2015 Draft: Potential First Round Targets – Part 1

Defenders

Pictured (from left to right): Thomas Chabot, Oliver Kylington, Jeremy Roy, Jakub Zboril

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is just around the corner. The Montreal Canadiens don’t own a bevy of draft picks unlike in 2013, nor do they have a high first round pick like 2012, but there are plenty of fantastic players available. The Canadiens hold the 26th, 87th, 131st, 177th, and 207th overall picks in this year’s draft.

This article is the first of two that will cover potential first round targets. This article focuses on 10 different defenders, all of whom have the ability to become valuable NHLers one day.

 

Brandon Carlo
RD | 6’05” 200 lbs | Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Regular: 63GP 4G 21A 25P | Post: 4GP 0G 1A 1P

Carlo set career-highs across the board, posting 4 goals, 21 assists, and 90 penalty minutes. | Photo: Tri-City Americans

Carlo set career-highs across the board, posting 4 goals, 21 assists, and 90 penalty minutes. | Photo: Tri-City Americans

After a solid rookie season in the WHL, Carlo continued to improve as a defensive defender. The 6’05” defender is an excellent skater for a player of his stature. He accelerates quite well, which is extremely rare for a large player of his age. Furthermore, he’s comfortable skating backwards and owns quick pivots.

In the defensive zone is where Carlo is at his best. He owns tremendous reach, which he utilizes quite effective. Down low, the towering defender plays a somewhat mean game and gains possession of the puck effectively. However, he is by no means a dominant defensive player: He makes plenty of mistakes, has a tendency to do too much, and doesn’t play “mean.”

Offensively, Carlo handles the puck fairly well. He makes quick decisions, but he doesn’t possess much of a breakout pass or shot. Overall, he’s pretty bland offensively, but considering his quick feet and willingness to engage offensive there’s a chance he will develop his skills.

Quotes:

“He’s a really good skater and has great mobility for a player his size. The reach and range are there. He handles the puck well and is one of the best guys I’ve seen this year at being able to pass off the boards to a teammate.” – John Williams (NHL Central Scouting)

 

 

Thomas Chabot
LD | 6’02” 179 lbs | Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Regular: 66GP 12G 29A 41P | Post: 5GP 0G 1A 1P

Chabot exploded up the draft rankings following a tremendous development curve during the 2014-2015 season. | Photo: RDS

Chabot exploded up the draft rankings following a tremendous development curve during the 2014-2015 season. | Photo: RDS

Chabot emerged as a dynamic offensive threat from the backend this past season. The 22nd overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft improved an incredibly impressive rate.

Simply put, Chabot is an amazing skater. His technique is beautiful, acceleration is elite, and agility is dizzying. He utilizes his skating ability to lug the puck out of his zone and jump into the rush. Off the rush, Chabot is deadly thanks to his quick decision-making and ability to exploit open ice. However, from the point Chabot isn’t nearly as dynamic as other offensive-oriented defenders.

Defensively, he has made impressive, but not enough improvements. He’s at his best defending off the rush, where he can utilize his skating ability. In sustained pressure scenarios, he simply doesn’t read the play well enough to consistently engage and relieve pressure. At times, he struggles with puck battles and also doesn’t appear motivated to win those battles.

Quotes:

“‘The scouts probably know that the special part of my game is in the offensive zone . . . I always want to get better in my own zone because we know, today, in the NHL, everyone has to play well in both zones.'” – Thomas Chabot (Quote via Buzzing The Net)

“A strong passer who delivers pucks with good timing and accuracy…has the ability to read the play and pick-and-choose his spots…has a powerful stride that generates power but could improve the overall quickness in his feet…willing to join the offensive attack…handles the puck well…not a big point shot but gets it on net consistently…reads the play well in his own zone and defensively he has the size and reach to close off lanes…good transition defender that moves the puck up ice.” – Future Considerations

 

Travis Dermott
LD | 5’11” 194 lbs | Erie Otters (OHL)
Regular: 61GP 8G 37A 45P | Post: 19GP 5G 12A 17P

Despite playing in the shadows of  Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome, Dermott still has drawn plenty of attention from media and scouts alike. | Photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images.

Despite playing in the shadows of Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome, Dermott still has drawn plenty of attention from media and scouts alike. | Photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images.

It was a season of tremendous progression for Dermott. The slightly undersized defender saw his role expand and confidence increase as the season wore on.

Dermott is a simplistic, two-way defender with excellent offensive instincts. The smooth-skating defender is able to close the gap on forwards easily. He makes quick plays with the puck on his stick, while rarely forcing plays. This decision-making shines on the powerplay, where he utilizes his hard, accurate shot and quality vision to create chances. While not much of a true puck rusher, he moves the puck exceptionally well due to his quality breakout pass and patience.

Although undersized, Dermott plays a hard-nosed game. He engages in the corners, clears the crease, and occasionally punishes forwards with their heads down. He has an active stick and strips the puck carrier with surprising ease. It’s sustained pressure scenarios that really hurt Dermott’s defensive value, as he tends to keep his feet in one place.

Perhaps Dermott’s biggest flaw is overall lack of upside. He lacks the explosive, dynamic element you look for in offensive-slanted defenders. Furthermore, he’s capable, but not dominant defensively and he lacks size which raises the question: Where does he fit in the lineup?

Quotes:

“This year I’ve really simplified my game. In the past I sometimes tried to do too much and would end up turning pucks over. What helped with that is that coaches would just talk to me about situations and what to expect and gradually it changed.” – Travis Dermott (Quote via Buzzing The Net)

“In a few years, we’re likely going to marvel that Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome played on the same junior team – but we may also be including Dermott in the conversation. A terrific offensively-inclined defenseman, Dermott has flown under the radar a bit for obvious reasons, but his draft year has also been bountiful.” – Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

 

Vince Dunn
LD | 5’11” 187 lbs | Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Regular: 68GP 18G 38A 56P | Post: 8GP 6G 4A 10P

Dunn scored a 0.5 goals-per-game rate in the second half of the season, culminating with a four-goal game against Ottawa. | Photo: Bob Tymczyszyn, QMI Agency

Dunn scored a 0.5 goals-per-game rate in the second half of the season, culminating with a four-goal game against Ottawa. | Photo: Bob Tymczyszyn, QMI Agency

Dunn exploded for 56 points in 68 games this year, which was among the best totals for an OHL defender.

Dunn plays an upbeat offensive style with plenty of flair. The push rusher skates incredibly well, allowing him to blow past forecheckers and easily escape the zone. He possesses an excellent breakout pass and quality vision. From the point, he loves to bait forwards into getting close, only to blow past them and unload a quick, accurate shot. On the powerplay, he’s a lethal combination of shooting and playmaking ability. He owns terrific offensive instincts and can create something from seemingly nothing. His puckhandling ability is among the very best in the draft–forwards included. There’s no denying that Dunn has high-end offensive upside.

Defensively, Dunn is a mess. He plays with a physical edge and owns great backwards mobility. However, he has awful gap control and chases the puck far too much. He’s prone to horrific turnovers as he often plays a sluggish game in the defensive zone.

Dunn is a high-risk/high-reward player. If he becomes even average defensively, an NHL team could have a tremendous player; however, he still has a way to go before reaching that level.

Quotes:

“We’ve seen a real emergence. He’s been a real log-the-ice-time guy for us. He’s really worked on his defensive game and that’s what will make him a high pick or not a pick at all.” – Marty Williamson (IceDogs Head Coach, quote via Hockey’s Future)

“Here’s a stat for you. In his final 32 games (including playoffs), he had 17 goals. We’d be happy with that type of production from a draft eligible forward (that’s more than Crouse & Zacha in their final 32 for example), let alone a defender. It points to his incredible offensive potential. IMO, he has the most offensive potential of any defender in the draft. But he’s also a risky pick because of the improvements that need to be made defensively and in the decision making department.” – Brock Otten (OHL Prospects)

 

Noah Juulsen
RD | 6’02” 174 lbs | Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Regular: 68GP 9G 43A 52P | Post: 6GP 0G 1A 1P

Juulsen is a rare breed of defender: Not only did he total 52 points this season, but he did it while playing against the opposition's best. | Photo: Christopher Mast, Everett Silvertips

Juulsen is a rare breed of defender: Not only did he total 52 points this season, but he did it while playing against the opposition’s best. | Photo: Christopher Mast, Everett Silvertips

As a WHL sophomore, Juulsen emerged as a top-pairing defender. Alongside partner Ben Betker, Juulsen was tasked with shutting down the WHL’s best offensive threats. Not only did he thrive in that role, but he became a big time offensive contributor.

Juulsen is an above-average skater, with good acceleration and top-end speed (although his stride isn’t the prettiest). From the backend, Juulsen is a fantastic offensive contributor. He possesses a hard, accurate shot with a laser beam for a first pass. He’s more a shooter than a true powerplay quarterback, but is effective in both roles.

Defensively, Juulsen can be frustrating as he runs around. He utilizes a stick longer than most his size, but isn’t as active with it as he should be. As the season wore on, he improved defensively. He uses his powerful backwards and lateral skating to throw his weight around often. His physical intensity from the backend is among the very best in the draft, as he loves to punish players all around the ice.

Quotes:

“Juulsen has taken his game to another level and has been consistent throughout the season. We’re very comfortable saying that he is a legitimate first round contender.” – Dan Marr (NHL Central Scouting)

“He [Juulsen] can dictate with being able to be physical and give himself space.” – David Gregory (NHL Central Scouting)

 

 

Oliver Kylington
LD | 6’00” 181 | Färjestad (SHL)/AIK (Allsvenskan)
SHL: 18GP 2G 3A 5P | SHL-2: 17GP 4G 3A 7P

Kylington made his name known as a 16-year-old at the AHL All-Star Classic, which saw Färjestad take on the AHL All-Star Team. | Photo: The Hockey House

Kylington made his name known as a 16-year-old at the AHL All-Star Classic, which saw Färjestad take on the AHL All-Star Team. | Photo: The Hockey House

Once thought to be a potential top-5/10 pick, Kylington has taken a tumble down the draft rankings. This year, Kylington was bounced around between the SHL, Allsvenskan, and SuperElit.

First and foremost, Kylington is an elite skater. He has a tremendous four-way movement, excellent acceleration, and a graceful stride. He doesn’t possess a particularly impressive shot, but he does own high-end playmaking ability. He owns great hands, which he demonstrates during his frequent puck rushes.

Defensively, Kylington is actually fairly good off the rush. He has decent gap control and utilizes an active stick. It’s in sustained pressure situations where the big concerns lie. He carelessly runs around with limited understanding for defensive positioning and struggles with the physical stuff. He is also prone to turnovers.

Quotes:

“Oliver is a very good skater with first-step quickness and fine balance. He’s a two-way defenseman who loves to join the offensive rush. He’s smart, with excellent hockey sense and passing skills, and can read situations very well.” – Goran Stubb (NHL Central Scouting)

“Arguably one of the very best skaters in the draft, Oliver dances on his blades with equally high-end speed, quickness and agility and makes it look incredibly effortless. His confidence seemed to falter at times and affect his productivity but a turnaround in this could eventually see him, being one of the draft’s best defencemen.” – Craig Button

 

Nicolas Meloche
RD | 6’02” 200 lbs | Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Regular: 44GP 10G 24A 34P | Post: 12GP 4G 6A 10P

Sine the second half of his rookie season, Meloche has been counted upon in all situations with Baie-Comeau. | Photo: Baie-Comeau Drakkar

Sine the second half of his rookie season, Meloche has been counted upon in all situations with Baie-Comeau. | Photo: Baie-Comeau Drakkar

After a spectacular rookie season, Meloche continued to solidify himself among the QMJHL’s top defenders.

Meloche owns a vast array of skills that make him such a great defender, the most prominent of which is hockey sense. The 6’02” defender is composed and calm, which allows him to continually make excellent decisions. His gap control and position are both among the very best in this year’s draft class. Off the rush or sustained pressure scenarios, Meloche is equally as good. He is physically aggressive (he can deliver some destructive hits), but rarely gets penalized for it.

Offensively, Meloche isn’t dynamic, but remains highly effective. He adopted the role of powerplay triggerman from Alexis Vanier this year, where he continually demonstrated high-end accuracy, power, and a great one-timer. Although he might not be a talented puck rusher, he distributes the puck so efficiently.

Meloche has two mains flaws: skating and lack of dynamism. His skating has improved so much over the past two seasons that it might not even be a concern by the time he turns pro, but he must work on his stops and starts.

Quotes:

“He’s a competitor in every sense of the word. Defensively, he gets after you physically and gaining time or space on him is never an easy task. He’s territorial and combative. Very good with the puck defensively and offensively and his shot can beat goalies. He takes the initiative everywhere on the ice. With improved quickness and agility, his impact can be significant in the NHL.” – Craig Button

 

Jeremy Roy
RD | 6’00” 182 lbs | Sherbrooke Phoenix
Regular: 46GP 5A 38A 43P | Post: 6GP 1G 4A 5P

Roy suffered setbacks in the form of injury and suspension, but that didn't stop him from posting a near-point-per-game season. | Photo: Sherbrooke Phoenix

Roy suffered setbacks in the form of injury and suspension, but that didn’t stop him from posting a near-point-per-game season. | Photo: Sherbrooke Phoenix

After a fantastic QMJHL rookie season, big things were expected of Roy, and he delivered. Unfortunately, he battled injuries and suspensions, which put at times put his season on hold.

With the puck on his stick, Roy is absolutely fantastic. Thanks to terrific vision, Roy is among the very best puck distributors (from both zones) in this year’s draft class. He owns an extremely accurate shot with a quick release, but his power could stand to improve. He sometimes struggles to find adequate shooting lanes, which will come with time and quicker feet.

Hockey sense is Roy’s best asset, which is most commonly demonstrated in his own zone. He never succumbs to pressure, and almost always makes the right decision. He can lay a big hit every now and then, but usually prefers to separate the puck from the carrier with a well-timed stick check. Despite being average sized, Roy is strong and balanced on his skates, enabling him to win a majority of his puck battles.

Skating is really the only concern with Roy. He’s not an explosive skater, and his edge work is merely good, not great. However, he owns good technique, but most importantly understands his limitations.

Quotes:

“Others can match [Roy’s] physical tools but they don’t have his game-breaking instinct. It is that “it” factor that some scouts feel gives him an edge.” – Willy Palov (The Chronicle Herald)

“I’m not the biggest guy, so I need to use my strength smartly . . . I’m pretty strong for my size so I can throw good hits. But I need to use it more to box players out, that kind of thing.” – Jeremy Roy (Quote via Buzzing The Net)

 

Jonas Siegenthaler
LD | 6’02” 220 lbs | ZSC Zurich (NLA)
Regular: 41GP 0G 3A 3P | Post: 18GP 0G 2A 2P

After spending his 16-year-old season in the NLB, Siegenthaler made the full-time jump to the NLA this past season. | Photo: EQ Images

After spending his 16-year-old season in the NLB, Siegenthaler made the full-time jump to the NLA this past season. | Photo: EQ Images

Siegenthaler was a regular on the ZSC this past season, where he impressed as a 17-year-old defender.

Siegenthaler is a big-bodied, smooth-skating defender. He possesses quality four-way mobility, enabling him to close the quickly and participate across the ice. He plays a solid defence-first game, mainly based around an active stick and safe plays with the puck. Despite owning tremendous size for a player his age, by no means is he a bruising player. He prefers to engage with his stick and use smart body positioning to angle off players rather than laying destructive hits.

Defence is the name of Siegenthaler’s game, so it’s no surprise that he’s quite limited offensively. Even though he owns a hard shot, it’s quite erratic and he struggles at finding open shooting lanes. He makes a fairly good breakout pass when needed, but he prefers to send it off the glass or fire a pass to his partner instead.

Siegenthaler certainly has room to grow as a player. He’s a great skater for his size, which should aid him in the process of adding an offensive punch.

 

Jakub Zboril
LD | 6’02” 185 lbs | Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Regular: 44GP 13G 20A 33P | Post: 5GP 1G 2A 3P

Zboril's potent shot is one of the best in this year's draft class. | Photo: Saint John Sea Dogs

Zboril’s potent shot is one of the best in this year’s draft class. | Photo: Saint John Sea Dogs

As a QMJHL rookie, Zboril impressed this past season. He emerged as a top defender for Saint John and demonstrated a wide array of abilities.

Zboril is an intelligent player, who owns great gap control and positioning. Defensively, he’s physical and fabulous at winning puck battles. By no means is he a speedster, but because of his excellent understanding of body position he is able to win footraces. On the penalty kill, he blocks shots and cuts off passing lanes well.

Zboril quickly turns the play around in his own zone thanks to an excellent breakout pass and fast decision-making. From the point, Zboril is a dangerous shooter because he excels at finding shooting lanes to unload his potent shot. He is just as dangerous as a distributor, too.

However, Zboril’s enticing package of skills doesn’t always show up in games. The main knock is that he sometimes gets selfish with and without the puck (in terms of discipline). He doesn’t appear to consistently have his head in the game, but there’s no denying that he owns a skillset that could make him a top-15 pick.

Quotes:

“A good two-way blue liner…plays a complete game and relies on his impressive footwork to maintain defensive coverage as well as put himself into the offensive play…has a good top speed and all-round mobility…has a dangerous point shot that is both accurate and hard…has a physical element to his game and will step up to make a hit…clears the crease and separates opponents form the puck with his body in the defensive zone…has an active stick…good upside as an all-round NHL defender.”  – Future Considerations

“I like to play physical and hit other guys, maybe piss them off a little,” – Jakub Zboril (Quote via The Hockey News)

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