June 6, 2014 by conteconfidential
At the end of the 2014 NHL draft, Boston College may have four first-round picks on its roster. While it’s impossible to predict what will happen – last year, Ian McCoshen fell one pick shy of the first round after being labeled as a likely mid-first round selection – one thing is certain: at least three Eagles will hear their names called. Here’s an at-a-glance look at BC’s draft-eligible players.
Thatcher Demko: The consensus is that Demko is in a class of his own among 2014 draft eligible netminders. In fact, if he had been eligible for the 2013 draft, he likely would have been one of the first goalies off the board. Ranked first among North American goaltenders in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm and final rankings, he was also tabbed as the No. 1 goalie prospect by International Scouting Services (ISS). The youngest player in college hockey in 2013-14, he seized starting duties down the stretch and backstopped BC to the 2014 Frozen Four. Demko finished his freshman year with a 16-5-3 record, two shutouts, a 2.24 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. While he was ranked 30th in sv% and 17th in GAA in the NCAA, his numbers are impressive considering that his collegiate career was accelerated by one year. Demko has also proven his ability to step up in big games, such as in the 2014 Beanpot finals, and boasts considerable international experience, having captured a silver medal at the 2013 IIHF Men’s World Under-18 Championship. He has been lauded by scouts for his net coverage, 6-foot-3 frame and ability to read angles and square up to the puck. If Demko, who is projected as a first-round pick and was called a potential “franchise goaltender” by The Hockey News, falls to the second round, it will be more reflective of his position than his talent. Since it takes goalies longer to develop and they’re widely considered less of a sure thing than forwards and defensemen, they can sometimes get shut out of the first round. Four of the last seven drafts saw the first round pass without a goalie being picked, but Demko could reverse that trend and become the first American goalie selected in the first round since the Dallas Stars took Jack Campbell 11th overall in the 2010 draft.
Thatcher Demko went to the World Junior Championship last year. This year, he’s favored to win the starting job. (photo credit: Boston College Athletics)
Alex Tuch: It’s fitting that Tuch rhymes with “truck.” At 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, he projects as a power forward and has impressed scouts with his pro-style body, impressive reach, hard shot and ability to protect the puck and win battles along the boards. Tuch surpassed fellow BC recruit Sonny Milano in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, moving to 12th among North American skaters after being ranked 21st at the midterm. Tuch is also ranked 14th among all draft eligible players by ISS. Playing right wing on a line with Milano and heralded BU recruit Jack Eichel, he enjoyed a breakout season, finishing third on the U.S. NTDP U-18 team with 64 points (29g-35a) in 61 games and tying Eichel for first with seven game-winning goals. Some scouting reports have referred to him as one of the most mature players available in this year’s draft; others have pointed out that he combines solid defensive awareness with his offensive upside. During the 2012-13 season with the U.S. NTDP U-17 team, Tuch totaled only 25 points (11g-14a) in 56 games. Some writers have argued that, if it weren’t for this performance keeping him off the radar until this year’s outburst, he may have been in the discussion as a potential top five pick, though top 10 would be more realistic.
Sonny Milano: Like 2014 Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau, Milano plays left wing. Like Gaudreau, he has exceptional hands – if you haven’t already, check out the video of Milano stickhandling in a parking lot at the NHL combine – and elusive speed. A dynamic playmaker who can also score goals, Milano shined at the 2014 Men’s World U-18 Championship, tying Eichel for the team lead with 10 points (3g-7a) in seven games as the Americans captured the gold medal. Last season, he was first on the U.S. U-18 team in assists (56), second in points (85) and game-winning goals (6) and tied for third with Tuch in goals (29). Milano’s similarities with Gaudreau don’t end there. Early in his collegiate career, Gaudreau had a tendency to overhandle the puck, wasn’t strong on the backcheck and occasionally looked lost in the defensive end. But he learned quickly and, by his junior year, was an aggressive backchecker who was also counted on to log time on the penalty kill. Critiques leveled against Milano are that he has a tendency to wait for the breakaway, can be inconsistent in his own end and turns the puck over too much because he hangs onto it too long. Under Jerry York’s tutelage, expect Milano to develop into a more responsible player, like Gaudreau did. Standing 6-feet tall and weighing 183 pounds, Milano isn’t the biggest forward available in the draft, but he’s closer in size to the prototypical NHL player than Gaudreau. Given his skill level, quick first step and proven ability to rack up points, Milano could join Tuch in the first round. He was ranked 16th by ISS and by NHL Central Scouting on both its midterm and final rankings.
Alex Tuch had a successful year on the ice and in the classroom. He was named one of two recipients of the 2013-14 USHL Scholar-Athlete Award. (photo credit: Tom Sorensen)
Joey “J.D.” Dudek: Dudek has been on the draft radar for awhile and last season centered what was considered one of the most dangerous lines in prep school hockey. In 25 games with Kimball Union Academy, the 5-foot-11 playmaking pivot totaled 44 points (9g-35a). The year before, he found the back of the net himself a bit more, compiling 42 points (17g-25a) in 29 games. Dudek suffered an upper-body injury while playing in Kimball Union’s Frozen Fenway series, keeping him out of the lineup from January to early February. But, despite his injury, Dudek moved up to 109th in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings from his 157th position at the midterm. A poised player with the puck and a leader in the dressing room, he has also shown the ability to win in the postseason, capturing two championships in the past three seasons. In 2012, he teamed with fellow BC recruit Zach Sanford to help Pinkerton Academy win the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 state championship. In 2014, he captained Kimball Union to the Piatelli/Simmons Small School Championship. Originally expected to arrive on the Heights in 2014, Dudek will spend the 2014-15 season in the United States Hockey League with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who groomed Gaudreau and Mike Matheson, the 2014-15 captain and a 2012 Florida Panthers first rounder.
Scott Savage’s ability to move the puck and generate offense may see him become a late-round pick. (photo credit: Boston College Athletics)
Scott Savage: Savage was passed over in last year’s draft and is now in his second, and final, year of eligibility. The 6-foot-1 defenseman parlayed a solid rookie campaign with BC to a spot on NHL Central Scouting’s radar, being positioned at 194th among North American skaters in its final rankings. Savage, who weighed only 168 pounds last year at this time, added muscle and now tips the scales at 185 pounds, which is still a little too lean for an NHL defenseman but a marked improvement. Last season, Savage proved himself on a young BC blueline, finishing second among defensemen on the team with 18 points (4g-14a) in 35 games. He displayed willingness to jump into the play and help run the offense from the point. But his defensive play still needs work, although he did improve over the course of the season. At times, Savage made poor decisions with the puck – most notably a costly turnover that sealed Notre Dame’s win over BC in game three of the Hockey East quarterfinals – or was outmuscled by stronger opponents. That being said, he has shown both promise and improvement, meaning that a team may take a late-round flier on him.
Christopher Brown: Brown averaged exactly three points a game last year for Cranbrook-Kingswood Upper School of the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League. In 28 games, the 6-foot center totaled 84 points (26g-58a), good for first place in the MIHL North Division and 34 more than the next highest scoring non-teammate. Cranbrook-Kingswood, meanwhile, cruised to the MIHL North Division title and bested Trenton in the unofficial league title game. For his efforts, the junior captured the league’s Most Valuable Player award and also more notice from scouts. Ranked 175th by NHL Central Scouting on the midterm, he jumped 37 places to 138th on its final rankings. The brother of 2013-14 captain Patrick Brown, he was selected in the fourth round (55th overall) by the Green Bay Gamblers in phase II of the USHL draft. He appeared in two games for the Gamblers and plans to play there for his senior season. Expect Brown, if he goes, to be a mid-to-late round draft pick. Given his offensive numbers and his pedigree, a team may take a chance on him.
Sonny Milano flipped his commitment from Notre Dame to BC and could team again with 2013-14 U.S. NTDP linemate Alex Tuch. (photo credit: Tom Sorensen)
Other Draft Eligible Players
Chris Birdsall: Birdsall made the jump to the USHL in 2012-13 at age 16. In 23 games for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, he finished with a GAA of 3.63 and a .867 sv%. Birdsall again struggled last year, posting a 3.35 GAA and a .888 sv%, both of which placed him at the back of the pack among USHL netminders. Birdsall ultimately ceded the net to Danny Tirone, a University of New Hampshire recruit and USHL rookie, and started in only 19 games, finishing the year with a 9-8-2 record. It is unlikely Birdsall will be selected in the 2014 NHL draft; however, he has been granted a fresh start as he was traded to the Youngstown Phantoms for a fifth-round pick in phase two of the 2014 USHL draft. The Phantoms lost their starting goalie, Sean Romeo, who will head to Orono to play for the University of Maine in 2014.
Editor’s Note: Noah Hanifin, who primarily played for the U.S. NTDP U-17 team but was called up for the U-18 World Championship and totaled five points (1g-4a) in seven games, is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. The dynamic defenseman will start his collegiate career in 2014; like Demko, he was accelerated a year. Hanifin and Colin White, who posted 63 points (33g-30a) in 47 games with the U.S. NTDP U-17 team, were included in The Hockey News‘s 2015 NHL Draft Sneak Peek section of its draft preview. Hanifin is tabbed as the third-best prospect while White is seventh.
By Jen Dobias