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