From now until the NHL Entry Draft, we will have a series of articles helping you get ready for both the draft and the combine. Today, we focus on the NHL Combine. Who has the most to gain this week in Buffalo? I give you three names to consider.
It is officially NHL Combine week.
Once again, HarborCenter in Buffalo plays host to this week-long event, which includes 114 top prospects for this upcoming NHL draft. It’s a chance for the prospects to show their fitness level. More importantly, it’s a chance for teams to meet face-to-face with these prospects to get a sense of what kind of people they are.
Welcome, World. 🌏
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) May 31, 2016
Many go to Buffalo with a good idea of where they’ll go in the draft. Others go hoping to make a lasting impression on teams.
So which prospects have the most to gain this week?
Each year, one prospect stands out as having the widest range of opinions on them. DeBrincat is that prospect this season. Some experts have him ranked near the top 10. Others have him outside the first round. Why such a difference? Size.
DeBrincat stands just 5-foot-7. Many fear he can’t handle the size and overall speed of the NHL game. Yet against consistently bigger competition (frankly because most everyone was bigger), he scored 50 goals in back-to-back seasons. He was also one of the most consistent producers at even strength in the OHL.
So how do you prove your critics wrong? By killing it this week in Buffalo.
DeBrincat is someone I’ll be paying attention to closely. If he has a good showing, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him jump up some draft boards. He’s a slam dunk top 10 pick if it’s not for his size.
Quick. Who’s the number two ranked center behind Auston Matthews? You got it. It is Brown. Big centers are hard to find. So it’s no wonder many teams have Brown on their radar given his massive size at 6-foot-6.
Here’s what’s interesting. Excluding Matthews, there are two European skaters (Laine, Puljujarvi) and six North American skaters (Matthews, Dubois, Nylander, Chychrun, Juolevi, and McAvoy) that rank ahead of the second-best center in the draft. This list doesn’t even include Mikhail Sergachev, who many think could go in the top 10. That’s kind of unusual. This means there are questions about Brown, even with his upside.
Brown jumped up seven spots from midterm on Central Scouting’s final list. Many early mock drafts I’ve seen had him go as low as 12th or 13th. He can make a case for the top 10 or higher with a good showing in Buffalo.
When you put up numbers like Keller has, you get noticed. He put up 59 points in 45 games for the USA U-17 team. He’s already drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane. There’s a lot to like about him. But, he’s not in the top of the draft discussion.
Once again, we’re back at the size argument. He is 5-foot-10. But one look at the tape on Keller makes me overlook his size. He can make highlight reel plays, while setting up teammates just as well. He’ll get bigger and stronger as time goes on. But with questions hovering around him, Buffalo is a great chance to show what he can already do.
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) May 16, 2016
Keller is my 9th ranked skater overall. I considered him as high as 6th. A good showing in Buffalo could give teams incentive to take him in the top 10. He’s that good.
Now it’s your turn. Who are you most interested in watching this week in Buffalo? Feel free to leave your comments below.
I’m a fully credentialed writer that covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Monsters and the OHL. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.