As we travel around evaluating players of all ages for the various drafts, one of our favorite parts of the job is to find those who others have passed over or deemed not good enough.
As we find them, we make a point of informing our various clients of their existence because we believe adding these types of kids makes average teams good and good teams great.
We have been occasionally right about some guys and we have been completely wrong in our assessment on others. In my opinion, this is where the good evaluators can make their mark because everyone can identify the Taylor Halls and the Cam Fowlers of the world.
In that context, we present the following hidden gems and the respective groups that should be paying attention to them:
ATTENTION: NHL SCOUTS/U.S. UNDER-18 COACHES
Taylor Carnevale, Barrie Colts
This kid has a head for the game that is well beyond his years. He does so many little things each night we can’t believe an NHL team didn’t use a late round pick on this kid.
To illustrate the point, we did some checking and it seems this kid has been an even or plus player in 50 of his past 51 games. That is an incredible streak that warrants some attention by the highest levels of scouts.
Furthermore, he has picked up his offensive game to the point he is currently in the top 20 in Ontario League scoring, while receiving only average ice time due to the depth Barrie boasts up front.
Teams missed on Carnevale last year, but it won’t happen a second time if he keeps playing like he has.
ATTENTION: U.S. NTDP/IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS
Taki Pantziris, Dixie BeeHives (OJHL)/Mississauga Rebels (GTHL)
This kid was a ninth round pick of the Guelph Storm in last year’s OHL Priority Selection, but he would have been a much higher pick had he been willing to commit to the league.
The 6-foot-2 defenseman has all the tools to become a big-time player; his offensive instincts, his effortless skating stride and his intelligence on the ice allow him to diffuse any issue that arises in the defensive end.
Along with having a tremendous on-ice skill set, this kid is an academically gifted student at Upper Canada College who carries a 3.7 GPA and scored an incredible 1800 on the SAT.
“He could step right in now and run our power play and play 20 minutes a night for us,” an OHL division-leading coach said.
The rub for this 16-year-old phenom is that he will be graduating from UCC this spring and needs a place to play next year, while waiting to join an Ivy League school in 2011-12.
The US NTDP is a good fit because he has American citizenship. As for Pantziris’ final destination, Brown has shown the most interest, but we have to believe Harvard, Princeton, BU, BC and others should be making the trek north to see this kid.
ATTENTION: NHL SCOUTS
Zach Trotman, Lake Superior State Lakers (CCHA)
Zach Trotman grew up in Indiana and didn’t move to the hockey hotbed of Detroit until his teen years. His path led him to get lost in the shuffle, but those days are over in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Trotman is a 6-foot-4, 206-pound freshman who gets better each night out. Along with being one of coach Jim Roque’s most steady defenders, the Novi, Mich., native loves to play a physical game.
The young Laker is a 1990 birth date who has good mobility and a frame that is begging for another 20 pounds. He’s a kid who is slightly off the beaten path, but one well worth the trek.
ATTENTION: OHL SCOUTS
Nick Ebert, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
The next great U.S.-born defenseman is plying his trade in the United States League and in doing so is highlighting precisely why elite 15-year-olds should be given the opportunity to play junior against better competition.
If Ebert was a Canadian kid, he would be forced to play minor midget, which would be like having a genius repeat Grade 8.
Ebert is excelling despite being only 15. I had one NHL scout mention if his birth certificate read 1992 instead of 1994, he would probably go in the top three rounds of this year’s NHL draft.
As such, I would highly recommend any OHL venture south of the border and begin the recruiting process, because this kid is well worth the effort.
ATTENTION: NCAA COACHES/NHL SCOUTS
Joel Vienneau, Kingston Voyageurs (OJAHL)
After watching a recent Voyageur game, I asked GM and former goaltender Kory Cooper whether Vienneau was always that good or whether he had a great game.
“Well he gave up two goals, which is a lot by his standards, so I guess he was just OK tonight,” he replied.
Although he was drafted in the seventh round by the Guelph Storm, I think he has decided to pursue an NCAA scholarship. Before that happens, however, expect him to be selected this June in the NHL draft in Los Angeles because the 6-foot-3 monster is the real deal.
He has tremendous size and athleticism and has just recently begun working with a goalie coach, which means we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg as it relates to this kid’s talent. NHL scouts should stop in the Limestone City to watch this unique prospect.
Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting and co-hosts the radio show “Breakout; The Hockey Show; NHL 2009” on the Prime Sports Network. He is also a regular contributor to Hockey Night in Canada on Sirius Radio as their draft and junior hockey insider. Read his other blog entries HERE.