NAHL Top prospects for the 2005 draft

By DJ Powers

While the North American Hockey League may not enjoy the elite status compared to that of the USHL or the National Development Program (though technically speaking the NTDP is listed as part of the NAHL), it has produced an abundance of quality players for the NCAA ranks over the years, some of whom have gone to the NHL.

By many accounts, draft eligible talent coming out of the NAHL this year is not particularly deep. Nevertheless, there are a few that are well worth keeping an eye on. Hockey’s Future takes a look at three of the best, all of whom were ranked by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in the mid-term rankings.

1) Ben Bishop, G (Texas)
Ht: 6’5 Wt: 205 lbs. DOB: 1986-11-21
Central Scouting Mid-Term Ranking: 7th among North American goaltenders

Bishop is the latest in a growing list of outstanding goaltenders coming out of the Texas Tornado program, following the likes of Al Montoya (NYR), Brandon Crawford-West (PIT) and recent Hobey Baker finalist David McKee. Bishop, a St. Louis, Missouri native, led the Tornado to an unprecedented sixth straight NAHL South Division title on the way to their second consecutive NAHL championship (Gold Cup).

Bishop posted some impressive numbers for Texas this season. He went 35-8-0 in 45 appearances that included five shutouts, along with a 1.93 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. His 35 wins led the NAHL, while both his GAA and save percentage ranked second. His outstanding season earned him a spot on the NAHL All-Rookie Team as well as a nomination for USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year.

Bishop, a heavily recruited goaltender that will be attending the University of Maine this fall, is noted for his sheer size, superb agility and reliability.

2) Ray Kaunisto, LW (Soo)
Ht: 6’4 Wt: 185 lbs. DOB: 1987-02-07
Central Scouting Mid-Term Ranking: 192nd among North American skaters

Kaunisto is the highest ranked draft eligible skater from the NAHL appearing on Central Scouting’s Mid-Term rankings. Kaunisto enjoyed an outstanding rookie season with the Soo Indians that culminated in his selection to the NAHL All-Rookie Team. He finished second on the Indians roster in scoring with 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 55 appearances. His four game-winning goals were tied for second on the time, while his 72 penalty minutes was third.

Kaunisto is a Northern Michigan recruit, and will be spending another year in juniors before joining the Wildcats in the fall of 2006. His fluid skating along with his rugged style of play and large frame are some of his best attributes.

3) Steve Silver, D (Cleveland)
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 220 lbs. DOB: 1986-08-01
Central Scouting Mid-Term Ranking: 217th among North American skaters

The rugged Brighton, Michigan native is the third of three NAHL players ranked by the NHL’s Central Scouting. He played in 55 games for the (Junior) Barons last season, posting six points (two goals, four assists). He led Cleveland in penalty minutes with 152. Silver is a Western Michigan recruit and will join the Broncos this fall.

Cleveland Barons assistant coach Josh Harrold’s insights on Steve Silver: “Steve is a big kid, who plays big. He’s an all-around good player. He keeps it simple. He’s smart and doesn’t make mistakes. He is tough in front of the net and strong in the corners. He is a very physical player. His footwork improved greatly over the year, but could still use a lot of work. Steve is a very, very powerful skater when he gets going. I think that acceleration is more of an issue with Steve’s skating than his speed. His shot is heavy, however he struggles with getting it off quickly. The strength factor isn’t really an issue with Steve because he can push around just about anybody and he’s just going to get stronger. Steve is very, very good at almost every aspect of the defensive side of his game. Steve has the potential to be a very good player. I look for him to contribute a lot at Western Michigan this year.”

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.