We might have been spoiled by the deepest draft crop in memory after 12 area natives were selected a year ago in Pittsburgh. In 2013, the depth might not quite be the same, but you will see some earlier picks, and the core group overall is a solid one.
As the NHL gathers in Newark, N.J., on June 30 to conduct the draft in its entirety (all seven rounds), New England looks to be well-represented, with at least four solid candidates to be selected inside the first three rounds, with a few more beyond that.
Adam Erne left his native Connecticut to play in Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Quebec City over the past five years, but he’s the top area prospect and has a legitimate shot at being the first area opening-round pick since Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) and Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass.) went to the Blackhawks and Sharks three years ago.
“It’s probably more of a top-heavy group with Erne, (John) Hayden, (Zach) Sanford and (Ryan) Fitzgerald than last year, but you probably won’t see as many area kids drafted,” said an NHL scout recently when asked about the difference between 2012 and 2013. “Teams like Erne because even if he’s not dynamic, he’s got that power forward potential that everyone’s always looking for.”
No area prospect has boosted his stock more than Granite Stater and Boston College recruit Zach Sanford (Auburn, N.H.), who parlayed a slow start in the EJHL into a dominant performance down the stretch and into that league’s playoffs.
“We actually have Sanford ahead of Fitzgerald,” another NHL scout told New England Hockey Journal. “That’s not a knock on Ryan as much as it’s an endorsement of Sanford and his impressive package of size, skill and potential. He’s a raw, but highly intriguing project kind of kid.”
Another Nutmeg State product, U.S. NTDP forward John Hayden (Greenwich, Conn.), has seen his stock rise considerably since the start of the year, when he was coming off a knee injury suffered last spring. The big-bodied winger has good hands and the character NHL clubs put emphasis on. His feet are a bit heavy, but he’ll make the defending NCAA champs even better when he suits up for Yale University next season.
Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) has perhaps the best natural hockey sense of any New England player and is an accomplished center who won a pair of championships at Malden Catholic before jumping to the EJHL last fall. He was the USA Hockey All-American Top Prospects Game’s inaugural MVP, and rounds out the group that appears to be a lock to go in the top-90 selections.
Hard-nosed defender Anthony Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.) is one local prospect who just might work his way into the top three rounds as well, but if not, the Providence College recruit and his Selects Academy teammate Jason Salvaggio (Hanson, Mass.) won’t be on the board much longer than 100.
St. John’s Prep’s Brian Pinho (North Andover, Mass.) and Phillips Andover’s Eddie Ellis (Burlington, Mass.) are team captains and New England Hockey Journal favorites for their leadership, character and talent. Pinho is more of an offensive playmaking presence, while Ellis is a prototypical rugged, grinding forward who weathered a disappointing team season with class and optimism.
Overall, while the late ’94 and ’95 year group likely won’t provide the sheer number of drafted players from the season before, this group’s potential might be a cut above.