Saturday, June 22, 2019

Zegras picked 9th overall by Anaheim; NTDP Standouts lead 2019 recruit class UPDATED

  On the first day of the NHL Entry Draft, Zegras was one of seven NTDP U18 players taken in the first 15 picks. His selection marks the fifth consecutive year with a Terrier taken in the first round: 2015 Jack Eichel; 2016 Clayton Keller, Dante Fabbro, Charlie McAvoy, Kieffer Bellows; 2017 Shane Bowers, Jake Oettinger; 2018 Joel Farabee, Brady Tkachuk; and 2019 Zegras. Ducks Select Zegras with ninth overall pick

►NTDP Standouts lead 2019 recruit class 
New York Times writer and blog contributor Neal E. Boudette, whose vantage point in Michigan, enabled him to frequently attend NTDP U18 and 17 games, looks at the latest Team USA skaters headed to Commonwealth Avenue.
EDITOR's NOTE: Neal also found time to write for the Times about the record number of US-born players selected on Day 1 of the NHL Entry Draft: American Players Rise to the Top

For the sixth time in six years, BU will bring in a freshman class that includes at least one player from the USA National Team Development Program who has been or will be taken in the first round of the NHL draft. This year it will be Trevor Zegras, a left-shot center (5’11” 180 lbs.) from Bedford, NY. A skilled playmaker, Zegras is a projected top-five pick in the draft, which starts on Friday. At NTDP, he racked up 26 goals and 61 assists last year, giving him 87 points, third on the team. He was second in assists behind Jack Hughes, the likely No. 1 pick overall.

Zegras was understandably overshadowed by Hughes in his two years at NTDP, but scouts and coaches rave about his game. “He’s so talented off the half-wall on the power play. The way he can dissect a team is something I’ve never seen,” said his NTDP coach, John Wroblewski. “His pass completion percentage is out of this world. He uses deception where he can elevate saucer passes and have it land flat. He goes into hard areas. He’s tenacious in the D zone.”

Zegras himself said he’s eager to play at BU.  “They have a really good rink, really good facilities, a great coaching staff,” he said earlier this year. “I always wanted to play in Boston and win a Beanpot.”  

The hope at BU is that Zegras will provide a consistent offensive spark for the Terriers, the way Joel Farabee did in the latter stretches of the 2018-19 season, and Clayton Keller did in his one-and-done season with the Terriers. 

I saw Zegras nearly two dozen times in the last two years and he’s the real deal, and I think in some ways was held back from showing his true talent level by playing with Hughes and several other NTDP players expected to go in the first round. Only one guy can have the puck at one time, so there were plenty of shifts last year where Zegras barely touched the puck – and it wasn’t because he wasn’t capable or involved in the play, it was because it was on the stick of Jack Hughes or was going to the all-time leading NTDP goal-scorer Cole Caufield (headed to Wisconsin, by the way).

During Zegras’s U17 year, however, Hughes was moved up to the U18 squad and Zegras was put into the No.1 center role, and thrived, recording a 20-30-59 stat line and leading the team into the second round of the USHL playoffs, not a common feat for the U17s team.

“After Jack was moved up, Trevor just took over,” Wroblewski said. “He became a dominant player. He’s not content to be a passenger.”

Both Farabee and Keller preceded Zegras as NTDP products and first-rounders to make their way to Agganis Arena. 

Others in the last five years included Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy, Brady Tkachuk and Jake Oettinger.

While each contributed much while at BU, their time on Comm Ave. was short. Eichel and Tkachuk were one-and-dones. McAvoy stayed but only for a sophomore season. Oettinger, as is more common with goalies, stayed longer, putting in three seasons with the Terriers.

Aside from Zegras, BU will welcome three other highly rated freshmen from NTDP:

Alex Vlasic, left-shot D form Wilmette, Ill. At 6’6”, Vlasic is literally a towering talent. It’s almost bewildering to see a player that tall and yet so smooth and deft both with his hands and his feet. He’s considered a likely early second-round pick in the NHL draft, but some scouts think he’s got the upside to warrant a first-round selection.

“In three or four years, he could be a player that make NHL scouts say, “We should have picked him earlier,” said amateur scout and New England Hockey Journal writer Jeff Cox.

Although a Midwesterner, Vlasic said he’s drawn to Boston and looks forward to being on BU’s Comm Ave. campus. “A lot of people say it’s not the nicest because it’s in the city. It really isn’t a campus, I guess. But I like it. I think it’s a lot more interesting.”

Vlasic said he had his college choices narrowed down to a few, and BU and BC were among the finalists. “My dad and I went out there for a weekend and got a game on campus,” he said. “I like the great reputation BU has for hockey and school. I liked the coaching staff and the rink. The atmosphere there was incredible.”

The D zone is where Vlasic, with his long reach, makes his presence felt, but at times has flashed quite the offensive touch. In the USHL playoffs as a U17, he blocked a shot while killing a penalty in OT, then jumped on the puck and took it all the way to the net, potting the game-winner and series-clinching goal.
Dominick Fensore, left-shot D from Thornwood, NY. He is an under-sized D but an absolutely dynamic skater – think Matt Grzelcyk and what a force he was for four years at Agganis. Fensore (pronounced fen-sore-ee) saw his stock rise more than any other NTDP player in the last year. Twelve months ago, he was considered a likely late-round draft choice, but now he is projected as a possible second-rounder. Some rankings even have him slightly ahead of Vlasic.
Cox said Fensore has developed more leg strength while at NTDP and has become an explosive skater. Despite his size, “he could do really well in college,” Cox said. “I think his skating ability will allow him to make an immediate impact.”
When he arrived at NTDP four years ago, Fensore was committed to Quinnipiac, but in the last year he decommitted and switched to BU.

Scott Monaghan, senior director of NTDP operations, said he thinks scouts have noticed how Fensore’s skill set fits in with the direction the NHL game is moving in. “He’s an elite skater and that goes a long way now,” Monaghan said. “The game has changed. It’s fast and it’s speed. It’s quick-twitch thinking, and Dominick has all that.”

Case McCarthy, right-shot D from Clarence Center, N.Y. At 6’1” 198, McCarthy already has the size to play college hockey. The kid is not as high on some scouts’ lists as Vlasic, in part because he missed over half of his U17 season with NTDP due to injury. That probably set him back a bit in terms of development, and kept scouts from noticing his play. As a U18, he was 5-24-29, no different than Vlasic’s 4-23-27.
Monaghan describes him as “captain material,” the kind of player who works harder than most and carries himself the right way on and off the ice. 
“He’s a leader. He’s as solid a citizen as there is,” Monaghan said. As for his on-ice presence, Monaghan said McCarthy “can be a shut-down guy. He can play some offense. He can be physical and he can be fast.  He’s got some of everything in him.”

Cox thinks McCarthy has strong potential for BU. “He’s not quite the NHL prospect that Vlasic is right now, but he could be a really good three-or-four-year player,” he said.

And that’s what BU needs right now. After year-after-year of one-and-dones, “BU needs guys who will stick around,” Cox said.

Four Terriers are on the USA Hockey roster for the  2019 World Junior Summer Showcase set for Plymouth, Michigan, July 26-Aug. 3. Flyers rookie Joel Farabee and incoming freshmen Robert Mastrosimone, Alex Vlasic and Zegras are among the 44 players who will be auditioning for a spot on the U.S. Junior National Team. The Showcase will feature games between the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden.

College Hockey News’ list of 10 to Watch at the Draft, beyond first rounders includes 2019 recruit Mastrosimone, who scored 60 points for USHL Chicago and added a league best 15 more in the post-season.

“Above and beyond — not just as a player, but as a person. He’s a phenomenal young man. The progress of his game on the ice is because of his personality. He asks questions, he works on his game. Every night he’s on the ice, he’s dangerous. If I could pick one guy to coach on my team, it’s him.” — Mike Hamilton, Muskegon Lumberjacks head coach
Looking back

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