2014 NHL Draft Preview: Demko, Bayreuther the best of a thin NCAA crop

By DJ Powers

Thatcher Demko - Boston College

Photo: Boston College goaltender and 2014 prospect Thatcher Demko played a key role in helping the Eagles reach their 24th Frozen Four, but the team ultimately fell short of winning the national championship (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

This year’s top 10 NCAA prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft features a nice mix of playing styles and player positions. It is comprised of two goaltenders, three defensemen and five forwards representing four of the NCAA’s six conferences. Boston College and the University of Michigan are the only programs that have more than one player ranked. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of June 1st.

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

After a sensational rookie campaign in which he backstopped the Eagles to their NCAA co-leading 24th Frozen Four berth, Thatcher Demko tops the Hockey’s Future ranking of current collegians eligible for this weekend's NHL Draft. The San Diego, CA native could potentially become the first California-born goaltender to be selected in the first round, and would be the first native Californian since Beau Bennett (PIT) to have his name called in the first round. Furthermore, Demko could also become the first current collegian to be taken in the opening round since Jamie Oleksiak (DAL) in 2011.

Demko finished his strong freshman campaign with a 16-5-3 record that included two shutouts in 24 appearances. His .729 winning percentage finished sixth nationally. Demko was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and most recently was named the co-recipient of Boston College’s Bernie Burke Award as the team’s top freshman.

Demko possesses tremendous athleticism and uses his size smartly in his positioning. He doesn’t waste a lot of energy when moving, effectively economizing his movements. Demko is excellent down low and on his angles. As his rookie campaign progressed, Demko continually showed improvement in his rebound control and in limiting second and third chances. He handles the puck well and does a good job of steering pucks away from the net. Demko also possesses an excellent glove. He makes good reads on plays and reacts remarkably well to them. One notable standout area of Demko’s is his ability to win or keep his teams in games. This was particularly evident in the NCAA Tournament’s Northeast Regional final versus UMass-Lowell when he outdueled sophomore sensation Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) to help guide Boston College’s return trip to the Frozen Four.

2. Gavin Bayreuther, D
Freshman, St. Lawrence University (ECAC)
Ht./Wt.: 6’1”/195 lbs.
DOB: 5/12/94
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: 48th among North American skaters

Gavin Bayreuther tops all current collegiate skaters in the Hockey’s Future rankings after an impressive freshman campaign that earned him the ECAC’s Co-Rookie of the Year honor. He was also named to the ECAC All-Rookie and All-ECAC Second Teams. The Canaan, NH native finished the season leading all rookie defensemen and finishing third among all NCAA defensemen in scoring with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 38 games. His 36 points also set a new St. Lawrence school record for points by a freshman defenseman. Most recently, Bayreuther was named the recipient of the Saints’ Pelletier/Stewart Award as the team’s top freshman.

Bayreuther is an excellent 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 effectively and often. He possesses great vision and finds open spaces remarkably well. One of Bayreuther’s best assets and an area that has scouts raving about him is his puck moving ability. He possesses terrific hands and moves exceedingly well with the puck. This is, and continues to be, especially evident on St. Lawrence’s power play, where he’ll likely assume a bigger role next season as its quarterback. He can make quick and crisp passes, and his outlet passes are excellent, too. Bayreuther possesses a very good shot and release, and can get pucks to the net. He has a good stick and uses it quite well both offensively and defensively.

3. Scott Savage, D
Freshman, Boston College (Hockey East)
Ht./Wt.: 6’1”/185 lbs.
DOB: 4/11/95
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: 194th among North American skaters

Scott Savage was a part of one of the nation’s best and most talented defensive corps this season. The San Clemente, CA native finished his outstanding rookie campaign leading Boston College in freshman defensive scoring with 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 35 games. He also finished the season with a +13 rating. Savage’s most memorable game came on February 15th versus Vermont, posting a goal and an assist to help guide the Eagles to a 5-3 victory.

Savage is a talented, puck-moving defenseman who is effective at both ends of the ice. He is an excellent skater with really good feet. While he doesn’t have blazing speed, Savage can get up the ice quickly and transitions quite well. His lateral movement is also quite good. One of Savage’s greatest attributes is his ability to move and move with the puck. He possesses great hands and his passing is excellent. Savage can also make some very good passes without breaking stride. His ability to read and react to plays is also very good. Savage also plays a sound defensive game and brings a physical element to his game, delivering some very solid checks. Although he has only shown glimpses of that part of his game last season, it should become more evident as he continues to add size and strength to his 6’1” frame.

4. Zach Nagelvoort, G
Freshman, University of Michigan (Big 10)
Ht./Wt.: 6’2”/208 lbs.
DOB: 1/30/94
Catches: Left
CSS Final ranking: 20th among North American goaltenders

When the 2013-14 season began, Zach Nagelvoort wasn’t tapped as the Wolverines starting netminder. But that all changed when sophomore Steve Racine was injured in mid-October. The Holland, MI native went on to have a strong rookie campaign, posting an 11-9-3 record in 24 appearances. Nationally, Nagelvoort finished sixth with a .929 save percentage and 15th with a 2.20 goals-against average. He posted his lone shutout of the season on Nov. 22nd versus Niagara, earning him the first of his two Big Ten First Stars of the Week honors. In Michigan’s opening game in the Big Ten Tournament versus Penn State on Mar. 20th, Nagelvoort set a new school record for saves in a single game with 63. Most recently, he was named the co-recipient of Michigan’s Dekers Club Award as the team’s Rookie of the Year.

Nagelvoort is a netminder with size who plays a butterfly style. His outstanding combination of a large frame, great reflexes, and excellent play down low can make him difficult to beat. Nagelvoort uses his leg strength remarkably well in moving laterally and collapsing down low. One notable area where Nagelvoort made great strides this season was in his confidence level. He’s a competitor that played with greater calmness and composure as the season progressed. This allowed him to be better in his positioning, in the tracking of plays, as well as limiting second and third chances. One of Nagelvoort’s best attributes and one that scouts have taken notice of is his excellent glove. It’s quick and he can make catches look easy. Nagelvoort is also an adept puck handler and does a good job of steering pucks away from the net.

5. John Stevens, C
Freshman, Northeastern University (Hockey East)
Ht./Wt.: 6’2”/180 lbs.
DOB: 4/17/94
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: N/A

Starting his college career at Northeastern, John Stevens was part of one of the nation’s largest freshman classes this season . The Sea Isle City, NJ native was impressive in his rookie campaign, tying for second among all Huskies freshmen with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 37 games. He was especially good on Northeastern’s special teams where three of his seven goals were scored (two on the power play and one shorthanded). Stevens also has good bloodlines, toom as he is the son of Los Angeles Kings associate head coach John Stevens.

Stevens is a center with size that is blessed with tremendous hockey instincts. He reads plays remarkably well and knows where plays will end up. That, along with his great vision and stick, allows him to find open spaces and teammates quickly and consistently. Stevens is very good in all three zones and can play in any situation. One area where Stevens was especially good this season was on face-offs, where he won well over 50 percent of his draws. Stevens possesses excellent puck-moving skills and is smart in his decision-making. He is an excellent skater with powerful strides. As good as he is offensively, Stevens is almost equally good defensively, particularly in getting his stick into lanes and blocking shots.

6. Thomas Ebbing, C
Freshman, Michigan State University (Big 10)
Ht./Wt.: 5’11”/172 lbs.
DOB: 9/28/94
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: N/A

Despite posting just one assist in the final two months of the season, Thomas Ebbing had a fine freshman campaign with Michigan State. The Troy, MI native finished the year with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 36 games. While Ebbing’s numbers may not be impressive, what he has done with the Spartans away from the scoresheet was. This was particularly evident in his shot-blocking where he led all Big 10 forwards with 45 blocks. Ebbing played a good part of the season with fellow freshmen Mackenzie MacEachern (STL) and Villiam Haig, comprising one of the Big Ten’s best all-rookie lines.

Ebbing is a very smart playmaking center that plays a strong two-way game and has the makings of becoming a solid defensive forward. Ebbing still has some work to do on the offensive side of the ledger, but his defensive play is his main strength at this stage. He saw considerable time on Michigan State’s penalty-killing unit this season and excelled on the defensive side. He sees the ice well and makes intelligent reads. While Ebbing is on the small side, he uses it, along with his quickness, quite effectively. This was particularly evident in his ability to maneuver in tight areas and in his battles for loose pucks. He’s very good in cycling the puck and his play along the walls is also quite good. Ebbing possesses nice hands and moves the puck exceedingly well. He can be creative, with many of the plays that he creates (or finishes) being the result of hard work and his high level of competitiveness.

7. Trevor Moore, LW
Freshman, University of Denver (NCHC)
Ht./Wt.: 5’10”/175 lbs.
DOB: 3/31/95
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: N/A

After a slow start to his collegiate career, Trevor Moore went on to have a terrific freshman campaign for Denver. The Thousand Oaks, CA native finished the season leading the Pioneers with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 42 games while also leading Denver with a +15. Moore capped the season with a selection to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. Most recently, he was named the recipient of Denver’s Barry Sharp Memorial Award as the team’s top freshman.

Moore is a winger that possesses terrific offensive instincts and quick feet. He is excellent around the net and along the walls. He also does a great job of staying with plays. Part of what makes Moore so dangerous is his quick starts off draws. He possesses a good burst of speed with a great first step. This allows him to beat opponents to loose pucks more often than not. Furthermore, Moore moves exceedingly well, not only going north/south, but also moving east/west. While Moore is more of a pure goal scorer, he is also excellent at setting up plays. Simply put, he knows what to do with the puck when it’s on his stick. His superb vision and on-ice awareness allows him to find open spaces and teammates with relative ease which contributes to his smart playmaking.

8. Evan Allen, C
Freshman, University of Michigan (Big 10)
Ht./Wt.: 5’11”/195 lbs.
DOB: 2/3/95
Shoots: Right
CSS Final ranking: N/A

Evan Allen didn’t see full-time duty in the Wolverines lineup this season. When he did play, Allen made the most of his time and was noticeable on the ice. The Sterling Heights, MI native posted six points (three goals, three assists) in 23 games. He was also one of the least penalized players on Michigan’s roster, racking up just four penalty minutes. Although Allen is listed as a center, he played almost exclusively at right wing this season. Allen’s most memorable game came on Mar. 14th versus Minnesota. In that game, he notched his third (and final) goal of the season in the Wolverines 3-2 overtime loss.

Allen is a speedster that plays a high tempo game with lots of energy. Two of his greatest assets, and ones that have gotten the attention of scouts, are his blazing speed and terrific shot. Allen uses his speed advantageously in not only getting to loose pucks but also in the transition game. He has great acceleration and can get up to speed quickly. Allen also possesses a wickedly hard shot with a quick release. One area where Allen excelled this season was playing along the walls. He is relentless in his battles for loose pucks and is quite good down low in tight areas. Allen possesses good vision and awareness, and he used those attributes not only in creating offensive opportunities, but also in his continually improving defensive game.

9. Kyle Osterberg, C
Freshman, University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC)
Ht./Wt.: 5’8”/180 lbs.
DOB: 9/5/94
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: N/A

Kyle Osterberg was a key component of Minnesota-Duluth’s freshmen group that collectively finished the season as the NCHC’s most prolific first-year class. The Lakeville, MN native co-led all Bulldogs freshmen with 27 points and co-led the team with 14 goals in 35 games. Although Osterberg is listed as a center, he played primarily on left wing this season as part of Minnesota-Duluth’s dynamic second line that also featured sophomore Tony Cameranesi (TOR) and fellow freshman Justin Crandall. Osterberg got off to a tremendous start to his collegiate career earning the NCHC’s Rookie of the Month tag for October. He also earned four NCHC Rookie of the Week honors during the season.

Osterberg is a slick, pesky forward who plays bigger than his diminutive frame. What he lacks in size, Osterberg makes up for with his sheer fearlessness that has often made him a thorn in the side of opposing defenders. This is particularly evident in his outstanding play in the tough areas. Osterberg excels in these areas and possesses a junkyard dog mentality when battling for loose pucks or positioning. He also thrives in the physical side of the game and isn’t afraid to mix things up. Osterberg possesses superb on-ice vision. He finds and utilizes open spaces quite well. Osterberg has a good shot with a quick release and has shown that he can score from just about anywhere. He possesses good speed and acceleration and can get up the ice quickly.

10. Jeff Taylor, D
Freshman, Union College (ECAC)
Ht./Wt.: 6’0”/180 lbs.
DOB: 1/25/94
Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: N/A

When you’ve played with two of the nation’s best defensemen, it’s easy to fly under the radar. And that was the case with Jeff Taylor this season. Nevertheless, his contributions helped propel Union College to their first National Championship title. The Clifton Park, NY native began the season as senior Mat Bodie’s (NYR) defensive partner before playing the remainder of the year with junior Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI). Taylor led all Dutchmen rookie defensemen with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 41 games en route to being named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team this season. His +20 rating was good for sixth on the team.

Taylor is an excellent skating defenseman that plays a simple yet effective game. He has good mobility and skates with fluid strides. Although he doesn’t possess the flair of his now-former defensive partners, Taylor does have great offensive ability and showed glimpses of that this season. He has also shown a willingness to jump up into plays, but doesn’t do so at the expense of his defensive responsibilities. Taylor is very good in his own zone and in his positioning. Furthermore, he also possesses an outstanding stick. While Taylor is quite good in one-on-one situations, his lack of size and strength makes containing opposing players consistently difficult. That should improve as he continues to fill out his 6’0” frame, though.

Just missing the cut

Ian Brady, D – Freshman, University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC)
Alex Kile, LW – Freshman, University of Michigan (Big 10)
Tyler Moy, C – Freshman, Harvard University (ECAC)
Parker Reno, D – Freshman, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (ECAC)
Nick Schilkey, RW – Freshman, Ohio State University (Big 10)

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF