The NHL Draft Primer series continues with a look at players ranked between 74 and 50 for the 2015 NHL Draft.
Moving past the projections that place players in the middle rounds of the draft, we start to come upon players who might very well sneak into the first round of the draft. Most of these players have a certain pedigree, be it a family connection, coaching assistance, or draft position.
68. Matthew Spencer, Defenseman, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
6’2”, 194 pounds, Guelph, ON
As the third overall selection in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, Peterborough defenseman Matthew Spencer carried higher expectations than his current projection as a second or third round pick. The former Ontario Minor Hockey Association Player of the Year is a positionally strong two-way defenseman who has proven worthy of the significant ice time he’s been allotted.
Spencer has an evolving offensive game, which improved after being given the keys to the Petes’ power play. He is the consummate competitor, willing to play whatever style the game dictates, which should result in his name being called sooner rather than later.
61. Adam Musil, Center, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
6’3”, 207 pounds, Ottawa, ON
Born into a family with strong hockey bloodlines, Adam Musil has been able to lean on his father, Frank, a veteran of nearly 800 NHL games, his brother David, an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, or even his Uncle, Bobby Holik, a long-time New Jersey Devil. Musil has matured throughout the season and developed an edge to his game, something that he always counts on if he’s not scoring.
Musil finished the season with 15 goals and 24 assists in 66 games, not tremendous totals, but his true value can be measured by his versatility to play in various situations. With his size and bloodlines, whoever drafts him would do well to let him develop and continue to improve. If so, he could reward that team with a quality middle-six player down the road.
60. Jeremy Bracco, Center, USA U-18 (U.S. NTDP)
5’9”, 172 pounds, Freeport, NY
The scouting world is slowly taking notice that smaller players are finally finding success in the NHL. With the talent that Jeremy Bracco possesses, that trend is sure to continue. Bracco is surely ranked lower than where he will be taken, as he has undeniable offensive ability and a certain wizardry with the puck.
Bracco is incredibly smart and shifty with the puck, and is able to suddenly create something from nothing. Those skills resulted in 30 goals and 64 assists with the U.S. NTDP. He carried that momentum over to the 2015 U18 World Championship, where Bracco added another 13 points in seven games, helping the United States win gold.
56. Brendan Guhle, Defenseman, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
6’2”, 185 pounds, Sherwood Park, AB
Under the tutelage of former NHL defenseman Dave Manson, Brendan Guhle has started to appear more and more like his teacher. Guhle has been a physical force on the Raiders blueline, reliable in all situations with an improving ability to move the puck.
Guhle is incredibly difficult to play against, displaying his solid positioning and ability to break up plays on a nightly basis. Those skills have been there, but it’s his five goals and 27 assists that made scouts take notice. It was a 22-point improvement from last year, proving that Guhle could be trusted as more than just a shutdown defenseman.
54. Nathan Noel, Center, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
6’0”, 168 pounds, St. John’s, NL
Like Matthew Spencer’s situation profiled above, Nathan Noel also had to live up to the expectations that come with being drafted third overall. Saint John took Noel early in the 2013 QMJHL Entry Draft, but the former Shattuck St. Mary’s product has looked at home playing for the Sea Dogs.
Noel is willing to take the puck into high traffic areas, and isn’t afraid to maintain possession by initiating body contact. Noel finished with a solid 24-goal, 38-assist season, thanks in part to his commitment to compete night in and night out. As someone who models himself after Philadelphia Flyers‘ star Claude Giroux, his improved confidence is a good sign as teams may jockey to select Noel.
53. Cooper Marody, Center, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
6’0”, 176 pounds, Brighton, MI
After a forgettable first half of the season with the Muskegeon Lumberjacks in the USHL, a December trade benefited both Cooper Marody and the Sioux Falls Stampede. The winner of just seven of their first 20 games, Marody was a huge part of why the Herd rebounded to lift the Clark Cup at the conclusion of the season.
After the trade, Marody scored 20 times and assisted on 29 others in just 38 regular season games. His draft stock again continued to rise in the playoffs, when the creative and offensively gifted pivot led all USHL skaters with 11 assists in 12 games.
50. Nikita Korostelev, Right Wing, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
6’1”, 196 pounds, Moscow, Russia
Despite missing nearly a month due to injury in the middle of the season, Nikita Korostelev still managed to lead the Sarnia Sting in scoring. One reason for that is Korostelev’s preference to shoot the puck, as the talented Russian uses a quick and accurate release to fire the puck on net. He could stand to round out his game, as his defensive abilities are lacking, though not seriously enough to hurt his draft stock.
Korostelev has embarrassed opposing goaltenders this season, especially so after quickly transitioning from defense to offense. While 24 goals and 29 assists may not have lit up the scoreboard, on a team void of much in the way of skill, Korostelev and fellow European Pavel Zacha – a top prospect in his own right – led the way for the Sting.
Stay tuned as the next NHL Draft Primer will take a look at North American skaters ranked between 50 and 26.
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