Goalies Thatcher Demko and Alex Nedeljkovic are the top-rated players at their position on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Demko, a San Diego native, and Nedeljkovic, born in Ohio, each have a chance to become the first American-born goalie drafted in the first round since the Dallas Stars selected Jack Campbell with the 11th pick of the 2010 draft. They are the only goalies to receive an A rating on Central Scouting's most recent players to watch release.
Draft dandy of the week: Demko
Boston College assistant coach Mike Ayers has liked what he's seen in freshman goalie Thatcher Demko.
Ayers, the former goaltending coach at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, knows that with more experience and teaching, the youngest player in collegiate hockey will only get better.
"Thatcher is extremely competitive and very coachable," Ayers told NHL.com. "To me, if you have those two things it's very positive for his development. For a bigger kid [6-foot-3.75, 192 pounds], he's pretty athletic. I think at the beginning of the year, he may have lacked just a little bit of confidence knowing he was the youngest college player, and that's only natural.
"But he's continued to battle and has gotten wins for us. For a 17-year-old freshman to come in and do what he's done is pretty impressive. It's a true sign of his makeup and attitude and his hunger to be better."
Ayers compares Demko's style to that of Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.
"He has an ability to move very well laterally and is able to recover pucks," Ayers said.
Demko, who is currently day-to-day with a lower-body injury, considers himself an athletic goalie with a competitive mindset. He also knows he must use his size to his advantage in the crease.
NHL team: Los Angeles Kings
NHL player: Jonathan Quick
Favorite save: "A good chest save because it means I'm in the right position."
Memorable moment: "Beating Russia in a shootout in Russia at the Under-18 World Championship; there were about 10,000 people there."
Video game: NHL 14
Actor: Will Ferrell
Preferred music: Country
Three people you would invite to dinner: Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Martin Brodeur
Sport (other than hockey): "All the other sports are fun during down time."
Breakfast food: "Honestly, any breakfast food. I could eat breakfast any time of the day."
Superhero: Batman. "He doesn't have super powers but has a lot of courage."
-- Mike G. Morreale
That's where the similarities end.
Demko, born Dec. 8, 1995 and attending Boston College, is the youngest player playing NCAA hockey this season.
He also was the youngest goalie invited to USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. in August. With a 3-0-1 record, 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in four starts at Boston College, he's proving to be everything coach Jerry York envisioned.
Nedeljkovic is in his second season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. He took over the starting role for the Whalers in 2012-13 despite being an underage goalie and finished the season 19-2-2 with a 2.28 GAA and .923 save percentage.
"Thatcher is more a positional-style goalie, has excellent net coverage and doesn't leave many holes for shooters," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "Nedeljkovic is more of a quick and athletic style goalie with great reflexes. He's one of the quickest goalies available in the upcoming draft."
The wins haven't come as easy for Nedeljkovic in 2013-14 for a team that has struggled to provide its goalies with offensive support -- Plymouth has scored the second-fewest goals in the league. The 6-foot, 184-pounder is 8-11-1 with a 3.35 GAA and .909 save percentage in 21 games.
"Alex has excellent lateral quickness and moves effortlessly throughout his crease and with quickness and control," Jensen said. "He competes and battles very hard and gives his team a chance to win every night."
Central Scouting's David Gregory feels Demko has improved with each start.
"In his first college game [a 7-2 win against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Oct. 13], he started off nervous, as anyone would on home ice. I think that's tough on a goalie sometimes," Gregory said. "He gave up a bad rebound for the first goal and then an ugly deflection on the second, but he had to respond and he did [with 25 saves].
"In the second game [a 5-1 win at Boston University], he was the difference when the game was close. He made saves early in the game and made sure nothing would get by him when it mattered."
Boston College assistant coach Mike Ayers, a former goalie, has been excited to see the caliber of talent at the position from the United States. Prior to joining the Eagles' coaching staff this season, Ayers worked two seasons as goalie coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program. His responsibilities included planning, designing and executing the regular on-ice practices for goalies in the NTDP, as well as scouting and evaluating the nation's top prospects at the position.
"I think USA Hockey has done a great job in preparing our goalies," Ayers told NHL.com. "The Warren Strelow [National Goaltending] program did a lot for that. USA Hockey has done a great job really separating and specializing in the goaltending position and using all of our assets around the country to enhance the program and the curriculum set forth as a result."
ECAC TOP PROSPECTS
Reno, who plays at RPI, and Lewis, who plays for Cornell University, are the only players from the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference identified on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2014 draft. The Minnesota natives are regarded as C-rated prospects, or possible fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round candidates.
Reno, a 6-1, 205-pound right-handed shot, has one goal, two shots on goal and four blocked shots. The freshman was captain at Edina (Minn.) High School for two years before joining RPI. He was listed No. 140 on Central Scouting's final rankings of North American skaters prior to the 2013 draft. With Reno in the fold, Edina won two state championships (2010, 2013) and he was a Mr. Hockey finalist as a senior.
"I think Parker's become a more mature player," Gregory said. "He's playing at a higher level. His role has expanded a little bit. I've seen some improvement in his footwork as well in defending compared to last year and I like his decision making. He's not trying to do too much and he's letting the game come to him a little bit more.
"He's not a bruising hitter but makes it tough for forwards to get around him or gain position in front of the net."
Lewis is a product of the USNTDP. The 6-2.5, 210-pound left-handed shot was No. 181 on Central Scouting's final rankings of North American skaters.
He helped the USNTDP win the Four Nations Tournament in each of his two seasons with the team, recording one goal and 13 assists in 111 games. Before joining the USNTDP, Lewis played midget-level hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota.
In eight games with Cornell this season Lewis has taken four shots on goal and has blocked four shots.
Cornell has seven players on its roster who have been selected by NHL teams: forwards Matt Buckles (Florida Panthers), John McCarron (Edmonton Oilers), Brian Ferlin (Boston Bruins) and Joel Lowry (Los Angeles Kings), and defensemen Reece Willcox (Philadelphia Flyers), Joakim Ryan (San Jose Sharks) and Kirill Gotovets (Chicago Blackhawks).
The fact the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League earned a 3-2 victory against Team Russia in the opener of the 2013 Subway Super Series in Gatineau, Quebec, on Monday certainly didn't take away from the extraordinary goal by Russia left wing Vladimir Tkachyov.
Tkachyov, a B-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2014 draft, certainly opened some eyes with his highlight-reel, end-to-end rush in the third period.
After picking up the puck deep in the Russia zone, the 5-9, 146-pound right-handed shot carried it into the QMJHL zone, stepped around forward Laurent Dauphin (Phoenix Coyotes), pushed the puck between the skates of defenseman Samuel Morin (Philadelphia Flyers) and scored high over the glove of goalie Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens).
The move didn't surprise NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, who labeled Tkachyov the "classical skilled Russian player."
"He is known as an extremely important team player who gives it 100 percent on every shift," Stubb told NHL.com. "He's effective on faceoffs and has a high overall skill level. He also has very good speed, possesses excellent hockey sense and plays a very sound two-way game, making the right decisions."
Tkachyov, 18, was selected No. 39 by the Moncton Wildcats in the 2013 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft but remained in Russia where he plays for Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. He had five goals and 11 points in seven games for his country at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and was named one of the team's top three players.
MILANO TO ATTEND BOSTON COLLEGE
Sonny Milano, one of three players from the United States Hockey League given an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2014 draft, decided to withdraw his commitment to the University of Notre Dame and instead will attend Boston College beginning next season.
Milano leads the NTDP Under-18 team with 21 assists and 31 points, and has averaged 1.63 points per game. Against competition from the USHL, he has seven goals and 20 points in 11 games.
"I made the decision to attend Boston College within the last week and it was difficult to make that change," Milano told NHL.com. "I feel that Notre Dame is a great program but as I've developed as a player, felt Boston College was better for my game today."
He is a potential first-round candidate for the 2014 draft.
"We're extremely excited to have Sonny join the program," Boston College assistant coach Mike Ayers told NHL.com. "He's a talented kid with a creative mindset and we're excited to get him in a B.C. uniform for a few years. I think everybody at B.C. is extremely excited."
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Keven Bouchard, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL): The 6-2, 205-pound goalie was upgraded to a B rating on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list from the QMJHL. In 10 games this season he's 6-3-0 with a 3.17 GAA and .875 save percentage.
"He's a big goalie that plays more of a positional, blocking style," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "With good angle play he doesn't leave many holes for shooters. He's got a powerful leg drive that allows him to efficiently and quickly move laterally. He also has good balance and controlled movements; he's smart at reading the plays and has good instincts."
2. Julius Bergman, Frolunda (SWE): The mobile defenseman was playing with Karlskrona in Sweden's second division at the start of the 2012-13 season but was moved to Frolunda's Under-20 team midway through the season. He's proven his ability against bigger and stronger competition this season with five goals, 16 points, 26 penalty minutes and a plus-16 rating in 19 games.
The 6-1, 187-pound right-hand shot was added to Central Scouting's November players to watch list as a B-rated skater.
"He's strong on his skates and has improved both his acceleration and overall skating from last year," Stubb told NHL.com. "He plays a safe, solid game and is very reliable. He could work on his overall skills, but he's an effective two-way player with good offensive instincts. Julius is a very good competitor, is active and involved."
3. Vinni Lettieri, University of Minnesota (Big Ten): The 5-9, 182-pound versatile right-shot forward has done everything asked of him by Golden Gophers veteran coach Don Lucia. In nine games playing right wing on a line with Travis Boyd and Connor Reilly, he has one goal, two points and 15 shots on goal. Lettieri is a C-rated skater on Central Scouting's November players to watch list.
In 61 games with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL last season he had 28 goals, 56 points and a plus-29 rating.
"He's been playing a regular shift all year but just hasn't had a lot of time on specialty teams," Lucia told NHL.com. "He'll grow into some of those roles as the year goes on but I like the speed with which he can play the game and the strength he has on pucks. He's got a good hard shot, understands the game and works to get better every day."
DATES TO KEEP
Nov. 21: Subway Super Series - OHL vs. Russia, Oshawa, Ont.
Nov. 25: Subway Super Series - OHL vs. Russia, Sudbury, Ont.
Nov. 27: Subway Super Series - WHL vs. Russia, Red Deer, Alta.
Nov. 28: Subway Super Series - WHL vs. Lethbridge, Alta.
Nov. 30: Boston University vs. Cornell, Madison Square Garden, N.Y.