The busy season continues, with lots to report on in the prospect world. The CHL Top Prospects Game was last week, while the North American League Prospects Tournament field was just announced. Toss in the American League’s All-Star Game and there’s a lot to cover off, so let’s look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Nicolas Roy, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Ask Roy was his strengths and weaknesses are on the ice and the big 17-year-old center will give you a straight answer.
“I have really good vision,” he said. “I’m a good playmaker and make really good passes. I need to improve my strength and my leg explosion, to be faster on the ice.”
So when it comes to attributes, Roy is more of a passer than a shooter. Which is funny, because growing up in Northern Quebec, the youngster learned how to hunt for moose and partridge – he’s literally a shooter off the ice.
As the top pick in the 2013 QMJHL draft, Roy was a buzzed-about prospect. But Cape Breton wasn’t a good fit in his mind, so the Eagles ended up trading him to the Sags. That echoed the situation Nathan MacKinnon faced a few years prior when his rights were traded from Baie-Comeau to Halifax. The Drakkar faithful tossed chicken wings at MacKinnon when the Mooseheads came to town, but Roy has been spared any barrages in Cape Breton so far.
“They didn’t throw things on the ice, but for sure they were booing,” he said. “But not too much, it was OK.”
What excites scouts the most about the Chicoutimi pivot is his play away from the puck, which may be the best in his class. Coupled with his reach and defensive awareness and you have a pretty safe pick. Getting more consistency offensively is a task and that falls to new Sagueneens coach Yanick Jean, who took over in late November.
“We really like him,” Roy said. “He brings a lot of intensity in practice and everywhere else. He’s a very nice coach.”
Playoffs will be a battle for the Sags, but if Roy can match offense with his defense, the post-season will be easily attainable. Draft eligible in 2015.
Travis Konecny, RW – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Players don’t generally get penalized for poor showings at the CHL Top Prospects Game, but they can elevate themselves and that’s what Konecny did. Not only did the talented pivot earn Player of the Game honors with three points in a 6-0 win, but he was also great during on- and off-ice testing the day before. Draft eligible in 2015.
Matej Tomek, G – Topeka RoadRunners (NAHL)
It’s been a big month for Tomek news lately. Most recently, the Slovakian goalie was named to the NAHL’s U18 Selects Team that will play in the league’s Top Prospects tournament. Before that, the big 6-foot-3 netminder made his commitment to the University of North Dakota, where his 1.59 goals-against average in Topeka most likely raised eyebrows. Draft eligible in 2015.
Nathan Noel, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Scouts were looking for more from Noel in the first half this season, but the CHL Top Prospects Game seems to have been a turning point. A dazzling offensive player who can swerve and cut in the blink of an eye, Noel has five points in his past two games, including a four-goal outburst against Cape Breton. Draft eligible in 2015.
Emile Poirier, RW – Adirondack Flames (AHL)
Poirier has been putting up numbers all year long, so naturally he kept the party going at the AHL All-Star Game in Utica. The fast and physical winger had a goal and three points in the 14-12 Western Conference win; back in Adirondack Poirier is the second-best scorer with 27 points in 34 games. Drafted 22nd overall by Calgary in 2013.
Brendan Guhle, D – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
A late add to the CHL Top Prospects Game, Guhle showed off some great natural skill in the on-ice testing and excellent all-around athleticism in the off-ice drills, which ape the NHL draft combine. Still a prospect on the rise, Guhle will get great reps on a rebuilding Raiders squad. Draft eligible in 2015.
Charles Hudon, C – Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
The co-MVP of the AHL All-Star Game with goalie Jacob Markstrom, Hudon banged home a hat trick and added an assist for the victorious West in Utica. The hard-working, smart center leads the league in rookie scoring with 36 points in 43 games. Drafted 122nd overall by Montreal in 2012.
Jakub Vrana, RW – Linkoping (SHL)
With William Nylander off to the AHL, Vrana now inherits the rookie scoring race lead in Sweden’s top circuit with 19 points in 31 games against men. The dangerous Czech sniper has points in his past two games for Linkoping, where he is working on the team’s second line as a teenager. Drafted 13th overall by Washington in 2014.
Jordan Schmaltz, D – University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Schmaltz was always touted as a raw prospect with great upside and in his junior year, he’s really coming to the fore. The puck-moving defenseman is at his best in the offensive end and his 17 assists through 25 games has him tied for second in the conference. He has also put on 12 necessary pounds to his lanky 6-foot-2 frame. Drafted 25th overall by St. Louis in 2012.
Ryan Fitzgerald, LW – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Look out: The Eagles are getting hot and they’re doing it right before the Beanpot, the annual four-team Boston NCAA classic. Fitzgerald has done a lot of damage for B.C. lately, notching five points in his past four games. The gritty and cerebral winger was big in wins over Boston U. and Connecticut. Drafted 120th overall by Boston in 2013.