Saturday, April 3, 2010

One more first round prospect: Jaden Schwartz; Plus other USHL options in other rounds

On paper, Tri-City Storm (USHL) forward Jaden Schwartz doesn't fit the mold of a typical Boston Bruins draft pick, but stranger things have happened when it comes to the NHL lottery.

Small, but explosive and highly creative, he doesn't have the size that Boston craves up the middle (5-9, 188 pounds), but his talent levels and hockey sense are all first-rate.

Red Line Report had him 17th overall in their March bulletin, and had this to say about him in a recent scouting writeup: "Boasts a quick stick and a deft touch with the ability to weave the puck through traffic and thread the needle with the pass."

Red Line also said that despite being short in height, Schwartz is "compact and sturdily built and plays in traffic."

Schwartz's skill and upside should see him go somewhere in the first round, if not for the Bruins (let's face it- he's not a great fit) but for some other team who is sure to like his solid mix of talent and natural offensive instincts. If he drops later in the round than expected, then it might not be a stretch to maybe see the B's use their multiple second rounders to trade back into the first and come away with three picks in the top-30. Might Schwartz be that third player? Working against him ending up with Boston is that the team has drafted only two players directly out of the USHL since 2001 (Andrew Alberts, Brock Bradford) and has never spent a first-round selection on anyone from that league.

The Wilcox, Saskatchewan native is a graduate of the storied Notre Dame Hounds elite program and had a terrific offensive year with Tri City, scoring 33 goals and 80 points in 59 regular season games.

In addition to Schwartz, there are a couple of other USHL players who could draw interest from NHL teams in the first few rounds.

Kevin Gravel, a 6-4, 200-pound left-shooting rearguard had a disappointing season nukbers-wise for the Sioux City Musketeers, putting up just three goals and six points in 52 games. He's a Michigander and terrific skater who moves very well forward, backwards and has strong lateral agility. He also has pretty good reach and plays a strong defensive game. Unfortunately, the lack of offensive upside is going to hurt his chances of getting drafted any higher than the mid-second round.

Michael Parks is a right winger for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and doesn't have the high-end skill you look for in early-round prospects, but is a good skater with a lot of smarts, grit and tenacity in his game. At 5-10, his size is a bit of an issue, but he's an honest player who brings a well-rounded presence and is an effective two-way forward. From O'Fallon, Missouri near St. Louis, Parks is a long-term project but could develop nicely in time.

Like Parks, Connor Brickley is another forward who may not have the dazzling skill level, but the Everett, Massachusetts native and nephew of former NHL player and NESN/Versus hockey analyst Andy Brickley, is a character player who brings a relentless forecheck, nonstop motor and strong character to the mix. Brickley left Belmont Hill Academy to play for the Des Moines Buccaneers this season, and responded with a 22-goal, 43-point season in 51 games. Brickley is a very good skater and uses his speed/agility, quick stick and high hockey IQ to force turnovers. Committed to the University of Vermont in the fall, he was recently named to the USA Under-18 Championship team ahead of bigger, more highly-ranked draft names like Nick Bjugstad, Kevin Hayes and Charlie Coyle. Brickley won't be drafted ahead of any of those guys, but he provides a specific role for coach Kurt Kleinendorst and is a known quantity familiar with the system after playing for the Six Nations Team USA squad there in Belarus in February.

Other USHL 2010 draft eligibles of note: D Kevin Lind, Chicago; C T.J. Tynan, Des Moines; D Nate Schmidt, Fargo; G Jared Coreau, Lincoln; D Aaron Harstad, Green Bay; D Mathieu Brisson, Omaha; D Eamonn McDermott, Fargo; RW Andrei Kuchin, Chicago

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