2014 NHL Draft Grades: Metropolitan Division, Part II
Brandon Halverson still needs to prove he can handle a big workload in the OHL. (Eliteprospects.com)
Welcome back, we’re glad you’re here! Today, we’ll wrap up our post-draft coverage of the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division with Part VI of our master series.
New York Rangers
Minus a first round pick, the 2014 Eastern Conference champions had to wait until the second-to-last pick of the second round before making their top selection of the draft, taking Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) netminder Brandon Halverson with the 59th overall pick. A tall, lanky back-stopper at 6’3″ and 176 pounds, Halverson has technical issues to work on in his game, but boasts good upside. In 19 games with the Greyhounds, the Traverse City, Michigan native put together a 12-6-1 record, a 2.96 goals against average, a .904 save percentage and two shutouts.
The Rangers waited until the 85th overall pick to make their next selection, snatching up Portland Winterhawks (WHL) forward Keegan Iverson. A rugged power forward in the prototypical New York Rangers mold, Iverson played an extremely important role as a key shutdown forward with brute strength and offensive ability. He’s also shown a willingness to back up his teammates (see video below). In 67 regular season games, the St. Louis Park, Minnesota native collected 22 goals and 20 assists for 42 points and a plus-16 rating.
In the fourth round, New York added a pair of prospects — Sioux City Musketeers/Indiana Ice (USHL) defenseman Ryan Mantha (104th overall) and Russian goaltender Igor Shesterkin (118th overall). Mantha has imposing size at 6’4″ and 225 pounds, but mobility, physicality and his overall defensive game are all considered to be serious question marks. He’ll get a chance to prove he’s more than just a big skater with OHL’s Niagara IceDogs this fall. Shesterkin played quite well in Russian juniors, putting together a 1.42 goals against average and a .947 save percentage in 23 regular season games before a 1.75/.937 campaign in 19 postseason appearances.
The Rangers wrapped up the draft with a trio of fifth rounders, taking Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) right winger Richard Nejezchleb (122nd), Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL) defenseman Daniel Walcott (140th) and Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) defender Tyler Nanne (142nd). Nejezchleb and Walcott are both over-age players, but Nanne — grandson of former North Stars great Lou Nanne — is headed for college puck with Ohio State after one more season in Sioux Falls.
It wasn’t a great draft, but New York added a couple of solid goaltending prospects, a future second/third line stud in Iverson and shored up the organization’s overall depth. We’ll give it a C+.
It happens every year. The trade deadline comes around, and the Flyers are looking for that next great top-four defenseman. This year, they drafted one instead. With the 17th overall pick, Philly fans were perfectly happy to welcome Calgary (WHL) defender Travis Sanheim to the fold. A big (6’3″) lefty, Sanheim had an impressive rookie season in the “W” in 2013-14, notching five goals, 29 points and a plus-25 rating in 67 regular season games, adding six assists in seven U-18 World Junior Championship games with Team Canada.
In round two, the Flyers added Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL) forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel. A native of Slave Lake, Alberta, the versatile righty forward collected 22 goals and 53 points in 65 games in his second full season with the Foreurs. He later added four goals, 13 points and a plus-11 rating in 24 games as Val-d’Or went on to win the league championship.
Philly snatched up another defenseman in the third round, taking Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) defender Mark Friedman with the 86th overall pick. A Bowling Green State commit, Friedman is looking to take his skill set to greater heights after an impressive 10 goals, 40 points and a plus-22 rating in 51 regular season games with Waterloo last season.
The Flyers went without in the fourth round, waiting until the 18th pick of round five to take two-way Swedish winger Oskar Lindblom. A versatile forward, Lindblom is just a very solid pick for Philly. He dominated Sweden’s J18 leagues with eight goals and 13 points in six games before being promoted to Brynas’ J20 team. In 43 regular season games with Brynas J20, Lindblom added 13 goals, 33 points and a plus-2 rating before elevating his game in the postseason with a point-per-game scoring pace through seven games. He’ll look for an even better season — possibly even with Brynas’ men’s club — in the fall.
Philadelphia added another versatile forward in Sanheim’s Calgary teammate Radel Fazleev in the sixth round. The Russian had a solid, if somewhat unimpressive rookie campaign with five goals and 25 points in 38 regular season games. He’ll certainly be expected to produce better numbers with the Hitmen once the 2014-15 season officially gets underway.
With its final pick in the draft, Philly snatched up one more defenseman in Linkoping’s (Swedish Elite League) Jesper Pettersson. Already 20, the 5’9″, 187-pound righty spent the majority of the 2013-14 season playing against men in Sweden’s premier professional hockey league, notching an assist and a minus-8 rating in 48 regular season games. He’s expected to make the jump to North American professional hockey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL), the Flyers’ top minor league affiliate.
Philadelphia added some solid prospects, a few that may even have the potential to have a serious impact in the coming seasons. However, goaltending depth still remains a big issue, and there were certainly plenty of those still available at different times throughout the draft. Still, this effort is worth a B at the least.
With just five picks in hand for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft — and none in rounds two or three — Pittsburgh made sure to make its top pick count with the selection of Finnish right winger Kasperi Kapanen. A slippery 6’0″, 181-pound youngster, he is an impressive skater with a goal scorer’s touch, but could use more velocity on his shot. Kapanen had seven goals and 14 points while playing 47 games against men with KalPa of the SM-Liiga, Finland’s premier professional hockey league. Already signed by the Penguins, he is expected to return to KalPa for the 2014-15 season.
Pittsburgh waited until late in the fourth round before making its next selection, snatching up Deerfield Academy (High-MA) forward Sam Lafferty with the 113th overall pick. A Pennsylvania native, Lafferty dominated the high school ranks with 21 goals and 55 points in 25 games. He’ll make the leap to college puck with Brown University this fall.
In the fifth round, the Pens selected Omaha Lancers (USHL) pivot Anthony Angello. A big pivot at 6’3″ and 190 pounds, Angello had a so-so rookie season, scoring 11 goals, 21 points and a minus-11 rating in 58 regular season games. He’ll play another season of juniors before making the leap to the collegiate ranks with Cornell University in the fall of 2015.
Pittsburgh took a chance on a solid two-way shutdown grinder in the sixth round, picking Owen Sound Attack (OHL) winger Jaden Lindo at 173rd overall. Described as a 200-foot team player, Lindo had nine goals, 18 points and a minus-9 rating in 40 regular season games in his second season with the Attack. With their final pick (203rd overall), the Penguins took another flyer on Union College rear guard Jeff Taylor. A smaller defender, Taylor had three goals, 16 points and a plus-21 rating in 41 games as a freshman.
For a team that doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses in the prospect pool, one poor draft isn’t going to sink the ship, and this was by no means a poor draft for Pittsburgh. Kapanen has the makings of a future stud, and there is enough additional talent in this draft class to add to the overall organizational depth. It wasn’t a great draft, but it’s worth a solid B at the least.
The Capitals are in a quandary. They have the talent to be consistently dominant in the league, but can’t seem to do so to save their lives. As such, the organization finds itself in the middle of a bit of a rebuild. What better way to help replenish the team than by adding talented Czech winger Jakub Vrana with the 13th overall pick?
A smaller player at 5’11” and 185 pounds, Vrana has a whole bag of tracks at his disposal. He’s technically sound, has a nose for the net and a goal scorer’s touch, but could use some work on his defensive play. Vrana had two goals and three points in 24 regular season games with Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League, but was impressive with Linkoping’s J20 club, scoring 14 goals, 25 points and a plus-6 rating in 24 games. He should give a better showing with Linkoping’s top club this fall.
In round two, the Caps added more goaltending depth with the selection of another Czech in Bili Tygri Liberec U20 netminder Vitek Vanecek. A smaller netminder at 6’0″ and 181 pounds, Vanecek makes up for it with superb athletic ability and great upside. In 38 regular season games in Czech juniors, he collected a 2.64 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
Washington made history in the third round, taking the first Australian ever drafted into the National Hockey League in Hershey Bears (AHL) left winger Nathan Walker. A 6’0″, 192-pound forward, Walker dominated Czech juniors (detecting a pattern here?) before joining the Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) and collecting 27 points in 29 games in the 2012-13 regular season. He then signed a deal with Washington’s top minor league affiliate — Hershey — where he scored five goals and 11 points in 43 games last season. It was apparently good enough for the Caps.
Without a fourth rounder, Washington waited until the fifth round to select USA U-18 (USHL) forward Shane Gersich. After dominating the Minnesota high school ranks, Gersich put up eight goals, 16 points and a plus-8 rating in 26 games as a USHL rookie. A nephew of the State of Hockey’s Broten brothers, he’ll spend one more season in juniors before eventually joining the University of North Dakota, something that may or may not come at the cost of being disowned by his University of Minnesota Golden Gopher-greats relations.
The Capitals wrapped up their draft with a pair of right wingers, picking Eden Prairie’s (High-MN) Steven Spinner and Frolunda’s (Sweden) Kevin Elgestal at 159th and 194th overall, respectively. Spinner is an intriguing, yet raw forward who spent significant time at both the high school and Tier-1 junior levels with Eden Prairie High, the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the Omaha Lancers last season. He’ll spend another year with the Lancers before eventually joining the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2015. Elgestal had four goals and nine points in five games with Frolunda’s J18 squads before adding another 13 goals, 35 points and a plus-23 rating in 44 games with Frolunda J20. He’ll rejoin the J20 squad later this fall.
There’s no doubt this was a solid draft for the Caps. Vrana is certainly the headlining act, but they also added a legitimate goaltending prospect and forward depth in general. They’re still thin on defense, though. We’ll give Washington a B+.
And that wraps up our draft coverage of the Metropolitan Division! Stay tuned, the Pacific is coming up shortly.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below how you think your favourite Metropolitan Division did in the draft.
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