BUFFALO – When it comes to finding players who can score at a high rate in the 2015 NHL Draft, there will be a big pool to choose from. One player who may fly under the radar is forward Colin White.
White played for the United States National Under-18 Team Development Program this season and finished sixth on the team in scoring. That may not sound impressive, but White dealt with a case of mononucleosis and a wrist injury that limited his ability to play. Through all that he ended the season with 16 goals and 42 points in 45 games.
"When I'm talking about [White], there's no doubt in my mind this kid is one heck of a hockey player," Under-18 coach Don Granato said. "He's going to be a great pro player. The details you need at the professional level, he has. He does them naturally. He competes naturally. I don't care if he had 100 points, that doesn't make anybody better than anybody else at this level. It might make him only better at this level. It has no bearing on the future.
"The detail in his game, the way he focuses on game plan execution, on hockey concepts… His numbers, hey everybody's numbers could be higher, but his performance has been exceptional. And as a coach who's coached at those next levels, the appreciation I have for what he does far exceeds any point accumulation. To me he's done an unbelievable job."
Last season with the Under-17 team, White scored 33 goals with 64 points in 47 games. He was a player of high interest to scouts around the NHL and was invited to the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo in September.
"Colin has a lot of hockey sense and a strong two-way game," NHL Central Scouting's Dave Gregory said. "He is a strong competitor and brings a solid effort every night. He can be on your top line and also be very responsible in his own end. He has high end skill and makes the players around him better. He is a complete player that with continued development will solidify his status as a first-round candidate."
Despite the attention White had on him headed into the All-American Prospects Game, he steered away from it and focused on playing for Team Olczyk against Team Grier.
"I just try to let things play out," White said in September. "Don't try to push anything too hard, just try to work hard every day and let the other things take care of itself."
Working hard is something White has had to do a lot this season with his maladies. He missed five games battling a case of mononucleosis but led the United States in goals at the 2014 Four Nations Tournament in Sweden in November. White missed seven other games with a wrist injury that cut into his production.
The focus on White's game has gone away with a few of his U18 teammates having big seasons. Forwards Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk, each eligible for the 2016 draft, and 2015 draft-eligible forwards Jeremy Bracco, and Jack Roslovic all scored at better than a point per game pace. Even though he missed 12 games, he scored 0.93 points per game.
"I will say, I think everybody expects him to have a few more points. I'm not going to deny that," Granato said. "And I think that's the difference in him not being as healthy. I don't think it's anything more or less. If he was healthy and he didn't fight through games when he was fighting mono and he didn't have the wrist injury that he had, he probably would have more points. When we look at generating scoring chances, it's pretty close to last year. And when we look at giving up scoring chances it's really good. He gives up far fewer chances against than the average line."
White is committed to play at Boston College next season, where he would join Bracco and potentially Noah Hanifin under coach Jerry York.
"Colin is in a great situation heading to Boston College," Gregory said. "It is a program that really develops players and will allow him to compete in important games at a very high-level. A coach like Jerry York brings significant experience and wisdom to the game that will only help Colin understand the type of commitment and effort it takes to continue developing as a hockey player."
With White headed to college and after spending the past season in the USHL, the attention around his game may not have been where it could have been had he been healthy all season. Even with those struggles, it's possible he'll be a first-round pick. NHL Central Scouting had him 27th in their midterm rankings among North American skaters.
"People have to stop and give respect to where it should be given in the sense that the pressure on these players, they are performing under a microscope," Granato said. "We've had games where we've had over 100 scouts in the stands. They're constantly being interviewed by NHL teams and media, and you forget how young they are. I mean, this is their first go-around at something like this. And then you complicate it with injuries and pressure from the coach and team and teammates and the opposition.
"But I can tell you this. The details and the intricacies that you want as a coach – they get done when [White]'s on the ice. As a coach, it's more than going out and trying to score every shift. It's getting your job done and he's the type of player that does that. He competes very well and has a lot of detail to his game at a very young age."