NHL Draft Countdown Series: 10 Prospects out of USHL/NTDP

Neutral Zone will be highlighting players in certain leagues that our scouts in that area think deserve extra attention leading up to the NHL Draft on October 6th. Below are players that will go really high and some that may not get drafted at all. We have over 20 reports on some of these players and several on the rest. Having watched a lot of these athletes closely since they were Bantams, we have the luxury of knowing and seeing things others do not. We take into account how players mature physically, mentally and positionally. We know them well and have enjoyed covering their games. It’s been an odd year as we all know but rest assured we have watched video and spoken together to fine tune our list.

We will have live coverage of the NHL Draft with input from all our scouts, local and in Canada. Stay tuned for details. See our Top 100 Rankings released yesterday and our next hundred to be released today. Kudos to the players below, you make scouting a pleasure. 

Jake Sanderson #6 -Jake is our highest rated USHL player. He recently moved from #9 to #6 on our Top 100. His ability to defend and move the puck is unmatched. We put value in how a player has trended over the last few years but in Jake’s case, he has always been to the top of the heap:

February 2018: Jake is a smooth skating defenseman with a lot of strong offensive attributes. He moves the puck very well and gets around the ice at ease. His point-shot is accurate and he does well to get it through traffic. The 2002 played top power play minutes and displayed a strong one-timer. He is smooth when entering the offensive zone and handles the puck very well. He plays a smart game with quick anticipation and will engage physically in the corners. The 15 year old was one of the top defensemen in the Showcase and is the son of former NHL winger Geoff Sanderson. He finished with 8 points through 3 games, including a monster 2 goal – 4 assist game in the team’s second contest. He was drafted in round 4 by the Kootenay Ice in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Grade: A

December 2019: The Left shot D-man is mobile and effective in both ends of the ice. He has good feet, staying in front of guys defensively and using his stick and size to win pucks and break up plays. He moves the puck up the ice well, and shows great poise at the blue line offensively–displaying high skill-level spin moves and footwork to get around forwards at the point. He distributed the puck well on the PP, and has a quality shot. A very good player, high level skating and defensive play with a good amount of skill. As he moves up levels he may need to play a bit more of a simple game, but at the same time he is fun to watch when he is trying things. Grade: A- (single game)

Over the course of early 2020, he was consistently rated as the top player on the NTDP. He has trended upwards in the last year as he moved from our tenth to our second rated defenseman. He has a high hockey IQ as he knows when to attack and when to wait when he defends. He takes smart angles and explodes through players’ hands to create turnovers. With the puck, he comes alive and he has elite vision. He values possession and has matured in all three zones. His passes are smart and he puts his forwards in positions on the ice to succeed. His head is always up and he changes pace to when he carries to expose the opposition. He is vocal on the ice and uses his partner well. Projects as a top four player and with the success of Makar and Hughes recently, expect teams to take a hard look at him at the top of the Draft. He has made strides the last year even after being a top player for the last three seasons. His stats are below what Hughes did at the same level but not by a lot and we believe Sanderson is a better defender at the same point in their careers. He is not nearly as skilled as Hughes but could be a Top 4 player for a long time. Highly talented and should have a great season at North Dakota before departing for the NHL. 

Tyler Kleven -#26 -Kleven is another player who will head to North Dakota next season. Everyone at Neutral Zone is high on Kleven as he is big and mean. Brian Murphy said “I think he might hurt some people over the years, cleanly. He hits like a truck and has real snarl in his game.” 

Kleven is a prospect we first saw at Select 15s in Buffalo and the Elite League in MN. He was the type of player that was a bit under the radar that popped immediately as his size, skating and grit were obvious right away. He was and still remains raw. However, he has progressed nicely over the last two years. His long stride has allowed him to add speed to his skating. He has a strong stick and owns 50-50 puck battles. He has the physical skills and mental make-up that make him tough to beat in 1 on 1 situations. He is a 4.75 star but we have him in the first round and as an “A” NHL graded player. One might ask why. It’s because we believe he will be excellent as a college player but his game is more suited for the NHL. His ability to process odd man rushes quickly by matching speeds and pushing players to low percentage areas. His puck play is very much a work in progress but his physical tools and ability to dominate near the net are invaluable at the NHL level. Skill and puck movers are more important in the college game. Let’s look at how he has progressed:

October 2017, MN Elite League: After watching the big boy, you would think you just watched a senior in high school play.  He is big and strong and will throw his weight around.  Tough to play against and imposed himself physically on the opponents.  Then you realize he is only a 2002.  He played confident with the puck and moved it around and up ice to his forwards.  Defensively he showed a good stick and really leaned on guys.  His offensive game man scoring chances should only improve as he gets even more comfortable and the game slows down for him.  He is a threat on the power play with his heavy shot.  He is a player with a great chance to end up at the USNTDP in our opinion.  

March 2018: NTDP Camp: Every year there are a few players who really stand out at this camp; last year was Jack Hughes, the year before that was Oliver Wahlstrom; players who are at another level and Tyler Kleven is that player this year along with Antonio Stranges up front. He’s a gifted skater with a long, fluid stride with deceptive agility and lateral quickness. He’s smooth, he’s long and he’s tough to beat 1v1. He utilizes his full skill set to make plays whether it’s his long reach to poke pucks off sticks or stepping up on the blue line to make a body check or using his speed to catch an opponent on the backcheck and rub him out on the boards. Along the offensive blue line, he displays a rocket wrist shot and heavy slap shot that he gets through traffic and was able to score on here. Most tall, athletic defenseman struggle with the puck under forecheck pressure or rush passes; but Kleven has poise, he’s confident with the puck and is willing to skate pucks out of bad areas and connect on passes in stride. Kleven also has an edge to his game and plays with grit down low in his end and doesn’t hesitate to step up on forwards on the rush. A pro-style prospect with a complete skill set and the opportunity to be the best American in this age group if he continues to develop.

December 2019: NTDP vs. Tri-City: The big D-man has a good reach and defensive ability. He stopped guys on the rush with his stick, and played the body on guys as well–using his size to win pucks. He got pucks out of his end, and used his feet for escapes and to move the puck on exits. He was good on the PK, blocking shots and breaking up passes. His size is an asset and he is a solid defensive guy. 

You can see that as he moves up in levels, his puck play is more of a concern but he is continually noted as a lockdown defender with a really high compete. He can always go back to his strength and we believe he also has upside up the ice. He won’t be a power play guy at the NHL level for a while but the trend towards smaller, puck movers at that level doesn’t mean there is not place for a man who is tough to play against with some nasty. In fact, players like Kleven have become harder to find. He is a project but we think he will play a long time as an end of the game, shut-down, physical player.  He should not get out of the first round. 

Sean Farrell -#40 -Farrell is a player that has moved up a bit since our midterm grades. He should not get out of the second round and if he does, someone will have a steal later. His skating is elite as he is quick, fast and has sharp edges. He plays a deceptive style and is superb in transition. He wins 50/50 pucks and made a huge jump in his play as he moved from the NTDP to the Chicago Steel. He looked more prepared and in some ways relieved. 

Ian Moran explained: Coming into the season everyone expected Sean to have a big year for Chicago. He is a smart hockey player who can fly and that combination usually makes for a successful Junior season. But we did not expect the look of a natural goal scorer to return. We gave him positive reviews earlier this year on his quick release and ability to shoot through screens while his feet were moving, but his shot never seemed to be heavy. And although Sean scored at nearly a goal per game pace in New England prep hockey, he did not have the same results while playing with the United State’s National Program the last two seasons. Well, that has changed this year. Sean seems to have added some zip and power to his snapshot. Even his misfires are catching the goalies off guard. Combine the added strength, the puck skills to get it away very quickly and how noticeably much more patient he is and Sean is looking like a goal scorer. Sean’s offensive skill set makes it no surprise that he is one of the leading playmakers in the USHL, but his ability to put the puck away has raised his Neutral Zone NHL rating to a B+ and then an A-.

Often there is buzz around former Prep players and we believe it’s because some NHL scouts are not totally in tune with that level. Sean was dominant at the Prep level BUT at a younger age. He was a late 2001 playing against 1999s and 1998s even. 

September 2016: NE Prep: Sean played an elusive and exciting game. He understands play away from the puck and anticipates at the highest level. The late 2001 displayed a quick first step, straight line speed and good lateral movement. There were some times his strength was a negative and that knocked his grade down but he is one of the very best prospects in the area. Fun to watch. A-

The only other player in that report who was a 2001 was Patrick Moynihan who we believe will have a long NHL career. The hype here with Farrell is real. He has played at the highest levels and is someone who is not far behind the celebrated 2001 NTDP top group. He is a genuine athletic playmaker who keeps improving and should go early in the second round. 

Thomas Bordeleau -#46 -Whenever we watched the NTDP team play, Thomas was the player who caught our eye and looked the most dangerous with possession. That is why we have him rated as the highest forward from that group. He is a similar player to Farrell as he is quick and tricky. His vision and ability to break down defenders is elite and his confidence is contagious.

December 2017: Athletic Prep Showcase: Best player in the entire event. He can make solid hockey plays, he is crafty and tries to make some really finesse plays with the puck on his stick. He can fire the puck and he gets everything to the net. Plays the full 200 feet and is hard on pucks. His IQ is high and he gets the pucks to areas where they need to be.  

March 2018: NTDP Camp:  Thomas is a prospect we have seen a lot in Quebec Midget AAA this season. As a QMJHL top prospect, he was able to make the adjustment to this level and seemed to get better and better as he camp went on. He’s fast, has elusive stick skills and plays a creative, crafty offensive game. He is always looking to make a play. His puck control is excellent and he can carry and deke with his head up evaluating the defenders or looking for open ice. He was getting knocked around a bit as he lacks the size and strength to do everything he wants to do but we liked the confidence, the poise and the stickhandling ability he displayed all week. His first step is very quick and he’s able to shake loose from opponents and evade pressure under duress with his quick stick and shifty feet. He scored several goals here and set up a few as well, but it was his ability to process the game at full speed and make the tricky passes or get inside on defenders that made him a dynamic playmaker. He’s had a few colleges on him this season and if he decides to go that route he likely added more this past week.

June 2020: Five Nations: (1) Brain – Thomas is the leading scorer for Team USA and he can create scoring opportunities with both his feet or his head. But most importantly we saw an improved awareness away from the puck. There were times in the past where he cheated to the offensive side of the puck, but we’re now seeing a commitment to defending properly. We do not think he will ever win the Selke, but now we see him as a potential top line National League center iceman and not just a high scoring winger.

(2) Vision & Poise – He has great anticipation and sees plays happening early. He holds onto the puck and protects it rather than trying to pull off the high light reel play. Around the net he has the poise to out wait both the goalie and the defenders and has the vision to bury the puck or find an open teammate.

(3) Feet – Thomas can fly. He is agile laterally and has an explosive first step. He has strong edges and phenomenal balance. Skating will never be an issue for Thomas.

(4) Compete & Effort – It is obvious that he has made a commitment to playing both sides of the puck and it is paying off on the score sheet as well in his plus / minus. He can now be used late in a game when his team needs a goal or is holding a one goal lead looking for the win.

(5) Contact or Physicality – At 5’9 180lbs he is stocky enough to withstand the pounding and grinding of today’s professional game. He uses his low center of gravity to out muscle larger opponents while separating them from the puck. His added strength is a real asset in the defensive zone, where he can out battle opponents to create quick transition and fast breaks.

(6) Release – He has high end offensive skills. His ability to shoot quickly and accurately make him dangerous in all offensive zone situations.

(7) One Timer Ability – He can rip bullets from any angle off of any type of pass.

(8) Body Language – He plays with fire and passion.

(9) Special Teams Potential – Thomas will play in a top six role where he will be counted on to play both the power play and penalty kill. We feel that he has the potential to play in all key situations.

(10) Intangibles – Another player who came into his draft year with something to prove, but with Thomas was on the defensive side of the puck. Well, he has done it and is in the process of moving up the draft boards because of it. 

Clearly he has always show the offensive ability to process his options and make plays. He is clever and fast but has learned he has to play big boy hockey and be accountable in his end. Michigan will help him in that area even more. Quinn Hughes became a better defender with the Wolverines and we believe Thomas will keep rounding out his game even more. He could go higher here as he is not a big player and we believe that will keep some teams away. 

Brett Berard -#72 -We were surprised when Brett made the National team. Some were shocked. We were wrong as he improved in every viewing and his progress was always upward. He is really smart, stays on pucks and goes to the net. He has a high compete and is a pain to play against. He has the tools for a long NHL career as he can be flexible and play any role up and down the roster. 

April 2017: U14 Nationals: Brett is a quick decision maker as he processes the game very well.  We liked his pursuit of the puck as he took smart angles and attacked with speed and energy. His play with the puck was good as he was a threat to shoot, attack the net or make a pass each time he had the puck. Grade: B

Not an impressive report from one of our top scouts. He was not the best 14 year old and has worked hard to get to this point. 

April, 2020: Ian Moran. Updated Comments in BOLD (1) Brain – Brett is smart, crafty and his hockey sense causes issues for the opposition. He can create in 1 on 1 situations or by using his brain for a quick 2 on 1. When I say this I do not mean that he tries to dangle through a defender’s feat or look pretty doing a toe drag at the blue line. I mean that he has the brains to protect the puck, spin off gaps or close containment and he sets up his line mates to be used as picks or he is more than willing to become a pick himself. He is very aware of his line mates spacing and understands when close support is the best option or when vanishing to the weak side will create the best opportunities. Defensively, he has a very active stick that shuts down passing / shooting lanes quickly without putting himself at risk of exposing open areas. In the neutral zone he understands the importance of playing the lines and cutting the ice in half. Brett plays on the edge, but has a advanced feel for what the officials will allow and therefore rarely is reckless. As the son of a Division 1 Head Coach (David Berard/Holy Cross) it is obvious that Brett has spent time talking hockey with his Father, his coaching staff or his players. He processes the game quickly and cleanly while having great anticipation. Brett is excellent at creating space through subtle picks and interference. His linemates will have time to attack the net off of the cycle.

(2) Vision & Poise – He plays with his head up and his eyes moving. He understands that possession of the puck matters and wants to keep it. He looks to create quick transition on turnovers, but at the same time can feel pressure and will delay looking for the second wave of attackers. When Brett receives a breakout pass he will move his feet to create passing lanes or carry the puck until the right play becomes available. Brett has a very smooth first touch. When he receives rocket passes or bouncing pucks he settles them effortlessly with his head up. This allows him to the extra split second that he will need to be a successfull pro.

(3) Feet – He has strong edges, a quick first step and although he may not be a straight line burner, Brett has the ability to beat you with his feet. He is incredibly agile and quick laterally. Brett is a nightmare for large defenders who have to rely on their size as the only way to shut down the cycle.

(4) Compete & Effort – We only note extremes and Brett is a maximum effort player. In his mind he should win 100% of 50-50 pucks or battles. He loves to compete. Brett is a gamer who wants to win.

(5) Contact or Physicality – Brett does not have the size to be a banger, but don’t tell him that. He looks to create and enjoys physical confrontations. He is very involved in that aspect of the game. Brett uses his strong edges and balance to not only roll off of contact, but to initiate contact while he is the puck carrier.

(6) Release – He has very quick hands and settles pucks smoothly while at top speeds or in awkward positions. He shoots while his feet are moving and can easily fire pucks between defenders legs for screened shots. Brett’s vision is an asset while shooting through a defender’s legs. He recognizes when they are leaning or about to pivot and uses them as a screen. His release is quick and unpredictable.

(7) One Timer Ability – Brett uses a nice fat stick blade and he can use any part of it to one time bouncing pucks or poor passes. He might not have a cannon now, but we firmly believe that his ability to shoot pucks will be an asset when he turns pro. He has an expanded shooting area that allows him to hit the net from anywhere inside of the house.

(8) Body Language – He plays like a punk. He yaps. He is in your face. He tells the refs that he’s being bullied and after he draws a penalty he laughs at you on the way to the bench. We’re not going to lie… it’s entertaining and we love it. Amen. He’s an antagonist and he’s very good at getting under his opponents skin. There is little doubt that he will get booed when playing on the road.

(9) Special Teams Potential – Brett has the poise, puck skills and confidence to be a goal line option on the first power play or play the top of the umbrella on a 5 on 3 situation. He will be a consistent power play option in professional hockey and he will put up points. He is a player who will be looked on to produce. We feel Brett has the skating ability and anticipation to be a high level penalty killer in professional hockey.

(10) Intangibles – Brett has a swagger. He came into the year with something to prove and he is proving it. He bangs, he yaps, he works his ass off defensively and he gets on the score sheet. He is involved in every aspect of each and every game. He is a player that younger players will want to play like. We said it before, he will get booed on the road yet those same fans will wish he was on their team.

Eamon Powell -#80 -Eamon is a puck more. He is athletic and his skating is superb. He has been a player who at a young age had the puck so much it was tough to tell if he could defend. 

April 2017: U14 Nationals: Eamon is a very good skater and showed off a high level of athletic ability here. He defended with an above average stick and his feet. He was at his best, however, with the puck. He skated and passed the puck from his end and played in every key situation for a very good Stars team. He still has some polish to add to his game, specifically in his outlets and his defensive play but he has the skill stuff figured out. His skill coupled with his athletic ability point towards a bright future with upside as a three zone defender. 

He showed the ability early on and in fact he did polish his game off, grew a little and fits the mold of what many NHL teams want. He can move the puck and run the power play. He will get better and better. 

May 2020: Ian Moran: Eamon is a kid who’s always had it going on offensively. He can skate like the wind and his elite vision or poise always made him one of the most talented players on the ice while he was growing up. So coming into his draft year the offensive side of the puck really wasn’t much of a concern for me. I was looking for Eamon’s willingness to defend at a high level. Yes, it is willingness because I feel he processes the game so quickly that as a younger defenseman he was able to cheat and get away with it. So I was looking for attention to detail. Was he focused on draws to know the responsibilities on both a win or a loss? Did he cheat in defensive zone coverage trying to poach or pick off passes and leave his coverage too early? Sure you can say this are things that can be coached. Well, these are things that have been coached by the USNTDP’s staff so the willingness to defend is what I was looking for. All the little details that matter in the NHL. Net side positioning, pinning on the cycle, stick on puck, matching speeds on line rushes and controlling sticks. The little stuff that adds up to being a high level two-way defender. And you know what? Eamon answered the bell. There wasn’t a game this year where I thought he was sniffing. He was a rock solid defenseman who provided offensive support. To me, he was impressive and my questions about his willingness to defend were gone. So what does this mean for the the draft? He’s not ready to be a pro next year, and he’ll need another year at Boston College to mature physically and to gain the experience of playing against older stronger players. But I would think in the Spring of 2022 Eamon will be ready to make the jump to pro hockey and be knocking on an NHL roster for the playoffs. So for me Eamon goes in the top 75 and he is a player who has the brains and skills to have an NHL career..

Colby Ambrosio -#102 -Colby is electric. His speed and ability to change direction are matched by very few in this draft class. He pushes pace and can rip pucks on the net. He has always been extraordinarily confident and we like his swagger. He doubled his offensive output in nine less games from 2018-19 to 2019-20. We have 22 reports on Colby which are all in his profile you can read at your leisure. One old report and one more more recent one sums his game up well.

December 2016: ON Minor Midget: Colby is an under-aged forward who looks really effective off the rush and in the offensive zone. He scored a nice goal in the 3rd period off a 3v2 rush, beating the Burlington goalie high glove from the slot. Very quick skater with good edges and a determination to win battles and have the puck. A

January 2020: Tri City NHL Prospects: His best asset is his feet as he played with speed up and down the ice. He constantly put pressure on the defense off the rush with the pace of his play. He is able to make plays at full speed whether it was finding a line mate or created his own shot. A quick stick to go along with his feet made him dangerous often. Although undersized, he showed the willingness to get around the net and bang in a rebound for his goal. He has vision and sense with the puck on his stick and drew a lot of attention. His body can still get stronger in the next couple of years which adds some upside to his already existing talent level. GAME LINE: 1-0-1 (4 SOG) GAME GRADE: A-

Colby has the ability to play a top six role for a team with the right linemates. He is fearless and fast. Skilled and slick. He made need two or three years at BC before pro hockey but he can play and he will create chaos and chances. 

Drew Commesso -#75 -Drew could be the second goalie taken. We have him as third but don’t be surprised if someone grabs him in the second. That’s because they may know he has played in big games his whole life. Don’t think St. Sebastian’s vs. Thayer is a big game with a raucous crowd? It is. 

January 2017: St. Sebastian’s Tourney: Commesso has played the backup role to Bowdoin bound senior starter Alex Zafonte. However, he got in against Albany Academy and only let up one goal on 16 shots and several were grade A chances. He’s got good size, quick reaction time and does a nice job keeping the puck in front of him. He absorbs the shot instead of simply blocking it and that allows him have better rebound control. He’s very young and only seeing limited minutes but with that being said he’s only allowed 1 goal against on the season with 147 shots against. Pretty remarkable for a Bantam aged player competing at the prep level. 

The next season he had over a .920 save percentage and dominated games as a 15 year old against 18-19 year olds. In fact, shooters looked intimidated. We had seen that at 15 National Camp as well. At 6’2”, Drew has the ability to make easy saves, control rebounds and make the spectacular look easy, all with the demeanor of a guy relaxing at the beach. He can get in opponents’ heads.

November 2020: USHL Goalie Report:  Commesso is a technically sound goalie that has great size, has smooth movements and a very calm and composed demeanor in net that provides a wealth of confidence in the team in front of him. Commesso is a butterfly goalie that plays out on top of his crease, reads the play well and is very patient when challenging shooters. He made a great left pad extension save off of a 2v1 play where he really loaded up on his right leg and got a ton of power in his push across where he was square and in front of the shooter. Just made a great save look easy. He has very clean feet and does a great job of setting pucks for his defensemen but he also is very aware, reads the forecheck well and can make quick and easy outlets for his defensemen too. Commesso has very good rebound control as he does a great job of absorbing pucks and not allowing second and third chances very often. He’s a goalie that fundamentally checks all the boxes and shows that in his case, less is more! Commesso is a very simple goalie that is always square to shooters, corrals his rebounds and gives his team a chance to win every single night. He’s a great prospect for NHL teams as he is smooth, poised and very confident in the net. Grade: A. Top ranked 2002 goalie in the USHL. 

Confidence is contagious and he is a player who has been in tough spots and succeeded. His first year with the NTDP was not great but he developed, improved and stood out in a major way last season. He is not afraid of a challenge and will ride out bumps in the road. 

Aidan Thompson -#175 -Every time Brian Murphy watched the Colorado Thunderbirds U16s he always came back saying Aidan was the best player on that team. The same team highly touted Ty Smilinac played for. It stuck with us as he saw them play several times and knows his stuff. 

November 2017: T1EHL Showcase: Aidan is small, but played with elite speed vision and athleticism. His size never mattered as he was tough to catch and too elusive to contain. His transition game is electric and his first step is excellent. Puck does not slow him down. Processes his options at top speed. Looks to have added some strength and as he adds more, he will only get better and better. 

July 2018: Select 16 National Camp: Thompson is one of the most exciting prospects in the entire camp; he’s fast, he’s tough, he’s skilled and never quits on a play. He was more of a playmaker than a goal scorer with Colorado Thunderbirds this season but showed he can do both here finishing the week with an even 2-2-4 line in 5 games. While he has a quick, hard release and scored a brilliant breakaway goal coming out of the penalty box, his best plays were in his passing game. What separates him from other top playmakers in the camp is that he can see the ice and make any pass at top speed without having to slow down. He is also one of the most fierce competitors here; he flies all over the ice relentlessly pursuing the puck and finishing checks. He fearlessly goes into corners and drives the net and often comes out of scrums with bigger, stronger players with the puck on his stick. He has an explosive first step to come off the wall and get to the net, he has slippery hands to beat any defender in open ice and the poise and sense to manage time and space and make plays. When he tried to get too cute and lost possession or caused a turnover, he stopped on the puck and hustled back to regain possession which he was able to do nearly every time. The former WHL pick and highly touted Denver commit was selected by Lincoln in the second round of the USHL Draft. He’ll return to Colorado next season where he’ll be their go-to-guy up front and have more opportunity to show what he can do at both ends. One of the premiere forwards in the country. 

January 2020: AOF Christmas Classic: We have been tracking Aidan since his CO T-Birds days. Back then, we would generally leave the rink saying “I like the Thompson kid.” We liked him here as well. He is stronger and his stride and core are powerful. His acceleration from a stop is elite and he also changed pace to create space with the puck. He drove the net and went end to end several times. On one trip, end to end on the first day, Berkshire was down and playing 6-4. The puck was cleared to his end. Aidan picked the puck up with about 11 seconds left, flew up ice, in the zone, wheeled around the net and wrapped the puck on net. It came loose and Gammill finished it off with 3.9 seconds left. Do the math, end to end, around a couple players and a wrap in about 7 seconds. Thompson also caught bad passes, hit on the backcheck and drew penalties. He was slippery to the net from below the goal. He took contact and gave it back, he also showed he could push pace, pull up and hit the second wave on the rush. His puck skills are underrated and his shot is a rocket. The 2002 played the point on the power play and made crafty passes. Two things we noted that he must improve upon. 1. Shifts must be shorter (although he is clearly fit.) 2. He must drive and crash the short side on the rush and not always wrap the puck around. Take the contact to the net or snipe on the short side. He is a superb talent and our NHL NZ site has been tracking him closely.

Aidan got much stronger and his core strength and leg power are huge assets in his game now. He is a bit undervalued in our opinion and has the speed and balance to play all over the ice. He can shoot it and carry end to end in no time. He has some things he will improve on at Denver but he is worth watching as a quality late round pick. 

Riley Duran -#159 -Duran is a player that a team will take on pure upside. He dominated prep hockey and comes from an athletic family with a Dad who coaches. We have watched him progress over the years and he is still at times more an athlete playing hockey than an athletic hockey player. He is starting to make the transition to that athletic player but still has lots of height on his ceiling. We know two things for sure: He is big, strong, tough and has a high compete level. He has his best hockey ahead. He is a B- Prospect who teams would be very smart to take a hard look at in the late fifth to sixth round. He is a favorite of our New England Staff. One of our scouts thinks he should go closer to the third round. He is a bit of an undervalued prospect we all agree. It’s a crime if he is not selected. 

October 2019: Ian Moran: Riley Duran has been on our radar for a few years. The Providence College commit is a raw kid who just keeps getting better… and bigger. He plays hard every shift no matter the situation or who you are. He’s one of the few kids who makes body contact with the intent of putting you into the third row. We feel that Riley is a long shot to get drafted, but with his upward trajectory he is just the type of kid who deserves a late round look. He’s going to play some prep hockey this year then move on to junior and eventually to PC so who knows what you’re going to be working with when he’s 22 years old? But what we do know is that his compete is through the roof. He is very athletic and comes from a family of athletes. AND he’s 6’2 185lbs as a 17 year old. With his work ethic and frame we fully expect him to play at 215lbs and be able to carry it well. The late rounds are where NHL teams can take chances. We see it every year. And we think a forward thinking General Manager and thorough Director of Scouting will be willing to take a chance on Riley and his upward trajectory.

April 2020: Nationals: Duran gets better and better every viewing and he plays the game the right way. He’s got size, he’s highly athletic, he plays a hard, heavy, physical game and can make plays in all three zones. He carried well through the neutral zone, he protected the puck down low in the offensive zone and drove the net with a purpose. He carries the puck with speed, he has a powerful shot in stride and doesn’t overexpose the puck like many talented players his age in this setting. Duran was one of the real leaders of the team and brought a physical and intense presence every shift. His pace has improved and he’s been able to play with an edge without going to far and taking dumb penalties. He also has more talent and playmaking ability than he gets credit for. A high ceiling prospect who can play a lot of roles at the next level and finished the week with five assists.  

Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images