Local draft prospects like Northeastern’s Jack Hughes (red) were the topic of discussion on this week’s podcast. (Dave Arnold / NEHJ)
In this week’s episode of RinkWise from the New England Hockey Journal podcast, Kirk Luedeke is joined by outlook analyst NEHJ Jeff cox.
Cox, based in the Greater Boston Area, covers today’s prospects and the pros of tomorrow, ranging from Midget, High School, Prep, Junior, College and beyond.
A respected talent assessor in the local prospect world, Cox joined Luedeke to discuss a variety of hockey topics, including the 2021 NHL Draft result, future regional draft classes and more. .
Seven New English were selected in July two-day draft. A pair of local prospects, Matty Beniers (Hingham, Massachusetts / Michigan) and Mackie samoskevich (Newtown, Connecticut / Michigan), were selected on day one. Five other premises were selected on the second day.
Due to the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus and the unprecedented nature of this past season, the 2021 draft was unique in more than one way.
“I thought the 2021 results were fascinating,” Cox said of the class. “Just because some of the names you’ve heard for a long time, guys with gifted physical tools, didn’t necessarily fit. Some of the late players or the guys who worked really hard to be an even better player have passed some of these guys.
Players like Nate benoit (Bow, NH / Tri-City Storm) and Shane Lachance (Andover, Mass./Youngstown Phantoms) were some of the local picks Cox announced for their efforts ahead of the draft.
Benoit, a late 2002 defenseman engaged in North Dakota, was a leading player in the Mount Saint Charles organization. He was selected in the sixth round by Minnesota with the 182nd pick overall.
“No one really had a clue who he was until 18 months ago,” Cox said of Benoit. “This is a great example of a child who continued to persevere. He’s not 6-3, he’s not that elite skater – he’s a good skater, he plays with jam, but he’s only 6 feet tall – but I just think, for me, that he’s a great example because I think of a lot of kids around here who are 6-2, 6-3 don’t show some of those competition that you need to get to that next level. I think it’s great that an NHL team is getting involved and recognizing that.
Lachance, a 2003 forward signed to Boston University, played preseason hockey at Tabor and NCDC with the junior Bruins. Like Benoit, he too was a sixth-round draft pick, picked up by Edmonton in 186th overall.
“It’s a project, but it’s another guy who was less well known,” Cox said. “He was at Andover High a few years ago, he went down to Tabor. He’s a goalscorer, big boy. Skating is hurting him right now. But he’s a guy who I think could be a player later and Edmonton saw him.
Another area of focus from the 2021 Draft was the notable presence of second-year draft-eligible picks, such as Alex Gagne (Bedford, NH / New Hampshire), who “proved he wanted to be a hockey player,” Cox said.
“He was going to go to Tabor, but made this five nation team and headed to (play in the USHL). He challenged himself. I don’t understand some of the youngsters who don’t want to challenge themselves in the best league in the country and expect to be drafted. For me, players like Gagné should be rewarded and this is another great example of an NHL team picking a kid in their second year of draft eligibility.
“It’s become more and more of a trend over the last 5 or 6 years,” Cox continued, “and I think that’s a good thing… NHL teams are now hiring guys just to spot the bad guys. colleges. Many of those eligible second- and third-year draft players are now college kids who have proven they deserve to be drafted. Josh Lopina of UMass; Casey Fitzgerald, to give a local example, was not drafted from the NTDP, but was later drafted as a freshman at Boston College.
“Long story short, I think the focus is on college free agency, which in turn has put more emphasis on college play. You see more and more guys coming out of college in their second or third year of eligibility. I think the overall growth of the USHL is helping everyone in the league (too). “
After a full review of the 2021 local draft class, the duo look to 2022, discussing local perspectives as Jack hughes (Westwood, Massachusetts / Northeast), Cam Lund (Bridgewater, Massachusetts / Green Bay Gamblers) Ryan healey (Hull, Mass./ruée de Sioux Falls) and Jackson Dorrington (North Reading, Mass./Des Moines Buccanneers).
Luedeke and Cox were also on the local prep school tour, reviewing a trio of notable East Coast Wizards personalities: Harvard commit Ben macdonald (Weston, Mass./Nobles), Northeast Commission James fisher (Wilmington, Massachusetts / Belmont Hill) and Princeton commit Michael fisher (Westborough, Mass./St. Mark’s).
The duo then discuss the 2023 Draft Class as it relates to the New England area and more.
To learn more about NEHJ Lead Analyst Jeff Cox, listen to the full podcast today.
The episode, as well as the previous episodes, can be accessed on major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify, as well as online at hockeyjournal.com/podcast. Podcasts are generally broadcast every Friday morning.
RinkWise is sponsored by the IceBreaker 2021 tournament, University of Nebraska High School and “Great match! : D1 College Hockey: People, Places, Perspectives by Bruce Haas ”.
(Previously on the New England Hockey Journal’s RinkWise podcast: Mark Divver, Paul Cannata)