Draft Stew, Part Drei

For this final installment of Draft Stew, Redline Report scout Max Giese and I are talking some NCAA. Be sure to check out Redline for your scouting info needs as the Draft nears too.

Overall, how would you describe this class of NCAA Draft Eligibles (upside, talent level, overall depth, etc.)

Max Giese: Overall it’s a really good year. The trickle-down effect of NHL teams signing their prospects and free-agent prospects out of college early has lead to programs bringing in younger freshman, which means more draft eligible players are playing in the NCAA now than compared to just a couple years ago.

Jamie Oleksiak, understandably, is getting alot of attention at Northeastern. He’s huge (6’7″, 240 pounds!)- what else does he do that makes him an attractive prospect, and what could be his ceiling?

Giese: Really, skies the limit for Jamie. It’s hard to project his ceiling when every year he just gets better and better. He’s a massive kid that moves pretty well on his feet for a big guy (he’s a bit knock-kneed but it doesn’t matter because how strong his edgework is). He’s almost unbeatable one-on-one with his massive wingspan and quality footwork. There is a burgeoning edge there and he is actually fairly skilled with the puck. No way this kid gets out of the first-round in my opinion. His decision making used to be an issue but it has improved steadily year after year to where some NHL scouts who are just getting their first look at him now are saying it’s a non-issue. I remember when the Chicago Steel brought him in as a 16 year-old and he was an uncoordinated mess and wasn’t a very smart player. It’s amazing how far he’s come.

Tell me about the prospects in the WCHA- Mike Mersch, Dillon Simpson, and Frankie Simonelli.

Giese: Mersch is one of the sleepers of the entire draft. He’s a young pup and has really bad feet, but he’s such a smart player that he still gets there. On top of his great hockey sense he also has soft hands and a big frame. I like him more than most and think he has all the tools to be a first-round pick except for the skating. Simpson and Simonelli are a little further in their development than Mersch but they don’t have near the upside. I’ve been very disappointed with Simpson this year based on the hype he had coming into this season and Simonelli is a solid collegiate defenseman but I don’t see him ever making the NHL unless he hits peaks in his development that I just can’t see right now.

In about a month, the NCAA Free Agent bonanza will begin. Stephane De Costa is getting alot of attention- what is it about it that makes him so attractive as a player?

Giese: I compare De Costa to Danny Briere. He’s not big and doesn’t have explosive speed but few are smarter and as creative east-to-west as he is. He’s elusive and skilled. His hockey sense and vision are elite.

Recently Redline sang the praises of Brown forward Harry Zolnierczyk; what can you tell us about him?

Giese: That report in Redline was from me after seeing Harry play at the Shillelagh tournament in Chicago. I entered the weekend anxious to see Adam Clendening and Matt Nieto and had no prior clue to who Hary Zolnierczyk was. I watched Brown vs. BU and Harry was a dominant player. It was impossible not to notice him. His first shift was great and I kept following him throughout the game and he was just owning the puck and making things happen every shift against stiff competition. Harry is built for the pro-game. He’s nasty to play against and will stick his nose into anything. He’s extremely gritty and is a powerful skater that will drive the net and can finish offensively. He will play in the NHL someday, not sure if it’s as a top-six guy with grit or a third line pest that kills penalties, but I’m convinced he will play.

Who else (without giving out company secrets) do you think will draw attention?

Giese: Keith Kinkaid, the goaltender from Union, I’m surprised how little media attention he’s received. Several NHL teams think he’s legit and another several NHL teams will be offering him contracts this year. He’s better than Ben Scrivens (Cornell University) and some of the other free-agent goalies who have garnered more hype recently. He’s the real deal. Even at his diminutive frame, I think Chay Genoway has a chance at being an NHL defenseman because he’s so dynamically fast and skilled, and his competitiveness both on the ice and off the ice working on his game is off the charts. Eriah Hayes of Mankato and Tommy Grant of Alaska are WCHA kids to watch. It’s too bad Sean Wiles is having a bad year in Anchorage because he’s a big kid with a huge shot that I have liked. Matt Read of Bemidji State is a kid that I liked last year as a smart and skilled center but I haven’t seen him this year yet.

Finally, based off of who you’ve viewed, who is the best FA out there?

Giese: De Costa has the most potential. If all goes right he could play in an NHL all-star game someday and be a popular player in fantasy leagues. But Harry Zolnierczyk is the safest best to have a long NHL career.

Thanks again to Mr. Giese for the information and the time, and to the sources of the photos.