Santini leads a solid crop of 2013 NTDP prospects

By Tom Schreier

Hudson Fasching - Apple Valley High School

Photo: U.S. NTDP forward Hudson Fasching, shown here playing for Apple Valley (MN) High School, is a top 2013 forward prospect from the U.S. national program (courtesy of Josh Holmberg /Icon SMI)

The U.S. National Development Team Program (NTFP) has developed into one of the top producers of talent eligible for the NHL Draft. With each passing year, the number of players drafted by NHL clubs directly from this program grows, making it THE top producer of American talent for the NHL.

The NTDP Class of 2013 is no exception to the above, of course, as there should be several players chosen from this program in the first three rounds of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Profiled below are a handful of the top players available from the NTDP for this year's draft, including comments from scouting sources.  

Steve Santini, D

Hailing from Mahopac, NY, Steve Santini is a hard-hitting defenseman that began his junior career as a member of the New York Apple Core in the EJHL.

Now in his second year as a member of the U.S. National Development Program, the 6’2”, 205-pound defenseman has reduced his penalty minutes from 41 in 36 games last season to 4 in 12 games this season.

He also has been more responsible in the defensive zone. Last season he sported a minus-28 rating, while this season he is dead even.

Known as a great skater that can lay down a big hit, if Santini can develop some offensive acumen he’ll be a threat at Boston College next season. He’s already drawing interest from coast to coast.

“Steady, physical rear-guard that moves the puck well,” says one scout. “Not flashy and, for the most part, plays a simple and controlled game, but at times will shine the spotlight on himself with a devastating hit. Pro tools and presence.”

Keaton Thompson, D

The youngest player eligible for the NHL Entry Draft, Keaton Thompson grew up in Devils Lake, ND and has committed to the University of North Dakota.

A defender with good hockey sense and puck-moving ability, Thompson is not afraid to use his 6’2”, 187-pound frame, but usually relies on being in the right place rather than landing the big hit to keep opposing forwards at bay.

“A smooth skating d-man with an active, effective stick,” says one scout. “Positional more than physical type. Has proven himself to be quite reliable and to have quite a learning curve.”

Hudson Fasching, F

A standout at Apple Valley High School in Minnesota, the alma mater of current NHL players Mike Lundin and Dan Sexton, Hudson Fasching was the subject of a Scott Burnside ESPN profile in 2011 when it was discovered that the 6’3”, 215-pound forward has two younger siblings that suffer from a mitochondrial disorder that prevents them from walking and talking.

Being raised in such an environment has fostered strong character for Fasching, making him young in age only.

The University of Minnesota recruit had a strong first season in juniors last season, tallying 21 points in 37 games, but needs to show more improvement in the second half of the season to entice scouts around the league.

“Powerful skater, eats up ice quickly,” says one scout. “Outstanding presence down low and does a good job clearing a workspace in front of the net. Lacks consistency and has not shown much improvement/development from last season.”

JT Compher, F

A University of Michigan recruit from across the lake in Northbrook, IL, JT Compher is known more for his power, grit and work ethic than for crafty puck handling or a heavy shot.

Compher had 13 goals and 27 points in 32 games last season and is already off to a good start this season. In seven games played, he has seven points and a plus-6 rating.

At 5’11”, 184 pounds, some will pass on Compher because of his lack of size, but someone is bound to take a flyer on him because of the intangibles he brings to the table every night.

“All heart,” says one scout. “Unbelievable work ethic and compete level. Detail-oriented player that will relish in doing all the little things to put his team in the best position to earn the victory. Low offensive ceiling, but his passion for the sport is contagious.”

Will Butcher, D

Considered by some to be one of the best offensive defensemen among the Americans that are draft eligible in 2013, Will Butcher also has his fair share of critics.

A Sun Prairie, WI native that is committed to the University of Denver, Butcher had 30-plus points in his two years with the Madison Capitals U-16 and U-18 teams, but only had 10 points in 31 games for the U.S. National Development team last season.

The 5’10”, 191 pound defenseman is perhaps the most polarizing draft eligible player right now.

“Just do not see it,” says one scout. “Has had a lot of hype behind him for quite some time, why? Is a great power play quarterback and has a quick hard shot, but lacks a physical presence, needs to be more responsible defensively and sometimes just comes off as not the smartest body on the bench.”

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