NHL Draft Preview: Penn State's Unranked Prospects

By Doug Leeson on June 16, 2017 at 9:00 am
Penn State hockey

via Heather Weikel

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All signs point to Penn State having one of its best drafts yet, but there’s always potential for improvement. When June 23 or 24 rolls around, expect recruits Evan Barratt and Aarne Talvitie as well as current Nittany Lion Denis Smirnov to be selected. We’ll have individual scouting reports on them as we get closer to the big day, but today we’ll look at Penn State’s other draft-eligible players and recruits, and the odds that they’ll hear their names.

First, let’s jump out ahead of the first question that comes to most people’s minds, which is why isn't the whole team eligible?

Any North American player who turns 18 by September 15 and does not turn 20 by December 31 is eligible for the draft. Any non-North American player can be drafted at any age if they are at least 18 by September 15. If a player is 18, they must declare themselves eligible, but if a player turns 19 by September 15, they are automatically eligible for selection in the draft -- Draft Site  

That’s why Penn State’s best players like Andrew Sturtz and Peyton Jones won’t be drafted; they, and many other college hockey players, come to school at age 20 or 21. 

And this is important: As far as I can tell, there isn’t a list of players who have declared for the draft, so we’ll operate under the assumption that everyone who is the proper age can be selected. So even though it’s possible that none of these guys have notified the NHL that they are in fact eligible, let’s have fun speculating.

Here's who could be eligible:

  • D Kris Myllari, So.
  • F Brandon Biro So.
  • F Sean Kohler So.
  • D Alex Stevens ‘17
  • F Sam Sternschein ‘17
  • F Alex Limoges ‘17
  • D Cole Hults ‘17
  • F Connor McMenamin ‘18
  • F Tyler Gratton ‘18

NHL teams generally emphasize draftees’ potential, which hurts the 19- and 20-year-olds. Sean Kohler may have been a better pick a few years ago (he was drafted by the Erie Otters -- he could’ve played with Connor McDavid!) but after playing two games for Penn State in his freshman year, no NHL teams will come calling. In a similar boat are Sam Sternschein, Connor McMenamin, and Tyler Gratton; either due to little playing time or middling stats, book these guys as future undrafted free agents.

Players that I would put on a tier above them are defensemen Alex Stevens and Cole Hults. They play different games, with Stevens being stronger in his own end and Hults putting up solid numbers on offense. Stevens has a potential professional frame and, in his limited highlights, looks pretty good. As for Hults, well, let’s say I’ve never seen him and Vince Pedrie in the same room at the same time. Pedrie signed with the New York Rangers, and played for their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack last year, and Hults is very similar to him. Neither he nor Stevens will get drafted either, but they have decently high ceilings.

Finally, there’s Alex Limoges and the two eligible current Nittany Lions, Kris Myllari and Brandon Biro. Limoges is an interesting case -- for reasons unbeknownst to me, he’s been passed over by all major recruiting services, despite having a terrific 2016-17 season. Maybe it’s because they focus on 18-year-olds and he’s 19, but otherwise there’s not much to dislike. He ranked seventh in USHL scoring last year with 56 points in 55 games. That’s one spot behind Andrei Svechnikov (probable first-round pick next year) and one spot ahead of Eeli Tolvanen (probable first-round pick this year). Again, they’re 17- and 18-years-old, but the age gap shouldn’t be enough to push someone all the way out of the draft. Limoges may have a lower ceiling than those two, but he’s also a year more proven. Unless he hasn’t declared for the draft because he doesn’t want to think about turning professional until after college, he should be able to become a mid-to-late round selection. And, if nothing else, he has the right attitude.

Myllari and Biro have similar strikes against them, in that they’re both older than 18 and don’t have stats in college that make them stand out. However, a look through recent history reveals that that might not matter. Here are some recent, relevant players drafted out of the NCAA, and how these two compare; first defensemen:

Player G/A/P Age in Draft Year School Round Year
Devon Toews 1/16/17 20 Quinnipiac 4 2014
Blake Hillman 3/8/11 20 Denver 6 2016
Joe Masonius 6/15/21 19 UConn 6 2016
Vincent Desharnais 1/1/2 20 Providence 7 2016
Adam Smith 1/2/3 20 Bowling Green 7 2016
Kris Myllari 8/9/17 20 Penn State - -

They all have similar statlines, as do many other undrafted players. Three of those players were on elite teams at the time they were selected, which is something that can help a guy stand out. They also all have the right frame, as does Myllari at 6’2, 190 lbs. He’s by no means a unique player, but if a team takes the time to watch his tape from the last third-or-so of Penn State’s season, it could be enough to convince a team to take him in the sixth or seventh round. Or, hell, maybe the Flyers or Penguins or Devils or somebody will just take him to win over some fans in central PA. Now, the forwards:

Player G/A/P Age in Draft Year School Round Year
AJ Greer 3/4/7 18 Boston University 2 2015
Brett Seney 11/15/26 19 Merrimack 6 2015
Cameron Hughes 3/10/13 18 Wisconsin 6 2015
Frederik Tiffels 11/10/21 19 Western Michigan 6 2015
Matt Roy 0/9/9 19 Michigan Tech 7 2015
Brandon Biro 6/14/20 19 Penn State - -

Every NCAA forward drafted last year had 30+ points, which is a problem for Biro. However, his game is built on playing north-south hockey, and he contributes in many more ways than scoring. Just like Myllari, maybe a team will take a chance on him in the last round, because he truly does have a chance to be a good player in a good league. If not, he still can develop into a solid professional, in the mold of someone like Matt Read.

With all that in mind, the most likely scenario is that maybe one or two of these guys gets drafted, no sooner than in the mid-to-late sixth round. The best-case scenario looks something Limoges in the fifth, Myllari in the sixth, and Biro in the seventh.

Check back next week for our individual draft profiles of Penn State’s ranked prospects: Evan Barratt, Aarne Talvitie, and Denis Smirnov.

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