June 27, 2014

Harvard-bound Donato could be a first-round pick in Philly

By Kirk Luedeke


Dexter School forward Ryan Donato, son of Harvard coach and former Boston Bruin Ted Donato, registered a scorching 2.5 points-per-game pace on the prep circuit this season. (Photo/Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

For the second straight year, the New England 2014 NHL draft class might not boast much in the way of high-end picks but has the kind of depth and strength in numbers that should keep area watchers busy in Philadelphia June 27-28.

The Bay State trio of Ryan Donato (Scituate, Mass.), Johnathan MacLeod (Dracut, Mass.) and Shane Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) headline this group of solid lottery candidates. The region is still looking for a top-round selection out of New England for the first time in four years. Of the three, only Donato stayed in his home state this season, as Eiserman skated for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints and MacLeod was a key physical presence for the U.S. National Under-18 Team in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The word that comes to mind is ‘intriguing,’ ” said one NHL scout with extensive viewings of the New England draft candidates this season. “There is a high ceiling with some of these kids, while others bring the kind of valuable attributes NHL teams are looking for.”

One long-term project player who could go anywhere in the second or third rounds is Rivers School defender Miles Gendron (Shrewsbury, Mass.) who is headed to the University of Connecticut in 2015 after a year in the BCHL. Cape Cod product and 1995 birth year forward Max Willman (Barnstable, Mass.), who likely will  star alongside Kimball Union Academy’s Tyler Bird at Brown University beginning next fall, opened eyes with his ability to push the pace and offensive tempo of games with Williston-Northampton.

KUA boasts a pair of talented forwards in power winger Bird (Andover, Mass.), who lit it up down the stretch, along with slick setup man J.D. Dudek (Auburn, N.H.), who was a key part of the Wildcats grabbing the 2014 small school prep tournament championship. Former Catholic Memorial standout Beau Starrett (Bellingham, Mass.) captured a lot of attention early with the South Shore Kings but still has the NHL tools to be a solid draft candidate.

Another older prospect, St. Lawrence defender Gavin Bayreuther (Canaan, N.H.), surged up Central Scouting’s final rankings, finishing inside the top 50 and likely will be drafted in his third and final year of eligibility.

The lone major junior player in Danny Moynihan (Windham, N.H.), plus high schooler Mike Lee (Hamden, Conn.) round out the featured prospects for the 2014 New England class, attesting to this group’s potential for selection later this month.

The real excitement is already building for next year’s local draft hopefuls in what could be the best New England class in three decades, but don’t sell this group short. With their versatility and long-term potential plus some sleepers in the mix, we could see a third consecutive NHL draft with 10 or more area players selected.

 

2014 NEW ENGLAND DRAFT PROSPECTS AT A GLANCE

1 | Ryan Donato

C, Dexter School (H.S.-Mass.) | 6-1, 180 (Scituate, Mass.) | GP-30, G-37, A-41, PTS-78 | CSS Rank: 58 NA

The skinny: The son of former NHLer and current Harvard coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.) was the area’s top player from start to finish. He’s bigger than his old man and while not quite as fast, still skates well with a slippery elusiveness to him and ability to get around defenders with sharp headfakes and lateral quickness. A cerebral player with high-end hands and vision, Donato faced the opposition’s top checkers and never broke stride, destroying the prep circuit with his 2.5 points-per-game pace. His nonstop motor and passion for hockey means that he never takes a shift off. In a year when scouts were expecting a bit of a dropoff after his outstanding 2012-13 campaign, Donato actually raised the bar.

Quotable: “Shows great hand/eye coordination around the net … can slow the pace down and exploits seams in the defense with his natural hockey sense and instincts. Fearless and willing to step right into traffic knowing he’s going to get hammered in order to create dangerous (scoring) chances” — Kyle Woodlief, chief scout, Red Line Report

 

2 | Johnathan MacLeod

D, U.S. NTDP (USHL) | 6-1, 190 (Dracut, Mass.) | GP-51, G-5, A-6, PTS-11, PIM-70 | CSS Rank: 44 NA

The skinny: Sometimes, less is truly more, and that’s what teams get with this former KUA star who left the Granite State for Team USA. He’s still improving his footwork and lateral mobility, but when it comes to having a big, rugged, clampdown defender who takes his craft seriously, they don’t come much better than MacLeod. A natural leader who inspires through his example and does a lot of the little things every team desires, he doesn’t try to play outside of his limitations and would be a nice value option anywhere in the second round or later. In just seven games, MacLeod scored a pair of goals and three points, helping Team USA capture its fifth gold medal in six years at the world under-18 tourney in Finland.

Quotable: “He’s a legitimately tough, strong D-man who loves to hit. He’s a high character and is a big, strong, heavy kid. He’s simplified his game and knows who he is and understands that below the dots, he’s going to be real tough to play against.” — NHL scout, Western Conference

 

3 |  Shane Eiserman

LW, Dubuque (USHL) | 6-1, 200 (Newburyport, Mass.) | GP-53, G-16, A-24, PTS-40, PIM-71 | CSS Rank: 45 NA

The skinny: Overcame a disappointing start in the USHL to play to his potential over the season’s second half. A Swiss Army knife (does a little of everything), Eiserman previously played for St. John’s and Cushing Academy before impressing NHL scouts a year ago with the U.S. NTDP. The UNH recruit is a thickly built winger who goes to the net hard and has a flair for finding the back of the net in key moments.

Quotable: “It all comes down to consistency with Shane. Some games he would dominate with a couple of goals and eight shots on net, while in others I barely noticed him. He’s a big, strong kid who is a good skater, but I wonder about his hockey sense: when the pace goes up, he tends to disappear.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

 

4 | Miles Gendron

D, Rivers School (HS-Mass.) | 6-2, 178 (Shrewsbury, Mass.) | GP-22, G-6, A-13, PTS-19 | CSS Rank: 74 NA

The skinny: With Gendron it’s all about the wheels, and he’s a sleek racer the way he gets about the ice, using his rapid acceleration, crisp edgework and high-end, four-way mobility to move the puck at will. A converted forward who is still learning the position, Gendron is a work in progress with a very nice potential payoff for an NHL team that can afford to stash him away and let him incubate in junior (the Penticton Vees of the BCHL) along with several years in the NCAA before he’ll turn pro. The offense is there, but he needs to get stronger and add strength/mass to his skinny frame.

Quotable: “He’s a wild card as an elite skater; not many D-men in this draft have his height and skating ability, and with the way he plays, he might be a Jake Gardiner-type guy someday.” — NHL scout, Western Conference

 

5 | Max Willman

LW, Williston-Northampton (HS- Mass.) | 6-0, 180 (Barnstable, Mass.) | GP-25, G-21, A-23, PTS-44 | CSS Rank: 116 NA

The skinny: Skipped over in 2013, the Cape Cod native took a postgraduate year with the Wildcats and made the best of it, forcing NHL teams to take notice. A skilled and aggressive offensive player who likes to attack defenses with speed and the ability to dangle, the former Red Raiders captain can control the game’s flow and is always attacking. Headed to Brown University in the fall, scouts are eager to see what kind of production he and fellow Bears recruit Tyler Bird can put up together.

Quotable: “Only has average size but tremendous puck skills and a real nose for the net. Pushes the pace and tempo of the game and is at his best in space where he can dangle and beat defenders 1-on-1.” — Red Line Report, April 2014

6 | Tyler Bird

RW, Kimball Union Academy (HS-N.H.) | 6-2, 200 (Andover, Mass.) | GP-37, G-33,A-27, PTS-60 | CSS Rank: 117 NA

The skinny: This big-bodied power forward came on like gangbusters when linemate J.D. Dudek missed a month with a shoulder injury. Although Bird’s skating could stand to improve in the first few steps, he has an effective top gear, a sterling work ethic and an NHL-caliber release. He works the corners and the front of the net diligently and made prep goalies pay all season for any time or space he was given between the circles. Along with Eiserman, Bird will make it the fourth consecutive year a current or former St. John’s Prep Eagle is selected in the NHL draft.

Quotable: “He’s got NHL size and skating … he’s good in straight lines, even if he’s not the most agile guy. He works hard and is competitive, though; he uses his size to win battles and is strong on the puck. It will be interesting to see him at the next level given the season he just had.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

 

7 | Beau Starrett

LW, South Shore (USPHL) | 6-4, 195 (Bellingham, Mass.) | GP-48, G-11, A-36, PTS-47, PIM-94 | CSS Rank: 79 NA

The skinny: Starrett left public high school hockey (Catholic Memorial) for the junior circuit, and the move certainly has paid off. With his size, skating ability, quick stick and energy, this raw-but-intriguing Cornell-bound project is only starting to scratch the surface of how good he can be. He makes plays at both ends of the ice and forces defenders in puck retrieval to play with their heads on a swivel whenever he’s closing on them. Just think how much more he’ll bring to the table when he adds on another 20-30 pounds of muscle to his gigantic frame.

Quotable: “He intrigued us all in October as a (6-foot-4) forward with a good motor who likes to be physical, but the offensive game didn’t develop. He loves hockey, and is one of those rink rats who works hard at it, but the offensive production didn’t take off like (Zach) Sanford last year.” — NHL scout, Western Conference

 

8 | J.D. Dudek

C, Kimball Union Academy (HS-N.H.) | 5-11, 175 (Auburn, N.H.) | GP-25, G-9, A-35, PTS-44 | CSS Rank: 109 NA

The skinny: Son of a former Heisman candidate and Broncos running back is a natural athlete and slick passer who did not even start playing organized hockey until the advanced age of 8, losing a year of development soon afterward with a horrific skate injury. There isn’t a lot of tread on the tire, and the younger Dudek is an outstanding playmaker whose goal-scoring skills are underrated. He’s got to get quicker and has a lot of weight room work to do, but the Boston College recruit (2015) has some real upside if there is an NHL team willing to wait for it.

Quotable: “Our guys are a little divided on him because he’ll go through stretches where he doesn’t accomplish much. I’ve seen some real dominance from him at the prep level with his vision and hands, so I’m a believer.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

 

9 | Gavin Bayreuther

D, St. Lawrence Univ. (ECAC) | 6-1, 190 (Canaan, N.H.) | GP-38, G-9, A-27, PTS-36, PIM-20 | CSS Rank: 48 NA

The skinny: 1994-born late bloomer is in his last year of draft eligibility but will likely get a call at some point after an excellent freshman season. With good size, vision and offensive hockey sense, he’s an exceptional power-play presence. The former Holderness School star, who played last season in the USHL with the Fargo Force, isn’t a top defensive player, nor does he have ideal mobility, but makes up for it with his ability to move and distribute the puck on the man advantage. 

Quotable: “He can run that (SLU) power play for sure. Skating and defending are issues for me, and I wonder how much of his numbers were inflated from their system and playing with the Carey brothers.”

— NHL scout, Western Conference

 

10 | Danny Moynihan

C, Halifax (QMJHL) | 6-1, 185 (Windham, N.H.) | GP-68, G-9, A-17, PTS-26 | CSS Rank: 77 NA

The skinny: Older brother and teammate of 2015 NHL draft hopeful Connor Moynihan is a gritty forward who skates well and plays with high energy and effort levels. He and his brother gave up the NCAA track for major junior and the opportunity to skate with the 2013 Memorial Cup-winning Mooseheads. Scouts do not have any real consensus on the older Moynihan’s NHL potential, but he has the tools to make it in a checking role one day as a late-round draft option.

Quotable: “Danny can really skate and plays hard. With a touch more creativity, he would be a huge (scoring) threat.” — Willy Palov, Red Line Report

 

11 | Mike Lee

D, The Gunnery (HS-Conn.) | 6-0, 186 (Hamden, Conn.) | GP-28, G-7, A-21, PTS-28 | CSS Rank: 156 NA

The skinny: All-around defenseman was part of a plucky Highlanders bunch that nearly upset Salisbury in the prep Elite 8 tourney championship before falling in overtime. Lee does not have ideal size but is a fluid skater who keeps his head up and can move the puck pretty well while playing a responsible game in his own end. An excellent shot blocker who willingly sacrifices his body for the good of the team, he is committed to the University of Vermont, and will join Miles Gendron in Penticton next season before jumping to the NCAA.

Quotable: “He’s a very intelligent, heady D-man who strikes me as more of a puck-mover than a legitimate offensive defenseman. He’s a good competitor and might be worth a late pick as a shot in the dark, but his average size is probably going to scare teams away.” — NHL scout, Eastern Conference

 

2014 DRAFT: N.E. SLEEPERS

Bobo Carpenter | LW, Austin Prep (HS-Mass.) | North Reading, Mass.

Bobby Carpenter’s (Peabody, Mass.) eldest son (sister Alex is a BC hockey star and 2014 U.S. Olympian) does not have NHL-caliber size or speed but makes up for it with terrific hands and hockey sense. Some question if he has the tools to be a top-nine forward at the NHL level, but with his bloodlines, sheer hustle and character, he’s worth a roll of the dice in NEHJ’s view.

Joey Daccord | G, Cushing Academy  | Andover, Mass.

Big butterfly goalie cracked Central’s top 15 for North American goalies and got some NHL attention this season. It doesn’t hurt to be the son of the Boston Bruins’ former goaltending coach and goalie training guru Brian Daccord, either.

Cam Darcy | RW, Cape Breton (QMJHL) | South Boston, Mass.

Former Dexter star spent two largely lackluster years in Ann Arbor with the national team, then punched out of Northeastern a year ago to finish in the USHL with Muskegon. The skilled, instinctive scorer posted 82 points for the Quebec League’s Screaming Eagles and might have done enough to get a late draft call as a 1994 birth year in his final window of eligibility.

Nolan Vesey | LW, South Shore (USPHL) | North Reading, Mass.

Like his older brother, the University of Maine-bound son of former Merrimack legend and NHL forward Jim Vesey (Charlestown, Mass.) left the high school ranks to post impressive numbers in Scott Harlow’s (Bridgewater, Mass.) Kings program. Scouts have knocked him for not working harder on and off the ice, but if a team thinks he can put it together, he’s worth a second look.

James Winkler | LW, Portland Jr. Pirates (USPHL) | York, Maine

Huge (6-foot-3) with soft hands, his heavy boots are the only real thing keeping Winkler out of the regional top 10. We’ve seen skating hold back similar players in the past, but all it takes is for one of the NHL’s 30 to believe in this Northeastern recruit.

NEHJ SUPER SLEEPER:

Ben Freeman | LW, Northfield-Mt. Hermon | Yarmouth, Maine

He has three NHL tools in abundance: size, skating and shot. If the under-the-radar Mainer can add more of a physical element to his game and continue his impressive development curve, we would not at all be shocked to hear an NHL team call his name in Philly, even as one of the draft’s darkhorses who did not crack Central’s rankings.

New England natives also ranked by Central Scouting:

147. Jonathan Barry,  D, Thayer Academy (Hanover, Mass.)

177. Billy Sweezey, D, Noble & Greenough (Hanson, Mass.)

203. J.C. Brassard, D, Noble & Greenough (Scituate, Mass.)

Players with area connections:

1G. Thatcher Demko (right), G, Boston College

184. Sam Lafferty, F, Deerfield Academy

194. Scott Savage, D, Boston College

LV Christian Short, G, Canterbury

New Englanders to watch for 2015

2015 might just be the best New England NHL draft class since 1986, when four area players: Brian Leetch (Cheshire, Conn.), Scott Young (Clinton, Mass.), Craig Janney (Enfield, Conn.) and Tom Fitzgerald (Billerica, Mass.) were picked in the first round (21 teams at the time). All save for Janney played more than 1,000 career NHL games, and if not for a rare disorder that forced Janney to retire early, he likely would have reached that milestone as well.

Beyond the trio of Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin and Colin White, all of whom are potential top-10 picks next year (with Eichel and Hanifin both vying for top-three status), you have an impressive group of players like Lincoln Griffin (Walpole, Mass.), Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), Connor Moynihan (Windham, N.H.) and Cam Askew (South Boston, Mass.) in the early draft picture.

The buzz is already building for 2015, and these New England kids will be worth watching all the way to Sunrise, Fla.

Jack Eichel | C, U.S. NTDP (North Chelmsford, Mass.)

People are running out of superlatives for this high-end scoring star who showed everyone at last winter’s world juniors tourney what area scouts have been dazzled by for years. More impressive than his natural production and skill was the maturity and poise the 17-year-old displayed on the world stage in Sweden. He’s going to give Canadian prodigy Connor McDavid a run for the money for the top overall spot next year.

Noah Hanifin | D, U.S. NTDP (Norwood, Mass.)When you talk cornerstone defensemen who can do it all, this BC-bound two-way ace is it. With his 6-foot-2 size, fluid skating, tremendous vision, soft hands and even an edge to his game, Hanifin can beat you any which way. After a great campaign with the USA U17 squad, the former St. Sebastian’s star moved up to the U18 team late in the year and was even more productive at that higher level. This kid will heat up a lot of NHL draft discussion boards next season.

Colin White | F, U.S. NTDP (Hanover, Mass.)

White left Nobles to take his high-wire scoring act to Ann Arbor and did not disappoint. White’s true coming-out party was at the World Under-17 Challenge in Nova Scotia, where his offensive dominance was underscored by several highlight-reel goals that the opposing (and unfortunate) netminders are probably still having nightmares about.

This article originally appeared in the June edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to access the FREE digital edition.

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