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NHL Draft: Committed Hopefuls, Part 1

Leading up to the draft, we’re going to throw a few names of players we suspect might have their names called and a few reasons why. We’re not NHL draft experts by any means, but we can certainly tell you something about the kids we’ve been watching all year. We’ll do three or four of these, honing in on college-bound prospects.

1. JT Compher – F – US NTDP – Michigan Commit

Compher has one of the highest compete levels I’ve ever seen, and while he’s listed between 5-10 to 6’0, we can all agree that Compher plays far bigger than his size. He slams into the tough areas of the ice with abandon and has an excess of offensive prowess not typically found in a player as willing to get his hands dirty. The Team Illinois product is a potential first rounder.

2. Zach Sanford – F – Middlesex Islanders – Boston College Commit

Sanford jumped onto everyone’s radar in a big way this season, leaving New Hampshire HS Hockey for the sparkling new Middlesex Islanders EJHL franchise, which lost to the daunting NJ Hitmen in the championship final. Sanford is a lanky 6’3 forward with all the upside in the world, able to muscle his frame through the ice with emergent puck protection skills. He’s likely headed to Waterloo of the USHL before Boston College in 2014.

3. Connor Hurley – F – Edina HS – Notre Dame Commit

A cerebral and talented forward, we think that Hurley hasn’t scratched his potential and with that, he disappointed us a bit this season. He has the natural talent and explosiveness to take over a game, but seemed more than satisfied to be a peripheral player this season for a talented Hornets squad. The fact is, a potential first round NHL draft pick, should, in theory, be an un-ignorable force at the HS ranks. There’s always the case of a late bloomer or reasons why they may not be, but generally, they should look like the best player on the ice. Hurley can be a very cerebral player, the type that is often hard to appreciate without paying close attention – but we did play close attention, and the fact was that Hurley didn’t wow us on any kind of regular basis. Either way, there is a mountain of potential buried underneath Hurley, and I suspect a year with the Muskegon Lumberjacks will see Hurley begin to emerge into the elite player he can be.

4. Mike McCarron – F – NTDP – Western Michigan Commit

McCarron is a prospect and a half. Literally, the kid is 6’5, 230 pounds. We could probably fit two Taylor Cammarata’s (we’ll get to him another day) in McCarron. McCarron is a behemoth on the ice who can actually skate, and that makes us seriously scared for the rest of NCHC. Remarkably smart for a big man, McCarron thrives in the crash-bang-hit the net type of play in which every prototypical power forward thrives, but there is a nuance to his game that betrays a far greater understanding of the game. McCarron could be absurdly effective in front of the net and is tough as nails on the walls. Certainly one to keep an eye on.

5. Steve Santini – D – NTDP – Boston College Commit

Santini is a defensive mastermind who is going to be making Hockey East forwards miserable for the foreseeable future. Santini has an elite understanding of the game in his own zone, to the point where I suspect he will be well ahead of the game even when he reaches Chestnut Hill. His offensive upside is bare, but most defensemen take far longer to understand the intricacies of playing in their own zone, and Santini has all the earmarks of an elite, shut-down defenseman. He’s got great size, as a mobile 6’2 skater weighing in at just over 200 pounds.

More of these will be posted as the draft approaches. Thanks for reading.

Jasper Kozak-Miller

Jasper covers college hockey recruiting and directs scouting operations at OTB. He is also a columnist for Minnesota Hockey Magazine. You can find him on Twitter as @JasperKozak or @OTBPuckWatch.

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