Over the past couple weeks, I've taken a look at both the power forwards and finesse forwards expected to go in the mid- to late- first round. Today, it's time to round out the series by discussing the defenseman and goalies that might warrant the use of the Avs #23 Overall pick.
Truth be told, there aren't many. The entire first round this year seems to be strongly populated by forwards. Only possible #1 Overall Aaron Ekblad and #10-15 ranked Haydn Fleury are ahead of this crop of blueliners, and Thatcher Demko is the only goalie to crack the top 30 on any list.
I decided to primarily use this composite from late March that draws from 6 sources for the rankings, but I also consulted the International Scouting Services (ISS) and Future Considerations (FC) most recent Top 30s, Central Scouting Services North American (CSS-NA) and European (CSS-E) rankings, as well as The Hockey News (THN) rankings in their May 2014 print edition. I ended up looking at roughly the 10 spots above and 10 spots below the Avs' #23 to account for any risers and fallers on draft day.
First up are the six defensemen, followed by the lone top goalie.
Julius Honka, FIN
Rankings: Composite #21, ISS - , FC - , CSS-NA #11, THN #16
Vitals: Right D, 5'-11", 175lbs, Swift Current (WHL)
Scoop: Honka is a prototypical puck moving defenseman. He's a fast skater, good passer, and even has a booming shot from the blueline that has a knack for getting through, helping him post 16G and 56pts in 62 games as a rookie this year. His vision and ability to quarterback a power play are certainly not in question, although he often gets beaten in board battles and in front of the net due to his size. His defensive coverage fundamentals still could use some work, and he's known to make some bad turnovers from time to time. Chances are good he'll be off the boards by the time we pick, but even if he is still available, he's essentially another Barrie/Elliott. Will the Avs choose to use their first on yet another right-shooting, undersized, puck-moving defenseman? As good as Honka is, I have my doubts.
Roland McKeown, CAN
Rankings: Composite #25, ISS #23, FC #28, CSS-NA #27, THN #26
Vitals: Right D, 6'-1", 197lbs, Kingston (OHL)
Scoop: McKeown is a decent-sized 2-way defenseman who loves to rush the puck, is fast and effortless on his skates, and uses his mobility and active stick to defend very well in his zone. He's smart and stronger than he looks, plus he has excellent passing skills and the ability to get the puck on net, putting up 11G and 43pts in 62 OHL games this year. His shot isn't the strongest in the draft, but he keeps it low and accurate, allowing for good second chance opportunities for his teammates. He's also a go-to minute eater on the PP, PK, and 5-on-5, and he recently wore the C for Canada at the World U18 tourney.
He's also a Mc- from the OHL, so clearly, he'd be a great fit on the Avs.
Anthony DeAngelo, USA
Rankings: Composite #28, ISS - , FC #29, CSS-NA #14, THN #50
Vitals: Right D, 5'-11", 165lbs, Sarnia (OHL)
Scoop: Offensively, DeAngelo has it all - excellent skating, a heavy shot, slick puckhandling, excellent poise, and great passing. He lead the OHL in points from a defenseman, racking up 15G / 56A / 71pts on a horrible team. However, defensively, he's often puck-watching, out of position, out-muscled, making bad decisions or giveaways, and sometimes even beat 1-on-1 despite his excellent speed otherwise. He's a very passionate player, but he has a tendency to lose his temper and composure during games. He was suspended for 8 contents earlier this year for using a slur on a teammate, which was the second time he's violated the OHL's harassment/abuse/diversity policy. For a team that's been very careful about drafting high-character players, I can't imagine DeAngelo is even on the Avs radar right now. His red flags are just too much to overcome.
Jack Dougherty, USA
Rankings: Composite #34, ISS - , FC #24, CSS-NA #30, THN #25
Vitals: Right D, 6'-2", 185lbs, USNTDP & Wisconsin (NCAA)
Scoop: Dougherty is an intelligent, physical, 2-way defenseman. Offensively, he's very poised with the puck, knows when to pinch, and has a strong shot to compliment his good passing and smart play. He doesn't shoot very often, but in a combined 78 games with the USHL and USDP this year, he posted 10G and 34pts while converting on nearly 25% of his total attempts. In his own end, he's strong positionally, controls his gaps well, loves to battle for the puck, and makes a good first pass out of the zone. However, the biggest knock against him is his speed, which could severely hurt his chances of being drafted by the Avs.
Travis Sanheim, CAN
Rankings: Composite - , ISS #30, FC - , CSS-NA #53, THN #21
Vitals: Left D, 6'-3", 181lbs, Calgary (WHL)
Scoop: Sanheim is a hard player to peg. He started his rookie season in the WHL with only 2A in his first 31 games, but after he earned top 4 minutes with PP/PK duties, he posted 5G / 22A in his last 36 GP. He also lead the U-18 Worlds in defensive scoring with 6A in 7GP. Whether this was a hot streak or just a kid getting comfortable at a higher level of play is something the Avs scouts will have to decide. Overall, he's a great skater with outstanding vision, a very solid first pass, high creativity and hockey IQ, and a tendency to walk the blueline in order to get his shot through. He also has good height but prefers to contain players with his skating, stickwork, and shot blocking instead of physical play. He'll need to fill out and continue to adjust to the WHL game, but if his recent numbers are any indication, he projects to a Top 4, two-way role in the NHL.
Johnathan MacLeod, USA
Rankings: Composite - , ISS - , FC - , CSS-NA #44, THN #32
Vitals: Right D, 6'-1", 190lbs, USNTDP & Boston Univ. (NCAA)
Scoop: MacLeod is a raw defensive defenseman. He has pretty good size and plays a very physical game, but he's also well known for his simple, effective plays and good first pass out of the defensive zone. His skating and offense aren't the best - he only posted 6G / 10A in a combined 70 USNTDP games this year - but he doesn't panic with the puck and is a smart player who can log a lot of minutes. He'll be at BU for the next few years, so he'll have plenty of time to develop his game before going pro. Even so, there are likely to be better options still on the board for the Avs at #23 than MacLeod.
Besides, THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE and he's already on the team. The whole McLeod / MacLeod mess is one probably best left unexplored.
Thatcher Demko, USA
Rankings: Composite #30, ISS - , FC #22, CSS-NA (Goalie) #1, THN #28
Vitals: G, 6'-4", 180lbs, Boston College (NCAA)
Scoop: Demko is the best goalie in the draft by a large margin. Since he has a late '95 birthday, he's already played a full season as BC's #1 netminder, posting a .919 sv% and 2.24 GAA in 24 games. His style is North American and relies heavily on positioning and cutting down angles to make saves, but he's also very fast post-to-post, a strong skater, and a good puckhandler. He plays bigger than his 6'-4" frame in the net, challenging skaters and covering it very well even when he's down in a butterfly. His collected demeanor inspires confidence, and his coach recently compared his style to Cory Schneider's. The Avs currently have a glut of young goalies in the system so I doubt they use their 1st on another, but Demko definitely has the potential to be a #1 franchise goalie after a few more years of development.