2022 NHL Draft Profiles: The United States National Team Development Program
A look at some of the draft-eligible skaters ranked outside of the first-round for the Senators to consider
It’s time to pretend we’re area scouts. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be doing our best to showcase players who aren’t expected to be picked in the first-round in hopes of helping you gain an understanding of the players available for the 10 picks the Sens currently possess in rounds two through seven of the 2022 Draft. We first ran this type of coverage in 2020 and readers noted that these pieces allowed them to make more interesting and intuitive comparisons between players.
Let’s start with the players coming out of the United States Development Program. While it’s not a group that’ll surpass the 2019 draft class in terms of skill — when the program had eight first-rounders taken and seven in the top-15 — there’s a good chance that at least six names will be called, with the potential to tie 2019. You’ve already heard all about Logan Cooley, Frank Nazar, and Cutter Gauthier in our profiles post; we also project Isaac Howard, Rutger McGroarty, Jimmy Snuggerud, Seamus Casey, and Ryan Chesley will be selected early. Hence, let’s talk about the remaining players who might be available from one of the Sens’ favourite programs to pick from:
United States National Team Development Program
|Name||Position||Team||League||Height||Weight||Date of Birth|
|Cole Spicer||C/LW||NTDP||USHL||5'10"||174 lbs||06/13/2004|
|Marek Hejduk||RW||NTDP||USHL||6'0"||187 lbs||01/03/2004|
|Devin Kaplan||RW||NTDP||USHL||6'3"||198 lbs||01/10/2004|
|Cruz Lucius||RW||NTDP||USHL||6'0"||183 lbs||04/05/2004|
|Lane Hutson||LD||NTDP||USHL||5'8"||159 lbs||02/14/2004|
|Tyler Duke||LD||NTDP||USHL||5'9"||179 lbs||07/19/2004|
|Charlie Leddy||RD||NTDP||USHL||6'1"||185 lbs||01/11/2004|
- Cole Spicer contains all the traits of a Trent Mann pick over the last few years: he’s got a high motor that he uses on the forecheck to hound defenders and on the defensive side of the puck to disrupt passing lanes. Moreover, he’s versatile, with the hockey sense that allows him to play both centre like he has this year or to be a creator from the wing. His 0.44 primary points-per-game at even-strength puts him at the top of the next group of USDP forwards, and ranks higher than 2020 third-rounders Landon Slaggert and Ty Smilanic. Last season was a mess for Spicer, as he missed nearly a month due to two separate COVID-19 quarantines and then missed another two after getting surgery on a hernia. Committed to a championship-calibre program at Minnesota-Duluth instead of his hometown NoDak, Spicer will look to earn a role that allows him to have more opportunities to display his above-average shot and playmaking prowess.
- Playing primarily in a depth role for the program, Marek Hejduk — son of Milan — has tremendous hands that he can use to deceive opponents along with a solid skating foundation, including quick two-step acceleration. Not a line driver, Hejduk will primarily bring value on the defensive side of puck; hence, it’s no surprise that he played a ton of minutes on the penalty kill this season. Hejduk will play one more season with the NTDP before going to ECAC’s Harvard program in 2023-24. On draft day, he’ll be trying to surpass his dad’s 87th overall selection back in 1994.
- A do-it-all forward for the NTDP this season, Devin Kaplan is a 6-foot-3 right-shot winger who possesses an intriguing blend of skills. The phrases “athletic” “physical presence” “powerful” are all over his game reports from the Future Considerations team, with scouts praising his ability to use his hockey sense to position himself in all three zones to cause havoc. A beast below the hashmarks in the offensive zone, Kaplan was relied on to protect the puck in the cycle, retrieve loose pucks in corners, and prolong zone time through simple plays. While he’s mobile for his size, his acceleration is his main flaw and one that he’ll aim to work on at Brady Tkachuk’s Boston University next year in order to help him continue to get to the middle of the ice with regularity. My favourite pick among the players profiled today, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kaplan go in the second-round.
- A shifty forward with quick hands, Cruz Lucius had an injury-riddled year, and may be available in the mid- to late-rounds of this draft because of it. Labelled as a playmaker in his bantam days, Lucius aims to be a dual-threat — utilizing quick hands to either pass through layers or to beat the opposition with a clean shot in the slot. Like his brother Chaz (2021 #18), Cruz could stand to improve his skating foundations and his strength so that he’ll be able to add separation as a winger. After his brother had a poor experience with the University of Minnesota, Cruz decommitted from the program; we’ll know more about where he’s playing next season closer to the draft. /
- One of the most polarizing players in the draft class, Lane Hutson is a creative defender who some see as the next Small King (TM) in the mould of Samuel Girard or Matt Grzelcyk, while others see a player who will have a tough time handling the rigours of the NHL. The offensive side of the NTDP’s first-pairing with likely first-rounder Ryan Chesley, Hutson is a strong distributor of the puck and a lynchpin in transition. Both of these abilities helped him put up stronger offensive numbers for the NTDP than Adam Fox, Noah Hanifin, Cam Fowler, and Charlie McAvoy — in fact, his 1.05 points-per-game ranks second all-time among NTDP defencemen. His former coach, Adam Nightingale, speaks of his active stick and lengthy wingspan (for his size) that allows him to surprise the opposition and keep them to the outside. A big worry is his skating for his size, as many think that smaller players have to be burners in order to succeed since they’re already lacking in the physical department. Hutson struggles on his outside edges, but has been able to be a top-end defender anyway, often using his positioning and puck placement to fake-out the opposition. A likely selection in the second- or third-round, expect Hutson to take his time at Boston University in 2023-24 to improve his mechanics and build lower body strength to help him become an x-factor for an NHL team.
- A more typical smaller defender because of his wheels, Tyler Duke plays the role of puck carrier and distributor for the NTDP. He loves to rush the puck, jumping into plays as a primary carrier or as a second layer to push the opposition back. While he’s occasionally overconfident in the offensive zone, Duke doesn’t let that slip over defensively, as he shows good defensive habits in scanning, positioning, and competing physically to hound attacking forwards. While he didn’t see the growth you’d expect from the U17 level last year to the U18 level this year, some patience will help Duke potentially refine his game to be an NHL contributor. You can read a fulsome profile of Duke’s game from McKeen’s here. Expect his name to be called in the third- or fourth-round.
- Someone’s got to play third-pairing minutes on the NTDP, even if they’ve got the skillset to play top minutes in another program. That player this year was Charlie Leddy. Quiet, calm, and effective are three words that come to mind after reading through his game reports and watching some footage. He’s got strong defensive instincts, using both his stick and his body to keep a close gap in transition and to shut down the opposition’s forecheck. He’s calm on zone exits, making safe plays to transition the puck effectively with control. He reportedly possesses the intangible “leadership” qualities that NHL teams covet among their depth players, wearing a letter for most of the team’s he’s played on regardless of age. A likely late-round pick and third-pairing defender, Leddy is committed to Boston College and will likely play out a full three years there before attempting to compete for an NHL spot. /
Since 2015, the Senators have selected Colin White, Jonathan Gruden, Jake Sanderson, Tyler Kleven, and Tyler Boucher out of the USDP. Do you think any of these players will be next? Let us know in the comments!