The Boston College commit is honing his game with Team USA’s National Team Development Program. Find out why our prospect expert tabbed him and nine other NHL hopefuls as players to watch this week.
Welcome back to another season of The Hot List, my weekly update of who is making noise in the world of prospects. Players are eligible for the list as long as they haven’t stepped on the ice for a regular season NHL game; otherwise, they come from all different leagues and development points. Some will be on hot streaks, others will be new names you’ll want to bank in your memory. All will be potential NHLers one day. Hockey’s back, so let’s take a look at this week’s roundup.
Jeremy Bracco, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
One of the most electrifying players at the All-American Prospects Game last week, Bracco formed a deadly line with Jack Eichel and, eventually, Jordan Greenway. Of course, that meant the speedy and gifted Boston College commit had to live with some good-natured ribbing from the other two, who are bound to rival Boston University.
“Second period we were going out and (Eichel) said, ‘you sure you don’t want to go to B.U.?’ ” Bracco said. “We were just messing around with each other. But once Greenway was put on our line I was like, ‘oh god,’ because they’re both going to B.U., but it was definitely fun.”
Bracco is in his second year with Team USA’s National Team Development Program and that organization’s vaunted weight room has been a boon for the Long Island native. He came in last year at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds; now he’s up to 173. Though it doesn’t hinder him on the ice, Bracco’s smaller frame has meant proving himself.
“I feel I get a little slighted sometimes due to my size,” he said. “But it motivates me to play better and harder and win battles against bigger guys.”
Not surprisingly, the super-skilled Bracco is a Patrick Kane fan, as the Chicago Blackhawks star provides a pretty good template for succeeding without bulk in the NHL.
“He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s fun to watch,” Bracco said. “Energetic, good offensively – I try to model my game after him.”
While he is still getting stronger and working on his shot, Bracco is one to watch this year. And given what he has shown early on, he could very well provide an NHL team with some Kane-esque highlight reel goals in the future. Draft eligible in 2015.
Dylan Strome, C – Erie Otters (OHL)
There’s gonna be a lot of Otter love this year, what with Strome and Connor McDavid as the team’s top two centers. Strome won the week in the Ontario League with 10 points in his first three games. The 6-foot-3 pivot is smart and skilled, with a wicked playmaking streak – nine of his points have been assists so far. Draft eligible in 2015.
William Karlsson, C – HV 71 (SHL)
Whip-smart and speedy, Karlsson has been a nice surprise for Anaheim in the pre-season and is currently pushing for a roster spot. Whether he makes the final cut or not, the Swedish pivot is in line for a great season, even if it means cutting his teeth in the American League with Norfolk first. Drafted 53rd overall by Anaheim in 2011.
Pavel Buchnevich, LW – Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)
With nine points in his first 12 games, Buchnevich is well on his way to smashing his previous offensive highs in Russia. His five goals lead the team and his combination of size, skill and edge make him an intriguing prospect. Drafted 75th overall by the New York Rangers in 2013.
Evgeny Svechnikov, LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
The Russian import has a whole toolbox of skills, from elite vision and great speed to a cracking shot and a big frame. It’s hard not to get excited about a winger like that when his nation has produced names like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk in the past and though he has a ways to go, Svechnikov has torn up the Quebec League early with 14 points in seven games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Nick Merkley, C – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The kind of heart-and-soul player that coaches love, Merkley is a mid-sized center with a dazzling array of offensive moves and the confidence to pull them off. Using his playmaking vision, he has jumped off to a great start with five assists and six points in three games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Alexandre Carrier, D – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
A quick defenseman with offensive upside, Carrier has posted seven assists in seven games so far for the Piques. Though he’s not the biggest blueliner out there, he has shown a willingness to stick up for himself physically in the past and will also sacrifice his body to get the job done in his own zone. Draft eligible in 2015.
Alex Nedeljkovic, G – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
He had some truly heroic moments for Carolina’s squad at the Traverse City rookie tournament and Nedeljkovic will once again be key to Plymouth’s fate. With a better squad in front of him now, look for the athletic and competitive netminder to put up even better numbers this season. Drafted 37th overall by Carolina in 2014.
Matej Tomek, G – Topeka RoadRunners (NAHL)
The North American League has been a reliable development circuit for goalies lately, from Anthony Stolarz to Evan Cowley (Ryan Miller played there, too). This year’s prize may be Tomek, a big, technically-sound kid from Slovakia who has been on fire early with a 1.01 goals-against average and .963 save percentage through four appearances. Draft eligible in 2015.
Ryan Donato, C – South Shore Kings (USPHL)
Donato has burst out of the gates in the U.S. Premier League with seven points in six games, but he’ll get an even bigger stage to play on when he joins the NTDP this weekend for games against NCAA squads Miami and Michigan. There the Harvard commit can show off his sick hands and great 1-on-1 skills. Drafted 56th overall by Boston in 2014.