2017 NHL Draft

10 Draft Prospects You

Should Know About

Steve Kournianos  |  4/25/2017 |  New York  |  

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New York (The Draft Analyst) — They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, but that axiom doesn’t necessarily apply to scouting teenage hockey players. One of the more enjoyable things about critiquing prospects for any kind of draft is creating a list of players who caught your eye at one point or another, then doubling back at a later point to see if they confirmed or denied the original assessment. Some of the notable players will hover around the top of pre-draft rankings regardless of production and/or upside, while others simply never get as much as a mention. Nevertheless, below is a list of 10 players who really stood out over the last two months who in my view deserve attention as they head to Draft Day.

No. 82 LW Jason Robertson (Kingston, OHL | 7/22/99, 6’2/192): Robertson had an outstanding season for Kingston, leading the Frontenacs in both regular season and playoff scoring. His soft hands and quick release helped him tally 42 goals in 68 games — 29 at even strength — but he is far from a garbage-goal scorer. Robertson is a smart winger who not only knows where to positioning himself, but remain there regardless of the beating he’s taking. His skating is average, but he’s a cerebral player who knows how to spin away from pressure and find the open man with a crisp pass. A native Michigander who spent a year with the GTHL’s Don Mills Flyers, Robertson is one of the draft’s best pure goal scorers.

No. 31 C Shane Bowers (Waterloo, WHL | 7/30/99, 6’1/183): A determined two-way pivot with some flash to his game, Bowers is one of the few Canadian-born prospects starring in the USHL. He’s committed to Boston University, and with Clayton Keller and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson off to the NHL, there’s no reason to think he won’t be one of the top two center for the Terriers in 2017-18. Bowers is a very good open ice skater, but he’s well built and strong on his skates, making it difficult to pry the puck away from him. He can do it all — kill penalties, make neat plays on the power play, take a critical draw while holding a lead, and even smother an opposing top line. It’s no exaggeration to say that Bowers is one of the 2017 draft’s best 200-foot players and a strong candidate for the middle of the first round.

No. 64 C Alexei Lipanov (Dynamo Balashikha, VHL | 8/17/99, 6’0/165): Russia’s go-to center at several international events had somewhat of an incomplete draft year due to injury and battling for ice time at two levels of Russian hockey. Still, the speedy Lipanov put up impressive numbers at tournaments like the WJAC and Hlinka, showing glimpses of a budding game breaker. His speed and vision are his biggest assets, but he can contribute on the penalty kill as well as he does with the man advantage. He could stand to bulk up and work on his shot accuracy, but Lipanov is too creative and heady a player to worry about. The Barrie Colts own his rights after picking him 44th overall in last year’s CHL Import Draft.

No. 49 (OA) LHD Nick Leivermann (Bloomington, USHL | 9/14/98, 5’11/194): An overager by only two days, Leivermann was Eden Prairie’s on-ice general during their wire-to-wire dominance of the Minnesota high school circuit. And though they lost a heartbreaker to Grand Rapids in the state semis, it was Leivermann’s take-charge attitude and puck rushing that helped his mates to get as far as they did. It certainly helped having the luxury of deferring to a star forward like Casey Mittelstadt, but the two complimented each other perfectly. He’s a fluid skater who is patient with the puck, and he has no problem taking the puck right up the gut of a zone defense from as far back as his own goal line. Leivermann cheats deep into the offensive zone and acts like a fourth forward, but his footwork and understanding of play development allows him to get back if things don’t work out. He can be a risky player at times, and puck management was somewhat of an issue in the state tournament. He’ll play a full season for the Bloomington Thunder before suiting up for the University of Notre Dame.

No. 55 RHD Cale Fleury (Kootenay, WHL | 11/19/98, 6’1/201): It’s never easy playing on a top pairing for an absolute doormat, but Fleury held his own in what turned out to be an impressive draft year — his third in the WHL for Kootenay. His 11 goals were good for second among WHL first-year draft eligibles and he was named its top defenseman. He’s a punishing, mobile blueliner who is very good in one-on-one situations and can close on a puck rusher in a hurry. He loves to play physical and looks for open ice hits, which from a positioning standpoint can get him into trouble. He’s pretty active with the puck and consistently looks to escape with his wheels rather than flinging it up for grabs. Fleury hates backing in and will take his chances with bodychecks at his own blue line, but his reaction time is quick enough to make up for giving away an initial stride or two. He’s not all that creative, but he whips the puck around with accuracy and authority.

No. 158 G Ivan Prosvetov (Minnesota Magicians, NAHL | 3/5/99, 6’4/162): The transition from Russia to North American isn’t quite over for this big-bodied netminder who was the sixth overall pick in the 2016 KHL draft. He faced a lot of rubber for the Magicians, including 34 or more shots in more than half of his 44 regular season appearances. A butterfly goalie who looks quite comfortable dropping down wherever the puck may be, he’s solid at covering the lower half of the net, and doesn’t look gangly or slow recovering from an initial save. This kid was helpless on most nights, but he will stop most initial shots regardless of whether he gets a clean look or not.

No. 38 LHD Robin Salo (Vaasan Sport, Liiga | 10/13/98, 6’1/187): It feels like Salo became a forgotten prospect after building up a nice resume from as far back as 2015. Part of it is traced back to the overexposure received by fellow Finnish rearguards Miro Heiskanen and Urho Vaakanainen, who like Salo play in the Finnish Liiga but participated at several major international events likes the WJC and U18 worlds. But Salo is no slouch — he posted 16 points in 54 games while logging top-four minutes for Vaasan Sport. He’s got good strength and mobility, and his booming shot is accurate and tough to handle. It’s easy to lable him as a stay-at-home type, but Salo has more than just basic puck skills. He should be invited Finland’s U20 WJC summer camp.

No. 117 LW Arnaud Durandeau (Halifax, QMJHL | 1/14/99, 5’11/183)Offensive-minded winger with good speed and a very good shot who likes to agitate and cause mayhem on the forecheck. Durandeau isn’t physically imposing or intimidating, but he seems partial to sticking his hand in the beehive regardless of the score or game situation. A power play specialist whose puck skills are solid, he is adept at stickhandling and making crisp, accurate passes. Rarely would you find him fiddling around with the puck for the sake of being fancy or showy — Durandeau is calm on zone entries and will hold onto the puck while waiting for more options to get involved in the play. The feistiness, however, leads to undisciplined play, and his stick is highly active so being whistled for stick fouls should be expected.

No. 124 C/W Jacob Tortora (U.S. U18, NTDP | 7/25/99, 5’7/163): Tortora is a quick little playmaker with a ton of offensive flair who with or without the puck is tough to contain. He doesn’t have ideal size, but then again, it’s not 1995. The NHL is embracing the idea of having fans see smaller players with skill rather than plodding brutes with size. Gutsy and strong, the Rochester native is an excellent skater both forward and laterally, and he makes his cut backs look effortless. Tortora is very good on the cycle and will pay a price for working the puck from down low into the slot area. He always plays with his head up and can thread the needle while traveling at a high rate of speed, but he too can hammer the puck and boast a quick release. He’s headed to Boston College but playing in the CHL is always a possibility, as he once played for the GTHL’s Don Mills Flyers.

No. 122 LHD Radim Salda (Mountfield HK, Extraliga Jrs. | 2/18/99, 6’1/176): Physical but low-key defender who can play on a top pairing and use strength and physicality to gain control of the puck. Salda ia an excellent penalty killer and does a good job reacting to plays off the cycle. He’s got good speed and a heavy, accurate shot, but his puck skills are pretty much limited outside of the occasional home run or slap pass. He can be used in any situation at either even strength or on special teams thanks to the ability to maintain composure under pressure and anticipate where the puck will end up. Never one to back down from a challenge or be intimidated, Salada is tough to knock off the puck and can maintain control despite a feverish hounding from a trailing checker. He’s been an international tournament mainstay for the Czechs for several years.