Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft Part III: The Future Crimson

Four incoming Harvard freshmen were picked in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the best in the league. Total, that makes 5 incoming freshmen with their NHL draft rights accounted for, as Patrick McNally was taken in the 2010 Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. This does not represent all of Harvard's incoming class as that has yet to be officially announced. While we'll have something on McNally and the other incoming freshmen once there is an announcement, for now we'll focus on the four Crimson players selected today.

The first Crimson player drafted today was goaltender Stephen Michalek, taken 161st overall by the draft hosting Minnesota Wild. The fourth round selection out of Loomis-Chaffee was ranked fifth among North American goaltenders. Describing his prep school season, NEHJ writer Kirk Luedeke wrote that Michalek "redefined standing on his head" for the Pelicans. That's because Michalek faced somewhere in the ballpark of 1000+ shots and yet put up almost a .920 SV% despite his team's 3-20-2 record (Hartford Courant). His coach described to the NEHJ one 3-2 OT loss where the young netminder faced 50 shots, with 30 being scoring opportunities. In other words, Michalek was, if I may embrace my inner-Stan Fischler, the prep school Al Rollins, the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender who won the Hart Trophy in 1954 despite a 12-47 record. Michalek initially made a name for himself on the US U-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer, leading the US to the silver medal after a 1-0 loss to Canada in the championship game. The lone goal to beat the incoming goaltender was, incidentally, by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft. Michalek trained with Jonathan Quick of the LA Kings in his youth and cited the Beanpot as an influence on his decision to come to Harvard. He becomes the first Harvard draft pick of Harvard alum and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher '90 since junior Alex Fallstrom in 2009, though Fallstrom's rights were later traded to the Boston Bruins in 2010.

Next to go for the Harvard Crimson was Petr Placek, perhaps the steal of the draft if he can remain healthy. Reaching as high as being the 54th ranked North American skater, Placek fell out of the rankings entirely due to a knee injury that kept him out of high school hockey action most of the year. Thus, after being projected as a mid round pick, he fell to the Philadelphia Flyers who selected him 176th overall. The big Czech RW came to the US to play for Hotchkiss Prep and his size will both help the Crimson and make him a perfect fit for the Broad Street Bullies. He is 6'4" and 210 lbs. and will likely add to that frame during his time in Cambridge. Reading about him reminds me of a young Bobby Holik. His best season was 2009-10 when he scored 32 points in 24 games. For another take on Placek, including a comparison to Jason Arnott, see Dan Sallows.

A guy who will be looked upon to add a scoring touch to the lineup in Cambridge will be the next pick out of Harvard, incoming freshman Colin Blackwell, who was selected by the San Jose Sharks 194th overall. Blackwell set a record for St. John's Prep, amassing 66 points in only 25 games en route to being named Massachusetts high school player of the year by Massachusetts HS Coaches as well as ESPN Boston. While some believed Blackwell would spend a year, either in the EJHL with the Jr. Bruins or in the USHL, he is enrolled as a freshman at Harvard and is listed in the Harvard student directory. A two-sport athlete (he also plays lacrosse), Blackwell rejected Boston College as well as several Ivy and ECAC programs because he felt Harvard was "the perfect fit" (Salem News). Listed at 5'9" and 170 lbs., Blackwell will not be one of the bigger guys but could play well with similarly built Conor Morrison. The NEHJ listed him as a draft sleeper and as a "dynamic little scoring forward" (NEHJ). Both Harvard and San Jose fans would not mind seeing him develop into a Brian Gionta or Martin St. Louis type player while in college.

The final pick from the Crimson comes with a familiar name, as defenseman Max Everson out of Edina, MN was drafted by Brian Burke, Harvard Law School '81, and the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 203rd overall pick. Everson is projected to be a two way defenseman at the college level. He is 6'1" and can put more on his frame as he is listed as only 185 lbs. One scout, Max Giese of the USHL, said Everson's pros are his transition game, hard shot, and ability to quarterback a PP but that negatives are a flawed skating motion, a lack of improvement in skating speed over the past two years, and a lack of creativity- Everson often takes what is there instead of creating an opportunity from nothing (Bruins 2011 Draft Watch). While creativity is hard to teach, the Crimson will need to focus on Everson's skating both for their own improvement as a team but also to help Everson transition to the professional ranks. His coach, former NHL defenseman Curt Giles, adds Everson has the ability to get to around 200 lbs. and add a couple of inches as well. Giles cited Everson's improvement in lateral movement as well as his already hard shot as strengths Everson will bring to the NCAA and perhaps pro ranks (Minnesota Sun). Everson rejected an offer from the University of Minnesota to join his older brother Marshall Everson, a rising junior.

Thanks to Harvard Athletics for providing some of the links and info used in this post.

Check out out other draft post: Part 1, a look at the draft class of Harvard's non-conference opponents, and Part 2, a look at the draft class for the ECAC.

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