Hot And Cold: February
The road to the NHL Draft is full of twists and turns.
Players can look like a top-end prospect one month and stall out the next. On the other side, a kid can move from an average prospect with underwhelming skill to developing into a first-round candidate.
Here’s who is rocketing up the rankings, and dropping like a rock due to developments in their game this season.
Aidan Dudas, C, Owen Sound (OHL), 5-7, 165, 06-15-2000
Dudas is a tiny, offensively-creative center tearing up the OHL. The entire season, our evaluators have been struggling with wanting to rank Dudas higher but always coming back to the size issue. His ability to utilize his amazing hockey sense, vision and awareness coupled with quick, creative hands and excellent balance, agility and edge work on his feet make him efficient. His speed is not high-end, but this kid just gets it done consistently and has intrigued NHL scouts.
Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea (SHL), 5-11, 175, 07-27-2000
Lundkvist is a calm, confident and mobile puck mover with great senses from the back end. He has taken a permanent spot in his SHL-team’s line-up, as well as a spot on their first power play unit. He likes to join the rush and he distributes the puck with accuracy, making him dangerous from anywhere on the ice. In a short time, he has become one of the most notable draft eligible prospects in the SHL. NHL teams hoping he slides will be out of luck as a team could realistically step up and grab him in the first round.
Niklas Nordgren, RW, HIFK (Liiga), 5-9, 170, 05-04-2000
Nordgren has improved a ton this season as he started in the Finnish Junior circuit before showing well in the men’s league with HIFK. He does most of his damage on the power play, where his puck distribution skills and vision can go to work, but he also has an accurate shot when he fires the puck on net himself. He is another player who boosted his stock at the recent Five Nations tournament in Plymouth, MI.
Amir Miftakhov, G, Irbis Kazan (MHL), 5-11, 160, 04-26-2000
While not having the ideal size for a goaltender, Miftakhov has the quickness and big save ability that will grab attention. He is quick with a great glove, and he covers a lot of net with his mobility. He was strong at the Five Nations as well as being one of the top junior goaltenders all season in Russia. NHL teams will look to pick up this talented goaltender in the middle rounds with the potential for some team to jump up and take him earlier than expected.
Joe Veleno, C, Drumondville (QMJHL), 6-1, 195, 01-13-2000
Veleno started off the year as a highly regarded and potential top-five selection with Saint John, but a pedestrian offensive game plagued him to the point scouts were wondering if he had plateaued and would amount to nothing more than a bottom-six option at the next level. He is a smart two-way contributor that can be that offensive catalyst and his offensive resurgence since a mid-season trade to Drummondville that has Veleno back in the good graces of NHL scouts.
Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL), 6-1, 190, 07-21-2000
Scouts already know that Dellandrea is a smart two-way center with good size, but in recent viewings not only has he continued to be a consistent performer for the Firebirds in the defensive zone, but he has also stepped up his game to become his team’s leader in the offensive zone. Dellandrea’s smarts and impressive skating allow him to get into position to either open up for a pass or create a passing or shooting lanes. His shot is dangerous and he does not to fire the puck from anywhere. NHL teams will likely step up and grab this two-way prospect on the first day of the draft.
Jack Drury, C, Waterloo (USHL), 5-11, 185, 02-03-2000
Drury makes the grade for a second consecutive month as he has been on fire in the USHL this season. Just ripped off a 23-game point streak breaking a USHL Tier I scoring record in the process. His added offensive production coupled with his already intriguing character and strong overall game is becoming something NHL teams are really taking note of. A great sense of vision and awareness as well as high compete, emotion, and energy make him a potential coaches dream that can be played in any role.
Blake McLaughlin, LW, Chicago (USHL), 5-11, 170, 02-14-2000
McLaughlin is on a bit of a slump and the reason is he has become a bit predictable with his game. He’s not as pertinent of a player to his line up as he was at the beginning of the season partly due to inconsistency in effort and partly due to defenses figuring his scheme out. He’s a very skilled and mobile player who has the ability to make a difference in the offensive zone, thrives with time and space, but can make people miss in tight situations as well with his deceptive feet and elusive hands. But there are some red flags showing up that were not there earlier.
Allan McShane, C, Oshawa (OHL), 5-11, 190, 02-14-2000
McShane is a playmaking center who seems to be able to thread the needle with a pass and produce offensive chances, but questions have arisen in recent viewings as to whether McShane can be an effective player with his skating and general lack of intensity. McShane is a smart player and his passing game can be elite, but his skating can look lackluster at times, and as a player whose best assets are on the offensive side of the puck not having that killer instinct or consistency can make scouts nervous.
Giovanni Vallati, D, Kitchener (OHL), 6-1, 185, 02-21-2000
Vallati was one of the more impressive first-year defenders in the OHL last season, but struggled out of the gate this year after failing to crack Canada’s Ivan Hlinka squad in the fall. Vallati is a strong skater, with great lateral movement and agility on his edges who is a safe but effective puck-mover from the blue line. Problems arise however when he tries to do too much with the puck and force plays. Some questions have arose regarding his hockey sense and awareness that will see his stock drop with many other talented blue line options available this season.