Five collegians to watch for the 2013 NHL Draft

By DJ Powers

Cole Bardreau - Cornell University

Photo: Cornell University forward Cole Bardreau may have helped his 2013 draft stock with a solid performance for the gold medal-winning USA squad at the 2013 World Juniors (courtesy of Rich Barnes/Icon SMI)

This year’s crop of draft-eligible players for the NHL Draft isn’t as strong as in recent drafts. Nevertheless, the NCAA does have some players who could hear their names called when the draft gets underway on June 30th in New Jersey.

Hockey’s Future takes a closer look at five such players (listed in alphabetical order by last name) and what makes them potential selections at this year’s draft. The list is comprised of three forwards and two defensemen. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Feb. 7th.

Cole Bardreau, C
Sophomore, Cornell University

Cole Bardreau is one of a handful sophomores eligible for this year’s NHL Draft. He is also the only one appearing on Central Scouting’s Mid-term rankings, at #205.

After a strong freshman campaign last season, Bardreau followed it up with a strong start to his sophomore season that helped him earn a spot on the USA squad at the recent World Junior Championship (WJC). His excellent performance at the WJC boosted his draft stock. But on Jan. 19th versus RPI everything changed when Bardreau’s season came to an abrupt end after sustaining a neck injury in that game. Barring a significant setback in his recovery, Bardreau is expected to return to the Cornell lineup next season. He finishes the year with seven points (two goals, five assists) playing in 13 games. While his season-ending injury does impact his draft outlook, it’s difficult to discount Bardreau’s potential and what he could bring to an NHL organization down the road.

Bardreau is a smart, two-way center with great hands and stick that excels in the grind game. The role that he was given in the WJC is similar to the role that he has played at Cornell this season. He’s equally good at both ends of the ice and has blossomed into an outstanding penalty killer. One area where Bardreau was particularly effective for the Big Red this season was on face-offs, winning over 56 percent of his draws. The Fairport, NY native isn’t big (5’11”, 184 lbs.), but what he lacks in size he makes up for with tremendous work ethic. Many of the offensive opportunities he creates come through hard work and his relentless pursuit of the puck.

Bardreau came into this season noticeably stronger and where it has been evident has been in his ability to protect the puck and fend off opposing players in tight areas. Bardreau’s added strength has also enhanced his skating; his strides are more powerful and his acceleration has improved, and none of it has come at the expense of his quickness. Another notable area in Bardreau’s development has been his willingness to play the body more often. While he’ll likely never become a physical presence, Bardreau can and will deliver some solid checks when necessary.

Nicholas Bligh, C
Freshman, Dartmouth College

Dartmouth is one of the youngest teams in the NCAA this season and among the freshmen leading the Big Green is Nicholas Bligh. Although he doesn’t appear on Central Scouting’s Mid-term rankings, Bligh is very much on the scouting radar for this year’s draft. One NHL team taking particular notice is the Winnipeg Jets, whose prospects camp Bligh attended this past summer. The Milton, MA native has played in 17 games so far, posting five points (two goals, three assists). Bligh missed five games in early November due to injury. One of his most memorable games came back on Dec. 1st versus Bentley University. In that game, Bligh posted his first two collegiate points (both assists) en route to earning his first ECAC Rookie of the Week honor on the season.

Bligh is all about speed and quickness, and he uses those assets exceedingly well in creating scoring opportunities. He is elusive and has the ability to make plays at high speeds. Bligh is an excellent skater with a good burst of speed. He also transitions quite well. Bligh plays the game with a great deal of energy and is really fun to watch. He possesses a high hockey IQ and has shown that he can make good decisions with the puck.

Another attribute that scouts like about Bligh are his hands. He makes excellent passes and can be pretty slick with the puck. Bligh possesses a very good shot with a quick release, but he could stand to add more power to his shots. He has a lanky, 6’0” frame that will need to get bigger and stronger. Although Bligh has made strides on the defensive side, it’s an area that continues to be a work in progress.

Brett Pesce, D
Freshman, University of New Hampshire

It’s rare to see a freshman defenseman logging a lot of minutes for the Wildcats, but that’s been the case with Brett Pesce (pronounced Pesh-ee). The Tarrytown, NY native has appeared in 24 games so far, posting three points (one goal, two assists). The lone game he missed, due to injury, was on Jan. 26th versus Merrimack. Pesce is a top six defenseman for New Hampshire, playing much of the season as junior Eric Knodel’s (TOR) defensive partner. One of Pesce’s most memorable games to date came back on Dec. 1st versus UMass-Lowell. In that game, he posted his first (and so far only) collegiate goal.

At #36, Pesce is the highest ranked current collegian appearing on Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings. He is considered to be one of, if not the, top NCAA player for the 2013 NHL Draft and it’s not hard to see why.

Pesce is a 6’3” offensive-minded defenseman that thinks the game exceedingly well. He is an excellent skater with speed, agility, great feet, and skates equally well both north-south and east-west. Pesce has excellent puck-moving ability and offensive skills, but what separates him from many freshman defensemen is the fact that he rarely makes bad decisions with the puck. Another standout characteristic about Pesce’s puck handling is the great patience he has shown under pressure. Pesce has a very good shot and can get the puck to the net. He also possesses great on-ice vision and reads plays well. Pesce has seen time on New Hampshire’s power-play this season and could quarterback it as his collegiate career moves forward.

Like virtually all freshmen, Pesce will need to continue to add size and strength to his frame. One notable area that has progressed quite nicely over the course of the season is Pesce’s play in the defensive zone. He possesses a very good stick and does a great job of taking away lanes. While he’s very good in one-on-one situations, his lack of strength doesn’t allow him to effectively shutdown opposing forwards on a regular basis.

Quentin Shore, C
Freshman, University of Denver

Quentin Shore isn’t the youngest of the four Shore brothers, but he’s the youngest (so far) that has donned the crimson and gold colors of the Pioneers. The Denver, CO native currently leads the team in rookie goal-scoring with seven and is second in points with 14. Shore has played in all 27 games so far and has spent much of the season centering Denver’s outstanding line that also features sophomores Larkin Jacobson and Matt Tabrum. One of Shore’s most memorable games came on Jan. 4th versus Cornell. In that contest, Shore netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner, en route to earning the first of his two WCHA Rookie of the Week honors on the season.

Quentin Shore’s style of play is similar to that of older brothers Drew and Nick. However, Quentin might be the best skater of the three. He skates with smooth, powerful strides, but could stand to develop more foot speed. Like his older brothers, Quentin Shore has size (6’1”. 185 lbs.), superb playmaking ability, a strong work ethic and is excellent on face-offs. He possesses terrific puck skills and is equally adept at both setting up and finishing plays. Shore has great net presence and is willing to pay a price in front of the net. He uses his body effectively in establishing position and that attribute will become more evident as he adds strength to his 6’1” frame.

One characteristic that scouts have been impressed with is Shore’s defensive side. As good as he is offensively, he is just as good defensively. Shore plays remarkably well in all three zones and is effective both on the power play and on the penalty kill. He’s a smart player that sees the ice really well. Although Shore’s reads on developing situations is very good, he will need to be quicker in reacting to them. And that should come with development and maturity.

Mark Yanis, D
Freshman, Penn State University

Mark Yanis is an intriguing draft-eligible collegian that seems to have flown under the scouting radar a bit this season, but one that is well worth watching heading into the June draft. The Grosse Pointe Woods, MI native has appeared in 11 games so far, posting seven points (three goals, four assists). Yanis got off to a strong start with the Nittany Lions before an ankle injury on Nov. 3rd sidelined him for 12 games. He returned to the Penn State lineup on Jan. 11th and has simply picked up from where he left off. One of Yanis’s most memorable games came back on Oct. 27th versus Sacred Heart. In that game, he posted a goal and an assist to help guide the Nittany Lions to a 6-3 victory.

Yanis is a defenseman with size (6’3”, 207 lbs.) that possesses excellent offensive ability and plays with grit and a competitive edge. What has scouts taking notice is what Yanis could do once he fills out his large frame, particularly from a physicality standpoint. During his USHL days with Muskegon, Yanis established himself as a physical presence on the blueline, and he has shown glimpses of that with Penn State this season.

Yanis possesses outstanding puck skills. He moves very well with the puck and makes great outlet passes. He uses his size and long reach advantageously at both ends of the ice. Yanis is a very good skater and is quite mobile, although he does need to develop a quicker step and improve his agility. There have been no noticeable residual effects of his injury since returning to the Nittany Lions lineup. Yanis can often be found jumping into plays. He sees the ice well and has the ability to quarterback power-plays, too. One of Yanis’s best assets is his shot. He possesses a heavy shot that is likely to become more powerful with added strength.