Most draft pundits point to the 2016 draft, front-loaded with players from the United States like Auston Matthews, Logan Brown, and Matt Tkachuk, as one that the Americans could dominate early on. But teams won’t have to look too far outside of the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft to find the next wave of U.S. talent pushing for playing time in the NHL.
Bookended by two massive forwards, the prospects ranked from 26 thru 49 are loaded with tremendous individual skill, as well.
47. Jordan Greenway, Left Wing, U.S. National U18 (NTDP/USHL)
6’5”, 223 pounds, Potsdam, NY
The next big thing is available in the draft, literally. Jordan Greenway’s intimidating size and presence on the ice can’t be ignored, but he’s much more than just a big body. As a product of the fabled Shattuck St. Mary’s program, Greenway has been an underrated scorer and an advantageous asset in front of the net with the man advantage.
Greenway had a solid season with the U.S. NTDP, using his strength to win board battles. However, his skating stride came a long way this year, as the previously lumbering winger has looked fleet of foot as of late. He has always been bigger and stronger than the competition, but as he’s moved up, he’s met the challenge of playing at a higher level admirably.
46. Travis Dermott, Defenseman, Erie Otters (OHL)
5’11”, 181 pounds, Newmarket, ON
During the OHL’s regular season, Erie Otters rearguard Travis Dermott finished behind 12 other defensemen in scoring. But the true mark of a competitor is what he does in the face of adversity, and to that point, Dermott propelled the Otters straight to the OHL finals with a remarkable playoff performance.
He finished the OHL playoffs as the league leader in scoring by a defenseman, with five goals and 12 assists in 20 games. At times, the puck-rushing defenseman looked like a guy who was taking over a game. Despite his lack of size, Dermott is an efficient competitor and a fluid lateral skater, traits that will certainly help Dermott hear his name called early in the second round.
43. Parker Wotherspoon, Defenseman, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
6’0”, 170 pounds, Surrey, BC
The Calgary Flames made Parker Wotherspoon’s older brother, Tyler, the 57th overall selection in 2011. Ever since, Parker has aimed to best his brother, and appears well on his way to doing it. Like his brother, Parker plays a calm, composed game from the back end. He has evolved this season, thanks in part to a new found confidence in transitioning to join the rush.
The focus has paid dividends for Wotherspoon, who more than doubled his point total from his rookie season. Overall, he finished with nine goals and 33 assists in a full 72-game season. The rangy blueliner competed for Canada at the 2015 U18 World Championship, adding five points in seven games, helping to further boost his draft stock.
39. Jack Roslovic, Center, U.S. National U18 (NTDP/USHL)
6’1”, 183 pounds, Columbus, OH
Every team needs a “glue guy” like Jack Roslovic, who is the type of player who never quits no matter the situation. A fiery competitor, Roslovic has an explosive skating stride, something that allows him to get the puck into high traffic areas.
More known as a playmaker than a shooter, Roslovic finished the season with 27 goals and 52 assists in 65 games. He stepped up on the international stage, helping the United States win a gold medal at the U18 World Championship. He finished sixth in tournament scoring with six goals and five assists, and was named as one of the team’s top three players.
34. Mitch Vande Sompel, Defenseman, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
5’10”, 181 pounds, London, ON
As a smaller, offensive-minded defenseman, Vande Sompel models his game after Pittsburgh Penguins‘ star, Kris Letang. It’s an accurate comparison, as the gifted and creative rearguard broke out in a big way as the Generals concluded the OHL playoffs by winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup as league champions.
Unlike Letang, however, Vande Sompel has a bit of versatility to his game, as shown by his deployment as a forward at times, especially on the penalty kill. He has brought a level of intensity and speed to the Generals, finishing the year with an astonishing 63-point regular season, before adding another 12 in the playoffs.
30. Dennis Yan, Left Wing, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
6’1”, 187 pounds, Portland, OR
Dennis Yan took a rather circuitous route to major junior hockey. Born to Russian parents in Portland, the family returned to Russia when Yan was five, and urged him to return when he was a teenager in order to pursue hockey professionally. Yan’s finesse and natural ability to score should entice NHL teams.
In his first year with Shawinigan, Yan scored 33 goals and added 31 assists, good for sixth overall in QMJHL rookie scoring. Yan’s ability to snap the puck quickly surprised many veteran goalies, and it’s that specific trait that will guide Yan to a potential second or third round selection.
27. Brock Boeser, Right Wing, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
6’1”, 192 pounds, Burnsville, MN
Perhaps not getting the respect he should, Brock Boeser, the USHL’s leading goal scorer, was an absolute menace to the opposition over the course of the 2014-15 season. Boeser protects the puck better than most in this draft class, possesses a quick, accurate shot, and has great instincts on the ice.
Boeser captained the U.S. team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and came away with a bronze medal after scoring six times and assisting on two others. Boeser will head to the University of North Dakota next season, but may just hear his name called in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft before arriving in Grand Forks.
26. Paul Bittner, Left Wing, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
6’4”, 194 pounds, Crookston, MN
There’s something in the water in Portland as the storied franchise continues to churn out NHL-ready talent, and Paul Bittner is next-in-line. The hulking forward is vying to become the highest drafted Minnesotan in this draft, and his ever-improving skillset might help him reach that goal.
Bittner is more than the product of his high-level teammates, and evolved into more of an impact player after shaking the label as a complementary piece. He can cause chaos in front of the net, and often finished plays the hard way. He put up 71 points in the regular season and 12 more in the playoffs, showing that he does have the individual skill to develop at the next level.
Next up in the NHL Draft Primer series will be a look at the top North American goaltenders available.
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