn’t afraid to drop the shoulder and drive the net if necessary.

No. 22
POSITION: Center/Right Wing
BORN: March 17, 1997
VITALS: 5’-9” / 175 Lbs
STATS LINE: 65 GP 30 G 64 A 94 PTS 10 PIM

Jeremy Bracco, White’s teammate at NTDP, is listed as the 22nd overall skater in FC’s rankings. With the recent success of players like Johnny Gaudreau in the NHL, uber-skilled but smaller framed players like Bracco are attracting more attention.

The 5-foot-9, 175 pounder won’t be making the highlight reel for his big hits, but he most certainly does with his big plays. Like is the trend, Bracco has blazing speed to torch through defenses, and his high-end skill allows him to beat out any disadvantages relating to his size. His vision and hockey IQ is better than most, and coupled with the aforementioned skill make him a serious threat when on the ice.

Now, although he’s a smaller guy, Bracco possesses tremendous strength, and catches opponents of guard with it when driving the net or when they try to bump him off the buck. Also, as a result his work in the corners and along the boards is fat better than anyone would expect, and allow him create opportunities for himself rather than feed off of teammates.

Bracco managed 30 goals and 94 points – an outstanding result – in 65 USHL games this season and hopes this remarkable offensive output quiets concerns about his size. Coupled with defensive zone play that needs a fair amount of work, teams may shy away from Bracco with their first round pick seeing as the risk with this particular prospect is high than most.

No. 26
POSITION: Right Wing/Center
TEAM: Waterloo (USHL)
BORN: February 25, 1997
VITALS: 6’-1” / 195 Lbs
STATS LINE: 57 GP 35 G 33 A 68 PTS 30 PIM

Speed was a driving factor the three players ahead of Brock Boeser being ranked where they where. For the 6-foot-1, 195 pounder, who is ranked 26th overall by Future Considerations, skating is an area needing work. Not from a lack of effort, sometimes Boeser’s footwork looks like he should be flying, but in reality he isn’t moving all that fast.

Boeser’s strengths outshine his weaknesses though, as his offensive skills are often on dazzling display. He has an absolutely lethal shot, which is prepares and creates space for using his vision and hockey IQ to find soft spots on the ice. He uses his size and strength to create turnovers and then to protect the puck when in possession of it. He’s extremely hard to knock off the disk and if he’s decided on driving to the net, well, good luck stopping him.

His hands are also extremely smooth, while unassuming, and afford him the ability to navigate through traffic and deke out the occasional goaltender. Boeser is also extremely proficient in ‘taking out the garbage’ in front of the net. If there’s a loose puck or irresponsible rebound afoot, you’d best believe Boeser will getting in on that action. He scored 35 goals in 57 games with that style of play, it’s sure to continue.

TEAM: Under-18 (NTDP)
BORN: January 29, 1997
VITALS: 6’-1” / 185 Lbs
STATS: 62 GP 26 G 50 A 76 PTS 28 PIM

Roslovic, the only one in this group not ranked inside the first round — sitting at 33rd overall — but is possibly the smartest of the group.

Roslovic’s hockey sense is something to behold, and the driving force behind his entire game. It seems like every play he makes is a smart one, and most importantly – the right one. He isn’t one to flash ridiculously creativity, rather he just gets things done, and he gets them done right. He finds his teammates in opportune position, he passes off when shooting lanes close and shoots when passing lanes are occupied. You could call him a coach’s dream.

He’s a quick skater with an eye on the net at all times, calculating the perfect time to make a play. Although not a massive player, at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Roslovic finishes his checks with authority and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in front of the net or in the corners. He picked 26 goals to go alongside 50 assists for 76 points in 62 games, highlighting his exceptional playmaking ability.

He played primarily as the NTDP’s primary shutdown center and projects in a similar mould as an NHLer. If Roslovic does indeed slide out of the first round, teams will be eager to add one of the safer picks available in the 2015 NHL Draft.