Five NCAA players to watch for the 2014 NHL Draft

By DJ Powers

Zach Nagelvoort - University of Michigan

Photo: University of Michigan goaltender and 2014 prospect Zach Nagelvoort has made the most of the starting opportunity provided as the result of an injury to sophomore Steve Racine (courtesy of Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

2014 is shaping up to be a good draft year for current collegians. There are a number of excellent players, particularly on defense, that could be selected at this year’s NHL Draft. Hockey’s Future takes a closer look at five of those draft prospects from the NCAA, all of whom appear on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of January 31st.

Thatcher Demko, G
Freshman, Boston College (Hockey East)
Ht./Wt.: 6’3”/192 lbs.
DOB: 12/8/95
Catches: Left
CSS midterm ranking: 1st among North American goaltenders

Demko is the top collegian eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. He could potentially become the first California-born goaltender to be selected in the first round as well as the first native Californian since Beau Bennett (PIT) to be a first round selection. Furthermore, the San Diego, CA native could become the first current collegian to be taken in the opening round since Jamie Oleksiak (DAL) in 2011.

Demko, the youngest player in the NCAA this season, recently came off of a stint with Team USA at the World Junior Championship. Barring injury, he is expected to be named to the squad again next year. Demko has exceeded expectations at Boston College so far, splitting time with junior Brian Billet. He sports an 8-1-2 record that includes one shutout in 11 appearances to date. He missed three games earlier in the season due to a hamstring injury. Demko’s .818 winning percentage currently leads the nation. One of Demko’s most memorable games came on Oct. 25th versus Minnesota. In that contest, he stopped 36 of 39 shots in guiding Boston College to a 3-3 tie before giving the Eagles a 2-1 shootout win. The game officially goes in the books as a tie.

Demko is an athletic goaltender who uses his size exceedingly well in his positioning. He does a good job of economizing his movements and wastes little energy when moving. Demko is excellent down low and on his angles – two areas that scouts have been very impressed with. He plays with a quiet confidence and isn’t one to get rattled easily. He has continually improved his rebound control and limiting second and third chances. Demko is a very good puck handler and does a good job of steering pucks away from the net. He also possesses an excellent glove too. Demko is very good in reading and reacting to plays and has shown a willingness to aggressively challenge shooters. Demko has the ability to win or keep his teams in games – something that has greatly benefited his Boston College team. The thing that has scouts so excited about Demko is what he can do in the future with his superb skill set.

Zach Nagelvoort, G
Freshman, University of Michigan (Big 10)
Ht./Wt.: 6’2”/ 208 lbs.
DOB: 1/30/94
Catches: Left
CSS midterm ranking: 21st among North American goaltenders

Nagelvoort has been arguably the most pleasant surprise for Michigan this season. The Holland, MI native wasn’t expected to be the Wolverines starter at the beginning of the season. That all changed in mid-October when sophomore Steve Racine went down with an injury and Nagelvoort was pressed into service. Since then, Nagelvoort has taken the job and run with it. He sports a 9-5-1 record that includes one shutout in 16 appearances to date. His 1.98 goals-against average and .935 save percentage currently leads all rookie netminders nationally. One of Nagelvoort’s most memorable games came on November 22nd versus Niagara. In that contest, he stopped all 36 shots he faced en route to earning his first career shutout.

Nagelvoort is a butterfly-style goaltender with size that moves exceedingly well. He can be difficult to beat down low and plays his angles quite well. He uses his leg strength remarkably well in moving laterally and collapsing down low. Nagelvoort is a competitor who plays with great composure and a continually growing confidence level. His positioning is very good and he isn’t afraid to challenge shooters. One of Nagelvoort’s best attributes and one that scouts have taken notice of is his excellent glove. He’s an adept puck handler and does a good job of steering pucks away from the net. He also tracks plays quite well.

Gavin Bayreuther, D
Freshman, St. Lawrence University (ECAC)
Ht./Wt.: 6’1”/195 lbs.
DOB: 5/12/94
Shoots: Left
CSS midterm ranking: 115th among North American skaters

Bayreuther is the top-ranked NCAA skater appearing on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings and leads an outstanding group of collegiate defensemen eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

The Canaan, NH native currently leads the nation in scoring by a freshman defenseman with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 25 games. Of his six goals, five have come on the power-play. Bayreuther, along with his current defensive partner, senior Justin Baker, has done an excellent job of filling the offensive role that George Hughes left at the end of last season. He currently logs upwards of 25 minutes per game and plays on the Saints’ top power-play unit. One of Bayreuther’s most memorable games so far came on October 12th versus Maine. In that game, he posted a power-play goal and assisted on sophomore Brian Ward’s game-winner.

Bayreuther is a superb skating offensive defenseman. He’s agile, skates with fluid strides and possesses some good foot speed. Bayreuther’s skating ability allows him to transition smoothly and jump into plays. He has excellent vision and finds open spaces remarkably well. One of Bayreuther’s best assets and an area where scouts have really taken notice is his puck-moving ability. He possesses great hands and moves exceedingly well with the puck. He can make quick and crisp passes. His outlet passes are excellent. Bayreuther can also quarterback the power-play. He possesses a very good shot with a quick release and can get pucks to the net. He has a good stick and uses it effectively in taking away lanes.

Thomas Ebbing, C
Freshman, Michigan State University (Big 10)
Ht./Wt.: 5’11”/172 lbs.
DOB: 9/28/94
Shoots: Left
CSS midterm ranking: 127th among North American skaters

Ebbing is the top ranked collegiate forward appearing on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. The Troy, MI native is quietly putting together an excellent rookie campaign that doesn’t necessarily reflect on the score sheet. Ebbing has played in all 24 games to date, posting eight points (two goals, six assists). He centers the Spartans’ terrific all-freshman line that includes Mackenzie MacEachern (STL) and Villiam Haig. One of Ebbing’s most memorable games to date came on December 1st versus Princeton. In that game, he posted his first collegiate goal and assisted on Haig’s game-winner.

Ebbing is a very smart playmaking center who plays a strong two-way game. As good as he is offensively he is equally good defensively. Not surprisingly, he has seen increased time on Michigan State’s penalty-killing unit. Ebbing’s play away from the puck is an area that has really impressed scouts. He sees the ice well, makes smart reads and has shown a willingness to block shots. While Ebbing is on the small side, he uses his size and quickness advantageously. This is particularly evident in his ability to maneuver in tight areas and in his battles for loose pucks. He cycles the puck well and is quite good along the walls. Ebbing possesses good hands and moves the puck exceedingly well in all three zones. He’s creative with the puck and many of the plays that he creates (or finishes) are the result of hard work and his high compete level.

Scott Savage, D
Freshman, Boston College (Hockey East)
Ht./Wt.: 6’1”/185 lbs.
DOB: 4/11/95
Shoots: Left
CSS midterm ranking: 161st among North American skaters

Savage is the latest in a long line of talented defensemen coming out of the Eagles program. The San Clemente, CA native began getting noticed long before he arrived in Chestnut Hill, having first gotten the attention of scouts while with the LA Selects (now part of the LA Junior Kings organization). Savage has played in 22 games for Boston College so far, amassing 11 points (three goals, five assists). He has had different defensive partners this season, most recently being paired with sophomore Michael Matheson (FLA). One of Savage’s most memorable games to date came on November 10th versus Army. In that game, he drew the lone assist on junior Johnny Gaudreau’s (CGY) game-winning power play tally and generated six shots on goals.

Savage is a fine puck-moving defenseman who plays exceedingly well at both ends of the ice. He is an excellent skater with really good feet. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but accelerates and transitions really well. His lateral movement is also quite good. One of Savage’s greatest attributes that has caught the attention of scouts is his ability to move and move with the puck. He possesses great hands and his passing is excellent. He can also make some very good passes without breaking stride. Savage’s ability to read and react to plays is very good. His defensive zone play is quite sound. Savage brings a physical element to his game and can deliver some very solid checks. While he has only shown glimpses of that attribute so far at Boston College, it should become more evident as he continues to add size and strength to his 6’1” frame.

Other notables

Evan Allen, C, University of Michigan (Big 10)
Ian Brady, D, University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC)
Brendan Harms, RW, Bemidji State University (WCHA)
Kyle Osterberg, C, University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC)
Parker Reno, D, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (ECAC)
John Stevens, C, Northeastern University (Hockey East)

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF