The 2016 NHL Draft is right around the corner, and Silver Seven Sens wants to get you caught up on which prospects the Senators could potentially draft at number 12. Today, we'll be going over five forwards, while next week it will be five defenseman. I think after looking at these 10 potential picks, you should get the sense that Ottawa has a good chance to pick a quality player at either position.
Let's take a look at the forwards.
Clayton Keller, US National U18 Team: C
Keller is a small centre listed at 5'10" and 163 lbs, but it's hard to deny his skill-set and the impact he has made in the US Development Program and in the USHL. The Hockey News pointed out that if he was two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier, he would be a top-5 or even top-3 pick. He's seen as an extremely skilled playmaking centre that has more upside compared to some of his peers that will be picked in the teens.
In 2014-15, he excelled with the U17's, the U18's, and even in the USHL, where he easily notched a point per game at each stop.
At one point in the year, he was on pace to put up similar point totals that Auston Matthews put up in the USHL in 2014-15. Matthews had 48 points in 24 games, which is incredible, but Keller still managed to get 37 points in 23 games. Not only that, Keller boasted an impressive 107 points in 62 games with the US National U18 team. For comparison, in Patrick Kane's 17 year old season he had 102 points in 58 games with the U18's. As stated earlier, he would have been ranked higher if he was bigger, and he did not rise too much despite having a monster year.
Fit with the Sens:
I think Keller would be an amazing pick for the Senators. There isn't a huge need for a skilled centre, but you can never have too many. He has the potential to become a first line centre, and if he becomes that, then that means Ottawa either has extremely good depth or a new trade piece. He doesn't have a good short-term outlook in Ottawa considering Colin White could be in the NHL in 2017-18, but down the line he may be seen as a much-needed piece of a contending team.
Below are some highlights from Keller, and some of his goals are pretty amazing. It's a long video, but it's worth it.
Tyson Jost, Penticton Vees: C/LW
After scoring at a historic rate in the BC Major Midget League, Jost chose to go to the BCHL for his Grade 11 and 12 seasons in order to be college eligible. Normally a decision like that would drop his draft ranking because the BCHL is essentially a step below the WHL, but Jost is still ranked in the first half of the first round. He is seen as a great skater that can really turn it on, and from what it seems, he has no evident weakness. His vision, intelligence, shot, speed, and toughness have all been praised, making it seem like whomever takes him could end up with a fantastic forward.
In order to be considered a first round pick coming from Junior A, you really have to torch the league, and that's what Jost did. With 104 points in 48 games, he wasn't quite as good as Kyle Turris who had 121 points in 53 games, but he was impressive nonetheless. The one thing that most likely boosted his value was his play at the U18 World Junior Championships, where he scored 15 points in 7 games and was the top scorer in the tournament.
It seems as if the questions about his quality of opponents have been silenced just a bit.
Fit with the Sens:
Jost is listed as a centre, although various outlets have showed him as a centre and left winger. Much like with Keller, the Senators may be getting someone with plenty of upside if they choose to draft Tyson Jost. He will be headed to the University of North Dakota for at least next year, and most likely more than that, so he would not make an immediate impact with the team.
As far as quality assets go though, I think Jost may end up being a top-30 prospect in the league by the end of 2016. Like Keller, Ottawa may not need him as a centre, but I'd be pretty intrigued and excited to see what he can do with the Senators.
Some highlights from Jost:
Logan Brown, Windsor Spitfires: C
Although Brown plays in the OHL, he was actually born in North Carolina. As a rookie last year in Windsor, he did surprisingly well with 43 points in 56 games. At his massive height of 6'6", he is continually going to get chances to succeed. He seems like somewhat of a polarizing figure in that there will be some who love his size and see him as a potential star in the league, but there will be some who fear he is only dominating kids who haven't fully grown yet.
Although he is one of the biggest draft eligible players, he isn't overly physical, and is more of a playmaker than anything. One scout in The Hockey News mentioned that:
"In terms of tools, his tools are as good as anyone's in the draft. He's got size, but he might be the weakest guy in all of the draft."
He may not be the prototypical big NHLer we normally see, although I could see him getting snatched up early in the draft by a team who loves his size.
There are usually a few players who inexplicably get ranked highly in the first round every year, and I would have thought that Brown would be that guy due to his size. However, 74 points in 59 games is nothing to scoff at. At the U18's he had 12 points in 7 games for the USA, which was 3rd on his team but 4th overall. If you look at his points per 60, his 3.01 mark actually beats Alex Nylander's 2.87, which is interesting to look at. Although the trend amongst fans recently has been to dismiss taller players (I call it that Cowen effect), Brown's production checks out as being a solid first round pick.
Fit with the Sens:
How many times have you heard a fan of the Senators talk about getting a big number one centre? Well now here's a chance for them to get one. He may not end up being a true number one, but boy is he big. At the same time, he isn't a physical player that will go out of his way for a hit (which is good in reality). Ottawa has been drafting bigger players in the past few years, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown high up on their list.
He's a centre just like Jost and Keller, and there's always a fit for someone like him.
Michael McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads: C
McLeod is labeled as one of those players that is "hard to play against," which is nothing more than a catchphrase nowadays. He is 6'2" and 185 lbs, and known for being a power centre that wins battles. Scouts seem to love him, as one scout in The Hockey News went so far as to say that "he was the biggest difference maker at the Ivan Hlinka tournament." His puckhandling and lightning-quick speed enable him to score the occasional highlight reel, making him look very impressive at times.
Reading the scouting reports on McLeod, you would think that he scored 80-90 points in the OHL. However, he had a rather pedestrian (for a top-15 pick) 61 points in 57 games. His points per 60 was only at 2.55, well below Brown's mark of 3.01, as well as his teammate Nylander's 2.87. He impressed at the CHL Prospects game in Vancouver, and there's no doubt that there will be one team that is all over him in the draft.
Fit with the Sens:
If Ottawa wants another first round centre from Mississauga, then this is their guy. To me, his numbers don't impress me too much, but of course I'm no scout. He is seen as a very solid two-way centre that can change the game with his speed, and that's certainly something that Ottawa could have a use for. At the same time, if they are going to draft a centre, it should probably be someone with lots of upside rather than someone who can be a middle six centre.
McLeod may be a fine pick for the Senators, although he would probably be the "safest" amongst these forwards.
Take a look at "Mikey's" highlights:
Kieffer Bellows, US National U18 Team: C/LW
Bellows is ranked the lowest amongst these forwards, but he's been solid for the past two seasons in the USA. He's known as a strong power forward, but his finishing ability is what will make him stand out. Son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, Kieffer needs to work on his foot speed---something that was said of Mark Stone as an 18 year old. He's not a finished product, but he could be an interesting player that can score at will and power through his opponents.
Although he's listed as a centre in many places, Bellows played on Clayton Keller's left wing this season in the US Development Program. His point totals weren't as impressive as Keller's, but 32 points (five behind Keller) in 23 games in the USHL is going to turn some heads. He played second fiddle to Keller for the whole year, but he could still become a good player that is different as a power winger.
Fit with the Sens:
Bellows could easily fit on the Senators left wing sooner rather than later, especially if he's mature enough (6'0", 196 lbs). Some of his reports remind me of Mark Stone in that he's described as a power forward but he will still score plenty of goals. I'm not sure if he'll have the same intelligence as Stone, but just imagine having a Stone on the first two lines? Bellows could fill a need, but I still don't think he will have as high of a ceiling as Keller or Jost.
There you have it. There's certainly a chance that Ottawa goes off the board and picks none of these forwards, but if they do want to pick from that position, it will most likely be one of these five.
I hope this was informative, and stay tuned next week for our preview of five defensemen that Ottawa will be looking at!