About a month ago I took a look at a few players drafted in the mid-to-late rounds that could prove valuable in the long run. I’m going back to that well but instead, I’ll be sticking to the round smack dab in the middle, the fourth.
With their third pick in the 2018 draft, the Ottawa Senators picked up Johnny Gruden from the United States Development Program. In the 2016-17 campaign, his first with “The Program”, Gruden posted 28 points for the under-17 team to finish third on the squad in scoring and had a team-best 16 goals. He also competed in 34 games against USHL competition where he registered 13 points. During his draft year playing with the under-18 squad, Gruden played primarily on the second line and put up some pretty impressive numbers. With 60 points in 61 games, he finished fourth in scoring behind his linemates for a good chunk of the season, first-round picks Oliver Wahlstrom and Joel Farabee, and the presumptive first overall pick for the 2019 draft, Jack Hughes. No doubt there are some who believe he is more of a passenger than someone who drives the play himself which could help explain his draft slot. But don’t sleep on this kid as his advanced stats suggest otherwise. His father, Coach Jon Gruden, just led the Hamilton Bulldogs to an OHL crown and like any coaches son, Gruden is a hard-working player with an equal level of commitment at both ends of the ice. He’ll attend Miami University in the fall and for what it’s worth his CHL rights are owned by the London Knights. Between Gruden, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick, the Senators will be well represented among this year’s NCAA freshman class.
The Chicago Blackhawks made Kurashev the 120th overall selection in the 2018 draft and there’s a lot to like about the pick. 21st overall pick in the 2016 CHL Import Draft by Québec, Kurashev came over and made an immediate impact in the best way possible. The Swiss national led the Ramparts in scoring by putting together 21 goals and a team-best 33 assists for 54 points. And on a team rife with double-digit minus players, Kurashev had one of the better marks on the team coming in at just minus-8. In the playoffs he produced three points in four games first round defeat, tying for the team lead in scoring with two other. Kurashev suited up for Switzerland on the international stage as well, representing his motherland at the Under-18 Championships where he tied for the team lead in goals with three and finished second in points behind only Nico Hischier. In his draft year, Kurashev managed to improve upon his rookie CHL campaign by posting 19 goals and team-leading 41 assists for 60 points to just barely surpass the point per game mark and saw his primary point per game average jump from 0.58 in 2016-17 to 0.69 in 2017-18. Once again he was selected to represent Switzerland at the U20 WJHC in where he produced one goal and two helpers to finish third on the team in scoring. He should have a spot locked down for this year’s tournament in Vancouver where he’ll no doubt be relied upon to help with the offense. One thing that really jumps out at you looking at the numbers is that the guy just doesn’t take penalties. This past year represented a veritable explosion from Kurashev as he had 24 penalty minutes. Like Gruden, Kurashev’s father Konstantin has been both a head coach and assistant coach in various leagues in Switzerland. Kurashev’s still needs some work on the defensive side of the game, although he’s not terrible in that area, his main strengths are his speed and vision. He’s a high risk, high reward gamble that could pay off in spades for the Hawks if everything comes together.
McShane saw his stock tumbled quite a bit over the course of the 2017-18 season. He started out the season ranked as a projected first-round pick but fell all the way down to the fourth round where the Montreal Canadiens plucked him at 97th overall. But it wasn’t as a result of his lack of production. In his second year of junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, McShane nearly touched the point per game mark by finishing second on the General in both assists with 45 and points with 65. Going back to his rookie year in 2016-17, McShane was no less impressive on the offensive side of the puck putting together 17 goals and 27 helpers over 62 games between the Erie Otters and the Generals and earned 2016-17 OHL First All-Rookie Team honours. The Collingwood, ON native has represented his country on a couple of occasions wearing the Maple Leaf at both the U17 and U18 World Championships. With the Team Black squad at the U17’s in 2016-17, McShane led them in goals with three and tied for the team lead in points with five. At the U18’s this past year, McShane once again tied for the team lead in points with presumptive 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere and the 34th overall selection from 2018 Serron Noel and was named one of the top three players on the team.
A pass first centre, McShane also owns a lightning-quick release and would become a dangerous dual-threat if he decided to use it more. If he makes it to the NHL it certainly won’t be as a checker.
Thanks to www.eliteprospects.com and www.prospects-stats.com for the statistics. As always thanks for checking out this week’s edition of The Journey. Give me a follow on Twitter @BradHPhillips!
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