In what is becoming an all too familiar feeling, Winnipeg Jets fans are looking ahead to the draft while other fan bases have their eyes fixed on their team's NHL Playoff race. Despite this depressing reality, there is always the hope created by the NHL's June 2014 entry draft. Draft day is my favorite day of the year. The fate of hundreds of teenagers, who grew up dreaming of playing the NHL, is decided within one frantic day.
As such - for the 3rd straight year - I have spent the winter when I should be studying, working, partying or simply having a regular life - in front of my computer or TV watching games from obscure junior leagues, the CHL, European leagues, and other places searching for the next big thing in hockey. I wind it all up each spring putting together my own draft list of the top 60 NHL draft prospects for the upcoming NHL draft. This year it will be brought to you here exclusive to Arctic Ice Hockey.
Without further ado here is part one where I will break down the play of my 46th to 60th ranked players for the 2014 NHL draft year's draft with a couple of honorable mentions thrown on at the end.
46. C/LW Warren Foegele (St. Andrews College, CAHS) - Foegele played the year with the private prep school St. Andrews where he absolutely blew away the competition. His ridiculous stats include the scoring 58 goals and 107 points in just 52 games - with 17 goals and 23 points in 14 conference games. However the competition at that level is quite a low level so the dominance is expected to a degree. Foegele is a hard working two-way player with solid size at 6'1'', 183 pounds. He has a knack for finding the soft areas of the ice and a great shot with a quick release. His puck control looked great this year as well, but how he will transition to the next level is a big question mark. It's a huge step up from Canadian prep school to NCAA division one hockey. Foegele will attend the University of New Hampshire where he will be playing next year.
47. C Eric Cornel (Peterborough, OHL) - Cornel had a huge breakout year in his second OHL season with Peterborough. After totalling just 4 goals and 16 points in his rookie year he broke out with 25 goals and 62 points this season. That placed him second on his team to fellow draft eligible Nick Ritchie. Using his great frame, Cornel battles hard at both ends of the rink using his size effectively in puck protection. He sees the ice well and skates pretty well. Cornel has solid upside, however he does not overwhelm in any respect. With his quick development in the past 12 months it'll be interesting to see how much higher he can go.
48. D Blake Siebenaler (Niagara, OHL) - Siebenaler made the big jump from a local midget league in Indiana to the OHL and was rather successfully getting 30 points from the blueline in 68 games. This was good for 3rd on the team among defensemen. A great skater with a bomb of a shot, Siebenaler fits the description of a PP specialist. He moves the puck well out of his own end, but struggles with defensive reads. His play lacks consistency, however that may come with a little more time spent in OHL.
49. D Gavin Bayreuther (St. Lawrence University, ECAC) - One of the oldest players in the draft pool after being passed over in both 2012 and 2013, Bayreuther had a breakout year in his freshman year at St. Lawrence. With 36 points in just 38 games, it was a great season. With crisp passing, a great shot, good skating, and really good hockey sense Bayreuther has a lot of the tools you look for in a smaller defender. Although not tiny, Bayreuther will need to get stronger and quicker at the next level. Just for comparison sake, at the same age Justin Schultz - now of the Edmonton Oilers - put up 22 points in 40 games as a freshman. Bayreuther is my highest rated guy who has been passed over in previous years.
50. G Ville Husso (HIFK, SM-Liiga) - After being passed over last year thanks to a mediocre season at the Finnish Jr. A level, Husso had a breakout year this year as a 19 year old in the men's league. He took over the starter role for HIFK in the SM-Liiga and led the team to the playoffs with a sub 2 GAA and .923 save percentage. He also held off challenges from veteran goalies Joakim Lundstrom and Brad Thiessen for the starting role. Husso did struggle a bit in spot duty in World Juniors behind Nashville pick Juuso Saros, but the sample size was clearly limited. Husso has good size at 6'2'', moves well with strong positioning that is typical from Finnish goalies.
51. C Brayden Point (Moose Jaw, WHL) - The diminutive forward has never let his size hold him back. Often described as a spark plug type player, Point never quits on anything. He loves to get his nose dirty. He also has a slick pair of hands and ended up leading his team in points by a stunning 36 points above anyone else. 91 points was good for 13th in the whole WHL. That said, small hard nosed players often struggle to adjust to the bigger stronger pro game apart for a few notable exceptions (eg. Gallagher). Gallagher is the player everyone is going to want to see here and although he certainly has that upside, it's not common for those types of players to work out.
52. D Brycen Martin (Swift Current, WHL) - This one is player that I am sure I have ranked much lower than most other people. Martin is a big guy that has a smooth looking skating stride from the blueline. Scouts tend to love that combo. However, I just do not see the upside here. Keaton Ellerby would be a similiar type of player. Martin does not have great hockey sense, nor does he really have much in the way of stick skills. Too many missed passes, too many mistakes in both ends. His 37 points is an impressive total, but he was the only regular defender on Swift Current that was a minus player and that was a team worst -16. With his physical skills I can see him being an NHL defender, but I don't see any kind of impact potential.
53. LW Justin Kirkland (Kelowna, WHL) - A big player with a good skating stride, Kirkland forced himself onto a really deep Kelowna team this year. By the end of the year he had forced his way into the top six. He sees the ice really well, making some great passes, but he can struggle with consistency and could stand to use his size more effectively. All in, Kirkland is an intriguing player with lots of upside.
54. D Julius Bergman (Frolunda J20, SuperElit) - A prospect that benefited hugely from a consistent team this year. After spending time on 5 different teams last year - including a disastrous stint in Allsvenskan - Bergman was left in the SuperElit with Frolunda J20 and he thrived. He led the team in defensive points with 34. Bergman is a really good skater and puck mover, though he is not afraid to mix it up physically either. Bergman is still a very raw player. The question will be; can his progress this year can be maintained after his horrible stint in pro hockey at 17 in 2012-13?
55. RW/LW Ondrej Kase (KLH Chomutov, ELH) - The slick, quick winger is an interesting case (no pun intended). He has shown complete and utter dominance at the junior level and even had great success in limited time in lower pro leagues, but scored just 4 goals and 7 points in 34 games at the Czech league level. However, he seemed to get better as the year went on - including becoming a key player in the relegation series for his team. With his hands, speed, and drive his offensive talent is obvious. He still needs to work on defensive coverage and consistency. Whether he will be able to be effective in the smaller rinks at his size and given his play style is a real question mark. Kase is a real boom or bust prospect.
56. C Lucas Wallmark (Lulea, SHL) - Here is a guy I had at #42 last year for the 2013 draft. One of two players I had in my top 60 that failed to get drafted. I'm still not really sure why. Wallmark makes passes that can make a person go "wow". He sees the ice really well, distributes the puck well, and works hard at both ends. Wallmark lacks top end speed and does not have great size (not small though). Those may be the the question marks that hurt his draft stock. He showed his talent at the WJC with Sweden where he was third in scoring on a mostly drafted Swedish team with 8 points in 7 games. He has also amassed 18 points in 27 games over the past two seasons in the Swedish 2nd division (Allsvenskan). His play was up and down in the SHL this year with just 10 points in 40 games, but few players do much as a teenager in one of the top leagues in the world.
57. D Dominik Masin (HC Slavia Praha U20, Czech U20) - Despite playing in the obscurity of the Czech U20 league, Masin had a coming out party at the U-18's with the Czech team. Not only was he the captain, but one of their top players. Solid size, good first pass and a mean streak characterize Masin. A bit of a project, but as they say better to tame a tiger than paint stripes on a cat.
58. C Chase De Leo (Portland, WHL) - De Leo is a guy who is going to naturally draw the Nic Petan comparisons. I was not a huge Petan fan last year (although Petan has grown on me this year) and De Leo is a poor man's Petan. He has one of the best set of hands in this entire draft, good agility to avoid checks, but his size and strength is even more lacking than Petan. His lack of a great top end speed also hurts. De Leo works hard, but has too many limits to his game for more than a late 2nd or early 3rd flyer.
59. D Nikita Tryamkin (Yekaterinburg, KHL) - From one of the smallest players in the draft class to one of the biggest. Despite this being Tryamkin's 3rd year eligible, he came out of nowhere this season. The 6'7'' defender broke out this year - his first full KHL seasons - with 7 points and +2 rating in 45 games. He was 4th among regular defensemen on his team in ice time, with 16:30 per game on Yekaterinburg at just 19. Despite his size he can actually move pretty well. He's not afraid to play the body at all and has a cannon for a slapshot. As with any defender at this age he still needs refinement in his positioning and decision making, but he has a really high upside. Played internationally for the first time ever at WJC and was the Russian's second best defender after former first rounder Nikita Zadorov.
60. RW Richard Nejezchleb (Brandon, WHL) - Yet another twice passed over player, perhaps speaking the relative weakness of this draft. However, the Czech Wheat Kings winger has a very intriguing package. Big rangy winger has a really good shot and fantastic offensive hockey sense. He knows where to be to score goals, though he does not have great feet though in both agility and speed. He struggles with consistency as well. A huge project, but has good upside after his breakout year with 32 goals in 66 games this year.
HM: C Colby Cave (Swift Current, WHL), G Mason McDonald (Charlottetown, QMJHL), C Alex Schoenborn (Portland, WHL), D Jake Walman (Toronto Jr., OJHL), RW Spencer Watson (Kingston, OHL)