2016 NHL Draft Primer: Amonte, De Jong, LaFontaine among potential late-round selections

By David Hahn
Tye Felhaber - Saginaw Spirit

Photo: Saginaw Spirit forward Tye Felhaber posted 18 goals and 38 points in 64 games in 2015-16 (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

 

While most of the attention is paid to the first round of the draft, it is what happens on the second day that often defines a scouting staff. The next part in our NHL Draft Primer series looks at a few candidates to be taken in the later rounds. There are many different ways to make it to the NHL, and while statistics will tell you that these players often don’t make it to the top level of the game, it is just the first step in a long journey.

Forwards

Ty Amonte, Thayer Academy (USHS)
5’11”, 185 pounds, Norwell, MA

Born into a hockey family, Ty Amonte has the benefit of being able to lean on his father, Tony, who was a 15-year veteran in the NHL and United States Hockey Hall of Fame entrant. Following in his footsteps, Ty recently finished his senior year with Thayer Academy, the same school his father played for. There, he had 17 goals and 53 assists in just 30 games, resulting in the NEPSAC Large Schools Championship. Amonte was the recipient of the Boston Bruins‘ John Carlton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the top hockey player in Eastern Massachusetts. The speedy, pass-first winger joins Cory Schneider, Brian Boyle, and Charlie Coyle as winners of the award.

Mitchell Balmas, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
5’11”, 168 pounds, Sydney, NS

The only Charlottetown Islander to appear in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, Mitchell Balmas really came into his own this season. As the seventh overall selection in the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft, it took Balmas a little longer than his peers to adjust to the size and pace of the game in major junior hockey. His ice time was consistent this year, and he responded by posting a 20-goal, 14-assist regular season and chipped in with five more goals in 12 playoff games. He was especially productive with the man advantage, as eight of his goals came on the power play.

Tye Felhaber, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
5’11”, 194 pounds, Pembroke, ON

On a team starved for offense, Tye Felhaber often appeared to create dangerous scoring opportunities on a nightly basis for the Spirit. One of the most consistent players in the OHL, Felhaber’s relentless work ethic and high-end stick skills didn’t translate into points, but should eventually help him find a home at the next level. Saginaw iced a relatively young team compared to the rest of the league, and the former 10th overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection is among the youngest players eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. He could blossom into a solid first-line forward with Saginaw as the team grows around him, and an NHL club would do well to take him late and let him develop.

Matt Gosiewski, Cedar Rapids Rough Riders (USHL)
6’4”, 216 pounds, Wilton, CT

One player who may be primed for a breakout season next year is Matt Gosiewski, a durable power forward coming off a solid season in the USHL. Son of Polish parents who chased the American Dream, Gosiewski took advantage of every opportunity that was set forth, and he now has the potential to be drafted into the NHL while receiving a college education at Harvard as a nice bonus. Like fellow late-bloomer and former Cedar Rapids forward Andrew Poturalski, who just finished seventh in NCAA scoring, Gosiewski could be the next player in line for a huge improvement in his game.

William Knierim, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
6’3”, 218 pounds, Skokie, IL

His size got him recognized, but it is what William Knierim does with it that makes him an interesting prospect. He has progressed this season to become one of the premier power forwards available in the 2016 NHL Draft. Known for his ability to drop the gloves, Knierim isn’t devoid of offensive skills, and represents a new breed of physical forwards that are in demand. He improved his goal totals from 12 to 14 in seven less games, and became a fan favorite thanks to his blog and behind-the-scenes look at life in Dubuque.

Defensemen

Konstantin Chernyuk, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
6’5”, 181 pounds, St. Petersburg, RUS

Representing the largest drop in draft stock according to NHL Central Scouting, Konstantin Chernyuk possesses all the raw tools NHL teams are looking for. Chernyuk was once ranked 104th overall in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, but finds himself completely off the latest iteration as the draft approaches. Slightly undersized considering his height, he is a steady defensive defenseman that understands his role and uses his stick well to defend opposing forwards. After recovering from injury, he had a difficult time getting back into the Frontenacs lineup, and faces an uncertain offseason.

Brendan De Jong, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
6’3”, 161 pounds, Victoria, BC

Brendan De Jong took a far different path than his older brother, Nolan, a Minnesota Wild draft pick who recently finished his junior year at the University of Michigan. The two play fairly similar games as defense-first options for their respective clubs. That said, Brendan is a fantastic skater who uses his edge work to evade the opposition and get himself out of trouble. With just 13 points in over 120 regular season games in the WHL, he certainly won’t be found on the offensive, but it is his work in the defensive zone with his active stick and superb decision-making that could get him drafted.

Erich Fear, Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL)
6’5”, 220 pounds, Winnetka, IL

An imposing presence on the blueline, Erich Fear is an ultra-steady defenseman with Springfield. As you would expect, he uses his body to deter opponents from even trying to enter the zone, and isn’t afraid to protect his teammates. That said, Fear took a step forward this year and became a reliable puck-mover who can make a smart decision on the breakout. He finished the regular season with two goals and 10 assists, and will transition to college hockey next season with the University of Denver.

Kenny Johnson, Shattuck St. Mary’s (USHS)
6’3”, 214 pounds, Ann Arbor, MI

Another player with family ties, Kenny Johnson is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Jack, a fantastic two-way defender with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Like his brother, Kenny finished this season with Shattuck St. Mary’s, one of the best nationally recognized preparatory schools in the United States. The similarities don’t end there, as Johnson will be off to the University of Michigan next year, again following the path blazed before him. Johnson loves to throw the big hit, and isn’t afraid to take a chance in order to make a play for his team.

Goaltenders

Matt Jurusik, University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)
6’1”, 194 pounds, La Grange, IL

Freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik saw all the rubber he could handle this season at the University of Wisconsin. Appearing in all but four games, Jurusik faced a staggering 1,055 shots this season, a tremendous workload for a player in his first collegiate season. He is used to the grind, though, having led the NAHL last season in goals-against average and save percentage. While Wisconsin is deploying a young team, rostering only three seniors this year, the future looks bright with Jurusik in net. Typically playing for a weaker team deters scouts from attending games, but Jurusik profiles as a potential starter and could be a hidden gem.

Jack LaFontaine, Janesville Jets (NAHL)
6’2”, 185 pounds, Mississauga, ON

One of the top goaltenders in the NAHL, Jack LaFontaine proved that he could handle a full workload and nearly brought Janesville through the first round of the playoffs despite the team’s lackluster offense. He finished the regular season with a 24-8-3-4 record along with a 2.16 goals-against average, a .921 save-percentage, and four shutouts. Technically sound in net, LaFontaine is usually in position and lets the play come to him. He is adept at handling the puck, providing an extra element of support for his defensemen. He is verbally committed to the University of Michigan, but expects to return to Janesville for another season before embarking with the Wolverines in 2017.

David Ovsjannikov, Barrie Colts (OHL)
6’6”, 225 pounds, Plzen, CZE

Drawing comparisons to Ben Bishop and Pekka Rinne with his stature in net, David Ovsjannikov finally found a good opportunity for playing time after a mid-season trade from Saginaw to Barrie. He spent two seasons in Saginaw, and failed to realize his potential there stuck behind incumbent starters Jake Paterson (DET) and Evan Cormier (2016). It was the move to Barrie that sparked a revival in his game, as he played consistently while Mackenzie Blackwood was away at the 2016 World Junior Championship. With Barrie, Ovsjannikov posted a 12-5-0-3 record, 2.97 goals-against average, and a .915 save percentage. With his size and glimpse at what he could do when given the reigns, it is entirely possible that an NHL team selects him late as a project.

2016: NDP1 | NDP2 | NDP3 | NDP4 | NDP5 | NDP6
 
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