Prospectus Prospecting – Scouting the USNTDP

One of the most fascinating collections of talent in this – actually, pretty much every – scouting season is the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP), ostensibly playing in the USHL, but really a team for hire like the 17-year-old icy version of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Due to the by-design makeup of the team, they can be difficult to scout. For one thing, they are an All Star team, and do not have to deal with the inevitability of trades that break up the other teams in their circuit, giving the players far more opportunities to develop chemistry than a more typical league team like the Fargo Force or Waterloo Black Hawks. On the other hand, their oldest player on the regular roster turned 18 in late January. Whether watching them play a league team in the USHL or an exhibition game against an NCAA opponent (a frequent occurrence), their opponents are generally 19 and older, putting them a distinct physical disadvantage. So their team points percentage of 37.9% is better than only Sioux City around the league, a fact that should neither surprise nor disappoint. The purpose of this squad is not to win in league play, but to serve as a hothouse to the American hockey program and develop participants in the U18s and U20s. Last year’s American entry to the U18 championships was made up almost entirely of players from the USNTDP, with the sole exception of the starting netminder. We can expect the same in a few weeks in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Last season, 12 players were drafted out of the program including two first rounders, and it is reasonable to expect the same draft impact this year.

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All photos courtesy of the Bloomington Thunder’s Tyler Mardis.

Scouting Report – Clayton Keller

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: C
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 23GP, 13G, 24A, 37 pts, 14 PIMs
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 5’10” 170lbs

Characteristics

Skating

Keller is a quick and agile skater who can be very slippery for opposing defenses to contain. His skating trends closer to very good than to exceptional, but he moves at a well above average pace. It is safe to say that his skating prowess supports the rest of his game instead of driving it. Grade: 60

Shot

Although not a natural sniper, Keller has a sneakily good shot, particularly when setting up his wrist shot. His shot release is akin to a changeup as he can feint that he is setting to release it much more rapidly before slowing down immediately prior to the release, causing the netminder to go down early allowing Keller to pick his spot. On power alone, the wrister is un spectacular, but his hesitation move will allow it to play up down the line. Grade: 60

Skills

This is why the scouting world is drawn to Keller. While undersized, the talent in his hands gives him outsized confidence. Keller will attempt – and often succeed – with highlight reel dangles. His hands are quick enough that I recommend not blinking while he has the puck. Chances are you will miss something special. Beyond stick handling, he is a marvelous passer. In summary, Keller has a unique way of seeing the ice and that is reflected in his game. Grade: 70

Smarts

Some of his hockey intelligence is reflected in his puck play, but there is more to Keller’s game than just puck wizardry. While undersized, he displays strong faceoff technique. Even though the USNTDP has more than enough two-way players, Keller sees regular time on the PK as he is responsible in his own zone. Recognizing his limitations physically, he does not use his body to defend, but focuses on positioning and reactions. He can be prone to puck watching when the play does not seem to be heading in his direction, he does get involved as a supporting presence when he senses an opportunity to regain possession. Grade: 55

Physicality

The is very much not a part of Keller’s game. He is undersized now and does not project to grow that much. His smarts prevent opponents from pushing him around, but this is not a player I would ever recommend to play more in the greasy areas. Grade: 40

General Assessment

Clayton Keller is a special offensive talent and the most intriguing draft eligible player not just on the USNTDP, but throughout the USHL. He has first line center potential, and is clever enough to withstand strong defenders, although would be best served by always playing with one or two brawny wingers to help create additional space for him in the offensive zone. Keller is set to suit up for Boston University next season and his CHL rights are owned by Windsor should he have a change of heart.

Overall Future Projection: 59.75

 

Scouting Report – Kieffer Bellows

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: LW
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 23GP, 16G, 16A, 32 pts, 41 PIMs
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6’1” 194lbs

Characteristics

Skating

Bellows is a reasonable skater. He can keep up, but is unlikely to win outright too many 50-50 races. In fairness, he skates hard, if not exceptionally fast. As befitting his overall style, he can be kind of bullish. Grade: 55

Shot

Bellows has a very good wrist shot. The release is very quick and the overall effect is one of power. A shoot first player, he will get a lot of practice with his shot in game situations. I would like to see more selectivity with the wrister, making sure to take the time to get into optimal position for shooting, but his shot is a clear weapon and should continue to be so at higher (highest) levels. Grade: 65

Skills

Keiffer Bellows is a plus stickhandler whose game is all about getting the puck and keeping it until he is ready to shoot. It is fair to call him selfish with the biscuit, a trait that will have to adjust at the next level, but also a trait that can be worked to his benefit. He can dangle and weave. Passing is not his thing. Grade: 60

Smarts

A little disappointing, to be honest, as the expectation from a bloodlines players is always a good hockey thinker. On the one hand, the puck selfishness has already been mentioned. Not a bad thing necessarily, but not indicative of a player who considers too many options when on the puck. Beyond his play with the puck, Bellows can be reckless and selfish off the puck too. Physical by nature, his unwillingness to toe the line between hard and foolhardy was notable in a recent viewing with an unnecessary and very late hit giving his opponents a five minute power play in the US squad was already trailing. It is telling that the first line winger and second leading scorer on the squad is also the team leader in penalty minutes in league play. Grade: 50

Physicality

In this regard, Bellows is the exact inverse of Keller. He is very much in the traditional mold of the power winger. His size is not imposing, but he plays strong. He hits opponents hard and often – although, as mentioned above, he needs to be more judicious in his use of his frame for it to become a true asset to his game. Grade: 60

General Assessment

Like teammate Keller, Bellows is scheduled to join Boston University next season. In style, there is a lot to compare to a player the likes of Milan Lucic, albeit much smaller. Between his shot and his puck work, Bellows has enough to give him first line supporting winger upside although the second line is more likely. Would like to see him slow the game down mentally to avoid penalty trouble at the next level. I would not try to rush his development.

Overall Future Projection: 58.5

Keller and Bellows are the only two likely fist rounders currently developing with the USNTDP, but, as stated above, there are a number of numbers worth monitoring who are likely going to be drafted in the middle and later rounds. Dennis Schellenberg introduced us to Graham McPhee and Ryan Lindgren earlier in the season and I will provide some highlights on the others here:

Chad Krys

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: D
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 18GP, 2G, 11A, 13 pts, 19 PIMs
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 5’11” 183lbs

Many prospect watchers will be familiar with Krys from his work with the American team in this past WJC. The BU commit is not a very toolsy prospect, with underwhelming puck skills and a lackluster shot. As noted in his biographical data, he is also undersized. What he is, is a heady player who makes more correct decisions than many defenders of his age group. Not an exciting prospect, but a fairly safe one.

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Trent Frederic

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: C
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 23GP, 4G, 10A, 14 pts, 23 PIMs
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6’2” 205lbs

Frederic is a very good skater with a big frame. A first unit penalty killer for the USNTDP, he is likewise a very heady forward who shines with his two-way game. The University of Wisconsin commit projects as a bottom six forward with special teams utility. Both his shot and stickhandling are around average.

Joey Anderson

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: RW
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 25GP, 10G, 10A, 20 pts, 14 PIMs
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 5’11” 190lbs

Anderson gets some notoriety as the most common third wheel on the first line with Keller and Bellows. That said, I find him to be underwhelming. He grinds hard and keeps his feet constantly in motion, moving well in small areas, but his overall skating is only so-so, with below average top speed. He positions himself well in the offensive one to be disruptive and has a solid shot. Anderson will be attending Minnesota-Duluth next season. He has bottom six upside.

Adam Fox

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: D
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 25GP, 5G, 17A, 22 pts, 2 PIMs
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 5’10” 183lbs

A right shooting defender with an offensive bent, Fox is an entertaining hockey player. The type of blueliner who always the puck, he displays considerable skill once he has it. He is a modern puck mover who can carry the biscuit through the zone with pace, or find a teammate with a crisp, accurate pass. Despite his lack of size, he is used extensively on the PK. He is committed to attend Harvard next season. He has the highest upside on the squad after the two likely first rounders.

 

William Lockwood

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: RW
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 20GP, 3G, 3A, 6 pts, 27 PIMs
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 5’10” 172lbs

Lockwood is a solid-average skater. He is a good penalty killer with a decent wall game. Although well undersized, he is generally a pretty physical player and a frequent hitter. Committed to the University of Michigan, he has low upside, but plays a coach friendly game.

 

James Greenway

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: RW
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 25GP, 2G, 8A, 10 pts, 8 PIMs
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6’4” 205lbs

A big physical player, Greenway’s brother Jordan was drafted by Minnesota last year. James, despite lackluster point totals, has a very intriguing mix of physical tools to go along with his plus size. He has solid speed, occasionally shows interesting puck skills and a willingness to drive the net. Apropos to his frame, he will play very physically and is a knock-down hitter. With patience in his development, he could end up a very good pro.

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Joseph Woll

Team: USNTDP                  Draft Status: Eligible 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Position: G
To Date Stats (looking only at USHL play): 12GP, 2.60 GAA, .898 SV%
Catches: L
Height/Weight: 6’3” 196lbs

Woll is an athletic netminder who struggles with his reactions. While he tends to overcommit and misread some plays, he starts off from a base of good positioning and minimizes rebounds. His numbers look much better when we include the non-league play. Woll is committed to Boston College.

 

3 thoughts on “Prospectus Prospecting – Scouting the USNTDP

  1. Pingback: NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Joey Anderson

  2. Pingback: NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Will Lockwood

  3. Pingback: Toronto Maple Leafs Select James Greenway 72nd Overall

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