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2022 NHL Draft Profiles: USDP Skaters

Analyzing three prospects from the US Development Program that the Senators could take 7th overall

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https://www.usahockeyntdp.com/news_article/show/1180508

Although there are still eight NHL teams with Stanley Cup aspirations, the majority of the league is already looking ahead to the off-season; and the first thing on the agenda is the 2022 NHL Draft. This draft will be yet another important one for the Ottawa Senators as they are slated to select 7th overall (barring any trades), and they have the potential to draft someone very impactful for their rebuild.

Here at Silver Seven, we will be providing in-depth prospect coverage leading up to the draft so that you are well-informed on July 7th. We’re kicking things off by looking at who the Senators could take 7th overall but with such a wide range of possibilities, we will be analyzing the USDP, the WHL, the SM-Liiga, the SHL, and the rest of Europe in separate articles. Beyond that, we will also be discussing other leagues and potential players of interest outside of the first round. The US Development Program is up first, and this article hones in on Logan Cooley, Frank Nazar, and Cutter Gauthier as the most important names to focus on:

Logan Cooley, C

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
C US National U18 Team USDP 5'10" 174 lbs May 4, 2004 #2

Cooley grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, lighting it up for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite team in his early teen years. He has always been a top point producer — even his point production as a 17 year old would rate fairly well among this draft class. He notched 28 points in 27 USHL games in 2020-21 as well as 14 points in 19 USDP U18 games, quite impressive considering he did accomplished that at 17.

His most recent season had scouts drooling, leading to overall rankings between second and fourth. Cooley put up 36 points in 24 games in the USHL and 75 points in 51 games in the USDP, which ranked third and first, respectively, in overall points per game. That’s not just with draft-eligible prospects, that’s amongst everyone in those leagues.

Cooley is pretty much a scout’s dream, as there aren’t really any weaknesses in his game. The one knock on him has been his size, but smaller forwards are consistently showing that they can thrive in today’s NHL, and Cooley should be no different. As a centre, he is not only explosive in the offensive zone, he’s fantastic on faceoffs and has the potential to be a Selke-type defender as well. He’s the kind of centre that you can build a team around due to his offensive prowess and overall responsible play.

Don’t take that “responsible play” to mean that he’s a boring player though, because he has exceptional puck-handling skills and can use his speed and smarts to his advantage to create scoring opportunities. Furthermore, he has a Tim Stützle-esque ability to draw penalties all over the ice, making him valuable in so many different facets.

Cooley himself seems to agree with most of the assessments about him:

“I think I have the skills, hockey IQ, and play-making abilities, stuff like that…But I think it’s just gonna come down to my physical strength. I’m not the tallest and strongest right now, but I think that comes with developing my body and I think once I can do that, and have a big summer, hopefully it could be in the conversation. Hopefully I can make the jump right away, that’d be pretty cool.”

It’s very unlikely that Cooley falls all the way to the Senators at 7th overall, as the consensus has him as the second-best prospect. So if he did magically fall to Ottawa, they should be counting their blessings. Although centre appears to not be as much of a need after breakout seasons from Tim Stützle and Josh Norris, no team has ever gone wrong in pursuing elite centremen.

That would mean they could potentially either trade someone like Shane Pinto if they wanted to shore up another part of the roster, or they could move Stützle back to the wing. They could also simply let Cooley develop at the University of Minnesota for a season and see where their roster sits a year from now. Cooley would certainly have a long-term shot at being Ottawa’s number one centre, although he’d be in tough competition with Stützle and Norris. He’s most likely good enough to be in the NHL next season, so he’d immediately make Ottawa’s roster deeper. Other scouting reports on Cooley can be found here.

Frank Nazar, C/RW

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
C/RW US National U18 Team USDP 5'10" 174 lbs January 14, 2004 #9

Nazar, a.k.a. Frank Nazar III, is a teammate of Cooley’s, and despite the unanimous lower ranking, he’s had quite similar production over the past few years. Nazar grew up in Michigan where he was a star player for the prestigious HoneyBaked program in Detroit. He was quickly on scouts’ radar in the 2020-21 season as he put up 36 points in 31 USHL games, as well as 55 points in 45 games for the U17 USDP team. Those point totals had him first on both teams, which was a great sign for his draft stock heading into the 2021-22 season.

He didn’t slow down this past season either, as he was third on the U18 team with 70 points in 56 games (behind just Cooley and Isaac Howard) and also third on the team in their USHL games with 35 points in 24 games (behind the same two players). Even in his 6 games in the U18 World Juniors, he was tied for third with 9 points, behind...you guessed it: Cooley and Howard. He’s been one of the most impressive American forwards over the past two seasons, which is why it’s no surprise to see his consolidated ranking at 9th overall.

In terms of his playing style, the one main drawback for Nazar is similar to Cooley in that he’s also a bit on the smaller side at 5’10” and 174 pounds. That isn’t something that should hold him back from being an NHLer, but it is another obstacle that he’ll have to overcome as he begins to play against fully grown adults. He’s consistently improved his production at every level despite his competition getting better, plus his elusiveness and great vision allow him to get around players easily, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a top-6 forward.

Nazar is able to generate a lot of offense off the rush thanks to his top speed, although his initial acceleration is something that could be improved on. Nevertheless, his transition game and ability to cleanly enter the zone is something that can be a big boost to a team’s offense. He has quite a well-rounded profile because he can be a threat as a passer and a shooter, plus he’s even capable of killing penalties, something that Ottawa likes to prioritize.

There are scouts that remarked there seem to be times when he might be watching the play in front of him too much, but positional awareness that is something that can be taught. What cannot be taught is the innate ability he has to produce offense. Nazar was actually first amongst all USHL players in primary points per game at 1.25 (with Cooley second at 1.20), so it’s obvious that the upside is there.

The Senators love to go after many “late bloomer” types like Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, Egor Sokolov, Shane Pinto, etc., and Nazar would fit the bill in that sense. He doesn’t come from a hockey family and was not as skilled as his teammates as a young teenager. However, his head coach from the HoneyBaked program, Mike Hamilton, had this to say about his progress throughout the years:

“Now, as I watch and coach against him today, I see the player he has become and how he has learned how to pull people in with him and it’s impressive. He just grew so much in all of those aspects (that he needed to work on) to the point where they’re now strengths of his that you can see plain as day,” Hamilton said. “We inherited him as is with the skating. He has always been able to flat out fly and has always had a hard, sneaky shot. Those were just gifts that God gave him. He has just figured out how to use those gifts.”

That linked article on The Athletic is a fantastic piece about Nazar and his journey so far, definitely a very worthwhile read. Nazar would certainly fit the “player still coming into his own and has more to prove” mould, which is incredibly exciting considering he could be a top-10 pick that improves.

Nazar is committed to his home state at the University of Michigan, which was a stacked team this past season. They won’t be nearly as top-heavy as last season, but the NCAA is probably best for Nazar for at least one season before slotting in either at centre or at right wing in Ottawa. Considering Ottawa’s needs though, he could be a perfect fit behind Drake Batherson on the second line right wing spot down the line. Other scouting reports on Nazar can be found here.

Cutter Gauthier, C/LW

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
C/LW US National U18 Team USDP 6'3" 194 lbs January 19, 2004 #12

Just by virtue of his name alone, Cutter Gauthier is one of the cooler prospects around. He is of course also teammates with Cooley and Nazar, and unsurprisingly had a somewhat similar offensive profile this past season. Gauthier was actually born in Skellefteå while his father was playing in the Allsvenskan, although he grew up in Detroit where he initially played on HoneyBaked from 2017-19 and then Compuware in 2019-20, meaning he missed being Nazar’s teammate in Detroit by one season. He wasn’t always near the top of the leaderboard amongst his peers, as he was sixth on his U16 HoneyBaked team in points per game, albeit while being a year younger than most players.

In 2020-21, he began playing with Cooley and Nazar on the U17 team, although they were a step ahead of him. Gauthier had 37 points in 44 games, which was eigth on the team in points per game. In addition, he had 21 points in 32 USHL games, ranking him just 13th in points per game (but sixth overall). It was clear that he was a prospect to keep an eye on, but not necessarily a top-10 pick.

This season has seen a big rise in Gauthier’s stock though. Firstly, he had the exact same 3 goals and 6 assists in nine U18 World Junior games as Nazar (tied for third on the team), plus he was an alternate captain for the tournament. Secondly, he had 65 points in 54 USDP games, putting him fifth on the team in points per game behind Howard, Cooley, Nazar, and Rutger McGroarty. His 28 points in 22 USHL games was also fifth on the team behind those same players, although not too far off from Howard’s team-leading pace (1.37 vs. 1.27 points per game). Gauthier has never been the top producer on these teams, but he has shown a clear upward trajectory over the past two seasons.

In terms of his playing style, he seems to be a good bet to become an NHLer but perhaps with a slightly lower ceiling than Cooley and Nazar. His skating is good but not game-changing, and he very much relies on his elite shot. Having an elite shot is certainly a big plus, although it just means he’s a bit more limited for his potential compared to others. That doesn’t mean he can’t be useful though, because he can kill penalties, score plenty of goals, and use his strong frame to his advantage at various points.

He scored a whopping 16 even-strength goals in 22 USHL games, plus he added three more on the powerplay. Although it was a smaller sample than others, his 19 goals in 22 games ranked first in the entire league in goals per game, so whoever drafts him will be getting someone who loves to score. He’s also someone who has been rising up draft boards lately, so although he’s 12th in the consolidated ranking, he could definitely go higher.

He fits Ottawa’s typical profile in the sense that they love their strong power forwards, but he also doesn’t fit their profile due to the fact that he loves making high-danger plays that don’t always work. He can be a risky player, which can be very fun and also frustrating, so I’m not sure if the Senators want that risk and reward with him. Then again, it’s hard to say no to this:

Gauthier is committed to Boston College, which Ottawa has experience with, as Colin White went there for two seasons. It seems unlikely that Gauthier would make the Senators this fall, so at least a season at BC would probably be the best for his development. Long-term, there is definitely room for Gauthier on the left side either ahead of or behind Brady Tkachuk, as there doesn’t seem to be an obvious fit there yet. Other scouting reports on Gauthier can be found here.

Are any of these three forwards fits for the Senators at 7th overall in your mind?