NHL Draft Primer: Stephens, Jones among mid-to-late round North American options

By David Hahn
Marcus Vela - Team West - 2015 CJHL Prospects Game

Photo: Langley Rivermen forward and 2015 prospect Marcus Vela competed for Team West at the 2015 CJHL Prospects Game (courtesy of Jay Johnston/OJHL Images)



The NHL Draft Primer series continues with a look at North American skaters ranked between 101 and 149 for the 2015 NHL Draft, as listed by NHL Central Scouting. Often times, there are players who are trending in one direction or the other, and sometimes, players with family ties or other interesting connections can be worth a look. These players are all likely to be drafted, but as we’ve seen in previous years, there are always surprises lurking for players ranked around this part of the draft.

147. Hayden McCool, Center, Windsor (OHL)
6’2″, 196 pounds, Whitby, ON

Not only does he have one of the best names in the draft, but Hayden McCool is the lone Windsor Spitfires representative on the final NHL Central Scouting list. McCool began the season with the Niagara IceDogs, but was sent to Windsor as part of the Josh Ho-Sang trade. McCool is a power forward by trade, able to play center or left wing.

As part of his learning process this year, he started to become more comfortable using his size to protect the puck and play more of a physical style. This resulted in a 15-goal and 19-assist season, decent totals for a player learning how to be successful in the OHL. He dealt with a minor ankle injury down the stretch and battled consistency issues, but with his frame and willingness to adapt, he should hear his name called at the draft.

143. Keoni Texeira, Defenseman, Portland (WHL)
6’0″, 194 pounds, Fontana, CA

As a resident of a budding hockey state, Keoni Texeira’s trip up the California coast to Portland has been worth the journey. Texeira credits former coaches Bill Comrie, who helped guide his three sons to successful careers, and Mike Johnston, the current Pittsburgh Penguins bench boss, for his development. The journey was not without his own hard work, as the physical defenseman has been consistently working on his game.

The owner of an efficient and fluid skating stride, Texeira uses those abilities well to block shots, to position himself well, and to battle on most shifts. He has benefited from making simple passes to the Winterhawks’ dynamic group of forwards, but still managed to improve his point total to 26 points in 71 regular season games. Portland’s season ended earlier than they expected, but Texeira only helped his draft stock by logging 38 WHL playoff games over the last two seasons.

142. Olivier Galipeau, Defenseman, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
6’1″, 201 pounds, Ste-Marie-Salome, QC

Val-d’Or Foreurs defenseman Olivier Galipeau is a throwback to defensemen of old, willing to do anything it takes to win. Over the course of the season, Galipeau has taken on all comers, often dropping the gloves to protect a teammate or in an attempt to stem the tide. He even blocked a shot with his face, twice, in the same game.

On the surface, Galipeau appears to be similar to the many other defensemen who have his skill set, but he has been so much more this year. He registered six goals and 14 assists in 59 games, and added another six points in 17 QMJHL playoff games. At just 17 years old, he was entrusted as one of the Foreurs alternate captains, a testament to what his teammates think of him.

134. Deven Sideroff, Right Wing, Kamloops (WHL)
5’11”, 179 pounds, Kamloops, BC

As lunch-pail forwards go, the Kamloops Blazers’ Deven Sideroff comes to play each and every night. His offensive game may not be there on a consistent basis, but he does the little things often. He has garnered attention this season thanks to his intelligence with the puck, as he would rather maintain possession and use his body to protect the puck than give it up in a bad situation.

Sideroff’s decision making ultimately led to a 17-goal, 25-assist season over 64 regular season games. He seemed to come up big in pressure packed situations, either by getting the puck to the net or making a simple play to preserve a lead.

131. Marcus Vela, Center, Langley (BCHL)
6’2″, 201 pounds, Burnaby, BC

The top-ranked player from the BCHL, Marcus Vela was the cream of the crop for good reason. He more than doubled his point totals from his first year with the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL, finishing with 20 goals and 26 assists in 50 games. By all accounts, he is a character individual who has been used throughout the lineup in different situations. Vela is usually on the ice in the last minute, a good sign for a draft-eligible player.

Vela is a well-rounded player, and was pursued seriously by a handful of NCAA schools. Ultimately, Vela signed his National Letter of Intent to begin his collegiate career with the University of New Hampshire beginning in the 2016-17 season.

115. Caleb Jones, Defenseman, U.S. NTDP U18 (USHL)
6’0″, 194 pounds, Frisco, TX

The Portland Winterhawks have become an elite destination that produces NHL-quality defensemen more often than most. The pipeline gained a new recruit recently, as Seth Jones’ younger brother Caleb committed to the team beginning next season. He isn’t as big as Seth and the offensive game hasn’t come naturally to him, but he makes up for that by being aggressive and pushing the pace.

He spent this season with the U.S. NTDP, scoring six times and adding 18 assists over the course of 65 games. Jones is a poised, mature defenseman for his age, and under the tutelage of the Portland staff, he may be primed for a major breakout season in 2015-16.

112. Mitchell Stephens, Center, Saginaw (OHL)
6’0″, 183 pounds, Peterborough, ON

One player scouts are having a tough time placing in the draft is Saginaw Spirit center Mitchell Stephens. His rookie season in the OHL was less than stellar, posting just 21 points and looking very much like a player struggling to adapt to the speed of the league. However, Stephens is loaded with potential and started to show some of that ability this season.

He enjoyed a breakout season, scoring 22 times to go along with 26 assists, helping the Spirit into the playoffs. Clearly a player who got better as the season went along, Stephens picked up five goals and five assists for Canada in their bronze medal win at the U18 World Championship. Nobody’s stock grew more from that tournament, as Canada’s U18 captain is gaining momentum as a possible first-round selection, a far cry from where he was just one calendar year ago.

106. John McDermott, Center, Westminster (USHS)
6’0″, 174 pounds, Darien, CT

He may not be on your radar, but I can assure you that John McDermott is in the sights of NHL scouts. McDermott is a gifted athlete, and was one of the youngest players at his prep school. He is regarded as an elite-level skater who drives possession for his team, one trait coaches gravitate towards.

He has a ton of potential, and has been trending positively as the season went along. He announced his commitment to Boston University for the 2016-17 season. As a player who has been difficult to contain, it may be difficult for NHL teams to resist adding him to their prospect pool in June.

The next installment of the NHL Draft Primer will take a look at International goaltenders, so stay tuned!

NDP 1 | NDP2 | NDP3 | NDP4 | NDP5 | NDP6 | NDP7 | NDP8 | NDP9 | NDP10 | NDP11 | NDP12 | NDP13

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey