BUFFALO -- Trevor Zegras is confident the best path for his development runs through Boston University.
The forward with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team is No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 NHL Draft. He was third on the NTDP with 87 points (26 goals, 61 assists) in 60 games.
Zegras is comfortable playing on the wing or at center and compares his game with Clayton Keller, who spent one season at Boston University after the Arizona Coyotes selected him with the No. 7 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft.
"Boston University has done a great job, their track record of Keller, (Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie) McAvoy, (Buffalo Sabres center Jack) Eichel, getting guys in that program, developing them really well and they acclimate to the NHL pretty quickly," Zegras said. "I'm not saying that's going to be me but that's the path I want to take. Having those guys go through it and do it, that's something I think I can look forward to."
Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League owns Zegras' Canadian Hockey League rights. Though playing in the OHL would provide a more NHL-like schedule, the opportunity to develop his off-ice habits and add to his 6-foot, 169-pound frame is the better option.
"I definitely had talks with Mississauga," he said. "But ... college is what I want to do. I think it's the right path for me."
Moritz Seider likely will be the first Germany-born defenseman to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft and fourth player ever from his country to be chosen in the opening round, joining forwards Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers, No. 3, 2014), Marcel Goc (San Jose Sharks, No. 20, 2001) and Marco Sturm (Sharks, No. 21, 1996).
Playing for Mannheim in Germany's top professional league, the 18-year-old right-shot defenseman had six points (two goals, four assists) in 29 games and was named the league's rookie of the year. He then had five assists and a plus-6 rating in 14 playoff games to help Mannheim win the league championship.
He also helped Germany win promotion to the top level for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and scored two goals in five games at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
"Lot of highlights," Seider said. "Under-20 ... we won that tournament to go back up again next season. Then the first playoff run we won the championship. I had the chance to play at the World Championship. It was an amazing season."
Scouts believe there's more good moments to come for Seider (6-3, 183), who is No. 6 on Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters.
"Never panics," director of NHL European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "Makes very smart decisions on the ice. He can shoot, pass, and he's a very good two-way player. ... I like his passing, his hockey sense and he's very strong. He's not overly physical but he's tough enough both along the boards and in front of the net. And his hockey sense is exceptional."
There are 17 NTDP players at the combine. Though center Jack Hughes, expected to be the No. 1 pick, overshadows them, there are a lot of other highly talented players in Buffalo.
Among them are four forwards ranked in the top 10 of NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters: Zegras; center Alex Turcotte (No. 4), who battled injuries but had 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 37 games; right wing Cole Caufield (No. 8), who scored 72 goals in 64 games; and left wing Matthew Boldy (No. 9), who had 81 points (33 goals, 48 assists) in 64 games.
All bring different elements, which is what makes them appealing prospects.
"There's a number of different guys (who stand out) depending on the night," Philadelphia Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. "Caufield, who is small (5-7, 162) but scores all the time. Zegras, who is highly skilled, creative offensively, makes plays. Boldy, big body (6-2, 192), still growing but he's a power forward, good hands, skill. Turcotte is speed, determination. ... There's a lot of different types of players and you need them all to win."
Top underrated prospect
Baie-Comeau forward Nathan Legare was tied for second among players in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 45 goals, and he scored four goals in seven games for Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. The 6-foot, 205-pound right wing is No. 54 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters in part because of questions about his skating, but there's confidence that he will improve in that regard and develop into a solid NHL player.
"He was very good in league play and at the quicker competition at different events he was maybe just a step behind," said Central Scouting's Troy Dumville, who evaluates QMJHL prospects. "He's a guy that's going to sort it out. He played well in Sweden at the U-18s. He's a guy that you love because of his high compete, strength on pucks. He's a very good, smart player. He's a guy that I think teams may step up for knowing that the skating will come. He's one of those guys that he's not a poor skater, he just lacks that quickness he needs at the National Hockey League level at this point. But that's not saying that won't come."
Question of the day
Forward John Farinacci of the Dexter School in Massachusetts, at No. 35 on Central Scouting's final ranking and the highest-rated United States high school player, said he got an interesting hypothetical question from one team.
"There's a 50/50 chance of a 20-foot python who hasn't eaten in five months is in the hallway," Farinacci said. "There's five of us in this room. Which one's going out there?"
Farinacci (5-11, 185), who is going to Harvard next season, was able to tie his answer into hockey.
"I think it almost relates to the ice a little bit, sacrificing for your teammates," he said. "The message [the team official] tried to get across was basically if you're a leader you go out there and there happens to be a snake, what are we going to do? You work your way around it, you communicate with everybody beforehand, figure out the plan if there is a snake out there."
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