Every year, the NHL Entry Draft becomes more diverse. At the
1979 NHL entry draft 126 players were drafted and 111 of them (88%) were Canadian. At last year’s draft only 37.8% (80) of the 211 players drafted hailed from Canada. The NHL has changed a lot in 26 years, and for kids growing up in Canada the dream of getting drafted, and then playing in the NHL, is becoming harder by the day.
Getting drafted is a huge honour, and whether you are drafted
in the first round tonight or in the seventh round on Saturday, the young men and
their families should take a few days to celebrate a wonderful accomplishment.
This weekend players should focus on all the hard work and
commitment it took to get them here. There will be a lot of time to worry
about the next steps needed to become an NHL player, but they should take a moment to enjoy this
important first step.
Based on a CBC report from 2014, there is approximately 48,000 seventeen year-old boys playing organized hockey. So the 80 who were drafted make up 0.0016% of the boys playing. Being drafted is an incredible achievement. Congratulations in advance to all the players worldwide who will hear their name called today and tomorrow.
I have watched many of the Edmonton and area 1998 born kids
since they were in bantam AAA, and a few of them even earlier, because I went
to many of my nephew’s games. I’ve never done a draft rankings because I don’t
feel comfortable ranking players I’ve never seen play live. You can
only glean so much from watching games on line, and often the camera angles and
feeds don’t let you see enough of the game.
I won’t do a draft ranking, but here are my thoughts on some of the Edmonton and area
players who could have their name called this weekend in Buffalo.
He’ll be the first local player drafted. He could crack the top-ten,
but if not he won’t be waiting long to hear his name tonight. He played minor
hockey in Fort Saskatchewan, but he played bantam, midget and junior in
BC. He’s improved every
year since he was thirteen. He lit up the BCHL this season, scoring 104 points in 48 games. He was the captain for
Canada at the U18 tournament this past April, and he proved not playing major junior
didn’t hurt him at all. He is dynamic offensively, but also very solid
defensively. He is hard to knock off the puck and he’s always moving his feet.
He is going to the NCAA, but I will be surprised if he stays the full four
seasons. I could see him turning pro after one or two years in college.
I’d be very
surprised if he doesn’t play in the NHL.
Benson dominated Bantam AAA playing for the South Side Athletic Club (SSAC). He broke the league scoring record and he was a
physical force at 14 years old. I’d say he is the safest bet to become a
regular NHL player. He has an outstanding work ethic, and he’s very consistent.
I don’t see him as a high-end offensive player though. Unfortunately, some
circumstances out of his control have placed some unrealistic expectations on
his stat line in bantam, 57-89-146 in 33 games, and felt he was worthy of playing in the WHL at 15. Thankfully
his family is very grounded and his parents didn’t apply for special status. He
debuted in the WHL at 16 and had a solid rookie season.
In Vancouver, his owner made a few ridiculous claims about
being a generational player and they handed him the captaincy at 17. None of
this phased Benson. He is an incredibly level-headed young man, and teammates and
opponents speak very highly of him.
I don’t see him as a high-end offensive player in the NHL, but he has good vision, an incredible
work ethic and he is solid in both ends of the ice. He is strong on his skates, and a good, but not great, skater. Injuries have
lowered his draft ranking, but in my eyes they (injuries) are the only thing that might
hold him back from having a solid NHL career.
He will be drafted late in the first round or early in the second round.
I first saw Steele in atom. He wore a gold and blue helmet
playing for Strathcona/Ardrossan and I watched him battle the Beaumont Braves in atom and peewee, and then in bantam and midget AAA he played for Sherwood
Park. Steele has always been a dynamic offensive player. He always had the puck
and it helped him hone his skills.
He’s had two productive seasons with the Regina Pats in the
WHL. He has top-six skill. He’s an excellent passer, stickhandler, with very
good instincts down low in the offensive zone and is a good skater. He’s quite
competitive, which he’ll need due to his small frame. He needs to get stronger,
and he if can improve his shot he’ll be much more of an offensive threat. Look
for him to score 90-100 points in the WHL next season.
He is ranked between #30-#55, depending on which ranking you read, and he is likely to hear his name called in the second round.
GP G-A-PTS PIM
He’s one of the top-three ranked goalies in the draft. He played one year of Bantam AAA in Fort Saskatchewan and the next year in Sherwood Park. He wasn’t the dominant goalie in the league in bantam, but he’s improved every year and he grew, now standing 6’1″. He is one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, turning 18 on August 13th.
The goaltending position is bordering on a height bias. If a goalie isn’t at least 6’1″ their chances of playing in the NHL are shrinking yearly. Hart’s instincts, rebound control and fundamentals are excellent. It must be frustrating to be a goalie nowadays if you aren’t tall. Smaller forwards and defencemen have always had to battle the size concerns, but the NHL has openings for smaller, skilled players. It seems the goalie position is the one hit hardest by height.
Hart is rated to go in the second round and he should look at the success of Jonathan Quick if he has any concerns about height.
He only played two regular season games this year due a knee injury early in the season, but he played in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup with the Red Deer Rebels. He’s expected to be selected late in the second, or most likely in the third round, and is a promising young defender.
He played bantam AAA in St. Albert, but played midget in Okanagan. He has a good, hard shot, skates well and he has a lot of room to physically mature. It is a testament to his ability that he’ll be drafted in the top 100 despite missing 70 regular season games. He was invited to the NHL combine even though the scouts had limited viewings of him this year.
He wasn’t drafted last season, likely due to his size and being injured, but
he got the scouts’ attention this year. He had an outstanding season in
Lethbridge, scoring 109 points in 72 games. He is so dynamic offensively teams would be foolish
not to draft him. We are seeing an increase in smaller, skilled players in the
NHL and Burke is exactly that. He’ll need to get stronger of course, all
players do, but he is a very good play maker and teams would be foolish to pass on the former Canadian Athletic Club (CAC) product.
He should hear his name between the fourth and sixth rounds.
He is a dynamic offensive defenceman. He had 72 points in 32 games as a Dman for the SSAC club in bantam AAA. He moves the puck well, is a great skater and he’s competitive. His biggest challenge will be his size. He’s only 5’8″, but he’s hopeful he can add another inch or two. He’d be the third player in his family drafted since 2013. Older brothers Peter (seventh round to Columbus in 2013) and John (New Jersey Devils first round pick in 2014) have already been drafted.
It is amazing to have three brothers drafted. What a thrill for their parents. Skilled, puck moving defenders are a hot commodity in the NHL, and if he can grow a bit he’ll have a shot to make it. Tyler Spurgeon and Tyson Barrie are great examples of smaller defenders who can excel in the NHL.
Played bantam in Red Deer, but he played midget AAA in Edmonton for
MLAC (Maple Leafs Athletic Club). He is still very slender but has a lot of potential upside. He needs to
improve his leg strength, but he looks to be an ideal candidate to become a
At 6’2 and 178 pounds he has a lot of room to fill out and he will. You can’t
change your DNA and some people just mature later, but he had a strong rookie
season with Swift Current and he looked better every game I watched. His size
and skating ability combined with his raw potential will likely see him being selected somewhere
in the 4th and 6th rounds.
He might go in the later rounds. He’s been one of my
favourite players to watch since bantam AAA. He has a similar build to Brad
Marchand, except he’s thicker. He’s not very tall, but he plays hard. I
remember watching him bowl over guys at Bill Hunter Arena will playing for MLAC.
He has decent hands, but he’d be a grinding, energy guy in the NHL.
GP G-A-PTS PIM
Obviously I know his game the best. He was always one of the
smallest players on his team growing up, but he was the best skater. In his
first year in bantam AAA he was 5’3”. Luckily he had a massive growth spurt and
he measured 6’0” at the combine in May. He is 179 pounds now, but he will fill
out and be close to 190-95 when he is 20 or 21, just like his father. He is very
strong, especially his lower body. He squatted 385 pounds in reps of five last
summer. He’s an offensive player. He led midget AAA league in scoring as a 15 year
old, but he broke his clavicle (twice) in his rookie season in the WHL and only
played ten games.
He was a rookie in the WHL this year and totaled 73 points in 72 games. He has
an excellent snap shot, and skating is his best asset. He needs to become more
consistent. In his words, “I had too many shifts where I did nothing.” He is
lucky to have Tim Hunter as his coach in Moose Jaw. Hunter coaches an attacking
style and he encourages his players to make plays.
Hunter used him on both special teams units, and putting him on the PK midway
through the year made him more aware defensively. He played wing half of this
past season, but he’s a natural centre and Hunter plans to use him and his
roommate Brett Howden (rated to go in first round this year) there next year.
highly competitive, excellent on the PP as both a shooter and playmaker, and an outstanding skater. Once he learns to play fast more often he’ll become even more
He might sneak into the late second round, but he’s likely a third round selection.
I’ve always enjoyed the draft, but this year it will be
extremely enjoyable. I know many of these players and I’ve met their
families. It will be a thrill to see so many kids rewarded for all their hard
work over the years. I haven’t cheered in the pressbox in 15 years, but Saturday afternoon I won’t have any problem cheering and clapping when Noah’s name is called. It will be a thrill for our entire family, and I’ll be happy to see him rewarded for all his hard work and dedication.
The next steps will be even more difficult, but this weekend will be just about watching him have a dreamed fulfilled.
Enjoy the draft.
The following players are all Vimy Hockey Academy Alumni, a proud partner of the Nation Network. Check them out at www.vimyedmonton.ca/hockey
- Carter Hart – Goalie – Everett Silvertips
- Tyler Benson – Forward – Vancouver Giants
- Sam Steel – Forward – Regina Pats
- David Quenneville – Defense – Medicine Hat Tigers
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